18 March 2008

2392) Insincere Goals at the Letters of Armenian Volunteers by Mehmet Perincek

During the years of the World War I, Armenian voluntary units, most of who was consisted of Turkish Armenians, were formed to fight against Turkey and at the side of Russia. The voluntary units, which undertook breaking the defense line of the Turkish armies, committed an intensive massacre and followed an extensive looting campaign against . . the Muslim society. The voluntary units, which also displayed disciplined activities, had also caused a great disappointment at some of the Armenian officials. You will find the letters of three authorities of the Armenian voluntary movement who are considered to come from America in our report. It is considered that the Tsarist authorities had seized the letters, which were originally in Armenian language and translated them into Russian and presented them to the higher officials with the intention of observing the voluntary movement, which they did not feel comfortable about.

A letter, which was sent by an Armenian official S. Vratsiyan, dated 20 December 1915 from Yerevan to USA 7 Boston, is maintained at the Russian Military State History Archives (RGVIA) of the fond 2100, list 1, folder 646, leaf 11-13, 11 back, 12 back. Vratsiyan was a member of Administrative Committee for the Armenian Units and had been on duty at the committee starting from the beginning of the war. The letter of the Administrative Committee for the Armenian Units, particularly the lines which voluntary units were evaluated, was quite striking:

“There was an atmosphere, which should be dispersed around the voluntary units. The positive and the negative aspects of our units were separated quite clearly during this year. There are much organic inefficiencies, which is not possible to remove. And that is the lack of a spirit and discipline. The war and front life stamped our units with militarism. The voluntary units are full of people, who do not posses any aim. The instincts, which are the products of the war time conditions started to develop; all of these overshadow the movement, which based on a notion. (...)

Moreover, I have changed my mind on our voluntary units. I see with a deep sorrow, many insufficiencies that are put in order. Our dear heroes have incredibly disappointed me. My hopes on our youth have decreased and I even started to doubt that these units would be the core of our future armies. They seem incredibly weak compared to our great expectations. For example let’s take the voluntaries up, who have come from America. Most of them, who were sent by the Central Committee by you, returned back from the half way, and some of them flee before arriving at the Tbilisi. The third group has reached here. Nevertheless, they shared more than three thousand rubles of the money that was sent by you, and they even did not feel the necessity to make an explanation. I will send you a detailed letter on this issue. (…) Hundreds are sacrificed for the mutual cause in America while people try to seize every penny here, I really do not understand.”

While the Armenian official indicated that the Armenian units that were send to Urumiye were causing disturbance among Iranians, he wrote that Termen, the governor of Van have not done anything constructive. According to Vratsiyan, an Armenian authority named Yedjeryan was involved with trading activities with his men, and was taking racket from the people. All of these had created a general discontent among the people. Yedjeryan and his men had turned into Russian officials. They supposedly listened to the problems of the people but did nothing about it. Moreover, Vratsiyan did not want his friends in America to send money unless they demand for the government was deceiving them on the financial issues.

Another letter was sent to H. Darpinian in Boston by S.Vramyan. The letter of Vramyan, who was an official of the Administrative Committee for the Armenian Units as well as the other Armenian Committees from Tbilisi, is maintained at the archive under fond 2100, list 1, folder 646, leaf 27, 27 ob., and number 28. Even though a date is not mentioned at the Russian translation of the letter, it is estimated that it was written at the end of the 1915 and beginning of the 1916.

Also Vramyan indicated that Armenian masses were deeply disappointed and tired so they are not in a situation for doing something. Vramyan also expressed that he would also escape from there if he had the chance. The lines, which evaluate the Armenian spiritual leader Katholikos Vramyan were also calling attentions: “As you know, Katholikos is a very weak man. There is no need to mention that the men around him are directing him. I have written about him formerly: He is completely different from Izmirliyan, Hrmyan or Ormanyan. He is a characterless, weak and unpleasant old man.

Vramyan puts an end to his letter with the following lines: “We lost our minds. We are making a lot of mistakes. We lost the possibility of expanding the horizon of our studies. You should help us on these issues; you should correct this atmosphere via press. You should target to enlighten us and make propaganda with all your tools. This is particularly necessary for many people started to assume an attitude towards us and accuse us for the voluntaries.”

Another letter, which was written by Mnatsakanyan to the American Execution Committee on 10 January 1916, is maintained at RGVİA fond 2100, list 1, folder 646, leaf number 26. Mnatsankanyan had written the following about the Armenian Katholikos: “We need money desperately. We could not receive any money from the Armenian Committee for ‘National Defense’. We still could not receive the 2500 dollars from the Katholikos that was sent by Nubar Pasha. We could only receive the 500 dollars that was send by you. We are having difficulties because of money. Do not sent money to the Katholikos from now on for he does not give it to us. Send it directly to us.”

The following lines which belong to the senior officials of the Armenian voluntary units can be characterized as a confession. The undisciplined movements of the voluntary units, the awful instincts that were developed at the commanding ranks, financial corruptions, rivalry among the institutions and observation of all of these facts by the Russians, would give significant clues for helping to perceive the core of the issue.

Source: Mehmet Perinçek- Aydınlık Magazine- 02 March 2008