Every fifth Armenian left for the frontline... “In the victory over fascism, the Armenians, from private to marshal, immortalized their names with non fading glory of brave warriors.”

29 April, 2020

On April 25, the CSTO official website published an article by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dedicated to the role of Armenia and the Armenian people in the Great Patriotic War, which we hereunder present.

Every fifth Armenian left for the frontline...

“In the victory over fascism, the Armenians, from private to marshal, immortalized their names with non fading glory of brave warriors.”

Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union.

For Armenia, as for the entire Soviet people, the war began unexpectedly. Only two decades have passed after all the ordeals befallen to Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century. The country was just starting to recover: the industry and agriculture were gaining momentum. Armenia, more than ever, needed peace and stability. However, the homeland was attacked by the enemy, and yesterday's peasants, engineers, students and workers signed up and joined the Red Army.

In Soviet Armenia, mass mobilization was met with overwhelming enthusiasm, the spirit of patriotism and the desire to defend the homeland was everywhere. One in five  residents of Armenia left for the frontline. Over the course of the war, more than 300 thousand were enlisted from the Armenian SSR into the Soviet Army, another 200 thousand ethnic Armenians left for the frontline from other Soviet republics. The Armenians within the Red Army and Red Navy fought in the naval and land forces, in mechanized and infantry divisions, aviation and cavalry. More than 100 thousand Armenians were enlisted into the armed forces of Allied forces, mostly into the French army as well as almost 20 thousand in the US army. More than 200 thousand Armenians did not return from the war, which is equal to 1/7th of the population of Armenia.

Six Armenian national divisions participated in the Great Patriotic War, five of which were formed after the outbreak of hostilities. The 76th Rifle Division (51st Guards División "Vitebsk" Order of Lenin the Red Banner named after K. E. Voroshilov) was formed in May of 1922 in Yerevan. Marshals Ivan Baghramyan and Hamazasp Babajanyan served in this division. At the beginning of the War, the Division carried out special operations on the territory of Iran, then participated in fights from Stalingrad to the Baltic states and Belarus, liberating about a thousand settlements.

The renowned 89th Infantry Rifle Tamanyan Division (Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Red Star) was formed in Yerevan in December 1941. The division began its military path from the foothills of the Caucasus and participated in the liberation of Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kerch. For the heroism demonstrated on Taman Peninsula, the division was given the honorary name "Tamanyan". Over the course of the war, the Tamanyans liberated more than 900 settlements. Under the command of Major General Nver Safaryan, the 89th Division was among the first ones to cross the border of the USSR, passing through the entire territory of Poland and entering the capital of the Third Reich in the spring of 1945. The division defeated the German garrison in Berlin, and was awarded the Order of Kutuzov Second Class for its accomplishments. In Balaklava, where the mass grave of the 89th Division soldiers is located, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic erected a memorial monument dedicated to Tamanyans.

The Armenian 390th Infantry Division, established in September 1941, also participated in the battles for Kerch. Members of the division demonstrated great courage and fortitude in Crimea as well.

The 408th Infantry Division was formed in August 1941. Fighters of the Division battled at Novorossiysk and Tuapse. In October 1942, despite being completely surrounded, the Division managed to withstand numerous attacks by enemy forces and break through the encirclement, and declared victory on the Elbe.

The 409th Rifle Division of “Kirovograd-Bratislava" (Order of Red Banner Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, second Class), was formed in August, 1941. Up until December 1942, it defended the state border from a possible invasion from Turkey.  Starting 1943, it participated in battles in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, Stavropol and Krasnodar, as well as in the battles for the liberation of Hungary. The division is most prominently known, however,  for the courage it demonstrated in battles for the liberation of Bratislava. At the end of the war, the members of Division paraded victoriously into Vienna.

The 261st Rifle Division was formed in fall of 1942. Its task was to guard the Soviet-Turkish state border.

Along with the national military troops, eight divisions were established or expanded in Armenia. In addition, during the years of World War II, over 85 thousand recruits were trained in Armenia. Since the territory of Armenia was equated with the frontline zone and a significant part of the state border was passing through its territory, special attention was paid to staff training against any potential  invasion attempts by the enemy.

Fighting courageously against the fascist invaders, the Armenian soldiers participated in all major battles and military operations of the Great Patriotic War. Many thousands of Armenian soldiers participated in the defense of Moscow, and the future Marshal of the Soviet Union Hovhannes (Ivan) Baghramyan was the commander of the SouthWest Front. 30 thousand Armenians participated in the Battle of Stalingrad, a third of them fell. 10 thousand Armenian soldiers fought in the battle of Kursk. Hovhannes Baghramyan and future air marshal Sergei Khudyakov (Armenak Khamferyants) demonstrated their commanding talents Near Kursk. More than 100 thousand Armenians fought in the Caucasus and the battles for the liberation of Kerch and Crimea. 80 thousand Armenians participated in the liberation of Ukraine, 50 thousand fought in Belarus, 45 thousand Armenians fell in these battles.

Victoriously, the Soviet divisions formed in the Armenian SSR and the Armenian fighters enlisted in Soviet troops paraded to Europe, liberating countries and peoples from the fascism. Many have ended their glorious journey in Warsaw, Prague and Vienna. The members of the glorified Tamanyan Division marked the fall of the Third Reich by performing the Armenian Kochari folk dance under the walls of the defeated Reichstag in Berlin.

During the years of war, five Armenians became Marshals of the Soviet Union: Ivan (Hovhannes) Baghramyan, Marshal of the Soviet Union, Ivan Isakov (Hovhannes Isaakyan), Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, Amazasp Babajanyan, Chief Marshal of Armored Forces, Sergey Khudyakov (Armenak Khamferyants), Marshal of Aviation, Sergey Aganov, Marshal of Engineer Troops. Marshal Baghramyan commanded the First Baltic Front, and subsequently, the Third Belorussian Front. More than 60 Armenian generals carried out command on all fronts of the war, among them - three army commanders and three corps commanders. At the end of the war, 83 army officers had been promoted to the rank of general. .

Over 66 thousand Armenians were awarded with various state decorations for participation in the war. The title of the Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to 107 soldiers and army officers. Ivan Baghramyan and Nelson Stepanyan were twice awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union. 27 Armenians became full Cavaliers of the Order of Glory. Armenia takes 6th place in  USSR according to the number of heroes during the war years.

Armenians were known not only as commanders and fighters of regular troops, but provided  great contributions to the ranks of partisans and resistance forces in the Soviet Union and the European countries. In France, the guerrilla regiment of Alexander Ghazaryan numbered 1,200 Armenians, and the member of the French Resistance Missak Manouchian became the National Hero of France.

Armenian intelligence agents made a special contribution to the victory. The heroic deed of Gevorg Vartanyan’s group is etched in gold in the history books of intelligence. It revealed the plan of the Nazis to liquidate the heads of state - participants of the Tehran Conference in April of 1943. The operations were coordinated by Ivan Agayants, the resident of the Soviet intelligence in Tehran. 

The self-sacrificing work of those who supplied the frontline with ammunition and food should also be emphasized. Facilities in Armenia produced strategically important products for the front: rubber, copper, carbide, aluminum and much more. The Republic organized the production of military equipment, ammunition, explosives, and communications equipment. During the war years, about 30 factories and plants, 110 workshops were put into operation in Armenia. The Republic produced more than 300 types of production necessary for the frontline.

The protection of cultural heritage from plunder, desecration and destruction became the mission of many artists and scientists. In Leningrad, the director of the Hermitage, orientalist academician Joseph Orbeli, in just a few days, arranged the transfer of exhibits to the rear, thereby saving invaluable masterpieces of fine art and historical monuments. The testimonies of J. Orbeli at the Nuremberg trials exposed the deliberate destruction of cultural property by the fascists.

On May 9, 1945, the sky above the Central Lenin Square in Yerevan was decorated with festive fireworks in honour of the Great Victory. The Armenian people collectively celebrated the victory over fascism.

Preserving memory and paying tribute to heroes-liberators is an important component of our common victory. Today, almost six hundred monuments dedicated to the participants of the Great Patriotic War are under state protection in the Republic of Armenia. The people of Armenia remember and honour all their heroes. May their memory and glory be eternal.

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