May Uprising

The May Uprising[4][5] (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.[6][7] It was eventually suppressed by the Armenian government on May 14 and its leaders were executed.

May Uprising
May uprising.jpg
A drawing by Gevorg Brutyan
DateMay 1920
Result Uprising suppressed[2]

Armenia Republic of Armenia

Armenian Bolsheviks Revkom

  • Defected government units[1]

Muslims of Armenia[1]
supported by:
Soviet Russia

Commanders and leaders
Sebouh Nersesian[3]
Hamo Ohanjanyan (PM)
Ruben Ter-Minasian (DM)
Sargis Musayelian Executed
Ghukas Ghukasyan Executed
Monument to the participants of May Uprising in Gyumri.

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.[3] The Armenian Communist Party, operating secretly, was founded in January 1920 to fight against the "vilifying the Allied Powers and their Dashnakist 'collaborators'."[8]

The revoltEdit

Encouraged by the Red Army invasion of Azerbaijan in late April 1920, the Bolsheviks in Armenia staged a revolt in May.[8] 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.[3]

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.[9][10][3] The Bolshevik rebels successfully took over Alexandropol, Kars and Sarikamis.[11][12]

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.[3]


The leaders of the revolt, including Sargis Musayelyan and Ghukas Ghukasyan,[10] were executed by court decisions. The Communist party of Armenia was banned in Armenia.[3] 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.[13][3]


Soviet periodEdit

The revolt was praised in Soviet Armenia, presented as a "heroic struggle".[14] Several books were written on it.[15][16]

Numerous settlements in Soviet Armenia were named after notable Bolshevik participants of the revolt, including Gandzak (formerly named Batikian after Batik Batikian),[17] Sarukhan (after Hovhannes Sarukhanian),[17] Nahapetavan (after Nahapet Kurghinian),[18] Gharibjanyan (after Bagrat Gharibjanyan),[10] Musayelian (after Sargis Musayelian),[10] Mayisyan (after the "May uprising" itself"),[19] Ashotsk (formerly named Ghukasyan after Ghukas Ghukasyan).[20]

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.[21] In 2009, the statue of prominent Armenian astrophysicist Viktor Hambardzumyan was put on its place.[22]

The central square of Armenia's second largest city Gyumri (called Leninakan during the Soviet period) was called after the revolt. It is now called Vardanants Square.[23]

Independent ArmeniaEdit

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.[14]

During a 2010 anti-government rally, Armenia's first president and opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan stated:[24]

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b King, Charles (2008). The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus. Oxford University Press. p. 172. ISBN 9780199884322.
  2. ^ Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 241. ISBN 9780810874503.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Armenian State Pedagogical University; Poghsosyan, Samvel; Asryan, Armen; Stepanyan, Khachatur; Hovhannisyan, Edgar (2009). Հայոց Պատմություն [Armenian History]. Yerevan: VMV-Print. pp. 198–200. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  4. ^ Shaginyan, Marietta (1954). Journey Through Soviet Armenia. 61: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 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)
  5. ^ Payaslian, Simon (2007). The history of Armenia: from the origins to the present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 170. ISBN 9781403974679.
  6. ^ Panossian, Razmik (2006). The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars. London: Hurst & Co. p. 258. ISBN 9780231511339.
  7. ^ Derogy, Jacques (1990). Resistance and Revenge: The Armenian Assassination of the Turkish Leaders Responsible for the 1915 Massacres and Deportations. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 106. ISBN 9781412833165.
  8. ^ a b Scanlan, Chris (December 14, 2011). "Save Me From Hope That I'll Be Saved: The Birth and Death of the Democratic Republic of Armenia". Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  9. ^ National Republic, Volumes 21-22, 1933, p. 84 "A republic had been declared in 1918, and on May 10, 1920, a "Soviet Republic" acclaimed. However, on May 14 the little soviet fell..."
  10. ^ a b c d Kiesling 1999, p. 49.
  11. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV: Between Crescent and Sickle: Partition and Sovietization, (Berkeley, 1996), pp. 209-253
  12. ^ (in Russian) A.B. Kadishev, Interventsia I Grazhdanskaja Vojna v Zakavkazje (Moscow, 1961), pp. 280-289
  13. ^ Charlotte Hille, State Building and Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus (Brill Publishing, 2010) pp. 152-157
  14. ^ a b Zolyan, Mikayel; Zakaryan, Tigran (2010). "'We are a small nation, but': The image of the self, the image of the other, and the image of the enemy in school text books about Armenia" (PDF). Eckert.Beiträge. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  15. ^ (in Armenian) Karian, S. M. (2003) 1920թ. Մայիսյան ապստամբության հիմնահարցը խորհրդահայ պատմագրության մեջ. Herald of the Social Sciences, Armenian National Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, № 1 . pp. 61-71 ISSN 0320-8117
  16. ^ (in Armenian) Melkonian, A. H. (1970) Մայիսյան ապստամբության սովետահայ պատմագրությունը (Ապստամբության 50-ամյակի առթիվ). Historical-Philological Journal, Armenian National Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, № 2, pp. 197-201
  17. ^ a b Kiesling 1999, p. 28.
  18. ^ Kiesling 1999, p. 48.
  19. ^ Kiesling 1999, p. 50.
  20. ^ Kiesling 1999, p. 51.
  21. ^ Ղուկաս Ղուկասյանի արձանը (in Armenian). HinYerevan project. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  22. ^ Վիկտոր Համբարձումյանի արձանը՝ Ղուկաս Ղուկասյանի արձանի տեղում. Azg Daily (in Armenian). 18 November 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  23. ^ Tsypylma Darieva; Wolfgang Kaschuba; Melanie Krebs (2011). Urban Spaces After Socialism: Ethnographies of Public Places in Eurasian Cities. Frankfurt am Main: Campus. p. 70. ISBN 9783593393841.
  24. ^ "Speech by Levon Ter-Petrosyan at the meeting in September 17, 2010". Armenian National Congress. Archived from the original on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013.