Monte Melkonian is the most celebrated Armenian commander and a National Hero of the Republic of Armenia. He had a great contribution in liberating a part of the historic Armenian homeland, Artsakh.
Every single person has his own priorities and goals in life. Agree or disagree, the reality is, the overwhelming majority of people are concentrated on their personal achievements (family, career).
Only rare individuals are born to fight for justice, equality and honesty!
Rare individuals are willing to make a difference in people’s life!
Rare individuals are born to be heroes!
In the history of Armenia one of such “rare individuals” is undoubtedly Monte Melkonian, a scholar who could have a great future ahead of himself as an archeologist and lead a peaceful life in the U.S. But Monte decided to change his pen with sword, sacrificing his life to make Armenia united.
In this article, we are going to learn the most interesting details of Monte’s biography and his most inspiring quotes about patriotism and homeland.
Monte Melkonian – National Hero of Armenia and Artsakh
Monte Melkonian is an Armenian nationalist and a revolutionary socialist who is revered in Armenia as a national hero of our times.
Monte, who devoted his entire life to Armenia, did not know much about his origin and homeland as a child.
Born and raised in California, Monte hardly spoke Armenian and was not very connected to his identity.
His parents rarely talked about their Armenian roots, often referring to the place of their ancestors as the “old country”.
So, Monte considered himself an American until the time when one day his teacher asked where he was from. Without hesitation Monte answered he was from California. Dissatisfied with his answer, the teacher asked, “Where do your ancestors come from?”
This very question pushed Monte to find out more about his “old country”. Besides, when Monte was still a child, the Melkonians visited some villages in Western Armenia (present-day Turkey) where their ancestors used to live, but because of Genocide were either massacred or had to leave their homes.
Several years later, Monte confessed that his life entirely changed after that visit. He saw the place that had been lost. The time was ripe to get everything back.
So, Monte was determined to begin his lifelong struggle for the Armenian Cause.
What is ASALA and How Monte Melkonian Got Involved?
It is practically impossible to write an article about Monte Melkonian’s biography and not to speak about his involvement in the activities of ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia).
Now you may probably surf the internet to find out what ASALA is.
After evaluating the information available on the internet, you may think ASALA is a criminal organization? THINK AGAIN!
Surely NO, you may answer especially in case you find out more about Armenian history. You will also understand that this is the case when the end really justifies the means.
Monte Melkonian in ASALA
Now let’s come back to Monte.
In the spring of 1980, Monte became a member of Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia.
For the next three years he was an ASALA militant and contributor to the group’s journal, “Hayastan” (Armenia).
Monte ended up spending three years in a French prison for possession of weapons, electronic explosive devices and three forged passports.
After spending some years behind the bars, in 1989 Monte Melkonian was released.
Monte Melkonian’s Activities in Iran and Lebanon
After graduating from U.C. Berkeley in the spring of 1978, Monte traveled to Iran, where he taught English.
Teaching, however, was not the only activity Monte was involved in. He participated in the movement to overthrow the Shah as well.
He helped to organize a teachers’ strike at his school in Tehran, and was in the vicinity of Jaleh Square when the Shah’s troops opened fire on protesters, killing and injuring many.
In 1978, Monte made his way to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, to participate in the defense of the Armenian quarter against the right-wing Phalange forces.
Monte was affiliated with the Hunchakian socialist party and was a permanent member of the militia’s bases in Bourj Hamoud, Western Beirut, Antelias, Eastern Beirut and other regions for almost two years.
During this period, he participated in several street battles against rightist forces. He also began working behind the lines in Phalangist controlled territory, on behalf of the “Leftist and Arab” Lebanese National Movement.
In an article titled “Imperialism in the New World Order” he also declared his support for socialist movements in Palestine, South Africa, Central America and elsewhere.
No matter what country, the fight for justice, self-determination and equality was at the heart of Monte’s concerns.
Heroic Acts in Nagorno-Karabakh War
In 1990, when many were leaving, Monte Melkonian came to Armenia. He saw that Armenia was facing a lot of economic and political challenges. The war in Nagorno-Karabakh made the situation even worse.
Under these circumstances, it quickly became clear to Monte that the Soviet Union had no future and the coming years would be perilous ones for the Armenian nation.
He believed that, if Azeri forces succeeded in deporting Armenians from Karabakh, they would advance on Zangezur and other regions of Armenia.
Thus, the fate of Karabakh was crucial for the long-term security of the entire Armenian nation.
In 1991, Monte traveled to Shahumian region (north of Karabakh), where he fought for three months.
In 1992, Melkonyan arrived in Martuni as the regional commander. Due to Monte, civilians started feeling more secure, as Azeri armies were pushed back and were finding it increasingly difficult to shell Martuni’s residential areas.
In April 1993, Melkonian was one of the chief military strategists who planned and led the operation to fight Azeri fighter. Armenian forces captured the region of Kalbajar of Azerbaijan in four days of heavy fighting, sustaining far fewer fatalities than the enemy.
Death of the Hero Monte Melkonian
The most charismatic Armenian commander during the Nagorno-Karabakh War was killed in the abandoned village of Merzili in the early afternoon of June 12, 1993 during the Battle of Aghdam.
Monte was buried with full military honors on June 19, 1993 on top of the hill at the Yerablur Veterans Cemetery in Yerevan, though the citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh were a bit disappointed. They thought their hero should have been buried in Nagorno-Karabakh.
For his merits to the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh Monte Melkonian was awarded the highest title of the “Hero of Artsakh”, the “National Hero of the Republic of Armenia”, including the Military Cross, First Degree and the Golden Eagle medal.
Monte Melkonian Became a Role Model for Armenian Youth
Monte Melkonian is still glorified as a brilliant commander, an exceptional soldier and a charismatic leader in Armenia and Armenian Diaspora.
However, he remained in history and in the hearts of people first of all thanks to his honesty and fairness.
Monte was an exceptional hero who devoted his entire life to his homeland even forgetting about his private life.
Though Monte had a girlfriend, he said he doesn’t have time to start a family.
Monte Melkonian married his long-time girlfriend Seda Kebranian at the Geghard monastery in Armenia, in August, 1991.
The photos of these incredibly beautiful couple, filled with love and devotion, still inspire the Armenian youth.
All these facts, quotes and opinions come to prove that though Monte is gone, the memory of him will always be alive.
Interesting Facts to Know about Monte Melkonian
- People who knew Monte personally, called him Avo. Later eveyone started calling him Avo
- An important detail that you should learn from Monte’s biography is that after graduating college, Monte Melkonian was accepted into the archaeology graduate program at the University of Oxford. However, for the sake of homeland, the future hero willingly missed the opportunity that comes once in a lifetime
- Monte spent seven years in Lebanon where he started to speak Armenian, a language that was unfamiliar to him before
- Melkonian was also fluent in Spanish, French and Japanese. He also knew Arabic, Italian, Turkish and some Persian
- Monte was a person of great integrity and discipline. He didn’t smoke or drink, and neither allowed his soldiers to drink
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