May 2021 Alexander Arutyunov ‘Armenians in the Great Patriotic War’

So, a month and a half passed between two dates: the joyful Victory Day on May 9 and the tragic for the entire Soviet people – on June 22, the day of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. For almost four years, our multinational country had been fighting with almost the whole Europe.

Unfortunately, recently there has been a lot of speculation about the victory in World War II, which belittles the role of the Soviet Union. And such propaganda, alas, affects people’s minds. It would seem to us, citizens who have received secondary and higher education in the USSR, that no propaganda will change our view. By no means, my friend, who left the USA in the 90s, claimed and tried to convince me that the USSR won the war only thanks to Lend-Lease, the second front and… the fact that Anglo-American troops held back 22 divisions of the Wehrmacht in Africa. I am not a historian, I did not argue with him, but his arguments did not convince me, but forced me to dive into this problem. The first thing that I was interested in was how many divisions of Germans tried to capture Stalingrad and, as a citizen of Leningrad, of course I wanted to know, how many of them stood around Leningrad during the blockade.


Participated in the Battle of Stalingrad:


  • 12 infantry divisions
  • 2 tank divisions
  • 4th Air Fleet


6 infantry divisions

  • 3 alpine divisions
  • a cavalry division


  • 9 infantry divisions
  • a panzer division

and the 1st Air Group, consisting of the 1st reconnaissance, 1st fighter and 4th bomber divisions


Romania (Two Romanian armies)

The 3rd army

  • 3 mountain buildings
  • 3 cavalry brigades
  • 5 squadrons of reconnaissance and bomber aviation;
  • reconnaissance, artillery and anti-tank units

The 4th army

5 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions



Croatian Infantry Regiment (Croatian Legion) and the Devil’s Division, as part of the Wehrmacht.


We had to fight with almost the whole Europe and not only.


As I am Armenian, I was interested in how many Armenians gave their lives for their homeland in this great battle of peoples and what contribution a small republic made to the common treasury of the entire Soviet Union.


During the entire period of the war, about 500 thousand Armenians were conscripted into the ranks of the Soviet army, 300 thousand of them were from Armenia, and 200 thousand were from other republics. More than 300 thousand were dead or missing. For comparison, during the entire period of the Second World War, the United States lost 418 thousand people.


For the courage and bravery shown in the battles on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, more than 70 thousand Armenian soldiers were awarded military orders and medals.


In total 108 Armenians became Heroes of the Soviet Union, 38 of them became heroes posthumously. 27 soldiers were awarded full cavaliers of the Soldier’s Order of Glory, which is equivalented to the title of Hero.


More than 70 Armenians have received the highest army ranks. Such names of twice Hero of the Soviet Union as Marshal Ivan (Hovhannes) Bagramyan, Hero of the Soviet Union Admiral Ivan Isakov, Air Marshal Sergei Khudyakov (Armenak Khanferyants), Chief Marshal of armored troops, the Hero of the Soviet Union Amazasp Babajanyan are known to everyone.


Many Armenians, outstanding engineers and designers, worked selflessly in the rear and provided the army with the necessary military equipment. The most famous surname is Artem Mikoyan, twice Hero of Socialist Labor.


In total, eight Armenians were awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor for outstanding labor achievements during the Second World War.


There were 80 national formations in the Soviet Army during the war, including divisions that were completely Armenian or staffed largely by Armenians.


Thus, at the initiative of Archbishop Gevork Chorekchyan, the tank columns ‘David Sasunsky’ and ‘Hovhannes Bagramyan’ were created with the funds raised.


Armenians also formed:

51st Guards (76th Mountain Rifle Division), which took part in the fighting.

  • 261st Armenian Division
  • 390th Armenian Division

It took part in the defense of Kerch. As a result of heavy losses, the 390th of Armenian Division was disbanded. Many of its soldiers were sent to Sevastopol and took an active part in its defense.


408th Rifle Division

The division took part in heavy battles near Novorossiysk and Tuapse. Participating in the fighting from September to November 1942, it suffered heavy losses and was disbanded.


409th Rifle Division

For military successes, it was awarded the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and received the honorary name ‘Kirovograd-Bratislava’.


89th Rifle Division


And finally, the most famous division, formed in December 1941, passed the combat path from the Caucasus to Berlin.

In August 1943 it participated in the storming of Hitler’s impregnable ‘Blue Line’ on the Taman Peninsula. More than two thousand soldiers and division commanders were awarded combat awards. The Division Commander Nver Safaryan was awarded the rank of Major General. This division also participated in the liberation of Kerch and Sevastopol, for which it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and the Red Star.


The Sergeant of the Taman Division Unan Avetisyan repeated the feat of Alexander Matrosov on September 16, 1943. He was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

The division received its famous name ‘Tamanskaya’ after the liberation of Taman, by order of the Supreme Commander on October 9, 1943, and was also awarded the Orders of the Red Banner and the Red Star. In the future, the division took part in the liberation of the Crimea and reached Berlin.


Before the assault on Berlin, the division captured and held, despite the fierce attacks of the enemy, the line on the Oder River, which was dubbed the ‘Armenian bridgehead’.


After the capture of Berlin, at the walls of the Reichstag, Armenian soldiers, soldiers of the 89th division of General Safaryan, near the Reichstag with weapons in their hands, danced ‘Kochari’, which is reflected in the documentary chronicle.


The phenomenon of Chardakhlu village deserves special attention.


An amazing fact: there is no locality in the world that would give two marshals at once. But the Karabakh village of Chardakhlu gave Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Baghramyan and Chief Marshal of the Armored forces Amazasp Babajanyan. This is the only village of its kind, popularly nicknamed Marshal.


During the Great Patriotic War, 1,250 people (50% of the population) left Chardakhlu for the front, of which 452 died the death of the brave. Among them there were 2 marshals, 12 generals, 57 colonels, 199 people who became officers and 7 of them became Heroes of the Soviet Union. 853 mountaineers were awarded Soviet orders and medals.


This is a village with an interesting history, many generals of the tsarist army of Armenian origin came from this village.

The most famous lieutenant General of the Tsarist Russian army Arshak Artemyevich Ter-Gukasov


Alas, at the end of the 1980s, the Chardakhlins were forced to leave their homeland. In the Republic of Armenia, they founded the village of Zorakan (Զորական), which means Military.


Many Armenians fought in partisan formations created in the territory captured by the Germans.


In Ukraine, at the legendary commander of the partisan unit S. Kovpak, the Armenian detachment ‘Victory’ of Sergei Harutyunyan operated.


In the cavalry partisan brigade of General Naumov, the Mikoyan detachment, commanded by Aramais Hovhannisyan, fought.


It will be interesting to know that Zhora Harutyunyan and Maya Peglevanova were part of the ‘Young Guard’.


Henrikh Zakaryan, who fought in a partisan detachment in the Mogilev region, became the national hero of Belarus.


It is worth mentioning separately about the Armenians of the Diaspora.


Armenians of other countries also did not stand aside, but contributed to the victory over fascism. They did not only fight against Nazism in the Allied armies, but also provided the Soviet Army with material assistance.


In European countries, more than 80 thousand Armenians, both local and escaped from captivity, fought in the underground and partisan detachments.


Armenians fought in the ranks of the Resistance movement. Here fell the death of the brave X. Hakobyan, former Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR, N. Hovhannisyan – commander of the artillery of Marshal Rybalko’s tank army and others.


The sons and daughters of the Armenian people participated in the liberation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Austria from the yoke of fascism. A lot of them have received the highest awards from England, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, and other countries. Some were awarded the title of national heroes and remained in the memory of the people.


About 20 thousand Armenians fought against Nazism in the US armed forces. And 88 of them were awarded honorary awards by the US Congress. During the Second World War, Generals Sarkis Zardaryan, Hayk Shekedjian, Yervand Dervishyan, Major Kerk Krkor and others became world famous.


Everyone knows the French resistance, which included the Armenian National Front, and the names of its participants are known not only in France. There are many of them and each name is worth to mention, but it takes time and a separate article. Here I want to mention only one name, a name that is inscribed in the history of France with golden letters. Poet Misak Manushyan, a national hero of France, one of the leaders of the movement, was posthumously awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor. He and his girlfriend Luisa Aslanyan fell into the hands of the Gestapo and were executed. In 1978, a monument to Manushyan was erected near Paris. The words on his monument are carved: ‘Glory to the one who died for France to live’. One of the streets of Paris is also named after him.


An Armenian partisan regiment, commanded by Alexander Ghazaryan and Bartukh Petrosyan, fought here in France.

Khachik Dashtoyan, Mkrtich Dashtoyan and Gevorg Kolozyan fought in Italy and became national heroes.

Andranik Ghukasyan, Yervand Ghukasyan, Silvestro Kaleyan, Avetis Yarjyan and Marat Terteryan fought in Greece.


Hakob Paronian and Ermine Razgradlian fought in Bulgaria.

Arakel Sahakyan, Tsolak Afrikyan, Pargev Hakobyan fought in Yugoslavia.

Babken Seferyan died in Ethiopia.


Their real life and struggle are worthy of a script for a full-fledged feature film.


And the list goes on…


I’ll digress a little from the topic because I want to tell you about the sore point. I am a university teacher, sometimes I ask students questions about general erudition, and to my regret, only once I was told who General Karbyshev D.M. was, while we have the street in his honor in our city. And who among us knows about Senior Sergeant Nikolai Vladimirovich Sirotinin?


On July 17, 1941, the retreating Soviet troops, at the crossing near the village of Sokolnichi, left an anti-tank gun and two fighters. When the German column of tanks approached, several tanks and an armored vehicle were hit. After that, the Germans went on the defensive and began shooting at random, because they did not see the gun disguised in the grass. Since the combat mission was completed, the wounded, by this time, the commander decided to withdraw to the positions of the Soviet troops, but Sergeant Sirotinin refused and continued to fight. As a result of this battle, 11 tanks, 7 armored vehicles, 57 enemy soldiers and officers were destroyed. Serotinin destroyed the main part alone.


When the Germans understood that they had been fighting for three hours with one soldier, they buried him with all military honors. It is impossible to believe and no one believed it, until in the mid-50s Soviet journalists got the diary of an oberleutnant of the German troops, who described this period of time.


And what about us? We watch Hollywood action movies about fictional characters.