YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–President Robert Kocharian, prime minister Serzh Sarkisian, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukasian, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenia, as well as other top government officials, clergy, foreign diplomats and thousands of Armenia’s gathered Monday at Sardarabad for ceremonies commemorating the first Independent Republic of Armenia in 1918. Sardarabad was the scene of a crucial battle between Armenian troops and the advancing Ottoman Turkish army in 1918. After weeks of fierce fighting the Turkish offensive was repelled on May 26, 1918 and Armenia declared independence two days later, for the first after centuries of occupation by Ottoman and Russian empires. In a message to the country on this occasion, President Kocharian said the First Republic of Armenia was born from a fierce struggle of the Armenian nation for its independence. Though the First Republic did not live long, it laid down legal, economic, scientific and cultural foundations of our new state, Kocharians message said. Independence day was marked in various regions in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Armenian community of Javakhk marked the independence anniversary with a gathering at the Armenian Youth Center in Akhaltskha, where a documentary chronicling the rise to independence was shown and a lecture by Tbilisi State University professor Haig Petrosian was presented. Armenian Revolutionary Federation Junior, Youth and Student organizations made a pilgrimage to Sardarabad, where a wreath was laid in memory of the fallen fighters in 1918. The same group also visited the Yerablour Armenian National Cemetery, where freedom fighters from the Karabakh movement are laid to rest. The group placed a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At another event at Yerevans Moscow Theater, members of the ARF Bureau and Supreme Council of Armenia were joined by hundreds of people to mark the anniversary. During the gathering, the importance of the 1918 Republic as an historic precedent to todays republic was stressed. In a special ceremony, 150 freedom fighters were awarded for their heroism and participation in the Karabakh liberation struggle.