On the night of July 15, 1904, a group of 61 fedayis from the Armenian Dashnaktsutsyun party crossed the Russian-Turkish border in order to assist the rebels under the command of Andranik in Sasun who were in an unenviable position.
The group consisted of young Armenian intellectuals, two doctors, students, and fifty years old Father Lazarus who had begged to take him into the group, arguing that he “had sworn in his heart to sacrifice himself for the redemption of his nation.”
After crossing the border, having advanced hardly several kilometers, the fedayis clashed with the Turkish soldiers. After receiving reinforcements, the enemy began to put pressure on the Armenians who continued to successfully fight for half a day against at least 300 Turks. Only 2 Armenians were wounded during this time.
Suddenly, at the most heated moment of the battle, Armenians were shot at from the rear. The ones shooting were the Russian Cossacks. Locked in a crossfire, the Armenians lost ten warriors in half an hour. Surrounded from all directions, they had no way to retreat.
Armenians naively suggested that the Russians opened fire on them by mistake. Group Sergeant Levon Kalantaryan went to the Cossacks in order to explain the goals pursued by the fedayi group. The Russians arrested the delegate and continued to shoot at the Armenian fighters.
The second delegate was the Russian army officer Anushavan Dilanyan who introduced himself to the Cossacks’ commander and tried to explain: “We are not against the Russians, as you can see, we have not sent a single bullet in your direction. Our struggle is directed only against the Turks, for this reason, we ask you to cease the fire.”
The commander replied: “You are revolutionaries and bandits, and we will ruthlessly destroy all of you.”
The Turks, emboldened with the behavior of the Russians, undertook an attack. Father Lazarus, holding a piece of white cloth in one hand and holding a cross in the other, headed towards the Russians. The bullets of the “Christians”, however, shot the priest down. The priest received only contempt, curses, and offenses from the Russian Cossacks.
By this time, the fedayis had already lost 27 people and had 6 fighters wounded. The Russians seized another 14 fighters in addition to the delegates.
12 fedayis successfully fled to the nearby forests. So the group created in response to the appeal of Hrayr Dzhoghk was terminated. This was only the first part of the tragedy. The second was to begin very soon.
The commander of the border guard in the region of Olti brigadier Brikov ordered the Cossacks to first kill the 6 wounded Armenians and then the 14 fighters they had arrested. His order would be executed.
It is disturbing that the murder of disarmed, captured Armenians took place in the presence of Turkish officers who were invited by brigadier Brikov to witness the execution.
The Kars Committee of the Dashnaktsutsyun party sentenced brigadier Brikov to death. Many people wished to execute the sentence, but one non-artisan youngster named Hamo Janpolatyan demonstrated a special zeal. He had never previously participated in any revolutionary activity.
Up until that day, this nineteen-year-old scion of wealthy parents, well-dressed, well-groomed, with a newly grown mustache, spent his father’s money in the company of girls.
Hamo for months implored the Kars committee to allow him to fight for the freedom of the Turkish Armenians and sacrifice his life for the sake of them. However, the committee did not consider his candidacy seriously because of his inexperience.
At about the same time, at the assignment of the Tiflis Eastern Bureau of the Dashnaktsutsyun party, Sako from Sevkar arrived in Kars to organize the assassination of Brikov. Hearing of his arrival, Hamo rushed to meet him, begging him to be entrusted with this matter.
Sako intuitively understood that this young man was sincere in his desire and, having received all the authority from the Bureau, decided to allow him to carry out the sentence despite his youth and inexperience. Hamo Janpolatyan thus proceeded to investigate Brikov’s movements and location.
The Russian brigadier in the evening of the day of the merciless execution of the Armenian soldiers drank cognac with his subordinates and Turkish officers. Moreover, intoxicated with his “heroism”, he, in order to boast his “feat”, decided to take a picture with the Turkish officers with the Armenian fighters’ bodies in the background.
Soon, realizing that the Armenians might be vindictive, he limited his route to the surrounding neighborhoods and stayed in close vicinity to his workplace and the club where he loved to drink and play cards. He organized strict surveillance of all roads leading to this area.
However, Hamo turned out to be more cunning, fooling the guards with his outfit of a poor artist. He walked from building to building “in search of a job,” all dirty, with disheveled hair, an unwashed face, in patched trousers, a torn jacket, worn-out shoes, and smeared with paint and soot. This outfit allowed him to find out the exact time when Brikov was leaving his home to go to the club.
So, one fine evening, Hamo shot the Russian brigadier from a hunting rifle on his way to the club. The bullet hit the target, and Brikov, lifeless, fell to the ground. Hamo did not try to escape: instead, he went down to the lifeless body and fired several more bullets from his revolver into Brikov’s chest. Then, he disappeared in the nearby forests.
Soldiers, guards, and gendarmes went crazy searching for the killer, but to no avail. The brutal brigadier was killed on August 31, 1904, exactly one and a half month after the massacre of the Armenian heroes.
REVANCHE // ՌԵՎԱՆՇ