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Key: Armenians in WWII


Photo: https://kananimahelona.files.wordpress.com


May 9 marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

This publication of the Key section is dedicated to the participation of Armenian people in World War II and their achievements.

1. How many Armenian divisions were there within the Soviet troops?

After the war broke out (from June 1941 to January 1942) six national divisions were formed in Soviet Armenia. The 390th Division was the first to go to the front. Fighting in the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula in May 1942, the Division was almost entirely overwhelmed. Also, Commander of the Division Simon Zakyan was killed.

89th Tamanyan Division was the only to reach Berlin. The Division got its name for its heroic deeds in the fights for Taman Peninsula. 

The 76th Rifle Division formed back in 1922 and controlling the Armenian-Turkish border engaged in the fights as soon as the war broke out and advanced in especially the Battle of Stalingrad. The 261st Rifle Unit remained to guard the Armenian-Turkish border.

408th and 409th Armenian Divisions also pursued a brilliant military path. The latter triumphantly reached Czech Republic and Austria.

2. Who were the heroes of Soviet Armenia?

Armenians were the fourth among Soviet nations in number of generals of the air forces and the navy and artillery unit officers, and the sixth in number of Soviet heroes.

106 Armenians were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and 80 thousand received medals and orders.

Over 60 Armenian commanders were closely involved in the development of a military operation plans on all fronts. Marshal of the Soviet Union Hovhannes Baghramyan, Marshal of Aviation Armenak Khanferiants, Chief Marshal of the Armored Troops of the Soviet Union Hamazasp Babadzhanian and Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Ivan Isakov were among the most striking figures of the Soviet Army. Nelson Stepanyan was one of the six dive bomber pilots that were twice awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

3. What losses did Armenia incur in the war?

Armenia had a population of 700 000 in 1920. Before the start of the war, this number had reached 1.5 million but it was still the smallest among Soviet Union states (1.1% of total Soviet Union population). However, from 1941 to 1945, around 500 000 Armenians were drafted to serve in the Soviet Army. The losses of Soviet Armenia can be compared with the losses the U.S. incurred during the war – over 300 000 people.

4. How was the Diaspora acting in the anti-fascist camp?

The Diaspora also had its input in the anti-fascist struggle – Armenian organizations set up in the U.S., France, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Romania, Cyprus, Jordan and other countries were providing military assistance to the Soviet troops.

After the universal call for fundraising in Etchmiadzin in 1943, Sassuntsi-Davit Tank Regiment was formed. It was almost entirely funded by Diaspora Armenians.

Over 30 thousand Armenians were fighting on the Allied side. Out of them 20 thousand were fighting in the ranks of American and Canadian forces.

Armenians also stood out during the French Resistance Movement. Missak Manouchian was one of the founders of this movement. In his memoirs “Le Temps des avant” Charles Aznavour wrote:

“Before he became a hero of Resistance, Missak Manouchian was known in the Armenian community especially for his poems. In 1944, Manouchian and his comrades were arrested by the Gestapo. Panic-stricken Missak’s wife Meline hid in our place. We were in alarm waiting for some news, which eventually proved to be bad as the Resistance Movement participants who the Nazis used to call ‘terrorists’ were executed.”

Missak Manouchian was posthumously awarded the title of the National Hero of France.

5. How do the heroes of the Great Patriotic War live today?

According to Chairman of War Veterans Committee of Armenia Petros Petrosyan, there are presently 1091 Great Patriotic War veterans in Armenia. As of May 1 this year, the pension of honor of the veterans makes AMD 50 000 instead of previous AMD 25 000. Also, each year the state provides AMD 6 million to arrange the treatment and recreation of veterans in sanitariums.

Angela Kzhdryan

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