Movses Ter-Galustyan – Leader of the Musa Dagh Defense

General Movses Ter-Galustyan was a participant and the leader of the Armenian defense on the mountain of Musa Dagh during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire.

Ter-Galustyan was born into an aristocratic Armenian family. His father was a prominent and popular writer and an active member of various Armenian organizations.

Movses has shown a deep interest in literature and wrote poems himself. At school, he also showed a love for mathematics and history, but since childhood, young Movses had only one dream – the liberation of his native land.

On July 30, 1915, the Kaymakam of Antioch ordered the deportation of the people of Musa Dagh. The residents of the villages in the vicinity of the mountain were obliged to leave within 7 days.

More than 6,000 thousand people decided to climb the top of Musa Dagh and prepare for armed resistance. The youngest of the Armenian fedayis, the twenty-year-old Movses Ter-Galustyan headed the defense.

Already on July 21, the Young Turks attacked the Armenian fortifications but were defeated – out of 200 Turkish soldiers, no more than 80 survived. The Armenians managed to take possession of weapons and two guns, which facilitated further defense.

In less than three days, more than 3,000 regular army soldiers were sent to suppress the Armenians. Movses Ter-Galustyan gathered a military council, at which a seemingly crazy decision was made – to launch an attack on the Turks in the morning through the forest in order to catch them by surprise.

In the morning, Ter-Galustyan’s detachment attacked the Turkish camp and defeated it. The Armenians captured more than eight Mauser rifles.

The defense continued until September 12, 1915, when the French ships evacuated the Armenians holding the defense.

Already in France, the young Ter-Galustyan met the legendary figure of the Armenian diaspora, Poghos Nubar.

On October 27, 1916, in London, on the basis of a 3-sided agreement, it was decided to create Armenian legions as part of the French army to participate in hostilities against Turkey. The French government undertook in return to give the Armenians the right to create an independent Cilician Armenian state.

The Sykes-Picot agreement noted: “Armenian volunteers should not fight either in France or on other European fronts, but only and only in Asian Turkey, in order to fight against their centuries-old enemy and to free their native land.”

The enrollment of volunteers began in Egypt. The core of the Armenian units were 600 people from Musa Dagh under the command of Movses Ter-Galustyan. Young representatives of the Armenian diaspora of France and the USA also actively volunteered.

On October 28, 1917, units of the Armenian Legion located near Sinai participated in a counterattack on the positions of German-Turkish troops along the Gaza-Beersheba line, after which the enemy was forced to retreat. Suffering heavy losses, the enemy troops left a number of settlements.

On November 17, 1917, the legionnaires began to advance in the direction of Jerusalem in order to occupy the city. By December 9, 1917, units of the Legion under the command of major Ter-Galustyan drove the Turkish troops out from Jerusalem. For a month, the Armenian Legion would control entire Palestine.

On September 18, 1918, at the height of Rafat-Arara, without artillery preparation, the Armenian battalion with minimal losses managed to break the stubborn resistance of the Turkish army. The Armenians made a serious contribution to the victory over the German-Turkish forces on the impregnable heights of Arara in Palestine.

After this battle, Movses Ter-Galustyan received the rank of lieutenant colonel. And after the end of the company, Movses Ter-Galustyan became the only Armenian from the Legion to receive the rank of general.

However, the allies did not keep their promise. The Cilician state failed to be created. Movses Ter-Galustyan refused all ranks and titles received from France and England and left for Syria. In 1929, he created the Armenian center in Damascus which was involved in the construction of Armenian schools and churches, and by 1931, the Armenian communities of Syria already had their own cultural and religious centers.

In 1932, Movses Ter-Galustyan was elected to parliament where he together with the outstanding general of the Syrian army Aram Karamanukyan defended the interests of the Armenian population.

Ter-Galustyan remained a member of parliament until 1936. By this time, the backbone of the Armenian intelligentsia had already been formed, and Ter-Galustyan left for Lebanon. In 1943, he did the same amount of work in Beirut and Adjara.

In 1944, Ter-Galustyan was elected to the Lebanese parliament. He then took an active part in the formation of the Dashnaktsutsyun Party and maintained contact with prominent figures of the Armenian liberation movement.

Throughout his life, Movses Ter-Galustyan has been devoted to the idea of fighting for the freedom of his homeland and ensuring a decent life for his people.

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