The French Cultural Center in Boston will host a public reception on April 4 to mark the official opening of an exhibit about the Armenian Legion in World War I. Developed by the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) in Watertown, this traveling exhibit offers a glimpse into the formation, training, military action and postwar activities of the Armenian Legion volunteers, who fought with the Allies to victory in the Middle East during the Great War, and risked all in defense of human rights, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator reports.
The story of the Armenian Legion forms a chapter in the long history of relations between the French and Armenian peoples. The Legion was formed during the darkest days of WWI, when the Allies (France, England and Russia) were deadlocked in a military stalemate on both the European and Middle Eastern fronts against the combined forces of Germany, Austria and Turkey. Leaders of the Armenian Diaspora determined to raise a volunteer fighting force to support the Allies. In October 1916, an agreement was reached in London between the Armenian representative Boghos Nubar Pasha and the governments of France and Great Britain to form an Armenian Legion, made up of volunteers who were to be organized, trained and led by French officers.
Consisting of a force of more than 4,000 Armenians from all parts of the world, the Legionnaires were trained in Cyprus and then joined the Allied forces on the Palestine front, under the overall command of the British General Edmund Allenby. Allenby’s brilliant military strategy soon forced Turkey to withdraw from the war. The Armenian Legion served as the advance guard as the Allied forces moved into the Cilician region of Turkey, occupying Adana, Aintab, Marash and Urfa, and other centers. Political conditions following the Great War impelled the Allies to withdraw their forces from Turkish territory and the Legion was disbanded.
The story of the Armenian Legion, told in this exhibit through photographs and narratives, reflects the community’s attempts to come to grips with the destruction and devastation following the Armenian Genocide. It also represents the successful efforts of Armenians from different social, economic and political backgrounds to work together for a common cause.
ALMA’s traveling exhibit about the Armenian Legion has been exhibited in several venues, from California State University, Fresno, to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Whitinsville (MA) Town Hall. The exhibit will be on display from April 3 through May 1.