Leonid Azgaldyan: This is Armenia and that is It
"In the hour of serious danger threatening the existence of the nation, only the strong remain in the field. At this time people look for the strongest among the strong and lay their destiny in his hands. Thuswise comes to the world the true leader". These lines written back in 1930’s by Garegin Nzhdeh perfectly describe Leonid Azgaldyan, a person, whose life journey proves that in fateful times, when the sovereignty of the state is menaced, the victory is possible only if there is a self-sacrificing and a strong leader capable of uniting people and fight the enemy.
Leonid Azgaldyan is a hero of Artsakh war, organizer and command officer of "Liberation Army" of Artsakh.
Since the first days Leonid was involved in the movement and struggle for the independence of Artsakh. Although he became one of the leaders and inspirers of this struggle, he never joined any party, any political, ideological or other movements.
Azgaldyan preferred actions over words and discussions. Unlike others he did not waste his time on pointless meetings and unfounded speeches. He did his utmost for the sake of one constructive goal: the struggle for the liberation of homeland.
"I want to point out: the nation that loses Artsakh will be soundly defeated, it does not matter, whether the Armenians or the Turks. Hence, it is not only a matter of small piece of land, here and now very important issues are being tackled" – said Leonid.
Less words, more actions in the name of Armenia: a silent guide to act for Azgaldyan and his fellow soldiers. His simple speech free of hollow talks and pompous epithets, nevertheless wielded magical power of conviction. "This is Armenia and that it’s it" – he said, and this simple phrase contained everything he believed in, his philosophy of life, his only reason of emotional upheaval and anxiety.
Nobody expected that once an uncommunicative and humble student physicist would choose for himself this path of life. Being the son of high-rank official, he could become one of the members of the so-called "gilded youth" in Soviet Armenia, lead a carefree life and never worry about his future. However, Leonid Azgaldyan’s path was different.
The hero of the Artsakh war was born in 1942 in Tbilisi to an Armenian family. Later his family moved to Yerevan, where he spent his school years. With his brilliant knowledge he was enrolled into the faculty of physics, Moscow State University after Lomonosov.
The studentship ends with tragic news: his mother died and Leonid decided to return to Yerevan. This decision was supported by one more event: he had strained relations with the university administration, because together with his friends Leonid organized a mourning rally dedicated to the memory of genocide victims. This was a second to none impudence in the 1960’s. Consequently, he was under the spotlight of the corresponding state security apparatus of the USSR.
The professional talent of the young physicist provides him valuable service during the Artsakh war. Pragmatic Leonid clearly realized: the struggle will inevitably be carried over to the battleground from the squares and bureaucratic offices; the Soviet government will never hand over Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region to Armenia.
There were hectic times: the Soviet Union collapsed and Azerbaijan organized systematic massacres of Armenian population in an act of protest of Artsakh movement. The presentiment of the imminent war forced Leonid to prepare seriously for military operations. His house was turned into a real workshop. Together with his scientist friends he designed and prepared parts for assault rifles and explosives and then tested them outside the city. Parallel to that Leonid studied military art in theory to have at least a superficial knowledge in this sphere.
Whilst the mass media and people were attending meeting and speeches, Leonid was waiting for the worst: the war. He was convincing the Armenian intellectuals to put aside the empty talks and lead the popular struggle, urged the people to join his activities. To his surprise, there were only few responses. Later on he repeated many times: "The intellectuals of our nation are mainly people with low spirits". It was not accusing others but rather a self-criticism, selfless confession of a person, who was bitterly distressed from indifference and cowardice around him.
Not many people responded to Leonid’s appeal, but they were the best ones: committed, strong-willed and great hearted people; hearty few, who Leonid could proudly call up for military service. He had the ability to attract absolutely different people to himself who later on served for one sole purpose: they believed and fought for the reunification of Artsakh and Armenia.
In February 1990 together with his friend Leonid Azgaldyan founded a military-political organization "the Army of Independence". Leonid realized that a group of armed people is not a troop, all the more so, not an army. To have the right to be called so, it is needed to form a coherent army system, battle-ready troops, adhere to strict discipline, be familiar with the subtleties of military art and most important of all, and be committed to the idea.
As the leader, the solution of this problem lay on the shoulders of Leonid. Despite the fact that he himself still needed more practice and experience, the discipline elaborated by him gave its results. The "Army of Independence" made tangible gains in the first battles.
In June, 1991 Leonid founded a new military organization "Liberation Army". It provided a new quality among all the Armenian movements and detached units during the Artsakh war. During the entire period of struggle and fighting, the organization undertook one of the main roles. Later on the "Liberation Army” will provide us with many high-ranking officers, colonels, generals of the regular Armenian army who consider Azgaldyan as their godfather, leader and teacher.
Leonid recruited new members into his army guided by not quantity but quality requiring adhering to strict discipline. So, for example it was strictly forbidden to smoke or use alcohol in his troops. Many people could not resist. He did not fuss about with these soldiers and asked them to join other troops where the discipline was lacking. It is amazing but Leonid who before the Artsakh war had no clue about the army life and military charter could found an army organization where every single detail was taken into consideration.
There are still legends being told around about the discipline in the "Liberation Army", but people who were honored to serve with Azgaldyan, assure that nothing is made up. Even the breaks were accompanied by exercises and trainings, and he was the first one to do them, leading by example and supporting with the following words: "more sweat – less blood".
His soldiers were able to perform any task quickly, accurately and above all with minimum human losses. "The soldiers are ready to sacrifice their lives, the most precious thing that we have, – said Leonid – by no means shall anyone practice upon their death".
27 liberated villages, many big and small battles, and not a single defeat; nobody could boast with such results. But Leonid Azgaldyan, on the contrary, was always displeased with the results, soldiers and most of all displeased with himself. He repeated that all the wins can be next to none because the regular army, which we do not have, must serve as a support for them. He called his small troops an army, although he did not have even Lieutenant Shoulder loop.
Leonid Azgaldyan died in 1992, without receiving a military rank. He was killed when he was on the front lines as usual. Owing to his courage and self-sacrifice Leonid Azgaldyan was sincerely respected and loved by his fellow soldiers and all those who knew him personally or read about him.
Unfortunately the wide Armenian audience knows very little about Leonid Azgaldyan and the state has not given him a title of national hero of the RA until now. But the importance of titular rewards fades in comparison to the people’s recognition: good news is that today more young people learn about him, patriotic gatherings and concerts of remembrance are being organized, and in the Russian-Armenian university a lecture hall was opened after Leonid Azgaldyan: the true patriot, intellectual and defender of the country.
"Don't believe in my death, I will die under the walls of Istanbul". Azgaldyan's this phrase shows that he was not only a great strategist, a physicist, a professor, a commander and a soldier but also a philosopher of national idea. He had profound visions of his mission and the armenian mission as a whole.