CHAPTER 12 “THE ARMENO-TATAR WAR” 1905-1906

Groups of national militia (police) were formed. The defence was led by Vardan with his 150 volunteers. They secured positions on the top of the Tshakats Kerts, in Yerevan Gates, Mirzabek’s Gardeons, opposite Geovhar Agha’s house (the mansion of Melik-Shahnazar), in the Kamu Mill, Ghumlugh, Aguletsots Church. On August eight clashes occured between the highland nomands and the Armenians in the Vank village. The Aghdam valley looked like a boiling pan. The Aghdam landowner Jafar-Bek Vezirov came to Shushi to organize an attack on Shushi. The issue of the Baku newspaper “Caspian” published a telegram from Shushi; “At 3 a m three Armenians in large shoes and bushy hats have cut a Muslim into pieces and run away”. This report arouse a new wave of excitement in Shushi. The Tatar judge Luniakin was killed as a result of a debate among the Muslims. The Armenian traders were fired on in Meidan (Sheitan bazear). A circle of violence was set in motion. The Topkhana Armenians attacked the Turks of the neighbouring districts. The Armenians left the Turkish districts and vice versa. The town was divided into two fighting parties.

Besides A.O. full coverage of Karabakh events were given by Aramais- Missak Ter-Danielian8, Michael Vardanian9, as well as by the Armenian and Russian press of the time.

The Russian garrison was the quiet spectator of the events. The Vice Governor Baranovski arrived in Shushi accompanied by 200 Cossacks. But they didn’t do anything to establish order in the town. The factory of Tamirian in downtown Shushi, near the Pekhi spring and Davit Nersissian in Ghaibalu were burnt by the Tatars. The Armenian reaction came quickly. All the Tatar houses near the Yerevanian Gates were burnt. Bread and other foods were brought to Shushi on carriages through the Yerlakh station. The carriages belonged to the Tatars of the Malibeklu village. Now, instead of providing the town with products, they carried everything into their village. They subdued the Armenians also by blocking up the Gorris route. The Armenians had to counteract. They held the approach roads from the Askeran fortress and Berdadzor. They also blocked up the route of Lachin. Thanks to their position in the top of the town and to their preperations, they emerged victorious after five days of fighting. The Tatars of the town were deprived of their bread and other products. The Aghdam brigade of Tatars had reached to the Aguletsots Church, on one side, and to the Kamu Mill positions on the other. The Armenians retreated deep in their district. Baranovski persuaded the Armenians to cease firing. Encouraged by the ceasefire the Tatars immediately attacked the Armenian positions. They burnt a house near the Church. The wind blew and the fire spread all over the Armenian district. Two large Armenian districts with four hundred houses, encircled by the Armenian market (Topkhana), the Theatre, Aguletsots Church and the Post street were burnt. The fire spread lower and lower and reached the Gianja Gates. The famous Armenian actor, eye-witness Vagharsh Vagharshian later wrote, “I saw how the building of the “Khandamirian” theatre caught the huge flames of fire from a neighbouring house, the roof became the prey of the flames and soon the whole building was in fire.”11

The leaders of the Armenian and Tatar communities soon applied to the fighting parties with a statement, but without any result. On August 19, the attacks broke out with special ferocity. The Tatars, trying to take the Armenian positions, burnt the Aguletsots Church’s eastern gates and securing positions there, guarded the two streets leading to the Church. The Armenians continued to hold their ground. An Armenian soldier managed to enter the territory of the Church and throw a bomb. The huge explosion frightened the Turks, leaving their positions they retreated. On August 20 the Tatars launched a decisive attack on the Armenian district, intending to take it and drive out the inhabitants.

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