2278) Tashnak Report Of Tbilisi Gendarmerie In Command by Mehmet PERINCEK

The Tsarist archives demonstrate that the Russian offices had great difficulties over the Armenian voluntary units, even though they had played a leading role at their organization. Even the Tsarist officials, who had been using the Armenian gangs, had written complaint letters about the activities of the Armenian voluntary units. . . On the other hand, it also becomes clear at these documents that the West’s and the Tsarist Russia’s imperialist plans and the Armenian voluntary’s imaginations do not intersect.

One of these documents is the report, which was written to the Assistant for the Civil Affairs of the Caucasus Governor by the Tbilisi Gendarmerie Chief on 08 December 1915. The mentioned report which was “Confidential” is currently being preserved at the Russian Military History Archives (RGVIA) fond 2100, list 1, folder 557, and page 303-307, back page of 303-307.

The Gendarmerie head begins his report by mentioning about the negative effect that the retreat of the Russian armies from Van in August 1915 had caused among the Armenian circles. The commanders of the voluntary units, Tashnaks, the Armenian national Office based in Tbilisi and the notables of the Armenian society had perceived the retreat of the Russian armies as giving an end to the Armenians’ dream of independence and wishing to leave Armenia without Armenians.

These thoughts were reflected to Tashnaks’ daily newspaper Orizon (horizon), which was published with an authorization in Armenian in Tbilisi. In the 206th issue of the daily dated 12 September 1915, an article, which was about the effort of a French admiral at the vicinity of Antakya to save 5, 000 Armenians, who were attempting to escape from Turkey entitled “Long Live France” was published.

In the article that was issued unsigned, the so-called statements of the Russian military officials that were told to the Armenians to acquit their retreat, were reported. The author had added the following by comparing to Russia: “The French General has made a move in the name of his nation; he could not pass over and keep on going on his own route and he couldn’t say the following: “Why are you calling me? I have my own targets” or “Don’t you ever expect any help from me”. “France didn’t have an obligation like protecting us.” The efforts of the Armenian leaders for cozying up to France had disturbed Russians.

Thoughts opposing Russia was voiced at Ayrenik (Homeland), the publishing organ of the Tashnaks in America. The Russian official reported certain parts from this article. On the retreat of the Russian armies from Van Stepan Margosyan wrote on 02 November 1915 issue of Avrenik that the Russian generals were concerned only in their own interests, and the Russian officers were dreaming about retreating from the Caucasus front. According to the Armenian writer the Russians did not care about the death of hundreds of thousand of Armenians, and the only savior of the Armenians was the Armenian voluntary units. Margosyan indicated that the retreat of the Russians has occurred in an unexpected time and even they did not give the Armenian voluntary units a chance to take precautions.

The Russian units were seized with the fear of Turks even at the places where Turks were weak; the only thing that they cared about was to run away fast towards the Russian border. The Armenians of Turkey had experienced a great disappointment and in this context, the fact that most of them made a preference in favor of Turkish government, should be of no ones surprise. The afore-mentioned disappointment grew bigger when the Armenians of Turkey had entered to the Russian border. A set of laws were prepared for the Armenian immigrants by the Russian government. Entering to Tbilisi and its environment in addition to inhabiting in Sürmeli and Igdir was prohibited to immigrants. In the framework of these regulations, the regional police power had forcedly deported the immigrants from the district, and chased the ones, who did not go with a whip.

The Tbilisi Gendarmerie head continued his report by indicating he has issued a search and an arrest warrant for Margosyan, who has gone to Yerevan region because of his article. The Russian official pointed out that the Russians’ reproaches do not reflect the reality, and he added that he had warned the Armenian voluntary units in the city that this would be inevitable due to the contra-attack of the Turkish armies 10 days ago, before the Russian armies had withdrawn from Van. Moreover, he had stated to the Armenian officials that Van would be re invaded in not before than 9 days, and pointed out that the voluntary units can either retreat with the Russian armies or stay in Van. According to the expression of the Russian official, the Armenian commanders had decided to withdraw without demonstrating any kind of hesitation over the Armenian nation.

The Russian Gendarmerie head continued his report by pointing out that the Armenian volunteers had attributed the invasion of the city to them and Aram, a self-declared Armenian governor, was ruling at the city. In such a way that the Tashnaks had played the leading role at organizing the voluntary units and the role of the party had increased when Van was sized. However, when the voluntary units abandoned Van, in addition to Aram Pasha’s poor managing capability and his efforts for embezzling had shaken the belief of the Armenian masses against the Tashnaks and had created anger against the Party. On the other hand, no one could account for the money that was collected for constituting voluntary units by the Armenian National Office.

The leaders including the party officials like Agbalyan, Vratsyan, Andranik, Dro and the commanders of the voluntary units had met in Yerevan and talked about how they could account for the money. In fact, most of the expenses were spent for the Party or the personal needs of the Party heads. While the press and the public opinion were pressing for the accounts to be declared, Tashnaks were not able to acquit from their financial expenses. The lack of confidence of the Armenian public opinion towards Tasnaksutyun was getting deeper and deeper, for the report was not being declared.

The Hinchaks had made a move and formed a unit consisted of 200 people under the command of Yegeryan, who was under the control of Colonel Terman, the Tsarist Regional Commander. A letter of a Tashnak official from Igdir called Dr.Amo Ogancanyon was published at the Tashnak’s publishing organ Orizon. It was stated in the letter that 500 of the Armenians, who left Van for Russia with the guidance of the Colonel Terman, were killed by the Kurds. Nevertheless, after a short while it came out that this claim was totally fictitious. Tashnaks had resorted to this option for hindering the confidence of the Union that was founded a short while ago.

Because of the motives that were illustrated above, the Tbilisi Gendarmerie head, who stressed the negative attitude of the Armenian masses against the activities of the voluntary units that were under the command of the Tashnaks, stated that they brought disadvantages rather than advantages, so they should be dispersed. This issue was even discussed by the Tashnak officials. Prominent Tashnak officials and commanders like Amazasp, Dro, Sepuh, Kerri, Rostom Zoryanve, as well Murad, who came from Sivas, had attended the meeting, which was held at the Armenian National Office based in Tbilisi during 03-05 December 1915. While Amazasp and Dro defended that the voluntary units should be dispersed, the other defended that they should be preserved.

The discontent felt by the commanders of the Armenian voluntary units against Andranik, the head in command of the voluntary units, due to his rude and independent behavior, was stated at the report by the Russian official. Moreover, the Gendarmerie head characterized Dro, one of the most important commanders of the voluntary units, as a “faithful terrorist”. Dro’s unit was almost completely composed of the former terrorists. That’s why; a special attention should had to be given to his unit for keeping their movements under constant surveillance. For this reason, the Tbilisi Gendarmerie head demanded the list of the names of the voluntaries at the unit from Brigadier General Bolhovitinov. It was interesting; Dro was to form voluntary units for the Nazi armies during the World War II.

On the other hand, the Russian official points out the discussions over founding the Armenian National Office once again. Particularly, Papacanov, one of the members of Armenian Duma, indicated that the members of the Office should be renewed with the attendance of the other organizations and party representatives since the Tashnaks had returned to the Party administration.

The report dated 1915 of the Tbilisi Gendarmerie head is important since it demonstrates the activities of the commanders of the voluntary units, who are declared as heroes and whose monuments are being erected by the Western guided Armenian circles at the current days. And moreover, the complaints that are voiced by the Tsarist Russia are striking as regards characterizing the voluntary movement, which had played a vital role of 1915 incidents.

Mehmet PERINCEK, Researcher
04 January 2008 - Aydinlik Magazine