In July 1915, one of the valiant heroes of the self-defense of Van Aram Manukian sent a message to the Russian army general Nikolayev:
“We have learned that, for an unknown strategic reason, the Russian army is to retreat. We, deciding to stay, request you to leave us enough ammunition, leave us those weapons that you do not have the opportunity to take with you, and leave us food warehouses without destroying them.”
The answer was negative.
The Russian army not only retreated but also refused to leave weapons to the defenders of Van. Manukian and the defense leadership, who had previously decided to stay and resist, changed their intentions after the Russians’ refusal and during a meeting decided to organize the evacuation of the Armenian population.
Hovhannes Tumanyan and Andranik Ozanyan called the unexpected retreat of the Russian troops from Van “the greatest treacherous step towards the Armenians.”
Later, the Russian army easily occupied Van again when Armenians were no longer there since one part of the population had left with the military and the rest, left to the mercy of fate, had been killed by the Turks.
Here is what Tumanyan wrote about the behavior of the Russian army during the Genocide: “The ‘Brave’ [Russian] army did a ‘great’ job, providing Armenians with neither means nor opportunities.
While Kurds roamed the mountains and gorges with weapons in their hands, while the Circassians and Ossetians swore allegiance to General Abatsiyev, Armenians were disarmed by orders of General Abatsiyev.”