The 80-seat legislature, charged with setting the foundation for an Armenian state, contained three women deputies: Katarine Zalyan-Manukyan, Perchuhi Partizpanyan-Barseghyan and Varvara Sahakyan. They all served in the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), also known as Dashnaktsutyun, a socialist-leaning political party which was founded in 1890 in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and is still active today.
Details about their lives are scarce and their political career was short-lived, as was the Armenian Republic itself. In December 1920, it crumbled under a Bolshevik invasion. Armenia became part of the Soviet Union until 1991. The collapse of the USSR established what is called Armenia’s Third Republic.
Yet the vibrant two years of the First Republic represented a significant experiment for women’s rights and political participation.
Under tsarist rule, neither sex could do anything about voting rights for women, a standard socialist principle. But with the establishment of the First Republic, its male politicians opted for change.
“[These men] were educated abroad and had witnessed the movements [for emancipation in Europe] . . .” says Lilit Zakaryan, deputy head of the Yerevan-based ProMedia-Gender non-governmental organization. “[It was the] men who raised the issue of emancipation. They understood that women could have a big role in the survival of the nation.”