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Encyclopedia > Battle of Kelbajar
Battle of Kelbajar
Part of the Nagorno-Karabakh War

Commander of the Martuni Front, Monte Melkonian communicates with military commanders via radio.
Date: March 27, 1993April 3, 1993
Location: Kelbajar, region in Azerbaijan
Result: Armenian victory
Combatants
Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army Azerbaijani military
Commanders
Gurgen Daribaltayan
Monte Melkonian
Shamil Askerov
Strength
Several hundred troops, including the crew members of tanks and armored fighting vehicles Unknown amount of infantry and tanks
Casualties
Unknown, at least 100 reported by Armenian commanders Contested by Armenians and Azerbaijani government; civilians deaths after the battle ended estimated to be at least 200 [1]

The battle of Kelbajar was the capture of the western region of Kelbajar, Azerbaijan during the 1993 spring-summer campaign by Armenian military forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Kelbajar was outside the boundaries of the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian and Azeri forces had been fighting over for five years. Bordering Armenia proper, the predominantly Armenian populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh had announced their declaration of independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 and fighting had taken place mostly in the enclave itself. Seeking to keep the territory under its rule, the Armenians of Karabakh were aided by Armenia itself in the form of logistical supplies, volunteers and military weaponry. Kelbajar, only several kilometers from Armenia's border, was comprised of several dozen villages including its provincal capital with the same name. The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that began in the latter half of 1991 and raged on until 1994 in the Caucasus region between mostly Christian Armenia and its eastern neighbor, predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Melkonian-bandaged. ... The Martuni region is a region in Nagorno-Karabakh. ... Monte Melkonian (November 25, 1957 – June 12, 1993) was a famed Armenian military commander in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. ... March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in leap years). ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... April 3 is the 93rd day of the year (94th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 272 days remaining. ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... Kalbacar is a rayon of Azerbaijan. ... Image File history File links Nagorno-Karabakh_Coat_of_Arms. ... The Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR) Defense Army was officially established on May 9, 1992 as the formal defense force of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, uniting previously disorganized self-defense units which were formed in the early 1990s in order to protect the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh from the... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The Azerbaijan Armed Forces consists of four military branches: the Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces. ... Monte Melkonian (November 25, 1957 – June 12, 1993) was a famed Armenian military commander in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. ... An armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) is a military vehicle, equipped with protection against hostile attacks and often mounted weapons. ... Kalbacar is a rayon of Azerbaijan. ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that began in the latter half of 1991 and raged on until 1994 in the Caucasus region between mostly Christian Armenia and its eastern neighbor, predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan. ... Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijani: Dağlıq Qarabağ or Yuxarı Qarabağ, literally mountainous black garden or upper black garden; Russian: Нагорный Карабах, translit. ... This article is about the Azerbaijani ethnic group. ... 1991 (MCMXCI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


A raion that was surrounded by several canyons and elevated mountain range known as the Mrav Mountains, Armenian forces from four different directions including Armenia proper, attacked and captured a space of over 1,900 kilometers, linking it with region of Nagorno-Karbakh and opening a second "corridor" for Armenia to send aid through. Most of Kelbajar's civilian population had been transported out of the town prior to the battle.[2] International reaction to the capture of the region condemned the offensive and demanded that the forces withdraw. Kelbajar however, currently remains under Armenian control. A raion (or rayon) (Russian and Ukrainian: ; Belarusian раён; Azeri: rayon, Latvian: rajons, Georgian: , raioni) is one of two kinds of administrative subdivisions in languages of some post-Soviet states: a subnational entity and a subdivision of a city. ...

Contents


Background

By the spring of 1992, the Azeri military had been pushed out of Nagorno-Karabakh. Once an autonomous oblast during the Soviet era under the juridiction of the Azerbaijan Soviet republic, Karabakh was made up of approximately 75% of Armenians. As the Soviet Union's disintegration neared during the late 1980s, the enclave's government expressed its desire to secede and unite with the neighboring Armenian Soviet republic. By 1991, Armenia, Azerbaijan were independent countries but the nascent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic remained unrecognized despite its government's formal declaration. Small-scale violence had flared up between the two ethnic groups in Feburary 1988 but escalated to the use of Soviet-built tanks, helicopters, fighter bombers appropriated by all sides after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 1992 (MCMXCII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday. ... An oblast (Russian, Ukrainian: о́бласть) is a name for the subnational entity of Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union. ... Motto: Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь! (Transliterated: Proletarii vsekh stran, soedinyaytes!) (Russian: Workers of the world, unite!) Anthem: The Internationale (1922-1944) Hymn of the Soviet Union (1944-1991) Capital Moscow Largest city Moscow Official language(s) None; Russian de facto Government Federation of Soviet Republics Establishment October Revolution  - Declared 30 December 1922   - Recognized 1... State motto: Бүтүн өлкәләрин пролетарлары, бирләшин! Workers of the world, unite! Official language None. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... State motto: ÕŠÖ€Õ¸Õ¬Õ¥Õ¿Õ¡Ö€Õ¶Õ¥Ö€ Õ¢Õ¸Õ¬Õ¸Ö€ Õ¥Ö€Õ¯Ö€Õ¶Õ¥Ö€Õ«, միացեք! (Workers of the world, unite!) Official language None. ... Look up February in Wiktionary, the free dictionary February is the second month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ...


On May 9, 1992, Armenian forces captured the mountain stronghold of Shusha and remained on the defensive until the following year. Fighting between Armenians and Azeris continued in other parts of the enclave including Lachin, Martuni, and Martakert however nearly all offensives launched by the Azeri military failed or were unable to hold on to the territory. By the spring of 1993, the Azeri military which had the upper hand in the initial stages of the war, had been largely reduced to unorganized and incoherent fighting groups. By March of 1993, fighting had shifted to west and to the south of Karabakh. May 9 is the 129th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (130th in leap years). ... Province: Shusha rayon (Azeri subdivsion) Shushi Marz/District (Nagrono Karabakh Republic Subdivsion) Area: Altitude: - Population: ~3000 Population density: - Latitude: - Longitude: - Mayor: - Shusha (Azerbaijani: Şuşa, Armenian: Շուշի; translit. ... Lachin (Laçın) is a rayon of Azerbaijan. ... The Martuni region is a region in Nagorno-Karabakh. ... Martakert is a province of Nagorno-Karabakh. ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... March is the third month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar and one of seven Gregorian months with the length of 31 days. ...


The region of Kelbajar

Rationale for its taking

Kelbajar is located between Armenia and the western border of Nagorno-Karabakh. Situated between a steep mountain range, its wartime population of approximately 45,000 - 60,000 did not include any Armenians and was primarily made up of ethnic Azeris and Kurds.[3] Throughout the war, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh had been voicing their discontent over seventy years of Azeri rule and said that they were defending themsevles from Azerbaijan's aggression. Their capture of the towns of Khojaly and Shusha stemmed from security concerns in silencing artillery bombardments positioned in those towns. They stated that Karabakh had historically been an Armenian region and that their claims for territory did not extend beyond its boundaries. The Kurds are an ethnic group indigenous to a region often referred to as Kurdistan, an area which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. ... TO GENOCIDE EVENTS IN KHOJALI Over the night from February 25 to 26, 1992 Armenian armed forces implemented the capture of the Khojali city with support of hard equipment and the personnel of the infantry guards regiment #366 of former Soviet Union. ... Province: Shusha rayon (Azeri subdivsion) Shushi Marz/District (Nagrono Karabakh Republic Subdivsion) Area: Altitude: - Population: ~3000 Population density: - Latitude: - Longitude: - Mayor: - Shusha (Azerbaijani: ÅžuÅŸa, Armenian: Õ‡Õ¸Ö‚Õ·Õ«; translit. ...


In March of 1993, military incursions by Azeri forces and artillery barrages were reported to have been coming from the region, prompting military leaders to announce an offensive against the rayon. However, a different reason was given by the Armenians' most successful commander of the conflict, Monte Melkonian. According to Melkonian, the commander of the southern front in Martuni, the decision to take the town was a matter of certainty rather than choice.[4] He stated, "This is a historical issue...of course this is historical Armenia...And we'll vindicate that reality [to the Azeris] with our guns. Unfortunately! It would be nice if the Azeris would understand that reality is reality, agree and say OK, it's yours, and that's that." [5] Questioned on the possibility of a large expulsion of civilians if the region was captured, Melkonian responded back: "A lot of blood [had] been spilled on both sides....The emotions are high and that isn't conducive to living together in near or medium future." [6] Monte Melkonian (November 25, 1957 – June 12, 1993) was a famed Armenian military commander in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. ... The Martuni region is a region in Nagorno-Karabakh. ...


The battle

Heavy resistance

Defeats in late March already had the Azeri military evacuating civilians out of the region to the northern town of Yevlakh and Azerbaijan's second largest city, Ganja. The Armenians had assembled a force of several hundred men to enter Kelbajar from four different directions: Melkonian's own detachment of tanks and troops from Karabakh would attack from the southeast, one fifty-man unit from the town of Vardenis, Armenia would enter from the the west; the third force would attack from the town of Aghdaban in the north, and the primary contingent would come from the southern village of Nareshtar.[7] Yevlakh (Azeri: Yevlax) is a small town in Azerbaijan, 265 km west of capital Baku. ... Municipality: Ganja Area: 1000 km² Altitude: -100 m Population: 300,000 census 2003 Postal Code: AZ1000 Area code: 016 Municipality code: GA Mayor: Eldar Azizov For other uses, see Ganja (disambiguation). ...


The battered village of Charekdar in Kelbajar had already seen extensive fighting in earlier weeks and was reinforced by both Azeri and foreign fighters as the Armenian offensive commenced on March 27. However, instead of launching a simultaneous attack, only the units in Aghdaban and Nareshtar moved out. Melkonian's armored column did not move out until later on and his units faced tenacious resistance on an embankment of entrenched defenses and his forces were forced to retreat.[8] The troops in Vardenis began their assault shortly thereafter but their advance was slowed since they had to move trek through the snowy passes of the Mrav Mountains. March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in leap years). ...


On March 28, Melkonian's forces counterattacked Charekdar and an eight-hour battle ensued until his forces were able to break through the defenses. The disparity of Azeri defenses scattered through the region allowed them to advance twenty-nine kilometers, reaching the Tatar River on March 31.[9] Within another twenty kilometers of his forces' positions was the Kelbajar's namesake capital and a crucial road intersection that led to Lachin and the village of Zulufgarli. For other uses, see number 28. ... March 31 is the 90th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (91st in Leap years), with 275 days remaining. ...


Melkonian's advance

The following two days saw a massive refugee column of cars and trucks "laden with bundles...bumper to bumper" trudging through the intersection. Melkonian ordered his forces to halt their advance until the remnants of the column dried up in the early afternoon of April 1. Assessing that most refugees had left, he ordered his units to advance and sent a detachment to guard a vital tunnel leading south towards Zulufgarli. While his troops had assummed that most civilians had left Kelbajar, they encountered a GAZ-52 transport truck in the tunnel and, thinking it was a military vehicle, fired and destroyed it with rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles. As they observed the wreck of the vehicle, the troops realized they had taken out a vehicle filled entirely with civilians: twenty-five Kurd and Azeri kolkhoz workers. Four of them, including the driver of the truck, his daughter, were killed. The rest were ordered by Melkonian to a hospital in Karabakh's capital of Stepanakert; however, as many as eleven of them died.[10] April 1 is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 274 days remaining. ... GAZ-53A GAZ-53 is a truck from GAZ. It was produced between 1961 and 1991 (perhaps longer). ... A rocket propelled grenade (RPG) is a man-portable, shoulder-launched weapon capable of firing an explosive device longer distances than an otherwise unassisted soldier could throw. ... A kolkhoz (Russian: ), plural kolkhozy, was a form of collective farming in the Soviet Union that existed along with state farms (sovkhoz). ... Map of Azerbaijan showing town of Stepanakert within Nagorno-Karabakh. ...


After the Zulufgarli incident, his forces pushed forward and reached another vital intersection leading to Ganja, fifteen kilometers away from the capital. Civilians in Kelbajar continued to be evacuated by both air and the through the intersection and Melkonian halted his advance by a further forty hours to allow the traffic column to move through. On April 1, his forces issued a radio message to the governor of the region, instructing his forces to leave the capital. An ultimatum was issued until 2 P.M. of the following day. Indentified by his radio codename, "Khan", the governor responded back and stated, "We're never going to leave...we'll fight to the end." [11] The 12-hour clock is a timekeeping convention in which the 24 hours of the day are divided into two periods called ante meridiem (AM, Latin for before noon) and post meridiem (PM, Latin for after noon). Each period consists of 12 hours numbered 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...


Final push

As the deadline passed on April 2, Melkonian's armor entered the interesection and encountered a line of Azeri tanks and infantry. A firefight ensued but lasted for only several minutes as the defense line was soon battered and destroyed. Many of the Azeri forces were ill-prepared for the attack as Melkonian noted when pointing out to their lack of equipment, "There are no boots on their [the Azeris'] feet." [12] Despite having his force reduced down to a total of sixty-eight men, a force too weak to take the capital, he ordered them to continue forward. April 2 is the 92nd day of the year (93rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 273 days remaining. ...


By April 3, the Armenian forces had encircled the capital and resistance had weakened. Azeri commander Suret Husseinov and his 709th brigade which had been tasked to defending the Mrav mountains, had retreated to Ganje after political and military problems began to unravel upon in the battlefield.[13] An account of the war-weariness afflicting the habitants of the town was described by Melkonian's elder brother, Markar: April 3 is the 93rd day of the year (94th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 272 days remaining. ...

   
Battle of Kelbajar
A downcast enemy soldier with a bandaged hand and a burned leg rides up on a donkey and surrenders. An old man in a faded jacket studded with medals from the Great Patriotic War weeps before leaving his home forever. An elderly woman in a black yazma, waving a torn sheet on a stick, greets Monte and Abo [his radio operator] in Azeri Turkish, then suddenly kneels to the ground to kiss Monte's feet. Surprised and awkward, Monte tries to pull back. Yok! he shouts, "No!" He reflexively bends over and brings the woman up by her arm. "What are you doing?" he asks in Anatolian Turkish, "Don't ever do that!"....[Melkonian] found [in the capital] a row of neat but bleak storefronts and a few chickens. The townsfolk...had not bothered to grab the chickens as provisions for the road. The only other sign of life was a BMP idling in the middle of the road through the center of town.[14]
   
Battle of Kelbajar

Although his contingent did not reach in time for the fighting, the city's capital was taken. Asides from some farm life, the town had been largely abandoned. The taking of the region marked a continous swath of territory held by Armenians stretching from Karabakh to Armenia proper, a total of 3,000 square kilometers. In the retreat through the Omar Pass of the Mrav mountains, many Azeri refugees froze to death. With the last helicopters leaving on April 1, they were forced to walk through the heavy snow at freezing temperatures. Approximately 20-30,000 civilians were processed into the camps at Yevlakh.[15] Although casualty counts were not properly ascertained, civilian deaths nevertheless, exceeded them. Image File history File links Cquote1. ... The Eastern Front1 was the theatre of combat between Nazi Germany and its allies against the Soviet Union during World War II. It was somewhat separate from the other theatres of the war, not only geographically, but also for its scale and ferocity. ... BMP is an abbreviation for: Basic Multilingual Plane, the 16-bit base of the Unicode character set. ... Image File history File links Cquote2. ...


Political ramifications

The offensive provoked international criticism against both the Armenians in Karabakh and the Republic. Vafa Gulizade, the chief advisor to then president of Azerbaijan, Abulfaz Elchibey alleged that the region was taken too easily because of the Russian military division stationed in Armenia. This charge was refuted by the operation's commander, Gurgen Daribaltayan and others since the "Moscow [government] was not in total control of Armenian military operations." [16] Armenia's western neighbor, Turkey cut off diplomatic relations and halted humanitarian aid coming sent through its borders. The United States also condemned the offensive, issuing a "sharp rebuke" to the Armenian government.[17] Abulfaz Elchibey (Əbülfəz Elçibəy in Azerbaijani; b. ...


On April 30, 1993, Turkey and Pakistan co-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 822 which called for Armenians in the region to withdraw immediately from Kelbajar and other areas of Azerbaijan. Turkish President Turgut Ozal called for military intervention on Azerbaijan's side and set forth on a tour of former Turkic Soviet republics on April 14. (Ozal would die of a heart attack three days later). Iran also condemned the offensive since many refugees in Azerbaijan were fleeing south towards it borders. April 30 is the 120th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (121st in leap years), with 245 days remaining. ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the organ of the United Nations charged with maintaining peace and security among nations. ... Turgut Özal was a Turkish political leader, Prime minister and 8th president of Turkey. ... This is the disambiguation page for the terms Turk, Turkey, Turkic, and Turkish. ... April 14 is the 104th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (105th in leap years). ...


References

  1. ^ Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Report. Azerbaijan: Seven Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Human Rights Watch, 1995, p. 15
  2. ^ Melkonian, Markar. My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005 p. 245
  3. ^ Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Seven Years of Conflict, p. 9
  4. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, pp. 244-245. In a television interview with an Armenian journalist during the first day of the battle, Melkonian reaffirmed the region's fate; "When we want to, we'll advance. The issue is whether or not we want to. We'd prefer if the peaceful population gets out of this place safely, and then we'll advance. But it looks their soldiers won't allow it. So maybe we'll start up again."
  5. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 245
  6. ^ Auerbach, Jon. Martuni, Azerbaijan The Boston Globe. March 9, 1993, p. 8
  7. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, pp. 243-244
  8. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 244.
  9. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 245
  10. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, pp. 245-246
  11. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 246
  12. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 247. A videotape shot during the fighting showed an encounter where an Armenian BMP fired a shell at Azeri troops covering behind a gas tanker. The shell hit the tanker and engulfed several dozen fighters in flames. After the battle ended, the videotape showed the Ganja intersection strewn with dead bodies with Monte pointing down the road, saying "The farther you go down this road, the more corpses you'll find".
  13. ^ De Waal, Thomas. Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press, 2003. pp. 211-212
  14. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 248
  15. ^ Special to The New York Times Attacks in Caucasus Bring New Tide of Refugees The New York Times. April 7, 1993. p. A3
  16. ^ Hunter, Shireen T. The Transcaucasus in Transition. Washington D.C.: The Center for Strategic & International Studies, 1994. p. 88
  17. ^ Melkonian. My Brother's Road, p. 249

BMP is an abbreviation for: Basic Multilingual Plane, the 16-bit base of the Unicode character set. ...

External links

  • Excerpt on the battle on the NKR website

 
 

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