Farhad bey of Karabakh
Karabakh gave Azerbaijan many prominent commanders, such as Farhad bey of Karabakh, who served in the Russo-Ottoman Wars of 1828 to 1829. During those wars the first Azeri regiments were organized within the Russian Army by Count Paskevich, the Russian commander-in-chief then. Four Azeri regiments were organized under the command of General Rayevski. Karabakhis comprised the first of these. And the first Karabakh cavalry regiment, commanded by Russian officer Mesheryakov, included Farhad bey of Karabakh as Mesheryakov’s deputy.
Faraj bey Agayev (1811-1891)
Born in Shusha in 1811 the general-lieutenant Faraj bey Agayev was one of the prominent commanders of Azerbaijan. When 26 years old he voluntarily joined the Russian Army and served in the Caucasus Muslim regiment. In 1838 he became an officer. Soon afterward, having noticed Agayev’s military talent, Count Paskevich transferred him to the Emperor’s Guards. On the seventh year of his military service Faraj bey became rotmister (the cavalry captain) of the Guard, and three years later he was promoted to colonel and appointed the regiment commander.
In 1844 when he was inspecting the Guard troops the Emperor Nicholas I attended Faraj bey’s regiment, met him, and was very satisfied with his work. Soon the Russian Czar even formally adopted Faraj bey as his son. From that day all official documents referred to Faraj bey as Nicholas Nicolayevich Agayev. In 1850 Faraj bey Agayev was sent to Tiflis. He worked 30 years in the most responsible positions in the military headquarters in Tiflis. From 1850 to 1880 Agayev participated in the Caucasus wars and especially distinguished himself in the Russo-Lezghin war. In 1853 Agayev commanded the Ossetian cavalry, the Shusha cavalry detachment. In the same year he was promoted to general for his heroism in the battle of Kerukdere. Later in 1878 Agayev was further promoted to general-lieutenant and awarded with a sward of the Russian Emperor for his military feats.
Faraj bey Agayev served in the army for 45 years. Having retired in 1882 the 72-year-old general spent his last years in Tiflis and was closely engaged in philanthropy.
Samed bey Mehmandarov (1856-1931)
One of the most prominent Azeri commanders, General Samed bey was born in Shusha. He had dreamed of being a military serviceman since childhood. Therefore, he entered the Petersburg military artillery school and graduated from it in 1875 as an ensign. In 1904 when the Russo-Japanese War began, Mehmandarov distinguished himself particularly during the defense of Port Arthur (China). For his outstanding feats during the 11-month long defense of Port Arthur, Mehmandarov was rewarded the “Saint George” order, a special golden sward, and was promoted to general major. After the Russo-Japananese war Mehmandarov commanded the 3rd Siberian Army Corps and was promoted to general-lieutenant in 1908.
At the beginning of World War I Mehmandarov’s division (the 21st) fought on the Austro-German front. His division particularly distinguished itself in the battle near Lodz in Poland. By the end of World War I Mehmandarov was already commander-in-chief of the Group of Corps and was awarded with Russian, British, French, and Romanian orders and medals.
With the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918) Samed bey Mehmandarov became the first minister of defense of Azerbaijan. He played a major role in establishing the national army during the first years.
After the fall of the national government and the Soviet invasion, Mehmandarov wished to stay in Azerbaijan and didn’t leave the country despite the great risk to his life. Narimanov, the Azeri communist leader of the time, stood up for the old general because of Mehmandarov’s military knowledge and experience. Mehmandarov spent his last years teaching in an Azerbaijan military school. Together with his friend Aliaga Shikhlinsky, who also preferred to stay in Azerbaijan, Mehmandarov trained many military specialists in Azerbaijan.
Aslan Vezirov (1910-1988)
Karabakh is also the birthplace of many prominent commanders who fought against fascism during World War II. One of them is Aslan Vezirov, born in 1910 in the village of Zumurkhach in Karabakh. In 1928-1930 he studied in the military engineering schools in Leningrad (present day Saint Petersburg) and Moscow. He was serving in Ukraine when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. In the war he fought at the Caucasus Front; at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukraininan Fronts; and at the 1st Baltic and 2nd Belorussian fronts. When he was serving at the 2nd Belorussian Front, the commander-in-chief of the front, Marshall Rokosovsky, appointed him the commander of the 1st military engineering brigade. For his exemplary performance in battle Colonel Aslan Vezirov was awarded the highest title: Hero of the Soviet Union.
Vezirov retired from the Army in 1947. From 1965 till his death in 1988 he was the chairman of the Republican War Veterans Committee.
Khalil Mamedov (1916-1989)
Born in Shusha, Khalil Mamedov proved himself a talented and courageous officer since the beginning of war with Germany in World War II. From 1941 to 1943 he fought in Ukraine, and was wounded several times and each time returned to the battlefield after his recovery. From 1943 to 1944 Mamedov commanded a tank battalion at the 3rd Ukrainian Front. He and his battalion fought some heavy battles in Ukraine and liberated Ukrainian towns and villages. He especially distinguished himself in the famous Korsun-Shevchenko battles.
Mamedov’s name became famous throughout the front during the battles for Romania. He played a key role when he liberated the heavily defended town of Mergus. Mamedov had gotten an order to break through the enemy lines with only five of his tanks and explode a strategic bridge in the rear.
His tanks then carried out their task brilliantly. They broke through the German lines and exploded the bridge, cutting off the enemy’s retreat. Encircled deep in the rear of the Germans, Mamedov sent his tanks right to the enemy’s central position and seized it. Fighting in the town continued for 10 hours, but the outcome of the battle was already determined. In the evening the main Soviet armed forces entered the town. In the ensuing battle Mamedov’s tank detachment destroyed 4 enemy tanks, 2 motorized cannons, 191 automobiles, 64 cannons, 105 machine guns and 1,375 enemy soldiers and officers. For his courage and his brilliant fulfillment of his operation Khalil Mamedov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.