The Main Headquarters Of The 1919 Armenian Corps Was Filled With Russian Servicemen

“They reproach me for gathering a lot of Russians at the army headquarters and appointing my supporters to command posts” (Colonel M. Zinkevich, Chief of Staff of the Armenian Army, August 17, 1919).

On March 1, 1918, a separate Armenian corps was formed. General Nazarbekyan was appointed the commander of the corps, while the chief of staff was appointed Yevgeny Vyshinsky. Vyshinsky was a major general of the tsarist army, the chief of staff of the Russian Caucasus Army since April 1917, and the chief of staff of the army of the Republic of Armenia since June 1918.

After the fall of Alexandropol (May 15, 1918), the headquarters of the Armenian corps moved to Dilijan, and no serious steps were taken to defend the front in Karakilisa, as had happened in the case of Kars and Alexandropol.

In addition to the chief of staff, a significant part of the servicemen in the Vyshinsky corps were also Russians. For example, the head of the operational department was Lieutenant Nershov, while Stabskapitän N. Shumov, lieutenants M. Dvernitsky, M. Medvedev, and others served under his command.

On August 1, 1918, Colonel M. Zinkevich, who was in direct contact with the commander of the Volunteer Army General Denikin operating in the North Caucasus, was appointed the chief of staff of the newly formed Armenian division (commander Movses Silikyan). Since October 1919, Zinkevich was the official representative of Denikin to the Armenian government.

Vyshinsky, Zinkevich, as well as other Russian officers of the Armenian army considered themselves direct subordinates of Denikin. They treated Armenia as a Russian state and considered the Armenian division an integral part of Denikin’s volunteer army. A significant part of the Armenian military were also carriers of this idea.

In 1919, Colonel Makaveyev was the head of the mobilization department of the main headquarters of the Armenian Army. Additionally, according to Ruben Ter-Minasyan, there were about 400 Russian military specialists in the Armenian army, including brigade and regiment commanders.

“The Armenian government did not want to or did not realize the simple truth that the Russians who they considered brothers were incomparably greater enemies for the allied state than the Turks. Consequently, friendship with the Russians also made the situation of Armenians suspicious and dangerous in the eyes of the Allied Powers,” wrote Ruben Darbinyan.

Great Britain did not hide its negative attitude towards the friendly relations between Armenia and southern Russia, considering Armenia an incorrigible Russophile state and an unreliable element in the Caucasus. To implement its strategic plans, London had to rely on the assistance of the nations of the region and their sympathy. The Armenians because of their pro-Russian position did not inspire confidence among the British.

In March-July 1919, relations between Armenia and the Denikin army became almost frozen. This was due to the aspirations of the Russian Volunteer Army towards Transcaucasia and, as a result, the cooling of relations between Denikin and Great Britain.

The British sought to finally oust the Russians from Transcaucasia and were unhappy with the advance of Denikin’s army in Dagestan. In the spring of 1919, due to a change in the political course of Armenians in relation to Russians, an improvement was observed in the relations between the British and Armenians.

At the end of April 1919, the Armenian army entered Kars. On April 26, 1919, the Council of Armenia (the Parliament) and, on May 28 of the same year, the government of Armenia adopted a declaration “On a united and independent Armenia”, which caused strong discontent among the “whites” and the “reds”.

The governments of Denikin, Kolchak, and Lenin regarded Armenia as an organic part of Russia that was temporarily cut off from the country. They did not accept the existence of the independent states of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

In parallel with the preparation of the declaration “On a united and independent Armenia,” the Armenian government made efforts to weaken the influence of Russians in the Armenian army and to abandon the political idea of ​​“United indivisible Russia”, which contradicted the interests of independent Armenia yet was widespread in society and among some powerful elements.

It should be noted that this political doctrine caused difficulties in relations between Yerevan and Great Britain (and other Allied countries), which had strategic representation in the Caucasus.

At a parliament meeting on June 4, 1919, Prime Minister Alexander Khatisyan announced a government decision. According to this decision, all officers and soldiers related to Denikin’s army were free to leave for Russia, while those who wanted to stay should only recognize the Armenian authority.

This statement was made a year after the declaration of independence of Armenia. However, as before, a large number of military men sympathizing with the volunteer army (which deemed the independence of Armenia a foreign idea) continued to serve in the highest echelons of the Armenian army.

On August 17, 1919, the Chief of Staff of the Armenian Army M. Zinkevich reported to the Chief of the General Staff of the Army Denikin that Armenians decided not to appoint Russians to high posts in various fields. He wrote:

“They reproach me for gathering a lot of Russians at the army headquarters and appointing my supporters to command posts.” The colonel also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that in Yerevan, office works had begun to be conducted in the Armenian language and that the Russians arriving in Armenia were being met with displeasure since they were considered the agents of the Russian Volunteer Army.

In August 1919, the Armenian government again made an attempt to improve relations with Denikin, asking for weapons and ammunition through Zinkevich. They did receive weapons. The all-seeing eye of the British, however, noticed this gesture as well, and the distrust towards the Armenian government intensified.

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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