Plunder of the Armenian Apostolic Church by the Decree of Russian Tsar Nicholas II – 1903

Plunder of the Armenian Apostolic Church by the DecreeArmenian artist Vardges Surenyants’ painting depicted Armenian Catholicos Mkrtich A Vanetsi (Mkrtich Khrimian, 1820 – 1907) when the latter was receiving the decree of the Russian tsar on the confiscation of the property of the Armenian Church on June 12, 1903. This decree also forbade the activity of Armenian schools and seminaries.

Having learned about the contents of the letter brought by the vice governor of Erivan Governorate Nakashidze (1844 – 1905), the henchman of Prince Golitsyn, Mkrtich Vanetsi threw the unopened decree on the ground. Following Nakashidze’s departure, Khrimian uttered his famous curse in the address of the Russian Empire: “Let this God-defiant and prison-filled empire be demolished” («Թող կործանվի այս աստվածընդդեմ ու բանտածվար կայսրությունը»).

Said Prince Grigory Sergeyevich Golitsyn (1838 – 1907), who at some point of his life served as the Governor of Transcaucasia, was one of the fiercest opponents of the Catholicos. Another opponent was the Minister of Interior of the Russian Empire Vyacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve (1846 – 1904). Von Plehve and Golitsyn were the ones who had lobbied the decree of Tsar Nicholas II.

Khrimian forbade Armenian clergymen to obey the decree of the tsar, as well as the decree of Stolypin that obligated to carry out all the church services in Russian.

Catholicos called the Armenian people to fight against those decrees. Mass protests and even clashes would then take place in the Armenian-populated areas of the Transcaucasia.

Mikhail Nakashidze himself headed the campaign of the plundering of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Erivan Governorate, the heart of Armenia. The uprising of the Armenian people in the defense of the Armenian Church was violently suppressed, resulting in many casualties.

In October 1903, the members of the Social Democrat Party of Armenia made an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Prince Golitsyn, seriously injuring him. In May 1905, then 21 years old Drastamat Kanayan from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (also known as Dashnaktsutyun), threw a bomb into the coach of Nakashidze, killing him.

Thanks to the nation-wide struggle of the Armenians, the Empire was forced to surrender their decrees. Issuing a new decree on August 1, 1905, Tsar Nicholas II ordered to return the properties taken away from the Armenian Church, as well as allowed Armenian national schools. However, even the issuance of this decree didn’t prevent some part of the Church’s wealth from being irretrievably moved to Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Read also: The Plundering of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin by Russian Troops – 1804 – 1805Armenia and Russia – Short Chronology of Killings, Persecutions, and Plunders

Khrimian Hayrik

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