24 October 2006

1181) An Important Armenian Source: The Trans-Caucasian Post Newspaper

An Important Armenian Source: The Trans-Caucasian Post Newspaper
Prof. Dr. Enis Şahin

Newspapers as historical material are regarded to be among the most significant sources of the time. A regularly published newspaper not only reflects the certain characteristics of its age, but also is an important source of information about the time and the place. Some newspapers can also be published to impose certain purposes on people and get them accepted in certain regions. Such newspapers are absolute propaganda devices. This study involves the examination of a newspaper published for this very purpose. The media organ in question is the newspaper called the Trans-Caucasian Post published in Tbilisi in English. This newspaper holds a propaganda quality which reflects the Armenian thought and perspective on Trans-Caucasia. The time of publication is also quite meaningful and corresponds to a period when the Ottoman Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros and withdrew from the region by breaking the links with Caucasia. Such a newspaper purposed to serve a project which the British wanted to carry out by also using Armenians for the occupation of Batumi and establishment of dominion in Trans-Caucasia.

The first copy of the newspaper was released on 21 February 1919 Friday and was published twice a week (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21, 1919, No. 1). The price of the newspaper which was published on Tuesday and Friday until the sixth volume and on Wednesday and Saturday after the seventh volume was 1 rouble. Published in four pages, the newspaper had three thick columns in equal size on each page. The names of the owners of the newspaper are registered as M. Eprikian and H. Mayelian and these people are also the owners of the Mamoul Press where the newspaper was pressed. The printing house is in no. 22, Loris Melikovska street in Tbilisi (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 25, 1919, No. 2). According to the records in the first copy, the editor and publisher of the Trans-Caucasian Post is another Armenian named S. Melikian (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21,1919, No. 1). As the editorial office, Beboutovskaia Street, no. 37 is recorded. Also, newspaper readers are asked to apply to the editorial office in Lermontovskaia 12, Aratch for all issues regarding all kinds of notices and articles. As the person in charge of this work, an Armenian named Mikrtichian is recorded (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 25, 1919, No. 2). The advertisements published in the newspaper are always on the last pages.

As the Trans-Caucasian Post newspaper was a newspaper which reflected the Armenian opinion and perspective about the south of Caucasia and published by Armenians in English in Tbilisi, it embodies certain characteristics within its nature. The most significant characteristic of the newspaper which draws attention at the first glance is the existence of the sentence “to serve Armenia is to serve civilization, W. Gladstone” right above the name of the newspaper (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21, 1919, No. 1). Publication of this sentence by the famous British prime minister and politician Gladstone, known for his Turkish hostility, in the head part and every volume of the newspaper is one of the most important characteristics openly putting forward its publication policy. Gladstone is known to be the person who rose from the Liberal Party 1880 onwards as high as to the office of the prime ministry and became the leader in Britain’s display of aggressive politics by changing the balance politics that Britain followed for the Ottoman Empire (Gürün, 1985, p. 73-79). Gladstone even went very far in this issue and said that “Turks are definitely not worthy of living among the civilized nations… The flock of vile murderers, go back to Asia” (Ahmet Rüstem, 2001, p. 70). The fact that these words of Gladstone were made “crown” by the newspaper openly reflect the politics about its publication.

These expressions, which are in favor of Armenians and against Turkey, naturally received great support from the Armenians. The article titled “Hearty Welcome” written by the editor in the first copy of the newspaper is like the evidence of this opinion: “This newspaper publication is our first chance to speak to people of Great Britain. Our first words from our nation to the Great Powers should be to greet them with “welcome”… Armenian people suffered under the cruelty of Turkish Sultans. As Great Gladstone said, we didn’t have a peaceful life with the red sultan. The dominion of Turkish politics on us has been with fire and sword. We wanted freedom… the Great British such as Byron and Gladstone were interested in our fatality… Being the small and loyal ally of Great Britain, Armenia sends its most sincere wishes to strong British nation” (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21, 1919, No. 1). The words of Gladstone and these lines of the editor in the first copy put forward the clearness of the publication policy. This approach, as a matter of course, was reflected in all copies of the newspaper and even an editorial making the above words of Gladstone the title was published in the second copy. In this editorial, the Turkish hostility reached its peak and Armenian-British intimacy was emphasized (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 25, 1919, No. 2). Taking a short glance at the editorials of the available copies of the newspaper will be effective for putting forward its publication policy.

In the editorial titled “Trans-Caucasian Republics Conference” on 28 February 1919; the developments in Trans-Caucasia in 1918 are expressed and the Turkish-German alliance and the struggles of regional peoples Armenians, Georgians, and Azeris are mentioned. It was emphasized that Georgia and Azerbaijan immediately surrendered to Turkey and Germany, but Armenia continued its struggle against Turkey even if it is desperate (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 28, 1919, No. 3). In the article titled “Nuri and Mürsel Pasha,” the news that significant commanders of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasian battlefront were arrested by the British due to their unwillingness in carrying out the armistice provisions and complicity in the arrangement of Armenian massacre was presented to the reader with great satisfaction and happiness. There are striking statements in the continuation of the article: “When the war broke out and Turkey put the decision about the lives of hundreds of thousands of Armenian victims which was the greatest crime of the world into practice, the Allies said that the whole responsibility was on Turkey who had to answer for the practices during the war. Two more names are added to the list of people in charge: Nuri Pasha and Mürsel Pasha… Both of them were the leading actors of the Baku, Şeki, and Şirvan massacres… The time for justice has come…” (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 4, 1919, No. 4).

In the article titled “League of Nations,” it was emphasized that the concepts such as coalition, allies, and partner states would be replaced by the League of Nations and it would play a role bringing justice for the problems in different parts of the world. That is to say, when Armenians faced any “Turkish danger” they were hoping that the Great Powers would be their defender. With another article titled “Karabakh,” Armenians wanted to reinforce their interest in the Karabakh region by depending on the Allied Forces. The general governor of the Karabakh region, Azeri Sultanof, was the spy of Enver Pasha in the Armenian opinion and eased the ways for Turkey in Caucasia with the politics he followed up to now. According to the editor, this situation should be hindered and Sultanof should be restrained from being the general governor of Karabakh (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 11, 1919, No. 6). Armenians were conveying their demands about Caucasia to themselves in “the language of the British.”

In another editorial titled “Freedom, Unity and Independence of Armenia,” Armenian demands and claims about the Eastern provinces of Turkey are mentioned. The Turkey Armenians Congress was arranged in Yerevan on 7-15 February 1919 and here “a plan which will let Western Armenians to go back to their homes again” was accepted. The Congress appealed to Allied Forces and Armenia and asked this plan to be put in practice. According to another important decision taken in the same congress: with the declaration of independence of “Turkey Armenia,[1]” its entry into the process of unification with Trans-Caucasian Armenia and putting members in Armenian Parliament was also decided (The Tran-Caucasian Post, March 7, 1919, No. 5). The copy of the Trans-Caucasian Post on 15 March was dedicated to this development in regard to its significance. According to the article, this was one of the problems which the Paris Peace Conference had to solve immediately, and the administration of free and independent Armenia including “Six Turkish Provinces” by the League of Nations was the demand of the Armenian people and Armenian history (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 15, 1919, No. 7). A “deficiency,” not mentioned in this article, would be corrected in the next copy and it was especially emphasized by the editor that Armenia didn’t actually include only the regions mentioned above and additionally, it covered Cilicia and the Armenian provinces of Russian Armenia as well (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 19, 1919, No. 8). In this way, Armenians were conveying their demands on the issue to the Allied Forces, mainly Britain, at the time they were in Caucasia and were drawing their attention.

The existence of these available conditions for Armenians increased the courage of this newspaper with each published copy in English in Tbilisi. The editorial of the copy of the newspaper on 22 March had the title of “Re-Creation of Armenia.” The editor expressed his faith that the Allied Forces victorious in the war would declare the unity and independence of Armenia in the Paris Peace Treaty and even argued that Armenia couldn’t live in case of lack of such an aid (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 19, 1919, No. 8). Armenians, in this article, saw the Allied Forces as the guarantee of their future and they were conveying this duty to especially the British in an imposition. The editorial titled “America and Armenia” of the next copy, on the other hand, was targeting to get America from the Allied Forces interested in Armenia beyond Britain, and draw their attention about the issue of the American mandate. The editor wrote this article with these striking words and emphasized the importance of America for Armenians: “the whole America helped Armenia to a large extent. No doubt that as long as “the beautiful flower of the East, Armenia” is not given back to its owner, these aids will not stop… Our dear and noble guests, welcome. You also welcome strong and noble America. Grateful Armenia is greeting you!” (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 22, 1919, No. 9). Beside Britain present in Caucasia at the time, America was also invited to the region and the possibilities of the Armenian mandate were tried to be reinforced.

There is no copy of the Trans-Caucasian Post that didn’t mention Turkey. This situation also puts forward the reasons for publication of the newspaper. It mentioned Turkey either directly or indirectly in every copy and many articles were devoted to Turkey or it was mentioned within the text. In many of its articles, Turkey is not only accused, but also there are assaults, insults, and harsh accusations about Turkey and Turks. The copy on 26 March 1919 was written in order to create the image of “victimized Armenian – cruel Turk” and still calls Allied Forces to the “duty” even in a period when Turkey completely withdrew from Caucasia: “horrific news is coming from all around Armenia. Bloodthirsty Turkey still didn’t accept to have been defeated. By depending on the political changes in the West, it seeks motivation to its destructed state of being with some intrigues. It is still keeping the significant strategic points at hand both in its country and in Trans-Caucasia. Azerbaijan Khans and unsatisfied satraps and butchers of the Ottoman Empire are busy with arming all Muslims in Trans-Caucasia and conducting new intrigues. If we carefully follow the military preparations of Turkey and activities of the Azerbaijan armed forces, we will understand that Turkish-Azeri groups will want to separate Russian Armenia from Turkish Armenia firstly and they will surround the Republic of Armenia secondly. Kars, Nakhchivan, Sürmeli, Karabakh, Ahıska, and Ahılkelek are the main strategic points where all Turkish and Azeri armed forces are concentrated to proceed into Armenian land by deceiving the Muslim people in this region. After the World War, which lasted for five years and ended with the victory of Allied Forces, Trans-Caucasia is on the brink of new bloodshed. Dark clouds are gathering in the horizon of the region and the Allied Forces want to disperse these. This should be done today, tomorrow can be too late” (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 26, 1919, No. 10). As it is apparent, the Allied Forces are kept under intense provocation by the Armenians with such articles including harsh accusations and insults. Even when only the date of this article is considered, how Armenians create “clamour” is very apparent. On this date, the Ottoman Empire is busy with groaning under heavy conditions of the Mudros Armistice and it doesn’t already have any military troops in Caucasia and Armenia. These approaches display Armenians’ purposes of reaching their political and military goals not only by provocation and insult, but also by distorting history. This last article mentioned above clearly puts forward the Armenian propaganda through the newspaper released as centered in Caucasia and its publication purpose.

Mentioning the important parts and articles of Trans-Caucasian Post newspaper apart from its editorials will be completing the information above about the content and publication policy of the newspaper. In many articles, Turks are complained to the western Great Powers and the hostility is being reinforced by often referring to the “Turcophobe” book known as the Blue Book (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21, 1919, No. 1). The article titled “Armenians in Ally Continents” reminds that the Allied Forces also owe things to Armenians and with the article titled “The British in Our Land” the British in Caucasia are greeted as: “the hopes of Armenian people in past and future are coming from their allies. We are glad to welcome our friends!” (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 25, 1919, No. 2). In the third copy, the significance of American food aid for Armenians is emphasized and other developments about Armenians in Caucasia are mentioned (The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 28, 1919, No. 3). There is much news about the Paris Peace Conference and Armenians in the newspaper and citations from other newspapers in Istanbul and Caucasia are transmitted (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 4, 1919, No. 4). Armenian losses during the war are another significant issue which the newspaper focuses on. The question “who” would compensate for these losses finds only one answer in all pages of the newspaper: the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, after the 5th volume onwards, a summary of the events in Caucasia after the Russian Revolution started to be published and this article series would continue for a few volumes (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 7, 1919, No. 5) American aid for Armenians maintained to be the main agenda point of some copies (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 11, 1919, No. 6). In another copy, beyond the information about the recognition of the Armenian Republic by Georgia, the point of making Armenia powerful in Caucasia is concentrated on (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 15, 1919, No. 7). In the 8th copy, the fact that the London Archbishop blessed the Armenian flag during his visit in Istanbul was given wide coverage and a document about the thought of the Ottoman Internal Affairs Minister Enver Pasha to exterminate Armenians was mentioned in the same copy (The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 19, 1919, No. 8). In the last copy handled, there is information about the committee that the Allied Forces established as related to Armenia. The same copy presents some information about the harsh conditions of Armenians in Turkey and the attention of especially the British is drawn.

As it is understood from its content as well, the Trans-Caucasian Post is a newspaper published by Armenians by taking advantage of the end of the First World War in favor of the Allied Forces and the absence of Russia and Turkey in Caucasia. This newspaper is released in Tbilisi, one of the most important cities of Caucasia under the control of the British, in English language, and asks for especially the land demands of the Armenians in Caucasia from the British in their own language. We should also mention here the newspapers The Georgian Mail and The Georgian Messenger which were published in Tbilisi in English as well and gave voice to the demands of Georgians. As well as voicing Armenian demands from Tbilisi, the target audience of the newspaper is the European public opinion. Both the articles and the news published in order to achieve this goal constitute the main propaganda method of this newspaper. It is easily understood from these news and comments that the publication policy of the newspaper is based on drawing attention of the Allied Forces and especially the British in order to achieve great gains in Caucasia for Armenians and that the real target for this is the Ottoman Empire. Especially when the fact that Britain is victorious in the war and the captain of the other countries in the absence of Russia and Turkey is considered, why Armenians published such a propaganda newspaper in Tbilisi and in English can be better understood. If the fact that the dominion of the British in Caucasia is for a limited time is considered, it won’t be difficult to understand that these goals of Armenians remained only in thought. The newspaper Trans-Caucasian Post took its place on the dusty shelves as an Armenian propaganda newspaper.

Explanations

[1] The area constituted of Erzurum, Van, Diyarbakır, Bitlis, Elazığ and Sivas provinces called “Six Armenian Vilayets” in Western sources and Vilayat-ı Şarkıye/Vilayat-ı Sitte in Ottoman literature were called “Western Armenia” or “Turkish Armenia” by Armenian sources.



Bibliography

The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 21, 1919, No. 1.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 25, 1919, No. 2.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, February 28, 1919, No. 3.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 4, 1919, No. 4.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 7, 1919, No. 5.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 11, 1919, No. 6.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 15, 1919, No. 7.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 19, 1919, No. 8.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 22, 1919, No. 9.

The Trans-Caucasian Post, March 26, 1919, No. 10.

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