26 October 2008
Lt. Dunn's "World Alive" Documents Armenian Atrocities
U.S. Naval officer Lieutenant Robert Steed Dunn was the intelligence officer (Dunn spent 20 years in Naval Intelligence) of Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, the American High Commissioner in the beaten Ottoman Empire, beginning in 1919, and later serving as a de facto American ambassador. Dunn, who became a well-known mountain climber. trained as a newspaper reporter under Lincoln Steffans, and was a correspondent in five wars.
Cover of World Alive, by Robert Dunn
Lieutenant Dunn traveled extensively with Dro and his army in the region, which makes the book that he wrote, World Alive, A Personal Story (Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1952 or 1956, published shortly after Dunn's death). of tremendous importance — given that it was the rare Westerner who served as direct eyewitness to the Armenians' crimes of systematic extermination.
Because Dunn's testimony is so damaging to the Armenians' "Myth of Innocence,"and given that Armenians have so rarely let the cat out of the bag as far as their extremists' murderous behavior, soldiers for Hai Tahd naturally strike back in the way they know best — through smear campaigns. Thus, Richard Hovannisian attempted to discredit Dunn, for example, by making all kinds of wild claims (such as Dunn's being a Muslim, which was, of course, ridiculous; Hovannisian hoped to benefit through the implication that all Muslims must dutifully lie for anything involving Muslims, thinking perhaps that all other groups must subscribe to the extremist-Armenian rule book) .
Quotes from Dunn's book have circulated for years, but the Turks who put them up have editorialized some of the lines; there is nothing like going to the original source if accuracy is our goal. Many thanks to reader Adil, who was also dismayed by the distorted version of Dunn's Internet-available writings, and who provided the real thing for TAT readers.
Under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russians had given Germany all Transcaucasia. When the surrender at Compiègne tore that, Britain was willing to occupy Batum, one gate toward India and the end of the Nobel oil pipeline from Baku. And now Versailles, to block Lenin across the highest peaks in Europe, had carved three states south of the Caucasus range. Georgia, Armenia and Tatar Azerbaidzhan. In their short lives, none was independent, each brawled with its neighbors, and in Constantinople we called them the "jazz republics" of the Caucasus.
From its birth on May 28, 1918, the Allies flattered, promised, and "recognized" the small Armenian republic, although England alone gave concrete aid. Erevan, the capital, and the territory it claimed were included in the British occupation of the Caucasus which began in September, 1918, at Baku. The army on the spot — troops which have traversed Persia — was honest and sincere, though inadequate to the difficulties. But all the Allies were to find a conflict between the needs of the Near East and their own plans for its commercial exploitation. England here was hampered by home vacillation and by the nightmare specters of pan-Islam to the south and mad Ivan to the north. Conflicting "home" and "Indian" policies raised religious issues, and aid to the White generals took men and supplies.
So the British had solved none of the complex vendetta of race and religion in the Trancaucasus. They failed to establish order among Armenians, Kurds and Tartars although, as a report to me summed up:
Tartars and Armenians alike are amenable to reason, especially quick to appreciate fairness and a disinterested attitude. The principal handicap under which the British labored in the Transcaucasus, and of which they still bear
the odium, was the fact that they were not disinterested, and that both Tartars and Armenians were aware of it.
Thus both sides distorted and took advantage of British promises, and made reprisals upon one another. Soon, under Armenian occupation of the railway to Tabriz, there were thirty thousand helpless and starving Tartar refugees in the region. But the Tartars won back and held the Nakhichevan area, fortifying the Beuk Vedi mountain within sight of the capital, and the Armenians were never able to recapture it. Both sides declared the British had deceived them. Unless he traveled under the American flag— the relief workers were there — no Englishman's life was safe.
But the British wanted a buffer between their aspirations in Mesopotamia and Persia, and the Russian power in the north. They well knew that some day Russia would come back with all her old aggression, the pan-Slavism of the past. They wanted no jealous European nation intriguing and blocking them on the strategic land strip in the Transcaucasus that had been Russian Armenia. And so throughout 1919 British propaganda joined the pleas of Armenian absentees to wish on Armenia such a white elephant as would have made blood boil in the United States had the truth been known.
You cannot blame the British, bred in the old European diplomacy. Events that year were acute for them, or seemed so. General Denikin's defeat was foreseen, not despite but largely because of British military aid. Victorious Bolshevism was pressing into Persia and Afghanistan, toward India. British interests played desperately for Mosul oil and exclusive control of Persia. Mmore, misinformed by their native intelligence agents, or for political effect, they hauled out the old pan-Islam and pan-Turanian bogies, with the false charge that the Turkish nationalist movement was a continuation of the vile Young Turk party. Meanwhile, London checked expenditures, the pound fell, troops were withdrawn from the Near East, and the deadlock in Cilicia alienated France.
So, America to the rescue! Logic pointed to the sentimental, friendly United States, already in Armenia with aid.
(P. 309, unconfirmed: . . . Next I was drinking Scotch with British `I' officers in Erzurum, in what had been an American mission school for girls. Now it housed Colonel Toby Rawlinson from Donsterville's hush-hush army. They put me up and I heard, in Oxford English, more stories of Armenians murdering Turks when the czarist troops fled north. My hosts told me of their duty here: to keep tab on brigands, Turkish troop shifts, hidden arms, spies — Christian, Red or Tartar — coming in from Transcaucasus...)
Then they spoke of the hell that would break loose if Versailles were to put, as threatened, the six "Armenian" vilayets of Turkey under the control of Erevan.
"We sit on the edge of a volcano, Dunn," said Rawlinson. And the sun-and-booze-dried brother of the Whitehall chief-of-staff (their father had solved cuneiform) talked on like the blunt, keen, braggart soldier his juniors had sketched to me.
"So you want us to take a mandate over it all," I said, "as a buffer to your Iraq."
"America'd never be so mad. I've been in America. Your people are too damned level-headed."
"If the President's behind it—"
"An Armenia without Armenians! Turks under Christian rule?" His lips smacked in irony under the droopy red mustache. "That's bloodshed — just Smyrna over again on a bigger scale. If you touch that business you're bigger fools than I've ever taken you for."
The fight at Smyrna had stirred Moslems even here. Until bedtime we chewed over the stock of all Anatolia. In the morning, while agents in tattered czarist uniforms and beards reported to Rawlinson, I went out with my small black O.N.J. field code-book and ciphered word to Constantinople. The telegraph office alone was intact on a burnt-out street. But lilacs bloomed over Erzurum's famous blue mosque, its porcelain dome ringed in acanthus leaves, raised minarets slim and red against the mountain snow. A donkey train packed in white chunks of snow, used to sweeten colored driniks in the bazaar.
A Russian Tartar "mining-engineer" in leather breeches, met on the street with our Armenian colonel, brought the first word of a secret Turkish society, the Hokkuk Milli, "For Defense of National Rights," which he said would meet here in Erzurum on July 10. Forty members from each of Turkey's six eastern vilayets would talk force against the loss of sovereignty begun at Smyrna. They had arms and the backing of every class from chetties ("patriot" bandits) to the regular army.
"Also General Mustapha Kemal Pasha will be here from Stamboul," the Tartar added. This was the first time I'd heard
the name of the victor at Gallipoli. "But all is yet under cover."
When I told Rawlinson of this meeting, "Oh, the army's not in that Hokkuk Milli," he said. "The Third Corps, west of here, at Sivas, is making some trouble but we're clearing that up."
I dropped the matter, feeling him wiser than he wanted to appear. Only afterwards I learned how they were "clearing up" at Sivas — the British had sent Mustapha Kemal there to quell the reported rebellion. He made the best of his opportunity to place himself at the head of the Nationalist movement previously started at the capital. Thus the British created the Kemalist movement.
In the Erzurum barracks, General Kiazim Karabekir Pasha, wartime commander-in-chief of eastern Turkey, also looked blank — cleverly, I thought — at mention of the Hukkuk Milli. Politics, he said, was out — "I am a soldier."
So I told him of hearing in Baku that his old war chief, Enver Pasha, now in flight, was leading a band of Kurds in Persian Azerbaidzhan.
"So the Pasha lives as he did when young!"
"Well," I said, "if I were a Turk these days I'd be a brigand. And in Russia a Bolshevik."
He laughed, so I spoke of the unrest west of us. Kiazim's eyes bored me through.
"Sivas rests quiet. All is peace and order there. I should wish for you to see that, and prove true to my words." He spoke softly. weighing them. "I offer you and officer and armed men to our Third Army. It's a long journey on horseback. I ask you to accept the escort."
"Thank you, sir!" I said at the luck. I was to see Kiazim again, farther east, and he was a friend for years on.
Rawlinson later described my start for Sivas, "mounted on a native pony, with a Kurdish saddle ... and wearing blue cloth naval uniform and trousers, than which it would be hard to conceive a more unsuitable costume for such an arduous journey."*
*Adventures in the Near East," A. Rawlinson, C.M.G., London, 1925.
(p. 347; Chapter 21.)
Plunder worked both ways. Our reports informed me the American government that "Constant appeals are received to protect Armenians from massacre, while ... the continual provocation given the Moslems by the Armenians in extending their political control, in driving Moslems into exile and destroying their villages, are facts not told our people." This we knew from observation; I confirmed it by experience when I joined the campaign of Armenia's General Dro.
That was the summer Trotsky stepped out and the Eleventh Soviet Army walked south into Baku, erasing jazz republic Azerbaidzhan. Jitters shook the Menshevik presidents of Georgia and Armenia and also, it appeared, Allied High Commissioner Haskell, a West Point colonel with no U.S. authority — he was responsible solely to Versailles. But now he sent an order to all American reliefers and missionaries to quit their posts and hit for the coast "at night and by untraveled roads." Horse laughs went up from a score of posts: "The retreat from Moscow!" Never one obeyed, although Haskell's top aide, a genial colonel handy at taming tribal Tartars and pretty Georgian princesses, fled from Tiflis to Batum. He left for good after a Russian general's daughter yelled "Rape!" but not before, in Haskell's absence, his aide got a bleary o.k. on a wire to Washington which read in effect, Rush to Batum immediately 5,000 U.S. Marines.
Now that the admiral sent me there, forty thousand Georgians, Adjars and Turks were waiting to fight back when Lenin should turn the heat on Georgia. But any foreign citizen was safe, whether in the wilds or under the oil port's mandarin orange trees. I bunked in an officers' rest-house, ate at the Armenian club, and bargained for rare overprint stamps. Only the British, branded by Moscow as "capitalist" and "imperialist," were unloved — and the Orthodox church objected when Tommies married local girls.
While Whitehall wobbled, the Soviet advance was slow but sure — like a glacier. On the Kobuleti "front" Georgian troops opened fire on Britain's General Milne, while up-coast at Gagri, as at Odessa, H.M.S. Caradoc flung shells at the Reds. And all the Robin Hoods of Asia Minor skulked or hunted over a no man's land that stretched down to Persia.
On top in Armenia was the secret Dashnatz Society, terrorist and black hand. As late as 1935 its long arm would murder a bishop at his altar in New York. Its Tartar foe called Mussovat ran Baku, under the blood satrap Sultanov. Enver Pasha and his close kin Halil and Nouri were in hiding. These "Young Turks," under death sentence for murdering Armenians, were forefunners of the Nazis convicted of genocide and had been won by a slick German ambassador at Constantinople to fight in '14. But to appease the Moslems the British had winked at Halil's and Nouri's escape from a Batum jail; and when last year in the Caspian Karabakh an Indian army subaltern had pinched Enver, headquarters wired, "Let him go."
At Batum now, placards in the Orient Hotel windows still promised "Blinis Sevoydna," pancakes today. But you saw more tow-heads with fanatic eyes under the bloody star on gray flannel caps. Head of the Moscow mission was that Kirov whose murder in 1934 signaled the purge. The British high commissioner, raising a stink over the attack on Milne, prepared to get out, and the British mission burned all "secret" papers. Americans were calmer, both the oil buzzard I lodged with and the consulate worried over a cargo of contraband rugs. But the British still talked of "the retreat from Moscow." Limey official
reports read: "A panic was caused in Tiflis by the Americans' running away."
At dinner in the American headquarters palace, Haskell's transport officer promised me a lower to Erevan. But on the station platform, scene of last year's Ghurka murder, he said, "There's no accommodation for you."
"Hey?" The train was ready, Nicholas's posh car in the rear.
"Colonel Haskell forbids you to enter Armenia."
It was my turn to blow up. "I'm traveling in uniform, under orders, understand?"
"He's traveling to Erevan today, himself."
"Yeah, saving face. You tell him this is interference with an officer carrying out his duty. I can have him arrested, and by God, I will!"
The aide gave me a sheepish look and walked away. A limey officer who stood near had heard and his eyes twinkled.
"I'll manage it, we have a spare place," he said, and helped load on my junk.
At Alexandropol, where last week's riot had jailed and then shot Kerensky's brother-in-law, Haskell and I paced the platform. We went through peaks and gorges spread to a snowy Turkish horizon, past stone huts pocked in Tartar raids, to Etchmiadzin where Armenia's St. Gregory made the first mass Christian conversion. At every stop Haskell and I got off, walked, cross-trampled miles, our elbows brushing, and passed one another without saying one word, nod, or batted eye.
Now we saw one sky-high dead volcano — old Noah's white Ararat. At last came Erevan's 'dobe houses, blue-pinkish walls thick yet crumbling along the vineyards; and while a muddy Ford jounced Haskell away, I walked up the wide main street. Ragged old women sat on the curbs carding wool. Sidewalks of dusty lava, worn concave, led to the mission where Annie Allen had told me to stay.
There the ground floor was rented to reliefers, and upstairs voices on the balcony outside my room talked of stolen calico. Later the young man in charge told me sardonic yarns of local politics and charity. Armenians, waiting in groups to be fed along a highway, would cut down the shade trees and sell cord
wood. The grandpas I heard hawking on the streets offered splinters of the Ark, five rubles each — "A dime, for strangers like you." When we motored to Igdir, past an orphanage, I heard it held few under sixty. "They'd swear both parents were dead. So we put an age limit. Now, no matter who died, there's not an orphan in Armenia over twelve."
All during my stay, the backyard shooting crackled across a hazy score of miles to Ararat. Armenian and Tartar skirmishes seemed right at our balcony. But to see a real one I had first to meet in the Erevan "I" office, a staff captain in Armenian uniform.
"I am Merrimanov, aide to General Dro," he smiled at me. "Tomorrow with dispatches we return to our Army of the Karabakh. I invite you to accompany me."
Dro was national patriot, army chief, legendary guerilla, Assassin of Russia's viceroy in that cockeyed 1905 revolution, by '15 he was kissed and decorated by Grand Duke Nicholas for taking Erzurum. Today on the world-end uplands of southeast Transcaucasia, he kept Lenin's boys out of Persia. My sixth sense said go with Dro.
Merrimanov looked like a flax-banged, blue-eyed Russian, and had trained in the Petrograd cavalry school, he told me. We jammed aboard an army lorry like a prairie-schooner except for the motor. For the journey north to Lake Sevang it was already filled with peasants, babies, bedding, wine-skins, and cherry-baskets.
At our right were alpine snowfields which, as in Alaska, trickled down to lush greenery. Here the meadows were blue or yellow with cornflowers or roses. At noon we ate mutton cooked over charcoal, in a thatched mud village where kids fought dogs for the bones we tossed away. At sunset, sixty miles of lake opened in the east, with the village of Eleankova beside it, six thousand feet above the sea. Grass grew on the roofs, and a blond giant mowed oats on the one we went under to an army ration post. "Bolshevik," my host shrugged as soldiers coming in grabbed bread. One harangued his officer, in a foul linen tunic, who barked back.
We dunked our bread in chai and turned in on the mud floor of the hut, but got no wink of sleep. Hide thongs from the huge beams held a cradle; mama quit stoking her samovar to kiss tiny toes, but baby wailed and cats miaowed, and twenty snorers made me finally burst outside to sleep by the weedy lake shore. Here, dawn etched a sloop with a sail like burlap. I washed near it. "Boom!" went the brass one-pounder on her bow. Smoke curled around her grinning skipper, barefoot and capless like his crew but all in naval uniform of sorts. He'd spied mine, so, shoving off to bombard Tartars under the white hazy ranges across Sevang, the Armenian navy saluted me!
Now heading south, below emerald pastures cropped by black sheep, we passed huts that Merrimanov said were the cradle of his race. Everywhere rose graveyards with high tombs bearing the Bagratid cross, its ends split and curving under orange lichen.
"Here, Turks," the captain said with a laugh of others who'd been ruined. "Tchik!" — cutting a finger across his neck. "Ecrasés."
At road's end in a dusty village, Novo-Bayazid, the camion went back. An old priest, waist dangling silver tassels, brought me his foundered sorrel pony and Merrimanov got a husky bay stallion. Horsemen in dirty czarist tunics, with rifles and side-arms, joined us.
Hot at the noon halt, I stripped and swam out toward boats with lateen sails, like Chinese junks. "Bravo!" shouted Merrimanov, and his whole troop drew up and watched till their cheers set me stunting. "Diable! But none of us can do that," they said as I came ashore. "Before, we never see a man swim."
After bread daubed with condensed milk from relief supplies — as ever, the military hook was into them — we went on till dusk brought us to a crumbling barracks. None but natives, said Merrimanov, had ever gone beyond Lake Sevang, southeast of Erevan with high snow teeth between.
Now forget-me-nots blued the meadows to the snow-line, but more villages were rubble heaps — "All massacred," the captain gloated. Buzzards soared above ridges to the west, where look-outs manned the black pinnacles. At our pass, looking down
took your breath away. Beyond was a low, thick-walled temple of gray stone that I'd swear Assyrians built as they came down on the fold. Sheep had dunged its insides, under a flat roof with two vents. Outside over the door, a bull in high relief at the right, a winged lamb at the left. Script between looked Arabic; later I learned it was the Vannic cuneiform. Lower, came linear moldings like bedsprings counter-twined, with tri-petaled bosses — three wee bananas bunched at the top. Roman arches on five-sided pillars were let into the walls of a small room attached, a sort of Byzantine dog-house.
We switchbacked up a canyon where large oriental poppies, at home here, danced in flame up the sides. Walnut leaves glinted, mistletoe fogged the willows, wheat ripened in saffron quilts, and hungry boys gathered orchard apricots to eat green. A moon rose, dark silver; water ran loud; mosquitoes bit — the lower Araks valley was a world plague spot of malaria. Its beauty breathed a blight of violence, its people were toothless and dirt-poor. Children at field work chanted with an Eastern sadness no Rimski-Korsakov has got. And at treeline and twilight, the nightingales were singing — how they sang!
Near the summit, tents of felty black were ribbed out around their poles like melons. We heard savage barking, curses, and a woman rushed out yelling in terror. "She fears Moslem attack," the captain said. "This is a summer village without name. Their fighting men are higher with the sheep." Here was a timeless feud that stretched as far as India. The shepherd left his lowland parching in summer's heat and drove upward, then down in autumn. Aliens in creed and race mingled flocks and claimed the pasture that the same snow gave, with bloodshed as one passed another.
Inside an old man's house, granddads filed in to sit on old rugs, and brandy for General Dro came out of the saddlebags. Crones bought milk and queer roots, boiled and tasteless. You were back in a Cree teepee; our world had given these primitives less than Eskimos, only cooking gear and needles.
But they were the captain's own people. "Ah, please do not," he said as on leaving I took out baksheesh for the host. "None here have ever seen or know what money is." Armenians without
an itching palm? But rarest to me was their civilized brother Merrimanov, who'd shown them no condescension.
Past a cold volcanic cone and a glimpse of Ararat, due west, we came to scrub oak that led down to a Molokan — "Milker" — village. From Russia, orthodoxy had banished and spread wide this Slavic folk who, like Quakers, had no priests. None drank, smoked, fought, or shaved. Even the young men looked like Rip van Winkles. The sect raised grain and meat to sell to any side at war, and thus these true pacifists kept the bloodshed going.
This noon the Molokan houses, limited white inside and out, gave us cheese and two kinds of roots with red wine. Merrimanov slept as I found more eight-pointed Bagratid crosses, one carved with an ancient man-faced sheep, cruder than Aztec stuff. Then a short pass and a river ford led us into Zangezour province, where crowds jammed the one wide street. A man with a hammer-and-sickle badge, suspicious of a strange uniform, grabbed at my bridle until the captain struck out with his quirt.
"Commissar!" growled Merrimanov, explaining that the Bolo seep-in was easy here, for Molokans owned all in common anyhow. But I paid rubles for eggs.
Now only twenty versts more took us to Angelaoot, its hovels swarming with peasants and soldiers in Russian hand-me-downs — Dro's headquarters. We unsaddled and lunched on fried lamb liver while Merrimanov talked Armenian with an adjutant in gold prince-nez. Then they led me to an inner room, its windows giving on the usual cemetery. There a stocky man in black knee boots, olive breeches, and a belted shirt with the tails out sat in a broken chair between tumbled bedding and a table of field telegraph sounders. Flies clustered over teh samovar and a bucket of clabbered milk.
Puzzled, I touched my cap to an arresting dark, round face, with heavy brown mustache and near Vandyke beard. The man got up, returning my salute, and in the doorway a third officer addressed him, "Dro."
"Is he the general?" I asked Merrimanov.
"Yes, but you must not call him that. He is just 'mister,' or better, to us just 'Dro.' "
He wore no sleeve or shoulder marks, nothing to show him an officer at all. He looked about forty. Eyes of the black of tourmaline were now soft, next stony. At their outer corners, nets of tiny lines curved upward to show he’d smiled and enjoyed life more than he’d snarled or grieved.
I eyed the holster strapped to the chief’s waist. No gun was in it. He caught my eye and laughed.
“Eh? You see I have not side arms,” he roared in Russian.
“I fear to lose temper and shoot an aide-de-camp.”
“Like me, Dro. Look.” My case was empty, the admiral’s Colt forgotten and left at Tiflis.
He raised an arm and slapped me on the back. “We are the only unarmed officers in the Army of the Karabakh!”
Dro’s staff billeted me in a room with a mud floor and a window with iron bars but no glass, to sleep on gunny sacks with a saddle for pillow. Cattle, sheep, and goats came home at sunset, and their rnoos and reek kept me awake, then roused me early when the wolf-tailed dogs raged too.
At morning tea, Dro and his officers spread out a map of this
whole high region called the Karabakh. Deep in tactics, they spoke Russian, but I got their contempt for Allied “neutral”
zones and ‘heir distrust of promises made by tribal chiefs. A campaign shaped; note raids on Moslem villages. it was as if in
'16 I’d been with Villa instead of Pershing. "Dro’s force, mainly cavalry, moves in units of about sixty.” my report to the admiral would read.
Angelaoot was on a main Baku-Nakhichevan road, by which
the Bolsheviks aimed their sweep into Iran. For the moment this had stalled because many Tartars still resisted. Also Nouri Pasha, brother-in-law of Turkey’s Enver, waited to see how fast Marxism would convert.
“First the Milkers,” said. a major with glasses. “With no Christian church, they are infidels, too."
"When we secure the frontiers,” said Dro with a a wink, "I shall make them serve in the Armenian army.”
>It was a lie, they said, that Trotsky had ordered Azerbaidzhan to
stop attacking Armenia. Two days ago twelve of his agents had been seized near here. Lately they'd stolen cows at Kushi. Now the reprisal would be a Tartar village called Djul.
‘That afternoon a loaded pack-train pulled out, southwest. Its horses were good and strong, and their saddles had metal clamps for attaching mountain guns. The telephone kept ringing. “Allo. Karaklissa—Zangebazar," you heard. "Batteria pignatzit" (Russian for fifteenth battery). A Morse sounder clicked. Mounted couriers dashed up, deIivering chits, and the dust dimmed a single wire that led east on sapling poles. Dro's communications beat Pershing’s on the Chihuahua front.
After mess a crowd gathered and Dro settled disputes among his shepherd and peasant henchmen. All flashed to attention as the guerrilla chief swaggered about; eyes followed as he questioned kindly, or stopped one brawl with a slash of his riding crop. Back in his headquarters he told me, in French, "I have fought for twenty years without pause. My body is a colander of wounds,’’ His hand touched thigh, body, chest. "This bullet I got at Lake Van, that in Kars. Here the heathen at Sarikamish—” clapping a leg—‘‘put in one that still pains.”
After the supper of pilaff and shashlik, there were countless
toasts in cognac to country and patriots, and, mellowed, the crowd fixed on America. All l knew well enough that U.S. military aid to Armenia was hogwash, and they spared me reproach on Wilson's Fourteen Points as well as thanks for feeding their people. But they felt some envy.
"I should like to ride on a fast train of the United States,” said the major.
In the morning, as we broke camp, Dro's orderly saddled his black Arab stallion, a high whipsnorter named Archo. The whole headquarters troop stood by its mounts, all stallions. My mare was nowhere in sight, but I caught the word for her—kobil— as Merrimanov, chuckling with his chief, came over.
"Today Dro offers that you ride Archo," he said.
At this honor I could only bow and thank him, grit my teeth, and climb aloft on the quivering sable back. Archo was quite a
handful and took up all my attention; so I missed, I realized
later, the expectant nudges exchanged by the others.
We set off in standard cavalry style, our “poInt” of four
outriders ahead with the lance fIag—three faded stripes of red, blue, and yellow, the Armenian colors, Dro, on Archo’s twin,
dropped back beside me as we left town, to point to a large
‘‘Three Bolsheviks have settled,’ he said, “They want the Milkers’ grain, but I forbid that, though we are friends."
Now, Merrimanov sidled closer. Lord, but Archo was pulling my anus out of their sockets; he was willful as a raw bronco his long gait killing at a trot. We’d headed east through the gloomy canyon toward Bazarchai, but now turned south across green pastures.
"Don,” Dro shouted, “you want to be at the fight?’’
I bothered with no language, my nod was clear. Could I miss riding to battle with a freebooter national hero, in his own saddle? Dro halted and harangued everyone along the track. “Where are you going?” BulI-cart or buffalo driver took off a shaggy cap and twisted it, muttering. Dro turned every outfit back, A soldier riding from one cross-track gave him a paper, pointed to unshod hoofprints.
“Last night Tartars,” said the captain.
“Archo!" voices called. We two were getting on fine now, perhaps too well in cavalry eyes, for a sailor on horseback. Ahead to the right striped cattle grazed, a red bull with his head up. rutting. The column hugged that side of the road officer reined in tightly, away from a left-hand meadow. There, too late to curb my stallion, I spotted mares.
Archo bolted, snorting. The bridIle in my hands might have been two bits of thread, He galIoped for the mares in a gale of whinnies— his own, theirs —and behind, rising as the distance grew, Armenian laughter. We took one ditch like a steeple-chase; I stuck but freed my feet from the stirrups and leaned far back, against pitching off between his ears at a halt. That
worked until his forehoofs struck upward, clipping a filly's haunch, and back-somersaulted me a’sprawl into the grass.
Dro rode over as I got to my feet, trying to out-laugh him.
He dismounted and with one hand tight on his curb bit, with the other lashed Archo, shivering and wilted, to all-fours.
"That swim of yours:" Merrimanov, close behind on foot, explained between chuckles. Well, the score was even, though it wasn't in me right then to congratulate them. The captain and I walked to where an orderly held a sorrel gelding—sexless, thank God.
Soon we reached a town, Zangebazar of the telephone calls, larger and livelier than Angelaoot. In the main street men stacked rifles, handled machine guns. From the jutting ridges pole of headquarters hung a cloth bag of fresh cheese; cows caught its drip on their tongues. Inside, cook-pots and haversacks crowded the crowfoot batteries that were the heart of Dro's communications.
"I kill that sheep," Dro called to a shepherd leading past a young black ram, as Hank Allen in Mexico had commandeered a Hearst steer. "Ba-a-ah!" cried our supper as it was led away to knife and fire, a lieutenant at his horns. No money passed, only a slap of the chief's hand of the grinning shepherd's back.
Drastamat "Dro" Kanayan
And as a group gathered, Dro gave a sort of pep-talk, to hairy Slav faces — none Molokans. "Cristos" kept coming in his words, he seemed to be playing on their religion for a stand against their Red brothers in the north and the Moslems southward. Here Armenian and Tartar had long borne with one another, but a hero had to act in character, make a demagogic appeal to race and nation like ours to "democracy."
"My troops have freed forty-five infidel villages in Zangezour," he said loudly, in the Russian I caught. Next he launched into Bolshevism as a "heathen curse," while rapt faces looked into space.
"Dro, you're up against it, bucking Red propaganda." I told him afterwards. "They're fanatics too."
"Well, then, so I must be," he said with a shrug and a grin that simplified things, and threw himself on a horsehair sofa to snore. But the clicking Morse sounder roused him; this man never stayed put. He detailed a captain of the local garrison, then strolled among his ranks in dusty, homespun uniform.
"A health to you," he cried, passing squads at ease. Heels
clicked, arms lifted in salute. ‘‘To you, a thousand healths!" came back massed voices in sing-song.
Then Dro led Merrimanov, me, and a srnall, leather-skinned
code clerk to the town steam bath. Water from the black rocks
was so hot we flung open the door and faces gathered in the dusk to watch as we slapped our bodies with green birch fronds, a marvel at this dry treeline, Molokan girls in kerchiefs giggled through the vapor at warrior nakedness.
A pack-train next morning brought mail, and as in any army, officers passed around family snapshots. But scouts dashed up; Dro, yawning, dictated orders—a subaltern in the saddle all night must rope his guns up cliffs to new positions. The town called Djul was on every tongue.
“It will he three hours to take,” Dro told me. We’d close in on three sides.
“The men on foot will not shoot, but use only the bayonets,”
Merrimanov said, jabbing a rifle in durnbshow.
‘“That is for morale,” Dro put in, “We must keep the Moslems in terror that our cruelty beats theirs."
“Soldiers or civilians?” I asked.
“l’here is no difference," said Dro." All are armed, in uniform or not."
“But the women and children?”
“Will fly with the others as best they may.”
Just then a rider in peasant dress drew up outside, and Merrimanov translated his excited Armenian, “He found a peasant dead at the ford, the body still warm. Tartars killed him, but they got away before we saw them.”
Now the peasant, as though feeling his word doubted, flung himself to the ground and lay prone a moment, an act that drew angry murmurs from the troops. Other "witnesses" turned up, though none had seen any killer, and at last a snub-nosed lad put the murder spot eight versts from the river.
But others brought a tale of twelve Tartars raiding a village called Kushi, killing many and taking away two girls. More
tales flew around, no story convincing, and I wondered how much of it Dro’s smart "I" boys might be contributing. Whatever the fact, our force was imbued with the spirit wanted; the
end was won, as by Dro's appeal to race and faith: "responsibility" for slaughter was fixed at just the right emotional moment.
Only the Molokans held aloof, and hadn't supplied a levy of horses. So Merrimanov and I went to their barnlike meeting house, painted bright blue. But we got no horses. A hymn-sing was on, and men's gruff bass supported sweet songs from girls in salmon pink skirts and white coifs. All was so religious that as I took a book from an old man's hand he nodded for me to keep it — a New Testament that would help my Russian.
"But you say these people aren't Christian," I said, "because they have no priests to tell them what to believe."
"So their faith is false," Merrimanov nodded.
"And that makes yours true? Is it not really because your race has them in military power?"
"If you want," the captain shrugged.
"No men are fit to rule others on such a ground," I said. "You throw away the best of winning them — to forget blood and creed."
He gaped and nodded, but I saw the idea could not penetrate the hard armor of tradition and ritual. His heritage was to keep up the old feuds, to exploit and oppress all other partisans.
If you hadn't these Tartars on your neck," my last shot was, "quick enough you'd pick a row even with Milkers." I added thanks that we weren't mixed up in it, and that Merrimanov got, a wistful smirk told me.
Off in the dark Dro's voice was raised in a final harangue to the ranks — no playing up Christ now, or even patriotism, but primordial greed. He was mixing Armenian and Russian in sheer outlaw talk. The word plunder, gradesh, kept coming. "Tomorrow the road will be open —" Back of church, home, and nation, I grasped, man had exact, hard urges, more freshly. Dro was playing on these, as here an eye glittered, there lips were licked.
Dro's voice was the first heard in next day's darkness before the early June dawn. At the water pail each man filled his
mouth from the dipper, squirted water noisily on hands, and rubbed his face. I took out my last clean cap cover.
Fog blanketed the world as the squad got off in single file. The trail kept rising, rockier at every step. At last we groped through black cloud into pallid day. Dro upon Archo was just ahead of me, while before him walked a Molokan guide in long sheepskins, bearded, his belt dangling silvery tassels.
By six o'clock the mists whipped away. From behind, with the ring of hooves, I'd heard light metal clinking; now the slant sunlight pricked out, down our line of some hundred horsemen, the many weapons, tunics and headgears of Transcaucasia. Stuff hidden till now, displayed only at fighting time? Soft hues of fur, silk, even; turbans (for disguise?) and sashes; chased girdles hung with an inlaid saber or the curved blade of a yataghan on chains. Fantastic; yet stranger to this band must be my measly chevrons and olive drab.
"Boom!" came over the crest ahead — a mountain gun. We came out on level ledges that I guessed were 8,000 feet above the sea. At the rim fluttered the national flag, its blue stripe one with the sky so only the red and yellow showed. We dismounted by two stubby brass six-pounders that let go toward cliffs below us — "To cut off the way south," Merrimanov said. The breech-plates caught my eye: these were guns of the czarist army sent through Vladivostok — from Utica, N.Y.!
The ridges circled a wide expanse, its floors still hidden. Hundreds of feet down, the fog held, solid as cotton flock. "Djul lies under that," said Dro, pointing. "Our men also attack Muslims from the other sides."
Then, 'Whee-ee!' — his whistle lined up all at the rock edge.
Bayonets clicked upon carbines. Over plunged Archo, his black haunches rippling; then followed the staff, the horde — nose to tail, bellies taking the spur. Armenia in action seemed more like a pageant than war, even though I heard our Utica brass roar.
As I watched from the height, it took ages for Djul to show clear. A tsing of machine-gun fire took over from the thumping batteries; cattle lowed, dogs barked, invisible, while I ate a hunk of cheese and drank from a snow puddle. Mist at last
folded upward as men shouted, at first heard faintly. Then came a shrill wailing.
Now among the cloud-streaks rose darker wisps — smoke. Red glimmered about house walls of stone or wattle, into dry weeds on roofs. A mosque stood in a clump of trees, thick and green. Through crooked alleys on fire, horsemen were galloping after figures both mounted and on foot.
"Tartarski!" shouted the Armenian gunner by me. Others pantomimed them in escape over the rocks, while one twisted a bronze shell-nose, loaded, and yanked breech-cord, firing again and again. Shots wasted, I thought, when by afternoon I looked in vain for fallen branch or body. But these shots and the white bursts of shrapnel in the gullies drowned the women's cries.
At length all shooting petered out. I got on my horse and rode down toward Djul. It burned still but little flame showed now. The way was steep and tough, through dense scrub. Finally on flatter ground I came out suddenly, through alders, on smoldering houses. Across trampled wheat my brothers-in-arms were leading off animals, several calves and a lamb.
Corpses came next, the first a pretty child with straight black hair, large eyes. She looked about twelve years old. She lay in some stubble where meal lay scattered from the sack she'd been toting. The bayonet had gone through her back, I judged, for blood around was scant. Between the breasts one clot, too small for a bullet wound, crusted her homespun dress.
The next was a boy of ten or less, in rawhide jacket and
knee-pants. He lay face down in the path by several huts. One arm reached out to the pewter bowl he'd carried, now upset upon its dough. Steel had jabbed just below his neck, into the spine.
There were grownups, too, I saw as I led the sorrel around. Djul was empty of the living till I looked up to see beside me Dro's German-speaking colonel. He said all Muslims who had not escaped were dead.
"The most are inside houses. Come you and look."
"No, dammit! My stomach isn't—"
"One is a Turkish officer in uniform. Him you must see."
We were under those trees by the mosque, in an open space.
Lint and wool flakes blew about, over the reddish cobbles; they came from bedding slashed to bits for hoarded coins or women's gewgaws, and had a smell of sweat and char.
"I don't believe you," I said, but followed to a nail-studded door. The man pushed it ajar, then spurred away, leaving me to check on the corpse. I thought I should, this charge was so constant, so gritted my teeth and went inside.
The place was cool but reeked of sodden ashes, and was dark
at first, for its stone walls had only window slits. Rags strewed the mud floor around an iron tripod over embers that vented their smoke through roof beams black with soot. All looked bare and empty, but in an inner room flies buzzed. As the door swung shut behind me I saw they came from a man's body lying face up, naked but for its grimy turban. He was about fifty years old by what was left of his face — a rifle butt had bashed an eye. The one left slanted, as with Tartars rather than with Turks. Any uniform once on him was gone, so I'd no proof which he was, and quickly went out, gagging at the mess of his slashed genitals.
I spread my blanket in a lane between wheatfields. Nearby lay a young lieutenant wearing czarist chevrons, his round Russian face cheerful but unsmiling.
"Hello! American navy?" he asked in English. "This life you like?" Only it came "lark," and before I could answer he added, "I do not."
"Yet you stay with them," I said.
"One must live. In this country is no other way for me but fighting."
"Why not with General Wrangel?"
"One cannot get across to him from Djul."
"How many people lived there?"
"Oh, about eight hundred." He yawned.
"Did you see any Turk officers?"
"No, sir. I was in at dawn. All were Tartar civilians in mufti."
The lieutenant dozed off, then I, but in the small hours a voice woke me — Dro's. He stood in the starlight bawling out an officer. Anyone keelhauled so long and furiously I'd never heard. Then abruptly Dro broke into laughter, quick and simple as a child's. Both were a cover for his sense of guilt, I thought, or hoped. For somehow, despite my boast of irreligion, Christians massacring "infidels" was more horrible than the reverse would have been.
From daybreak on, Armenian villagers poured in from miles around. Men drove off cattle and sheep, some limping from the crossfire. The women plundered happily, chattering like ravens as they picked over the carcass of Djul. They hauled out every hovel's chattels, the last scrap of food or cloth, and staggered away, packing pots, saddlebags, looms, even spinning-wheels.
"Thank you for a lot, Dro," I said to him back in camp. "But now I
His onyx-brown eyes looked through me as if he understood how I felt. But he smiled and stroked a sleeve of the trench coat I'd taken over from a friend on H.M.S. Caradoc.
"What did this cost you? Sell it to me, Don!"
"No," said I. The Army of the Karabakh had loot enough.
Merrimanov came up as Dro said "Alors, there is a trail direct to Kishkishkend. "The Milker knows it well and will take you."
We shook hands, the captain said "À bientôt, mon camarade." And for hours the old Molokan scout and I plodded north across parching plains. Like Lot's wife I looked back once to see smoke bathing all, doubtless in a sack of other Moslem villages up to the line of snow that was Iran.
Dro's remains were transported to Armenia years after his death in
the USA, and at great cost. He was given a hero's ceremony,
with Armenia's president and patriarch in attendance.
The period Dunn wrote about concerned postwar WWI, when the Dashnak Armenians embarked on ethnically cleansing Armenia of undesirable Turks and Muslims, in similar fashion to how they went about wiping out the Ottoman Turkish/Muslim/Jewish population of Eastern Anatolia, during times the Armenians were the occupiers, with and without their Russian allies. (As well as their French allies in postwar Cilicia/Adana.) Of this period, a writer in "The Jewish Times” wrote (June 21, 1990):
"An appropriate analogy with the Jewish Holocaust might be the systematic extermination of the entire Muslim population of the independent republic of Armenia which consisted of at least 30-40 percent of the population of that republic. The memoirs of an Armenian army officer who participated in and eye-witnessed these atrocities was published in the U.S. in 1926 with the title 'Men Are Like That.' Other references abound."
Even Richard Hovannisian paid a small and reluctant nod to the, in his word, "atrocities" his countrymen committed during the postwar period. (According to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1926, Azeris and other Muslims constituted over 38% of the population of Armenia, in 1918. Today, Armenia is some 98% "pure.") Unfortunately, the hypocritical, dishonest and largely Armenian-supported genocide industry has never, to my knowledge, paid any note to these vast crimes of the Armenians.
We owe Lt. Dunn great gratitude for his putting on record the misdeeds of this great secret society, masterful in the art of propaganda, and succeeding in preserving the image of Armenian "martyrology." Especially valuable was his documentation of the unstable personality of the mass murdering Dro. One of the most revealing passages from the excerpts above demonstrated the usual Dashnak technique of stressing Christianity and patriotism, in order to influence the Armenian masses, a technique fully in force today. But such a corrupt organization cannot hide its true character, exemplified by "its opportunism, its internal corruption and terroristic methods," as K. S. Papazian nicely put it in page 66 of his book. And Dro personifies this Dashnak philosophy, after trying to rouse his band of killers with talk of nobility, only to get down and dirty to the real nitty-gritty [p. 359]:
Off in the dark Dro's voice was raised in a final harangue to the ranks — no playing up Christ now, or even patriotism, but primordial greed. He was mixing Armenian and Russian in sheer outlaw talk. The word plunder, gradesh, kept coming. "Tomorrow the road will be open —" Back of church, home, and nation, I grasped, man had exact, hard urges, more freshly. Dro was playing on these, as here an eye glittered, there lips were licked.
On p. 348, Dunn accepts that the Young Turks were guilty of genocide, a now-familiar word given that Dunn wrote his book after the United Nations had come up with its 1948 genocide convention. (Much as the "death sentence[s] for murdering Armenians" laid upon Enver and company were irrelevant, given that they were the findings of a corrupt Ottoman court that even the British rejected, in preparation for their Malta Tribunal. The referred-to Halil and Nouri were in line to be tried for this "Nuremberg" of the British, before they escaped, which means they were not tried and sentenced to death. Only Enver, among the three Dunn listed, was condemned by the 1919-20 kangaroo courts.) It is interesting that Dunn gave these "death sentences" such weight, along with his agreement on a genocide perpetrated against the Armenians. He can't be faulted much, as he was a Westerner and such was the consensus of opinion, given the massive propaganda the West had been bombarded with. What is curious is that Dunn formed a conclusion based on hearsay and forgeries, but did not point out the irony of a real genocide having been ignored, one that he had personally eyewitnessed in the making.
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, links and the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing the direct link as follows: