The May Uprising (Armenian: Մայիսյան ապստամբություն, Mayisyan apstambutyun) was a coup d'état attempt by the Armenian Bolsheviks that started in Alexandropol (now Gyumri) on May 10, 1920. It was eventually suppressed by the Armenian government on May 14 and its leaders were executed.
A drawing by Gevorg Brutyan
|Commanders and leaders|
Sebouh Nersesian |
Hamo Ohanjanyan (PM)
Ruben Ter-Minasian (DM)
Sargis Musayelian |
Although the revolt failed, Armenia was Sovietized after the Red Army invaded the country in November 1920 and Turks occupied the western half of Armenia. The revolt and its executed leaders were praised during the Soviet period from 1920 until the late 1980s, when the Karabakh movement began and anti-Soviet sentiment arose in Armenia. The revolt remains a controversial topic in Armenia.
Since the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1918, the political parties and different factions, for the most part, avoided internal conflicts or rebellions against the dominant Dashnak party since the country was in deep economic and demographic crisis and was at some point during its two-year existence at war with three of its four neighbors (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia). This changed after by the advancement of the Bolsheviks into the Caucasus region in early 1920. The Armenian Communist Party, operating secretly, was founded in January 1920 to fight against the "vilifying the Allied Powers and their Dashnakist 'collaborators'."
Encouraged by the Red Army invasion of Azerbaijan in late April 1920, the Bolsheviks in Armenia staged a revolt in May. The events preceding the revolt started on May 1, 1920, International Workers' Day, with the Bolsheviks demonstrating against the government of Armenia in capital Yerevan and other cities.
The revolt escalated after the armored train named "Vardan zoravar" under command of Sargis Musayelyan joined the Bolshevik rebels who had formed a revolutionary committee (Revkom) and proclaimed Armenia a Soviet state in Alexandopol on May 10. The Bolshevik rebels successfully took over Alexandropol, Kars and Sarikamis.
On May 5, 1920, the government (the cabinet) of Alexander Khatisian resigned and new one was formed under Hamo Ohanjanyan's leadership. It was entirely made up of Dashnak party members. The parliament gave up its rights to the government since Armenia was under state of emergency. Sebouh Nersesian was appointed commander to suppress the revolt. On May 13 his unit reached Alexandropol and by the next day the rebels left the city and the government forces entered the city and established order.
The leaders of the revolt, including Sargis Musayelyan and Ghukas Ghukasyan, were executed by court decisions. The Communist party of Armenia was banned in Armenia. Armenia's domestic situation was badly hurt and the Turkish–Armenian War broke out on September 24. After three months, the Treaty of Alexandropol was signed on December 3, effectively dividing Armenia between Turkey and the Russians. A new government in the remainder of independent Armenia then cleared the way for a new government that accomplished the purpose sought in the uprising. The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was declared and became a constituent part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until the breakup of the USSR in 1991.
Numerous settlements in Soviet Armenia were named after notable Bolshevik participants of the revolt, including Gandzak (formerly named Batikian after Batik Batikian), Sarukhan (after Hovhannes Sarukhanian), Nahapetavan (after Nahapet Kurghinian), Gharibjanyan (after Bagrat Gharibjanyan), Musayelian (after Sargis Musayelian), Mayisyan (after the "May uprising" itself"), Ashotsk (formerly named Ghukasyan after Ghukas Ghukasyan).
A statue of Ghukas Ghukasyan was erected in 1935 in the park near the Agrarian University in central Yerevan. The statue was blown up in 1990, during the height of the anti-Soviet struggle in Armenia. In 2009, the statue of prominent Armenian astrophysicist Viktor Hambardzumyan was put on its place.
The revolt remains a somewhat controversial topic even in post-Soviet Armenia. According to a study of Armenian school textbooks "the tone of the account remains fairly restrained and neutral, a certain interpretation of the events is not imposed on the students." The use of the term "uprising" in these textbooks, however—as opposed to "rebellion", as with contemporary instances of Muslim unrest—betrays a slight sympathy towards the Bolsheviks.
Some of the Dashnak leaders retrospectively confessed that had they handed the power to the Bolsheviks in May, 1920, Armenia would have not lost the regions of Kars, Ardahan, Surmalu and Nakhichevan, and in that case the solution of the Karabagh issue could have also been different. Yet, instead of doing that, they remorselessly slaughtered the leaders of the May Uprising and threw hundreds of the participant in prisons, unwisely triggering Russia's wrath and hostility, to put things mildly, and imposing a bitter price for it on our homeland.
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Underground Bolshevik organizations worked actively in all parts of the country, preparing the people for a general uprising. In May 1920 the uprising broke out and it has gone down in the history of Armenia as the "May Uprising."CS1 maint: location (link)
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