Partnership with Gen. Dro’s Family Honors 1918 Centennial While Planting a Sustainable Future for Armenia

ATP is hosting a reception at Oak and Vine in Glendale on April 12 to benefit its tree planting programs at the Bash Aparan Monument (pictured) and the final resting place of national hero General Dro.
ATP is hosting a reception at Oak and Vine in Glendale on April 12 to benefit its tree planting programs at the Bash Aparan Monument (pictured) and the final resting place of national hero General Dro.

ATP is hosting a reception at Oak and Vine in Glendale on April 12 to benefit its tree planting programs at the Bash Aparan Monument (pictured) and the final resting place of national hero General Dro.

BY JASON SOHIGIAN

GLENDALE—Armenian around the world are celebrating the centennial of Armenia’s declaration of independence on May 28, 1918 with programs of all sorts. The birth of the First Republic will be commemorated in Armenia with national events, for example, while in the diaspora conferences are being planned in New York.

On May 21, 1918, an Ottoman Turkish division attacked Armenian forces at Bash Aparan, with the intent of pushing towards Yerevan. After three days of fierce combat, the Armenians, led by General Drastamat “Dro” Kanayan, began to repel the Turkish regiments and they retreated on May 29, 1918. The victory at Aparan, along with Armenian success at Saradarabad and Karakilisa (known today as Vanadzor), was instrumental in the formation of the First Republic of Armenia.

The Kanayan Family is cooperating with Armenia Tree Project (ATP) to create a living memorial to General Dro and his victory in Aparan. ATP has been planting trees to beautify the park around the Bash Aparan Monument and the location of General Dro’s final resting place. General Dro was buried in Boston, and his body was re-interred in Aparan in 2000 in a major national ceremony initiated by Armenia’s military establishment.

ATP and the Woodbury University Armenian Students Association cohosted a lecture on the Battle of Bash Aparan by Dr. Garabet Moumdjian, pictured here with (L to R) Nshan Blikian, Vache Thomassian, Lory Tatoulian, Jack Hadjinian, Anahit Gharibyan, and (kneeling) Jack Panossian, Nazeli Gharpetian

ATP and the Woodbury University Armenian Students Association cohosted a lecture on the Battle of Bash Aparan by Dr. Garabet Moumdjian, pictured here with (L to R) Nshan Blikian, Vache Thomassian, Lory Tatoulian, Jack Hadjinian, Anahit Gharibyan, and (kneeling) Jack Panossian, Nazeli Gharpetian

The overall goal is to plant 2,500 trees to improve the site. Already 1,700 of ATP’s trees have been planted by local residents in partnership with volunteers from Birthright Armenia and the tech company Monitis Armenia. An additional 800 trees will be planted this spring as part of a visit by the Kanayan Family.

ATP organized a series of educational and fundraising events to support these programs. The first was a lecture about the Battle of Bash Aparan by Dr. Dikran Kaligian at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research in Boston, followed by a fundraising reception at the Papken Suni Agoump which included remarks by Dro’s daughter Olga Proudian and fellow comrade Tatul Sonentz-Papazian. Both were well attended by friends, family, and students who were interested in learning more about the historic events while supporting a project that is also forward-looking at the same time.

General Dro’s grandson and namesake, Dro Kanayan of Massachusetts, says that planting trees in his grandfather’s honor is appropriate because he had a strong connection to the land: “Dro understood the importance of what the land can provide for the people. My family believes that planting trees for the future of Armenia is a fitting tribute to the bravery and sacrifices of General Dro and his troops. We are proud to continue our grandfather’s tradition of service to the Armenian Nation in this way.”

The next series of events are in Los Angeles. The first, a lecture by Dr. Garabet Moumdjian co-hosted by the Woodbury University Armenian Students Association, was held on March 7.

Dr. Moumdjian expanded on earlier lectures on Aparan offered by Kaligian and Sonentz-Papazian. “The history of the formation of the First Republic is fixated on the Battle of Sardarabad,” explained Dr. Moumdjian at Woodbury University. “However, the battles at Karakilisa and Bash Abaran were as important and crucial. The Turkish strategy was to crush those two Armenian defense fronts in order to flank Sardarabad and Yerevan. Thus, what General Dro and his fighters did in Abaran must be studied in this context in order to have a full historical appreciation of the events.”

Dr. Moumdjian also discussed the important of forests in the history of Armenia, to emphasize the significance of the ATP initiative: “The study of history from ancient times illustrates a special synergy between the people and the land. Many Armenian kings from antiquity planted forests. Moreover, in our pagan tradition, the lore of the ‘Sosyats Andar’ shows how trees and forests are important elements of environmentalism in Armenian culture. So is the fact that King Khosrov planted a forest in the fourth century that came to bare his namesake. Thus, it is imperative to continue this tradition and make Armenia the green and colorful ‘Garden of Eden’ that the biblical story suggests.”

The next event is a fundraising reception at the popular wine bar Oak and Vine in Glendale on Thursday, April 12. General Dro’s grandson Philip Kanayan is planning to attend, along with leaders from the local Armenian community. Before the event, Philip took a moment to explain the significance of the project: “Any monument to our grandfather should be a living memorial. General Dro was not a man who wore medals. He lived a life of service to the Armenian Nation, and in that vein ATP promotes those ideals of giving back to Armenia.”

Tickets to the Oak and Vine event are $125 per person, and ATP is encouraging people to make sponsorship donations to support the tree plantings in Aparan. Ticket and sponsorship information is available via ArmeniaTree.org/1918

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One Comment;

  1. Perouz said:

    Dr. Moumdjian is correct when he says that the “battles at Karakilisa and Bash Abaran were as important and crucial.” Below are several excerpts from Resistance: a Diary of the Armenian Genocide 1915 – 1922, by Misak Seferian. There is also a great deal of primary source documentation about Bash Abaran, and information about Dro in battle. This book is the only known seven-year diary of the Armenian Genocide, that is written by a fedayi documenting the events he participated in or witnessed, as they were unfolding before him.

    The book may be ordered from Dr. Moumdjian at National Association for Armenian Studies and Research in Boston

    “Before noon on May 24, 1918, Turks attacked the entire length of
    our front with tremendous force. The battle that then took place was
    later commonly known as the Great Battle of Gharakilisa. As soon as
    enemy advance guards appeared, we forced them back with a strong fire.
    They returned in three ranks; their cannons shelled our first and second
    positions simultaneously. They moved to the outer range of our rifles and
    machine guns, where the most intense battle then followed. The roar of
    machine guns and the screaming of rifles intermingled with the thunder
    of cannons. The world became only what I could see before me. There was
    nothing beyond that, not even thought.

    Officer Arshag directed our machine gun fire, and I commanded the
    battalion. The position holders on my right side were soldiers from the
    Eighth Regiment. Our regiment’s three other battalions protected our left
    side. We were holding a front with a length of about twenty-five miles.
    Two hours after the battle started, I ordered my men to advance. They fired
    while moving forward on their knees. The enemy sifted their bullets on us.
    We had barely gone fifteen to twenty steps when they killed two of our men
    and injured five. We returned to our positions and continued to fire with
    the same fury. A messenger reached me by crawling and handed me a letter. I opened
    it, only to find that the letter was written in Russian, which I could not read.

    When Officer Arshag came and told me to take two squads and hold
    a nearby hill, I gave him Colonel Poladov’s letter. After reading the letter,
    Arshag said, “Do not move from your place. In my opinion, the enemy’s
    drive to attack is already broken, and it’s time we moved to where we
    can counter-attack. In any case, continue your incessant fire. I’m going
    to the machine gunners now. You must remain vigilant. When the First
    Division regiments move ahead, you are to immediately occupy those two
    positions.”
    He had barely reached the machine gunners when we heard shouts of
    “Hurrah!” from the First Division regiments, who were moving ahead. I
    hurled myself forward with all my strength, my men all following me, firing
    incessantly. We soon held the two hills we wanted and furiously assaulted
    the enemy’s centre, cutting down the Turks, who then quickly fled toward
    Hamamlou. Enemy cannons continued to thunder.

    Our train left the Gharakilisa Station at dawn on May 25, 1918, and
    reached Sanahin at noon. From the Gharakilisa Station to the Sanahin
    Station, along the entire length of the railway line, the road swarmed with
    exiled refugees. Farmers, teachers, students, women, men, elders, children,
    everyone walking, walking without knowing where they were going, just
    walking. The Sanahin Station presented a particularly terrible picture.
    About one thousand terrified and weeping orphans from Jalal-Oghli had
    joined the tens of thousands of exiles.

    In the evening hours of the same day, our train reached the Hayroum
    Station, where I witnessed two trains strike each other, killing thirty
    refugee women and children. Our train remained at Hayroum for three
    days, because the Turks of the region of Sadakhlou had cut the railway line
    going to Tiflis. They had also pillaged and massacred the refugees.
    The Armenian army gained great victories on May 25 and May 26,
    seizing back Maymekh Mountain. On May 27, we received news that the
    battle near Gharakilisa on May 24 had reached an advantageous position
    for us. On May 28, an armored train came to Sadakhlou from Tiflis and
    shelled the Turks who had cut the railway line around Sadakhlou. This
    opened the way for the exiles to fill the trains running to Tiflis. On the
    night of May 28, 1918, the train of the wounded reached the Navtlough
    Station of Tiflis.
    Most of the wounded, myself included, were taken to the Aramian
    Hospital in Tiflis. I stayed in that hospital for four weeks.

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