Born in Karabagh, Khanasora Vardan (Vardan of Khanasor) gained military experience by serving in the Russian Army. He was the first revolutionary organizer of the Armenians in the Taurus region, south of Lake Van.
From 1890 onward he was in Iran (in Iranian Azerbaijan), in Tabriz, Salmast, and the Derik Monastery, participating in the battles at Derik.
At the head of small groups of fedayis, he often crossed the Iranian-Turkish border toward Vaspourakan (Van) to transport arms, often engaging in skirmishes with Turkish border guards and Kurdish tribes.
In the spring of 1896, he organized and led the defense of Shatakh, a mountainous region of Vaspourakan. Then, in September of the same year, he took part in the Bsdik Tebk (small battles) of Van.
In July 1897 he served as commander-in-chief of the Khanasor punitive expedition against the Mazrik Kurdish tribe, which had earlier massacred hundreds of unarmed Armenian fighters who were evacuating Van, after self-defense battles there, as part of an agreement with the authorities.
Later, he worked alongside Simon Zavarian to assess and organize the Cilician region, as well as Izmir.
During Armeno-Tatar (Azeri) fighting in the Caucasus in 1905–1906, Vardan was placed in charge of the self-defense of Karabagh.
In 1915, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Araratian Regiment of the Armenian Volunteers, and hastened to assist the Armenian self-defense of Van.
After the Sovietization of the Armenian Republic, Vardan remained. He died in Yerevan, in 1943.
We noticed through our binoculars that a large number of people were running away, climbing toward the summits of the mountains. Who were they, and why were they fleeing? Soon it was evident that they were Armenian peasants who had escaped from the villages, and seeing the glistening of our weapons, and thinking us to be Kurds, they were trying to save themselves. A helpless mob with the mentality of sheep who know only to flee and don’t think for a moment about countering the force of the enemy with force…. When we came close, a gut-wrenching scene greeted us: women, children, old people, young men, brides and girls, in rags… crying and sobbing, running toward us to come under the protection of our weapons, their salvation…
And for what? [Because] eight Kurds, largely unarmed, had attacked the village; they had killed seven Armenians, looted the village, and left. None of the Armenians had attempted to defend themselves; all had left the village and escaped toward the mountains. The population of three other villages had followed them. No one had been left in the villages; they had even brought the cattle and sheep with them.
What could one do? Pity them? Or spit on the faces of their men? Sometimes a person thinks, Are these people worth sacrificing our lives for? But then we would say to ourselves, They are men like us, is it their fault that centuries of subjugation have resulted in this condition? It is our obligation to save them; the object of the revolution is to make slaves into men…
From Vardan’s Memoirs, ca. 1896