1918-2020, the unlearned lessons of history
Karin had strong walls and powerful artillery, about 400 cannons in the fortress were intended for long-term defense and siege. However, following various revolutions and following months of demoralization and pillaging, most of the fort’s artillery was out of commission.
Avetis Terzibachyan, describing the Armenian military forces, wrote that there was complete chaos in the city and everyone commanded everyone. “There is no one who does not order so that I can also order him.”
“We have four thousand regular infantry and as many irregular infantry, five hundred regular and irregular cavalry, and although the force is 400 guns, 200 of them do not have the keys in the middle, 100 of them are buried in the snow, 100 of them are unusable, but we have mountain artillery in good condition and a dozen field guns,” he wrote.
The general demoralization and lack of faith becomes evident when in Kars Andranik addresses the thousands of people who came to meet him saying: “I am an old soldier, I will go to defend our native country. Who will join me?” About 2,000 people were waiting in line, but when Andranik went to lead them to the barracks, there were only 25 people left.”
Andranik’s arrival in Karin was unexpected for General Nazarbekyan. He said he learned about the departure of Andranik and Chief of Staff (Headquarters) Zinkevich to Kars. “…He was appointed head of the Karin detachment and guard of the Karin fortress in place of Colonel Morel. My personal opinion is that Andranik’s appointment was a mistake.”
Of course, Andranik understood very well that it would be difficult to organize the defense of the fortified city in conditions of anarchy. A few months ago, while discussing the military capabilities of the Armenians and Turks with Nazarbekyan and Areshyan, Andranik said: “The Turks have something that we do not have and that is why they will defeat us. This One thing is discipline, and discipline in the army is punishable by death.”
In Karin, Andranik tried to use a different tactic. He believed that if the Turks approached and surrounded the city, the various political and military leaders would be forced to unite and resort to defense. “Torgom, let me tell you my secret, don’t tell anyone. I have decided to besiege all these young deserters within the walls of Karin. Then you will see how they fight, whether they like it or not “, the commander said to the leader of the Torgom group.
“There was no longer an army. It had become a mob.”
On February 23, 1918, clashes with Turkish vanguard units began. Around 300 Turkish soldiers and 200 horsemen attack the villages of Archik and Arinkara with two mountain cannons and machine guns. At the same time, around 150 Turks attacked Isavank. Andranik goes to the front line and personally leads the battle. The Armenians are capable of repelling the Turks.
The Turks concentrated a regular division against Karin: 3,000 bayonets, 12 machine guns, 12 mountain cannons, around 400 irregular soldiers and around 2,000 Kurds. The Armenian side had 2,000 bayonets, 300 cavalrymen, 8 mountain cannons and 20 field cannons. With these forces it might have been possible to resist the attack of the Turks, if there had been the organization and determination necessary to hold on to the fortress city. However, the conditions were not there, the soldiers left their positions in increasing numbers.
On the evening of February 26, Andranik called a meeting to discuss the situation at the front. Colonels Zinkevich, Dolukhanov, Doctor Zavriev and other leaders were present. Everyone agrees that since the soldiers do not want to fight, the best solution is to retreat, saving the inhabitants and refugees. In the early morning of February 27, after good artillery preparation, the Turkish army went on the attack. The Armenians begin to retreat towards Hasankala. Andranik tries to stop the retreating soldiers, but in vain.
There was no more army. It had become a crowd. Somehow, with the help of a few officers, Andranik managed to set up separate units to at least transport the emigrants to the Geth.
On the same days, Armenian forces in the Van region also retreated. Everyone returned to the pre-war border, thinking that the Turks would stop there.