Papken Siuni was born in the village of Pingian, in Agn. He graduated from the Ketronakan School in Constantinople. A year before his graduation, he was arrested and jailed briefly for his participation in Armenian protests. After his graduation, he attended the Istanbul Naval Academy and served in the Turkish navy for a year.
Siuni became an adherent of Dashnaktsakan ideology under the guidance of Hovhannes Yousoufian in 1892–1893. Prior to the ARF’s establishment in Constantinople, Siuni had organized a group, called “Siunik” (hence his nom de guerre), consisting of students and newcomers from the interior; that group joined the ARF en masse.
Siuni soon became the right hand of Yousoufian and Arshak Vramian. In the newly formed ARF Central Committee of Constantinople, Siuni became the ideological and organizational driving force.
Simultaneously confronting government persecution and the opposition of conservative Armenian circles, including betrayals, he played an integral role in the transfers of arms and ammunition, the preparation of explosives, the teaching and training of recruits, and the day-to-day affairs of the organization.
It was in such a revolutionary environment that Siuni conceived of the seizure of the Ottoman Bank as a response to the Hamidian Massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the interior. His plan was approved by the Central Committee, and he was entrusted with the leadership and implementation of the operation.
On August 14, 1896, at noon, the time of the planned assault on the bank, only 24 out of the 73 revolutionaries who were to take part in the operation had presented themselves. Conferring with his lieutenants Armen Garo and Hrach Tiriakian, Siuni delayed the attack by an hour. Out of options, at 1 PM he signaled the assault.
The guards posted at the entrance of the bank resisted fiercely. Although they were killed and the assault group was able to enter the bank, Siuni, who was laden with bags filled with grenades and dynamite, was shot as he ascended the stairs to the bank entrance. As a result of the explosion of a grenade in his hand, he was seriously wounded. His comrades were able to bring him into the bank, where he died. He was 23 years old.
The revolutionaries occupied the bank and under the leadership of Armen Garo and Hrach fought off attacking troops until the early hours of August 15.
The operation ended with the safe passage from Constantinople of the remaining 17 revolutionaries, and promises by the European powers that they would pressure the Sultan to refrain from reprisals and end the massacres in the interior of the empire.
To the Memory of Papken Siuni
The Dashnaktsakan Committee
Has seized Bank Ottoman.
In it they have filled
Explosive, destructive bombs.
Every Armenian brave waited
For that dear moment
When the bomb would be thrown
And the enemy would be destroyed.
Behold, from the window fell
A round grenade.
There trembled Sultan Hamid
And his evil Izzet Pasha.
When Hamid heard this news,
He called Nazim to his side.
Go, he said, and pacify
Those restive Armenians.
Bank Ottoman has been placed
Under the command of Papken Siuni.
There, the Dashnaktsakan noble giant,
Papken Siuni, was martyred.
His name terrified
A hundred thousand Muslims
And the one called Sultan Hamid,
The cruel race’s caliph.