Posts Tagged ‘Armenian Revolutionary Federation’

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

[ANEC]

Death of Kevork Chavoush
(May 27, 1907)


Kevork Chavush Graphics

There were names that rose to legendary proportions at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, when Turkish and Kurdish marauding of Armenian peasantry was met with armed resistance by fedayees (freedom fighters). Kevork Chavoush was among the most prominent figures leading that struggle.

 

He was born Kevork Atamian in 1870, in the village of Megtink, district of Psanats (Sasoun). In 1886 his family sent him to the school of the monastery of the Holy Apostles (Arakelots) in Moush. At school, he heard about Arabo (Arakel Mkhitarian, 1863-1893), one of the founders of the fedayee movement. He decided to join the movement in 1888. He left for Aleppo, where he spent two years working to buy a gun. In 1890 he returned to Sasoun. 

 

In 1892 Gurbo, the head of the neighbor village of Alizernani, betrayed Arabo and reported his location in the village of Pertag to the Turks, who managed to capture him despite heavy casualties. Kevork Chavoush punished Gurbo’s treason by killing him in his own home. 

 

After Arabo was killed in 1893, Kevork Chavoush participated actively in the first rebellion of Sasoun in 1893-1894. He was captured and condemned to 15 years of prison. However, he was able to escape from the prison of Bitlis in April 1896 and return to Sasoun, where he met legendary freedom fighter Antranig (1865-1927) and entered the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

 

Serop Aghpiur (1864-1899), another famous fighter, was forced to leave his home in Khlat and move to Sasoun. Kevork Chavoush and Antranig, joined him with their own groups. Serop established certain rules among the fedayees. The first rule was that the fedayee was married to his weapon. He noticed that the Armenian villages were in enmity, since men from one village stole women from another, and declared that anyone doing such a thing would be severely punished. Kevork’s uncle, Ave, kidnapped a housekeeper at the monastery of the Holy Apostles. Serop left it to Kevork to decide the punishment. He was forced to kill his uncle, but depression led him to leave Serop’s battalion and isolate himself for a few days.

 

In his absence, Serop was betrayed by a villager from Keghashen, also called Ave, who let the Turks know about Serop’s position and poisoned him. A troop of 2,000 Turks and Kurds soldiers surrounded the village of Gelieguzan. Aghpiur Serop, his son, and his brothers fell during the unequal battle. His wife Sose continued the fight, but was wounded and taken prisoner by Turkish chief Khalil bey, who beheaded Serop. His death did not go unpunished. In April 1900 Kevork Chavoush liquidated Ave and all other people implicated in the betrayal. In November a group of 30 fedayees, headed by Antranig and Kevork, ambushed Khalil bey and his 40 horsemen. They took Khalil prisoner and beheaded him.

 

On November 1, 1901, Antranig and Kevork Chavoush, together with a group of 25 to 27 fighters, occupied the Holy Apostles monastery. The operation had been carefully planned to attract the attention of the foreign powers. A few days later, 3,000 Turkish soldiers besieged the monastery. During the siege, typhus declared among the Turks, who started negotiations on November 18. However, on the night of November 27 the fedayees managed to cut through the siege and disappear in the dark.

 

After the defeat of the second rebellion of Sasoun in 1904, Kevork Chavoush fought heroically in the plain of Moush with Antranig and other fedayees, and later he went to the region of Vaspurakan (Van). The meeting of local leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, held at the island of Aghtamar in September 1904, decided that a group of fighters return to Sasoun and continued the struggle against the Turkish authorities. Kevork became the A.R.F. representative in the region of Moush and Sasoun, and the leader of Armenian freedom fighters in the region from 1905-1907.

 

Kevork Chavoush had left his sweetheart, Yeghso (Heghine), when he had entered the cause of freedom. However, she never ceased to love him, even after she was forced to get married. In 1905 she escaped her home and tried to see Kevork for the last time before taking her own life. He first rejected, but then his comrades of arms convinced him. They married the same day, breaking the rule of fedayee etiquette, and had a son called Vartkes.

 

On May 25, 1907, an unequal fight broke in the village of Souloukh, in the plain of Moush. Eighty fedayees fought against a 2000-strong Turkish troop. The Turkish troops gave 120 dead and 110 wounded. The Armenian losses were seven dead and 21 wounded. Most importantly, however, Kevork Chavoush was mortally wounded in the fight. He passed away on May 27. After his death, the Turks tried to kill his wife and son, but his comrades saved their lives.

 

Kevork Chavoush’s life and exploits became the material for songs and novels. Like the rest of the fedayee movement, his name was banned for many years in Soviet Armenia. In the 1960s his relative Kevork Melkonian managed to install his statue in the village of Ashnag, whose population had its roots in Sasoun, complemented by a museum he inaugurated in the 1980s. After the independence of Armenia, other statues were inaugurated in Yerevan, Artashat, Jermuk, and the village of Lousarat.

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

[ANEC]

 

Birth of Nikol Duman
(January 12, 1867)

Nikol Duman was one of the protagonists of the Armenian national movement of liberation from its early days until his death, from the expedition of Khanasor until the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. As national hero General Antranig once wrote, “Duman could rule over everyone and give orders, and everyone would know where to be and what to do.”

Nikol Duman

Nikol Duman

He was born Nikoghayos Ter-Hovhannisian in the village of Kishlak (nowadays Tzaghkashat) of the district of Askeran (Mountainous Gharabagh). His father, a priest, sent him to the Diocesan School of Shushi in 1876, from where he graduated in 1887. For the next four years, after a short stint at the Ecclesiastical Council of Shushi, he worked as a teacher at the Armenian schools of the Northern Caucasus.

The revolutionary movement had started among the Armenians of the Caucasus with the foundation of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (Geneva, 1887) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Tiflis, 1890). Education was the way to sow the seeds of the future and to attract the sympathy of the people.  In 1891 Ter-Hovhannisian’s former schoolmate Hovnan Davtian was appointed principal of one of the Armenian schools of Tabriz, in Iranian Azerbaijan, and invited him as a teacher. Tabriz was a hub of revolutionary activities. In 1892 Ter-Hovhannisian participated in the first general assembly of the A.R.F. and, after Davtian’s departure to Geneva as newly-appointed editor of the party organ Droshak, he took a new teaching position in the nearby city of Salmast in 1894. A year later, he went to the nearby monastery of Derek, a center of revolutionary activity, and participated in the victorious self-defense fights against Turks and Kurds.

The tall, black-bearded fighter was one of the leaders in the combats of Saray-Boghazkiasan a few months later. The defeated Kurds, deeply impressed by his bravery, called him Duman (“storm”) in their songs. Nikoghayos Ter-Hovhannisian, whose first name was already shortened to Nikol, became Nikol Duman.

In the same year, Duman went to Van with a group of fifty fedayees (freedom fighters). In 1896 he came up with the idea of avenging the death of the young Armenians who had defended Van during the Hamidian massacres and who had perished in an ambush by the Kurdish Mazrik tribe during their retreat to Persia. The outcome was the expedition of Khanasor (July 1897), in which Duman was one of its leaders. He later went back to the Caucasus and settled in Baku. In 1904 he attempted to cross into Western Armenia to help the rebellion of Sassoun with a group of fedayees, but he engaged in combat with Kurdish gangs near the Turkish-Persian border and could not reach his aim.

Nigol Duman, seated, with his band of fedayees.

Nikol Duman, seated, with his band of fedayees.

Nikol Duman led the Armenian self-defense forces in the province of Yerevan and the plain of Ararat during the Armeno-Tatar inter-ethnic conflict of 1905-1906. Later, he left the Caucasus and went to Europe to avoid the persecution of the Czarist police. One of the “intellectual fedayees,” he stated his opposition to the “Caucasian Project” approved in the crucial 4th General Assembly of the A.R.F. (Vienna, 1907), which allowed the party to enter in an alliance with Russian revolutionaries. He also published a booklet, Project of Popular Self-Defense (Geneva, 1907), which became one of the mainstays of the strategic literature of the Armenian liberation movement.

In 1910 he was one of the representatives of the A.R.F. in the congress of the Second International held in Copenhagen (Denmark). A year later, he participated in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, where the party had been active since 1908, and led the victorious defense of Tabriz against the counter-revolutionary forces in September 1911. When the Russian intervention turned the tide against the revolution, in late 1911 Nikol Duman gathered his group of fedayees and went to Western Armenia, where he stayed until 1913. Finally, he returned to the Caucasus.

At the beginning of World War I, Duman was opposed to the organization of the Armenian volunteer battalions in the Caucasus, since the 8th General Assembly (Erzerum, 1914) had not approved it. He was a natural candidate to lead one of them. However, his wandering and active life had taken its toll on his health. After his arthritic pains, he had got infected with tuberculosis. He could not stay in the hospital, waiting patiently for death while his comrades were in the battlefields. He had only one solution: on September 27, 1914 he committed suicide. He was buried in the cemetery of Khojivank, in Tiflis, near Simon Zavarian, one of the founders of the A.R.F

 

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

 

Occupation of the Ottoman Bank
(August 14, 1896)

The occupation of the Ottoman Bank of Constantinople, organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in 1896, was an audacious attempt to attract the attention of the European great powers towards the Armenian Question.

ArmenGaro

Armen Garo (Karekin Bastermadjian

Europe was the guarantor of article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin (1878), which obligated the Ottoman Empire to carry out reforms to improve the situation of Armenians living in their historical territories. The May 1895 plan presented by the European powers to Sultan Abdul Hamid II was never executed. Instead, Abdul Hamid perpetrated a massacre of its Armenian subjects with an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 victims in 1895-1896.

The Central Committee of the A.R.F. in Constantinople organized the strike against the bank, which was a joint venture of Ottoman, British, and French capitals, in order to have the reforms executed. The action was also intended to show the sultan that Armenians were not ready to give up on their rights.

The preparations to occupy the bank started in February 1896. The idea had been conceived by 23-year old Papken Siuni (Bedros Parian), who would lead the operation. Hrach (Haig) Tiryakian, 25-years old, was his lieutenant, and Armen Garo (Karekin Bastermadjian), also 23, would take care of maintaining order in the bank and among the staff. Armen Garo wrote in his memoirs: “We transported close to 400 empty bombs during eight days from our secret foundry in Scutari to our workshop of Pera, in the house of Miss Iskouhi. After filling those bombs there, we transported them to various neighborhoods of Constantinople. We were only 10-15 trustworthy comrades to all this, teachers and students, twenty- to twenty-five-year-old young people, including three young ladies.”

After several changes of date, the operation was finally carried on August 14. At noon, a discharge of guns and the thunder of bombs started the occupation. The group of militants included 28 people. The attacking group killed the guards, although four Armenians were also slain and another five were wounded. A very important loss was that of the head of the operation, Papken Siuni, who was wounded and the bombs on his body exploded when he fell.

Armen Garo took the command of the group and the fight started between the occupiers and the Ottoman forces. Meanwhile, a Turkish mob had started to kill innocent Armenians throughout the city. The A.R.F. militants sent a note with their demands to the European embassies: a) 1. To stop the massacre of innocent Armenians; b) To stop the attack against the bank, otherwise the building would be blown; c) To give written guarantees about the reforms to be carried in the Armenian provinces; d) To liberate all Armenian political prisoners.

At 1 a.m., Russian consul Maximov arrived in the bank and proposed to evacuate it, guaranteeing safe passage for Armen Garo and his companions. The young Armenian answered Maximov: “Mr. Ambassador, we didn’t enter here so you take the trouble of saving us from here…” He meant that he had clear demands, which they expected to be accomplished by the diplomatic representatives and the Sultan. Maximov answered back that the massacre and the attack had stopped; the ambassadors promised to do their best to ensure the reforms and he promised to have the jailed Armenians freed. After long negotiations, the revolutionaries agreed to leave the bank, receiving guarantees about their demands.

After 14 hours of occupation, the seventeen surviving revolutionaries came out of the bank at daybreak. To Maximov’s question of why the others were not coming out, Armen Garo answered that there was no one else; the Turks had convinced Maximov that 200 Armenians had occupied the building. The group, still armed, passed through the Turkish troops, led by Maximov, and was taken to the French ship “Gironde.”

The young Armenians were disarmed and taken to Marseilles, where they stayed 17 days in prison. Afterwards, Armen Garo and Hrach were sent to Switzerland, while the French government promised to send the others to New York. The remaining fifteen revolutionaries were sent to America; however, their destination was South America. They were dispatched to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they stayed until November 1896, when they were able to catch a British ship that took them to London.

The takeover of the Ottoman Bank, with its extraordinary circumstances, was widely reported in the international press. However, the act did not have any positive consequence, since the reforms were not implemented and Armenians would continue to be in dire straits under Ottoman rule. Nevertheless, the action reinforced the determination of the Armenian revolutionaries to continue their struggle in order to achieve political and social freedom for their people.

bankotomansurvivors

The surviving members of the Ottoman Bank takeover after arriving in Marseilles, France

 

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


Assassination of Djemal Pasha
(July 21, 1922)

JamalPasha

Djemal Pasha

The Nemesis Operation, approved by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in its 9th World Assembly, held in Yerevan in September-October 1919, had a long list of Turkish leaders responsible for the Armenian Genocide among its targets.

One of them was Ahmed Jemal, minister of Marine of the Ottoman Empire and member of the leading triumvirate of the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad), together with Talaat, minister of Interior, and Enver, minister of War. Jemal had taken the command of the IV Ottoman Army, based in Syria, and had overseen the execution of the second phase of the genocide, when the survivors of the caravans of deportees were dispatched and killed in the  camps along the Euphrates River. He had also been in charge of the assimilation of Armenian orphans.

Some targets of the operation, such as Talaat and former grand vizier Said Halim, Behaeddin Shakir (leader of the Special Organization) and Jemal Azmi (the “monster of Trebizond”), had been liquidated in Berlin and Rome, under the supervision of the special body created by the A.R.F. (Enver would be killed by a Bolshevik Armenian in August 1922, in Central Asia.) Jemal Pasha was also in Berlin, but had been able to avoid the Armenian avengers.

On July 26, 1922, The New York Times published a dispatch of the Associated Press, with byline Tiflis:

“Djemal Pasha, former Minister of Marine in the Turkish Unionist Government, Chief of Staff of the Afghan Army, has been assassinated here. Two Armenians are charged with the crime.

“Djemal Pasha was accompanied by two aides, who were also shot dead. He was traveling to Kabul from Berlin, where he had made important purchases from [sic] the Afghan Army.”

The Central Committee of the A.R.F. in Georgia still operated, although clandestinely, after Georgia had become a Soviet republic in March 1921. It organized the killing, according to Simon Vratzian:

“At the initiative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Central Committee of Georgia, on July 21, 1922, in Tiflis and in broad daylight, the last surviving member [of the Ittihad triumvirate] and friend and accomplice of the Bolsheviks, Jemal Pasha, was assassinated. The incident had a shocking effect on everyone. The Cheka made innumerable arrests but did not dare to violent measures for fear of retaliations. Dro got permission from Moscow and quickly left for Tiflis, where all the distinguished Dashnaktsakans had been arrested. Dro’s prestige in the eyes of both the Dashnaktsakan comrades and the Bolsheviks was so great that it was possible for him to get the members of the Central Committee and other prisoners out of jail with conditions acceptable to both parties.”

Little is known about the details of the operation. The name of Stepan Dzaghigian (who would later die in Siberia, exiled during the Stalinist purges) has been mentioned as one of the executors, helped by Petros Ter Poghosian and Ardashes Gevorgian. A fourth name, Zareh Melik-Shahnazarian, has also been mentioned as their collaborator in the last years, with the archives still waiting to yield their secrets.

 

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY

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

March 15, 1921: Assassination of Talaat Pasha

On March 16, 1921, one of the headlines of The New York Times read: “Talaat Pasha Slain in Berlin Suburb.” After giving the details of the killing the day before, the report noted: “Talaat, whose name was on the second Entente list of Turkish war criminals, left Constantinople two years ago and had been living as a fugitive ever since under assumed names, first in Switzerland and later in Germany. He evidently feared the fate which has now overtaken him, for he had frequently changed his address in Berlin and at the time of his death was living at a pension in the West End.” The correspondent for the American newspaper added that the killer had been identified as an Armenian student (“Solomon Tellirian,” according to the Associated Press) and that “it is assumed that the deed was an act of revenge for the massacres of his compatriots.”
Jagadamard

On the front page of the daily paper, Jagadamard, the headline in Armenian below the banner reads, "An Armenian student kills Talaat Pasha."

In July 1919, the Turkish martial court of Constantinople had condemned to death in absentia, among others, the “Three Pashas,” the members of the Young Turk triumvirate that had led the Ottoman Empire during the war: Talaat (Minister of Interior and Great Vizir in 1917-1918), Enver (Minister of War), and Djemal (Minister of Navy). The three had already fled Turkey, and the sentences were never carried out either by Turkey or by the allies.

The 9th General Assembly of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation convened in Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, between September and October 1919, and adopted a resolution to punish those responsible for the genocide. A list of 200 names was prepared. The secret operation received the code name “Nemesis” (the name of the Greek god of vengeance). It was led by Shahan Natalie (Hagop Der-Hagopian, 1884-1983) and Armen Garo (Bastermadjian, 1873-1923), the latter being the Armenian ambassador to the United States.
SoghomonTehlerian

The number one target of the operation was Talaat, who the U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau had called the “Big Boss” of Turkey and already considered responsible of the extermination in his memoirs.

Soghomon Tehlirian (1897-1960), a 23-year-old student who had survived the Armenian Genocide in Erzinga, was selected to execute the mission. Some of the personnel in the Armenian diplomatic mission in Berlin gave logistic support, and other A.R.F. members worked from outside. Once Talaat’s whereabouts were established, Tehlirian arrived in the German capital in December 1920. For the next three months, he carried a surveillance task with his associates. He rented an apartment near the Turkish leader’s house in order to study his everyday movements. Talaat was killed by Tehlirian with a single shot on March 15, 1921, as he came out of his house in the Charlottenburg district. The assassination took place in broad daylight and led to Tehlirian’s immediate arrest by German police.

The young avenger was tried for murder on June 2-3, 1921. The three German defense attorneys focused on the influence of the genocide on Tehlirian’s mental state. When asked by the judge if he felt any sort of guilt, Tehlirian remarked, “I do not consider myself guilty because my conscience is clear … I have killed a man. But I am not a murderer.” It took the jury slightly over an hour to render a verdict of “not guilty.”

Operation Nemesis, which continued until 1922, went totally unnoticed at the time. The partial story of Talaat’s liquidation was told by Tehlirian in his memoirs, published in 1953. The main details of the operation were not uncovered until the 1980s.

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