Posts Tagged ‘Enver Pasha’

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

[ANEC]

 

Russian Victory in the Battle of Sarikamish
(January 4, 1915)

 

The alignment of the Ottoman Empire with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and its declaration of war against Russia brought inevitably a winter campaign in the Caucasus. Russia had taken Kars during the Russo-Turkish War in 1877 and feared a campaign aimed at retaking Kars and the port of Batum in Georgia.

An initial Russian offensive in the first half of November was stopped 25 kilometers inside Turkish territory along the Erzerum-Sarikamish axis. War Minister Enver Pasha devised an operation plan and decided to take personal charge and execute his plan through a winter offense. The Turkish Third Army included 83,000 regular troops, reserves, and personnel of the Erzerum fortress added to 118,000. The Russian Caucasus Army was a well-equipped 100,000 troops. It included two battalions of Armenian volunteers, commanded by Hamazasp (Servantzdian) and Keri.

The Turkish plan was two-step: a sudden initial attack and a second step with two corps (Ninth and Tenth) of the army proceeding at full speed. After a very hard march under heavy snow in the mountainous territory, and various delays, the Turkish army started its attack on Sarikamish on December 29, instead of December 25 as planned. The troops were worn out, half-starved, and short of guns and ammunition. Enver thought that the Russians, who had initially evacuated Sarikamish, were retreating to Kars, when they were actually executing an encircling movement.

The IX and X Turkish Corps, totaling 12,000 men, began to attack Sarikamish. At the end of the day, they were driven off, losing 6,000 troops. Enver’s positive mood was replaced with disappointment when he received information that the Russians were preparing to encircle his forces with a force of five regiments. On January 1, the commander of the XI Corps pressed a frontal attack on Sarikamish lasting for the next 4 days; after that the heavy fighting began to lose momentum. Snow hindered advancing forces which were supposed to bring the relief.

On January 2, Russian artillery fire caused severe casualties. Enver Pasha received two reports; both were saying that they did not have any capacity to launch another attack. The Russians were advancing now and the circle was getting narrower. On January 4, Turkish Brigadier General Hafız Hakkı Pasha toured the front line and saw that the fight was over.

Afterwards, Turkish divisions started to surrender. Hafız Hakkı ordered a total retreat on January 7. The Ottoman Third Army started with 118,000 fighting power and was reduced to 42,000 effectives in January 1915. Russian losses were 16,000 killed in action and 12,000 who died of sickness, mostly due to frostbite.

Enver was the strategist of the operation and the failure was blamed on him. Beyond his faulty estimate on how the encircled Russians would react, his failure was on not keeping operational reserves that matched the needs of the conditions. He did not have enough field service to factor the hardships faced by the soldiers and analyzed the operational necessities theoretically rather than contextually. Carrying out a military plan in the winter was not the major failure of the operation, but the level of its execution.

The Armenian detachment units are credited no small measure of the success which attended by the Russian forces, as they were natives of the region, adjusted to the climatic conditions, familiar with every road and mountain path, and had real incentive to fierce and resolute combat.

On his return to Constantinople, Enver Pasha blamed his failure on the actions of the local Armenians, initiating the repressive measures against the empire’s Armenian population that were an early stage of the Armenian Genocide.

 

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

Execution of the 26 Baku Commissars
(September 20, 1918)

In the history and the mythology of the October Revolution and the Soviet civil war, the 26 Baku Commissars have played a role similar to the 300 Spartans in the history of ancient Greece. Their death would be immortalized in Soviet times through movies, books, artwork, stamps, and public works, and even cities and towns would be named after some of them.

After the Bolshevik revolution of October/November 1917, a Soviet (council) of workers, villagers, and soldiers was created in Baku. This council came to power from April 13 to July 25, 1918 and created an executive organ, the Council of Popular Commissars, formed by an alliance of Bolsheviks and leftist Socialist Revolutionaries, and presided by a famous Bolshevik revolutionary, the Armenian Stepan Shahumian. It was known as the Commune of Baku.

Isaak Brodsky's The Execution of the Twenty Six Baku Commissars (1925) depicting the Soviet view of the execution

Isaak Brodsky’s The Execution of the Twenty Six Baku Commissars (1925) depicting the Soviet view of the execution.

The Commune faced various problems, from the shortage of food and supplies to the threat posed by the invading Turks. The Red Army units hurriedly organized by the Commune were defeated by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, an Ottoman army unit organized by order of Minister of War Enver Pasha on the basis of the local Tatar (Azerbaijani) population, and retreated to Baku in July 1918.

The military defeat provoked the rise of a coalition of rightist Socialist Revolutionaries, Social Democrats, and Armenian Revolutionary Federation members, which asked help from British forces stationed in Persia to counterbalance the Ottoman advance. The Commune transferred power to the new provisional government formed by the coalition, called the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship, and left Baku for Astrakhan, which was under Bolshevik control. However, the new authorities arrested the members of the Commune under charges of embezzlement and treason.

However, a new attack of the Ottoman forces over Baku prevented the trial of the military tribunal, and, according to Soviet historiography, on 14 September 1918, during the fall of Baku to the Turks, Red Army soldiers broke into their prison and freed the 26 prisoners; they then boarded a ship to Astrakhan, which changed its destination to Krasnovodsk, on the other side of the Caspian Sea. They were promptly arrested by local authorities of the Transcaspian provisional government, also anti-Soviet, on September 17, and three days later executed by a firing squad between the stations of Pereval and Akhcha-Kuyma on the Transcaspian Railway, apparently under British pressure.

Although they have been named as “commissars,” not all of them were officials and not all of them were Bolsheviks. Among the executed men, there were Russians, Jews, Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Greeks, and Latvians.

Along with Shahumian, there were five other Armenians: Baghdasar Avagian, military commander of Baku; Aram Kostandian, deputy commissar for Agriculture; Suren Osipian, chief editor of the newspaper Izvestia of the Baku Commune; Arsen Amirian, chief editor of the newspaper Bakinski rabochi; and Tadeos Amirian, commander of a cavalry unit. Arsen and Tadeos Amirian were brothers, and this explains why the latter, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, had fought on the side of the Commune.

After the establishment of the Soviet regime, the authorities of Azerbaijan exhumed the bodies of the 26 victims and reburied them in Baku, at the square named after them, where a pantheon was built in 1968. The anti-Armenian hysteria in Azerbaijan has reached the point that, in January 2009 the pantheon was demolished, since the activity of the Baku Commune is considered an “Armenian conspiracy,” and the remnants were reburied at the Hovsan cemetery, reportedly “with the participation of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clergy, and the corresponding rituals” (ironically, most of the commissars were atheists). Monuments and streets devoted to the commissars, whether Armenian, Russian, Georgian, or Azerbaijani, have also been demolished or renamed.

Meanwhile, the cities of Stepanakert (in Gharabagh) and Stepanavan (in Lori) continue to carry the name of Stepan Shahumian, whose statue in the proximities of Republic Square, in Yerevan, has been maintained. Amirian Street, an important street originating from the same square, has also kept its name.

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

 Killing of Enver Pasha
(August 4, 1922)

EnverPasha

Enver Pasha

The Russian revolution of November 1917 that set the grounds for the Soviet Union was followed by a civil war. Bolshevik troops were sent into Central Asia to establish Soviet power in 1919-1920. A local movement headed by Muslim elements, known as the Basmachi revolt (the Turkic word basmachi originally meant “bandit”), took advantage of the blunders of the Soviet government in Tashkent (the current capital of Uzbekistan) to challenge its authority and set a movement of national liberation.

Enver Pasha, former Ministry of War of the Ottoman Empire and one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, had become a fugitive of justice after his condemnation to death in absentia by the Ottoman court-martial in July 1919. He had first left Constantinople for Berlin in late 1918 and in 1919 had gone to Moscow, where he engaged in pro-Turkish activities among the Bolsheviks. After participating in the Congress of Eastern Peoples of Baku (September 1920), he tried to reenter Anatolia in 1921, but was rejected by Mustafa Kemal.

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Hakob Melkumian

Enver decided to return to Moscow and won over the trust of Soviet authorities. Lenin sent him to Bukhara, in Soviet Turkestan, to help suppress the Basmachi Revolt. He arrived on November 8, 1921. Instead of carrying his mission, he made secret contacts with some rebel leaders and defected along with a small number of followers. He aimed at uniting the numerous rebel groups under his own command and taking the offensive against the Bolsheviks. He managed to turn the disorganized rebel forces into a small well-drilled army and establish himself as its supreme commander. However, David Fromkin has written, “he was a vain, strutting man who loved uniforms, medals and titles. For use in stamping official documents, he ordered a golden seal that described him as ‘Commander-in-Chief of all the Armies of Islam, Son-in-Law of the Caliph and Representative of the Prophet.’ Soon he was calling himself Emir of Turkestan, a practice not conducive to good relations with the Emir whose cause he served. At some point in the first half of 1922, the Emir of Bukhara broke off relations with him, depriving him of troops and much-needed financial support. The Emir of Afghanistan also failed to march to his aid.”

Operation Nemesis had succeeded in the liquidation of several of Enver’s colleagues in European capitals. An Armenian group assassinated Ahmed Djemal Pasha on July 25, 1922, in Tiflis under the very sight of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Ten days later, Enver would find his own Armenian nemesis in Central Asia.

Yakov Melkumov (Hakob Melkumian), born in Shushi (Gharabagh) in 1885, was a decorated career officer who had participated in World War I and after the revolution had entered the Red Army. After fighting in Bielorrusia (Belarus) in 1918, he became a cavalry brigade commander in Turkestan in late 1919, and from 1920-1923 he was involved in the suppression of the Basmachi revolt.

On August 4, 1922 Melkumian’s brigade launched a surprise attack while Enver had allowed his troops to celebrate the Kurban Bayrami holiday, retaining a 30-men guard at his headquarters near the village of Ab-i-Derya, near Dushanbe. Some Turkish sources claimed that Enver and his men charged the approaching troops, and the Turkish leader was killed by machine-gun fire. Melkumian published his memoirs in 1960, where he stated that Enver had managed to escape on horseback and hid for four days in the village of Chaghan. A Red Army officer infiltrated the village in disguise and located his hideout, after which the troops stormed Chaghan, and Melkumian himself killed Enver in the ensuing combat.

After seven decades in Ab-i-Derya, Enver’s remains were taken to Turkey in 1996 and buried at the Monument of Liberty cemetery in Istanbul. Melkumian was decorated with the second order of the Red Army for killing Enver and defeating his forces. The Armenian officer continued his military career until 1937 in Central Asia. He was arrested in June 1937, during the heyday of the Stalinist purges, and charged with participated in the “military-fascist conspiracy.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 5 years of deprivation of civil rights. After the death of Stalin, he was freed in 1954 and rehabilitated. He died in Moscow in 1962.

 

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


Assassination of Djemal Pasha
(July 21, 1922)

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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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