Carte blanche for the Kurds to massacre Armenians from General Nikolaev – June 22, 1915

Essentially, the order of the commander of the Bayazet detachment, the head of the Van garrison, Major General Nikolaev, justified all previous crimes of the Kurds against the Armenians, and tied the hands of the Armenians by prohibiting their natural and just right to self-defense.

Moreover, this order served as a signal for the Kurds to further violence, which in turn acted as a catalyst for the massacre of the Armenian population by the Kurds, among others. Who still thinks that there is a difference between the Russian Empire, Bolshevik Russia for the Armenians and Armenia?

Order of the commander of the Bayazet detachment, the head of the Van garrison, Major General Nikolaev, dated June 22, 1915, city of Van

The surrendering Kurds are allowed by the Corps Commander to return to their villages. The Kurds belong to the villages: Begri-Kaly, Archaka, Saray, Bashkaly, and Norduz.

The Van Governor is ordered to immediately inform the Armenian population about this and strongly demand that they do not attack and plunder the Kurdish villages, do not touch, sell or rent the fields and crops of the villages to which the Kurds have returned. The Kurdish cattle weight brought with them must not be taken away.

I place the strict responsibility for the accurate execution of my orders on the district chiefs.

I ordered the Kurds, under the threat of the death penalty for their hostages and the complete destruction of the village inhabitants, not to create any disturbances.

Any manifestation of bloody strife between the Armenian and Kurdish surrendering population, whether on an economic or any other ground, I place on the responsibility of the Van Governor.

From a letter of Aram Manukyan, appointed as the Van governor, to the command of the Caucasian Army and Major General Nikolaev:

  1. The returning Kurds belong to the tribes of Aydarants, Takurts, Mlants, Shamikts, and Gravts. Last fall, these tribes massacred and robbed Armenian villages in the districts of Begri-Kaly, Archaka, Saray, Bashkaly, and Salmast.

After the withdrawal of the Russians, these same Kurds massacred all male Armenian population of Bashkaly, starting from the age of 10, looted and burned all their dwellings. They also gathered in the village.

Arak’s male population of Armenian villages of Panz, Pis, Alas, Alalyan, Sotan, Rusulan, and others, drove them into the field and massacred more than 500 people, many of whom were forcibly converted to Islam.

Starting from December of last year, they destroyed and set fire to all dwellings and churches in all Armenian villages of Adilcevaz, Archak, Berkri, Saray, Bashkaly, Khoshap, Ayots-Tsor, Gyavash, Karkar, and Karchkan; they burned the following famous monasteries:

Ter-Uskan Vordi (St. Stephen), St. Bartholomew near Bashkaly, Sorp and Urants in Karchkan, St. Gregory, Karmravor, Varak… Witnesses to the traces and consequences of the terrible massacres, destruction and unprecedented plunder carried out by the Kurds were, in part, the victorious Russian troops and Armenian detachments on their way to the city of Van and beyond…

The aforementioned tribes last fall fought together with the Turkish troops against the Russian army on the Persian border, and after suffering defeat, in the face of some of their leaders, declared their submission to Russian authority.

However, as soon as the Russian troops began to withdraw, they immediately joined the Turkish army again and pursued the Russians.

Then, this spring, they participated in all the battles in the Dilman region, but after the defeat, they retreated to the south. It is also well known about their attack on the convoy of the Bayazet detachment in the Abagi region and on the Cossacks who were going to meet Abdul-Rizak.

At present, finding themselves in an extremely difficult situation due to the lack of food supplies, the Kurds once again declare their loyalty to Russian authority, undoubtedly with the intention to assist the success of the Turkish arms at the first convenient opportunity.

Taking into account the well-defined attitude of the Kurds towards the Russian army and its actions, as well as towards the peaceful Armenian population, and considering that all Kurds aged 17-60 are either in the armed detachments of Hamidiye or the Militia, I believe that they should be considered as prisoners of war and, therefore, be treated as such, or they should be seen as ordinary criminals (murderers, robbers, and looters) and, accordingly, they must be punished in this case.

  1. The events of last fall have proven that the aforementioned Kurdish tribes are unreliable and pose a threat to the military success of the Russian troops.

By introducing the Kurdish element into the rear of the Russian army, the communication lines of Van-Julfa and Van-Igdir are exposed to serious danger; in case of failure, the Russian army will be cut off from its base. There is no reason to expect the disarmament of the Kurds.

Firstly, they only surrender an insignificant part of their existing weapons, mostly old and unusable ones. Secondly, only the elderly, women, and children return to the villages, while the majority of the able-bodied Kurds remain armed in the mountains and always pose a threat.

Kurds settling in the villages only facilitate faster movement and provisioning for those in the mountains. The insincerity of the loyalty expressed by the Kurds to the Russian authority can also be seen in the fact that many able-bodied Kurds use the permission to return to their villages only to immediately move to the Persian territories.

  1. By establishing themselves in the rear of the Russian troops, the Kurds gain a full opportunity to maintain contact with the Turkish troops and provide them with information about the number and movements of the Russian troops.

There is no possibility to prevent this Kurdish espionage, as all mountain paths are in their hands and it is unthinkable to deploy a sufficient number of patrols within the areas occupied by Russian troops and remaining undefined and open.

  1. With the return of the Kurds, peace and tranquility in the Van district are disrupted. The returning Kurds are precisely from those tribes that committed massacres and looting of the Armenians in these regions.

Can it be expected that close relatives of about 28,000 victims of these massacres and looting of Armenians will watch the return of their brutal oppressors indifferently and dispassionately?

Incidents of revenge are inevitable, and they can take on broad dimensions and create turmoil in the rear of the Russian troops.

It should also be taken into account that not only the property looted from the Armenians but also forcibly taken women and girls still remain in the hands of the Kurds, and there have been cases of abuse of the latter by the Kurds surrendering to Russian authority, with the clear intention of destroying living evidence and witnesses of their crimes.

  1. Allowing the Kurds to return to their villages without punishment instills and strengthens the belief in them that they can freely abuse and loot Armenians without fearing any responsibility or retribution.

The order you mentioned for the Bayazet detachment will also serve as indirect encouragement for those Kurds who are in still unoccupied areas and are currently fighting against Russian troops.

They will continue to ruthlessly beat and loot Armenians with full confidence that in case of their defeat, they will not only not face any punishment for their committed crimes but will even receive patronage from the Russian military authorities.

  1. The mentioned order will provoke a sense of hopeless despair in those Armenians who are currently in unoccupied regions, fighting against Turkish troops and Kurdish tribes, depriving our enemy of a secure rear.

The thought that the killers and looters of the peaceful Armenian population should remain unpunished will significantly weaken the resilience and persistence of their resistance.

The impact of this directive on Turkish-subject Armenians will be staggering, as they are the only sincere supporters of Russian success in Turkey and, to the best of their ability, contribute to the cause of these successes.

Armenians cannot help but notice that the Russian military authority treats both its ally – the Armenian people, and its enemy – the Kurd, equally and patronizes those who have beaten and slaughtered the supporters of Russia.

It is not difficult to imagine the heavy disappointment that the mentioned directive must arouse in the Armenian population with regard to Russia, which they revered and still revere as their liberator and protector against the yoke of the Turkish and Kurdish oppressors.

  1. Finally, the mentioned order is inconsistent with the solemn declaration in which last spring, the IMPERIAL Government, jointly with the allied powers (England and France) announced to the entire civilized world that all organizers of massacres and looting in Armenia were personally responsible for the committed crimes.

Presenting the above considerations to your High Excellency’s gracious attention, I consider it my duty to declare that, given the described situation, I would find it difficult to take responsibility for peace and order in the Van region and, for my part, I allow myself to petition that:

  1. The order of the Chief of the Bayazet Detachment dated June 22, 1915, No. 34, should not be enforced, 2) those Kurds who have already surrendered should be held accountable and punished for participating in the beating and looting of Armenians, 3) a warning should be issued to the Muslims of the unoccupied areas, announcing that the participants in the beatings and looting of Armenians will face the severest punishment.

In response, Major General Nikolaev refused to cancel his order, arguing that the “exceptional position of the Russian troops in the region forces, for the benefit of the cause, to prefer Kurds who have temporarily submitted to those Kurds who are hostile and diverting our troops.” He suggested Aram to identify the “guilty of violence Kurds to be held accountable” by “clarifying their names and submitting a list to me for transfer to the prosecutor’s office.”

Original Article: Карт бланш курдам на вырезание армян от генерала Николаева – 22 июня 1915 г Translation by Vigen Avetisyan

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