Posts Tagged ‘Hamo Ohanjanian’

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

[ANEC]

 

 

Death of Hamo Ohanjanian

(July 31, 1947)

Ohanjanian was a prominent member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the first half of the twentieth century and also served as Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.

 

He was born in Akhalkalak (Javakhk, nowadays Georgia) in 1873. After his elementary studies in his birthplace, he moved to Tiflis, where he graduated from the Russian lyceum. He entered medical school in Moscow (1892), where he joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and because of his participation in student agitation, he was left out of the university. He returned to Tiflis, and in 1899 he continued his studies in Lausanne (Switzerland), which he finished in 1902. He returned to Tiflis in 1902, where he became a leading figure of the party, and in 1905 was elected a member of the Eastern Bureau of the A.R.F. He would coordinate the popular action that opposed the confiscation of the properties of the Armenian Church in 1903 and he established relations with Russian and Georgian revolutionaries during the revolutionary movements of Russia in 1905-1907. He played an important role in the crucial A.R.F. Fourth General Assembly (Vienna, 1907), where he helped preserve the unity of the party by stopping extreme-left and extreme-right wing dissension.

Hamo Ohanjanian

Hamo Ohanjanian

 

In 1908 the Czarist government launched a persecution against revolutionary parties, including the A.R.F. Ohanjanian, together with 160 party members, was arrested. He was sentenced to hard labor in Siberia during the infamous “Trial of the Tashnagtsutiun” in 1912. Roubina Areshian, one of the organizers of the failed attempt against Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1905, followed him there and married him.

 

In 1915 Ohanjanian was set free thanks to the intercession of Catholicos Kevork V and Caucasus viceroy Ilarion Vorontsov-Dashkov. He returned to Tiflis and assisted the volunteer battalions as a physician, as well as the refugees from Western Armenia.

 

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, he departed to Petrograd and Kharkov to exhort Armenians to bring their help to the refugees. In May 1918 he participated in the battle of Gharakilise, where his elder son (born from his first marriage to Olga Vavileva) was killed.

 

After the birth of Armenia, Ohanjanian became a member of the Delegation of the Republic presided by Avetis Aharonian to participate in the Peace Conference in Europe. He remained in the West until the beginning of 1920. In October 1919 he was elected member of the A.R.F. Bureau during its Ninth General Assembly held in Yerevan.

 

He returned to the Armenian capital in January 1920 as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet of Alexander Khatisian. Following the failed Bolshevik uprising of May 1, 1920, Khatisian resigned, and Ohanjanian was charged with forming a new government on May 5, 1920. It was called the Bureau-Government, because all of its members were members of the A.R.F. Bureau.

 

Ohanjanian’s premiership coincided with the most crucial period of the Republic of Armenia, which would practically lead to its demise. The Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920, but the following Armeno-Turkish war, started in September, ended with the defeat of the Armenian army. Ohanjanian resigned on November 23, 1920. Simon Vratzian would become the fourth and last prime minister, and ten days later the Soviet regime was established.

 

Ohanjanian, with other A.R.F. leaders, was imprisoned in January 1921 during the wave of terror that followed the Sovietization. The prisoners were saved by the popular rebellion of February 1921. After the end of the rebellion in April 1921, Ohanjanian moved to Zangezur and then to Iran. In the end, he settled in Egypt, where he would live until his death.

 

Besides his political activities as a party member, Ohanjanian, well-aware of the importance of language and culture for the preservation and development of the Armenian identity in the Diaspora, became a founding member of the Hamazkayin Cultural Association in 1928 and its chairman for the next 18 years. He also provided important support for the establishment of the Armenian Lyceum of Beirut in 1930.

 

The former prime minister of the Republic of Armenia passed away on July 31, 1947 in Cairo, where he was buried.

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY

(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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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY

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

 

 

Fall of Kars
 (October 30, 1920)

The Turkish nationalist movement headed by Mustafa Kemal, with headquarters in Ankara, did not recognize the Treaty of Sevres signed by the legal government of the Ottoman Empire on August 10, 1920. Barely a month later, on September 23, Turkish armed forces under the command of General Kiazim Karabekir started an attack, without mediating a war declaration, against the Republic of Armenia. A month later, again, the fortress of Kars—the most important bulwark of the Southern Caucasus—would fall almost without a fight to the advancing troops.

Kars, the capital of an Armenian medieval kingdom ruled by a branch of the Bagratuni family, had changed hands several times over the past hundred years. After being briefly occupied by Russian troops in 1855 during the Crimea War of 1854-1856, it was occupied again during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877 and annexed to the Russian Empire as a result of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. It fell to the advancing Turkish troops in March 1918 and was re-conquered by the troops of the newly born Republic of Armenia after the Turkish retreat following the end of World War I.

The young commander of the fortress, Col. Mazmanian, gave the order of attack to his soldiers, who refused to follow his orders and, instead, deserted. Confronted with the shameful desertion, Mazmanian took his own life with his revolver in the sight of his soldiers. According to the memoirs of Karabekir and other sources, the Kemalist soldiers and the Turkish, Kurdish, Muslim, and Armenian Bolshevik rebels occupied the entire city in three hours, took hundreds of Armenian officers and soldiers as prisoners, seized an enormous quantity of war material (cannons, projectiles, weapons, and bullets) and massacred thousands of people among the civil population; in 1920-1921, the Turks would kill a total of 20,000 Armenians in the city and the province of Kars. Years later, Garegin Nejdeh, who headed the successful defense of Zangezur against the attacks of Azerbaijanis and Bolsheviks from 1919-1921, would write: “The shame of Kars is not only of the government of the Republic of Armenia, but of the entire Armenian people. The armies measure their forces and clash, but the nations are the winners or the losers. Under the walls of Kars, not only the Armenian soldier and the general were defeated, but also the entire Armenian people, lacking spirit of fight and bravery."

The effects of the fall of Kars would be catastrophic. Despite Armenian heroic resistance in other places, two weeks later, Alexandropol (now Gumri) fell to the Turks, which practically reached the outskirts of Yerevan from the west. The cabinet of Prime Minister Hamo Ohanjanian fell, and Simon Vratzian became Prime Minister of a coalition cabinet, which lasted scarcely a week. On November 29, 1920, Bolshevik forces entered Armenia from the east, and the Armenian government, confronting the menace of destruction, chose the lesser of two evils and power was transferred to the Communists on December 2. Armenia would enter the Soviet Union in 1922 as part of the Federative Republic of Transcaucasia.

The trauma of the fall was masterfully addressed by poet Yeghishe Charents, a native of Kars, in his only novel, Yerkir Nayiri (Land of Nayiri), published in 1926. The fall of Kars still remains a polemical one in the historiography of the Republic of Armenia.

Gars

A general view of modern Kars with the central Armenian church in the foreground and the fortress in the background.

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