The Leaders of the Recalcitrant Zeytun

The Leaders of the Recalcitrant Zeytun

On the photo above are the leaders of the 1862 Zeytun uprising – Prince Ghazar Shovroian, Priest Movses Khachukents, and Prince Astvatsatur Yenitunian.

The city and province of Zeytun were located in the Highlands of Cilicia, at an inaccessible height, 40 kilometers northwest from the city of Marash. For almost two and a half centuries, Zeytun has been, in fact, an autonomous Armenian province.

The people of Zeytun have constantly fought for their freedom, and the uprising of 1862, one of the most significant uprisings against the Ottoman tyranny in Armenian history, was a brilliant example of this struggle.

The land dispute that arose between the Armenians and the Turks was the reason that in early July 1862, the Turkish army of almost 40 thousand bayonets marched on Zeytun.

They were confronted by self-defense detachments, about seven thousand people, whose entire arsenal consisted of old grandfather’s guns, pistols, cold weapons, clubs, and stones.

Soon, thanks to their superiority in numbers of troops and weapons, the Turks managed to occupy several Armenian villages, forcing the self-defense detachments and local residents to take refuge in the city itself.

In August, the Turkish forces laid siege to Zeytun. However, the adamant highlanders, having displayed military ingenuity, divided their forces into four parts and with exact and reasonable actions managed to repulse the superior forces of the enemy. After suffering heavy losses and leaving many war trophies on the battlefield, the Turks left the province of Zeytun.

The uprising of the people of Zeytun received wide international resonance. The Armenian delegation was able to meet with the French ambassador to Constantinople and convey to him a request to assist the rebels of Zeytun.

The result of this meeting was the pressure exerted on the Turkish Sultan by French Emperor Napoleon III. The sultan had to give in, lift the siege off of Zeytun, and conclude peace with the Armenians with the mediation of the French.

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