Posts Tagged ‘Mustafa Kemal’

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


Arshag Tchobanian
(July 15, 1872)

An influential literary critic and political activist, Arshag Tchobanian would become a sought-after name in the first half of the twentieth century.


Arshag Tchobanian

He was born in Constantinople on July 15, 1872. He lost his mother when he was a year old. After graduating from the Makruhian School in his neighborhood of Beshigtash (1886), he entered the newly founded Getronagan (Central) School in 1886. He graduated in 1891, when he had already started his literary contributions to the most important newspapers of the time, Arevelk and Hairenik. He published his first two books in 1891 and 1892. He taught at his alma mater in 1892-1893 and, after a year sojourn in France, continued his teaching. In 1895 he published a literary monthly, Dzaghig, but, due to the political repression and the Hamidian massacres of 1895-1896, he decided to leave Constantinople for good. He settled in Paris, where he would live the rest of his life.

Tchobanian became the leading voice of the Armenians in France and a promoter of Armenian literature and the Armenian Cause in Europe, with many publications in various journals and newspapers, and a series of books in French, along with his own wide production in Armenian. Among his books in French, the most important would be the three-volume Roseraie de l’Arménie (Rose Garden of Armenia), dedicated to Armenian medieval poetry, a subject of which he was a respected translator and scholar.

Between 1898 and 1911, he published the literary journal Anahid, which would become an influential name in Armenian literature. He also wrote for many Armenian newspapers throughout the world.

Tchobanian adopted ideological positions closer to the Reorganized Hunchakian Party, created after the division of the Hunchakian Party in 1896. Later, he entered the ranks of the Liberal Party, created after 1908 in Europe by members of the Reorganized Hunchakian Party.

The Armenian writer was an activist of the Armenian Cause during World War I and denounced the genocidal policy of Turkey. He was the editor of the newspaper Veradznunt from 1917-1919 and became a member of the Armenian National Delegation led by Boghos Nubar in February 1919. He was sent to Lebanon and Cilicia in 1920 to negotiate with the French authorities, at a time when Cilicia was still under French mandate, before being abandoned to the forces of Mustafa Kemal.

In October 1921 Tchobanian entered the Democratic Liberal (Ramgavar Azadagan) Party, founded in Constantinople, and was elected first chairman of its Central Board. During the 1920s, along with the party, he adopted a position favorable to cooperation with Soviet Armenia to further its economic and social development, including the settlement of Armenian refugees and orphans. He visited year the United States from coast to coast in 1926-1927. In 1929 he relaunched Anahid, which would last until 1949, with a pause between 1940 and 1946 due to World War II.

Tchobanian would continue his literary and public activities until his death on June 8, 1954, killed by a car when crossing a street in Paris at the age of 82.


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(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.


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

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Prepared by

the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

The Battle of Arara, on September 19, 1918, was the most remarkable performance of the Armenian Legion. Initially named Légion d’Orient (Eastern Legion), the Armenian Legion was formed in November 1916 as the result of an agreement between Boghos Nubar Pasha, president of the Armenian National Delegation, and the French government. It would be a foreign legion unit within the French army, originally formed by Armenians and Syrians of Ottoman nationality, under the command of French officers.

            The aim of creating the Legion was to allow Armenians to contribute to the liberation of Cilicia and to help them realize their national aspirations towards the creation of a state in that region, under Ottoman domination. The Legion was to fight only Turks and only in Cilicia.

            Six battalions were formed, each containing 800 volunteers. Most soldiers were recruited from the survivors of the self-defense of Musa Dagh in 1915, living in refugee camps in Port Saaid, Egypt. Others were volunteers who came from France, the United States, and even South America.

            The Legion was first deployed in Palestine, to help the French and British armies against the Ottoman and German alliance. The Palestinian front was crumbling upon the advance of the British expeditionary forces. The Armenian volunteers had a decisive role in the Battle of Arara, which was part of the Battle of Megiddo. British general Edmund Allenby commended Armenian forces in his official dispatch to the Allied High Command, "On the right flank, on the coastal hills, the units of the Armenian Legion d’Orient fought with great valor. Despite the difficulty of the terrain and the strength of the enemy defensive lines, at an early hour, they took the hill of Dir el Kassis.” Allenby remarked, "I am proud to have had an Armenian contingent under my command. They have fought very brilliantly and have played a great part in the victory.”

            The Allied victory over the Ottoman-German troops opened the doors for the occupation of Palestine and Syria. After the campaign was ended, the Armenian Legion was deployed in Cilicia. They were active around the cities of Adana and Mersin involved in skirmishes with local civilians and unorganized Turkish militia, as well as protecting the surviving members of the local Armenian population which was returning from the deportation of 1915.

            In May 1920, Armenians declared an independent state in Cilicia. However, this state was short lived as France disbanded the Armenian Legion and recognized Turkey’s sovereignty over the region in 1920. The advancement of the forces of Mustafa Kemal provoked new massacres of the Armenian population and the evacuation of Cilicia by the survivors in 1920-1921.

            A monument for the Armenian troops killed during the battle of Arara was moved from its original location on the battlefield to Mount Zion in October 1925.

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Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)


The Catastrophe of Smyrna (September 9-22, 1922) 

       Smyrna was the second city of the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian population, together with most Armenians from Constantinople, had been spared deportation in 1915. But in 1922, after the success of the Kemalist movement, Armenians and Greek residents were not spared. According to American Consul General George Horton, before the fire of 1922 there were 400,000 people living in the city of Smyrna, of whom 165,000 were Turks, 150,000 Greeks, 25,000 Jews, 25,000 Armenians, and 20,000 foreigners from Italy, France, Great Britain, and the United States.

        Greek troops had landed in Smyrna in May 1919. The Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 ended with the complete victory of the nationalist army headed by Mustafa Kemal. On SeSmyrnaptember 9, 1922, the Kemalist troops occupied Smyrna. Four days later, on September 13, the fire began. It continued for nine days. Estimated Greek and Armenian deaths resulting from the fire and massacres range from 10,000 to 100,000.

        The fire completely destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city; the Muslim and Jewish quarters escaped damage. There are different claims about who was responsible for the fire; however, numerous eye witness accounts singled out uniformed Turkish soldiers setting fire to Greek and Armenian homes and businesses.


The Smyrna Catastrophe Painting by Vasilis Bottas

       The testimony of Fatih Rifki Atay, a well-known Turkish writer, editor, Parliament member, and close friend of Mustafa Kemal, is quite important:

       “Gavur (infidel) Izmir burned and came to an end with its flames in the darkness and its smoke in daylight. Were those responsible for the fire really the Armenian arsonists as we were told in those days? … As I have decided to write the truth as far as I know I want to quote a page from the notes I took in those days. ‘The plunderers helped spread the fire… Why were we burning down Izmir? Were we afraid that if waterfront konaks, hotels and taverns stayed in place, we would never be able to get rid of the minorities? When the Armenians were being deported in the First World War, we had burned down all the habitable districts and neighborhoods in Anatolian towns and districts with this very same fear. This does not solely derive from an urge for destruction. There is also some feeling of inferiority in it. It was as if anywhere that resembled Europe was destined to remain Christian and foreign and be denied to us.’

       “. . . If there were another war and we were defeated, would it be sufficient guarantee of preserving the Turkishness of the city if we had left Izmir as a devastated expanse of vacant lots? Were it not for Nureddin Pasha, who I know to be a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic and rabble rouser, I do not think this tragedy would have gone to the bitter end. He has doubtless been gaining added strength from the unforgiving vengeful feelings of the soldiers and officers who have seen the debris and the weeping and agonized population of the Turkish towns which the Greeks had burned to ashes all the way from Afyon.

       “. . . At the time it was said that Armenian arsonists were responsible. But was this so? There were many who assigned a part in it to Nureddin Pasha, commander of the First Army, a man who Kemal had long disliked . . . .”

       Despite the fact that there were at least 21 Allied warships and other ships in the harbor of Smyrna, the vast majority, citing "neutrality," did not pick up Greeks and Armenians who were forced to flee from the fire, and Turkish military bands played loud music to drown out the screams of those who were drowning in the harbor and who were forcefully prevented from boarding Allied ships. A Japanese freighter, however, dumped all of its cargo and filled itself to the brink with refugees, taking them to safety at the Greek port of Piraeus.

       The catastrophe of Smyrna became the last link in the Turkish genocidal chain that had unfolded in 1915.


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