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Author Topic: I WITNESSED and LIVED THROUGH  (Read 2167 times)
« Reply #30 on: April 26, 2010, 12:52:38 pm »

And whenever it was reported that a reconnaissance detachment of
300-400 men had to perform a breakthrough on the surrounding
enemy force, overwhelming their number, it was soon understood
that the detachment’s casualties were one dead and one wounded
One day, one of the Armenian officers reported to me on the phone
that a detachment of 400 men had launched an attack on the troops
that were responsible for keeping the artillery guns. It was
understood later that they saw two unarmed men coming from the
village across, who later had left.
During the period passed between the fleeing of the Armenians from
Erzincan and the delivering of Erzurum by the Turkish forces, the
reconnaissance units were able to capture only one cavalryman. I did
not see him personally. It is highly probable that this poor man’s feet
were either frozen or he was too weak to walk alone without help.
After the second meeting I received several petitions form the
officers requesting their dismissals and transfers to Russian Corps, to
the orders of other commanders, to the units where there were
troops from other nationalities.
I reported to Colonel Morel that leaving of it was highly probable that
most of the Russian officers, may be all of them, would leave
Erzurum. He went red and said that he would not allow it happen
even if it were a decree issued by the Court Martial. I told him that
my officers still in possession of the guns; that violence would be
retaliated by guns; that it would be best to leave relying on the
decree issued by the government as it was legal right of every single
I explained Colonel Morel that none of the officers really wanted to
leave; that every officer wanted leave just to make use of their legal
rights; that there would be no difference between those who had left
their positions earlier and us, preferring to continue our legal duties.
It was such a complicated situation that conscience and honor of
duty were not permitting us to stay here.
Colonel Morel asserted that there was no legal arrangement made for
leaving; that he would give the same employment report he had
given to Senior Lieutenant Yermolov to anyone who would attempt to
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« Reply #31 on: April 26, 2010, 12:53:19 pm »

I told Colonel Doluhanov that there were lots of willing officers in
Tbilisi and in Batum17, and said it was no good in trying to keep those
who were eager to leave. Colonel Morel said that he had requested
sending of 60 English artillery officers to his command and that he
had their word.
I heard that they arrested and forced a Russian, possibly a Polish,
citizen, who was working at the Erzurum train station as a chief for a
living, as he wanted to leave his position no matter how much they
paid, while all this talk was proceeding.
I ordered the battalion commanders to gather all the officers around
the artillery headquarters, close to them, in order to convey the
orders easily and to keep them under a certain organization in case
of an attack that might come up.
Before his leaving Erzurum, I asked from Senior Lieutenant Yermolov
to see General Vichenskiy, the Chief-of-Staff of the Army, in Sarıkamış
and to inform him about the conditions we were living in, and do his
best to save us from the miserable position we had fallen into among
the Armenians. I told him to inform General Gerasimov, the Artillery
Commander, likewise. Yermolov left Erzurum on February 25.
I believe it was on February 24, when a Turkish airplane conducted a
reconnaissance flight over Erzurum, which caused me to deduce the
idea that the orderly Turkish troops were either in Erzincan or even in
In those days, Colonel Morel was saying that he had received a
“proclamation” from the Turkish forces requesting the evacuation of
Erzurum. After the delivering of Erzurum I had the chance of meeting
Kâzım Bey19, the Commander of the Turkish Corps.

17 Georgian city on the cost of the Black Sea.
18 District affiliated to Erzincan. Today, Tercan.
19 Kâzım (KARABEKİR) was born in 1882, Istanbul. He graduated from the Military
College in 1902 and from the War Academy on 1905. He was appointed as the Chief-
of-Staff of the 1st Army and the 6th Army; Commander of the 8th, 2nd, 1st Caucasus,
14th, 15th Divisions; and the Commander of the Eastern Front on June 14, 1920
respectively. He was appointed as the 1st Army Inspector on October 21, 1923; but as
he was a member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), he was given a
leave by a special decree dated December 19, 1923. He was elected as the Deputy
of Edirne in the 1st and 2nd term; and as the Deputy of İstanbul in the 5th and 8th
terms of the TGNA. He served as the president of the TGNA from 1946 to 1948. He
died on January 25, 1948. He gave numerous seminars and conferences, published
books on military, political, and historical issues, 44 of which were published.

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« Reply #32 on: April 26, 2010, 12:54:07 pm »

At the meeting he said that the note was not a “proclamation” but a real letter he, I
mean the Commander of the Turkish Corps, personally had written.
Even if we consented to agree the Turkish requests, and regard the
letter as an anonymous or illegal letter, Colonel Morel did not have
the right to hide the signature of the commander of the regular
Turkish Forces from us and declare the letter as a “proclamation.”
The information we obtained from the Fortress Headquarters on
February 24-25 there was nothing to be worried about at the front.
We heard that a detachment sent to the environs of Tekederesi20 had
surrounded a kurdish gang. It was also said that the troops coming
from Erzurum had allegedly repulsed the enemy troops by several
vests (1 vest = 1.06 km.) in the outskirts of Ilıca.
On February 26, it came to the daylight that the Armenian
detachment sent to Tekederesi from Erzurum was surrounded, that
they were thoroughly dissolved, that the survivors fled disgracefully,
and that the Ilıca detachment retreated running.
Colonel Morel, in his verbal order told me to open fire on the
attacking Turkish troops; however, there were nobody attacking
nowhere. There were panic driven Armenian mobs retreating on the
Harput highway in a disorderly manner. There were groups retreating
calmly along the Trabzon highway just like a convoy in a state of
mobilization without stopping or spreading.
In the afternoon, it was understood that the enemy forces were
around the Gez village21 that was located at a distance of 6 vests to
the city. According to my perceptions there were units of 1.500 men.
The number was unimportant, but they did not look like untrained
kurdish bandits. It was clearly observed that they were well trained
troops conducted and steered in a highly disciplined manner. The
existence of several straggling cavalrymen next to them brought to
mind that they were roughly organized kurdish detachments rather
than orderly troops.

Turkish General Staff, Directorate of ATASE. Türk İstiklal Harbine Katılan Tümen ve
Daha Üst Kademedeki Komutanların Biyografileri [The Biographies of the Division
Commanders and Higher Ranking Generals Who Took Part in the Turkish War of
Independence]. Ankara: TGS Printing House, 1989. pp. 177-179.
20 A village affiliated to Erzurum.
21 A village affiliated to Erzurum.

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« Reply #33 on: April 26, 2010, 12:54:54 pm »

The state and the condition of the retreating troops were very sad
and hopeless. They were either spreading along the road as if they
were small liquid chains or coming together every now and then. It
was evident that fear and anxiety prevailed them. Antranik took the
lead of this chain that was gradually melting away. He managed to
straighten the retreating people up; but soon they started dissolving
again in exhaustion.
Our artillery fire continued until the evening. It ceased after the fall of
dark. With the launching of defense measures against the kurds, all
the officers were compelled to act gracefully as the circumstances of
war demanded from honorable officers. Everybody was clearly aware
of the fact that retreating at such a point would serve to libeling us
eternally with cowardice and treachery. We had to resist the attacks
at first.
Today, I learned what the Armenian forces understood from
allocation of the artillery units, and from making use of them
during the battle. My guns positioned in the Büyükkiremitli fortified
emplacements were a vest ahead of the infantry units that were
stuck in the direction of Harputkapı, and refused to go any further to
provide cover for the guns.
Moreover, on the same day, the retreating units’ not forgetting to
take some moveable properties, steal the live stocks of the villagers,
and kill the unarmed and innocent people whom they met on their
way attracted my attention, despite the state of fear and panic they
were living through since their departure from Tekederesi.
It seemed that the enemy’s advance towards the city was unexpected.
No orders were issued for battle and organization. It might have been
issued, but I assure you that I did not receive such an order. I once
heard that a scheme was devised for the infantry troops’ capturing
the main corridors of the city upon the giving of signs of alarm. I did
not receive this order either.
I was to cover the fortified region by artillery fire and to prevent the
kurdish forces from penetrating in. In the field, there were the
infantry forces and the mountain artillery guns that were not under
my command.
That day, and the day before, the police was not only gathering the
men who were capable of working but the old and disabled Turkish
men as well. When they were asked they used to say they were
“gathering workers to clean the snow covered rail tracks.”
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« Reply #34 on: April 26, 2010, 12:55:40 pm »

In the evening I learned that one of the Armenian patrols under the
command of an Armenian cadet tried to break into my house under
the pretext of conducting a search, during the day, despite my name
written on it. According to what he said he did not know who was
living in the house. Upon decisive and strong resistance of my landlord
this cadet, this insolent being, uttered the most despicable words to
my spouse, and left without showing any signs of courage for taking
my landlord, who was an elderly Turkish person, and the kurdish
people who were in my service. The testimony of this cadet revealed
that this absurdity stemmed from the orders Antranik issued.
On learning this, I had a door opened between my apartment and my
landlady’s apartment so that the elderly landlady could take shelter in
my apartment in case the Armenians come again to take the
household away. She complied and had a door opened to my
apartment through one of her neighbors.
That night they called me to Antranik’s office for a military council
meeting. I went there together with Captain Joltkević, the Chief of
Mobilization Department and Technical Services. I was taking him to
all the meeting I was attending in those days so as to render him as
a witness to talks held.
When we arrived at the meeting they had already started. It was
evident that they need not my putting forward my ideas. There were,
Antranik, Dr. Zavriyev, Colonel Zinkević, Colonel Morel, Colonel
Doluhanov, and several others at the meeting. Colonel Zinkević read
the telegram message by the Commander-in-Chief Odichelitzé to me.
In his message, General Odichelitzé was mentioning about Vehip
Pasha’s, the Commander of the Turkish Army, coded telegram
message, where he informed him about his having given orders to his
troops for launching an attack on Erzurum and deliver it. Consequently,
General Odichelitzé ordered the destruction of all the guns in the
reinforced emplacements and withdrawing of all the units.
Antranik had given me a written order on the destruction of those
guns. General Odichelitzé was keeping his promise on the
destruction of the guns, but his orders arrived late. It was
impossible to destroy some of the guns. The Turkish forces had
already intercepted our lines. But, we still had more than half of our
guns to destroy. On the other hand, the sights and breech
mechanisms removed were scattered all around, we could destroy
them all but we needed two or three days to do it.
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« Reply #35 on: April 26, 2010, 12:56:18 pm »

Antranik was yelling, swearing, and cursing at some people in Armenian.
Dr. Zavriyev was both trying to calm him down, and telling us that
Antranik was cursing and swearing at the Armenian administrators and
statesmen who never wanted to fight at the fronts, and who abandoned
the Armenian people and Armenia by sending a force of 3.000-4.000
men until then, although they had all the chance on their side earlier.
At last, Antranik explained his decision: to resist in Erzurum for
another two days; and to evacuate the city to a maximum extent
possible in this limited time. Antranik, disregarding our presence in
the room, shamelessly, took his clothes of washed his face and
hands, wore his pyjamas, and went to bed as if we were not there.
I informed Dr. Zavriyev about the arsonings and fires breaking out in
the city. I told him about an incident I witnessed on my to meet him
that day; there was a dozen shops burning to ashes in the town and
no one was even attempting to extinguish the fire in the market
place. He said necessary orders for extinguishing the fires in the city
were already given.
I inquired Dr. Zavriyev about the gathering of the Muslim people and
sending them to other places to work by the police. He said, they
were gathered for the cleaning of the railroads. Upon my inquiring
him, in great bewilderment, especially on the gathering of the elderly
and the disabled, who were not capable of working at all, in the
middle of the night and sending them to work right away; he said he
did not know anything, but that he would investigate the issue.
I believe the words I had spent to Dr. Zavriyev about the coercion
exerted on the civilian people previously created an enough sense of
grief and anxiety for not turning a blind eye one the oppression and
massacres carried out. He, as a member of the government, was
trying to do his best in persuading the Armenians establish flawless
relations with the Muslim population within the framework of the laws
I used to observe such intentions among the Armenian intellectuals in
Erzurum as well. I have no chance of knowing what they really have
in their minds; but their words sounded as if they were full-heartedly
standing against the most reprehensible acts and massacres.
Dr. Zavriyev ought to have known the instincts of the other
Armenians better than I did, but he did not.
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« Reply #36 on: April 26, 2010, 12:56:56 pm »

After Antranik’s placing himself in his bed comfortably, we passed on
the other room. We dismissed following the talks we held about the
implementation of the tasks Antranik had assigned us.
Resisting for another two days did not seem implausible at all. On the
other hand it was possible to resist not just for two days but forty-two
days as we had well-constructed wired trenches, strong city walls, a
two times bigger defense force that was not only capable of resisting
the attacking kurds but to the orderly units of a well organized army.
We were absolutely right in repelling the kurdish attacks; because,
the Turkish government had already warned us expressing that the
kurds were not complying with the orders issued, and that they were
unable to keep them from fighting. In other words, the burden of
defending ourselves from the kurdish raids was placed on our
On my way back, I saw that the fires, I mentioned above, were being
taken under control and even put out. The city, when observed from
outside, looked quite calm. It was quite evident that there were no
signs, or danger, of breaking out of massacres.
On returning to the artillery headquarters I gave my orders for
declaring the guns hors de combat. They could have been destroyed
within two days at the most. I was receiving reports pertaining to the
withdrawal of the infantry units in the dark from my officers. I hardly
found an opportunity to get in touch with Colonel Morel, and I
conveyed all the reports to him. He told me that all the counter
measures were taken, that reserve troops and reinforcements were
sent to the city, and that there was no reason to feel anxious about.
I went home and slept at about 1 o’clock. At about 2 or 3 o’clock in
the morning, I heard several distant rifle shots coming from the city.
I heard the sounds of rammed doors in the city. I heard the same
foot steps of the touring Armenian detachments who were gathering
the townsmen in the daylight, as well as the voices of people. There
were no signs of coming help. Having observed the arresting of the
townspeople, I suddenly developed a feeling that the Armenians were
getting ready for massacres feverishly and fervently.
After having evaluated the situation I came to the conclusion that:
first, while were fighting with the Turks honorably and defending
Erzurum, those blood-thirsty and coward Armenian “freedom fighters”
were deceiving us with what they did from behind. They started to
carry out full-scale massacres on the unarmed elderly, women, and children without worrying about libeling their own names before the
world public opinion, let alone libeling the reputation of the Russian
officers. Those who did not know enough about the developments
might have thought that the Russian officers were helping the
Armenians in realizing their activities. Secondly, the attackers could
have been the orderly Turkish forces. If they were not there yet, they
would have come the other day at dawn, or later in the day. Fighting
against the orderly Turkish units did not have any place neither in the
peace plans of our Army Command nor in our given tasks.
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« Reply #37 on: April 26, 2010, 12:57:39 pm »

Accordingly, I decided to visit Colonel Morel at dawn and ask him to
stop the Armenians from committing massacres any more; if he was
not capable of doing this, we would force them to comply by turning
our guns over the Armenians and stopping them by means of threat,
or by means of opening fire if the circumstances required. After
ceasing of the battle, we would send the members of the parliament
to hold talks with the Turkish forces for our evacuating the city within
two days at the latest without shedding blood.
A plan had to be devised for the securing of full protection of the
Muslim population while the Armenians were retreating. For example,
a detachment might have been formed by the Russian officers,
Russian officials (although very few in number), and Russian soldiers
who remained in Erzurum. And to set up a Turkish detachment to
help the Russians or give them under the Russian command.
I went to see Colonel Morel, together with Captain Joltkević, at dawn.
On our way, I learned from the Reserve Officer Bagratunyanets that
he received orders for withdrawal; that he wanted to destroy the
arsenal, but that Colonel Morel wanted me to deal with the problems
pertaining to the arsenal. I was amazed to hear such an order. This
arsenal was not affiliated to me at all; but it was under the
responsibility Colonel Doluhanov.
I explained Reserve Officer Bagratunyanets that destroying of the
arsenal would not yield to a plausible end; that it would be an
unnecessary show of power; that we, the Russian artillery officers,
were betrayed as we were not informed of the orders of withdrawal;
that we all lived near the arsenal; that we would die immediately in
case of an explosion. My reasoning proved to be plausible, and the
arsenal was saved.
On reaching Colonel Morel’s headquarters we witnessed the fleeing of
people. The American Consulate, where some Armenian offices were
found, across the headquarters, was burning in flames. Everything was in flames. Colonel Morel and Colonel Torkom were on their horses.
They were prepared to leave. It was 7 o’clock in the morning.
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« Reply #38 on: April 26, 2010, 12:58:21 pm »

When I inquired them about the situation, Colonel Morel said, they
received orders for withdrawal at 5 o’clock in the morning, and that
he did not understand how the orders did not reach me until then.
I was facing the very thing I was afraid of. They were running away
under the cover of Russian officers and artillery. While the Russian
officers were loading and firing the guns with their own hands to stop
the enemy, the Armenian “warriors” were massacring the people
behind them, and were robbing the people off their properties
without fear. If I had not come, none of us would have learned about
the orders issued for withdrawal.
They used to inform us about the orders, may them be trivial or not,
by sending at least an officer. But now they did not do it.
I first thought of going directly to the fortified emplacement at
Mecidiye to express my gratitude to the Armenian heroes(!), who
were running away towards Kars wrapped tightly in their overcoats
and flak jackets, with artillery fire; for having deceived us; for not
giving us enough time to destroy our guns but committing most
despicable massacres behind us; for betraying and libeling an
honorable senior officer; and for betraying other officers under my
Thinking of the innocent people among them I abandoned my idea.
There still were lots of chaste Russians, people of other nations,
women and children in the city.
We set out to return to the artillery headquarters right away. The
streets were full of running, panic stricken desperate mobs of
Armenian forces. I could not see any Armenian officers around. The
roads were covered with belongings, overcoats, military equipments,
and food thrown away by the fleeing Armenians.
It was almost impossible to make our way out of the town as the
roads were crowded with streams of people and wagons. We tried to
pass through other roads. We changed our direction, and met with
cries of the people, and noise of fusillades.
I could not see what was happening in the streets. My sight was
blocked by a corner on the street. Only thing we were able to see
was the blood that was covering the snow in the street. I ordered
going back to where we returned from, thinking that there was a street battle going on. When we returned to the crossroads, we left our car
and started to walk the remaining distance.
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« Reply #39 on: April 26, 2010, 12:58:59 pm »

Meanwhile an Armenian, the chief of police of the town, made his
way out of the street where the noise of fusillades and cries of people
came from. I realized that he was there also. At last my perceptions
proved to be right.
On returning the headquarters I ordered the batteries to withdraw
together with the infantry forces. I also ordered the allocation of
means of transport for the artillery officers. Soon it was understood
that all the means of transport of the artillery headquarters had been
stolen as a result of the thoughtlessness of the commander of the
Service Company during the night. The regiment’s means of
transport, which were attended by an officer during the night, were
being taken away before our eyes. The stablemen who came out of
the courtyard gate started to run away galloping in the direction of
Kars without even bothering themselves coming to the artillery
The Armenian soldiers, who were armed to teeth, were trying to get
on the covered wagons in maddening fear. Some of them were
unleashing the horses from the wagons, riding on them in pairs, and
were fleeing the city bellowing.
They even tried to take my wagon, which I had left on the road, by
using force. But, on my driver’s resisting them, they wounded one of
my horses, but still could not take the wagon.
We were able to save only two or three of the fifty wagons. Only few
officers were able to make use of them. They loaded their belongings
hastily and drove away.
There remained two wagons and two phaetons. We could have left
the city by making use of them; but as the panic stricken, fleeing
Armenians were shooting desultorily in the streets they deserted. We
decided to stay in our houses involuntarily. Turks were guaranteeing
to protect us, and our families, from the terror of the kurds.
It was understood later that if we were to leave neglecting the
fusillade of the Armenians in the town, we would never have
succeeded it. We had lost our contact with the Karskapı. Senior
Lieutenant Mitrofonov, who tried leaving the city, was compelled to
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« Reply #40 on: April 26, 2010, 12:59:39 pm »

After a while we heard that the Turkish forces entered the city. We
thus learned that we were not fighting against the kurds only but
against the orderly Turkish troops.
Almost all of the courageous Armenian infantry(!) had deserted the
battlefield hastily under the cover of the night, and set out towards
Kars. They were running away as if they were being chased by a
storm. Even a storm could not have cleansed Erzurum from the
Armenians as they purged the city off their existence by themselves.
The reality of finding hardly any dead or wounded Armenians in the
defense lines and in the city itself denoted to their understanding of
upright defense and how they resisted for a long time. Moreover, the
fact that the Russian officers were the only prisoners of war, could
not have testified any worse for the immense courage and dignity of
the Armenians.
Upon learning the entrance of the Turkish forces into the city, I went
out, together with my aide-de-camps, to meet and inform them about
our presence in the town. We then learned that a teary was signed
between Turkiye and Russia.
During the following days, on my way to the headquarters and on my
way back home, lots of Turkish citizens in the streets were trying to
embrace me, kiss my hands, and do whatever they could to show
their gratitude.
Being aware of the fact that – if it was not for the Russian officers in
Erzurum – the Turkish forces might not have been able to find any
living Turkish person in the city, they were showing he same due
respect towards the other Russian officers as well.
Now I am most grateful to God for not letting me leave the city with
the Armenians – about whom the ancient Roman historian Petroni
declared “The Armenians are certainly human, but at home they go
all on fours;” and again about whom the Russian poet Lermontov
justly said “Thou art a slave, thou art a coward, and thou art an
Armenian!” – after witnessing what they did in Erzurum before their
leave, and learning the number of the unarmed elderly people,
women, and children whom they massacred.
Lt.Col. Tverdohlebov
April 16/29, 1918

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