ARAM HAIGAZ

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

Birth of Aram Haigaz
(March 22, 1900)

 

Aram Haigaz

Aram Haigaz

Aram Haigaz was a familiar name in the Armenian literary scene of New York and a popular writer in the Diaspora for more than six decades.

Born Aram Chekenian in Shabin Karahisar on March 22, 1900, he studied at the elementary school of his hometown. He would eventually become a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. In the summer of 1915, the Armenian population of Shabin Karahisar, some 5,000 people, rejected the order of deportation, set fire to their homes and fields, and climbed up the mountain that shadowed the town, where the remains of an old Roman fort served as their protection. They had taken food and animals with them. However, after a desperate resistance of almost a month, they were forced to surrender by famine. Only a handful survived, including Aram Haigaz, whose brothers, father and other relatives perished. He survived by converting to Islam and living as a Muslim, as many other young boys in those days, until he escaped to freedom. His memoir Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan (1972; translated into English by his daughter Iris Chekenian in 2015) described his life and servant, and how he grew from boyhood to youth among Kurdish tribesmen and chieftains.

After the end of World War I, the young survivor escaped to Constantinople in 1919. He was reunited with an aunt and spent some time in an orphanage run by American missionaries. He later attended the Getronagan High School for a year and a half. His literary essays attracted the attention of his teacher, the famed writer and critic Hagop Oshagan. He sailed for the United States in 1921 and settled in New York. He worked as an apprentice photo-engraver at The Daily Mirror newspaper and studied English at night, voraciously reading world literature. He started contributing to Armenian publications in 1922 and took the pen name Aram Haigaz, after the name of one of his elder brothers who had died in 1915. He married and had two children.

He would publish ten books in his lifetime, as well as scores of essays and reviews for Armenian newspapers and magazines throughout the Diaspora. His first book, however, would be H. Baghdoyan’s English translation of his memoir on the resistance of Shabin Karahisar, The Fall of the Aerie (1935, reprinted in 2010). He would continue working on the history of the self-defense and collecting testimonies, which he condensed in a book, Shabin Karahisar and Its Heroic Struggle (1957).

Other than stories from the old country and his years of tribulations, from the very beginning he started writing humorous short stories and vignettes of contemporary life during his time in Constantinople and then in the United States. His natural, conversational style made him a sought-after author. He collected his stories in several volumes: The Call of the Race (vol. I, 1949; vol. II, 1954), Four Worlds (1962), Hotel (1967), Yearning (1971), Live, Children! (1973), and Happiness (1978).

Aram Haigaz received various literary awards, and his literary jubilee was marked in 1972 in the United States, Canada, and Lebanon. He lived in Rego Park (New York), and passed away in Manhattan on March 10, 1986, a few days before his eighty-sixth birthday, from complications of pneumonia. The Soviet regime did not allow the publication of his work in Armenia during his lifetime for political reasons. In the past decade, several books of stories and articles scattered in the press have been posthumously published in Yerevan, as well as an anthology of his short stories and a collection of letters.

 

KING HETUM I

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

 

Death of Hetum I
(October 28, 1270)

Hetum I was the founder of the Hetumian dynasty (1226-1342), the second in the history of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. He excelled as a seasoned diplomat who achieved crucial results both in internal and foreign policy.

Hetum was born in 1215, the son of Prince Constantine of Baberon, who had a leading position among the Armenian princes of Cilicia and became regent in 1219, shortly after the death of King Levon I, due to the minority of his daughter Zabel (1216-1252), who was three-years-old. In order to end the rivalry between Cilicia and the principality of Antioch (Syria), Constantine arranged for the marriage of Zabel to Philip, a son of Bohemond IV of Antioch, in 1222. However, Philip’s disdain for Armenian ritual and his favoritism for Latin noblemen alienated the Armenian nobility. After a revolt headed by Constantine in late 1224, Philip was imprisoned and deprived of the throne with the agreement of the council of Armenian princes. He died in prison.
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Constantine moved forward and, despite the opposition of ten-year-old Zabel, he married her to his son Hetum, who was proclaimed king on June 14, 1226. In this way, the two most powerful families of Cilicia, the Rubinians (the royal dynasty) and the princes of Lambron, established an alliance.

Hetum I ascended to the throne in a difficult international conjuncture. He confronted Antioch on one hand, where he established a protectorate of sorts after the death of Bohemond IV. On the other hand, he had to face the power of the Sultanate of Rum, ruled by a Seljuq Turkish dynasty, but was able to come to terms with it. Over the years, Hetum I was able to overcome the internal dissensions and offer a united front to external pressure. At the same time, he centralized the monarchy and strengthened the army, while economic life and culture flourished.

In the 1240s a new and dangerous player appeared in the international scene, the Mongols. After occupying Persia and Armenia, the Mongols entered the Middle East and reached the borders of Cilicia by 1243. Instead of confrontation, Hetum chose to sign a treaty of peace and mutual cooperation with the Mongols. He first sent his brother, the Constable Smpad, in a diplomatic mission to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire, in 1248. Afterwards, the king himself made the hard and long journey to Central Asia and visited Karakorum in 1254, signing a new treaty of alliance with emperor Mangu Khan. This treaty established, among other conditions, friendship between Christians and Mongols, who were still pagan at the time; tax exemption for the Armenian Church; the liberation of Jerusalem; the destruction of the caliphate of Baghdad; assistance to Cilicia by all Mongol commanders; devolution to Cilicia of Armenian territories occupied by the Muslims.

This diplomatic success, at a time when the Mongols were confronted by all forces from China to Eastern Europe, strengthened the position of Cilicia. Thanks to the Armeno-Mongol alliance, between 1256-1259 Hetum I was able to stop the attacks of the emirate of Aleppo and the invasions of the Sultanates of Rum and Egypt. He also liberated several cities, like Marash and Aintab, and annexed the southern portion of Cappadocia, as well as part of northern Syria to his kingdom.

The Sultanate of Egypt took advantage of the divisions among the Mongols and invaded Cilicia in 1266, taking Hetum’s son and heir apparent Levon as prisoner. The invasion devastated some parts of the country. In June 1268 Hetum signed peace with Egypt by the cession of several border fortresses and was able to free his son. A year later, he resigned and Levon II was crowned king. Hetum retired to the monastery of Akner, where he became a monk with the name of Magar, and passed away on October 28, 1270.

 

PATRIARCH NERSES VARJABEDIAN

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

Death of Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian
(October 26, 1884)

 

Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian

Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian

The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople went through turbulent times in the mid-nineteenth century, when there were heated disputes over the democratization of the Armenian society and the Church. The name of Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian emerged in the 1870s-1880s as a guiding light.

The future ecclesiastic was born Boghos Varjabedian in the district of Haskeuy (Constantinople) on January 28, 1837. He studied at the Nersessian School, in his neighborhood. At the age of fifteen he lost his father and became, as the eldest son, the main support of the family. 

 

He was sixteen in 1853, when he returned to his alma mater as a teacher. He moved to Adrianople (now Edirne) two years later. The local prelate, Bishop Aristakes Raphaelian, took the young teacher under his wings and in 1858 ordained him as a celibate priest (vartabed) with the name Nerses.

 

A year later, he returned to Haskeuy as pastor, becoming the standard bearer of a spiritual and intellectual renaissance in his birthplace. In 1861, on recommendation from the Patriarchate, he was sent as a preacher first to Romania and then to Transylvania (presently in Hungary). He was ordained a bishop in 1862. He participated actively in the struggle that led to the adoption of the National Constitution (Ազգային Սահմանադրութիւն/Azkayin Sahmanatrootyoon) in 1860 and the approval of its modified version by Sultan Abdul Aziz in 1863. In 1866 he participated in the election of Catholicos of All Armenians Gevorg IV in Holy Etchmiadzin. In 1862 he was elected prelate of Nicomedia (Ismid). Two years later, he published his first book, The Holy Church of Christ and Her Opponents.

 

Patriarch Megerdich Khrimian (Khrimian Hayrig) resigned his position after a five-year tenure (1869-1874). Despite his youth (he was thirty-seven at the time), Bishop Nerses Varjabedian, enjoyed general respect and authority, and was elected Patriarch on April 26, 1874.

 

In 1875 he published his second book, Teaching of the Concordance of the Gospel of Our Lord. The latter was a combination of the four Gospels, with explanations and reflections in both Classical and Modern Armenian. It was used for a long time as a school textbook. 

 

During his ten-year tenure, the Religious Council normalized its activities and established a minimum age to confer religious degrees. Patriarch Nerses participated in the activities of the Armenian United Society, an educational organization that worked towards the education of Armenians in the interior of Turkey. In the 1880s he would be the driving force behind the foundation of the Getronagan School in Constantinople (founded after his death, in 1886).

 

After the victory of Russia in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 and the favorable conditions created for the Armenian Question, the Patriarch presented a petition to Czar Alexander II, asking him to protect the Western Armenians.

 

He worked together with the National Council of Constantinople to enter article 16 in the Treaty of San Stefano, which established the need of reforms for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire under the guarantee of Russian occupation, as well as the cession of Western Armenian territories to Russia. He also organized and sent an Armenian delegation led by Khrimian to the Congress of Berlin. In 1879 he unsuccessfully addressed the European representatives to carry out reforms in Armenia and the British ambassador to have the Ottoman Empire comply with article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. His memoranda to the Sublime Porte (the name of the Ottoman court) also remained unanswered.

In 1884 Varjabedian was elected Catholicos of All Armenians, but he resigned due to his poor health. He died on October 26, 1884, in Constantinople, at the age of 47, victim of diabetes.

 

The Treaty of Kars

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

The Treaty of Kars
(October 13, 1921)

 

 

As a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the regions of Kars, Ardahan, Artvin, and Batum, at the time in the Ottoman Empire, went to Russia.

 

The next conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was during World War I. The Caucasian expedition of Enver Pasha in late 1914-1915 was soundly defeated in the battle of Sarikamish. Enver covered his defeat by accusing the Armenians of treason. As a result, the Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman Empire were disarmed and killed en masse, and the subsequent massacres and deportation of Armenians would soon turn into genocide. The Russian forces occupied an important section of Western Armenia (Van, Erzerum, Bitlis and Mush, Trebizond, and Erzinga) in 1915-1916.

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After the October Revolution, the Russian forces abandoned the front. The Armenian battalions formed in a hurry were insufficient to stop the Ottoman advance and the territories of Western Armenia were lost between February and April 1918. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 3, 1918) between Soviet Russia and the Ottoman Empire recognized the transfer of Kars, Ardahan, and Batum to the latter. After the armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918), the Republic of Armenia established its sovereignty over most of the region of Kars, and the Treaty of Sevres recognized the region of Kars and most of Western Armenia as part of Armenia (August 1920).

 

However, as a result of the Armeno-Turkish war of September-November 1920, the region of Kars and Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri) was occupied by the Turkish forces, which threatened once again the existence of Armenia. The invasion of the XI Red Army on November 29 forced the government of the Republic of Armenia to transfer the authority to the Communists on December 2, which turned the country into a Soviet republic.

 

Meanwhile, the representatives of the Republic signed the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Turks on the night of December 2 to 3. This treaty recognized the occupation of the region of Kars by Turkey. However, its legal validity was dubious, because it had been signed on behalf of a government that was already out of office. The next step was the signature of the Treaty of Moscow between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia on March 16, 1921. Turkey received the region of Kars, and the southern portion of the region of Batum. Probably as a compensation for the north of the region of Batum, the Bolsheviks transferred the Armenian province of Surmalu to the Turks.

 

At the time, the February rebellion had expelled the Communist government from Armenia, while Georgia was still an independent republic. After Armenia and Georgia were finally occupied by the Red Army, the signature of the Treaty of Kars was meant to confirm the terms of the Treaty of Moscow by the representatives of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

 

The treaty was signed on October 13, 1921, and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922. Signatories included four Turkish representatives, Russian ambassador Yakov Ganetsky, and two representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Askanaz Mravian and Minister of Interior Poghos Makintsian signed it on behalf of Armenia.

 

The treaty confirmed the division of the region of Batum, with the north ceded by Turkey to Georgia and the south, with the city of Artvin, annexed by Turkey, which was also guaranteed free transit through the port of Batum.

 

It also created a new boundary between Turkey and Armenia, defined by the Akhurian and Arax rivers. Turkey annexed most of the region of Kars, including Surmalu, with Mount Ararat and the cities of Igdir and Koghb, the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Olti, and the ruins of Ani.

 

The region of Nakhichevan became an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan, which was turned into the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhichevan in 1924, as an exclave subordinate to Soviet Azerbaijan and sharing a fifteen-kilometer boundary with Turkey.

 

The Soviet Union attempted to annul the Treaty of Kars and regain the lost territories of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin after World War II on behalf of Armenia and Georgia. However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill objected to those territorial claims, and in 1947 the Soviet Union gave up its claims from Turkey.

 

The validity of the Treaty of Kars has been questioned on the basis that the sides that signed it did not have authority. The Turkish Grand National Assembly, which was represented by the Turkish signatories, had no authority to sign international treaties, which still rested with the legal ruler of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan, as established by its Constitution. The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed in 1923. On the other hand, the Soviet republics were under strict control of Moscow and the Soviet Union was established in December 1922.

 

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Treaty of Kars was accepted by Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. However, the government of Armenia has made no such ratification.

 

 

Sardarabad and Arax Dancers Enact Armenia’s Rebirth

Wisconsin concert draws Armenians and non-Armenians

By David Luhrssen

(South Milwaukee, WI) On Oct. 8, Wisconsin was treated to a rare opportunity to witness Armenian dance traditions presented with contemporary flair. Over eighty five dancers from the Sardarabad Dance Ensemble of Hamazkayin Chicago and the Arax Dance Group of Hamazkayin Detroit took the stage at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center in a performance whose focus was the resilience of Armenia’s people and culture.

The dance concert began with a multi-media presentation incorporating visual projections depicting the Armenian Genocide and a recitation in English and Armenian of Siamanto’s poem “Strangled.” Immediately afterward, an ensemble of performers filled the stage with “Rebirth,” a dance work portraying the commitment to life after the carnage of genocide.

The repertoire in the fast-paced, two-hour program represented many historically Armenian districts, including Sasoon, Artashat, Shirak, Van, Javakhk and Zangezur. Several dances commemorated historical events such as the battles of Avarayr and Sardarabad along with recent struggles in Nagorno-Karabakh. Other dances depicted the grace and beauty of Armenian women and the vibrancy of contemporary Armenian life.

Not unlike such popular Irish shows as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, the Sardarabad Dance Ensemble packaged tradition in a multi-media production that told the story of a particular people and their civilization. The performers ranged in age from children through adults and balanced heel-kicking athleticism with interpretive grace.

The location of the performance was significant. South Milwaukee, an industrial suburb of Milwaukee, was a magnet for refugees fleeing the Turkish massacres of the 1890s and became one of the first Armenian communities in the U.S. The dance concert was sponsored by St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in the nearby suburb of Greenfield in celebration of Armenian Cultural Month. The event was publicized in the local media as part of the Milwaukee area Armenian community’s commitment to raising awareness.

Modern Impressions, Ancient Dances

Sardarabad Dance Ensemble

October 8, South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center

The Hamazkayin Sardarabad Dance Ensemble transforms the ancient traditions of Armenia into a 21st century multi-media spectacle of music, motion and light. Not unlike Lord of the Dance’s contemporary reinvention of Irish dance and culture, the Sardarabad Ensemble employs the timeless dance steps of an age-old folk culture to create an extraordinary experience for audiences.

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Hamazkayin Sardarabad Ensemble

An ancient nation from the borders of Asia and Europe, the rhythms of Armenia first came to worldwide attention nearly a century ago through Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” which remains a staple of classical concert music.

For their first performance in the Milwaukee area, the Chicago-based Sardarabad Ensemble will be joined by members of Detroit’s Hamazkayin Arax Dance Group, forming a colorfully costumed ensemble of 85 performers. The Armenian Community of Greater Milwaukee is sponsoring the dance concert as its contribution to Armenian Culture Month, observed every October to honor the achievements of a civilization older than Rome and as ancient as Greece and Persia.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. on October 8 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 901 15th Avenue, South Milwaukee. Tickets are $25. For tickets, call 414.766.5049 or visit http://tickets.stjohnarmenianchurch.org

THE OTTOMAN REVOLUTION

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]


THE OTTOMAN REVOLUTION
(July 23, 1908)

 

1908 was a break it or make it year for the Ottoman Empire, which was on the brink of collapse. Its interrupted process of modernizations was to be resumed.

 

The process of internal reform initiated with the imperial edicts of 1839 and 1856 led to the promulgation of the Constitution of 1876, which ushered the First Constitutional Era. Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1908), who had sanctioned the Constitution, suspended it in 1878 and launched his thirty-year long tyrannical rule.

 OttomanRevolution

The conservative politics of Abdul Hamid went against the current of social reform and more liberal environment. His tightened rule dismissed all claims by minorities. His repressive policies peaked with the massacre of Armenians in 1894-1896, which cost the life of some 300,000 people.

 

The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), an underground organization founded in 1889, functioned as an umbrella party for the movement of the Young Turks, which sought to end with the rule of Abdul Hamid and to prevent the collapse of the empire. To this goal, they looked forward to an alliance with the revolutionary forces that functioned within the ethnic minorities, including the Armenians, in two opposition congresses convened in 1902 and 1907. The Hunchakian party rejected to cooperate on the grounds that the CUP tried to impose its Ottomanist plan and leave aside any particular concern or demand from the minorities. On the other hand, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation accepted the offer, considering a priority the overthrow of Abdul Hamid’s regime. Different methods of civil disobedience were anticipated, with an armed rebellion anticipated for October 1908.

 

The CUP had moved its headquarters to Salonica (Thessalonika in Macedonia, now part of Greece) in 1906. Military officers gained to the cause of the Young Turks accelerated the revolt after a meeting of King Edward VII of England and Czar Nicholas II of Russia in the Baltic port of Reval (now Tallinn, the capital of Estonia) in June 1908. During the meeting, new reforms were drafted for the region of Macedonia, which in the end would be detached from the Ottoman Empire after the Balkan War of 1912.

The fear that the meeting was a prologue to the separation of Macedonia led to the mutiny against the sultan, which was initiated by major Ahmed Niyazi on July 3 with a demand to restore the constitution. The movement spread rapidly throughout Macedonia. The attempt by Abdul Hamid to suppress the uprising failed, with the garrisons of Constantinople and Asia Minor being also favorable to the rebels. The sultan capitulated and on the night of July 23-24 the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution of 1876 was announced. Abdul Hamid II became a nominal ruler and the power went to the revolutionaries. Decrees establishing freedom of speech and press, and a general amnesty were soon issued.

General elections were held in November and December 1908, and the CUP won a majority in the Parliament. The election was marred with fraud and threats in places where Armenian candidates were on the ballot. As a result, only 12 Armenian deputies were elected out of a total of 230.  The Senate reconvened on December 17, 1908, and the Chamber of Deputies held its first session on January 30, 1909.

Armenian hopes that the motto of “equality, fraternity, freedom, justice” carried by the revolution would turn into real change were soon dashed.

 

In April 1909 Abdul Hamid attempted to seize his power back with promises to restore the sharia-based system and eliminate secular policies. He attracted the support of masses of theological students and clerics, as well as army units, which revolted on April 13, 1909. The Liberation Army coming from Macedonia and commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha restored the status quo and quashed the counterrevolutionary movement on April 24, 1909. However, in the meantime, the double massacre of Adana and surroundings, with its catastrophic sequel, was carried both by representatives of the “ancien regime” and the local Young Turks on April 13-15 and April 25-27, 1909, with an outcome of up to 30,000 Armenians, as well as Assyrians and Greeks massacred. The failure of the Ottoman government to prosecute and thoroughly punish the culprits of the massacre created profound disillusionment among Armenians. By 1910-1911 the revolutionary movement, caught in the conflict within the CUP among conservatives and liberals, was finished. The Libya war of 1911 and the Balkan War of 1912 essentially threw the empire out of Africa and Europe, and led to the coup d’état of January 1913 and the establishment of the government headed by the triumvirate of Talaat, Enver, and Jemal. World War I and the Armenian Genocide were not very far ahead.

 

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