General Silikyan’s Call to Arms, 1918

Movses Silikyan (1862-1937) was an Armenian general of Udi origin who led the victorious defensive action at Sartarabad, on May 21-29, 1918. He wrote a rousing message to rally people to action. After years of slaughter by the Ottoman Empire’s hand, there was a final push against survivors in the eastern reaches of the old Armenian heartland. Silikyan aimed to defend that remnant against what was believed, by many, to be the decisive battle: had the Ottoman Forces won, it was quite likely that they’d have steamrolled over the rest of the new Republic of Armenia and destroyed everything and everyone in their way.

Below is Silikyan’s message, translated by me several years ago. The patriarchal tone of this document is obvious and problematic, but the ultimate message, to “rise onward to work, to sacred battle,” should be relatable to any Armenian of any gender today.

In the homeland’s hour of need and battle for survival, it seems timely to share this.

We have fought. We still fight.


ARMENIANS! HURRY TO SAVE YOUR HOMELAND!

The moment has come when every Armenian man, forgetting themselves, in the name of the great cause, must put to work his last measure of energy to strike at the enemy: in the name of saving the homeland and protecting his wife and daughters’ honor.

We did not want to fight, in the name of peace and reconciliation we were ready to come forward and offer all manner of sacrifices, but our inhuman enemy is moving ahead with his planned path. That, by all appearances, is to enslave us, but in reality it’s to exterminate our tortured people. So because we are to be exterminated, is it not good to die with weapon in hand, defending ourselves? Perhaps by fighting, we might be able to secure the right to go on living.

That we are able to defend was demonstrated by the last few battles on our front, where numerically superior enemy forces were put to flight before our army’s heroic attack.

One final effort is necessary, and the enemy will be evicted from our land’s borders, where our fathers and forefathers have worked with blood and sweat for long years, only to secure a simple means to their daily sustenance.

Armenian men! It is no time to dally. All, even to those over fifty, must go under arms. I demand that all of you appear with your weapons and ammunition for the defense of the homeland.

Armenian women! Remember the delicate noblewomen of the fifth century,  who encouraged their husbands to the great work during the days of the immortal Vartan’s wars. Follow their example if you do not wish your honor to be trampled underfoot. Encourage your husbands and denounce those cowards, who for various excuses aim to avoid going to the front. Gather military equipment, bread, clothing and other materiel for them.

I am deeply convinced that my call must not go unheeded: that in two or three days there must be formed such a powerful army, that it will succeed in evicting the enemy from our homeland’s borders and secure the continued existence of the Armenian people.

In the name of the much-tortured Armenian people’s continued physical existence,
In the name of the truth that has been trampled underfoot,

Arise! Onward to work, to sacred battle! All men who bear arms are required to report to General Bezhanbeg in Yerevan, and all military materiel are to be handed over to the local National Councils.

General Movses Silikyan


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