CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

General Andranik’s arrival in Zangezur with his special Armenian Legion and 15 thousand refugees, threw the Turkish command into confusion. They felt unsafe on the back as understood very well that Andranik would protect Zangezur from a possible agression by them. The unison of the two districts of Zangezur and Karabakh would mean a destruction of Turkish plans towards Karabakh. The Turk commanders already feared the facing of Andranik’s army of 30 thousand soldiers. They were sure that the whole campaign was organized and ruled by the Armenian government. Unfortunately, it was untrue. In respond to the protests of Azerbaijan, the Armenian government answered that General Andranik was long ago dismissed from the service together with his Legion. The response to the protest of the commander of the Turkish eastern army Khalil Pasha read;

“You know very well that the territories of Zangezur and Mountainous Karabakh are populated with Armenians and in our opinion, according to the great project of dividing territories, they must belong to Armenia”.19

The responses addressed to the Musavat government of Baku also contained refusals to the absurd intentions and encroachments upon Karabakh and Zangezur. Arriving in Yerevan, Khalil Pasha cynically offered to coordinate the military capability of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey against Andranik. This proposal was refused on the grounds that Andranik was very popular among the Armenians as a national hero, and the allied forces of Karabakh and Zangezur highlanders in defence of their hero could lead to numerous destruction and bloodshed. Meanwhile Karabakh was cut off from the rest of the world, circled by Kurdish and Turkish forces. The only way to contact the external world was the Zabugh corridor. The Hagar (in ancient limes Agar) river marked the border between Siunik and Karabakh. Now it was held by the Turks as a key military outpost, from where they guarded the blockade of Karabakh from Armenia and Siunik. The newly established Republic of Armenia was unable to protect its population and the Armenian regions of Karabakh and Zangezur.

Two hundred soldiers of Karabakh and Nukhi decided to leave Goris for Shushi or their own accord. The Turk regiments deployed in Zabugh, allowed them to reach the bridge of the river Hagar. Then the Armenian soldiers were surrounded and killed to the last. Andranik decided to take revenge on them for this act and with a sudden attack defeating the Turks, succeeded in transferring 2500 refugees to Berdadzor villages of Karabakh, unable even to await the permission of the Karabakh National Council. The Shushi accepted the refuges (from western Armenia and Nakhichevan) with all its heart, though the economic conditions were catastrophic there too. The scenes of famine and privations were as bad as the horrors of massacres. As Andranik didn’t undertake to open the Zabugh corridor, the Shushi Legion and the Karabakh forces decided to attack the outpost from both sides. This attempt failed. Zabugh was held by several Turkish regiments and Turkish and Kurdish armed cavalry. Perhaps Andranik ceased to be able to support the undertaking of the Shushi Legion, as being short of arms and ammunition himself, didn’t attend to transfer arms to Karabakh. The 200 soldiers of the Shushi Legion, joined with 800 men from Tegh, Kornidzor and the surrounding villages, tried to achieve breakthrough with a sudden decisive attack. But during the battle the Zangezur soldiers deserted their positions. The 1500 Karabakh fighters, stormed by a 10 thousand Turkish and Turkish cavalry were forced to retreat.

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