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Dashnak demonstration in Yerevan
Dashnak demonstration in Yerevan. Photo: flickr/onewmphoto

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun or Dashnaks), a socialist party, was founded in 1890 in Tbilisi. Of the three oldest Armenian parties, the ARF has been the only one to retain significant strength and appeal for more than a century, both at home and in the diaspora. While the ARF does not enjoy mass support in Armenia, its popularity has grown with every parliamentary election. In 1999, the ARF won 7.86 percent of the vote and five seats; in 2003, it won 11.5 percent and 11 seats; in 2007, 12.8 percent and 16.

The ARF's original objective, as stated in its 1892 Programme, was "to attain political and economic freedom in Turkish Armenia by means of insurrection." In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ARF fought for reforms and protection of the political and religious rights of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Tsarist Russia.

The ARF was to become a leading force under the short-lived (1918-20) independent Republic of Armenia: all four of the Republic's Prime Ministers were ARF representatives. At the party's 9th World Congress, held in Yerevan in 1919, the ARF's programme objective officially became "the creation of a free, independent and united Armenia": a single and whole Armenian state, including the Turkish occupied [Western] Armenian territories.

In the wake of the Soviet and Turkish attacks on Armenia in 1920, the ARF fell from power; Armenia became part of the Soviet Union.

Banned under the Soviet Union, the ARF survived in exile over the following 70 years. Preservation of Armenian identity in the diaspora

August 2009

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