May 29  This Day during World War l

May 29, 1918 – The Battle of Sardarabad was a battle of the Caucasus Campaign of World War I that took place near Sardarabad (modern-day Armavir), Armenia from May 21–29, 1918. Sardarabad was only 40 kilometers west of the city of Yerevan and the battle is currently seen as not only stopping the Ottoman advance into the rest of Armenia but also preventing the complete destruction of the Armenian nation.[5] In the words of historian and researcher Christopher J. Walker, had the Armenians lost this battle, “it is perfectly possible that the word Armenia would have henceforth denoted only an antique geographical term.” The Ottoman offensive was viewed by Armenians with foreboding. With nowhere else left to retreat, they decided to make their stand and prepare for the upcoming battle: Catholicos Gevorg V ordered that church bells peal for six days as Armenians from all walks of life – peasants, poets, blacksmith, and even the clergymen – rallied to form organized military units. Civilians, including children, aided in the effort as well, as “Carts drawn by oxen, water buffalo, and cows jammed the roads bringing food, provisions, ammunition, and volunteers from the vicinity” of Yerevan. Acting under Minister of War Enver Pasha’s request, Miralay (Colonel) Kâzım Karabekir Bey’s I Caucasian Corps and Mirliva Yakub Shevki Pahsa’s II Caucasian Corps put into action in the direction of Karakilisa (modern-day Vanadzor), Sardarabad, Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi) and Yerevan on 20 May. While Karakilisa was selected as their main target, Tiflis and Yerevan were to be kept under pressure. The operations of the southern flank were given to the I Caucasian Corps and the task of capturing Karakilisa was given to the II Caucasian Corps. The Ottoman force reached Karakilisa on May 20 without resistance. Only a single combat action took place near the village of Karzakh. The detachment commanded by Zihni Bey, that advanced forward in Sardarabad area, reached the station of Alagöz (modern-day Aragats) and line of Mahtaka. On May 21, the detachment of Zihni Bey defeated Armenian unit composed of 600 infantry and 250 cavalry, and then took Sardarabad. From there, their forces started advancing toward Yeghegnut. Armenian general Movses Silikyan ordered elements of the 5th Armenian Regiment under Poghos Bek-Pirumyan, a reserve guerrilla unit, and a special cavalry regiment to check the advance of the Ottoman army. An offensive was launched on May 22 and the Armenian forces were successful in halting the Ottomans in their tracks and forcing Yakub Shevki Pasha’s forces into a general rout (retreating nearly 15-20 kilometers in a westerly direction). The Ottoman command, however, was able to recuperate from its losses and reorganized its forces near the mountain heights on the north-west bank of the Araks river. Repeated attempts to cross the river was met with fierce resistance by the 5th Armenian Regiment. On May 24, several more skirmishes took place between the Armenian and Ottoman forces. However, attempts to dislodge the Ottomans from their well-entrenched positions the following day by Poghos Bek-Pirumyan’s and other commanders’ forces were met with failure. On May 27, an Armenian force commanded by Colonel Karapet Hasan-Pashayan performed a flanking maneuver and struck the Ottoman positions from the rear while the rest of the Armenian forces pounded the main Ottoman positions. An Ottoman force based in Talin was sent to alleviate it by attacking the Armenian rear, but was unable to change the outcome of the battle. Suffering heavy losses, Ottoman commanders ordered a general retreat as the surviving elements of the Ottoman army were put to flight.  With the Ottoman forces in a full rout, General Silikyan wished to press on his advantage with the hope of dislodging the Ottomans from Alexandropol and Kars. But, almost immediately, he was informed of the ongoing negotiations between the Ottoman leadership and the Armenian National Council in Tiflis and was told by Corps Commander Tovmas Nazarbekian to cease military operations in the region. Though members of the National Council were widely criticized for issuing this order at the time, this decision was carried out on account of the fact that the ammunition stores had been all but been depleted and Ottoman commanders had received fresh reinforcements. The Ottoman defeats at Sardarabad, Bash Abaran, and Karakilisa staved off the annihilation of the Armenian nation, and the victories here were instrumental in allowing the Armenian National Council to declare the independence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia on May 30 (retroactive to May 28). Though the terms that Armenia agreed to in the Treaty of Batum (June 4, 1918) were excessively harsh, the little republic was able to hold out until the Ottomans were forced to withdraw from the region with the end of World War I in late 1918.

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