Garegin Njdeh or Garegin Ter-Harutiunian, Garegin Nzhdeh (1 January 1886, Nakhijevan – 21 December 1955, Vladimir,Soviet Union) was an Armenian statesman, fedayee, political thinker, and as a member of the A.R.F. Dashnaktsutyun party was involved in revolutionary activities in Armenia, Bulgaria and Russia, and a member of Hitler’s Armenian Legion of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.
Garegin Njdeh was born on 1 January 1886 in the village of Kznut, Nakhichevan. He was the youngest of four children born to a local village priest. He lost his father Priest Yeghishe in his childhood Njdeh got his early education at a Russian school in Nakhichevan City. He continued his higher education at the Tiflis Russian Gymnasium school. At the age of 17 he joined the Armnenian liberal movement but shortly after, he moved to St. Petersburg to continue his education in the local university. After two years of studying at the Faculty of Low, he left the St. Petersburg University and returned to the Caucasus in order to participate in the Armenian national movements against the Russian and the Ottoman Empires.
In 1906, Njdeh moved to Bulgaria, where he completed his education at the military college in 1907.
In the same year he returned to Armenia. In 1908 he joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and participated in the Iranian revolution along with Yeprem Khan and Murad of Sebastia.
In 1909, upon his return to the Caucasus, Njdeh was arrested by the Russian authorities and spent 3 years in prison.
In 1912, together with General Andranik Ozanian, he formed an Armenian battalion within Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Volunteer Corps of the Bulgarian Army to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan wars, for the liberation of Trakya and Macedonia. During the Second Balkan war he was wounded. For the brave and extraordinary performance of the Armenian fighters, Bulgarian military authorities honoured Njdeh with the "Cross of Bravery".
World War I
Prior to the World War I, after an amnesty granted by the Russian authorities in 1914, Njdeh returned to the Caucasus to prepare for the formation of the Armenian volunteer units within the Russian army to fight against the Turks. At the first stage of the war in 1915, he was appointed as an assistant-commander to Drastamat Kanayan of the 2nd Armenian unit. Later on in 1916, he commanded the special Armenian-Yezdi military unit. Arriving in Koghp in 1917 with his small unit, he prevented a possible clash between the local Armenians and the invading Turkish forces. After the withdrawal of the Russian army, Njdeh led the battles of Alajay (near Ani, spring 1918), thus allowing a secure passage for the retreated Armenian volunteer forces into Alexandrapol.
Battle of Karakilisa
After clashing with Turkish forces in Alexandrapol, the Armenian fighters led by Njdeh fortified inKarakilisa.
He played a key role in organizing the defense of Karakilisa in May 1918. He managed to unite the despaired and the hopeless population for the fight through his inspiring speech in Dilijan church yard, where he called the gathered Armenians for a sacred battle "Straight front, our salvation is there". Njdeh was wounded in the battle and after a violent battle of 4 days, both sides had serious losses. Although the Ottoman army managed to invade Karakilisa, but they had no more forces to continue deeper into Armenian territories.
After the decleration of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, Njdeh was appointed as governor of Nakhitchevan, and later on in August 1919 commander of the southern corps of the Armenian army.
Republic of Mountainous Armenia
The Soviet 11th Red Army's invasion of the Democratic Republic of Armenia started on 29 November 1920. Following the sovietization of Armenian on 2 December 2010, the Soviets pledged to take steps to rebuild the army, to protect the Armenians and not to persecute non-communists, although the final condition of this pledge was reneged when the Dashnaks were forced out of the country.
The Soviet Government proposed that the regions of Nagorno-Karabagh and Zangezur (called Syunik in Armenia) should belong to Soviet Azerbaijan. This step was strongly rejected by Garegin Njdeh. A convinced Anti-Bolshevik, he led the defense of Syunik against the rising Bolshevik movement, who declared Syunik as a self-governing region in December 1920. In January 1921 Drastamat Kanayan sent a telegram to Njdeh, suggesting allowing the sovietization of Syunik, through which they could gain the support of the Bolshevik government in solving the problems of the Armenian lands. As a response, Njdeh did not depart from Syunik and continued his struggle against the Red Army and Soviet Azerbaijan, stuggling to maintain the independence of the region.
On 18 February 1921, the Dashnaks led an anti-Soviet rebellion in Yerevan and seized power. The ARF controlled Yerevan and the surrounding regions for almost 42 days before being defeated by the numerically superior Red Army troops later in April 1921. The leaders of the rebellion then retreated into the Syunik region.
On 26 April 1921, the 2nd Pan-Zangezurian congress, held in Tatev, announced the independence of the self-governing regions of Daralakyaz (Vayots Dzor), Zangezur, and Mountainous Artsakh, under the name of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia (Lernahaystani Hanrapetutyun).
Following the declaration of independence of the Republic of the Mountainous Armenia from Soviet Armenia, he was proclaimed Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
Between April and July 1921, the Red Army conducted massive military operations in the region, attacking Syunik from north and the east. After months of fierce battles with the Red Army, the Republic of Mountainous Armenia capitulated in July 1921 following Soviet Russia's promises to keep the mountainous region as a part of Soviet Armenia. After losing the battle, Garegin Njdeh, his soldiers, and many prominent Armenian intellectuals, including leaders of the first Independent Republic of Armenia, crossed the border into neighboring Persian city of Tabriz.
After leaving Syunik, Njdeh spent four months in the Persian city of Tabriz. Soon after he moved to Sofia where in 1922, he got married to an Armenian girl Epime, establishing a new life in Bulgaria.
Njdeh was involved in organizational activities in Bulgaria, Romania and the United States through his frequent visits to Plovdiv, Bucharest and Boston.
In 1933, by the decision of ARF Dashnaktsutyun, Njdeh moved to USA along with his partisan Copernic Tanterjian. This movement led to the foundation of the Armenian Youth Federation, the youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, in Boston, Massachusetts.
He visited several states in America and Canada, encouraging Armenian communities that had established themselves there, and founding an Armenian Youth movement called Tseghakron addressed to the ARF leader Simon Vratsian, calling him for co-operation with the Soviets regarding the issue of Armenian struggle against Turkey. But the communist leaders in Moscow refused to send the letter and it was only remained as a document.
After receiving the telegram of his death from the jail officers, Njdeh's brother Levon left Yerevan for Vladimir to take care of his burial service. He received Njdeh's watch and dress but was not allowed to take his personal writings. The authorities did not allow as well to transfer his body to Armenia. Levon Ter-Harutiunian conducted Njdeh's burial in Vladimir and wrote on his tombstone in Russian "Ter-Harutiunian Garegin Eghishevich (1886-1955)".
In 1983, Njdeh's ashes were secretly brought to Soviet Armenia from Vladimir by the efforts of linguist Varag Arakelyan and Njseh's grand-daughter's husband Pavel Ananyan. On 7 October of the same year, only a small part of Njdeh's body (right hand) was placed on the slopes of Mountain Khustup near the Kozni fountain, and -as the participants of the funeral stated- the rest of the body was kept in the cellar of Varag Arakelyan's country-house until 9 May 1987, when it was buried (secretly) in the yard of Spitakavor Surb Astvatsatsin Church of the 14th century near Yeghegnadzor.
Decades after his death, on 30 March 1992, Njdeh was rehabilitated by the supreme court of the Republic of Armenia.
Njdeh had mentioned in his will that he would like to be buried on the slopes of Mountain Khustup. On 26 April 2005 during the celebration of the 84th anniversary of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia, parts of Njdeh's body were taken from Spitakavor church to Khustup. Thus, Njdeh was reburied for the third time, finally to rest on the slopes of Mountain Khustup at Njdeh's Monument near Kapan.
In March 2010, Njdeh was selected as the "National pride and the most outstanding figure" of the Armenians throughout the history, by the voters of "We are Armenians" TV project launched by "Hay TV" and broadcast as well by the Public Television of Armenia (H1).
An avenue, a large square and a nearby metro station in Yerevan are named after Garegin Njdeh.
Njdeh with no doubt is one of the few figures in Armenian history, whose inspiring character includes both a soldier and a thinker, an orator and a politician, and he is definitely one of the most outstanding people in the whole history of Armenia.