Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) was a Norwegian scientist, polar researcher, oceanographer, social activist, and humanist. At the end of the 19th century, he was already known to the whole world as an oceanographer and explorer of the Arctic. After the end of the World War I, Nansen was appointed the High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations.
One of the important parts of the public work of Nansen was his activity aimed at helping the Armenian people. Nansen strongly condemned the massacres of Armenians organized by Sultan Abdul Hamid II and continued by the Young Turks, noting that Turkish atrocities were unmatched by in their size and cruelty in history.
Dealing with the problem of Armenian refugees, Nansen greatly helped them by distributing “Nansen passports”, internationally recognized refugee travel documents. Thanks to his idea and efforts, 320,000 people were able to scatter around the world within 18 months. “Is there another nation in the whole world that has suffered as much and has not perished as well?” – Fridtjof Nansen asked.
Nansen also advocated the creation of conditions for the return of refugees to Soviet Armenia, leading the commission for the repatriation of Armenians from 1925 to 1929. In order to study the issue and prepare his program, Nansen as a head of a 5-people commission arrived in Yerevan in June 1925.
The Norwegian scientist-humanist was exceptionally warmly welcomed in Armenia. The people aware of his activities met him with joy and glee, which was skillfully directed by the officials in the necessary way. Visiting many regions of the republic, Nansen was trying to figure out the possibilities of accepting refugees.
Having returned to Geneva, he presented a report to the League of Nations on the results of his visit to Soviet Armenia, in which he noted the successes of the Armenian people who were reviving their homeland and would gladly accept refugees. Nansen believed that, in the case of assistance, Soviet Armenia would be able to accept 25-30 thousand refugees.
Nansen pointed out that the provision of material assistance from European countries is their moral duty as they had given many promises on the Armenian issue but did not fully kept them.
Nansen traveled around the whole world with calls to help for the Armenian people. In 1928, he made a tour in the United States, during which he gave lectures to raise funds for the benefit of the Armenians.
Convinced that the League of Nations was slow and would not resolve the issue of the repatriation of refugees, he made efforts to obtain the necessary humanitarian means to later provide them for the organization of the repatriation of 7,000 refugees. Nansen demanded the League of Nations to put an end to red tape and intrigues around the issue of Armenian refugees.
“The history of the Armenian people is a continuous experiment. An experiment of survival, ” he said.
To the Armenian people and Armenia, Fridtjof Nansen dedicated many articles, reports, and speeches. In 1927, his book “In Armenia” was published in Norwegian. It was soon translated into English and French under the title “Armenia and the Middle East” as well as into German under the title “The Deceived People”, where the author angrily branded both Turkish murderers, the culprits of the Armenian genocide, and European countries that dragged the Armenian people into the maelstrom of their policies.
In 1922, Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanistic activities. And in 1930, after Nansen’s death, a meeting was held at the Royal Society of the Arts of London, at which representatives of the Armenian community expressed their gratitude to the great humanist.
“This man has taken a matter which no representative of the great powers has accepted. We Armenians will always love and honor him and bow with deep gratitude to the man whom the Almighty himself has sent to protect and represent our cause. Let his spirit find rest in infinity where no human sorrows will disturb his holy and eternal rest. ”
In Yerevan, a street was named after Fridtjof Nansen, and in the territory of the “Norwegian village” in Spitak built by the Norwegians after the 1988 earthquake, a monument to Nansen was erected.