THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Throughout history, statesmen of Armenian origin have also served in different countries in the world. One of them was Nubar Pasha, who spent most of his life in Egypt, where he became Prime Minister three times.
Nubar Nubarian was born in Smyrna (Izmir) in 1825. He was the son of an Armenian merchant, Mgrdich Nubarian. His mother was a relative of Boghos Bey Yusufian, an influential minister of Muhammad Ali, Viceroy of Egypt (1805-1849) and the founder of the modern Egyptian state.
Nubar was educated in Switzerland (Vevey) and France (Toulouse), and acquired an excellent command of the French language. He went to Egypt before he was eighteen. He first was trained as secretary to Boghos Bey, Minister of Commerce and Foreign Affairs, and in 1845 started his state career, first under Muhammad Ali (second secretary), the heir apparent Ibrahim Pasha (first secretary), and then under the latter’s successor, Abbas Pasha.
He was the Egyptian representative for various diplomatic missions in London and Vienna between 1850 and 1854, and he was rewarded with the title of bey for his success. In 1856 the new viceroy, Said [Saaid], appointed him as his chief secretary, and then charged him with the important transport service from Egypt to India. Despite his success in that task, he was dismissed by Said and then rehired again as principal secretary, until the death of the viceroy in 1863.
Said [Saaid] was succeeded by Ismail Pasha, who recognized Nubar’s ability and charged him with a mission to Constantinople to smooth the way for several ambitious projects: the completion of the Suez Canal, the change in title to that of khedive, and the change in the order of succession. Nubar obtained the consent of the Sultan for the completion of the Canal and was made a pasha by Ismail. After his return from Paris, where he went to complete the arrangements for the construction of the Suez Canal, he was made Minister of Public Works. In 1866 he became Minister of Foreign Affairs and succeeded to complete the other two projects; in 1867 Ismail was declared khedive of Egypt, with succession in favor of his eldest son.
Despite mounting opposition, Nubar Pasha was able to replace the antiquated system of capitulations of the Ottoman Empire in Egypt by mixed international civil courts and a uniform code, instead of seventeen consulates administering seventeen different codes.
Ismail’s extravagant administration brought Egypt to the verge of bankruptcy, and prompted Great Britain and France to intervene. Representatives of both countries were included in the Egyptian cabinet, with Nubar as Prime Minister (1878-1879), who tried to reduce the khedive to the position of constitutional monarch. However, Ismail incited a military rising against him. Nubar was dismissed, but finally the British and the French realized that the situation was not to their advantage and Ismail was deposed in 1879. Nubar remained out of office until 1884, when he was designated Prime Minister by Ismail’s son Tawfiq. He was forced to carry out a policy which he openly disapproved, but which the country was forced to accept under British dictation.
Nubar was dismissed from his post in 1888 and returned for a short stint as Prime Minister between April 1894 and November 1895, when he retired after completing his fifty years of service.
He lived afterwards between Cairo and Paris, where he died on January 14, 1899. His son Boghos Nubar Pasha (1851-1930) was one of the founding members and first president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (1906-1928).