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.

 

THE COUNCIL OF ADANA

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

[ANEC]

The Council of Adana
(July 18, 1316)

Sis in Cilicia - photo by Hrair Hawk Khatcherian

Sis in Cilicia – photo by Hrair Hawk Khatcherian

The Armenian state of Cilicia (1080-1375), which had become a kingdom in 1198, started a process of decline in the fourteenth century. The end of the Crusades in 1270 and the fall of the last Crusader bulwark in 1291 were combined with the rise of the Mamluks of Egypt and the Turkmens in Konia, as well as the end of the alliance with the Mongol Empire. As a result, the kingdom looked to the West for help, which was fueled by the pro-Catholic trends of part of the nobility and the ecclesiastics.

The fifth council of Sis (1307) examined the request of Pope Clement V (1305-1314), the beginner of the period of the Avignon Papacy (1307-1377). The Pope demanded that the Armenians adopted Catholicism in exchange for military help from Europe. The pressure exerted by King Levon IV (1301-1307), his father Hetum (the former King Hetum II), and the recently elected Catholicos Gosdantin III (1307-1322) forced the members of the council to adopt the doctrine and the ritual of the Catholic Church, as well as the sovereignty of the Pope. The new rules established, in practice, the union of the Armenian Church and the Catholic Church.

The strongly negative reaction of the public and the ecclesiastics from Greater Armenia led to the councils of Adana (1308) and the sixth council of Sis (1309), which declared null and void the resolutions of 1307.

However, the new King Oshin I (1308-1320) started persecutions against the participants in those councils, and many of them were jailed or exiled. Some 500 ecclesiastics were exiled to Cyprus, where most of them died.

In 1316 Pope John XXII asked Oshin I to restore the resolution of 1307. To that end, the king and the Catholicos called upon the second council of Adana on July 18, 1316, with the participation of 18 bishops, 7 archimandrites, and 10 princes, mostly from the dioceses of Cilicia. The participants confirmed the resolution of 1307, which was again refused by the people and the ecclesiastics of Greater Armenia. The court tried to impose the measures by force and met with an obstinate rejection, particularly in Armenia, and its attempts to do the same in Armenia only deepened the internal division and weakened the resistance against the external enemies.

The help from the West never came, and the eighth council of Sis (1361) declared definitively null and void the resolutions of 1307 and 1316. It was too late. The kingdom of Cilicia, reduced practically to Sis and its surroundings, would fall to the Mamluks in 1375. The last period of Armenian independence before the twentieth came to an end.

MHER MKRTCHYAN

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

[ANEC]

 

Meher Mekerchyan

Photo: I like to tell people serious things with a smile on my face…

Birth of Mher Mkrtchyan
(July 4, 1930)

Mher Mkrtchyan was one of the greatest Armenian actors of the Soviet period.

Son of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, he was born in Leninakan (nowadays Gumri) on July 4, 1930. His actual given name was Frunze, for which he was also known as “Frunzik,” but he later took the name Mher. His father wanted him to become a painter, but he started playing in the theatrical group of the textile factory of the town, which was next door to their home. He studied in the Art College and Theatre Studio of the city from 1945-1946, and then he played in the permanent group of the Mravian Theatre. He performed in a dozen of plays, and showed his maturity despite his young age.

He then moved to Yerevan, where he was accepted straight into the second year of the Acting Department of the Institute of Fine Arts and Theatre. He graduated in 1953 and he immediately started performing in the Sundukyan Academic Drama Theatre of Yerevan. He also directed many successful productions.

His film career began in 1955, and he played in 49 films until 1987. Mkrtchyan earned a reputation as one of the leading comedy actors of the Soviet Union thanks to his celebrated roles in Aybolit-66 (Rolan Bykov, 1966), Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Leonid Gaidai, 1966), and Mimino (Georgi Daneliya, 1977). However, his acting talent and emotional depth were best displayed in several classic films of Armenian cinema: Triangle (1967), We Are Our Mountains (1969), Father (1973), Nahapet (1977), The Song of the Old Days (1982), Tango of Our Childhood (1985). In his posthumously published memoirs, Mkrtchyan wrote that his godfather in cinema was filmmaker Henrik Malyan:

“He was the first to notice me and trusted me to perform in his films, from Arsen (The Boys of the Orchestra), Gaspar (Triangle), Ishkhan (We Are Our Mountains), to Daddy (Father), Apro (Nahapet) and Grigor agha (A Piece of Sky), which all had the characteristic fate of the Armenian man: they are ingenious, hardworking, wistful, and dreamers.”

Among other honors, the actor won the USSR State Prize in 1978 and was also honored with the title of People’s Artist of the Armenian SSR.

Mher Mkrtchyan passed away at the age of 63 on December 29, 1993 in Yerevan. Thousands of people attended the funeral of their beloved actor. He was buried at the Komitas Pantheon. A museum remembers him in his birthplace Gumri and the Tekeyan Cultural Association of New York-New Jersey named its theater group after him.

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

[ANEC]

 

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the European Parliament
(June 18, 1987)

Turkey has been in a dialogue with Europe since the 1940s. In 1948 Turkey was one of the founding members of the European Organization of Economic Cooperation, predecessor of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It adhered to the Council of Europe in 1949 and to NATO in 1951. During the Cold War, the country positioned itself along Western Europe and the United States. The European Economic Community (EEC), predecessor to the current European Union, was founded in 1957, and Turkey became an associate member in 1963. By then, the preamble of the agreement of association signed between both sides recognized that “the aid contributed by the EEC to the efforts of the Turkish people to improve their level of life will ultimately facilitate the adhesion of Turkey to the Community.” The final goal, therefore, was well known to both sides.

 

Bilateral relations were quite cold in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly after the September 1980 coup d’état in Turkey. Following a formal return to democracy after the end of the military regime in 1983, Turkey presented its demand of official adhesion to the European Community on April 14, 1987.

 

Armenian political violence had winded down, and in August 1985, the report on genocide by Benjamin Whitaker had been approved by the U.N. Sub-Commission of Human Rights, with mention of the Armenian genocide as one of the first in the twentieth century. The European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Community, resisted enormous pressure from Turkey and its hired guns, and set the record straight. The courageous actions of a group of Parliament members, led by French Henri Saby (1933-2011), on the basis of a detailed report introduced by Belgian Jaak Vandemeulebroucke in April 1987, were instrumental to deliver the historic decision. The “Resolution on a political solution to the Armenian question” was voted in Strasbourg during the plenary session of June 18, 1987, and the European Parliament became the first major international body to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

 

The resolution established that “the tragic events in 1915-1917 involving the Armenians living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire constitute genocide within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and the punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948,” although it denied that the Republic of Turkey could be held responsible and stressed that no claims against Turkey could be derived from the recognition. It called for a fair treatment of the Armenian minority in Turkey and made “an emphatic plea for improvements in the care of monuments and for the maintenance and conservation of the Armenian religious architectural heritage in Turkey.” Most importantly, it stated that “the refusal by the present Turkish Government to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people committed by the Young Turk government, its reluctance to apply the principles of international law to its differences of opinion with Greece, the maintenance of Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus and the denial of existence of the Kurdish question, together with the lack of true parliamentary democracy and the failure to respect individual and collective freedoms, in particular freedom of religion, in that country are insurmountable obstacles to consideration of the possibility of Turkey’s accession to the [European] Community.”

 

The resolution was repeated many times afterwards. A resolution of November 12, 2000, on “The progress made by Turkey on the path of adhesion” reminded, on point 10, that Turkey had been invited to recognize publicly the Armenian genocide. The February 28, 2002 resolution about “The relations of the European Union with the South Caucasus” reproduced textually the position of June 18, 1987, and asked Turkey to create the conditions for reconciliation. After a recommendation of 2004 about “The policy of the European Union towards the South Caucasus” repeated the positions of 1987, two resolutions of December 15, 2004, and September 28, 2005, reaffirmed the existence of the Armenian genocide. The last declaration in this regard was the resolution of April 15, 2015, passed on the centennial of the genocide. 

 

The government of the Republic of Armenia bestowed upon Henri Saby the medal “Mkhitar Gosh” in March 2011 for his services to the Armenian Cause. The former member of the European Parliament passed away in August of the same year. According to his last will, his ashes were buried in France, Armenia (cemetery of Tokhmakh, in Yerevan), and Artsakh (cemetery of Stepanakert).

 

 

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