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Armenian militia
Fedayees.JPG
Group fighting under the ARF banner. The text reads: "Liberty or Death"
Active
Allegiance Armenia
Type Militia
Nickname Fedayee
Motto Liberty or Death
Engagements Nagorno-Karabakh War

Armenian irregular units, also known as Fedayees (Armenian: Ֆէտայի, "Fedayee", also Armenian: կամավոր, Kamavor, meaning "volunteer") were Armenian civilians who left their families to form armed brigades. Armenian fedayees were volunteers and, literally, "one who is ready to sacrifice his life" (Fedayee fidā'ī,Arabic: فدائيون‎) for his people[1]). The term Fedayee was first used by Armenians in the Ottoman Empire who formed guerrilla organizations and armed bands in reaction to the unchecked murder of Armenians and the pillage of Armenian villages by criminals, tribal Kurdish forces, and Hamidian guards during the reign of Abdul Hamid II. Most of the fedayee leaders were members of the Armenian national liberation movement.

Contents

Ottoman Empire

Sevkaretsi Sako, one of the prominent Armenian Fedayees before the WWI
Sepasdatsi Mourad's group of fedayees, with him in the center

Armenian fedayees main goal was to defend Armenian villagers from persecution and at the same time, disrupt the Ottoman Empire's activities in Armenian populated regions. Armenian volunteers fight during Hamidian Massacres, Sasun Resistance (1894), Zeitun Resistance (1895), Defense of Van, and Khanasor Expedition. They were the leaders and members of the Armenian national movement. Their ultimate goal was always to gain Armenian autonomy (Armenakans) or independence (Dashnaks, Hunchaks) depending on their ideology and degree of oppression received on Armenians. This can be seen in the Dashnak slogan "Մահ կամ Ազատութիւն", which literally translates as "Liberty or Death". These bands committed sabotage activities like cutting telegraph lines and raiding army supplies. They also committed assassinations and counter-attacks on Muslim villages. They helped Armenians defend themselves during village purges by Ottoman officials. They were supported by Armenians and quickly gained fame, support and trust by them.

Their activities in the Ottoman Empire dissipated after the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire, when the Committee of Union and Progress came into power and, for a time, granted the Empore's Armenian citizens the same rights as its Turkish and Kurdish citizens. Most fedayee groups disbanded, their members returning to their families.

Famous Armenian fedayees included Nikol Douman, Hampartsoum Boyadjian, Girayr, and Murad of Sebastia.

Full of wounds, I am a fedayee
Wandering, I have no home,
Instead of my lover, I embrace my gun,
Nowhere have I had a peaceful sleep.

The mourning and weeping of the bloodied land,
Called me from my cloistered life.
The love of my tortured fatherland
Made me unafraid of danger.

I was dubed a fedayee,
I became a soldier of an ideal:
Let the rivers of blood I have shed
Be an example to the Armenian soldier

I was crucified as a fedayee
For our sacred principles,
Let the blood that I have shed
Strengthen the Armenian soldier.

Lines from the traditional song "Verkerov Lee" [2]

Iran

Armenian volunteers also existed among the Armenians in the Persian Empire and they took part in Iranian Constitutional Revolution. Among the participants was the Dashnak leader Yeprem Khan Davityan

World War I, Armenian Genocide

Defenders of Van in front of ARF flag

Some fedayee groups joined the Ottoman army after the Ottoman government passed a new law to support the war effort that required all enabled adult males up to the age of forty-five to either be recruited in the Ottoman army or to pay special fees (which would be used in the war effort) in order to be excluded from service. As a result of this law, most able-bodied men were removed from their homes, leaving only the women, children, and elderly by themselves. Most of the Armenian recruits were later turned into road laborers, and many were executed prior to the beginning of the Armenian Genocide.

The genocide gave way to the return of the fedayees. Apart from thousands of Armenians who were drafted or volunteered in several different armies fighting against the Ottoman empire, and apart from those who were drafted in the Ottoman army prior to World War I,[3] the fedayees fought inside Ottoman borders. The total number of guerrillas in these irregular bands was 40,000–50,000, according to Boghos Nubar, the president of the "Armenian National Delegation":

In the Caucasus, where, without mentioning the 150,000 Armenians in the Imperial Russian Army, more than 40,000 of their volunteers contributed to the liberation of a portion of the Armenian vilayets, and where, under the command of their leaders, Antranik and Nazerbekoff, they, alone among the peoples of the Caucasus, offered resistance to the Turkish armies, from the beginning of the Bolshevist withdrawal right up to the signing of an armistice."[4]

Boghos Nubar, as a part of the Armenian Delegation, had the intention to expand the borders of the independent Democratic Republic of Armenia. Thus, he might have elevated the number of Armenian fedayees who were able to fight in order to show that the Armenians are capable of defending an eventually large Ottoman-Armenian border. In reality, their numbers at that time were much lower, considering the fact that there were no more than a few handful of fedayees in most of the confrontations between them and Kurdish irregulars or Turkish soldiers, even according to foreign accounts. Moreover, many of the fedayees were the same and reappeared in various places and battles. One should also note that many Armenian irregular fighters died defending regions of Western Armenia during the genocide.

Democratic Republic of Armenia

The Fedayees museum in Yerevan named after General Andranik Ozanian

During the first year of the new republic, Armenians were flooding from Anatolia to safe havens. Roads were clogged with refugees. Further southeast, in Van, the fedayees helped the local Armenians resist the Turkish army until April 1918, but eventually were forced to evacuate it and withdraw to Persia.

To consider emergency measures, the Western Armenian Administration sponsored a conference which adopted plans to form a twenty-thousand-man militia under Andranik in December 1917. Civilian commissioner Dr. Hakob Zavriev promoted Adrianik to Major General and he took the command of Armenia within the Ottoman Empire. They fought in numerous successful battles such as the Battle of Kara Killisse, the Battle of Bash Abaran and the Battle of Sardarapat, as fedayees merged with the Armenian army (Erivan centered) under the General Tovmas Nazarbekian.

Drasdamat Kanayan, another well-known fedayee, led the battle in the Georgian-Armenian War.

The fedayee bands soon disbanded or left the new Soviet Armenia as Armenia lost its independence to the USSR mostly to Europe and North America.

Nagorno-Karabakh War

The term fedayee was later used by Armenian irregular forces in the early 1990s when the dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was turning into the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

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List of major detachments

Here is a list of the major Armenian volunteer detachments during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

English name Armenian name numbers
(Max.)
Commander Notes
1 "ALA" «ՀԱԲ» 5000 Razmik Vassilian
2 "Tigran Metz" «Տիգրան Մեծ» 400 Armenak Armenakyan
3 "Sasuntsi David" «Սասունցի Դավիթ» 500 Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan
4 "Andranik Zoravar" «Անդրանիկ Զորավար» 400  ?
5 "Vrizharuner" «Վրիժառուներ» 200  ?
6 "Dashnaktsakanner" «Դաշնակցականներ» 200 Tatul Krpeyan
7 "HyeDat" «Հայդատ» 200  ?
8 "Mush" «Մուշ» 300  ?
9 "Nork-Marash" «Նորք - Մարաշ» 200  ?
10 "Sassoon" «Սասուն» 100 Sasun Mikaelyan
11 "Ashot Erkat" «Աշոտ Երկաթ» 250  ?
12 "Malatya-Sebasia" «Մալաթիա - Սեբաստիա» 200 Vahan Zatikyan
13 "Arabo" «Արաբո» 40-200 Simon Achikgezyan
14 "Parapats martikner" «Պարապած մարտիկներ» 300 H.G. Mkrtchyan
15 "Razdan detachment" «Հրազդանյան ջոկատ» 200 Zarzand Danielian
16 "Crusaders" «Խաչակիրներ»  ? Garo Kahkejian
17 "Tsegakron" «Ցեղակրոն»  ? Hagop Khachatryan
18 "Sasna tsrer" «Սասնա ծռեր»  ? Samvel Gevorgyan
19 "Suicide Squad" «Մահապարտների ջոկատ» 150 Alexander Tamanyan
20 "The Deers" «Եղնիկներ» 400 Shahen Meghrian
21 "Ossetian detachment" «Օսետինյան ջոկատ»  ? Mirza Abayev
22 "Shusha" «Շուշի»  ? Zhirayr Sefilyan
23 Yerkrapah «Երկրապա»  ? Vazgen Sargsyan
24 "Nart" «Նարտ»  ?  ?
25 "Black Panther" «Սեվ հովազ»  ? Ruben Egoyan
26 "Cobra" «Կոբրա»  ? B. Agasaryan, N. Gulyan
27 The Eagle Kamikazes Առծիվ Մահապարտներ  ? Vazgen Sargsyan
28 Aknalich  ?  ?  ?
29 Echmiadzin detachment  ?  ?  ?
30 Hadrut detachment  ?  ?  ?
31 Sisian detachment  ?  ?  ?
32 Kapan detachment  ?  ?  ?
33 Martakert detachment  ?  ? Norayr Danielian

Notes

  1. ^ Middle East Glossary - The Israel Project
  2. ^ Armenian National and Revolutionary Songs, 1983, page 16.
  3. ^ Ottoman labour battalions
  4. ^ letter to French Foreign Office - December 3, 1918

References

  • Vartanian, H.K. The Western Armenian Liberation Struggle Yerevan, 1967
  • Translated from the Armenian: Mihran Kurdoghlian, Badmoutioun Hayots, C. hador [Armenian History, volume III], Athens, Greece, 1996, pg. 59-62.

See also


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