Wednesday, October 03, 2007

General Andranik and Armenian independence

You may recall news stories within the past year regarding France's hard-line position on the issue of whether Turkey committed genocide in 1916 when various elements of the Turkish government systematically and wantonly exterminated more than a half million Armenians. France says that Turkey committed government-sponsored genocide and wants Turkey to admit it. Turkey says, no it won't admit to something that isn't true. It doesn't deny the deaths of a large porportion of the Armenians living in Turkey during the war but says it was not "genocide."

Anyway, France has a long history of affection for the Armenian people, many of whom fought alongside French troops during the First World War (when Turkey fought on the side of, ahem, the Germans).

Besides the grand monument to those soldiers who fell fighting for France (at the edge of division 88 along the avenue des etrangers mort pur la France) in Pere Lachaise, you can also find one of the most illustrious heroes of Armenian independence, General Andranik (or Antranik, 1865-1927). Andranik led the Aremnian volunteers fighting alongside the Russians against the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria and their ally Turkey. After the war he went into exile settling in Fresno, California, where he lived until his death. His remains were sent to Paris for burial, the communist authorities refusing to allow his body to be brought back home to Bulgaria where he had been born. In 2000 his remains were at last returned to Armenia.

Although he is no longer buried in division 94 (just around the corner from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, of all people), General Andranik sitting his jumping horse, waving his sword and leading his men forward, still cuts a most striking figure. (see photo above; photos below are details from the statue.)

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