Self-Defense of Mush – 1915

Self-Defense of Mush - 1915The struggle of the Armenian population of the city and district of Mush against the Turkish pogroms occurred in June-July 1915. The Armenian population of Mush (Bitlis vilayet) and the surrounding villages numbered 94 thousand people.

In the years of WWI, carrying out their extermination policy, the Turks first of all wanted to get it over with Armenians Mush and Sasun. Mush and Sasun were important centers of the Armenian national liberation movement back in those years.

Following the instructions of the Turkish government, local authorities together with the military developed and launched a plan for the extermination of the Armenian population of Mush district. In the spring of 1915, Turkish regular troops and their accompanying Kurdish troops invaded Mush.

The local Armenian population was not ready for defense. Moreover, among the Armenian leaders of the district, there was no consensus regarding the organization of resistance. Turkish rioters seized a number of Armenian villages in the district (Goms, Zronk, and others), massacring their population.

At this time, the Russian troops and Armenian volunteers managed to save the Armenians of Mush from complete extermination. Over the course of military operations on the Caucasian front, they launched an offensive. Pursuing the retreating enemy, they took Bulanikh and approached Mush.

The position of the Turks has become difficult. Under these conditions, the most determined leaders of the Armenians of Mush considered starting active actions possible. In particular, they planned to organize armed demonstrations against the Turks. However, due to the existing disagreement between the Armenian leaders, the moment was missed.

Soon, the situation at the front changed. The Russian troops retreated, and the Armenians of Mush again faced the threat of massacre. At the end of June, Turkish troops launched an offensive against Mush, intending to finish off its population.

The situation was difficult for the Armenians of Mush. The Turks seized the heights of the city and placed their cannons on them. In addition, Turkish troops and police surrounded the Armenian neighborhoods of Mush.

The massacre of the peaceful Armenian population began. In such conditions, Armenians resorted to self-defense. Military groups were hastily formed with the weaponry available. This was not enough, however. Many women have been incorporated in the combat groups as well. The rest of the population — children and elderly — supplied food to the defenders and provided medical assistance.

On June 20-30, 1915, fierce battles between the well-armed and numerically superior Turkish forces and the Armenian population of Mush took place. Armenians stubbornly defended themselves, fighting for their every home in the streets of Mush.

The Turks shelled the Armenian neighborhoods of the city, destroying many houses and causing fires. But the Armenians fought to the last. Melee fights often occurred. The fighting in the parts of the city called Verin Tagh and Dzori Tagh was especially stubborn. The Turks suffered heavy losses, but their numerical superiority and advantage in armaments played a key role in this battle.

The defenders of Mush retreated from Verin Tagh to Dzori Tagh, which became their last stronghold. The organizer of self-defense of Mush A. Kotoian received three gunshot wounds but did not leave the position. Some of the defenders – about 700 fighters – managed to break through the encirclement and escape to the mountains.

Having shattered the resistance of the Armenians, the Turkish troops broke into Mush. They completely ravaged the city and persecuted the inhabitants. Barely 400 people would escape the massacre.

The same fate befell the numerous Armenian villages of the district. In some places, residents put up desperate resistance (villages of Karnen, Alidzhan, Avran, Vardenis, and others).

Fierce fighting took place in the area of the monastery of St. Karapet. Residents of the neighboring villages of Mehdi, Sortar, Poklan, Bahlu, Kvars, and others ascended the mountains and put up heroic resistance to the enemy. However, most of the defenders along with the civilians from the villages of Mush were killed.

In the end, the self-defense of Mush wasn’t successful, and the Armenian population of the district suffered heavy losses.

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