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    This is the Black page of the Georgian History.

    Known as ‘The Big Taboo’, this page of History is the ‘Pandora Box’ of Armeno-Georgian relations, a box never to be opened. For successive ‘Supreme State Interests’, very often paradoxical ones, this box remains hermetically sealed till nowadays.

    Apart from a small circle of initiates and historians, few people know the details of this story.
    Very few, if we dare not to notice a small exception: the people of Javakhk!
    Although the majority might not know the mechanisms that led to the ‘Tragedy of Pakourian’, they all carry the aftermaths tattooed on their skin, similar to each descendant of the survivors of 1915.
    Here too, ‘the post trauma silence' played in favour of the preservation of the taboo, in a certain way.

    In fact, on this month of May 1918, there were not three fronts, but four.
    Except of Sardarabad, Gharakilissa and Pach Abaran, there was also Akhalkalak.....

    The Turkish High command had two main objectives. To end the Genocide by exterminating the last Armenians in Eastern Armenia, and to reach Baku as soon as possible.
    Indeed, even if the October Revolution gave an unbelievable as much as unexpected chance to the ‘Young Turk’ Genociders, transforming a military defeat resulting in the effective liberation of the Erkir since 1916 into a crushing Turkish victory, permitting not only the reoccupation of all the lost provinces, but added by Kars, Ardahan, etc,.. the overhaul situation was still as critical as ever on the European and Arab fronts.

    In spite of the successes in Armenia, Turkey knew itself condemned to a defeat, without major changes in the situation.
    That’s why, it was necessary to complete the extermination of the Armenians at all costs, hoping to reach Baku before the Allies reached Istanbul….

    First, Baku represented half of the oil extracted at that beginning of that XX sc.
    But above all, Baku was the incarnation of Turan. That is, a new Empire. The much dreamed future of the Ottomans. The dream which inspired Talaat and Enver, the motive of the Armenian Genocide!
    Or, to reach Baku from Kars, only three itineraries were possible.
    a/ Kars - Alexandrapol - Gharakilissa - Ghazakh - Gantzak - Baku.
    b/ Kars - Alexandrapol - Yerevan - Nakhitchevan - Goris - Chouchi - Baku.
    c/ Kars - Akhalkalak - Dzaghga - Tiflis - Gantzak - Baku.

    Given its haste to reach the main target, the Turkish High Command, now used to deal with disarmed and panicked populations inapt to resist, did not hesitate to disperse its forces on four fronts, to try all options simultaneously.

    As we saw in the ‘Victories of May 1918’, the first two options failed thanks to the three decisive Armenian victories.

    But what happened on the Northern road, the one passing by Akhalkalak?

    Let’s return to May 15, 1918, and the tragic fall of Alexandrapol (Gumri).
    Armenia has not declared its independence yet.
    In theory the SEIM still exists, but in practice, after the fall of Kars due to its failure, the Armenians do not believe in it any more. The command of the Armenian forces tries to organize the defence of the remaining tiny piece of Eastern Armenia.

    Meanwhile, since the fall of Kars followed by Alexandrapol, Javakhk is cut of from the rest of the country.
    Consequently, the Javakhk Government asks for help, simultaneously from the ‘Armenian National Council’ based in Tiflis, and from general Nazarpekian, commanding the Armenian troops.

    On his turn General Nazarpekian, orders Antranik, at that time located in the vicinity of Alexandrapol, to ensure the defence of Javakhk, by heading with his men to Akhalkalak.
    Unfortunately, since the fall of Garin, and especially that of Kars, the relations between the legendary commander of partisans, namely Antranik, and the career officers inherited from the Tzarist army are disgusting.
    Antranik blaming the career Generals their lack of courage, and the latter not supporting the indiscipline and not less legendary furious angers of the first.

    Thus, leaving the region of Alexandrapol, Antranik moves well to the North, but once in Ashotsk, instead of passing to Javakhk according to his orders, he decides to shift East, towards the plain of Lori, and relocates in current Stepanavan (alias Tchalaloghli). Indeed, on his estimates, the danger would come from the North. His plan was to resist in the deep gorges of the Tepet and Tzoraked.

    As for Javakhk, he sent to one of his officers, Hagop, originally from the province. The latter was supposed to organise a massive mobilization among his compatriots and to coordinate the defence.

    But during the night, following his arrival in the town of Akhalkalak, Hagop is murdered by a treacherous hand.....

    As a result, the Turks perfectly informed from the absence of any organised defence in the plain of Javakhk, send in a part of the Second Corpus commanded by Yaqub Chevki Pasha. First from Ardahan towards Akhaltzkha, and another part from Batoum, trough the mountains of Ajaria towards the same Akhaltzkha.

    The situation of Akhaltzkha and the villages around was desperate, since the enemy’s advanced from the West and the South with superior forces, was aggravated by the closure of the road towards Akhalkalak for weeks now, thanks to Mskhet Turks, who took the control of the Kour valley, attacking the villages of the plateau, like Vatchian or Gumbirda.

    Despite everything, the Tachnak mayor of Akhaltzkha Zori Zorian, by the matter of facts transformed into a commander, decides to resist whatever the costs.
    Rejecting evacuation, Zorian organizes the self-defence of the city, and the 15 mountain villages situated South of it.
    He digs trenches, orders rationing of the food, organizes turns of duty, and launches an arms manufacture.
    Making own the slogan ‘Mah gam Azadoutioun', the Akhaltzkhatzis decide to die rather than to give up their land.

    Simultaneously, after the occupation of Ashotsk, the Turks move from the South, towards the Big lakes, sending most of their troops from Kars to the Lake Dzourdzouna (Tchelder), and from there to the Gardzakh pass on May 7, 1918.

    Thus they manage to by pass the trenches of the defenders, lined along the heights dominating the Kour valley.
    The detachments of self defence, few and badly armed, succeed in organizing a short resistance close to the village of Gardzakh. The battle took place on the slopes of the mount Kyoktagh.
    Lieutenant Arakelov, instead of going to the front, ‘leads' the operations from Akhalkalak, 30 km on the rear.
    Following the orders of Jordania and the SEIM, the Georgian regiment, abandons the front, and is withdrawn without fighting.
    Fierce resistance is showed by the detachments directed by demobilized career officers, Ludwig Temirdjian, Khoren Mnoyan, Zarmayr Khanoyan, as well as the men of Boghos Apelian, arrived from Tiflis. Same abnegation is showed by the men of a Russian officer, Reznikov.
    At this stage, the fighting was no more for the defence of Javakhk, but for the evacuation of its inhabitants... in extremis. All the Verin Javakhk falls, within a few days.
    The inhabitants of the Northern part of the province, 40 000 men move Norther, towards Pakourian and Borjom. Those of the Southern portion, 35 000 men, take the direction of Dzaghga.
    The topography of the region, a large plain with no natural obstacles plays in favour of the Turks. Once the Gardzakh pass crossed, there are no more strongholds for a resistance. This explains the speed of the invader’s progression and the catastrophic conditions of the evacuation.
    Whereas Javakhk was considered as Armenia’s potato and corn rloft, almost all the reserves are abandoned in the cellars, and the Refugees hardly have for a few weeks of provisions.
    The 61 Armenian villages migrate. Only remain Molokan Russian and some turkish-speaking Armenian villages. The Turkish army supported by the Mskhet Turks will plunder during weeks the villages. The latecomers are massacred by hundreds. Nearly a thousand valid men are sent to Turkey for forced labor. More than one thousand elders are gathered and exiled to the refugee camps of Pakourian.
    The villagers of Khorenia and Takhtcha, moving towards Dzaghga, are convinced by Turkish agents to turn back. Thus 800 villagers from Khorenia and 300 from Takhtcha return to their homes. Once back, the Turks force them in the cattle sheds, and burn alive. Terrible massacres took also place in the villages of Medz Arakeal, Gumbirda, Apoul, Pejano, and in the city of Akhalkalak itself.

    Losses could have been worse, if in some places, in spite of the lack of means, the population hadn’t shown resistance. The most important battle was waged by the villagers of Satkha, at the entrance of their village...

    Nevertheless, in spite of very heavy losses, 40 000 Refugees manage to save their lives and move towards the town of Borjom, in the North, from where the railroad led to Tiflis or Abkhazia, and then Russia.

    The passage of the Treghk Mountains, during the season of snow’s melt is very difficult, especially on the Northern slopes, in the dense forests of Pakourian.

    Some 35 to 40 000 others, from the region South of Akhalkalak and the basin of the Lake Parvana, moved towards Dzaghga.

    On the 5th of June, with the last refugees, the detachments of self-defence left the area around Akhalkalak for Pakourian.
    But once arrived, the refugees and their defenders, expecting to find a helping hand, are surrounded by the Georgian army deployed in Borjom.
    Its commander-in-chief, the General Artchevanitze, not only refuses to provide weapons for the volunteers of the self-defence detachments, willing to return and face the Turks, but moreover, he disarms till the last Javakhktzi.

    Indeed, the Georgian General declares: ‘From now on you are on the territory of the Republic of Georgia, and thus under the protection of the Georgian National Army. Thus you have neither the right, nor the need to have arms'.

    Exhausted by the exodus, the Javakhktzis are disarmed by a regular army, naively. They are far from imagining the hell that the Nationalist Government of Jordania reserved for them!

    Indeed, according to of the Georgian National Council, Artchevanitze forbade the Javakhtzis from settling in the town of Pakourian. The latter, being a summer cure station, had hundreds of empty houses in this season.

    He also forbade their move towards other destinations, or from using the train to join their families in Tiflis or in Russia.
    In a matter of days, the survivors of the massacres find are parked in refugee camps in the forests, without any protection against the bad weather, and encircled by the Georgian army, which forbade any move.

    The pretext used first, is the ‘risks of epidemics' the refugees could have propagated to the rest of Georgia. However, this argument is absolutely nonsense at that time: June 1918.
    Indeed, the villagers of Gumbirda had saved from the ‘Turkish Yatagan' the inhabitants of four small Georgian villages of the Kour valley, and had taken them to the North. These ethnic Georgians having lived during weeks with the Javakhetian Refugees, are nevertheless chosen one by one, and admitted inside the Georgian borders….

    In spite of the hermetism of Artchevanitze’s encirclement, some families succeeded in passing through the breaches of the net, either by using remote paths, or by bribing the Georgian guards.
    They are denounced in Borjom, or Khachouri, are arrested and brought back in the camps of Pakourian.

    About one hundred Javakhktzis had even succeeded in arriving to the central station of Tiflis, by using the train. They were stopped and returned towards these real ‘Death Camps’.

    It should be noted that almost simultaneously, the Turkish army, so predisposed in massacring Armenians without second taught, ‘saved’ almost 1500 elders captured in the villages of the Plain, gathered them, and after exhausting them by inflicting a long march, will bring them to the same camps of Pakourian, just to increase the burden of the refugees.

    By now, it was clear, that the attitude of the Georgian State had shameful aims, and was surely not motivated by sanitary considerations.
    The Georgian State, accepting voluntarily Germany’s supervision, ally of Turkey, had acted in concert with the Turkish command.
    The two armies, Turkish and Georgian, carried out a common plan, simultaneously, and in a complementary way!

    Later, the pretext used will be the ‘risks of Hunger’ caused by the poor 80 000 Javakhktzis on the 2 Million inhabitants of Georgia, from which almost the third were Armenians at this date.

    However, it was Georgia and its army, that plundered these luckless victims, by organizing forced ‘exchanges’ with grain at the beginning of June.
    Thus several hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep, plus all the precious values saved from the Turks were ‘exchanged’ by Georgian inhabitants of the neighbouring provinces of Koutaïss, Borjom and Gori, backed by the bayonets of their army, against some bread, hardly enough for a few days.
    Later, these same ‘merchants' turned into plunderers, always backed by their army and their police forces.

    The situation in the camps turned from worse to apocalyptic, as soon as the first rains began, at the end of August 1918.
    Whereas until that date, the mortality due to the diseases was not great, and the most worrying problem was the hunger, in a matter of weeks, epidemics such as the Cholera, the Dysentery, Tuberculosis or Syphilis exploded.
    The death tall was already more than 100 per day in Pakourian.
    In spite of the Chaos which reigned in the rest of the Caucasus, the famine decimating by hundred of thousands the Refugees from Western Armenia, the Armenian Government did not stop from pleading to the Georgian authorities, trying to save its compatriots in Pakourian.

    Same was the case of the Armenian community in Tiflis, and of ‘Armenian National Consil' still based in Tiflis at this date... all these efforts resulting to a waste of time and energy.

    Georgia categorically refused any passage of humanitarian aid, whether food or medicine....

    The authorities of Yerevan demanded the lifting of the siege for the Javakhktzis, either a permission to step down from the icy montains of Pakourian into the Kour valley, famous for its paradisiacal climate, or at worst, the possibility of a return back to Javakhk, even if the Turks were still there!
    After all, it was better to face with bare hands the Turks, rather than accepting the certain death orchestrated by Georgia.

    Tiflis rejects categorically, pretending a Turkish refusal to the return of the Javakhktzis.
    Or at this date, the Ottoman Empire, at the verge of collapse, was forced to stop its expansionism in Eastern Armenia.
    The Turkish army had already left the plain of Javakhk, and was even on the point of evacuating Kars and Alexandrapol!

    A few days later, ‘The Evil’s Empire’ signed its capitulation in Moudros, with the French and English Allies.
    Contacted by the Armenian Government, the Turks, stunned by the fear of an Armenian revenge, accepted the return of Javakhktzis, and refuted any previous refusal from their side.

    In spite of all these evidence, The Georgians forbade by their army the return of the Refugees to Javakhk.
    In the mean time in Pakourian, epidemics and hunger, joined by now by storms and the snow, raised the death toll to hundreds per day…...

    The Georgian civil population and its soldiers contemplate the extinction of these starved skeletons, refusing ‘to move a small finger'....

    Finally, just before of the ratification of the Peace in Moudros, and the beginning of the total Turkish withdrawal from Eastern Armenia, Georgia will propose: ‘Javakhktzis can’t return to Javakhk any more. They must either be transported to the heart of Armenia, or to Russia'..

    There were virtually no survivors remaining in Pakourian.
    In this Death Camp alone, between June and November 1918, the death tall was of 18 000!
    At the beginning of the spring 1919, the total death tall in the camps of Pakourian, Mankliss and Dzaghga exceeded 40 000...
    The fewest losses were registered in the camp of Dzaghga.
    Because here, in spite of the ban and the barrage of the Georgian army, the Armenian villagers of the district, helped with all possible means their brothers.

    Starting from the end November 1918, small groups, succeed in making trough the siege, begining the return to Javakhk.

    Sstarting from the end of December, most of the dying survivors were forced by the Georgian army to sign declarations admitting the incorporation of Javakhk in Georgia, and acceptance Georgian nationality!

    The people of Javakhk, having under each tree of Pakourian’s forests the tomb of one of its kin, refer to this period by stating: ‘What the Turk did not succeed to achieve, the Georgian did’.....

    In his memories, Archak Djamalian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia in Georgia, will detail the negotiations, and the cynical attitude of the Georgian Government.
    He will mention ‘We do not detail these facts to revive our wounds, but to prove that Georgia never regarded the Inhabitants of Javakhk or Dashir (Armenian Portchalou) as its citizens'.

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