Resilience and Resurrection
Armenian history many, many times has recorded periods of despair and of resurrection, situations of freedom and slavery. But whatever the case, dominant has always been the Armenians’ invincible will to persevere.
For Armenians, the Arab and Mongol invasions, the Turkish massacres of 1895, and finally the genocide of 1915 were attempts to annihilate the race.
The Ottoman Constitution of 1908 forced Armenians to serve in the Turkish army. The Habousetzies also were forced into military service.
During the Balkan War, the following Habousetzies served the army: Nishan Apkarian, Nazaret Minasian, Marsoub Donigian, Baghdasar Boz Bedoian and Khayajan Boolodian. The first four returned to their village after the war was over only to become some of the first victims of the 1915 genocide, killed by Turks whose country they had once defended.
When the world was busy with World War I, the Turks found the perfect opportunity to execute their most fiendish plan—the annihilation of all Armenians.
But Armenians, especially with the participation of Russia in the war, had began to nurture hopes of liberating their homeland. Thus, volunteer forces were formed in the Caucasus to defend Armenians in Western Armenia.
Armenians in the United States heard of the deportation, and the volunteer assistance movement sprang up. Special centers were organized for men to register to go to the Caucasus to fight against Turkey.
In 1915, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a public gathering was organized to ask young Armenians to go and fight for the freedom of their homeland.
In those crucial days, news arriving from Turkey described a horrible disaster. Turks were massacring Armenians regardless of their religious affiliation or social standard. Young Armenians, influenced by this news, rushed to register as volunteers. Dr. Arshag Der Margossian, a famous patriot and a revolutionary, was the main speaker at one gathering. He addressed twenty to thirty Habousetzies. Five pledged to fight for the freedom of their homeland. Four were members of the Reformed Hunchakian Party—Zadour Ajemian, Sarkis S. Najarian, Boghos DerMovsesian, and Moushegh Kh. Hagopian (Kelhagopian). Tavit Giragos ian belonged to no party.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to create a common means of cooperation between volunteers from the Caucasus and the Diaspora. All factions courageously fought against the centuries-old enemy, yet there was a harmful inner competition between Armenian groups, even though the liberation of Armenia was the common goal.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation had the largest number of volunteers. Its commanders were mostly from the Caucasus.
Volunteers belonging to the Social-Democratic Hunchak Party fought against the Turks at Olti.
The third group was formed by followers of the Reformed Hunchak, Ramgavar, and Armenagan parties. They appealed to the Russian government, through the Committee of Armenia’s Reconstruction formed in Tiflis, Georgia, for permission to be at the front.
The government granted permission and allocated arms and first-aid materials. The volunteers were charged with the protection of Van and the surroundings, then under the command of a Russian governor. After a while, Commander Chankalian—a hero of the Spanish-American War of 1896— gained permission from Governor Dermen to fight in regions that lay further East.
In July 1916, Chankalian led his legion to Shadakh, attacked seven Turkish villages, destroyed them, and killed the Turkish population. This attack had a two-fold purpose—to avenge hundreds of thousands of massacred Armenians, and to provide future security.
In August 1916, the bad news arrived. The Russian government through the viceroy of the Caucasus, Varantsov Dashkov, ordered the Russian army to retreat and put an end to the Armenian volunteer movement. This disastrous news, in those crucial times, destroyed, once again, the dreams of a nation—dreams that were just about to be realized.
Despite the despair, two Habousetzie volunteers went to Captain Chankalian and asked for permission to join the army of General Antranig—the Armenian national hero whose volunteers gained many victories over the Turks. One of them was Boghos Der Margossian. Boghos later met with other Habousetzies—Malkhas Kassabian, Garabed Manoogian, and Goulkhas Boolodian, who had also survived the genocide, and together in 1917 they moved to Garin to enlist in the Armenian army.
These Habousetzies fought with General Antranig against Turkish hoards for almost eight months, until the beginning of the Kars War, when the Russian Revolution erupted.
Overall eight Habousetzies participated in the fighting in the Caucasus, and one of them, Malkhas Kassabian, lost his life for the liberation of his homeland.
The retreat of the Russian army was a great defeat for Armenians striving to find a solution to the Armenian cause. Many volunteers returned to the United States; others joined the Armenian army.
Volunteers fought in Cilicia too. Their goal was to liberate it from Turkish rule. Many volunteers, disappointed with the outcome at the Caucasian frontier, left for Cilicia to continue the struggle there.
Zadour Ajemian and Boghos Der Margossian were among them.
Habousetzies sacrificed Boghos Der Margossian, Nazaret Kelhagop ian, and Simon Avakian for their nation’s freedom.
Movses Abajian, Ajem Ajemian, Simon Meghdes Manoogian, Hagop K. Hagopian, Zadour Ajemian, Nerses Yezegelian, Khachadour Goshgarian, Krikor Najarian, Ohan (Kelhagopian) Ohanian, and M. Kh. (Kelhagopian) Hagopian returned home.
Armenians, once again, demonstrated their will to live, and to fight in order to prevent Turkey from accomplishing the total annihilation of the Armenian nation.
While we record these facts here, we praise the eternal soul of our people and reaffirm our belief that one day Turks will pay for their brutality and that Habousi will be joined to our fatherland.