Arshak “Keri” Gafavian was born in Karin (now Erzurum) in 1858. He graduated from the Armenian school in Karin. He was a member of the organization “Pashtpan Hayrenyats” (“Defenders of Fatherland”). In 1889, he collaborated with Uno (Harutyun Ter-Martirosyan). In 1890, he took part in the campaign of S. Kukunyan.
In 1895, during the massacre in Karin, Keri led an armed group guarding the residence of the Armenian spiritual leader. In 1903, as part of an equestrian group of hayduks, Keri moved to Sasun. In 1904, he took part in the Sasun self-defense.
After some time, Keri moved from Vaspurakan to Eastern Armenia. There, he would become one of the organizers of the Armenian self-defense of Zangezur (in particular, in Angeghakot).
In subsequent years, Keri took part in the revolution in Iran (1908-1912). He joined Yeprem Khan, became his assistant, and after his death took revenge on the killers.
During WWI, Keri was the commander of the 4th Armenian volunteer detachment. This squad became directly involved in the Sarygamysh operation.
On November 10, a ceremonial parade was held in Sarygamysh. Blessing the warriors, the local parish priest noted that they were the hope of Armenians.
In December, when the Turks launched a powerful attack on Sarygamysh, the 4th squad received orders to retreat to Ida. But since this city and the surrounding territories had already been occupied by the enemy, they had to literally cut their way through the enemy units with their bayonets.
The Sarygamysh operation ended with the defeat of the Turkish 3rd Army in January 1915. Keri proved himself a skillful military leader in the operation. If it weren’t for Keri and the Armenian soldiers, the Sarygamysh battle would have been lost, and the Turkish army would have reached Tiflis.