From the History of Imperial Russian Policies: How Russians “Saved” Armenians from Massacre

Caucasian Front

From the transcript of the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire dated July 30, 1915.

Meanwhile, an offensive operation is unfolding in the Caucasus. Troops are penetrating enemy territory in a wedge formation.

P. A. Kharitonov:

“Where are we heading in the Caucasus? All of this could end up in catastrophe. I am not versed in strategic and tactical intricacies, yet I cannot help but notice that political considerations override purely military ones there.

Everyone is aware of the Viceroy’s exceptional sympathy for the Armenians. Is he carried away by this sympathy? Even a cursory glance at the map reveals that the movement of troops is mainly directed towards Armenian lands.

The situation is already grave everywhere, and here we are risking even more for the sake of reestablishing Armenia. Meanwhile, the progress of affairs in the Caucasus greatly worries the Caucasian deputies. Chkheidze keeps raising alarms about the danger and accuses the local authorities of excessive favoritism towards Armenian intrigues, which are influential in the Viceroy’s palace. The Emperor’s attention should be drawn to all of this.”

A. A. Polivanov:

“Although the State Controller is not a strategist, he analyzes the situation in the Caucasus correctly. I too look at the actions there with great concern. There could be a catastrophe there (note: Armenian genocide, which occurred to a considerable extent due to the criminal order of retreat and temporary inactivity of Russian troops). Rumors reach me that General Yudenich is outraged by the Tiflis orders and expects little good in the future.”

Similar concerns were echoed by other Members of the Council of Ministers, finding that, even setting aside the purely military aspect, from the point of view of general politics, it is undesirable to prematurely fan the Armenian question, which is already being projected by some foreign circles as one of the war objectives.

Nikolay Yudenich, Commander of the Caucasus Front, infantry general

I. L. Goremykin:

“Creating Armenia will only be a burden to us and will become a source of various complications in the East in the future.”

S. D. Sazonov:

“I wouldn’t dare to categorically frame this issue. I agree that it should not be inflated and risked. However, it would be impolitic to speak of it aloud. Abroad, among our allies, especially in England, there has been long-standing sympathy for the Armenians.”

A. V. Krivoshein:

“Yes, of course, we shouldn’t shout, but we weren’t planning to do that. However, we can’t keep silent out of fear of the English, who didn’t lift a finger to alleviate the situation of the Armenians, when we see how the Caucasian authorities are ready to sacrifice Russian interests in the name of Armenian ones. In our opinion, a criminal act is being prepared in the Caucasus and we are obliged to pay attention to this, and timely point out the looming danger.”

Eventually, the Minister of War was instructed to report to the Emperor on the course of events in the Caucasus.

From the transcript of the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire dated August 5, 1915.

The secret part of the meeting, according to established custom, began with a report from the Minister of War on the situation at the theatre of war. As before, nothing comforting or invigorating. A complete picture of defeat and confusion.

A. A. Polivanov:

“I hope— for impassable expanses, for inescapable mud, and for the grace of Nicholas, the patron of Holy Russia.”

Russian and Georgian political figure, N. S. Chkheidze.

P. A. Kharitonov:

“And in the Caucasus, the advance does not cease. Chkheidze nearly falls into hysteria and threatens irreparable disasters. In front of me, he shouted in the Duma during the break that the Caucasian army is commanded not by the Supreme Commander and not by the Viceroy, but by Countess Vorontsova-Dashkova, entangled in Armenian nets. Indeed, where are we heading there, if I may say so?”

A. A. Polivanov:

“It’s known where — to the creation of a Greater Armenia. Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with His Majesty about the Caucasian movement and its possible sad consequences, noting that the gathering of Armenian lands is, apparently, the main aspiration of Count Vorontsov-Dashkov. At these words, the Emperor Emperor, smiling kindly, deigned to correct me — not the count, but the countess.”

A. V. Krivoshein:

“Gentlemen, pay attention to such a notable historical coincidence: His Imperial Majesty points out Countess Vorontsova in the Caucasian strategy, and … the leader of the Social-Democratic faction of the State Duma, Mr. Chkheidze.”

Bitter Conclusion and Epilogue

Two significant documents explaining the general course; the first one a year before the above-mentioned events, for those who believed and were led on, and the second one summarizing the outcomes, a year later.

Special proclamation of Tsar Nicholas, September 1914:

“Armenians! In a lofty impulse, the peoples of the whole Great Russia from west to east rose to Our call. Armenians, after a five-century despotic yoke, under which many of you languished, and at a time when so many others are subjected to even more vile insults, the hour of freedom has finally struck for you. Your centuries-old loyalty is a guarantee to Us that in these solemn days you are awaiting to fulfill all your duties with unwavering faith in the ultimate success of our armies and righteousness. Armenians! United with your blood brothers (western Armenians) under the scepter of the Tsar, you will finally know the sweetness of freedom and justice.”

Two years later, during the height of the Armenian Genocide – from the statement of the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry A.Sazonov, July 1916:

“As for granting wide autonomy to the Armenians, it should not be forgotten that in the lands reclaimed from the Turks by our troops, they never constituted a majority. And after the punitive operations by the Turks, the demographic ratio has changed even more to the detriment of the Armenians, who now constitute no more than 25% of this territory (Western Armenia). Under these circumstances, granting autonomy to the Armenians will have truly unfair consequences, and it cannot be allowed in any measure for them (Armenians) to oppress the constituting majority of Muslims.”

Source: lev_dmitrich
Translate Vigen Avetisyan

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