Posts Tagged ‘Operation Nemesis’

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.

HagopMelkoumian

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])

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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