The battle of Sardarabad, from May 21-28, 1918, symbolized the defining moment in Armenian life. It is quite likely that, following an Armenian defeat, the Turkish armies would have had a free pass to occupy Eastern Armenia and liquidate its population, completing the process of annihilation that had been taken place with Western Armenians from 1915-1916. The victory had a military hero, General Movses Silikian.
Silikian was born on September 14, 1862, in the village of Vardashen, in the province of Nukhi (currently Azerbaijan). He was not an ethnic Armenian, but belonged to the Udi minority (an ethnicity descending from the Caucasian Albanians, with a distinctive Northern Caucasian language), although he was a faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He graduated from the Moscow Military Gymnasium (1882-1884) and the Alexander III Military School.
Silikian entered the military service in 1884 and was assigned to the military region of the Caucasus. After serving as company and battalion commander, he was awarded with the degree of colonel in 1914. He became adjutant to the military commander of Yerevan in 1915, commander of the Eighth Regiment in 1915, and commander of the Army Group of Van in 1916. He participated in the liberation of Mush and Bitlis, and became military commander of Erzerum after the occupation of the city. He was awarded the order of St. George in 1916 and rose to the degree of major general in August 1917.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the retreat of the Russian forces, Silikian was designated commander of the second rifle division of the Armenian army in January 1918, and afterwards, commander of the Army Group of Yerevan. He managed to organize a regular army in a short time, and by order of Aram Manukian, who had taken the leadership of the Province of Yerevan, Silikian led the Armenian troops in Sardarabad, where their victory stopped the advance of the Turkish army towards Yerevan.
After the independence of Armenia, Silikian, promoted to general commandant in 1919, became commander of the front of Nor Bayazid (nowadays Gavar) in the same year and was designated general commander of the front of Kars-Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri) in the fall of 1920.
The veteran soldier was exiled in January 1921 to Riazan after the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia. He returned in May 1921 to Armenia and settled in Yerevan. He was exiled once again, this time to Rostov-on-Don, and returned again to Yerevan. He worked at the Alexandropol branch of the Swedish “Baltic” company from 1921-1923, and from 1923-1929 or 1930 at the Armenian branch of the Near East Relief.
Silikian was arrested once again during the Stalinist purges of 1937 (he had been previously arrested in 1927 and 1935), and charged within the frame of the “Tukhachevsky case” (a fabricated case against Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other prominent Soviet military leaders), to which he bore no relation. As many other victims of the purges, he was executed in the gorge of Nork, together with General Kristapor Araratian and other heroes of Sardarabad, on November 22, 1937. He was rehabilitated fifty years later, on November 10, 1987. A neighborhood in Yerevan has been named after him, as well as a medal of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia.