According to the plan of Operation Nemesis, the leaders of the Young Turks who had staged the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the organizers of the Armenian pogroms in Baku in 1918, and the Armenian traitors who had collaborated with the Turks suffered a deserved punishment.
One of the avengers was a native of the Artsakh village of Kherkhan Hakob Melkumyan (Yakov Melkumov), an officer of the tsarist army of Russia. From his hands in the summer of 1922 fell Enver, the former Minister of War of Ottoman Turkey.
It should be noted that Melkumyan was not a member of the underground organization “Nemesis.” But like its members, he was an ideological avenger, for whom assassinating the enemies of the Armenian people was a matter of honor.
Once, Melkumyan missed a chance to assassinate Enver. In January 1915, Enver, whose troops were defeated in a battle in the vicinity of Sarygamysh, fled from the battlefield along with the remnants of his army. Melkumyan and a squadron of Cossacks chased after him.
Catching up with Enver, Melkumyan heard Armenian speech and, thinking that he had gone astray, gave up. Later, he found out that among Enver’s personal bodyguards were Armenians.
Hakob Melkumyan was born in 1885 into a peasant family in the village of Kherkhan, Varand District, Artsakh. After the death of his father, young Hakob and his mother moved to Ashgabat to his paternal uncle. Here, he entered a men’s gymnasium, upon the completion of which in 1907 he was drafted into the royal army.
At the beginning of WWI, the military unit Melkumyan served in was deployed on the Western Front. Hakob distinguished himself with his bravery and was awarded the St. George Cross and several other awards. Aside from that, he as an exception was appointed the commander of a squadron of the Cossack cavalry division.
After the October Revolution of 1917, Melkumyan sided with the Bolsheviks. Since the summer of 1918, as the commander of the 1st Moscow Cavalry Regiment, Melkumyan fought on the Southern Front.
At the end of 1919, Melkumyan was appointed the commander of the 1st brigade of the 1st Turkestan Division of the Turkestan Front. At this position, he participated in the capture of Bukhara and in the elimination of the Basmachi gangs in 1920-1923. In 1921, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
Hakob Melkumyan told correspondent Hayk Hayrapetyan how fate had given him a smile in the battles against Basmachi gangs in Turkestan and provided another chance to correct the fatal mistake that had been made by him years earlier. Finally, he received an opportunity to kill Enver.
By the way, Enver Pasha, perhaps, was the only one of the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress who did not accept the shameful defeat of his party. That’s because he considered himself to be above Talaat, Djemal, and all other leaders of the party.
Enver Pasha graduated from a German military academy in Berlin. He was the son-in-law of the Caliph and was convinced that he was the most irresistible man in Turkey.
He wandered around Europe for a long time, trying to please the Germans and serving British intelligence. He even joined the Communists in Moscow, but since his megalomania never received the expected recognition, he decided to leave for Central Asia.
Enver did not hide his goals of leading the Basmachi movement. The movement was a group of Muslim extremists who sought to unite the territories from the Pamirs to the Crimea, including Iran, Afghanistan, and Bukhara. Enver himself sought to proclaim himself the caliph of the new state. Naturally, he could not admit that the true reason for his flight from the civilized world to Turkestan was the fear of Armenian avengers.
Enver decided to cover his tracks by hiding there. He was well aware of the fact that in the past two years, the bullets of Armenians accurately hit their targets – former Ottoman officials – in Berlin, Rome, Tiflis, Constantinople, and other areas. Therefore, he hid in the mountain ranges of Zeravshan, in the bottomless gorge of death Deinau.
In a conversation with Hayk Hayrapetyan, Hakob Melkumyan told the following about Enver and the Basmachi movement he had headed:
“Enver was not an ordinary Basmachi commander. The military education he received in Germany, the combat experience in the imperialist war, and, finally, the quantitative superiority of the troops made him a dangerous adversary.
Under his banner were 17,000 selected horsemen. I myself had 1,500 horsemen and 800-strong infantry. In order to neutralize the quantitative superiority of the enemy, I decided to suddenly attack them at dawn.
Concealed by thick fog, we quietly approached the enemy. When the sun’s rays flashed on the tops of the mountains and the fog cleared, Enver’s tent topped with a large green flag with a gilded crescent became visible through binoculars on the outskirts of the village of Kofrun. I was delighted: it meant Enver was here. In Sarygamysh, I had lost him, but here, I had to prevent him from fleeing.
It was at that time that a message was delivered from the headquarters. The front commander wrote: ‘Moscow on behalf of Lenin and Trotsky insists on taking Enver alive. We place responsibility on Commander Melkumov.’ I returned the package and warned, ‘You did not find me.’
I immediately contacted the intelligence commander Sarukhanov (it should be noted that thousands of freedom-loving, multilingual volunteers, including refugees from Western Armenia, fought under the command of Melkumov) and said in Armenian: ‘I need Enver only dead.’
At my command, the artillery opened fire. The battle was fierce and merciless. The enemy was broken quickly. Enver fled to the mountains without a robe and barefoot. ‘You will not escape from me, bloodthirsty beast, on your conscience is the blood of my people!’ I swore. Chased him for 25 versts (slightly over 25 kilometers or 15.5 miles). We reached the streets of the village of Chaghan.
We killed not the commander-in-chief of the armies of Islam but the executioner Enver. I took his personal golden seal ‘Commander-in-Chief of all the Armies of Islam, Son-in-Law of the Caliph, and Representative of the Prophet.’ His personal Quran and the robe embroidered in gold were handed over to the authorities. The retribution was done.”
For the brilliant accomplishment of this task, Melkumyan was awarded his second Order of the Red Banner. In 1924, he was appointed the commander of the 8th Special Cavalry Brigade of Turkestan. In 1924-1931, the brigade under his command destroyed the remnants of the Basmachi gangs in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In 1934-1937, Melkumyan was the Assistant Commander and Commanding Officer of the Central Asian Military District.
In June 1937, however, Melkumyan was arrested as a member of a “military-fascist conspiracy.” He was accused of espionage for England and even of collaboration with Enver. The military tribunal sentenced him to 15 years in prison. In 1954, he was rehabilitated and released.
In 1960, Melkumyan published the book “People of Turkestan.”
Lieutenant General of the reserve of the Soviet Army Melkumyan died in 1962 and was buried in Moscow, at the Novodevichy cemetery. The USSR Ministry of Defense had a monument erected to the brave commander and legendary hero at his grave.
It should be noted that there is also a monument to Melkumyan in his native village of Kherkhan. Several years ago, Melkumyan’s grandson visited his grandfather’s village and discovered the still standing home of his ancestors. He returned to Moscow with good impressions, promising to return here again.
Emma Balayan, “Azat Artsakh”