Armenian volunteer units

Armenian volunteer units

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Armenian volunteer units

country= Russia
size= 150,000 [By Joan George "Merchants in Exile: The Armenians of Manchester, England, 1835-1935" page 184 (Summary of the Armenian contribution to the allied war effort)]
notable_commanders=Andranik Toros Ozanian, Garegin Njdeh
ceremonial_chief=Hakob Zavriev

Armenian volunteer units or "Armenian volunteer corps [War and Waste: A Series of Discussions of War and War Accessories - Page 172 by David Starr Jordan] " were Armenian battalions in Russian and British armies during the World War I. The Armenian force during this period also included French Armenian Legion which was established under the French army and Armenian militia which were irregular forces composed from Armenian national movement such as Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Majority of these units support the military activities at the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The origin of these units were varied. Some units were formed from the Armenians escaped from the Ottomans, such as Ottoman Parliamentary representatives Garegin Pastermadjian (Erzurum) and Hampartsoum Boyadjian (Adana).

Most famous commander alongside the Russian army units was Andranik Toros Ozanian. Andranik became the commander of volunteer units. There where also Yezidi-Kurdish volunteer groups that fought together with General Andranik Ozanian and the Artsakh movement who fought for Vaiq, Goris, Ijevan and Yeraskhavan but also in the battles at Bash-Aparan.

Russian Army

The Russian mobilization of 1914 took place just before the Russia entered the WWI. Armenians, who were obligated to serve, became part of the regular Tsarist armed forces. The administration of the Russian Armenia was concerned with the Armenians and before the commencement of the Caucasus Campaign the majority of Armenian conscripts were transferred to the German front. Armenian conscripts that were transferred to other fronts replaced with Russian Caucasus Army. Armenian conscripts during the initial years of the war helped to establish the European theatre of World War I.

In 1914 the Armenian reservists were about 160,000 in number, which gladly responded to the Russian call, for the simple reason that they were to fight the arch enemy of their historic race [Garegin Pasdermadjian, Aram Torossian, "Why Armenia Should be Free: Armenia's Rôle in the Present War" page 19] . As the war advanced, the Armenian reservists of the Eastern Front slowly quit from the Tsarist army and join to the Armenian national forces. Around 1916, more than 1,000 Armenian soldiers quit from Tsarist army and joint to the Armenian irregular units (Fedayee) which most of them will be united one more time in 1918 when the Democratic Republic of Armenia was officially declared. [Like One Family: The Armenians of Syracuse by Arpena S. Mesrobian ]


The establishment of Armenian volunteer units in the Russian army dates back to the summer of 1914, Count Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov consulted with the Mayor of Tbilisi Alexandre Khatsian, the primate of Tbilisi, Bishop Mesrop, and the prominent civic leader Dr. Hakob Zavriev about the creation of Armenian volunteer detachments. [Hovannisian “The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times “ p 280] . As the Armenian reservists had already been drafted into the regular armed forces and sent to European theatre of World War I, the volunteer units would make up of Armenians who were not citizens of the empire or not obligated to serve.

These units would be employed for the Caucasus Campaign. Many of them who were living in Caucuses and many of them were impatient to take arms to liberate their homeland. [Hovannisian “The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times “ p 280] In several towns occupied by the Russians the Armenian students have shown themselves ready to join the Russian volunteer army. [ The Washington post Friday, November 12, 1914. ARMENIANS JOIN RUSSIANS; the extended information is a the . [By Joan George "Merchants in Exile: The Armenians of Manchester, England, 1835-1935" page 184]

The 1th battalion was led by Andranik Toros Ozanian. Andranik's detachment was assigned to Persian Campaign with Tovmas Nazarbekian. Other units were assigned to Caucasus Campaign. Drastamat Kanayan and Armen Garo directed the 2nd battalion over the offensives arond Lake Van, (Vaspurakan). The 3th & 4th battalion commanded by Hamazaps and Keri were assigned to the positions along the Kars Oblast.

Battle of Sarıkamış

The Enver Pasha's offensive was planned with great care, and had great chances of success if all the three wings of the Third Army had reached their objectives on time. Enver had under his command three army corps—the ninth, the tenth, and eleventh. The tenth army corps, during its march from Olti to Sarikamish, suffered a delay of 24 hours in the Barduz Pass, due to the heroic resistance of the "4th battalion of the Armenian volunteers" [Garegin Pasdermadjian, Aram Torossian, "Why Armenia Should be Free: Armenia's Rôle in the Present War" page 21] . This delay enabled the "Russian Caucasus Army" to concentrate a sufficient force around Sarikamish. The result was destruction of the Ottoman Third Army [Garegin Pasdermadjian, Aram Torossian, "Why Armenia Should be Free: Armenia's Rôle in the Present War" page 22] .

Van Resistance

There were 20,000 Armenian Volunteers [July, 1915 Letter from Mr. E. Vartanian, an Armenian-American Volunteer in the Russian Service, to His Brother-in-law in Egypt; Dated 9th /22nd July, 1915, and Published in the Armenian Journal "Houssaper," of Cairo.] under the unit that enetered Van on May 16 1915 which these Armenian battalions led Russian regulars into Van. [ Richard G Hovannisian, Armenians' road to Independence in The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times: Foreign Dominion to Statehood ] [ [Sv. 2000: T. 30, pp. 101-102] : "On the 6th of May the Armenian flag waved over the citadel of Van. The Vaspourakanis welcomed with great love the Russian soldiers and the Armenian volunteers under the leadership of General Andranik Ozanian."]

By October 15, under heavy fight around the region Lake Van, these battalions had lost five hundred (Armenian soldiers) and there were more than twelve hundred wounded or missing. [Like One Family: The Armenians of Syracuse by Arpena S. Mesrobian p53]

British Army

There were 8,000 Armenian soldiers fighting under the command of General Allenby's Egyptian Expeditionary Force. General Allenby said of Armenian soldiers were: cquote|I'm proud to have Armenians under my command. They fought brilliantly and took the leading part in the victory of the Megiddo [The Armenians in America by Vartan Malcom, C1919] .

Democratic Republic of Armenia

Armenian volunteer units became the military units under Democratic Republic of Armenia. Andranik was the commander in chief of these units used which were also used in the liberation of Administration for Western Armenia.

ee also

*French Armenian Legion
*Armenian militia
*Garegin Njdeh
*Andranik Toros Ozanian
*Movses Silikyan
*Karekin Pasdermadjian


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