Revolutionary Females: Tamara Atamian-Nercessian

The first revolutionary females came from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. By the 1880’s, 120k of the 300k inhabitants were Armenians, 80k were Georgian, 70k were Russian and 30k were other. Armenians played a prominent role in the development of the arts, education, banking and political systems of the country. The revolutionary ideals from Russia trickled into the Georgian capital in those years, leading to the formation of “Narotnaya Volia” meaning “Will of the People.” The executive branch of the party was comprised of 6 people, out of which 3 were Armenian and 3 were Georgian. One of the Armenian members was the 18 year old Tamara Atamian. Between the San Stefano treaty and the idea of socialism in which all were deemed equal, patriotism took roots in the hearts of Armenians and the intellectuals began fanning the flames of hope for a better future.

The “Narotnaya Volia” became a revolutionary symbol for Armenians as well. Tamara, as an influential member of the party, began with educating the youth in the ways of revolution. Her understanding was that they would not only have to have close relations with the intellectuals of the country, but also with the common Armenians within the Ottoman Empire. Her work was dedicated to educating the common villagers about not simply existing unto death, but in making that life worth living by granting freedom to those oppressed. Tamara believed wholeheartedly in the necessity of armed struggle in the face of the lack of interest the world showed towards the plight of the Armenians. She became the leader in teaching military tactics and weaponry to the people.

Deciding that her education was not early enough for the leader of a revolutionary movement, she moved to Moscow to attend university. This decision in itself was extremely contrary to traditional practices, as it was ordinarily unseemly for a female to attend university, especially for an Armenian female to leave her home in order to continue schooling in another country. These traditional views did not hinder the headstrong but sweetly feminine young Tamara. Her confident and infectious personality had her finally accepted into the Moscow University in 1883. Here, she became engaged in the revolutionary ideals that the nationalists’ movement had begun to spread across Russia and the Caucasus, becoming a central figure before long.

Here she met Taveet Nercessian, the “iron-willed, energetic, responsible” revolutionary figure, the one who spread the idea of revolution within all Armenian quarters within the Caucasus, linking them all to Russia. Former acquaintances from Tbilisi, the two found in each other a partner and married. Tragically, however, Taveet was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the pair were forced to leave Moscow and settle in the Araratian Plains, hoping that the lighter climate would help him fight the disease. When this proved futile, they moved to the remote villages near Baku, hoping this might help somehow. Unfortunately, the once great figure died in his sick bed in 1888, with Tamara following after her own battle with tuberculosis sealed her end.

Though she died years before the inception of Tashnagtsoutyoun, young females driven with her ideals would join the ranks of the party and would stand by the men, fighting for the rights and freedoms of their people.

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