Pastermadjian, Garegin with an introduction by George Nasmyth Why Armenia Should be Free: Armenia’s Role in the Present War, Boston, Hairenik Publishing Company, 1918
One other purpose the writer had in view in writing this booklet: to make the great and generous American public realize that Armenians are not an anemic and unaggressive people, with no fighting blood in their veins; that the Armenians have not been butchered like sheep, but, on the contrary, have fought most bravely and resisted most stubbornly the savage attacks of the Turks whenever they had an opportunity.
With such aims in view, Russia, through Count Varantzoff Dashkoff, informed the Armenian National Council (then in existence at Tiflis) that if the Armenians would unreservedly give their support to the Russian armies during the course of the war, Russia would grant autonomy to the six Armenian vilayets. .
After long and weighty consultation, with their hopes pinned on France and England, the Armenians resolved to aid the Russian armies in every possible way.
While Russian diplomacy was in the midst of these diplomatic negotiations at Tiflis, during the last days of August, 1914, a Turkish mission of twenty-eight members (the object of which was to organize a Pan-Islamic and a Pan-Turanian movement among all the races of the Near East against Russia and her Allies) left Constantinople for Armenia.
During those same days the annual Congress of the Armenian National Organization was in session at Erzeroum. In the name of the Turkish government the above mentioned mission appealed to the Armenian Organization with the following proposition:
“If the Armenians, -the Turkish as well as the Russian Armenians- would give active co-operation to the Turkish armies, the Turkish government under a German guarantee would promise to create after the war an autonomous Armenia (made up of Russian Armenia and the three Turkish vilayets of Erzeroum, Van, and Bitlis) under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.”
In spite of these promises and threats, the executive committee of the Dashnaktzoutiun (Federation) informed the Turks that the Armenians could not accept the Turkish proposal, and on their behalf advised the Turks not to participate in the present war, which would be very disastrous to the Turks themselves. The Armenian members of this parley were the well-known publicist, Mr. E. Aknouni, the representative from Van, Mr. A. Vramian, and the director of the Armenian schools in the district of Erzeroum, Mr. Rostom.
These were the circumstances under which the mobilization of 1914: took place in the Caucasus. The Armenian reservists, about 160,000 in number, gladly responded to the call, for the simple reason that they were to fight the arch enemy of their historic race. Besides the regular soldiers, nearly 20,000 volunteers expressed their readiness to take up arms against the Turks.
But, in spite of this suspicious and crafty attitude assumed by the Russian administration, the Armenian inhabitants of the Caucasus spared nothing in their power for the success of the Russian armies.
The tenth army corps, during its march from Olti to Sarikamish, suffered a delay of twenty-four hours in the Barduz Pass, due to the heroic resistance of the fourth battalion of the Armenian volunteers which made up the Russian reserve.
Opposite Sarikamish, where a battle was waged for three days and three nights, the Turks suffered a loss of 30,000 men, mostly due to cold rather than to the Russian arms.
Six hundred Armenian veterans fell in the Barduz Pass, and at such a high price saved the 60,000 Russians from being taken prisoners by the Turks.
The first battalion of the Armenian volunteers, under the command of. The veteran Andranik, strongly enforced in its trenches, repulsed the attacks of Khalil Bey for three days continuously, until the Russians, with the newly-arrived forces from the Caucasus, were able to put to flight the army of Khalil Bey. Thirty-six hundred Turkish soldiers lay dead before the Armenian trenches in the course of .those three days.
… first, as a fountain of wealth, the Turks knew very well that the Russian government received from the oil wells of Baku an annual income of more than 200,000,000 rubles ($100,000,000), a sum which is more than all the revenues of the bankrupt Turkish government put together, and they looked upon these .financial resources as in dispensable for the accomplishment of their plan of a Pan-Turanian Empire;…
But the Turkish Armenia behind the front, who were being deported and massacred as early as the month of July, by their heroic resistance, occupied the attention of four Turk L divisions and tens of thousands of Kurds just at the time when the Turks had such great need of those forces to aid them in their July drive. It is worth while, therefore, to point out here that, during the deportations and massacres of 1915, whenever the Armenians had any possible means at all of resisting the criminal plans of the Turkish government, they took up arms and organized resistance in different parts of Armenia.
At Shabin-Karahissar, nearly 5,000 Armenians, for twenty seven days without interruption, in the same month of July, kept busy another division of Turkish troops with their artillery. There took place one of the most tragic and heroic episodes of the present war.
As we have already seen, those few battalions even, in 1914 and 1915, rendered to the Russians invaluable services, twice saving the right and left wings of the Russian army from an unavoidable catastrophe by their heroic resistance;…
What was that policy? In 1896, when an English correspondent interviewed the Russian minister of foreign affairs, Count Lobanoff Rostowsky, and asked him why Russia did not occupy the Armenian vilayets of Turkey in order to save that Christian people from the Turkish massacres, the Russian minister cynically replied: “We need Armenia, but without the Armenians.”
TWO: When Turkish Armenia was almost wholly emptied of it Armenian inhabitants, due to these successive retreats, the Russia government raised all sorts of barriers before the refugees to prevent them from returning to their former homes when the Russian army re captured the Armenian vilayets. For example, in 1916-1917, scarcely 8,000 to 10,000 Armenians were permitted to go back and inhabit the region of Van; the rest were compelled to stay within the borders of the Caucasus as refugees. Toward the latter part of 1916, even among Russian governmental circles there was talk of transferring to Siberia nearly 250,000 Turkish Armenian immigrants who had sought refuge in the Caucasus, because it was objected that no available lands existed there for them. Russians considered it a settled question that even after the war the Turkish Armenians would not be permitted to return to their own homes.
THREE: While the Russians were preventing the Turkish Armenian immigrants from returning to their own lands, they, in the spring of 1916, commenced to organize in Turkish Armenia colonies of Cossacks.
In the month of July, 1915, the Armenian inhabitants of Erzeroum, nearly 25,000 in number, were likewise deported by the Turkish government, leaving all their real and personal property at the disposal of the Turks. The governor of the place, Tahsin Bey, arranged a scheme by means of which every Armenian before leaving the city could store his goods and household furniture (with the name of the owner on each article) in the cathedral, with the apparent purpose of returning them to their owners after the war, but with the real purpose of preventing so much riches from falling into the hands of the Turkish mob, in order to appropriate them later for the government.
The cathedral of Erzeroum was packed with the goods of the exiled Armenians when the Russians captured the city in February, ‘1916. Ordinary human decency demanded that the Russians should not have touched the articles stored in that sacred edifice, especially as they belonged to the very martyred people whose professed sympathies for them (the Russians) were the cause of their being exiled to the deserts of Mesopotamia.
But the fact is that the commander of the Russian army, General Kaledine himself, set the example of desecration; he personally entered the cathedral first and selected for himself a few car-loads of rugs and sundry valuable articles. Then the other officers of the Russian army followed his example, and in a few days half of the contents of the church were already pillaged before the representative of the Armenian Committee, Mr. Rostom, after repeated telegrams, was able to receive an order from Tiflis to stop the plunder.
Concentrating their forces around Karakilissa and Erivan, early in June, the Armenians in two fierce battles drove the Turks back almost to their frontier. In the battle of Karakilissa, which lasted four days, the Turks left 6,000 dead before the Armenian posts, and escaped to Alexandropol.
The delegates of the three nations of the Caucasus reached Constantinople on June 19. They were 32 in number. Among them were also the representatives of the Republic of Ararat, Mr. A. Khatissoff, the minister of foreign affairs, and Mr. A. Aharonian, the president of the Armenian National Council. In that congress, which convened in presence of the delegates of the German and Austrian governments, the Turks signed peace treaties with each of the newly-formed Caucasian Republics.
They gave the greater part of the Armenian territories to the other two nations, and the remainder was claimed by Turkey, with the exception of 32,000 square kilometers (about 12,350 square miles), with 700,000 Armenian inhabitants, which were left to the Republic of Ararat. According to these terms only one-third of the Armenians of the Caucasus are included within the Republic of Ararat, while the remaining 1,400,000 Armenians are left in territories allotted to the Tartars or the Georgians.
… and only early in September succeeded in shattering the Turkish lines and thereby reached the city of Hamadan in Persia, where they entrusted to the care of the British forces the protection of about 40,000 Armenian and Assyrian refugees.
As an evidence of this we may mention the fact that during the last eight months and a half the Armenians have received from the Allies only 6,500,000 rubles ($3,250,000) of financial assistance, and the 2,800 British soldiers who were too few and arrived too late to save Baku
It was as clear as day to the Armenians that a Germano-Turkish victory could never satisfy their national aspirations. The most that those nations would have done for us would have been to grant nominal rights to the Armenia of their own choice. But it was very plain to tie also that we should not have suffered such frightful human losses had we not sided with the Allies. We consciously chose this last alternative, namely: we tied our fate to the allied victory; we exposed our very existence to danger in order to realize the complete fulfillment of our national ambition, that is, to see the re-establishment of the United Historic Independent Armenia.
And where is today the Czar of Russia, who planned to occupy Armenia without the Armenians, -the representative of that Empire before which the world trembled.
Read More: armenians-1915.blogspot.com