Aghasi Khanjian

Aghasi Ghevondi Khanjyan (Armenian: Աղասի Ղևոնդի Խանջյան; Russian: Агаси Гевондович Ханджян, Agasi Gevondovich Khandzhyan) (January 30, 1901 – July 6, 1936) was First Secretary of the Communist Party of Armenia from May 1930 to July 1936.[1]

Aghasi Khanjyan
Aghasi Khanjian 1934.jpg
Khanjyan in 1934
First Secretary of the
Communist Party of Armenia
In office
May 1930 – 6 July 1936
Preceded byHaykaz Kostanyan
Succeeded byAmatuni Vartapetyan
Personal details
BornJanuary 30, 1901
Van, Ottoman Empire
DiedJuly 6, 1936(1936-07-06) (aged 35)
Tiflis, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyRussian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (1919–1936)


Khanjyan was born in the city of Van, Ottoman Empire (today eastern Turkey).[2] With the onslaught of the Armenian Genocide, his family emigrated from the city in 1915 and settled in Russian Armenia.[1][3] In 1917–19, he was one of the organizers of Spartak, the Marxist students' union of Armenia. He later served as the secretary of the Armenian Bolshevik underground committee.[3]

Nestor Lakoba, Nikita Khrushchev, Lavrenti Beria and Aghasi Khanjyan at the opening of the Moscow Metro in 1936, the same year Khanjyan and Lakoba were killed on Beria's orders. In 1953, Khrushchev had Beria executed.

In September 1919, Khanjyan was elected to the Transcaucasian regional committee of Komsomol. He enrolled in Sverdlov University in 1921. After graduating, he worked as a party official in Leningrad, where he supported Joseph Stalin against the Lneingrad party boss, Grigory Zinoviev. He returned to Armenia in April 1928, and served as a secretary of the Armenian Communist Party in 1928-29, first secretary of the Yerevan City Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, March 1929-May 1930; and in May 1930, First Secretary of the Armenian Communist Party.[3]

Khanjyan took over the leadership of the Armenian party at a time when the peasants were being forced to give up their land and were being driven onto collective farms, on instructions in Moscow. This provoked widespread resistance. The Soviet press revealed at the time that the communists lost control of parts of Armenia, which were in rebel hands for several weeks in March and April 1920.[4] Under Khanjyan, the process was completed without any reports of armed clashs between rebels and the security services. He proved to be a charismatic Soviet politician and was very popular among the Armenian populace.[1] He was a friend and supporter of many Armenian intellectuals, including Yeghishe Charents (who dedicated a poem to him), Axel Bakunts and Gurgen Mahari.[3] Khanjyan also tried unsuccessfully to have Moscow annex Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.[5]


Khanjian was arrested in 1936 and died while being interrogated.[6] Ronald Grigor Suny describes the circumstances of his death as follows:

But by the mid-1930s Khanjyan had come into conflict with the most powerful party leader in Transcaucasia, Lavrenti Beria, a Georgian close to Stalin.

Early in July 1936 Khanjyan was called to Tiflis. Suddenly and unexpectedly it was announced that the Armenian party chief had committed suicide.[2] Though the circumstances of his death are murky, it is believed that Beria had ordered Khanjyan's death to remove a threat to his own monopoly of power.[7]

In December 1936, the USSR's most prominent Armenian politician, Anastas Mikoyan, told the Central Committee that Khanjian had killed himself because "he didn't want to be a witness to his own universal shame". Stalin backed him up,[8] but a "much more plausible story", according to the Russian historian Roy Medvedev, is the one that Alexander Shelepin, Chairman of the KGB, told the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party in 1961 - that Beria shot Khanjian dead, and put two forged suicide notes in his pocket.[9]

Along with an entire generation of intellectual Armenian communist leaders (such as Vagarshak Ter-Vaganyan), Khanjyan was denounced as an enemy of the people during the Great Purge.[1]

Khanjyan was officially rehabilitated after the death of Joseph Stalin.

Aghasi Khanjyan's commemorative plaque in Yerevan

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Zev Katz, Rosemarie Rogers, Frederic Harned. Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities. New York: Free Press, 1975, pp. 146-47.
  2. ^ a b Suny 1993, p. 156.
  3. ^ a b c d (in Russian) Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Aghasi Khanjian[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Conquest, Robert (1988). The Harvest of Sorrow, Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine. London: Arrow. p. 156. ISBN 0 09 956960 4.
  5. ^ Armenian History: History of Artsakh, Part 2[permanent dead link], Yuri Babayan
  6. ^ Khronos biography.
  7. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny, "Soviet Armenia", The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. New York: St Martin's Press, 1997, p. 362.
  8. ^ J.Arch Getty, and Oleg V.Naumov (1999). Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939. New Haven: Yale U.P. p. 322. ISBN 0-300-07772-6.
  9. ^ Medvedev, Roy (1976). Let History Judge, The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism. Nottingham: Spokesman. pp. 367–68.