Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Monte Melkonian

This morning I finished a biography of Monte Melkonian, My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia by Markar Melkonian, his older brother. Melkonian (1957-1993) was born and raised in California in the 1960's to parents of Armenian descent. As college student he quickly became a radical supporter of Armenian independence. After graduation (as an archaeologist) Monte traveled to Beirut. In Beirut he hooked up with defenders of an Armenian neighborhood and later became a leader in the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, a terrorist group. Monte participated in several assassinations of Turkish diplomats as well as several bombings in Europe. Eventually he was caught and imprisoned in France. In 1989 he was released and made his way to Soviet Armenia. In Armenia he became involved in the Karabakh independence movement. Despite his dogmatism and foreign birth he became a successful Lieutenant Colonel in the Armenian forces. Upon his death in 1993 and afterwards he became a national hero.

After reading Thomas de Waal's excellent general overview of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Black Garden, I was looking for a more intimate and personal account of the conflict. This book was just what I was looking for. The author is at times a bit overly apologetic of his brother's terrorism, but that aside I really enjoyed the book. Heck! Now I know a bit of what it feels like to have your estranged brother become a terrorist and than sort of redeem himself by becoming a national hero in some far off country. Highly recommended.

August, 1993 Monte "Avo" Melonian

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