The Mass Exodus Of Armenians To The North Caucasus In 1918

After the capture of Karakilisa, the Turks marched north towards Tiflis. At the same time, Muslims in the Sadakhlo-Sandari region became active, closing down the railroad and starting robbing and killing Armenian refugees.

On May 22, 1918, the Transcaucasian government decided to appeal to the Dashnaktsutyun party and the Musavatists with a request to send 3 representatives each to pacify the Turks in Sadakhlo. However, it was already impossible to stop the raging crowd.

Armenian refugees and retreating soldiers were being mercilessly plundered and killed by Turkish soldiers from the south and armed Turkish peasants from the north. The Turkish northward movement in Tiflis also launched an indescribable turmoil, especially in the Georgian and Armenian areas.

The Georgians began to prepare for defense. Martial law was declared in Tiflis. Strong points were dug around the city.

The Armenians who had arrived in Tiflis from Kars, Shirak, and areas of Western and Eastern Armenia were in a worse condition. The Western Armenians were especially nervous – they, for obvious reasons, were horrified by the Turkish advancement. Their situation was terrible. What to do? Where to run?

This was the beginning of the Armenian migration to the North Caucasus. Thousands of people – the elderly and children, peasants and townspeople, workers and intelligentsia – rushed to the Georgian military road. One end of this “queue” soon reached Vladikavkaz and Armavir in Russia, while the other end was just starting to push out of Tiflis.

For many days, numerous carts, carriages, steam locomotives, pack animals loaded with household utensils, women, and children were leaving Tiflis. Many sold their property on the streets of Tiflis for a penny, including their carpets, pillows, bedding, blankets, carpets, and dishes.

The costs of transportation to Vladikavkaz increased ten and hundredfold. A seat for one person in a wagon cost about 10 thousand rubles. People were giving away their last money just to leave.

The Security Council also fully moved from Tiflis to the North Caucasus. This circumstance further intensified the panic.

The flight of people took place in an unorganized, spontaneous manner. The food supply on the road was scarce, security was nonexistent, and attacks on refugees were commonplace.

Here’s what was telegraphed to the Armenian National Council from Lars: “Today, the Ingush stopped more than 10 thousand refugees at the new Lars station. They were not allowed to move towards Vladikavkaz and were sent back to Kazbek, where they are being awaited by hunger and cold.”

On May 25, a representative of the National Council cabled from Dusheti: “Hundreds of thousands of hungry and naked refugees are gathered between Mtskheta and Dusheti and even farther. There is no help. Diseases broke out among the refugees. There are also casualties. There are no places to sleep, and everyone spends their night out in the open, in the cold. There is no bread, no hot water, no food stations – everything is left to the will of fate. Thousands of people are on foot with no hope of any help. The situation is desperate.”

On May 24, the Terek Oblast authorities closed the North Caucasian road to refugees. The migration stopped, and most of those who wanted to escape remained in Transcaucasia.

In the North Caucasus, those who had managed to escape from the Turkish scimitar ended up in Bolshevik hell. Here, they would see new hardships, new torment, and new disappointments.

Simon Vratsyan, “Հայաստանի հանրապետություն” (“Republic of Armenia”), Yerevan, 1998, pages 121-123.

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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