After twenty-three years spent in Paris, Gabriel Bagradian returns with his wife and child to his ancestral village of Yoghonoluk. He goes back to Turkey to settle the affairs of his dying brother, and after his brother’s death, he stays on in the village to await the end of European hostilities.
One Sunday, his son’s tutor tells him that officials came through the village collecting all passports. To learn what happened, Bagradian saddles a horse and starts for Antioch. There the kaimakam, or governor, gives only evasive answers about the passport incident. In a Turkish bath, Bagradian hears that the Turkish war minister ordered all Armenians disarmed and given menial work. From his Muslim friend Agha Rifaat Bereket, Bagradian learns that rich and prominent Armenians will soon be persecuted.
Bagradian is worried. On his return to Yoghonoluk, he begins to collect data on the number of men of fighting age in the vicinity. Ter Haigasun, the Gregorian priest, tells him one day that there was a mass arrest in Antioch. Bagradian begins a survey of Musa Dagh, a mountain that lies between the Armenian villages and the Mediterranean Sea. After having maps drawn of the terrain, Bagradian knows that the plateau with its natural fortifications offer a refuge for his people.
One day, a friendly Turkish policeman confides to Bagradian that in three days the village will be ordered to prepare for its trip into exile. Bagradian calls a meeting of the people. The Protestant pastor, Nokhudian, and his congregation vote to accept banishment, the rest of the population to defend Musa Dagh. Ter Haigasun is elected leader. The next morning, the young men under Bagradian’s direction begin the construction of trenches and other defenses on Musa Dagh, and at night the people carry provisions up the mountain. Unfortunately there are not enough rifles to go around and very little ammunition, but the men of the village are augmented by army deserters who drift in from the desert. Eventually, there are sixty armed men in the community. On the third day, the convoy escort arrives. The village pretends to busy itself with preparations for the trip, but that night everyone but Pastor Nokhudian’s flock secretly departs for Musa Dagh.
It takes five days for the Turks to discover Bagradian’s mountain retreat, for the woods are so thick and the trenches dug so cleverly that the encampment is not visible from below. During that time the trenches are completed, posts assigned, and patterns for daily living established. Everyone is given a task, and the food of the community is held in common so that all might be treated fairly.
The first sortie ends in a victory for the holders of Musa Dagh. The four hundred regulars and gendarmes who attack without even seeking cover are quickly routed, and substantial booty of badly needed ammunition, boots, and uniforms is...
(The entire section is 1181 words.)