Artem Katsian was a pioneer of aviation who made history in 1909 by participating in the first aviation contests in Germany. He was also the first Armenian to fly an airplane and one of the founders of the Armenian Air Force.
Katsian was born in 1882 in Tiflis, Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire. He studied engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Riga and became interested in aviation after witnessing the flights of the Wright brothers in France in 1908. He decided to pursue his passion and enrolled in the aviation school of Louis Blériot, the famous French aviator who crossed the English Channel by plane in 1909.
Katsian quickly mastered the art of flying and obtained his pilot’s license in July 1909. He then bought his own Blériot XI monoplane and joined the international circuit of aviation contests, which were organized to showcase the achievements and potential of the new technology. He competed in several events in Germany, such as the Berliner Flugwoche, the Internationale Flugwoche zu Frankfurt, and the Doncaster Aviation Contest, where he impressed the spectators and the press with his skill and daring. He also performed demonstration flights in other countries, such as Austria, Hungary, and Russia.
Katsian was not only a talented pilot, but also a patriotic Armenian. He painted the Armenian tricolor on his plane and flew with the Armenian flag whenever he could. He also used his fame and influence to raise awareness and funds for the Armenian cause, especially after the outbreak of the First World War and the Armenian Genocide. He donated his plane and his prize money to the Armenian National Delegation in Paris, which was led by Boghos Nubar Pasha, the founder of the Armenian Legion.
In 1918, after the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, Katsian returned to his homeland and joined the newly formed Armenian Air Force. He became one of its commanders and instructors, training young Armenian pilots and organizing aerial reconnaissance and bombing missions against the Turkish and Bolshevik forces. He also participated in the defense of Yerevan and the Battle of Sardarapat, where he flew over the enemy lines and dropped leaflets urging them to surrender.
Katsian died in 1921 in Tiflis, at the age of 39, from typhus. He was buried with full military honors and his plane was placed on his grave as a tribute. He is remembered as a hero and a pioneer of Armenian aviation, and his name is inscribed on the wall of the Pantheon of Yerevan, along with other prominent figures of Armenian history and culture.