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Khanasor Expedition 1897                                    


The plain of Khanasor geographically lies between the district of Van and Iran, and was once heavily populated by Kurds.

Khanasor Expedition (Armenian: Խանասորի Արշաւանքը) was performed by the Armenian militia against the Kurdish Mazrik tribe on July 25, 1897. In 1896, during the Defense of Van, the Ottoman-hired Mazrik tribe ambushed a squad of Armenian defenders and mercilessly slaughtered them. The Khanasor Expedition was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's decision to retaliate.

Merely a year after the events of the Ottoman Bank takeover, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation decided to retaliate and "punish" the Kurdish Mazrik tribe for their role in the Hamidian massacres and their ambush on the defenders of Van. The Mazrik tribe were settled in the fields of Khanasor, near Avarayr. The ARF, with the support of the Hunchakians and the Armenakans, organized an attack on the tribe. The operation was the brainchild of Nigol Douman alongside "Khanasora" Vartan Mehrpanian and Ishkhan Arghoutian, all of whom participated as commanders of the operation. On July 25, 1897, at dawn, 150 fedayees attacked the Mazrik tribe, killing all the men and sparing only the women and children. Mazrik commander Sharaf Beg managed to escape through the darkness. The attack ended on July 27, 1897.

Although ARF founder Rosdom's brother Garo and 25 other fedayees were among the casualties, the Khanasor expedition was a small triumph for the Armenians, militarily and morally. As a result, Armenians built up their self-confidence; their belief in their ability to defend themselves was now reinforced. To this day, the ARF remembers the event in commemorative ceremonies honoring the expedition as an important event in the history of the Armenian struggle for freedom.


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Battle of Sardarabad                          



This Memorial is dedicated to the Armenian Victory at the battle of Sardarabad in Armavir Armenia

Armavir Region

On a low ridge is the battle monument of Sardarabad, commemorating the Armenian defeat of an invading Turkish army, May 20-22, 1918. The Turks, coming south down the railroad from Alexandropol (Gyumri), were pushed back, giving the wavering Armenian provisional government the encouragement to declare the independent Republic of Armenia on May 28, 1918. The monument is guarded by massive Assyrian-style winged lions, and is flanked by a memorial garden for Karabakh martyrs. Bearing left before the monument, a driveway skirts the monument ridge to reach a tourist pavilion (refreshments) and the highly attractive Sardarabad museum**. The ground floor central hall contains commemorative material from the battle. Starting from the right, the lower galleries present archaeological materials from Neolithic to Medieval, and implements for various traditional handicrafts. Upstairs are exhibits of carpets and embroidery, modern Armenian decorative ceramics, and jewelry.

The Sardarabad Memorial is located 25 kilometers from Echmiadzin. In violation of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with soviet Russia, Turkish troops crossed the border in 1918 and attacked Alexandropol (Leninakan). The aggressor intended to crush Eastern Armenia and seize Transccaucasia. When Alexandropol fell, the Turkish Army poured into the Ararat Valley – the heart of Armenia. There was a major engagement at Sardarabad on May 22-26, where the Turkish Army was defeated and retreated.

A memorial park was laid out on the battlefield in 1968. The entrance is flanked by huge winged oxen made of red tuff. A flight of steps leads to a square from which a 26-metre-high bell tower rises. The beautiful trellis structure with its nine bells can be seen from afar. The bells ring every year on the day of the historic victory. A lane of eagles, symbolizing the spirit of the fearless fighting men, leads to a curved Wall of Victory (length – 55 meters, height – 7 meters) with scenes of the battle, and the figure of a woman with a child – a symbol of revival.

The Sardarabad complex includes a restaurant and a cozy little hotel. The complex was designed by the architect Rafael Israelyan, and sculptors Ara Arutyunyan, Samvel Manasyan and Arsham Shaginyan. Visitors are also welcome to drop into the Museum of Ethnography of Armenia on the territory of the park.


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The National Flag of the NKR represents a right-angled cloth with three horisontal stripes on it: the upper-red, the middle- blue, and the lower- orange, the breadth of each of them is 20 centimeters. There is a white five-toothed stepped carpet pattern on the Flag which begins from the two verges of the cloth’s right side and is connected on one-third of the Flag. The ratio of the Flag’s breadth to its length is 1:2 [60 120 centim.]

The State Emblem of the NKR depicts an eagle with extended wings below the parting rays of the sun and the crown of Artashesids dynasty. In the centre against a background of the National Flag of the NKR and mountain Kirs, a picture of the sculpture"We and our Mountains" is portrayed. Below, in the claws of the eagle there are bunch of grapes, mulberries, and ears of wheat. In the upper semicircle there is an Armenian inscription: "The Nagorno- Karabakh Republic-- Artsakh.


     Geographical location         


The Nagorno-Karabagh Republic is located in the southeastern part of the Caucasus Minor. The Republic is typically mountainous, embracing the eastern part of Karabakhi plateau and from the west goes downhill to the east, joining with the Artsakh valley, forming the great part of Kuro-Araks lowland.
Almost all the rivers of Nagorno-Karabagh flow from the western and southwestern mountains to the east and south- east out into to the Artsakh valley.
During the centuries these fast flowing mountainous rivers formed deep spectacular gorges and beautiful picturesque valleys. The valleys of the rivers Ishkhanaget, Varanda, Khonashen, Kar- Kar, Indja, Kavart, Tartar are considered the most beautiful. The vastest is the valley of the river Tartar, situated in Martakert region.
It is no surprise that the carving of the mountains by the fast rivers characterizes the republic’s territory and offers the most beautiful of scenery. The eastern parts of Martakert and Martin regions are relatively low-lying. The average height of Nagorno Karabagh above sea level is 1100 meters.
From the north to the south on the eastern frontier of Nagorno Karabagh stretches the Karabakhian mountain ridge. Running from this chain in an east west direction are several mountain ridges stretching along most of the territory of the region.
The Mrav mountain ridge is the country’s highest running as it does through the Martakert region. The highest peaks are Gomshasar (3724m) and Mrav (3343m), which are situated in the northwest of the region. Other notable high mountains are Forty Girls (2828m) in Askeran region, peaks of Great Kirs (2725m) and Dizapait (2480m) located in the Karabakhian ridge. The Great Kirs is situated in the junction of Shushi and Hadrout regions Dizapait - in Hadrout region.
Artsakh plateau like all Armenian plateaus is characterized by active seismics. Volcanic rocks that appeared in ancient times are gaining ground: limestone and other sedimentary rocks from the Jurassic and cretaceous period.


The War of 1991-1994


From the beginning of 1991 Azerbaijan embarked on attacking the Armenian population of both the Nagorno Karabakh region and also the Shahoumian district. The Azerbaijani television broadcast President of Azerbaijan Ajaz Mutalibov’s edict on the introduction of presidential ruling in NÊÀÎ and the Azerbaijani districts adjacent to it. In the district there appeared leaflets containing an ultimatum demand that the Armenian people should leave the bounds of Nagorno- Karabagh at the earliest possible date.
On January 14, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet Presidium took a decision to unite two neighboring districts, the Armenian Shahoumian and Azerbaijani Kasum-Ismailov, into one under the name Geranboy. The aim of the Azerbaijani leadership was obvious- to liquidate another Armenian district, deporting its indigenous inhabitants and repopulating the Armenian villages with Azeris. By that time the Shahumian district had twenty thousand inhabitants, of whom 82% were Armenians.
On January 22nd, at Stepanakert Airport OMON, the Special Forces of Azerbaijan, refused entry to a group of deputies from the R.S.F.S.R. Supreme Soviet who had arrived to study the situation. The deputies had arrived under the instructions of the Russian Supreme Soviet and were sent back to Baku.
The situation in Nagorno Karabagh and adjacent Armenian districts became heated. One such action that gave rise to deterioration in the region was Operation Ring. This punitive act taken against the Armenians in late April and early May of 91 involved the forces of the USSR Ministry of the Interior together with Azerbaijani special militia detachments. On the pretext of a passport "check" an unprecedented action of State terror was carried out with the aim of destroying the brain-center of the Movement and annihilating the national unity. The first victims became the villagers of Getashen and Martunashen of the Khanlar district of Azerbaijan. The male population was taken out in an unknown direction where a "passport check" took place accompanied with brutality, looting, and robbery. During three days the population of 24 Karabakh villages were subjected to similar treatment and deportation. Two of the villages were in the Khanlar district, three in the Shahumian district, fifteen in the Gadrut district and four in the Shushi district. As a result of these actions in Karabagh and in near- border of Armenia more than 100 people were killed and several hundred more were taken hostages.
On April 24, the Armenian Supreme Soviet Chairman directed a letter to the USSR leadership with the request to take urgent measures for protecting and ensuring security guarantees of the Armenian population of the district. On May 3, the Armenian Party organization’s active members addressed President of the USSR M. Gorbachev with the same request. On May 4, the meetings of President of Armenia L.Ter-Petrossian with M.Gorbachev and President of Russia B.Yeltsin took place, but they did not produce a statement following the meeting. The USSR MVD (Interior Ministry) troops with the Azerbajani OMON continued to conduct their punitive operations. It was evident that the trend of developments was leading to a wide-scale war.
On May 6, the USSR Supreme Soviet discussed the demands of Armenia to convene the congress of the USSR people’s deputies in connection with the rapidly deteriorating situation within NKAO and the downturn in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. The decision was taken to continue discussions of the problem at the Commission of the Soviet of Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Meanwhile, on the same day 700 Armenian refugees were taken from Getashen to Stepanakert by the military helicopters.
The rally, planned by public organizations in Stepanakert on May 7, was prohibited by the military commandant’s office. The day before armoured troop carriers were traveling about the town with loud- speakers, notifying the people that weapons would be used should there be insubordination.
As a result of the critical situation in Nagorno Karabakh the executive committee of the district Soviet announced both locally and to the world in general that they had declared state of emergency in the district.
On the same day the executive committee addressed the UN and the leadership of a number of countries with the request to save the Armenian people of NKAO from physical extermination and grant them political asylum.
On July 19, 1991 the enlarged session of the district Soviet executive committee was held at which measures on the stabilization of the political and economic situation in the district were discussed. The leadership took the decision to restore the authorities of the NKAO People’s Deputies Soviet, conduct new elections of the district Soviet, formulate a survival program for Artsakh and thoroughly prepare for armed resistance against Azerbaijan. A representative delegation for conducting negotiations with the Azerbaijani leadership was created. As a result of these negotiations in Baku a temporary peace was established.
On June 24th, the NKAO delegation left for Moscow to meet with the Soviet leadership to consider the problem of restoring the functions of the district bodies’ power and a possible dialogue with the Azerbaijani side on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation. On June 29th, the USSR vice-president G.Yanaev approved the initiative and promised to promote the dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Karabakh problem. The efforts of the NKAO delegation to meet the USSR President M. Gorbachev failed. On the same day the NKAO representatives were received by the Supreme Soviet Chairman A. Lukyanov, who expressed the opinion about the necessity of restoring the district Soviet of People’s Deputies and promised to send the Supreme Soviet delegation to Nagorno- Karabakh to study the situation. Meetings were also held with the USSR Defense Ministry D. Yazov, Internal Affairs Minister B. Pugou, Deputy Prosecutor General Trubin, and the former USSR Foreign Minister E. Shevardnadze. But all yielded little in terms of practical results.
The Azerbaijani leadership continued its policy of deportation of the Armenian population, justifying this deportation as voluntary departures. These actions were accompanied with atrocities, including torture, murder, looting, banditry, brutality and violence. On July 19th a session of the Nagorno Karabakh district Soviet of People’s Deputies discussed the beginning of a dialogue with the Azerbaijani side on a peaceful settlement of the conflict. On July 20th the NKAO delegation held a meeting with President of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov, but no concrete results were achieved.
The turning - point of the national-liberation movement of the Karabakh people became the creation of their statehood. It was the only way of ensuring the security of the population and their territory.
On September 2, in Stepanakert a joint session of the Nagorno Karabakh Regional Council and the Governing Council of the Shahumian district took place where it was agreed that in line with the wishes of all peoples within the boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh and the Shahoumian Region the Nagorno Karabakh Republic would be proclaimed. Leonard Petrossian was elected chairman of the NKR Executive Committee. Almost immediately followed the Azerbaijani response when for the first time Stepanakert was subjected to bombardment and shelling with ‘Alazan’ rockets. This was to become a regular event. On September 22, Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan, B.Yeltsin and N. Nazarbaev accompanied by A.Mutalibov arrived in Stepanakert on a peacemaking mission. On September 23, in Zheleznovodsk (Russia) at the request of B. Yeltsin and N. Nazarbaev negotiations were held between the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Nagorno Karabakh delegations on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement and as a result of these negotiations a joint communique was adopted. The delegation of Nagorno Karabakh was headed by one of the leaders of the national-liberation movement Robert Kocharian.
B.Yeltsin and Nazarbaev’s mediation initiative did not lead to the improvement of the situation in Nagorno Karabakh. On the contrary, Azeris rapidly escalated bombardment by shelling and attacks on the Armenian populated areas.
On October 15th, the representatives of Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan arrived in Baku to get acquainted with the implementation of the Zheleznovodsk agreement. President of Azerbadjain A. Mutalibov was to receive them and it was he who had stated that it was only Azerbaijan who was competent to resolvee the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and that no outside agency or country must, intervene in its internal affairs.
Meanwhile, in Baku anti-Armenian riots were organized with the Azerbaijani Popular Front, making calls to create a regular army to capture Karabagh.
In the same year, on November 26, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet adopted a bill on dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh as national-territorial entity, and the Nagorno-Karabakh districts were renamed and subordinated to the newly created administrative centers. On the 28th of November a resolution of the USSR Committee of Constitutional Supervision condemned the Azerbaijani legislative body act as violating the status of the NKAO, sealed by the USSR Constitution.
The most important stage in the national liberation struggle of the Karabakh people became the all-republican referendum, held on December 10, 1991, 98% of the participants of which voted in favour of independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. On December 28,despite constant bombardment by the Azerbaijani Army, elections for the Supreme Soviet of the republic were carried out in the NKR. On January 6, 1992 the NKR newly elected legislative body, proceeding from the essential right of peoples for self-determination and basing on the Nagorno-Karabagh people’s will, expressed through a referendum, adopted the Declaration of the NKR Independence. On the same day the deputies appealed to the UN and to all the countries of the world with the request to recognize the NKR and help to prevent the genocide of the Artsakh Armenians. On January 8, the session elected the leader of the legislative body of the republic. Thirty-year Arthur Mkrtchian became the first chairman of the NKR Supreme Soviet. Oleg Yesaian was confirmed Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
Taking advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan proceeded to escalate wide-scaled military offensives against Nagorno-Karabagh. The Azeri-populated villages, surrounding Stepanakert, were turned into large military bases from which by means of artillery guns the capital of the republic was being methodically destroyed. There began an unprecedented in the whole history of the Karabagh conflict shelling by 40-barrelled missile rocket launchers "Grad" - a weapon of mass elimination the use of which against civilian population is forbidden by numerous international conventions. For the first time the Azerbaijani side used "Grad" rocket, bombarding the Shaumian district center, as a result of which many people including children died
Late in 1991 the units of the former 4th Soviet army were ordered to withdraw the territory of Karabagh they had hardly intervened in the conflict. The republic then remained alone, face to face with the Azerbaijani regular-armed units. They were equipped with modern military equipment and weapons including aircraft many of which were flown by foreign mercenaries. Early in 1992 the arsenal of the Azeri armed forces were considerably increased at the expense of the captured warehouses of the Transcaucasian military district of the former Soviet Army, located in the territory of Azerbaijan. There were kept thousands of carriages with ammunition that, as military experts asserted, would be enough for carrying on intensive military offensives for at least a year.


On the first day of the 1992, from the territory of Agdam Azerbaijani troops accompanied by 10 tanks and ATC (armored troop carriers) attacked the Armenian village of Khramort and burned it. The NKR capital and the Armenian villages were subjected to further and constant intensive shelling. On January 25-26 an Azerbaijani army battalion embarked on an offensive against the village of Karintak of the Shushi district.
The attack was beaten off after two days’ of stubborn fighting. On January 31, Azerbaijan began an offensive along the whole front line.
The escalation of military offensives compelled the NKR to organize and improve its defense. With that end in view detachments on a voluntary basis were being created throughout Artsakh. A headquarters of the self-defense forces was created to centralize and coordinate these operations. At the beginning of the year in the territory of Artsakh more than 10 companies and platoons existed comprising more than 1000 people. This became one of the important steps on the way to creating a regular army. On the night of January 21-22,1992 located in the Kerkjan quarter (former Karkarashen) of the town of Stepanakert, the headquarters of the Azerbaijani OMON was eliminated. Then from February 10 the firing points of villages Malibeyli and Ghushchilar, adjacent to the NKR capital, were destroyed. Nevertheless, the situation continued to remain extremely tense. From the enemy firing points, practically located along the full length of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, long-range weapons operated, causing mass destruction and high casualty rates amongst the people.
On February 24, the NKR Supreme Soviet Presidium took a decision concerning the law status of the republic armed formations, which were subordinated to the united command. Serge Sargssian was appointed the chairman of the Self-Defense Committee. One of the primary tasks of the Artsakh self-defense forces was the removal and destruction of the enemy’s bridgehead at Khodjaly. Here there was a considerable contingent of manpower, a great quantity of military equipment. It was essential to reopen the corridor that linked the settlement of Askeran with the capital Stepanakert and also to regain control of the republic’s airport, which was in Azeri hands.
On February 25, the Artsakh self-defense detachments, taking up a position in the west of Khodjaly, demanded that the enemies leave the military base and allow the civilians through the established humanitarian corridor.
The then president of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov confessed, that "the corridor was established by the Armenians to let the civilian inhabitants through" (the Nezavisimaya Gazette, April 2, 1992). Meanwhile the Azeri servicemen acted in another way, using the inhabitants in the village as a shield, they resumed a bombardment of the NKR populated points, and when they were compelled to leave the village, they themselves shot the civilian inhabitants columns on the approaches to the Agdam district borders. The same A. Mutalibov connected this unprecedented criminal action with the Azerbaijani Opposition Popular Front efforts to remove him from office, putting the whole responsibility for what had happened on him.
Early in March the Azeri army undertook a wide-scaled offensive on the entire front line. The main blow was aimed in the direction of Mardakert, Askeran and Martuni districts. As a result of fierce battles the offensive was halted. With the liquidation of the Khodjaly military base bombardment by shelling did not substantially decreased. From the town of Shushi, towering above Stepanakert, the sustained rocket-artillery bombardment of the NKR capital and other populated points were carried throughout the day and nights that followed. On May 7, the Azeri infantry and armour backed with military helicopters ME-24, embarked on an assault against the Karabakh defense positions in the southeast of Stepanakert.
Simultaneously on the same day from the Shushi hills and adjacent Azerbaijani points about 200 Grad rockets and other types of weapons were launched down onto the capital, causing many casualties. A fire broke out at the railway station and in a number of houses throughout the town.
The self-defense force command made a decision to neutralize the strong points of the enemy in these inhabited localities. On May 8, in the evening the Artsakh self-defense sub-units assumed an offensive, which was led by Arkady Ter-Tadevossian, taking the Shushi-Lachin main road under their control. By noon the defense of Shushi from the north and south had been broken. As a result of street battles the Armenian formations had taken the central quarters of the town by the evening. On May 9, Shushi was entirely liberated.
After destroying the firing points in Shushi and other adjacent territories of the NKR the self-defense forces were tasked to open the road of vital importance-Shushi-Lachin-Zabukh which would remove the blockade and restore a normal vital activity of the republic. On May 18, the Karabaghian army sub-units entered Lachin (Kashatag), thus breaking the 3-year blockade ring. On May 20, along the road Goris-Stepankert through the Lachin Corridor hundreds of tons of humanitarian cargo was delivered to the NKR capital: food, medicine and other goods being the first priority. After the Shushi -Lachin operation there followed a lessening of tension in the conflict area.
Meanwhile, the enemy was preparing for the wide-scaled military operation. On June 12, the Azerbaijani troops embarked on an offensive in the northen-eatern, eastern and southeastern sectors of the front. Practically, the whole weight of the Azerbaijan military was thrown at the 20 kilometers theatre of operations. In addition the forces of former Soviet 4-th Army stationed in the NKR were engaged. With the help of armor equipment, Grad multiple-missile rocket launchers and aircraft the enemy was able to capture the whole of the Shahumian district, the part of the Mardakert and Askeran districts and came close to the district center of Askeran.As a result of an offensive of unprecedented scale the Azerbaijani national army destroyed and burned scores of villages, forty thousand inhabitants of the republic became refugees. Taking into account this situation, on June 18 the NKR Supreme Soviet announced a state of emergency in the republic. Partial mobilization covering sergeants, the reserve, conscripts from the age from 18 to 40, officers up to 50 years old, women, were all given special training.
In the first days of June the Azerbaijani army, expanding its offensive in several directions captured the district center Mardakert and a number of villages of the district. The threat hung over Artsakh with 40% of the territory occupied by the Azerbaijani troops.
On August 11, the President of Azerbaijan issued an edict on conscription for military service of all those demobilized from the army in 1991-1992, as well as a prolongation for those who serving in the armed forces. With expansion of aggression and prevention further capturing the territories the necessity of improving the defense, as well as the necessity of reorganizing state governing system was organised. With this aim on August 12 the NKR Supreme Soviet Presidium, headed by the SC Acting Chairman Georgy Petrossian adopted an edict placing the Republic on a war footing. The mobilization of men at the age of 18-45 began. On August 15, the State Committee of Defense was established, absolute executive and legislative power having been passed to it. The State Committee of Defense, which was headed by Robert Kocharian, was designed to mobilize all the manpower and material resources of the republic, convert the enterprises, establishments and organizations to a war status.
The unification of the various autonomous self-defense forces and the creation of a united army under single command became a major priority.
Meanwhile, heavy battles were continuing in the different sectors of the front. Simultaneously, the Azerbaijani airforce continued to attack civilian inhabited localities. On August 18, pellet bombs were dropped onto Stepanakert the use of which is forbidden by international law. On following days the villages of the Martuni, Mardakert and Askeran districts were subjected to aerial bombardment.
By late summer the Mardakert sector continued to remain an extremely tense part of the front. On August 26, at the expense of great losses the enemy succeeded in taking the Mardakert-Kelbajar main road which was of great strategic significance. Scanty Karabaghian forces, operating in the Mardakert sector did so under trying conditions. To strengthen troops in this sector of the front the regrouping of the forces was made as a result of which early in September the Karabakh formations succeeded in stopping the advance of the enemy; and undertaking a counter-offensive in the Askeran direction and liberating this district’s villages. In the same period in the totally occupied Shahumian district a guerilla movement was deployed.
In the last decade of October the Azerbaijani troops twice made an attempt to cut off the Lachin humanitarian corridor, however they were stopped 12 kilometers from it and then thrown back. On October 19, the Karabakh forces started a counter- offensive in the south of the corridor and came out to the borders of the Kubatly district.
On November 1992, the NKR Army in the course of the counter- offensive operations in the southeast of the Mardakert district practically took the Tartar-Mardakert-Kelbajar main road under its control. Fierce fighting was carried on for a month on the full length of the Mardakert front. Late 1992 observed the abatement of the activity hostilities on the full length of front.


Early in January 1993 military offensives along the full length of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh front entered a new stage. Azerbaijan engaged almost the whole of its arsenal – attacking with aircraft, heavy tanks, various weapons and infantry.
On January 14, the Azeri troops embarked on a wide-scaled offensive in the direction of the village of Kichan and Srkhavand of the Mardakert district, and the village of Chartar of the Martuni district. However, the enemy was not able to advance in those sectors.
In early February heavy fighting took place at the northern front. To free the occupied territory of the Mardakert district the NKR Self-defense Army command gave an order for taking a counter offensive. Having broken the resistance of the enemy in a few days, the Karabaghian forces came out on to the strategic sector of the Mardakert-Kelbajar road. By late February as a result of heavy fighting the Karabaghian forces succeeded in re-establishing full control under the Sarsang storage lake where was located the electric power station that was of vital importance to the republic.
In the period from March 27 till April 5 there started the operations to remove the military bases of the Kelbajar district, they presented a serious threat to the western borders of NKR. On April 3, the firing points in the district center Kelbajar were neutralized. Having taken the crossroad, linking Kelbajar with Kirovabad, the Karabaghian forces came out to the Omar Pass. From the second half of April the situation at the front became relatively quiet.
However, late in the spring the situation changed abruptly. After a short interval the enemy resumed military operations on the full length of the front, choosing the eastern, Martuni sector for the main attack. All attempts to break through the defense of the Karabaghian troops failed.
At the beginning of the summer the Defense Army Command started on the plan for the liberation of the town of Mardakert, undertaking an offensive in several directions simultaneously. The battles reached a climax on June 27 when thanks to the decisive and coordinated actions; Mardakert was liberated after having been under the occupation of Azerbaijan for a year.
On June 14, the Supreme Council Presidium elected the SC Presidium Member Karen Babourian as the Acting Chairman of the NKR Parliament.
On July 4, the Azerbaijani army began a large scale offensive in the Askeran, Gadrut and Mardakert sectors of the front supported by air power and armor engineering. In all the sectors the enemy was repulsed and fled to the initial positions. The height of strategic importance near the village of Shelly in the Agdam district, from where the populated places of the Asceran district and the town of Stepanakert were subjected to the sustained intensive artillery bombardment by shelling, passed under the Karabakh forces control.
Nevertheless, the capital of the NKR continued to be under constant bombardment from Agdam where there were a great number of long-range weapons and launchers "Grad". To ensure the safety of Stepanakert the task to liquidate the military base of Agdam was put before the armed forces of Artsakh. On July 23, the Karabaghian forces, having broken down the resistance of the enemy, who had thrown the main part of his armed forces into this sector, entered Agdam. This removed not only the threat of systematic shelling of the NKR capital, but also the threat of further offensives on Askeran and contiguous districts.
With the removal of this large military base the Azerbaijani leadership was compelled to come out with the proposal to cease the fire. On July 25, practically for the first time during the conflict the arrangement for a three days armistice was achieved.
However, at the beginning of August the situation rapidly changed. The sustained attacks on the Karabakhi positions resumed. They mainly were carried on in the Jebrail direction. Thanks to the skillful actions of the self-defense forces in the course of the counter-offensive operations in that period a number of military bases of the enemy were destroyed. On August 16 from the Azerbaijani town of Fizuly an offensive was undertaken in the direction of the southern borders of the Martuni district and the eastern border of the Gadrut district. The military units of the NKR Defense Army succeeded in not only defending their positions, but also liberating a number of the earlier occupied villages in the south of the Gadrut district.
In the second half of August the fighting took place along the Fisuly-Jebrail- Kubatly line. On the 22nd of August, the Azeri troops were forced to leave the town of Fisuly and the district of the same name. In two days the Karabaghian troops entered the district center Djebrail and two days later took the territory of the same named district under their control. On August 26, the Gadrut district territory of the NKR was entirely liberated. On August 29, the Azeri side made an attempt to break through the Karabakhi defensive positions to the south of the Lachin Humanitarian Corridor, but the subdivisions of the NKR Army, throwing back the enemy, embarked on a counter-offensive and on August 31 entered the district center Kubatly. On the same day an agreement on a cease-fire for 10 days’ time was signed between Azebaijan and the NKR as well as an arrangement for a meeting of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabagh on the 10th of September.
However, the agreement did not give a real result in the sense of transferring the resolution of the problem from a military into a political channel. The relative tranquillity at the front lasted merely a month and a half. On the night of the 10th of October Azerbaijan resumed military hostilities in the Gadrut sector of the front. On October 21, the units of the Azerbaijani Army began an offensive in the Gadrut-Jebrail direction as a result of which they were able to capture a number of strategic hills, again exposing the safety of the population of the settlement of Gadrut and adjacent villages to threat. On October 24, the NKR Self-defense Army troops undertook a counter-offensive in the southern direction of the front, neutralizing a number of firing points of the enemy, in particular the inhabited locality of Choradis. Having taken this military base, the Karabaghian forces isolated the Zangelan district, a part of the Jebrail and the Kubatly districts from the rest of Azerbaijan. On November 1 in the morning the fighting men of the Self-defense Army took the district center Zangelan together with the adjacent populated points. From December 10 the Azerbaijani side three times embarked on an offensive in the southeastern sector of the front, but on each occasion the Karabakh army was able to repulse the enemy’s attacks. On December 15, from the bases of the Agdjabedy district in Azebaijan there began massed rocket-artillery shelling of the populated points of the Martuni district, including the town of Martuni. On December 19, backed by tanks and airpower the Azerbaijani troops again attacked the Karabaghian army positions in the east of the Martuni district. The NKR armed forces were able to stop the offensive and on the night of December 20 threw the enemy back to the initial positions. On December 22, the positions of the Karabaghian troops were subjected to artillery shelling and in the southern- eastern sector of the front as the Azeri forces assumed a counter offensive. For the whole of the next day the enemy unsuccessfully tried to break the defensive borders of the Karabaghians along the front line extending some 30 kilometers. On December 26-27, the Azerbaijani troops waged offensives in the Mardakert, Martuni and Gadrut directions, but they did not succeeded in advancing. By the end of 1993, the whole territory from the railway junction of Khoradis to the state border of Armenia had passed under the control of the Karabaghian side, which enable the creation of an area of safety at the southern borders of the NKR.
In this period the leadership of Azerbaijan declared the mobilization of all men from the age of 18-40 year old. In addition to complement the Azerbaijani Army at the Karabakh front there were engaged mercenaries, including about 1.5 thousand mudjahiddins from Afghanistan - the international observers not once evidenced about it. The participation of the mercenaries in the war was confirmed by personal papers, military maps, letters and photos, dictionaries, national currency, received by Karabaghian military men as a trophy.


Early 1994 Azerbaijan made one more attempt to take hold of the situation, intensifying the offensives on the full front. Hard fighting was waged from the highland Omar Pass as far as Araks. In spite of serious losses the enemy did not give up his plans. Withstanding the defense and carrying on a number of successful counter-offensives, the NKR troops in early February started liquidating the enemy’s bases in Omar Pass area. On February 18, the northern sector, including Omar Pass, was entirely under the Karabaghian forces control. Thus, the Kelbajar district was entirely occupied by the NKR Defense Army troops. At the end of February and at the beginning of March the main fighting was deployed in the southeastern sector of the front in the direction of Ghoradis. The enemy’s troops backed by armored forces, artillery and aviation tried to break the defense of the Karabaghians by a frontal blow and advance to Fisuly. But the latter was able not only to defend its positions but also to assume an offensive in a number of sectors.
On April 10, in the course of the counter offensives in the northern-eastern front the armed forces of the NKR took a number of strategic heights in the sector Gulistan- Talish. In the middle of April the NKR Defense Army freed the Armenian villages Talish, Chily, Madagis and Levonarkh. The success attended the Karabakh troops also in the southern direction of the front. By this time they were able to take the main road Agdam-Barda under their control. The military defeats compelled Azerbaijan to accept the Russian Federation’s proposal on armistice. On May 5, under the mediation of Russia, Kirgizia, and the CIS Inter-Parliament Assembly in the capital of Kirgizia Bishkek Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, and Armenia signed the protocol, which entered the history of the Karabakh conflict settlement as the Bishkek Protocol on base of which the agreement on cease-fire was achieved. On May 12, in Moscow to shape the Bishkek agreements legally there was a meeting of Defense Minister of Armenia Serzh Sarkissian, Defense Minister of Azebaijan Mamedraffi Mamedov and the NKR Defense Army Commander Samvel Babayan, where an agreement on cease-fire from 00 hours on May 17, 1994 was signed. The document was also prepared, providing the disengagement of the Karabakhi and Azerbaijani troops, the establishing of the buffer zone between the parties and bringing peacemaking forces into it. Defense Ministers of the Russian Federation and Armenia Pavel Grachev and Serge Sarkissian, and the NKR Defense Army Commander Samvel Babayan signed the document. But Defense Minister of Azerbaijan Mamedraffi Mamedov did not sign the document. He was urgently summoned to Baku. In spite of Azerbaijan’s not signing the final protocol of the Moscow agreement, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area there came the durable armistice.




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  Liberation of Shushi                     

Walls of Shushi

Aram Bedroasian Bedo Ghevontian Garod Megerdchian Mher Choulhadjian Simon Achikgozian Vahe Baghdasarian Vartan Pakhshian Vartan Sdepanian



Shushi liberation was a historical necessity to restore the fundamental right of Armenians to populate the land that was historically Armenian and to strengthen the victorious spirit of the Armenian nation, molded in battles. In this way the Artsakh movement went into a new stage and a radical change was introduced into the military action, making the independence of the NKR inevitable

The Shushi liberation was induced by economic necessity too, as a result of a communication blockade – on land and in the air, the lack of energy, gas and potable water and the permanent bombings of Stepanakert from Shushi the economy of the whole republic was devastated. During those days Shushi was the main fire point from where Stepanakert was assaulted. Since November 1991 till early May 1992 from Shushi, Jangasan, Kesalar, Gaibalu 4740 were sent at Stepanakert, 3 thousand of them coming from “Grad” device. This left 111 civilians dead and 332 - injured, 370 houses and buildings were destroyed.
After the successful efforts of self-defense forces in a number of directions, overcoming the fire spots, the liberation of Khojalu and opening of the airport economic, military and moral pre-conditions for Shushi liberation were set in place. In this regard the self-defense of Karin village was of utmost importance. Thus, on January 25-26, 1992 when a small troop of Armenian guerillas managed to fight back the attack of the much more numerous forces of the opponent, defeating the troop of over 80 that counterattacked from Shushi.
However, the permanent and ruthless bombings and fire at Stepanakert and its surroundings continued. In a course of one week the city was bombed with over 1000 shells, 800 of them being reactive. This left 20 civilians dead. As of April 27, 1992 in Shushi, from where the civilians were evacuated, a big number of weapons and shells were concentrated.
While preparing the Shushi liberation operation the Armenian party made a number of diplomatic actions to prepare the world public opinion. In the address of NKR Supreme Council to the UN Secretary General, the leaders of the OSCE and a number of countries attention was attracted to the genocide committed by Azerbaijanis, in particular to the Maragi Massacre in April 1991.
On May 1 the Presidium of the NKR Supreme Council re-appealed to the international community, stating that the population of Karabakh is doomed to starvation is deprived of water supply, electricity, medicine… Hence the liberation of Shushi was prompted primarily by the need to ensure the safety of the population of Stepanakert and whole of Nagorno-Karabakh. In answer to this appeal representatives of a number of countries, including the UN Special Representative S. Wence, the OSCE Officer Y. Kobich, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran M. Vaezi, Russian Foreign Minister A. Kozyrev arrived in the region. The negotiations process started, too: in Tehran, the capital of Iran on May 6 the RA President L. Ter-Petrosyan, the Iran President Rafsanjani and the acting President of Azerbaijan Y. Mamedov met.

The liberation operation

The liberation operation in Shushi was implemented on May 8-9. The operation nearly perfect in terms of its conception and realization, was a unique one in the history of Armenian military art and introduced a dramatic change in the military progress of the Karabakh liberation war.
The operation started after the positions of Kirs were gained and control over the road Lachin-Shushi was established at 2.30 in the morning of May 9 by a simultaneous advancement in 4 directions, with a joint fire from MM-21 guns. The operation was directed by the Commander of Self-Defense Forces Arkadiy Ter-Tadevosyan (Commandos). The commandment was represented also by Major General G. Dalibaltayan, Serzh Sargsyan, R. Gzogyan, Z. Balayan, signalists, medical service, artillery preparation, engineering service. The work was coordinated by A. Papazyan, V. Marutyan, L. Martirosov., R. Aghajanyan, respectively, as well as representatives of NKR leadership O. Yesayan, G. Petrosyan, A. Ghukasyan, R. Kocharyan and others. The plan of the liberation operation was blessed by the leader of Artsakh Diocese, Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan who wished good luck to the members of the Self-Defense Headquarter.
The operation plan was developed with guidance from A. Ter-Tadevosyan immediately after Khojalu was liberated. The plan was put together in March-April, after the intelligence data about the location, positions and the number of the rival forces had been finalized. In terms of human resources and arms the enemy was superior to the Armenian forces. The operation situation was controlled; every single change was immediately reported to V. Sargsyan and S. Sargsyan. The plan was developed in top secrecy with active involvement of A. Ter-Tadevosyan, R. Gzogyan, S. Sargsyan, L. Martirosov, R. Kocharyan, as well as the commanders of the main directions (S. Babayan, A. Karapetyan, S. Ohanyan, V. Chitchyan and others). On April 28 the main directions of the operation, the commanders, the resources at hand were finalized and defined.
By the commission of L. Martirosov, the model of Shushi area was made, enabling the commanders to define their actions and directions. The military actions were led from commanding points, located at an altitude to the north of Shushi and four others. The attack was to start on May 4, but for various reasons (lack of ammunition, adverse weather conditions, etc.) it was delayed. On May 8, at night 4 attacking groups and 1 reserve group (a total of 1200 soldiers) of the self-defense forces started the assault.

The military order of Shushi liberation was signed by on May 4 with the following details:

“1. The enemy holds the surrounding positions on Shushi elevations with a human resource of 1200, in Zarslu - of about 100, in Lisagor - of about 300-350, in Kesalar - of about 300.

2. Our task is:

a/ To defeat the enemy in Lisagor, Zaralu, Janasan, Karagyav;
b/ To defeat the enemy at Shushi approaches, to gain Shushi and to free the city from the Greens /conventional name of the enemy/;
c/ to further advance to Berdadzor and free the Berdadzor district from the Greens;
d/ The enemy has concentrated the main forces in Kesalar, Lisagor, Zarslu, in surroundings of Shushi and circled the whole city. The ways for defeating the enemy: to gain high point N and take position there. After regrouping of forces to advance to Lisagor and Zarslu and to immediately start the attack in four directions:
a/ Direction of Shosh /eastern/, commander - A. Karapetyan
b/ Direction of “26”/northern/, commander - V. Chitchyan
c/ Lachin direction /southern/, commander - S. Babayan
d/ Kesalar direction /north-eastern/, commander - M. Ohanyan, commander of reserve troops - Y. Hovhannisyan

To defeat the enemy from Stepanakert side at three Shushi edges, then to destroy the enemy and liberate Shushi.
The result of the battle became certain already on May 8, when the troops succeeded in gaining favorable positions on Lachin and other directions. The stop of military actions in the evening of May 8, allowed the enemy to withdraw from the city by a specially allocated corridor, having displayed just some irregular resistance. At about noon 1 military place and helicopters of the enemy attacked, bombing a number of Armenian troops, as well as Shushi and Stepanakert. It turned out later that the aim of the air attack to destroy the military warehouses remaining in Shushi – the Azerbaijanis hoped to thus destroy the whole city, but failed to accomplish it.

Results and historical significance of Shushi liberation

A brilliant completion of Shushi operation, in particular, the few losses and the speed of it, becoming the subject of admiration of military experts, was the result of valor of Armenian soldiers and an excellent organization. Its result was the destruction of all fire spots and military positions around Stepanakert. The enemy suffered significant losses of human resources and ammunition. The development and implementation of the operation proved the vitality of Armenian military idea and were a serious commencement for the Self-Defense Forces. This was followed by an opening of Lachin corridor and the break through the blockade around NKR, the road of life between Artsakh and Armenia was opened. The independence of NKR became complete and full-fledged. The belief in the possible victory over the enemy that had superior forces and capacities became stronger. The Shushi victory had made a major blow on the enemy that was never able to overcome the loser complex throughout the war.
The liberation of Shushi had huge value for all Armenians, and it showed the world community how serious the aims and purposes of Artsakh movement are. During the battles for Shushi the casualties of the Armenian party made 57 dead, /250-300 in the case of enemy/, 600-700 injured, 13 missing in action. Taking into account the importance of Shushi liberation, in 1994 the Supreme Council of NKR established medal “For Shushi Liberation”.

In Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic May 9 is officially announced Shushi Liberation Day.

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Javakhk is the province in the area of Gugark, Mets Hayk countryside. The area of Javakh consists of the Akhalkalak, Ninotsminda, Aspindza regions. In 1829, Armenians from Erzrum and its regions refuged to Javakhk. Now the main population of Javakhk consists of their offspring. Nowadays almost 140.000 Armenians are inhabited in Javakhk. There 112 Armenian schools in this area. Many famous Armenians were born in Javakhk. Among them are V. Teryan, D. Demirchyan, etc.

Today, Javakhk is the most underdeveloped and impoverished region. It has the highest rate of unemployment in the country and the lowest rate of state investment. There is no industry, and agriculture is primitive. The roads and infrastructure in the region are non-existent and it is easier to reach Armenia than Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Javakhk is a geographic, economic and political island, almost cut off from the rest of the world. The historic Armenian regions of Akhalkalak and Akhaltska lie in the southern part of Georgia, bordering Armenia and Turkey. Javakhk borders Ajaria in the west and regions inhabited by ethnic Azeris lie to the east.

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      Lisbon 5

The words of German philosopher Kant suddenly provided insight to the news that Armenians had seized the Turkish Ambassador's residence in Lisbon.

The siege began at around 10:30AM–followed by three explosions that rocked the residence at 11:00AM–11:30AM and 1:30PM; shortly thereafter–we would soon discover that five young Armenian men–Sarkis Aprahamian–Setrag Ajemian–Vache Daghlian–Simon Yeghneian and Ara Karjelian–were on a mission. One had already lost his life in a shootout with police earlier as they arrived at the complex. And at 2:00PM–the charred bodies of the other four men were discovered in the building.

We later learned–through their communiqués–that having abandoned all hope for Turkey to resolve the issue of the Armenian genocide through dialogue and peaceful means–the five had decided to "force Turkey into accepting to negotiate with the Armenian people to solve the Armenian problem."

They apologized to Portuguese authorities for violating the law and disrupting the order of the country.

"We had no other choice," they said.

Can we understand today their level of frustration and their drive for justice? A July 29–1983 editorial in the Christian

Science Monitor perhaps clarifies the source of their frustration.

"One key aspect of the question is that there is no documented historical account of the period in which the mass killing took place. . . So this period is largely a blank for historians–who have had to rely on accounts of those Armenians who survived and fled. It would be as if the history of World War II were written without German materials," it wrote–ignoring the myriad of documents recorded by foreign diplomats and missionaries who witnessed the Genocide.

The five would come to be known as "The Lisbon 5." Some appreciated and embraced their call for the "full application and preservation of human rights for all." Perhaps the times dictated their actions. Others–Armenians and non-Armenians abhorred the act characterizing it as a maniacal deed.

"Hard as it might be to follow their reasoning–we must try to understand them. They probably want to represent a national symbol with dual significance: first–a challenge to Armenian communities–saying "Look how we disdain all the things which paralyze you on the road of a just struggle–life's pleasures and even life itself;" and to Western governments–saying 'Don't think you can easily be saved from a situation which has given birth to the likes of us who can do anything,'" wrote the July 27–1983 edition of France's "Liberation."

Though times have changed and our methods of campaigning for Genocide recognition have surely changed–one thing remains the same. Recall less than two years ago the declaration of then Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) member Ozdem Sanberk during the 22nd annual Assembly of Turkish American Association (ATAA) convention in Washington–DC: "Turkey will never ever recognize the [Armenian] Genocide for the simple reason that it didn't happen."

It is impossible to now experience the haplessness of the Lisbon 5. We have come a long way since then. Our country has gained independence–and the "Tebi Yergir" phenomenon no longer incites the same passions as it once did. Furthermore–Armenia's foreign policy now includes the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. We stood up for what is ours in the Mountainous Karabagh Republic (MKR); Shushi was been liberated; MKR will surely soon be recognized by the international community.

At the same time–we cannot afford to abandon the spirit that the five men embodied and their utter dedication to seek what is just. And even though we are now empowered with tools with which to pressure the international community–their passion for and commitment to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide nevertheless remained unparalleled.

Kant's words were–"When justice has disappeared–human life is worth nothing." Sarkis–Setrag–Vache–Simon and Ara understood; after all–they wrote: "We have lost almost everything–even our identity."

We must make it our duty to continue the battle that the five started. A lot can change in twenty years–especially in the twenty to come.

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Gugunian Expedition 1890

The Gugunian Expedition was an attempt by a small group of Armenian nationalists from the Russian Empire to launch an armed expedition across the border into the Ottoman Empire in 1890 in support of local Armenians.

The leader of the expedition was a former student, Sarkis Gugunian (1866-1913). Like many other Russian Armenians, he was concerned with the fate of Ottoman Armenians living under the rule of the despotic Sultan Abdul Hamid II. With financial support from wealthy Armenians living in Tbilisi and Baku, Gugunian was able to buy weapons and raise a volunteer force of 125 men. Initially, Gugunian had the backing of the leading Armenian nationalist party in Russia, the Dashnaks, but they soon tried to dissuade him from embarking on such an unrealistic scheme.

Gugunian went ahead with his expedition and his volunteer force set off on September 27, 1890. They crossed the border but ran low on food supplies and after a clash with Turkish and Kurdish troops, they retreated to Russia. Here they were intercepted by Cossacks who arrested 43 members of the expedition. The Russian authorities treated any Armenian nationalist activity within their empire with deep suspicion and the arrested members were put on trial. They had fought under a banner with the initials "M.H.", which could stand for either "Mother Armenia" or "Union of Patriots" in Armenian. The prosecutor at the trial, which took place in Kars in 1892, alleged that the letters meant "United Armenia", another possible - and more subversive- interpretation. 27 of the accused were convicted and exiled to Siberia.

Although the expedition was a failure, its members became heroes of the Armenian nationalist cause and the subject of patriotic songs.

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Zeitun Resistance (1895)

The First Zeitun Resistance (Armenian: Զէյթունի առաջին ապստամբութիւնը) took place in 1895, during the Hamidian massacres.

Between the years 1891 and 1895, Hunchak activists toured various regions of Cilicia and Zeitun to encourage resistance, and established new branches of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party. The ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, wished to eliminate the only stronghold of Armenian autonomy during the Armenian massacres of 1895-1896.

The Armenian inhabitants of Zeitun, under the leadership of the Hunchakian Party, heard of the ongoing massacres in nearby regions, and thus started to prepare themselves for an armed resistance; 6000 young men were armed and sent to the battlefield. They started by conquering the nearby Turkish fort, took 600 Turkish soldiers as prisoners, and placed them under the surveillance of Armenian women. The prisoners tried to flee, but failed and were killed. In order to face the 6,000 Armenian militia of Zeitun, Sultan Abdul Hamid sent an army of 60,000 with cannons. The Turkish army lost and 20,000 soldiers were killed, whilst the Armenians only lost 150 fedayeen.

With the intervention of the European powers, the Armenians of Zeitun stopped the resistance, and lived peacefully until 1915.


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Sasun Resistance (1894)

The First Sassoun Resistance of 1894 (Armenian: Սասնո առաջին ապստամբութիւն) was the resistance of the Hunchak militia of the Sassoun region.

In 1894, Sultan Abdul Hamid II began to target the Armenian people in a precursor of the Hamidian massacres. This persecution strengthened nationalistic sentiment among Armenians. The first notable battle in the Armenian resistance movement took place in Sassoun, where nationalist ideals were proliferated by Hunchak activists, such as Mihran Damadian, Hampartsoum Boyadjian, and Hrayr. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation also played a significant role in arming the people of the region. The Armenians of Sassoun confronted the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars at Sassoun, succumbing to superior numbers.

Foreign reaction

Foreign news agents protested vehemently against the Sassoun event; British Prime Minister William Gladstone called Hamid "the Great Criminal" or "the Red Sultan". The rest of the Great Powers also protested and demanded the execution of Hamid's promised reforms. Investigation committees composed of French, British, and Russian representatives were sent to the region in order to examine the event.

In May 1895, the aforementioned foreign powers prepared a set of reforms. However, they never carried out, because they weren't actively imposed on Ottoman Turkey. In those days, the Russian Empire's policies vis-a-vis the Armenian question had changed. In fact, the Russian foreign minister Alexei Lobanov-Rostovsky supported Ottoman integrity. Moreover he was so anti-Armenian that he wanted "an Armenia without the Armenians". On the other hand, Britain had gained considerable influence and power in former Ottoman Egypt and Cyprus, and for Gladstone, good relations with the Ottomans weren't as important as they formerly were. Meanwhile, Turkey found a new European ally, Germany's Bismarck. The Ottoman Empire thus didn't feel threatened to commit further massacres in 1896.

The Second Sassoun Resistance of 1904 (Armenian:Սասունի երկրորդ ապստամբութիւնը) was the resistance of the militia in the Sassoun region.

The Turks who were previously defeated in the First Zeitoun Resistance didn't want the formation of another semi-autonomous Armenian region in the "Eastern" vilayets. In Sassoun, Armenian activists were working to arm the folk and to recruit young men by motivating them to the Armenian cause


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Ottoman Bank Takeover (1896)

The 1896 Ottoman Bank Takeover (Armenian: Պանք Օթօմանի գրաւումը) was the seizing of the Ottoman Bank in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, on August 26, 1896, by members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnak Party). In an effort to raise further awareness and action by the major European powers, twenty-eight armed men and women led primarily by Papken Siuni and Armen Karo took over the bank which largely employed European personnel from Great Britain and France. Stirred largely due to the inaction of the European powers in regards to pogroms and massacres instigated by the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, the Dashnak members saw its seizure as their best attempt to bring full attention to the massacres. The Ottoman bank, at the time, served as an important financial center for both the Empire and the countries of Europe.

Armed with pistols, grenades, dynamite and hand-held bombs, the seizure of the bank lasted for fourteen hours, resulting in the deaths of ten of the Armenian men and Turkish soldiers. Turkish reaction to takeover saw further massacres and pogroms of the several thousand Armenians living in Constantinople and also Hamid threatening to level the entire building itself. However, intervention on part of the European diplomats in the city managed to persuade the men to give, assigning safe passage to the survivors to France. Despite the level of violence the incident had wrought, the takeover was reported positively in the European press, praising the men for their courage and the objectives they attempted to accomplish. Nevertheless, aside from issuing a note condemning the pogroms in the city, the European powers did not act on their promises to enforce reforms in the country as future massacres of Armenians continued to take place.

Contrary to Turkish claims, the Armenians suffered from persecution and forced assimilation under Ottoman rule. The Armenians lived in their own villages and city quarters, separate from the Turks. They were subjected to heavy taxes and were downgraded as a separate group of Ottoman society, called a millet. Various Armenians who were resentful of Ottoman persecution took up arms to defend their basic rights. This infuriated the Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Hamid II who viewed the small resistance as a threat to his power.

In the 1890s, up to 300,000 Armenians were massacred on orders from Sultan Hamid, massacres commonly known as the Hamidian massacres.


The Armenian Revolutionary Federation sought to stop the murder of Armenians and planned the bank takeover to gain the attention and intervention of world powers. The brain of the operation was Karekin Pastirmaciyan. From the start, the Tashnagtsoutioun (ARF) handed out fliers to the general population of the Ottoman Empire stating that their fight was not against them but the Ottoman Empire's oppression:

After careful and long planning, on Wednesday, August 26, 1896, 13:00 o’clock, 26 Armenians from the Dashnak party, armed with pistols and grenades and led by Papken Siuni, attacked and occupied the Ottoman Bank of Constantinople. During the initial operation, 9 of the attackers, including leader Papken Siuni, were killed. Karo (otherwise known as Karekin Pastirmaciyan) took over as leader of the armed revolutionaries in defending the building against the government forces, who tried to gain control of the building.

The decision to take over the Ottoman Bank was a strategic one as the bank held many European treasuries which would therefore grab the European attention the Armenians wanted. On the same day, the revolutionaries sent a letter to the European major powers demanding that the sultan promise to attend to their demands and hand over the solution of the Armenian Question to an international judge. Otherwise, on the third day, they would blow themselves and the bank up. After 14 hours of occupation and repelling government attempts to retake the bank, ambassadors of Europe and the director of the bank, Sir Edgar Vincent (Lord of Abernon), succeeded in persuading the occupiers to leave the bank, by promising to meet to their demands as well as grant them safe passage out of the bank.

Surviving members of the takeover after they arrived in Marseille.

Throughout the ordeal the personnel of the bank were treated well and were told that they -the Armenians- were not robbers, were not looking to harm them, and did not want to rob the bank's money. They clarified that their goal was to simply dictate their political demands to the Ottoman and European governments. Nothing was stolen from the vault.


The Armenian Patriarch immediately excommunicated all Armenians linked to the bank takeover, as a recurrence of savage anti-Armenian pogroms shook Constantinople. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation's goals had been accomplished in getting the attention of the major powers, but right after the takeover the Turks loyal to the government began to massacre the Armenians in Constantinople itself, murdering around 7,000 Armenians. Within 48 hours of the bank seizure, estimates had the dead numbering between 3,000 and 4,000, as authorities made no effort to contain the killings of Armenians and the looting of their homes and businesses. On September 15, 1896, three weeks after the raid, Turkish authorities organized a new massacre in the town of Eğin. Ottoman troops killed "upwards of 2000 Armenians"including "many women and children" according to a report by the French Ambassador. Of the 1500 houses located in the Armenian quarter of Eğin, 980 were pillaged and burned. Eğin was chosen to be the target of the massacre because the leader of the bank raiding party, Papken Siuni, was a native of Eğin. According to a report by the British Consul at Harput, the pretext used to attack the town's Armenian quarter was that the Armenians of Eğin were "set to cause trouble". The same report by the Consul said that there were no revolutionary movement whatever and no powder magazine exploded during the massacre. A few pistols and revolvers were found in the ruins of the burnt houses. In protest of all the massacres, the representatives of the major powers addressed an insulting letter to the sultan.

Despite the nature of the Bank Takeover, the brutality endured by the Armenian civilian population in the wake of the incident overshadowed the incident itself, renewing Western concern for Armenian safety in the Ottoman Empire. U.S. President Grover Cleveland, responding to widespread support for the Armenian cause galvanized by American missionaries stationed in the Ottoman Empire, condemned "the rage of mad bigotry and cruel fanaticism," the "not infrequent reports of the wanton destruction of homes and the bloody butchery of men, women, and children, made martyrs to their profession of Christian faith."

I do not believe that the present somber prospect in Turkey will be long permitted to offend the sight of Christendom. It so mars the humane and enlightened civilization that belongs to the close of the nineteenth century that it seems hardly possible that the earnest demand of good peoples throughout the Christian world for its corrective treatment will remain unanswered.

Cleveland rejected the possibility of asserting American military force to protect Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, offering accommodation to "those who seek to avoid the perils which threaten them in Turkish dominions."

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Defense of Van

The Defense of Van was an act of self-defense of the Armenian population in Van against the Ottoman Empire in June, 1896.

While Van had avoided the earlier part of the Hamidian massacres in 1895, the Ottomans eventually sent an expedition to attack the panic stricken Armenian population in June of 1896.

Defense and Massacre

The Armenians, with several hundred men, defended themselves in the Aigestan (Garden City) region adjacent to the city. After a week of fighting, the sultan sought assistance from Western powers to end the fighting, in exchange for the safety of the Armenians in Van. After some negotiations making clear they were acting only in self defense, the Armenian defenders agreed to leave for Persia escorted by Ottoman troops. En route, as nearly 1,000 Armenians marched towards the border, they were massacred by Ottoman troops and Kurdish tribesmen. Before the month was over, hundreds of villages were destroyed and 20,000 Armenians in Van were massacred.

In 1897, an Armenian Fedayee group conducted the Khanasor Expedition in response to the Kurdish massacres of the defenders of Van.

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