Armenian Revolutionary Federation

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF or ՀՅԴ) (Armenian: Հայ Յեղափոխական Դաշնակցութիւն — Hay Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun or Hay Heghapokhagan Tashnagtsutiun, Դաշնակ — Dashnak or Tashnag) is an Armenian political party that was formed in the summer of 1890, in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. It was founded as "Armenian Revolutionaries Federation" with the purpose of unifying all Western Armenian National Liberation seeking revolutionary groups and parties.

During the first General Meeting of the party it was renamed  "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" with the purpose of organizational decentralization and changing into a union of ideological and morality party.

Since its foundation the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's history has been firmly connected  with the national life of Armenian people.

In the Federation's founding generation there are three people who become clearly singled out, Christopher Michaelian, Rosdom (Stephan Zorian) (more) and Simon Zavarian (more). They are truly considered the founding trinity of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation ( Dashnaktsutiun ).

In the summer of 1890, (July-August), during the formation meeting of the Armenian Revolutionaries Federation a central governing council was elected, which published the announcement of the creation of the party and the manifest of definitions of its purpose and tasks.

During its first Major meeting, in 1982 in Tiflis, the party adopted a decentralized modus operandi according to which the chapters in different countries were allowed to plan and implement policies in tune with their local political atmosphere. The party set its goal of a society based on the democratic principles of "freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion" and agrarian reform.

The ARF advocates socialism and is a member of the Socialist International. Dashnaktsutiun is the most politically oriented of the Armenian organizations and traditionally has been one of the staunchest supporters of Armenian nationalism which their critics say contradicts with their socialist ideology and also because of their anti-communist stance.

The Dashnaks also worked for the wider goal of creating a "free, independent and unified" Armenia, although they sometimes set aside this goal in favor of a more realistic approach, such as advocating autonomy.


Fedayee group fighting under the ARF banner. Text in Armenian reads "Azadoutioun gam mah" (Liberty or Death).

ARF became a major political force in Armenian life. It was especially active in the Ottoman Empire, where it organized or participated in many revolutionary activities. In 1894, the ARF took part in the First Sasun Resistance, supplying arms to the local population to help the people of Sasun defend themselves against the Hamidian purges. In June 1896, the Armenakans organized the Defense of Van in the province of Van, where Ottoman Hamidieh soldiers were to attack the city. The Armenakans, assisted by members of the Hunchakian and ARF parties, supplied all able-bodied men of Van with weapons. They rose to defend the civilians from the attack and subsequent massacre.

To raise awareness of the massacres of 1895–96, members of the Dashnaktsutiun led by Papken Siuni, occupied the Ottoman Bank in August 26, 1896. The purpose of the raid was to dictate the ARF's demands of reform in the Armenian populated areas of the Ottoman Empire and to attract European attention to their cause since the Europeans had many assets in the bank. The operation caught European attention but at the cost of more massacres by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

 


Nigol Douman's Fedayee group that participated in the Khanasor Expedition

During the Defense of Van, the Mazrik tribe had ambushed a squad of Armenian defenders and massacred them. The Khanasor Expedition was the ARF's retaliation. Merely a year after the events of the Ottoman Bank takeover, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation decided to retaliate and "punish" the Kurdish Mazrik tribe for their role in the Hamidian massacres and their ambush on the defenders of Van. The Mazrik tribe were settled in the fields of Khanasor, near Avarayr (more). The ARF, with the support of the Hunchakians and the Armenakans, organized an attack on the tribe. The operation was the brainchild of Nigol Douman (more) alongside "Khanasora" Vartan Mehrpanian and Ishkhan Arghoutian, all of whom participated as commanders of the operation. On July 25, 1897, at dawn, 150 fedayees attacked the Mazrik tribe, killing all the men and sparing only the women and children. Mazrik commander Sharaf Beg managed to escape through the darkness. The attack ended on July 27, 1897.

On March 30, 1904, the ARF played a major role in the Second Sasun Resistance. The ARF sent arms and fedayees to defend the region for the second time. Among the 500 fedayees participating in the resistance were top figures such as Kevork Chavush, Sepasdatsi Murad and Hrayr Djoghk. They managed to hold off the Ottoman army for several months, despite their lack of fighters and firepower.

In 1905, members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation organized the Yildiz Attempt, an assassination attempt on Sultan Abdul Hamid II in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). The Yildiz Attempt failed to assassinate the Sultan because the timed bomb missed its target by a few minutes. The Dashnaksutiun also lost one of its founders, Kristapor Mikaelian, in an accidental explosion during the planning of the operation.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation had a strong presence in the government of Democratic Republic of Armenia, the first Republic (more). Most of the important government posts, such as prime minister, defense minister and interior minister were controlled by its members. Despite their tight grip on power, the ARF was unable to stop the impending Communist invasion from the north, which culminated with a Soviet takeover in 1920. The ARF was banned, its leaders exiled, and many of its members dispersed to other parts of the world.

ARF always maintained its ideological commitment to "a Free, Independent, and United Armenia". The term United Armenia refers to the borders of Armenia recognized by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (more) and outlined in the Treaty of Sèvres. After Armenia fell under Soviet control in 1920, the ARF, spread throughout the Armenian diasporas, fought Soviet rule over Armenia and rallied in support of Armenian independence. It contributed to organizing a social and cultural framework aimed at preserving the Armenian identity. However, because of tight communist control, the ARF could not operate in the Armenian SSR as the political party remained banned until 1991. When independence was achieved in 1991, the ARF soon became one of the major and most active political parties in Armenia.

ARF is considered the foremost organization in the Armenian diaspora, having established numerous Armenian schools, community centers, scouting and athletic groups, relief societies, youth groups, camps, and other organs throughout the world. ARF also works as an umbrella organ for the Armenian National Committee, the Armenian Relief Society, the Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union, the Hamazkayin Cultural Foundation, and many other community organizations. It operates the Armenian Youth Federation, which encourages the youth of the diasporas to join the political cause of the ARF and the Armenian people. The ARF-affiliated Armenian National Committee of America, and its sister organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of Canada subsequently have played a significant role in the campaign for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in their respective countries. The ARF Shant Student Association and the ARF Armen Karo Student Association are organizations of college and university students on various campuses and are the only ARF organizations whose membership is exclusively from this group. Unlike the Armenian Youth Federation, one can not be an ARF Shant member without being a rank-and-file party member.




 

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