Archaeological excavations carried out by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia in the village of Sotk, Geghamasar community, Gegharkunik Province are nearing completion.
Archaeologist Avetis Grigoryan said that the mass grave uncovered during these excavations may shed light on the dark pages of the history of the First Republic of Armenia. The excavations are carried out within the framework of the grant program “Rethinking the history of Armenia in the 20th century” under the Hasratyan-Minasyan Cultural and Public Foundation.
The Sotk-1 fortress is located in the center of Sotk village, on the bank of the river of the same name, next to the Vardenis-Martakert highway. It covers an area of about 1 hectare. This year, excavations were carried out at the top of the castle to find out the dating and stratigraphy of the site.
Initially, the castle was studied by the Archaeological Expedition of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (headed by Arsen Bobokhyan) in 2014.
“In the castle, traces of the early and late Middle Ages were found in the form of walls similar to tombstones. The castle was located on the Dvin-Partav caravan road and probably served as a checkpoint.
In Soviet times, khachkars and Armenian graves have been preserved here – a legacy that had been significantly damaged by the local Turkic-speaking inhabitants. The castle is impregnable from three sides and is accessible only from the north, where a mass grave was discovered this year.
About a dozen human skeletons were found on a surface six meters long, 4 meters wide, and up to twenty centimeters deep. They were buried randomly, without proper structure, very close to the surface of the earth. We think that with this, we are close to revealing an important historical fact that took place in the political life of the Republic of Armenia in 1918-1920. We are talking about the genocide in February 1919.
According to the available information, at that time, the government of the Republic of Armenia sent troops to the Basargechar region of the Nor Bayazet province to pacify the local Turkic-speaking population. The military group was led by Arshak Silikyan, a relative of famous Armenian general Movses Silikyan.
In the village of Mets Masrik, the Turks sent peace envoys to Silikyan, promising obedience and meeting the Armenian army with bread and salt. Then, having weakened the vigilance of the Armenian soldiers, they invited the Armenians to the village of Sotk. During the feast, the Turks by the order of Samand Agha surrounded the house, aiming to kill Silikyan, his brother, and other Armenian soldiers.
In the Soviet years, this story was forgotten, and the exact burial location of the murdered remained unknown. Only the local Armenian population traditionally remembers the burial place. Archaeologists have unearthed the graves of young people. “Possibly, we’ve found the bodies of the killed Armenian soldiers,” the archaeologist said.