157th anniversary of the birth of Zoravar Andranik Ozanian

  • by Western Armenia, February 24, 2022 in History

"I can't be friends with Sultan, Talat, Envers, I can't shake their hand, enjoy the bar, you go enjoy them. I am well acquainted with the Turk, beware of your new friends, they should eat both your head and your people," these words belong to the great child of the Armenian people Zoravar Andranik Ozanian.

Andranik Ozanian (February 25, 1865 - August 31, 1927) was an Armenian military commander and statesman, the most famous fidain and a key figure of the Armenian national liberation movement.

In the late 1880s, Andranik became more active in the Armenian armed struggle against the Ottoman government and illegal Kurdish groups.

He joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation "Dashnaktsutyun" and other fidains. He sought to protect the Armenian peasantry living in their homeland, the territory known as Turkish (or Western) Armenia, which at that time was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Andranik's revolutionary activity ended in 1904, when he left the Ottoman Empire. In 1907, Andranik left the Armenian Revolutionary Federation because he did not agree with cooperation with the Young Turks Party, the party that carried out the  Genocide  of Armenian  people years later.

In 1912-1913, Andranik, together with Garegin Nzhdeh, led the Armenian volunteers of the Bulgarian army in the First Balkan War against the Ottomans.

Since the beginning of the First World War, when the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Ottoman Empire Talaat Pasha decided on the Genocide of Armenian people and on February 25, 1915, 8682 decrees were executed. Tens of thousands of Armenians joined the Russian Caucasian army, creating Armenian volunteer units. The Russian government promised that they would acquire autonomy. Until 1917, Russia controlled part of those areas of the Ottoman Empire where there were many Armenians. Andranik led the first battalion of Armenian volunteers and led them in the Imperial Russian Army against the Ottoman Army.

After the 1917 revolution, the Russian army signed an armistice with the Ottoman army in Yerznka on December 18, 1917 and retreated, recognizing the right of the Armenians of Turkish (Western) Armenia to self-determination until their independence on December 29, 1917 (1st Act of Independence of Western Armenia).


After Russia recognized the independence of Western Armenia in 1918, in the period from March to April, Andranik was the head of the administration of Western Armenia, Western Armenia wore the Russian flag, its actual capital was the city of Van.

At the beginning of 1918, Andranik led the defense of the future Armenian capital of Erzurum (Karin), but was forced to retreat. In May 1918, Turkish troops stopped near Yerevan. The resistance in Sardarapat took place from 24 to 27 May 1918. The Armenian National Council, which ruled from Tbilisi, proclaimed its sovereignty over the regions of Armenia on May 30, 1918, and then signed the Batumi Treaty with the Ottoman Empire on June 4, 1918, according to which the Caucasian Armenian Republic renounced its rights to Lake Sevan, Zangezur and Karabakh.

Andranik never agreed with the existence of that Caucasian Republic of Armenia, since it included only a small part of Armenia, previously recognized as independent by Russia. Andranik, regardless of the Republic of Armenia, fought in Zangezur against the Azerbaijani-Turkish troops and helped to keep them in Armenia. But the Dashnaktsutyun government condemned Andranik for this decision. The Ottoman Empire suffered an official defeat in the First World War, and the Mudros Armistice was signed on October 30, 1918.

In November 1918, the Ottoman troops evacuated Karabakh, and at the end of October of the same year, Andranik's forces were concentrated in Karabakh and Zangezur. Before leaving for Karabakh, Andranik was sure that the local Armenians would support him in the fight against the Azerbaijanis. In mid-November 1918, he received letters from Armenian officials in Karabakh asking Andranik to postpone the attack for 10 days in order to negotiate with local Muslims. According to Hovhannisyan, "the lost time has become decisive." At the end of November, Andranik's forces moved to Shushi, the main Armenian cultural center of Karabakh. After fierce battles with the Kurds, his troops invaded the surrounding villages of Abdallar (Lachin).

In early December, Andranik was about 40 km from Shushi when he received a message from British General Thomson, who was in Baku at the time, calling for the withdrawal of his troops from Karabakh "After the end of World War II, any further military actions by Armenia will undermine the solution of the Armenian issue, which will soon be discussed at a peace conference in Europe." Andranik, having "trusted the British," returned to Zangezur, since all other issues had to be resolved during the peace conference. Andranik left Armenia in 1919, spending his last years in Bulgaria and the USA. He settled in Fresno, California, in 1922 and died five years later, in 1927, at the age of 62. Andranik is a national hero of Armenia, his statues are installed in several countries. Streets and squares were named after the legendary Andranik, songs, poems and novels were composed about him.