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Yerkrapah logo.png
ActiveJuly 1993[1]—present
Country Armenia
Motto(s)Defenders of the Land
EngagementsFirst Nagorno-Karabakh War
Four-Day War[3]
Second Nagorno-Karabakh War[4]
Sasun Mikayelyan
Vazgen Sargsyan
Manvel Grigoryan

Yerkrapah Volunteer Union (Armenian: «Երկրապահ» կամավորական միություն, ԵԿՄ «Yerkrapah» kamavorakan miut'yun, YeKM) or Yerkrapah Union of Veterans, meaning Defenders of the Land, is an Armenian non-governmental group that consisted of 6,000 veterans of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, formed by Vazgen Sargsyan.[5] The Yerkrapah is a large and influential veteran group.[6] The Yerkrapah Union was actively involved in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, although after the death of Sargsyan, Yerkrapah's influence in Armenian politics began to decline.[7] Yerkrapah had incorporated between 5,000 and 30,000 veterans.[2] According to Thomas de Waal, after 1994 "the veterans' group Yerkrapah became the most powerful organization in the country."[8]

Military operations[edit]

Yerkrapah serves as part the reserve of the army.[9] It sent thousands of armed volunteers fight during the April War of 2016,[3] as well as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020.[4]

Political involvement[edit]

By 1998, the Yerkrapah parliamentary faction, led by Vazgen Sargsyan as "the power behind the throne",[10] was the largest faction in the National Assembly (it had 69 members).[11][12] The faction was made up of members of the union. That summer, merged with the Republican Party of Armenia,[13] absorbing the much smaller party in name and legal status.[14][15] Yerkrapah as a political movement lost their nominal political influence by 2001.[16]

On 25 February 2008, a cohort of top army leaders led by the then-Chief of the General Staff Seyran Ohanyan left the Yerkrapah Union, protesting against its involvement in politics. The move came after the deputy chairman Myasnik Malkhasyan and some other members gave their backing to ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan in the protests following the disputed 2008 Armenian presidential election.[17][18] Then-Yerkrapah chairman and deputy defense minister Manvel Grigoryan also supposedly met with Ter-Petrosyan, who claimed that he had Grigoryan's support.[18]

In 2019, Chairman Sasun Mikayelyan insisted that the organization shall not serve as an 'appendage" of the ruling party, warning of consequences of what happened when the previous governments "tried to make Yerkrapah serve the authorities".[19]

Youth wing[edit]

On 9 September 2014, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Education and Science, and Yerkrapah signed a memorandum to implement "Patani Yerkrapah" (Youth Protectors of the Land) patriotic clubs in Armenian educational institutions. Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan, stressed the importance of the clubs in contributing to youths' knowledge of Armenian history.[20]

Yerkrapah Day[edit]

Yerkrapah Day (Armenian: Երկրապահի օր) is a professional holiday for all members of Yerkrapah,[21] celebrated annually in Armenia on 8 May.[22] The official status of Yerkrapah Day holiday was conceived after the entry of a law which President Robert Kocharyan signed on 6 January 2001 and which the Parliament of Armenia approved on 24 July that year.[23] It is associated with Shushi Liberation Day.[24] Yerkrapah Day is not a non-working day if, depending on the year, it does not fall on a weekend.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Համառոտ բնութագիր (Brief description)" (in Armenian). Official site of Union of Yerkrapah Volunteers. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b Levitsky, Steven (16 August 2010). Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. p. 209. ISBN 9781139491488.
  3. ^ a b "The Yerkrapah Union of Volunteers at a Crossroads". USC Institute of Armenian Studies. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b 2020 War's Bloodiest Day: October 10
  5. ^ P. Croissant, Michael (1998). The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: causes and implications. p. 123. ISBN 9780275962418.
  6. ^ "Armenian War Veterans Divided Over 2008 Election". Armtown. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  7. ^ Lowell, Barrington (2006). After Independence: Making and Protecting the Nation in Postcolonial & Postcommunist States. University of Michigan Press. p. 241.
  8. ^ De Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. p. 244. ISBN 9780814719459.
  9. ^ ""Yerkrapah" and other volunteer regiments ready to head to frontline".
  10. ^ Carley, Patricia (December 1998). "Nagorno-Karabakh: Searching for a Solution". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  11. ^ Fuller, Liz (12 May 1998). "Caucasus Report: May 12, 1998". RFE/RL. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  12. ^ Astourian 2001, p. 57-58.
  13. ^ Panossian, Razmik (2006). The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 326. ISBN 9780231511339.
  14. ^ "Yerkrapah turns into political party". The Jamestown Foundation. 22 July 1998. Archived from the original on 19 June 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  15. ^ "History of the Party". The Republican Party of Armenia. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  16. ^ Hughes & Sasse 2002, p. 155.
  17. ^ "Top Army Officers Quit Yerkrapah Union".
  18. ^ a b "Կարևոր վկան պետք է չեզոքացվի. գեներալ Մանվել Գրիգորյանի առեղծվածը". (in Armenian). 28 October 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ a b "Armenian War Veterans Pick New Pro-Government Leader".
  20. ^ "Armenian Schools to Have Patriotic Clubs" (in English, Armenian, and Russian). 9 September 2014. Archived from the original on 22 April 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  21. ^ Новости — Армения
  22. ^ "В Армении отмечают день "Еркрапа"" (in Russian). Regnum. 8 May 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  23. ^ Legislation: National Assemly of RA
  24. ^ День Еркрапа в Армении — 8 мая. История и особенности праздника в проекте Календарь Праздников 2010
  25. ^ "National Assembly of Armenia | Official Web Site |". Retrieved 22 April 2021.

External links[edit]