This week dinner will be at St. Gregory’s church after lenten services starting at 7:00pm. Dinner served will include eech, lasagna, salad and other sides. Dinner is sponsored by the ARS Artemis chapter.
“ It was necessary to show the Turkish and Kurdish peoples that an Armenian can take a gun, that an Armenian heart can fight and protect his rights”.
Antranig Ozanian was born on February 25, 1865 in Shabin Karahisar (Ottoman Empire), to Toros and Mariam Ozanian. Antranig means “firstborn” in Armenian. His paternal ancestors came from the nearby village of Ozan in the 18th century and settled in Shabin Karahisar to avoid persecution from the Turks. His ancestors took the surname Ozanian in honor of their hometown. His mother died when he was one year old and his elder sister Nazeli took care of him. He attended the local Musheghian school and thereafter worked in his father’s carpentry shop. He married at the age of 17, but his wife died a year later while giving birth to their son, who also died days after birth.
The situation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire has worsened under the reign of Abdul Hamid II, the Red Sultan. He wanted to unify all Moslems under his rule. In 1882 Antranig was arrested for assaulting a Turkish gendarme who mistreated Armenians. With the help of his friends he escaped from prison.
In 1884 he settled in Constantinople and stayed for two years working as a carpenter. He was 23 when he joined the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party and became a party member in 1887. In 1894 Antranig left Hunchakian Party and joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The following year he met the fedayee commander Aghpiur Serop and joined his group. After Serop’s death in 1899, Antranig became the leader of fedayee groups of Vasburagan and Daron in Western Armenia. His first mission was to avenge the murder of Aghpiur Serop by capturing and killing his murderer, the tribal chief Beshara Khalil who was also notorious for his atrocities against the Armenian population.
Antranig’s most famous battles were the battle of Monastery of Holy Apostles (Arakelotz Monastery) in Mush (1901) where Antranig barricaded himself with 50 fedayees, including Kevork Chavoush. The well- fortified monastery was besieged by 5000 men. A regiment under the command of Ferikh Pasha and Ali Pasha besieged the fort like monastery. The Turkish generals leading the army of 1200 men asked the fedayees to negotiate their surrender. After a nineteen day resistance, causing substantial loses to Turkish army and negotiation they succeeded to flee with small groups. Antranig gained legendary stature among Armenians and Turks.
He participated in the second resistance of Sassun in 1904. The Turkish offensive with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers and 7,000 Kurdish irregulars were against 100-200 Armenian fedayees and 700- 1,000 local Armenian men. Hrayr was killed during the intense fighting.
He crossed to the Caucasus through Iran. The he traveled to Europe to get support for the national liberation struggle. In 1906 he published a book of military tactics in Geneva. In 1907 he settled in Bulgaria. During the fourth Congress of the A.R.F. (Vienna 1907), Antranig announced his decision to leave the party due to his disagreement on the issue of cooperation with the Young Turks.
He participated in the First Balkan War 1912-1913 as part of the Bulgarian army, together with Karekin Njteh and a detachment of 273 Armenian volunteers. Antranig was honored with the Order of Bravery for the heroic participation in the war.
During World War I, Antranig returned to the ranks of A.R.F. and participated in the Caucasus Campaign as head of the First Armenian Volunteer Battalion (Aracheen Koont), which helped lift the siege of Van on May 6, 1915. He participated in twenty different offensives where he gained fame due to his courage and his tactics in defeating the Ottoman forces. The Russian authorities promoted him to the rank of Major General in 1918 and decorated him five times.
After the disbandment of the six volunteer battalions in 1916, Antranig resigned his commission and departed from the front. He also left the ranks of the A.R.F. for the second time in 1917 and organized the First Congress of Western Armenians.
After the Russian army left the Caucasus following the Revolution, Armenian forces were formed to try to fill the vacuum created by their retreat, against the Turkish offensive. In March-April 1918, Antranig was the head of a provisional government created in the areas of Western Armenia formerly occupied by the Russians. His military leadership allowed the surviving Armenian population to escape to Eastern Armenia.
After the foundation of the Republic of Armenia in May 1918, Antranig fought along volunteer units against the Ottoman army. In July of the same year, he arrived in Zankezur to participate in the interethnic warfare between Armenians and local Turkish population. He also tried several times to seize Shushi, but was prevented by the British troops in the area.
In 1919, Antranig arrived in Holy Etchmiadzin. As a result of disagreement with the government of the Republic and British diplomatic machinations in the Caucasus, Antranig disbanded his division of 1350 soldiers (of an original force of 5000 and handed over his belongings and weapons to Catholicos of All Armenians, Kevork V. In late 1919 he led a delegation to the United States to lobby in support of an American mandate for Armenia. He was saluted as “the George Washington of Armenians”.
He married again in Paris in 1922, with Boghos Nubar Pasha as best man. Antranig and his wife, Nevart Kurkjian, settled in Fresno, California. He passed away near Chico, in northern California, on August 31, 1927, of a heart attack. His remains were moved to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in early 1928. They were set to be buried in Armenia, according to his desire, but the Soviet authorities refused. His body was eventually returned to Armenia in 2000 and was reburied at the Yeraplur Military Cemetery.
Harutune Basmajian, an Arapgertzi volunteer in Antranig’s First Battalion, was from Philadelphia. He wrote in his diary “Antranig was loved and respected by everyone. Antranig attended Keri’s burial at the Khochevank, in Tiflis (Georgia). 30,000 Armenians were in attendance. Antranig gave a eulogy. Elderly women kissed his hand, he was very touched and humbled, he quickly left.”
Compiled by Nayiri & Asbet BALANIAN
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