The History Doesn't Forgive Poor Memory
July 1990, Baku
Armenian question being a part of so-called East question should be considered from 2 points of view. The content of its external side was the aspiration of the Great Powers to intensify centrifugal forces of Turkey and to waken it for the purpose of its exploiting more easily. The internal essence of Armenian question was confined to the struggle of the Armenians led by its bourgeoisie for the national self-determination, for achieving those political and economic prerequisites in the presence of which the bourgeoisie could develop easily.
The prerequisites of Armenian question took their shape as long ago as the 18-th century when the plutocracy (Financial Aristocrasy) of Constantinople was at the head of the Armenian nation (Ermeni Millet).
Armenian people scattered all over Turkey of Asia Minor very soon formed its commercial bourgeoisie which played a considerable role in economic life of Turkey, and which was occupied with farming accommodating the government, governors of provinces with loans, etc.
At the same time commercial bourgeoisie guided the life of the Armenian people by means of clergy which had an enormous influence: there was the Council of notables (representatives of the plutocracy) under the Constantinople patriarch who was at the head of theocratic Armenian community created by the instructions of the Turkish after they had conquered Constantinople (1453). This Council was the real 'leader' of the Armenian people.
The relations of Armenian bourgeoisie in Turkey with the Armenian merchants in Levant (the Lebanon) and America and inflowing of foreign capital to Turkey were also of great importance. It should be noted that Armenian craftsmen (esnaffs) constituting a scanty class consisted of a number of departments together with the Greeks played a dominating role in the Turkish domestic industry. Only Armenian peasants living in Eastern provinces of Turkey were oppressed brutally from both political and economic viewpoints.
Therefore it was quite clear that as far as Western capitalism advanced to the Near East Western States more and more intensively began looking for support just in the Armenian bourgeoisie forced and politically depended condition of which hampered greatly the development of its economic activity, and thereby ensured its support of any innovations directed to destruction of natural economy and internal reserve of Turkey. The Western capital avoiding the great Armenian financial bourgeoisie closely related with the Turkish ruling class aspired to use first of all clergy (creation of Armenian- Catholic and Armenian - Protestant churches) for its own purposes. But when these attempts didn't give the result expected the Western commercial capital used the middle commercial bourgeoisie as its economic mediator; its support resulted in strengthening of this bourgeoisie and it gave a powerful incentive to the development of national movement.
This movement was supported by intelligentsia especially by that in Moscow and Tiflis. In these towns which became in the seventies the centres of Armenian liberalism (under the direct influence of Russian Liberal movement) the propagation of 'awakening of national self-consciousness' and even the militant nationalism was spread in oral and written forms not only among Russian but also among Turkish Armenians.
It was quite natural that the first steps of the Armenian middle bourgeoisie towards the self-determination were directed to the limitation of the clergy supremacy: having a certain support of city craftsmen it developed struggle for secularization of church and mainly of Constantinople patriarchate. This struggle was a success. Together with the clergy and financial bourgeoisie middle bourgeoisie had got its place in so-called 'Armenian representation' created under the patriarchate and in the eparchy centers. This representation had got right to manage finances, justice and education.
Primarily peasant masses were out of that national movement. In the seventies the condition of Armenian peasantry in Turkey became distinctly worse owing to increasing of tax oppression and aggravation of relations with the Kurds. At the territory of
5 Eastern vilayets (Van, Erzerum, Bitlis, Harput and Sivass) the number of the Armenians made up only minority of population (from 20% to 40%). The rest of population was formed by the Kurds grouping on clans and leading the nomadic and cattle-breeding mode of life. In a second quarter of the 19-th century as a result of over-population they passed on to the settled way of life, but they began pressing Armenian peasantry and expropriating its lands because there was a lack of spare lands in mountainous Armenia. The Turkish government aspiring to strengthen its power over militant, half-independent Kurd tribes stimulated this process in every possible way. It reserved expropriated lands to tribe leaders and gave them the administrative - military functions, and just by this way the Kurd feudalism was spread. At the same time it set the Kurds against the Armenians owing to the religious fanatism. Because of this fact the previous sporadic violence’s of the Kurds became mass and unprecedented cruel.
The second reason of the developing antagonism was that the Armenian city bourgeoisie regarding the backward Moslem masses appeared in the role of representatives of the capital which in the conditions of Turkey was predatory and chiefly usurious.
Thus, Armenian question being aggravated on a pure economic ground was tragically complicated by the interference of 'the Great Powers' - Russia and England. The aspiration of Russian trade-industrial capital to occupy the Black Sea, the Bosporus and the Dardanella was covered by the mottoes of 'struggle for Christians liberation from the yoke of Moslem Turkey'. Armenian bourgeoisie hoped to use this motto in the purposes of national-political self-determination, and the greater part of Armenian bourgeoisie not only accepted the Russian orientation but also began agitating among the Armenians of Turkish Armenia. This position dictinctly changed the attitude of the Turkish government to the Armenian bourgeoisie. Before the war of 1877 the Turkish government didn't persecute it and the Armenian bourgeoisie was even admitted to the high state posts. These relations became worse after the petition of the Russian Armenians to the Caucasian Governor-general the grand Duke Mikhael Nikolayevich, and the official appeal of the Turkish Armenians headed by Patriarch Nerses asking for support of Russia during discussion of peace terms with Turkey.
Using this appeal Russia added to the San-Stefano preliminary treaty §16 according to which Turkey pledged to conduct immediately necessary reforms in the Armenian vilayets, and before its realization Russian troops had continue occupying the captured regions of the Asian part of Turkey.
This attempt of tsarist Russia to secure 'a firm foot on the Armenian plateau' relying upon the Armenians who gave themselves up under its protection was beated off by its main rival in the Near East, that is by England which at the Berlin Congress managed to press for the substitution of § 16 mentioned above by a new article (item 61 of the Berlin treaty) confirming the Turkish goverments's duty of conducting necessary reforms in Armenian provinces. But the right to control the realization of these reforms was given not to Russia personally but to the 'ensemble' of 6 Great Powers, members of the Berlin Congress.
The resolutions of Berlin Congress caused in the leading circles of Armenian bourgeoisie hopes that not only Russia but also all great Powers would help it in the struggle for creation of the national Armenian State. These illusions were intensely supported by English diplomacy promising Armenians 'great Armenia', that’s 'from sea to sea' (from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea). However volt-face of orientation resulted in absolute isolation of the Armenians from the point of view of their international situation. They broke with Russia, and at that moment it was necessary for England not to give Russia the opportunity to use the Armenians in its Near-East policy. For its own policy in Turkey Russia didn't need Armenians that time. The next tasks of this policy were solved by secret treaty with Turkey according to which England had got the Cyprus island in exchange for the obligation to defend Turkey from Russia. Because of this fact England frustrating the stake of tsatist Russia to the Turkish Armenia gave them up and left them to the mercy of the Turkish government, which could see the possible role of the Armenians in the complicated game of the great Powers in proper perspective. The simplest and the most reliable way of eliminating this danger was expressed by Sultan Abdul-Hamid in a very brief formula: 'to put an end to Armenian question, to put an end to the Armenians'. The period of gradual (in order not to cause complications in Foreign policy) but steady extermination of the Armenian population by the Kurds came. In 1890 it increased to enormous proportions when the irregular Kurd horse cavalry 'hamidie' was created. Its formal purpose was to defend bounderies from Russia, but in fact it was created for exterminating the Armenians.
Despairing of the help of the great Powers and being faced with the fact of physical extermination of those peasant masses which had to become the basis of 'Great Armenia' so much desired, the Armenian bourgeoisie began the armed struggle against the governmental terror. The nationalist parties - Gnchak and Dashnakt-sutiun were created. Settling down in the Russian Transcaucasia they sent propagandists and agitators to Turkey, formed rebel detachments the activity of which was aimed not only at the real success in battle (the victorious struggle with the Turkish government was beyond the Armenians' power), but also drawing the attention of the Great Powers to the events in Armenia so that they would be compelled to the interference and fulfilment of the obligations of article 61 of Berlin treaty forgotten both by Turkey and West-Europen states. The foreign Committees of the parties mentioned above worked hard in the same direction. By the end of 1890 Gnchak quitted the stage, and Dashnaktsutiun became the only ruling political organization of the Armenians.
It was natural that the rebel struggle strained the situation in the area and the Turkish government was given full scope in its 'extermination policy'. After the occupation of Egypt England couldn't seek an agreement with Sultan Abdul-Hamid legalizing the occupation of the Nile valley by Englishmen. At that moment the Armenians were recalled, and England tried to use them as threat to Sultan. So, the Turkish government hurried to take presentive measures and the gradual extermination of the Armenians was substituted by the mass one (Sultan cynically called it 'population reducing'). In 1894 in Sasun the government organized the massacre of the Armenians resulted in destroying of 24 villages. In 1896 the slaughter took place almost all over the Asian part of Turkey. 8.000 villages were destroyed; up to 50.000 people were killed; about 100.000 people were infured severely; up to 300.000 people were left without roof over their heads, and the majority of them emigrated to Russia. The interference of ambassadors led to the massacre in Constantinople which resulted in extermination of more than 6 thousand Armenians.
'Powers' regarded these events quite indifferently. England was not interested in the Armenians any more; moreover it was tied by Russia declaring that the Russian government 'wouldn't permit the independent actions of any state'. As far as Russia was concerned, that time it conducted in Transcaucasia the russification policy and protested openly at the ideas of 'creation in Asia such a territory where the Armenians would possess exclusive privileges'. Besides it the tsarist-diplomacy having burnt itself in Bulgaria which though was liberated by tsarist Russia but all the same didn't want to be its slave, declared that Russia wouldn't permit creating 'another Bulgaria' (according to the prince Lobanov-Rostovsky). And Germany occupied that time with acquisition concessions for Baghdad road didn't even protest at the massacres, but more over in the person of Emperor William II if approved the policy of Abdul-Hamid in respect of 'seditious citizens'.
Defeat of 1890, evident estrangement of the Armenian nationalist bourgeoisie led the ruling Party Dashnaktsutiun to changing its policy. It began looking for support in the all-Turkish revolutional movement. The Party concluded an agreement with mlado-turks. In 1907 on the initiative of dashnaks the Congress of all oppositional parties of Osman Empire took place. Here the project of coup d'etat was worked out.
The coup d'etat took place in 1908 but it didn't yield the results dashnaks had experted. The condition of the Armenians under the new regime didn't improve at all. In 1909 in Kilikiya new massacre took place resulted in injuring of more than 20.000 Armenians. And Mlado-Turkish government came to nothing more than light punishments of perpetrators. Because of this fact the Armenian political circles again changed their orientation and returned to its primary supporting base - to Russia. This time the tsarist government met their wishes with pleasure. World War was about to break out. According to Milyukov the Armenians 'Lying at the cross- roads between Russia and Turkey' acquired great political significance. In 1913 Russian diplomats concluded an agreement with the organized Armenian bourgeoisie and they came out openly 'in favour of opressed Armenians' demanding the reforms to be conducted in Eastern vilayets. In 1914 (26/1) after stubborn resistance supported by Germany the Turkish government had to sign an agreement on reforms according to which the Armenians were to get quite broad autonomy in the sphere of administration, language, military service etc. under the control of the States and first of all of Russia.
This interference of Russia during the world war broken out shortly after the agreement to a considerable extent complicated the condition of the Armenians, especially as the members of Dashnaktsutiun party at the beginning of the war not only declared again the motto of 'Great Armenia', but also they began forming the voluntary detachments consisted of Turkish deserter Armenians. In return the Turkish government organized the-crudest repressions, and when they learned about the success of Russian troops at the Turkish Caucasian front the systematic and general extermination of the Armenians began. Everything was done in the guise of deportation of unreliable Armenian population out of the zone of military operations to Mesopotamia. However, as a matter of fact it was the organized and unusual by its cruelty massacre.
As a result, approximately 300.000 people were killed. The same number of the Armenians died on their way to Mesopotamia; 200.000 people took to flight to Russia, and at last up to 400.000 people saved themselves by becoming Moslems. After this immense massacre the Turkish Armenia in fact remained without the Armenians.
The February Revolution of 1917 opened a new epoch in the history of the Armenian question. Within a year Transcaucasia continued keeping relations with Russia and it was guided by so-called Special Transcaucasian Committee receiving instructions from Petrograd. However, at the same time there was the consolidation of all bourgeois -chauvinistic forces represented by the Parties of Georgian Menshe-viks, musavatists, and dashnaks. Already in summer, 1917 at the Peasants Congress in Tiflis the Georgian-Moslem block against Armenians was created.
In October of 1917 in Tiflis the Armenian Nationalist Congress guided by dashnaks took place.
This Congress confirmed the relations of Armenia with the rest of Russia and made demands of preserving by Russia the Turkish Armenian territories occupied by Russian troops during the World War. At the Congress the Armenian 'national centre' and National Council formed by 15 members with its residence in Tiflis were elected.
After the October Revolution the Transcaucasian Seim which became the Central State Body of Transcaucasia instead of STC (Special Transcaucasian Committee) in fact put to Armenia the burden of escorting Trancaucasia from Turkish' encroachments. The Turkish quite naturally aspired to use the favorable moment for occupying the territory. And that was why the frontier population of Armenia sustained heavy losses during recurring invasion of Turkish troops. The Armenian population of Kars and Erivan regions and Azerbaijan suffered much more than others. In 1918 during breaking-up of Transcaucasian Republic into three state formations - that is Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia; Armenia turned to be left to the mercy of the Turks, and in June, 1918 it had to accept all the demands of Turkey (the treaty in Constantinople) according to which the Armenian territory was reduced to 2 districts- Erivan and Echmiadzin with 400.000 inhabitants.
The defeat of the Central States provided Armenian bourgeoisie with new and ample opportunities. In the post-war situation the winners needed the Armenians as a kind of support not only against Тurkey (in Kilikiya) but also against the Soviet Russia (in Transcaucasia) . Armenian question acquired new, more extensive significance if compare with the previous period. And because of this fact 'the states-winners' took measures for a corresponding equipping of their 'Armenian base', and first of all in the most dangerous for them 'Soviet' direction.
The Armenian republic of dashnaks had got from allies the Kars district, the parts of the Erivan province taken away in 1918. So, the territory of Armenia made up approximately 17.500 English square miles with the population of 1.510.000 people (795.000 Armenians, 575.000 Moslems, 140.000 of other nationalities).
Dashnaks not being satisfied with it layed claims to the Akhalkalac and Borchaly territories (parts of Georgia), and to Karabakh, Nakhichevan district and to the southern part of great Yelizavetpolskaya province (parts of Azerbaijan). The attempts of annexing these territories by force (in the period of the English occupation of Transcaucasia) led to the war with Georgia (December, 1918) and long bloody struggle with Azerbaijan resulted in reducing of controversial regions population by 10-30%, and a number of settlements was literally wiped off the face of the earth.
The fight was extremely fierced in Karabakh where the dashnaks settled down firmly. Only downfall of Musavatist Party and Sovietization of Baku (27/4, 1920) saved the Karabakh Armenians from complete extermination.
Fightings for expansion towards Georgia and Azerbaijan Armenian republic at the same time had to repel the attacks of Kurds from Turkey (Olt, Sarykamysh and other regions). English occupants didn't make any special efforts to support Armenians: even food supply to Armenia was low and irregular.
England transferred its support to white armies, waging war against Soviet Russia. The presence of this factor made 'Armenian base' less important.
Dashnaks shared this orientation, unlike Georgian and Azerbaijanian governments the government of Armenian republic promoted friendly relations with Denikin Army. The relations were so close that one of Yerevan politicians said Armenian Republic with its forces was part of 7th corps of Denikin Army.
The Treaty between England and Persia in 1919 and occupation of Constantinople (March 16th, 1920) that strengthened the position of England in the middle East diverted its attention to Armenian question: late in 1919 England evacuated the Transcau-casus and the question of Armenian fate at San Remo conference (April-May 1920) was handed as not wanted to west European imperialists and North American imperialists. This step was considered necessary as the Supreme Soviet of League of Nations declared that Armenia couldn't exist 'without any support'. President Wilson accepted the notification of the League to determine the border line of Armenia and generonsly awarded it with most part of Erzerum and Trabzun vilayat, whole of Bitliss and Van vilayet with the total area of 30.000 square miles with the coastline of 150 miles,
American politicians turned 'out to be more soberminded than their President. Having counted all the expenses of 'Armenian mandate', considering it to be useless for American capital, as Armenian question refers to European one they rejected the mandate voting against it in the Senate. Armenian republic of Dashnaks was left neglected. Western imperatists once again left Armenia to the mercy of fate. French government acted in the same way with Armenians of the occupied Kilikiya in 1919. This fruitful region was a part of a small Armenian kingdon (11 - 14th centuries) Thanks to this kingdom a large number of Armenians about 33% of the whole population greatly increased after massacre in 1915 by the influence of refugees.
When the military actions of Turkish nationalists started against the French the latter promised Armenians to establich the independent state under its protectorate and encouraged them on punitive actions against revolted moslem population.
In 1920 Angor government sent regular 4 troops to kilikiya that moved French to the sea and destroyed a number of Armenian villages murdering about 16.000 people. Armenian population being in a desperate state proclaimed on independent republic under the protection of France it established government authorities and 'the legion of Armenian Self defence' consisting of 10 thousand people. After some fighting with temporary success French army moved to the sea again this time forever entering peaceful negotiations with Turkey.
Armenians abondoned hopeless and helpless were sieged by Turks in their fortresses (Hadjin Zejtun) and after strong resistance were completely exterminated. More than 20 thousand people were killed. In 1921 France signed Peace Treety with Turkey. France gave up Kilikiya, soon after that Armenian pogroms started, they stopped only after allies threats to capture Constantinople. Very small number of Armenians remained alive fled to Syria, Cyprus and Egypt.
In this way one of Armenian bases was elimineted. Armenian questions moved to the Transcaucasus. Dashnaks thaugh all the hopes were ruined continued to pursue the policy of staunch nationalism their situation turned out to be dangerous since the establishmet of Soviet borderline from the North. People of Armenia tired of constant pogroms and wars, hungry and poor they started supporting Soviet power. Three days after the victory of Soviet power in Baku some uprising took place in a number of towns in Armenia (Soviet power at least for some hours was estaltished in Alexsandropol) which were cruelly suppressed by dashnaks. On the other hand friendly relations of Soviet Russia with Angora ran against Dashnak Armenia. It stood with its opposition force on the way of communication of mentioned above states.
Dashnaks decided to use this touchy situation of Angoran government the fight of western Greek-English front and secure themselves from the Turkish side of Soviet Russia didn't show any intentions to aggressive actions. Being proposed (Yuly 1920) to accept Karabakh, Nakhichevan and other areas loyal to Soviet Power Yerevan government agreed to start guerilla actions on the mentioned above territories issuigs confidential order to their dashnak war leaders. These actions started in September 1920.
At the same time dashnaks having received weapons from England organized pogroms of Moslem population in the whole of Kars province and Yerevan district reducing to Shuragel, Sharurio-Daralagez, Kaguzman, Surmanly, Karagurta, Sary Kamysh regions to ashes. Having secured such a rear they attacked Olta and Kaguzman acquiring the support of Makin Sardar.
Turks responded by attacking the Karabakir and Hamid Pasha with East Turkish Army. The troops of Yerevan government were defeated. Exterminating Armenian population Turks occupied Kars (November 2nd), Alexandropole and forced Armenian government to sign peace treaty. Armenia lost not only territory occupied by Turks but was deprived of the right to have the army of more than 1500 people with 8 field weapons and 8 machineguns. The reaction of Armenia population was the following. They established Soviet Power putting an end to Dashnaks (1920 December) Russian- Turkish Treaty cancelled Alexandropol peace treaty outining the border line between Armenia and Turkey as it exists today.
Since this moment - the moment of new state being of Armenian people - the Armenian Question can be considered to be closed. However even after Armenian Sovietization West European impera-tist made another attempt to speculate on the Armenian question at a conference in Lausanne. The idea of establishing 'Armenian Hearth' with the office in Constantinople, a special body to defend 'national minority groups' under the league of nations control was advanced at the Conference. The only aim of that proposal was to get the concession from Turkish organization on Mossul problem. The draft resolution was cancelled as all the necessary concessions had been made.
Later on west European states witnessed with coolness the scenes of extermination and expatriation the rest of Armenian population from the territory adjoining Kilikiya (Mardin, Aingab, Urfa and others)
The only real assistance to Armenians was rendered by Soviet Russia. On January 27, 1923 comrade Chicherin informed Lausanne conference that the governments of Russia and the Ukraine planned to resettle most of Armenian refugees from abroad in areas of these countries.
Comrade Chicherin was quite right to add that Armenian Question didn't have any chance of being solved in the right way due to avoiding its decision by Soviet delegation.
vComrade Chicherin's letter had a great response on the part of foreign Armenian circles: a number of political and philantropic societies and parties expressed their gratitude to Soviet Government and they informed about their plans of realizing of Russian proposal.
Complete and irreversible failure of great Armenian programme, an active economic and cultural activity taking place in Armenia nowadays caused an overturn among Armenian political parties representing 'diaspora'. The Party of Armenian bourgeois and intellectuals, liberal democrats (ramkavars) took a friendly stand towards Soviet Armenia. They sent their 'intelligence men' to get to know the details of peaceful development of Soviet power. As a result of these actions they are very sympathetic towards the Soviet Power. The same stand was taken even by the nationalistic party 'Gnchak'.
The only party that keeps expressing its blind hatred towards the Soviet power is Dashnaktsutjun. It calls for intervention, revenge and rioting inside the country, though the last attempt in this direction, i.e. the counter revolutionary rebellion of Vratsyan in 1921 turned out to be a complete failure and caused rather short but bloody civil war.
The party of Dashnaktsutjun is in the state of moral decay now. It lost its influence even in immigrant circles - it exists by assuming those sums being collected in Europe and America to finance the imigration of refugees to Soviet Armenia, (mainly by Dashnakan Society of Red Cross)
However the most honest members of Armenian immigration are changing the old orientation and having come to the decision to give up the old ideas return to their motherland acknowledging their fault.
Following the Soviet revolution Dashnaktsutjun is doomed to failure and with this failure the new page of the history of Armenian question is being opened.
Internet Version Sahil Group © 2001