When you start investigating the historical roots of Armenia’s aggressive and predatory war against Azerbaijan, certain aspects of Armenian history must be taken into account. This aggressive policy arose from the kernel of Armenian history. Therefore, when the favorable historical pre-conditions occurred for international and internal political change, Armenians made every effort for the implementation of their treacherous intentions. The occurrence of the so-called Armenian problem was not fortuitous. With regard to the Armenia- Azerbaijan conflict it is necessary to consider this problem in a new way. As the “Karabakh problem” must be considered a part of the Armenian problem. And the “Armenian problem” is a part of the Eastern problem. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century a lot of research was devoted to this problem. The article written by the historian V. Gurko-Kryajinin for the Soviet Encyclopedia that was published in 1926 is one of such works. At the end of the article the author was hopeful by writing “… the most conscientious among the Armenian migrants change their views and say no to the past. They realize their mistakes and return home. After the Soviet coup d’etat the Dashnaktucun completely ceased to exist”. But the historian was deceived.
This is why we have decided to begin writing this article. In the following documents, we will provide a comprehensive analysis, new facts and historical documents concerning the Armenian problem.
The Armenian problem is a part of the so-called Eastern problem and it is absolutely necessary to consider it from two points of view. Externally, in order to ensure an easier exploitation of Turkish resources, the great powers attempted to strengthen Turkey’s centrifugal forces and by doing so, to weaken the country. Internally, Armenian bourgeoisie led Armenians to struggle for the achievement of the national independence and for ensuring a political and economical background, that would allow the bourgeoisie to develop easily.
The Armenian problem rose early in the 18th century when the financial aristocracy of Constantinople stood at the head of the Armenian nation.
The Armenians settled in the Minor Asian part of Turkey in the early periods brought up the trade bourgeoisie. That bourgeoisie played an important role in the live of Turkish economics – lending the money to the government, provinces’ governors it became an owner of the properties and etc.
At the same time it with the help of clergymen controlled all spheres of the Armenian national life. The clergymen themselves had a great power. After Constantinople’s conquest (1453) at the head of the Armenians community was the council of Notabl (consisted from the representatives of the financial aristocracy) organized on the edict of the Turks during the Constantinople’s patriarchy, the council practically was at the head of the Armenian nation. The important role in the development of the Armenians bourgeoisie in Turkey played the relations with the Armenians merchants lived in Syria, Lebanon and also in America and the flow of the foreign capital. It is significant that the Armenians skilled workmen (handicraftsmen), divided into several classes which were really the numerous one together with the Greeks played the prevalent role in the Turkish handicraft industry.
It is quite evidence that during the attack of the Western capitalism over the Near East the Western countries wanted to use for this purpose the Armenian bourgeoisie. But because of being under the power of this bourgeoisie, being under the political submission its economical development was limited in enormous extent – that’s why it supported all attempts, directed to the destruction of the natural economy and the internal insularity of Turkey. The Western capital, passing the Turkish ruling circles and related with them the Armenian financial bourgeoisie made an attempt to use for its goals achievement the clergymen (consisted from the Armenian Catholics and Armenian Protestants); when those attempts didn’t give an expected result the Western capital came to a conclusion to use the middle bourgeoisie as its economical mean: this fact became a reason of this bourgeoisie strengthening and gave a stimulus for the development of the national movement.
Intellectuals joined to the intellectual’s movement especially in Moscow and Tiflis. In the 70s in those cities, which turned into the centers of the “Armenian liberalism” not only among the Russians but also among the Turkish Armenians propaganda of the “National self-affirmation” and even of the military chauvinism carried on with the help of the press and orally. It is reasonable that the first steps of the middle Armenian bourgeoisie in the way, directed to their self-affirmation led to the limitation of the ecclesiastics’ power: they relied on the city craftsmen began the struggle, directed to the weakening of the churches and Constantinople’s patriarchy role. The struggle successfully came to the end: the middle bourgeoisie found its own place among the financial bourgeoisie and the ecclesiastics in the organizations established in the centers of patriarchate and churches named the “Armenians representation”. That representation was engaged in financial, justice and enlightenment affairs.
First the village masses remained aloof from the National movement…
As the second reason for the expanded antagonism such factor could be considered that under the Turkish circumstances the Armenian urban bourgeoisie conducted themselves toward the backward Moslem masses as the representatives of the rapacious, usurious capital. Thus, exceptionally increased on the economic basis the Armenian problem because of the fatal interference of the “Great Powers” – Russia and England in the end became complicated. Russian trade-industrial capital using the slogan “the struggle, directed to the liberation of the Christians from the Moslem pressure” made attempts to capture the Black Sea, Bosporus, Dardanelles regions; in order to solve the problem of the national-political independence, believing in this slogan the most part of Armenian bourgeoisie not only took themselves the Russian direction, but also carried on propaganda to take this direction among the Turkish Armenians. That position sharply changed the Turkish government attitude to the Armenians bourgeoisie, whereas before the war in 1877 the government not only pursued, but to the contrary set up the necessary conditions in order the noble Armenians were be able to take up high posts. Sending by the Russian Armenians a letter to the governor in the Caucasus Grand Duke Michail Nikolayevich during the discussions of the peace conditions and an official appealing of the Turkish Armenians headed by patriarch Nerses – their wish to receive a help from Russia more strained those relations. Russia using this appeal put the 16th paragraph into the first San-Stephan peace agreement. According to the paragraph Turkey had to carry out immediately the necessary reforms in the Armenian regions, connecting to this the Russian forces went on with keeping in their hands the territories occupied by them in Asian part of Turkey.
The attempt of the Tsarist Russia ‘to strengthen the positions in the mountainous regions of Armenian settlement under its guardianship’ had been repulsed by England, its main opponent in the Near East. England succeeded to replace the 16th paragraph by new one (Berlin Treaty, article 61) at Berlin Congress. This article acknowledged that Turkish government had to carry out necessary reforms in provinces of Armenian settlement. The control over the implementation of this decision had not been entrusted only to Russia, but the ‘unity’ of 6 participant states of Berlin Congress.
The decisions of Berlin Congress gave hope to the Armenian bourgeoisie that they would get the required support from Russia and the great powers in the creation of the Armenian state. This dream had been incited by the English diplomacy, which assumed the plan of ‘the Great Armenia from the Sea to the Sea’ (from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean). The change of the direction fully isolated Armenians from the international policy. The aim of England was to prevent Russia from making use of Armenians in the Near East policy. England did not need Armenians that time, for according to secret agreement concluded between England and Turkey, England should supply Turkey with the necessary protection from Russia and take Cyprus instead…
Armenian bourgeoisie decided to use the military way. They created nationalist parties of Gnchak and Dashnaksyutun in Transcaucasia, which sent propagandists and agitators to Turkey and organized rebellious groups with the aim to attract the attention of great states to Armenian events. Armenians lacked means for struggle against Turkey and thus they aimed those states to interfere and urge Turkey to meet its engagements in accordance with the article 61of Berlin Treaty; the existence of the article was forgotten. Foreign committees of the abovementioned parties carried out considerable operations in Western Europe to achieve something on this line. By late 90s of the 19th century Gnchak freed the square for Dashnaksyutun.
The policy of the rebellions tensed the situation. Only in collapsing of the plan to legalize their rule in Egypt with Sultan Abdulhamid England turned to Armenians with purpose to threaten him.
England could not make decisive movement for Russia claimed that it would not allow any state to make a free step. Russia on one hand ruled the policy of russianing in the Transcaucasia; it was against the creation in Asia of the territory fully disposable for Armenians. On the other hand its plans concerning Bulgaria had been defeated; Bulgaria did not wish to be the vassal of Russia. Russia’s next step was to inform Bulgaria in the person of prince Lobanov-Rosmovski that it would not allow to create ‘different Bulgaria’. Germany was interested in receiving the concession on Bagdad way and in the person of Wilhelm II notified that it approved the policy of Abdulhamid on ‘criminal citizen’.
Stratification of national Armenian bourgeoisie in 90s of the 19th century made Dashnaksyutun to change its policy. It tried to create the relations with All-Turkey Revolutionary Movement and concluded an agreement with young Turks. Thus all the oppositional parties of Osmanli empire held Congress in Paris in 1907 and worked out the plan of.
The outcome of the coup d’etat carried out in 1908 was not expected. New regime did not improve their positions. The government of new Turks satisfied with light penalty of the guilty. The Armenians again directed their policy towards Russia. The I World War approached. The Armenians , as to Milyukov, that ‘settled at the crossroad of Russia and Turkey’ gained political importance. In 1913 Russian diplomats concluded an agreement with organized Armenian bourgeoisie and ‘in the protection of oppressed Armenians’ demanded to carry out reforms in eastern provinces. On the 26th of January of 1914 supported by Germany Turkish government was obliged to sign the agreements on the reforms. The agreement gave Armenians the self-government in ruling, language, military service and other spheres under the supervision of the state and Russia.
Russia’s interference improved the position of Armenians during the I World War, started immediately after the signing of the agreement. The Armenians revived the slogan of ‘Great Armenia’ as soon as the war started and created the group of volunteers generally composed of deserter Armenians of Turkey.
The revolution of February of 1917 threw new light on Armenian matter. Transcaucasia, ruled by the Special Committee of Transcaucasia during a year kept the relation with Russia.
Armenian national congress gathered in October of 1917 under the leadership of dashnaks. The congress approved the relation of Armenia with other part of Russia. Turkey proposed Russia to retain the territories of Armenia occupied by it during the I World War. Congress chose the ‘national armenian centre’ located in Tiflis and the National Board composed of 15 members.
Destruction of the central states created new conditions to Armenian bourgeoisie. The situation after the war urged the winners to use Armenians as bearing against Turkey (in Kilikiya) and Russia (in Transcaucasia). Armenian matter gained much importance. Thus ‘the winners’ first of all aimed to form their own ‘armenian base’ against ‘Soviet’danger.
The Republic of Dashnak Armenia got back the province of Kars and Iravan government which widened the area of Armenia to 17 500 square English miles and increased its population to 1 510 000 men (795 000 of the population were Armenians, 575 000 were Moslems, 140 000 were from other nations). In addition to all the abovementioned, Dashnaks expressed their wish to own the territories of Ahkalkalaki and Borchali of Georgia, also Karabakh, Nakhcivan and southern part of Yelizavetpol government of Azerbaijan. The attempts to realize the plan by force brought to the war with Georgia in December 1918 (the period of invasion of Transcaucasia by the English) and long bloody war with Azerbaijan. The population in the arguable territories decreased by 10-30%; several settlements had been destroyed by Armenians.
Conclusion of an agreement with Iran in 1919 and invasion of Konstantinopol on March 16th 1920 strengthened the position of England in the Near East and at the end of 1919 they left Transcaucasia. Thus at the conference in San-Remo in April-May 1920 the matter of Armenians had been delivered for consideration to the imperialisms of the Western Europe and the Northern America.
One of the two “Armenian bases” had been liquidated. The matter of Armenians had been focused in Transcaucasia. The dashnaks still continued to implement their pugnacious policy of nationalism. After the border of the Soviet Russia had been determined in the north of Armenia, they faced with more difficulties. Starving and beggaring people of Armenia couldn’t stand against dashnak terrorist regime, endless wars and robberies and blindly rushed towards the Soviet ruling. Within 3 days since the Soviet government had been established in Baku, rebellions shrouded Armenia (for several hours the Soviet government dominated in Alexadropol). All the rebellions had been suppressed by the dashnaks. The friendship relations began from 1920 between Russia and Ankara put Armenia as an obstacle on their way.
The government of Ankara focused its attention on Greek-English struggle in the west. Armenia tried to use this situation and to protect itself from Turkey, as the Soviet Russia avoided collision. The government of Iravan agreed with delivery of Karabakh, Nakhchivan and other territories tending to the Soviet Federation (June of 1920) and secretly ordered dashnak leaders to start partisan actions in the mentioned territories. Those actions started in September of 1920. Dashnaks supplied with weapons from the English executed mass abolishment of the Moslems in the province of Kars and of Iravan; they burnt the regions of Shuragol, Sherur-Dereleyez, Kagizman, Surmeli, Karakum and Sarigamish. Relying on the chief of Maku, they started to attack Olmuya and Kagizman.
Soviet government is established in Armenia in 1920. The Alexandropol agreement was liquidated by the agreement between Russia and Turkey signed in 1921. The border lines between Turkey and Armenia determined alike today.
The matter of Armenia might be considered settled since the establishment of new Armenian state system. After creation of the Soviet Armenia, the imperialists of the Western Europe tried another attempt to speculate Armenian problem in the conference of Lausanne; they suggested the project of creating ‘Armenian Center’, for support of ‘national minorities’ to organize special organ in Konstantinopol under the support of the UN. The aim was to make Turkey to compromise in the solution of the problem of Mosul and thus the project had soon been liquidated as soon as the aim achieved.
The real support to Armenia was made by the soviet Russia. On January 27th of 1923 Chicherin stated in his letter to the conference of Lausanne, that the governments of Russia and Ukrain intended to place majority of Armenian refugees in their lands and added that he problem of Armenia could not found its adequate solution for Soviet representatives were kept away from in the period of the discussions. This letter caused great reflection by Armenians abroad. Many of charity societies and parties expressed their gratitude to the soviet government and suggested their plans on realization of Russia’s proposition.
The crush of the program ‘Great Armenia’, many economical and cultural measures taken in the Soviet Armenia caused the changes in the political parties. The party of Armenian bourgeoisie and the intellectuals, i.e. the liberal-democrats (ramkavars) showed positive attitude towards the Soviet Armenia. Their “scouts” sent to Armenia reported them about peaceful construction plans of the Soviet government, after which the ramkavars expressed their sympathy to the Soviet Structure in their press. So did the party Gnchag.
Dashnaksutyun was the only party in the opposition to the Soviet Armenia. It still propagandized armed measures, partisan wars within the country. The next attempt made in February of 1921 by Vramsyan to carry out anti-revolutionary coup doomed to failure and caused short but bloody civil war in Armenia. The party of Dashnaksutyun has morally been degraded and exists now at the expense of means gathered in Europe and America (especially by the Committee of the Red Cross of the Dashnaks) for migration of the refugees to the Soviet Armenia. The most conscientious of Armenian migrants return to their land and admitted their guilt.
Dashnaksutyun is sentenced to collapse after the Soviet coup which threw new light upon Armenian problem.
V.GURKO – KRYAZHYN
Is translated from Great Soviet Encyclopedia published in 1928
in Moscow by “Great Soviet Encyclopedia” Joint Stock Company