Vahan Papazian (Koms) 1876-1973

Born in Tabriz to a family from Van, Koms was the younger brother of writer Vrtanes Papazian. In 1893, he came into contact with revolutionary circles in Nor Nakhijevan “(Rostov-on-Don), and in 1895 he joined the Dashnaktsoutiun in Alexandropol.

In his early years in the party, Koms operated in the Northern Caucasus and Baku. He entered into formal studies, first at Moscow University, and later at St. Petersburg University, but did not complete his studies. In St. Petersburg, he engaged in revolutionary activities and was forced to flee to Finland when he was implicated in the assassination of a wealthy Armenian. He stayed in Finland as a fugitive for two years, from 1900 to 1902, and thereafter moved to Geneva.

From Geneva, Koms returned secretly to Transcaucasia and then to Van, with Vana lshkhan, in 1903. There, at the suggestion of Kristapor, he took on the duties of Vardges, the leading fieldworker in the area, who had been imprisoned. A photographer by hobby, he took the only known photo of Kevork Chavoush, on Aghtamar Island, in Van, in 1904.

He remained in Van until 1908, for a time organizing and overseeing the arms and ammunition routes to Western Armenia from Iran and Yerevan. After the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution in 1908, he was elected a member of the Ottoman Parliament from Van.

Koms participated in the ARF Council meeting of September 1912, which, in the wake of Armenian disillusionment with the Young Turks, decided to reactivate and internationalize the Armenian Question. He was in Moush from 1913–1914 to protect the interests of the people there.

When the Genocide began, he survived the massacre of 1915 in Moush and with difficulty reached the Caucasus, where he joined the handful of days commanded by Rouben Ter Minasian.

Koms moved on to Tiflis in 1917–18, and in 1919 was elected a member of Armenia’s Parliament and appointed a member of the Armenian National Delegation in Paris. He returned to Yerevan later that year to take part in the ARF’s Ninth World Congress. He returned to France in September 1920 to take part in further peace talks after the signing of the Treaty of Sevres.

Following the Sovietization of Armenia, in 1921, Koms, along with Vahan Navasardian and Arshak Jamalian, participated in the Riga talks with the Bolsheviks. Those talks, concerning the safety and security of Soviet Armenia and the ARF’s position toward it, eventually proved fruitless.

Later, on behalf of the ARF, he worked with the Kurdish liberation movement in Turkey. In 1947, he settled in Beirut, Lebanon, and became active in the affairs of the Hamazkayin cultural association.

He wrote a three-volume work titled Modest Heroes, consisting of the biographies of many fedayis; he also published a three-volume memoir.

He died in Beirut. He was 97 years old.

by Hrayr Toukhanian

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