Armos With Armor
Spending most of its thousands of years of history landlocked and under the control of whoever happens to building an empire at any given time, and still being able to resist being assimilated or forced to convert to another religion, not to mention resisting massacres and a genocide, had to take some amount of military prowess, and this was certainly the case with Armenia.
Most early mentions of the Armenian military come from Assyrian records where they (as the empire of Urartu) were often cast as Exclusively Evil invaders from the North. They used their position in the Anatolian Highlands to their advantage, Assyria was never able to fully conquer Urartu, and Urartu only finally succumbed to hordes of Sythians and Cimmerians attacking from the north at the exact same time Assyria did, when the two empires failed at creating an Enemy Mine. However, what survived of Urartu eventually became what we know as Armenia today. At the height of it's power in the First Century BC, the Armenian Empire spread over parts of what is today the Caucasus, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. After its expansion under the leadership of King Tigran the Great, it confronted the Republic of Rome and conquered a fairly sizable chunk of the entire Middle East. Although only a few generations after Tigran's reign it briefly lost its independence (becoming a Roman province, and later a Persian one), it reaffirmed itself in the region with the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia. From then on, Romans and Persians both tried to create close relations with the Armenians.
Although the Arsacid dynasty was of Iranian origin, it severed its relations with Persia when the rival Sassanid dynasty took over, and further when Armenia accepted Christianity in 301. While under Persian control, in 451, the battle of Vartanantz was fought by Armenians, led by Vartan Mamikonian, against the Persians in order to resist forced conversion to Zoroastrianism (the first of many battles Armenia would have to fight because their neighbors didn't like their religion). Although a military defeat, the Persians afterwards allowed the Armenians to freely practice Christianity, so it was really more of a moral victory.
Later on during the Middle Ages the Cilcian Armenians became key players in The Crusades, of course on the side of the Christian European crusaders. The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia joined European forces in invading the Holy Land during this time.
However, Armenia's independence came to an end for hundreds of years once the Seljuk Turks invaded from Central Asia in the 1100's and essentially (and violently) claimed Anatolia as their own. In the 1300's Armenia was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, and later divided between the Ottomans and Imperial Russia after the Russo-Turkish War. The Armenians were essentially the Ottoman Empire's most obedient minority for most of its history. Trouble began after the Ottoman Empire began to fall apart in the 19th century. Armenians along with the empire's other Christian populations would become scapegoats for the empire's growing troubles, due also in part to revolutionary groups such as the Dashnak Party pushing for Armenian independence, and subjected to government-condoned massacres in the 1890's. Armenians did not take this lying down however, and in places such as the City of Zeitun were able to put up a resistance, defeating the Turkish army with simple pistols and rifles against overwhealming odds until the intervention of European powers mediated the conflict. These massacres, however, proved to be merely a test run for the atrocities that were to come.
During the First World War, Armenians fought on both sides of the conflict as the Ottoman Empire made an ill-fated attempt to invade Russia in the winter, because Armenians happened to also be living on the Russian side. Though there were a number of Armenians working as spies for the Russians, ironically there were a higher number of Turkish people working as spies too, and besides that the blundering military tactics of General Enver Pasha did more to foil the Turkish efforts than anything else. But the Turkish government, now under the control of the Young Turks, accused all of its Armenian civilians of treason after their defeat (when really they had just been waiting for a good enough excuse to start the genocide since the 1800's), and thus in 1915 the events of the Armenian Genocide unfolded as Turkey sought to expel all Armenians from its borders. Because the Ottoman Empire had conveniently disarmed its minorites and drafted most of their able-bodied men into its army (only to be slaughtered), resistance to the genocide was few and far between. The citizens of Van, however, were able to pull off a resistance similar to the earlier Zeitun Resistance, holding off the Turkish army with little more than pistols and rifles using recycled bullets. Despite being desparately outnumbered, they were able to hold the Turkish siege back long enough for the Russian army to liberate the city. A similar resistance happened at the mountain of Musa Dagh, where the Armenians resisted for 53 days before French Warships rescued the citizens and brought them to Egypt.
After World War I Armenia was independent for a brief period once they defeated Turkey in the Battle of Sadarapat (with its borders drawn by none other than Woodrow Wilson...though it must be said he only wanted to help the Armenians because they were mostly Christian). In that battle, Turkey attempted to finish the Armenian nation off once and for all (and possibly complete the Armenian Genocide) by moving into the city of Yerevan, but were thankfully defeated by an army of practically any Armenian that could carry a gun, and forced to retreat. But after being weakened by repeated massacres, disease and famine, and years of nonstop wars with Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, the country was finally conquered and divided between Turkey and the newly-formed Soviet Union, where it was given the boundaries it holds today. Thousands of Armenians would fight on the Soviet side in the Great Patriotic War years later, with many of its citizens being drafted (see also Reds with Rockets since Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union at the time).
When the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia finally regained its independence, Armenia went to war with Azerbaijan over the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh (itself given to the Azerbaijani SSR by Stalin when dividing up the Caucasian SSR into the borders that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan hold today), whose citizens had chosen to secede from Azerbaijan and declare independence. This war was essentially a continuation of the post-WWI battles Armenia and Azerbaijan had fought prior to being absorbed by the USSR, which did nothing but put the conflict on pause, in a sense. There were massacres on both sides of the conflict, sadly, and the war became fueled by Gray and Grey Morality as it spiraled out of control. Russia and Turkey avoided becoming directly involved for fear of sparking a much larger Christian-Muslim conflict, though Turkey's sympathies remained towards Azerbaijan. Armenia earned several victories, of note being the capture of Shushi, when a cease-fire was declared in 1994, leaving the two countries in a very uneasy truce, with Armenian troops still occupying the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh to this day. The frozen conflict could boil over into another war at any given time. And in light of recent developments (Azerbaijan becoming increasingly impatient and violating the cease-fire), war could indeed be on the horizon, if the Azeris have their way. There have been peace talks mediated by Russia, but since neither side wants to concede anything (not to mention the conspicuous absence of any representative from Artsakh at these meetings), the talks have so far gone nowhere.
Armenia today has a very effective and modernized military, consisting of an army and an air force (though, being located where it is, no navy), and receives aid from Russia and Greece among other allies. Armenia continues to build up it's army due to constant threat from Azerbaijan, but it's overall approach since the ceasefire has been a peaceful one, akin to Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy. Recently Russia has increased its military presence in Armenia, signing an agreement which stipulated that Russian troops will be stationed there until at least 2044. They also stipulated that they would remain neutral if Azerbaijan started another war with Armenia, but they would still provide military equipment to Armenia. One can hope that cooler heads will prevail.
In all, since the Armenian-Parthian War of 87-85 BC the Armenian military has a 19-7 win/loss record when it comes to battles.
Not to be confused with a different type of armored Armos entirely from a certain video game series.
- Arch Enemy - Turkey, and Azerbaijan.
- Badass Army - Back in the old days when they even gave Ancient Rome a run for its money, though the modern army has certainly had its moments.
- Child Soldiers - Sadly occured during most of the World War I resistance, if only because there simply weren't enough adult men left to defend against the Ottomans. In Van for example troops of Boy Scouts were deployed, though usually their job was to tend to the wounded, collect used bullets and put out fires caused by bombs going off.
- David Versus Goliath
- Fighting For a Homeland - Fighting to keep a homeland more often than not. Indeed, it was said by historian Christopher J. Walker that had the Armenians not won the Battle of Sardarapat during the Armenian-Turkish War (which won Armenia's independence for a brief period), the word 'Armenia' might today only be an antique geographical term.
- Folk Hero - Tigran the Great and St. Vartan Mamikonian, Doomed Moral Victor as he was.
- La Résistance - In late Ottoman times. Though contrary to the Turkish version of history, at first they just wanted civil rights and a degree of autonomy as Christians faced growing discrimination in the Ottoman Empire, later they just didn't want to be slaughtered. It should be stressed that what happened in Van and Musa Dagh was a resistance, not a rebellion, and these are about the only two cases where the Armenians weren't completely slaughtered or deported into the desert. The subject still causes of Internet Backdraft anywhere the World War I years of the Ottoman Empire are discussed.
- Last Stand - The Battle of Sadarapat. Van and Musa Dagh probably also count in their own way.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits - In Van they held back the Turkish army with basically nothing more than a few guns, a couple hundred men, and some homemade bullets made of used Turkish bullets that had been gathered by Boy Scouts and recast by local jewelers. And their forces were made up of either men who dodged the draft or men who were too old or out of shape to be drafted to begin with, and troops of Boy Scouts.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers - Again, during the genocide.
- Worthy Opponent: Even though Persia defeated Vartan's army, they saw the Armenians as worthy opponents and let them keep their religion and culture after defeating them.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters - A lot of genocide deniers today like to throw the term 'terrorist' around a lot when speaking of the self defense of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. There certainly were radicals pushing for Armenian independence as well such as the Dashnak, but it's not as if they didn't have a good enough reason for wanting independence, and they didn't represent the majority of Armenians at the time. Not that the Ottoman Turks cared.
The Armenian Military in fiction
- Ararat—Features a few scenes of the Van Resistance in it's movie within a movie.
- "Ara the Handsome"—Possibly based on the military of Armenia's predecessor, Urartu.
- The Daredevils of Sassoun—An Ancient Armenian epic.
- East of Byzantium -- A soon to be made film about Vartan Mamikonian's war with the Persians.
- The Forty Days of Musa Dagh—A novel based on the Musa Dagh Resistance.