This Week in Armenian History

Death of Kristapor Mikayelian (March 17, 1905)

Kristapor Mikayelian, one of the founders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, devoted half of his brief life to the cause of the liberation of the Armenian people from foreign oppression.

He was born on October 18, 1859, in the village of Verin Agulis (district of Goghtn in the province of Nakhijevan, today under Azerbaijani rule). He lost his mother when he was four and his father, six years later. After receiving elementary education in the local parochial school, he studied at the teachers training college of Tiflis (Tbilisi) between 1876 and 1880. Then he returned to Verin Agulis, where he taught until 1884. In this period, his revolutionary and socialist ideas took deep roots in him. He joined the Russian revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya (Popular Will) while he studied at the University of Moscow from 1885 to 1887, the year in which he founded the short-lived Yeritasard Hayastan (Young Armenia) organization.

Kristapor Mikayelian undertook the hard task of uniting the newly founded Armenakan (1885) and Hunchakian (1887) parties, as well as dispersed groups engaged in liberation struggle. Although Ruben Khanazat, from the Hunchakian party, agreed to the idea of bringing together all revolutionaries, the Hunchakian Center later refused to join the new group, as it disagreed with the idea of a decentralized organization. In the summer of 1890, the Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries was founded in Tiflis by Mikayelian, Simon Zavarian, and Stepan Zorian (Rostom). Mikayelian was arrested and exiled to Bessarabia in 1891, but in the same year he clandestinely traveled to Romania and organized the publication of Droshak, the organ of the new party.

He returned to Tiflis in the summer of 1892 and participated in the first general congress of the party, now renamed Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was one of the authors of the program of the party and was elected member of the first Bureau. He managed to create the ideological and organizational bases that would ensure the advancement of the organization. In cooperation with Zavarian and Rostom, Kristapor promoted the publication of Droshak, to which he contributed important editorials. He was arrested again and imprisoned in Baku (1895-1896), but was liberated after paying a substantial bail and on the condition of not leaving Tiflis. He later focused on the organization of the expedition of Khanasor (1897). By decision of the second ARF congress (1898), Mikayelian went to Geneva, where he edited Droshak and worked in revolutionary propaganda. He wrote his books “The Logic of the Masses” and “The Caucasian Armenian Crisis.” Most importantly, he was the driving force behind the publication of the French-language Pro Armenia journal, released in Paris in 1900, with the contribution of well-known French politician and pro-Armenian activists who spoke in favor of a solution to the Armenian Question.

Kristapor returned to the Caucasus, where he formed a group called “Potorik” in 1901, which looked for the support of Armenian wealthy people to the revolutionary cause. He was on Catholicos Mekertich I Khrimian’s side when the Russian government confiscated the properties of the Armenian Churches in 1903, which generated a popular movement of resistance that led to the annulation of the measure in 1905.

After the new massacres ordered by Abdul Hamid following the second uprising of Sassoun (1904), Kristapor Mikayelian presented a project to liquidate the Sultan to the third congress of the ARF in the same year and obtained its consent. He led the project in person. During preparations, however, Kristapor and his collaborator Vramshabuh Kendirian died in a bomb blast on March 17, 1905, on Mt. Vidosh, Bulgaria. This founder and central figure of the ARF for its first 15 years was buried in the public cemetery of the capital Sofia.