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Movses Silikyan portrait
Nukhinsky Uyezd, Elisabethpol Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||10 December 1937 (aged 74–75)
Nork Gorge, Yerevan, Soviet Union
|Allegiance|| Russian Empire
First Republic of Armenia
|Years of service||1884—1920|
|Commands held||1st Armenian rifle division
Army Corps Yerevan detachment
|Battles/wars||First World War
Armenian National Liberation Movement
Battle of Bitlis
Battle of Erzerum
Battle of Sardarabad
|Awards||Order of St. George|
Movses Silikyan (Armenian: Մովսես Սիլիկյան, Russian: Мовсес Силиков, Movses Silikov) (1862 – 10 December 1937) was an Armenian general and national hero of World War I. He served as a Major General in the Russian Imperial Army before the Bolshevik Revolution.
After the Bolsheviks concluded a peace treaty with the Ottomans under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, they left the war. They had ceded territory of Armenia. Georgia and Azerbaijan also struggled with the Ottomans in the aftermath of this treaty. In May 1918, the First Republic of Armenia declared independence. Silikyan led forces in the Armenian army to defend against the Ottoman Empire.
Following the Sovietization of Armenia from 1920 to 1922, the Bolsheviks invaded Armenia and established a puppet government in the Transcaucasian SFSR. Silikyan held some positions. During Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of 1937, Silikyan was arrested, charged, convicted and executed for "nationalism", together with other high-ranking military officers of Armenia. Countless other victims were murdered and hundreds of thousands suffered under Stalin's political repression.
Following Stalin's death, since the late 1950s, Silikyan and hundreds of thousands of other victims of Soviet repression have been "rehabilitated" politically and socially. The Soviet Union acknowledged that many people had been falsely charged and convicted during the excesses of Stalin's regime.
Early life and education
Silikyan graduated from the Moscow Military Gymnasium, Alexandrople Military School and the officer rifle school.
From 1884 Silikyan served in the Russian Army, being promoted from battalion adjutant to division commander. On the eve of the First World War, he was the deputy commander of the forces stationed in Yerevan, part of the Caucasus Army.
World War I - Caucasus Campaign
In 1915 during the early stages of World War I, Colonel Silikyan commanded a regiment during the Van Resistance. In 1916, he took part in the taking of Mush during the Battle of Mush. He also gained Bitlis during the Battle of Bitlis. He participated the assault of the Battle of Erzerum.
After his regiment entered the Erzurum, Silikyan was promoted to General. He was rewarded with many governmental honors, including the Order of St. George. He was promoted to Major General before the Russian Revolution.
First Republic of Armenia
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Russian Caucasus Army disintegrated and Silikyan left the Russian army. People from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia struggled to determine how to proceed, and began to organize their own military forces and governments.
When the Armenians reorganized their units, Silikyan became the commander of the 1st Armenian rifle division in January 1918. In 1918, he effectively commanded the Armenian forces in Yerevan. With the declaration of independence of the First Republic of Armenia on April 24, 1918, his forces united under the Armenian military. Within a short period, Silikyan created combat-effective regular units and prepared them to repulse the forces of the Ottoman Empire, which was struggling to impose control in areas of Armenian populations.
On 3 March 1918 the Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Russian SFSR. It stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batum, Kars, and Ardahan, which were within Armenia, to the Ottoman Empire. The First Republic of Armenia did not accept the loss of its territory, and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk acknowledged the state of war between Armenia and the Ottoman Empire.
In May 1918, the Ottoman Third Army began to advance toward Batum, Kars, and Ardahan. Silikyan commanded the regular troops and militia. In the Battle of Sardarabad and the Battle of Bash Abaran, his forces defeated those of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Army included numerous talented military officers of the time: Andranik Ozanyan, Drastamat Kanayan, Garegin Nzhdeh, Christophor Araratov, and Ivan Bagramyan, the future Marshal of the Soviet Union.
After participating in the Battle of Sardarabad, Bagramyan noted that "Silikyan was the most gifted military leader of all Armenian Generals of that time..."
The First Republic of Armenia was forced to negotiate a treaty with the Ottoman Empire.
In the aftermath of World War I and the forced concessions of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish nationalist movement was organized. By 1920 it had gained an alliance with the Bolsheviks, who were also opposed to the Western powers. By the fall of 1920, Turkish revolutionaries started the Turkish-Armenian War in an attempt to recover four provinces allotted to Armenia. Silikyan commanded Armenian troops against Turkish forces, which had been fortified by the Russian Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin.
The Bolsheviks took over Armenia and established the Transcaucasian SFSR. Afterward Silikyan was appointed to a number of positions with the Soviets.
In 1937 during the Joseph Stalin's Great Purge against the military and other suspected enemies, his secret police arrested Silikyan, imprisoned him and finally executed him in Nork gorge, together with Christophor Araratov and other military heroes of Sardarabad. The charges were "nationalism," as they had earlier fought for an independent Armenian state. Their awards were stripped from them, in some cases their family members were sent to labor camps in the gulag, and the men were removed from acknowledgement in history books.
Following Stalin's death in 1953, since the late 1950s and the era of Nikita Khrushchev, Silikyan and hundreds of thousands of other victims of Soviet repression have been "rehabilitated" politically and socially. The Soviet Union acknowledged that many people had been falsely charged and convicted during the political repression of the excesses of Stalin's regime. This has enabled full recognition of Silikyan's military achievements.
Legacy and honors
- He was awarded the Order of St. George following his 1916 victories in the Battles of Erzerum and Bitlis. This was restored to him (his descendants) after rehabilitation.
- Искусству хачкаров удинов будет посвящен один из номеров армянского журнала RAA
- Последний рубеж мая 1918 года
- Richard Hovannisian, The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, pp. 292-293
- Hovannisian, Richard G. (1971). The Republic of Armenia: The First Year, 1918-1919, Vol. I. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 416ff. ISBN 0-520-01984-9.
- Hovannisian, Richard G. "Armenia and the Caucasus in the Genesis of the Soviet-Turkish Entente," International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2 (April, 1973), pp. 129-147.
- Smith, K. Remembering Stalin’s Victims: Popular Memory and the End of the USSR, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1996.