At the request of their new Turkish allies, Lenin and Stalin agreed to include the entire south and east of Soviet Armenia as part of Azerbaijan so that this new entity would be territorially as close as possible to Turkey.
This was done since it was planned to establish a connection with the entire Middle East through Turkey where the Soviets were intending to light a new fire of the world revolution.
In the heat of their revolutionary ideas, the Bolshevik leaders easily gave away half of the regions of Eastern Armenia along with their population. And this was done in spite of the fact that just before that, one and a half million Armenians had been killed in the Armenian Genocide.
In addition to Nakhichevan bordering with Turkey and the eastern Armenian highlands of Karabakh, they wanted to join the Syunik or, as it was called, Zangezur region to Azerbaijan as well.
However, among the Armenians, there was a leader who opposed these plans.
He was a fearless warrior and commander who had never given in during WWI and had been the first to rush in to attack. It was the deep thinker and fiery publicist Garegin Nzhdeh. As an excellent analyst, he was well-aware of the consequences that the Bolsheviks’ plans could lead to in the future.
“Only the Fatherland bestows upon a person the most righteous pride, the deepest pain, the sincerest worship, and the most sacred death. The winner is always the one who has already defeated himself – that is, defeated the fear of death in himself.
It’s impossible without Syunik and Artsakh. Without this strong spine of geographical Armenia, our entire Fatherland cannot exist. Your salvation is in your mountains.”
On September 4, 1919, Garegin Nzhdeh along with his small detachment arrived in Syunik (Zangezur). The Nzhdeh detachment heroically reflected the attacks of the armies of Musavat Azerbaijan and the Turkish generals Nuri and Khalil Pasha.
On April 28, 1920, Baku was occupied by the Red Army, and Soviet power was proclaimed there. In early July, the Red Army invaded Zangezur, and in the middle of the month, battles broke out between the Soviets and the Armenian armed forces.
On August 10, 1920, an agreement was concluded between Soviet Russia and the Republic of Armenia by which the disputed areas would be ceded to the Red Army. Rightly fearing that Zangezur would then be given to Azerbaijan, Nzhdeh did not recognize this agreement and refused to leave Syunik.
At the beginning of October 1920, a mass uprising led by Nzhdeh began against the Soviet power in Zangezur. On November 21, two brigades of the 11th Red Army and several Turkish battalions (1,200 people) invaded Syunik to put an end to its independence.
Nzhdeh knew that under the name of the Red Army, Azerbaijani units were going against him as well. They had simply changed their flag and had red commanders. But such a masquerade could not deceive him.
Very soon, both brigades and battalions of the Turks were defeated by the fearless Armenian commander. The surviving invaders along with their command were captured, and Zangezur was liberated. Nzhdeh was ready to release the prisoners, but with one obligatory condition – Syunik was to remain part of Armenia.
Soon, Nzhdeh extended his power to Nagorno-Karabakh. On April 27, 1921, the entity under his authority was proclaimed the Republic of Mountainous Armenia, and Nzhdeh headed it as Prime Minister, Minister of War, and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In early July 1921, Nzhdeh received guarantees from the Bolsheviks that Syunik-Zangezur would remain part of Soviet Armenia. And only after that would Nzhdeh along with his troops retreat to Iran.
Garegin Nzhdeh is considered one of the greatest heroes in Armenian history. He managed to do what everyone thought was impossible. He managed to defeat not only centuries-old enemies, the Turks, but with them the Red Army which was considered invincible.
Thanks to him, unconquered Syunik remained between the Armenian regions of Nakhichevan and Karabakh that had been given to Azerbaijan at the insistence of Ankara. Syunik had divided Turkey from Azerbaijan before the latter became the second Turkish state at the end of the 20th century.
Subsequently, in his messages to the people and intelligentsia, Garegin Nzhdeh wrote about the leader who could change history:
“Strong knowledge, a big heart, and readiness to serve to everyone – here he is. The spiritual “I” still rules in him. A simple, mournful hero. Being in a particular environment, he psychologically changes it.
His presence elevates, protects, and strengthens souls. Thanks to him, the impossible becomes difficult, and the difficult becomes possible. He manages to change the psychology, fate, and history of his people. There are no limits to his love and the possibility of self-sacrifice. He can laugh at dead human laws.”
So was he himself – the great warrior, thinker, and human Garegin Nzhdeh. So he remained forever in the memory of our people.