Memoirs of Armen Dadian (1894-1975) - Dadian Armen

Editor’s Note

Armen Dadian was born in Ourfa, in 1894. He moved to Istanbul to study law. While he was there, the First World War broke out, and he was conscripted into the army and sent to the Gallipoli front. When military operations ended in Gallipoli, he was redeployed to Edirne, where he learned that his family had been deported from Ourfa. This prompted Dadian to decide to leave the Ottoman Empire. He deserted and fled to Bulgaria, where he stayed until the end of the war. He then returned to Istanbul, completed his interrupted studies, and earned his certification as a lawyer. We later find him in Aleppo, where two of his sisters lived, having survived the Genocide. There, he married Asdghig Balian and raised a family with her. Armen Dadian died in Aleppo in 1975.

It is not clear when Armen Dadian started writing his memoirs, but he clearly added to them until the end of his life. The memoirs include a preface that is not a chronicle, and is instead a timeline of Ottoman history, beginning with its foundation. This section has been omitted from the excerpt published here.

Armen Dadian spent three to four months on the Gallipoli Front, but this short period clearly left an indelible mark on his psyche – to such an extent that as his granddaughter attests, he worked on perfecting his memoirs until the end of his life. Unfortunately, Armen Dadian was never able to finish refining his work.

There is no dearth of testimonies to the horror of the Battle of Gallipoli. Armen Dadian’s memoirs are also rich with descriptions of this human tragedy. Memories of shelling and deaths continued to haunt the author throughout the rest of his life, even in his sleep, in the form of recurrent nightmares. His words are redolent of the trauma he experienced – “Is it possible to see such a thing and remain indifferent, regardless of the nationality or the religion of the victims?”

Armen Dadian’s memoirs take on even greater significance when we consider the fact that while he was serving in the Ottoman armed forces on the front, the same Ottoman authorities ordered the extermination of the nation to which he and his family belonged. He only learned of the fate of his family upon his return from the battlefield. As he writes, “This terrible realization was worse than the shells on the battlefield. So there were truly no more moral or material bonds linking me to the criminal government that I served.”

The significance of the events described in Armen Dadian’s memoirs can only be truly understood when we remember that he himself was a victim of the Genocide, which targeted the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. This Armenian officer, who had heroically defended his Ottoman homeland on the battlefields of Gallipoli, was compelled to desert his army and flee the country by the torment of the knowledge of what his own government had done.

These were probably the darkest and most anguished events of Armen Dadian’s life, and he felt obligated to record them for posterity.

With the publication of these memoirs, Dadian will have fulfilled this obligation.