The Armenian Legion in the French Armed Forces

The Armenian Legion

The French Armenian Legion was a military unit and a foreign legion within the armed forces of France. It was established under the 1916 French-Armenian agreement for the purpose of the national liberation struggle. In exchange for support in its struggle against the Ottoman Empire, France promised to grant autonomy to the Armenians of Cilicia.

The Armenian Legion was not the only Armenian military unit participating in the conflict against the Ottoman Empire during WWI. Units of Armenian volunteers and Armenian police existed as well.

Initially, the legion was named La Légion d’Orient (Eastern Legion), but on February 1, 1919, it was renamed La Légion Arménienne (Armenian Legion).

The first battles with the participation of the Armenian Legion took place on September 19, 1918, in Palestine. Later, as part of the Anglo-French troops, the legion participated in the battles for Syria and Lebanon. In October 1918, the strength of the Armenian Legion reached 5,000.

Once the Armenian Legion entered Cilicia after a series of victories in May 1919, the region was declared an independent state. However, its existence was short-lived because France’s foreign policy took a turn towards improving relations with Turkey, which caused discontent and even desertion among the soldiers of the legion. As a result, the Armenian Legion was reduced and finally disbanded in August 1920.

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