Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Khatisian’

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Alexander Khatisian
(March 10, 1945)



Alexander Khatisian, one of the prime ministers of the first Republic of Armenia, was a remarkable public figure before and after the crucial years of 1918-1920.


He was born in Tiflis (nowadays Tbilisi), the capital of Georgia, on February 17, 1874. He belonged to a well-to-do family. His brother Kostandin Khatisian (1864-1913) was among the founding members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.


After graduating from the local gymnasium (Russian high school) in 1891, Khatisian went to Russia to pursue higher education. He studied medicine at the universities of Moscow and Kharkov, and graduated in 1897. He mastered half a dozen languages, including English, French, and German.


From 1898 to 1900 he traveled abroad for specialization courses in the best clinics. He visited Italy, France, and Germany, where he also studied public hygiene, laws, and municipal work in slaughterhouses, hospitals, and water works. Later on, he would publish articles and pamphlets on cultural and health-related topics.


Upon his return to Tiflis, in 1900, Khatisian worked as a doctor, and also entered the political arena. In 1902 he was elected to the City Council, and in 1905 he became a member of the City Board. He participated in the revolutionary movements of 1905. He wanted to join the A.R.F. at that date, but he was dissuaded by Rostom, one of the party founders, and Hamo Ohanjanian, among others, who argued that he could better serve the Armenian people and the party as a non-partisan. In 1907 he became an assistant to the mayor of Tiflis, and from 1910-1917 served as mayor of Tiflis. He was president of the Caucasus branch of the Union of Cities (including a total of forty-four cities) from 1914-1917.


During World War I, Khatisian was among the organizers of assistance for Armenian refugees and genocide survivors. He collaborated with the formation of the Armenian volunteer battalions and was elected vice-president of the Armenian National Bureau of Tiflis from 1915-1917.


After the February Revolution of 1917, Khatisian entered the ranks of the A.R.F. During that decisive year, he led the National Bureau until October, presided over the Council of Armenian Political Parties (March-April), and participated in the convention of peasants of Transcaucasia (June 1917). He moved to Armenia at the end of the year and was elected mayor of Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri). In February 1918 he participated in the peace negotiations held with the Ottoman Empire in Trebizonda (Trabzon). However, in April 1918 he went back to Tiflis, when he was designated Minister of Finances and Provisions of the short-lived Republic of Transcaucasia. In May he returned to the table of negotiations with the Turks, and was one of the three Armenian representatives who signed the Treaty of Batum on June 4, 1918, where the Ottoman Empire recognized the independence of Armenia over a stretch of territory.


He moved to Yerevan, and Prime Minister Hovhannes Kajaznuni designated him as Minister of Foreign Affairs. After Kajaznuni left Armenia in February 1919 on official mission, in April Khatisian was designated acting Prime Minister and was confirmed as Prime Minister in May, while also retaining his position in Foreign Affairs. He reshuffled his cabinet first in August 1919 and then in the spring of 1920.

After the failed May 1920 uprising engineered by Armenian Communists, Khatisian resigned from his post. He was replaced by Hamo Ohanjanian, the representative of the A.R.F. Bureau, while the Bureau members took the cabinet posts. Khatisian traveled abroad in the summer to organize a loan for the country within the Armenian communities and create a “Golden Fund.”


After his return, on the eve of the Sovietization, he signed the Treaty of Alexandropol along the representatives of Mustafa Kemal on behalf of the Republic of Armenia in the early morning of December 2-3, 1920.


After the fall of the Republic, Khatisian settled in Paris. He continued his political activities, and participated in the Lausanne Conference in 1922-1923 defending the rights of the Armenian people. He was a member of various Armenian and Russian public organizations. He published his memoirs of his time as mayor of Tiflis and the volume The Origin and Development of the Republic of Armenia (1930).


During World War II and the occupation of Paris, Khatisian moved to Portugal. However, after the liberation of the French capital, he was arrested under trumped-up charges of collaboration with the Nazis, but was soon liberated due to lack of proofs. He passed away on March 10, 1945, in Paris


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee[ANEC])


Death of Simon Vratsian
(May 21, 1969)

The last Prime Minister of the first Republic of Armenia, Simon Vratsian, was born in 1882, in the village of Medz Sala, near Nakhichevan-on-the-Don (today Rostov-on Don, in the northern Caucasus). He studied in the local Armenian and Russian schools, and in 1900 he was admitted in the Kevorkian Lyceum of Etchmiadzin, of which he was a brilliant graduate in 1906. By that time, he was already a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He had participated in the protests against the confiscation of the properties of the Armenian Church by the imperial regime (1903-1905), in the first Russian Revolution (1905), and in the Armenian self-defense during the Armeno-Tatar conflict of 1905-1906.SimonVratsian

He was a representative of the A.R.F. Student Union to the fourth General Assembly of the party (Vienna, 1907), which would have a decisive importance in its ideological orientation. He later went to St. Petersburg, where he studied law, agronomy, and pedagogy at the university. In 1910, when the persecution against the A.R.F. had peaked in the Russian Empire, he went to Karin (Erzerum), where Rostom, one of the founders of the party, had settled, gathering around him many experienced and promising members in order to dedicate himself to the development of Western Armenians in the country itself.

Vratsian edited the A.R.F. organ Harach in Karin for a year (1910-1911), and then, by Rostom’s recommendation, he was sent to Boston, where he edited Hairenik, then a biweekly, until 1914. He returned to Karin and participated in the crucial eighth General Assembly of the A.R.F., where he was elected a member of the Bureau and left for Tiflis, in the Caucasus. There, he took the editorship of the party daily Horizon and was elected member of the Armenian National Council, which dedicated itself to the organization of the volunteer movement.

After the independence of Armenia, Vratsian moved to Yerevan, where he was elected member of the Parliament and collaborated with the governments of Hovhannes Kachaznuni and Alexander Khatisian. In May 1920, when Hamo Ohanjanian became prime minister, Vratsian took the position of Minister of Labor and Agriculture, until the fall of the government in November 1920. As prime minister from November 24 to December 2, 1920, he would become the witness of the final agony of the independence after the defeat in the Armeno-Turkish war, which would force the sovietization of the country to escape destruction. He signed the agreement to transfer power to the Revolutionary Committee of the Bolsheviks, and he also became the president of the Committee of Salvation of the Homeland, which led Armenia after the rebellion of February 18, 1921.

After the re-establishment of Soviet power in April 1921, Vratsian took the road of exile and settled in Paris, where in 1924 he became the editor of Droshak [Pronounced Troshag], the A.R.F. central organ, until its demise in 1933. He wrote his monumental work, The Republic of Armenia, which he published in 1928, with a second, revised edition published in 1958. He was a prolific writer on political, historical, and literary subjects, and published and edited a journal of history and culture, Vem, between 1933 and 1939.

During the war, he moved to the United States, where he was one of the founders of the Armenian National Committee in 1945 and participated in the lobbying for the Armenian Cause during the founding meetings of the United Nations in San Francisco. In 1952, after the death of writer Levon Shant, Vratsian succeeded him as principal of the Nshan Palandjian Lyceum of Hamazkayin in Beirut, a position that he maintained until his death. He worked actively to consolidate the economic foundations of the Lyceum and continued the publishing of books, including a revised edition of The Republic of Armenia in 1958 and his memoirs in six volumes, “On the Path of Life."

He had written: “The regimes are a temporary phenomenon. The leaders are temporary. Nations and fatherlands, the people sitting in their homeland, are eternal. The freedom-loving Armenian people, which had trampled death with death, forged the independence of the fatherland. The Republic of Armenia continues to live in the heart of the Armenian people as a burning reminder of the past and a lively hope of the future.” He was far from imagining that Armenia would become an independent country less than a quarter of a century after his death in Beirut on May 21, 1969.


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Prepared by
the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

The Treaty of Alexandropol
(December 2-3, 1920)

       The Armenian-Turkish war of 1920 put the Republic of Armenia on the brink of collapse. It also brought back the very real threat of physical disappearance for the Armenian people. The secret pact signed between the Turkish Great National Assembly led by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) and Soviet Russia in August 1920 had ensured the support of Bolshevism to the Turkish insurgents. The latter, unlike the Ottoman legal government, were leading the so-called “war of independence” against Greece in order to overturn the partition of the Ottoman Empire that included the division of current Turkey into different zones of influence and the loss of most of its territories.

       Turkish forces commanded by General Kiazim Karabekir had already reached Alexandropol (now Gumri) at the end of November 1920 when a ceasefire was forced upon the Armenian government. On the other side, a small group of Armenian Bolsheviks had crossed the border from Soviet Azerbaijan into Armenia on November 29 and proclaimed Armenia a Soviet republic, appealing for the intervention of the Red Army. The government of the Republic of Armenia, led by Prime Minister Simon Vratsian (who had assumed power on November 25), was forced to choose the lesser of two evils: to turn away the potential annihilation of Eastern Armenians, it decided to relinquish power to the Communists. The change of regime was legalized through the signature of an agreement between the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and Boris Legran, representative of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), in the morning of December 2, 1920. It was enforced on the same day at 6 pm. It established that Armenia would become an independent Soviet Socialist republic within the frontiers that had been under the jurisdiction of the government before the Turkish invasion and a revolutionary committee would take power temporarily. On its final session of the same day, the government of the Republic of Armenia decided to resign power. After more than two and half years, the first independence had come to an end.

The sovietization of Armenia did not end the Turkish menace. Karabekir threatened to resume his offensive unless his terms were accepted. The onerous terms obliged Armenia to renounce the Treaty of Sevres and all claims to Western Armenia and the province of Kars, and to accept temporary Turkish jurisdiction in Nakhichevan, among other issues. Alexander Khatisian, representative of the Republic of Armenia, signed the treaty in the wee hours of December 3.

       However, the Armenian government had already resigned and, therefore, Khatisian had no power whatsoever. On the other hand, Kiazim Karabekir represented the Great National Assembly of Turkey, with headquarters in Ankara, but the legal authority of Turkey, until November 1922, was in the hands of Sultan Mehmed VI and the Ottoman government in Constantinople. Legally, none of the signing parties had any attribution to stamp their signature under the document. Writes Richard Hovannisian: “Denounced and branded a traitor by Soviet and other non-Dashnakist authors, Khatisian justified his action as an exigency measure taken with the knowledge of the new Erevan government and intended to give time for the Red Army to enter Armenia in sufficient numbers to block a further Turkish advance. Realizing that he had not legal jurisdiction, Khatisian hoped that the new Soviet government, with the support of Russia, would repudiate his action and force the Turks to withdraw, at least to the pre-war boundaries.”

       The Treaty of Alexandropol was never ratified and was replaced by the treaties of Moscow and Kars (March and October 1921). The latter was signed by the Great National Assembly of Turkey, Soviet Russia, Soviet Armenia, Soviet Georgia, and Soviet Azerbaijan. However, these treaties cannot be recognized as valid according to international law. Mustafa Kemal had not been invested with any powers by the legally recognized Ottoman government, and Soviet Armenia was not a legally recognized state anymore.


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