Sunday, June 18, 2017

Birth of Kristapor Araratian (June 18, 1876)

A generation of Armenian professional soldiers who had distinguished themselves in the Russian army led the military of the first Republic of Armenia. General Kristapor Araratian was one of them.

Araratian was born on June 18, 1876, in the city of Mitzkhetha (province of Tiflis). His father Gerasim (Karapet) Araratov was a lieutenant general in the Russian army. He entered the military school of Tiflis (1886-1893) and graduated as a sub-officer. Afterwards, he entered the artillery school of St. Petersburg, which he finished in 1896 among the top three of his class. He was permitted to serve at the place of his choice, and thus Araratian chose the Caucasian brigade of grenade artillery, seated near Tiflis. He was transferred to Siberia in 1904, and later, on his request, to the battlefront in the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. In 1906 he went to serve in European Russia, where he continued rising through the army ranks, and he received several medals for his services. He was married to Nina Eyubova, and they had two children, Konstantin and Elena.

He participated in World War I, first in the Russian front (1914-1915), and then in the Romanian front (1916-1917). After the October Revolution and the retreat of the Russian troops from the Caucasus, Colonel Araratian was aware that the Ottoman army would take advantage of the situation and attack Armenia. He moved to the Caucasus and entered the newly formed Armenian army. Its commander, General Tovmas Nazarbekian, designated Araratian commander of the second division of the artillery brigade in January 1918. The brigade was included in the army corps of Yerevan, commanded by Movses Silikian, and Araratian became commander of artillery. In this post, he participated in the battle of Sardarabad, and his division took prisoner a whole battalion of enemy troops, composed of Turkish and German soldiers.

After the proclamation of the republic, Araratian became commander of the Armenian artillery brigade. He participated in the short-lived Armenian-Georgian war in December 1918. In March 1919, after Prime Minister Hovhannes Kajaznuni resigned from his post, Alexander Khatisian replaced him. War Minister Hovhannes Hakhverdian had also resigned, and on March 27, 1919, Kristapor Araratian, ascended to the rank of major general, was named War Minister. He asked Hakhverdian to become an advisor, and designated Lieutenant General Silikian as his assistant. Araratian remained in his post until April 3, 1920, when he resigned and became director of the rifle company of the ministry.

He later became artillery commander until he was sent to Kars as military commander. Kars, the most important fortress of the region, fell to the enemy in the Armenian-Turkish war (October 30, 1920). Araratian fell prisoner, together with many Armenian soldiers. He would only return to Armenia at the end of 1921, and held the post of artillery commander until 1925. In 1925-1926 he went to Moscow, where he studied at the Frunze Military Academy for high-ranking officers. After his return, he was offered the direction of the military chairs at Yerevan State University and the Armenian Agricultural Institute.

Like many officers who had served the first Republic, Araratian was also a victim of the Stalinist purges. He was arrested on September 2, 1937. After three months in prison, the death sentence of November 16 was executed on December 10. Kristapor Araratian, along with Generals Movses Silikian and Dmitri Mirimanov, and four colonels, was transported to the gorge of Nork, outside Yerevan (currently the zoo of Yerevan), and shot by the secret police.

His wife took packages for years to the KGB to be delivered to her husband, without knowing that he was dead. A death certificate was given to his family in 1955, which stated that he had reportedly died on February 16, 1943, from a heart attack. However, on July 18, 1956, the Supreme Court of the Armenian Soviet Republic declared null and void the sentence of November 1937 against Araratian, which allowed learning the actual date of his death.

His daughter Elena Araratova was a talented ballet dancer, whose career was greatly affected by the fact that her father had been executed as an enemy of the people. She would never receive the coveted title of People’s Artist.