Mourad Topalian on the way to the court with an army of lawyers 1961, FBI Case
A prominent Armenian-American activist has been sentenced by an American court to 3 years in prison on charges of stockpiling explosives.
Mourad Topalian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, was initially charged with conspiracy, concealing and storing stolen explosives, improper storage of explosives, possession of machine guns and possession of firearms with defaced serial numbers.
Respected educator or terrorist?
Topalian, 57, a former vice president at Cuyahoga Community College, is an . outspoken proponent of Armenian political issues. Authorities accused Topalian of participating in a crusade of terrorism to focus public attention on the atrocities committed by the Turkish government.
Armenia claims that some 1.5 million people were slaughtered in 1915 as part of a campaign of genocide aimed at forcing the Armenian population from the eastern Ottoman Empire. Turkey says there was no systematic campaign of slaughter and that many Armenians fled during the war and the civil unrest that followed.
Topalian was accused of plotting attacks against Turkish targets in the United States for two decades, and was suspected of links to two 1981 bombings in California, against the Orange County Convention Center in Anaheim and the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills. No one was hurt in the attacks.
According to the indictment Topalian sent people to Massachusetts and Beirut, Lebanon, for weapons and bomb training. The indictment said Topalian demonstrated how to use submachine guns at a camp in Franklin, Mass., in 1976 and 1977.
But the most serious charge against Topalian was that of involvement in a car bombing that injured three people outside the Turkish mission to the United Nations in New York City in October 1980. Police suspect that he helped arrange the bombing and directed a group that stole weapons and explosives used for the attack. Topalian was questioned in 1988 about the New York bombing and denied any involvement
Unpaid rent leads to discovery of explosives
The investigation against Topalian began with the 1996 discovery of weapons and explosives in a suburban Bedford storage garage. The storage unit was opened after rent went unpaid for six months. Inside, police found guns and 100 pound of decaying explosives in the storage facility.
Prosecutors believe Topalian had arranged to have the explosives stolen from a mine near Kalkaska, Michigan, sometime in 1980. Since then they had been kept at the Bedford storage facility.
In a deal with prosecutors last May, Topalian pleaded guilty to storing stolen explosives and possessing two machine guns. The conspiracy count and the two other felony charges were dismissed.
Topalian was sentenced to 37 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich ordered Mourad Topalian to begin serving his sentence immediately, denying his request to remain free until August so he could be with his 7-year-old daughter, who is recovering from leukemia. He was also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and must spend three years on probation after completing his time in prison
Sources: Associated Press, APB Online, NewsChannel5
ICT - International Institute for Counter-Terrorism www.ict.org.il
ARF - ASALA - Dashnak JCAG Terrorist Group, PKK & Invention Of "Armenian Genocide"
From 1921 to 1965-1972, the international leadership of the ARF was based in Boston. After 1944, the pro-Nazi tendency of the ARF was substituted by a conservative and pro-American leadership.
But the ARF was discredited for many years, after the pro-Nazi compromission, but also the series of political assassinations, from 1918 to 1933 , which culminated with the assassination of archbishop L. Tourian. (See the referenced article in full below as attachment 1)
The Hunchakian Party and the Ramkavar Party were discredited to, by their support to the Stalin program of resettlement of Lebanese-Armenians in Soviet Armenian, from 1945 to 1948. As early as 1945, Stalin denounced the friendship treaty of 1921, and asked Kars and Ardahan district to Turkey for Soviet Armenia. (See the referenced article in full below as attachment 2)
It was probably the first event of the Cold War. Thanks to US support, Turkey could refuse Soviet claims. Hunchak and Ramkavar failed. The anti-Communist era in USA was surely not favorable to their activities.
In 1957, as a final result of Tourian's assassination, there was a schism in the Armenian church. The ARF, for its surviving, turn to Lebanon in the late 1950's: the big Armenian community in this country is the last chance.
During the 1950's, the Soviet services changed of name (KGB) and priorities: the most important mission was now the intelligence in foreign countries (like CIA), not the counter-intelligence (like FBI) and the political police. One of the mission of the KGB, during the late 1950's, the 1960's and the 1970's was turn the ARF, for have again a strong Armenian tool. Syria was an ally of the USSR, and the Lebanon, an open field for the Syrian secret services.
Why this manipulation? The "Eisenhower doctrine" (which failed) pointed the importance of the Near East for the Cold War. After the death of Stalin, some agreements (about Austria in 1955, and others later), the Cold War became less direct. In 1961, the rocket crisis demonstrated the strategic importance of Turkey, single member of NATO wich had a large boundary with USSR. In 1963, after four years of negotiations, Turkey signed an association agreement with the European Economic Community, with a perspective of full adhesion (like Greece in 1961). The Russians were always hostile to any European unification.
During the first half of the 1960's, the Eichmann trial had as consequence a new, and more important, interest for the Shoah studies: publication of The Destruction of the European Jews, by Raul Hilberg in 1961, in USA; of Auschwitz, by Léon Poliakov, in 1964, in France; many university grants; etc. It was in this period that the word genocide started to be used frequently in the scholar, and even ordinary, language; and as all the other words frequently used, it was devalued, like fascism before.
The invention of the "Armenian genocide", in 1965, was almost openly a fabrication of the Soviet propaganda, against a member of NATO, candidate to the EEC. It was also the single way for the survival of the "Diaspora", and especially the nationalist parties.
As a coincidence, Waddi Haddad, father of the contemporary terrorism, who recruited Hagop Hagopian and strongly influenced the ASALA, was a agent of the KGB since 1971.
As a coincidence too, Tessa Hofman, Greek-German, one of the most famous supporter of Armenian claims in Western Europe, was a member of the so-called "tribunal" of 1984, who characterized the events of 1915-1916 as "genocide". This "tribunal" is the suite of the so-called "Russel tribunal". Very interesting accounts about the "Russel tribunal" are in Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam, New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1978. In 1967, the "tribunal" characterized the US action in Vietnam as "genocide". The "tribunal" was infiltrated by pro-USSR and pro-Vietnam personalities.
The choice of the return to terrorism by the ARF, in 1972, was directly linked with the collapse of the pro-American leadership, which was replaced by a pro-Soviet leadership, during the Cold War. The general staff of the ARF came from Boston to Beirut.
As a result, the actions of the ARF since the 1970's were on the Russian line, and support Russian interest. The collapse of USSR changed nothing. In your opinion, why the European dashnak defamed recently as "denialist pipe-line" the Nabucco pipe-line, which will permit to the EU to be less dependent of Russia for gas? Why ASALA threatened, in 1993, the US companies which were building the pipe-line Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan?
The rise of the PKK started short after the decline of Armenian terrorism. The PKK, even more than the ASALA and Dashnak JCAG terrorist group, was a Russian/Syrian product. Thanks to the financial support from the "diaspora", drug smuggling and cooperation with other terrorist groups, like PFPL and Carlos, Hagopian was not completely dependent of Soviet and Syrian support. The ASALA staff came, around 1980, from Syria to Greece. The Soviet and the Syrian did not make the same error with PKK. Öcalan had not the permission to go out of Syria until 1998 and the end of the PKK-Syria alliance. So, he was permanently under the monitoring of Syrian and Russian secret services.
Contested Memories, Divided Diaspora: Armenian Americans, The Thousand-Day Republic, And The Polarized Response To An Archbishop's Murder Ben Alexander
ON DECEMBER 24, 1933, at the Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church (which still stands and functions today) in the Washington Heights section of New York City, Archbishop Levon Tourian, elected primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, marched in solemn procession, opening the morning's service of Divine Liturgy over which he was to officiate. As the procession made its way down the center aisle, a group of men suddenly jumped up from the pews, surrounded Archbishop Tourian, and stabbed him to death with a large butcher knife. The room instantly broke into pandemonium. Parishioners began beating up some of the apparent assassins, while others among them fled. The police arrived shortly and arrested two men; by the end of the week they had a total of nine in custody. The suspects all belonged to a political organization known as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or Tashnak party (alternatively transliterated as Dashnag and Dashnak). They stood trial and were convicted early that summer. Throughout this saga, Armenians followed every development of the proceedings with great interest and with intense convictions as to the rightful outcome. But these convictions divided them sharply, for throughout the whole affair—and then for decades to follow—one set of Armenians considered the nine Tashnak suspects, and by extension the Tashnak party at large, unequivocally guilty of the crime. The opposing camp believed with equal fervor in the innocence of the nine. They also, and perhaps with even greater fervor, regarded Archbishop Tourian as a traitor to his nation.1 1
The deed that caused Tashnak Armenians so to regard the archbishop had taken place on July 1 of that year, in a pavilion for the celebration of Armenian Day at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Archbishop Tourian, upon his arrival to deliver an invocation, had ordered the removal of a red, blue, and orange flag known as the Tricolor from the stage before he would step out on it. From the archbishop's stated point of view, appearing beside this flag would provoke the wrath of Armenia's Soviet government. Such diplomatic reasoning had total validity for the primate's supporters. For one thing, they accepted the situation wherein the church's ultimate seat of spiritual authority still lay in the Holy See at Echmiadzin, within the borders of Soviet Armenia; the Catholicos at Echmiadzin felt bound to keep peace with Soviet authorities, and Archbishop Tourian maintained a consistent loyalty to the Catholicos. Moreover, for those Armenians who held the most love for Archbishop Tourian, the flag in question held at best little or no significance. To Armenians of the Tashnak persuasion, however, the flag had paramount significance, and to order it taken down constituted an unforgivable act of treason. The Tricolor had served as the emblem of the short-lived Republic of Armenia, which existed from May of 1918 to November of 1920 in the eastern portion of the historic homeland, on soil that had been part of czarist Russia prior to the 1917 revolution. Tashnak Armenians remembered the republic as embodying the vision of a free and independent Armenia and looked upon the flag as the sacred symbol of the Armenian nation. During those same years, to non-Tashnak Armenians, that republic fell far short of personifying the Armenian nation; they viewed a completely different set of players as holding the key to their beleaguered homeland's future. The contested memories from 1918–20 played a direct and decisive role in shaping the conflicting responses to the events of 1933–34.2 2
The assassination, the partisan schism surrounding it, and the connection with memories of the "thousand-day republic," while unfamiliar for most outsiders to matters Armenian, are common knowledge within Armenian circles. A number of studies have delved into these themes and issues.3 However, even for those who know the story, one dimension awaits closer examination, namely, the way that elites in the international partisan networks shaped and cultivated public opinion within the Armenian American community, a process directly facilitated by the leading newspapers of the community that the parties owned, by local party headquarters that served as social clubs for members, and by field workers who labored actively as personal liaisons between the rank and file and the leaders of their respective parties. The years of deliberate top-down cultivation, not only of conflicting opinions but of sharply differing memories of key events and circumstances, go far to explain why, when the news story broke that the archbishop had been assassinated and nine Tashnaks were in custody, one portion of the Armenian American community mourned a beloved spiritual leader and cried out for the punishment of the Tashnaks, while the other portion rushed to the defense of the nine accused Tashnaks and shed few tears for the man who had refused to share a stage with their sacred flag. 3
This story straddles a number of familiar themes in American immigrant history. Matthew Frye Jacobson, in his 1995 work, Special Sorrows, applied the cases of the Irish, Polish, and Jewish communities in the late nineteenth century to articulate the cultural dimensions of Diaspora nationalism—defined as the attachment of immigrants to a real or imagined homeland, with not only sentimentality but also a desire to influence that homeland's political future. Victor Greene, writing two decades earlier, took notice of the significance of internal conflict within nationality groups, fighting over questions of which international institutions spoke for them and what visions of their ancestral homeland they should harbor. Other historians of immigration and ethnicity, such as June Granatir Alexander and Anna D. Jaroszyn'ska-Kirchmann, have linked Diaspora consciousness with direct efforts to mobilize American public opinion and lobby the U.S. government for policies favorable to their countries of origin. Peter D'Agostino very ably demonstrated the degree of well-planned influence that the Roman Catholic Church had on Italian American Diaspora as well as religious consciousness from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. It might also be noted in passing that some historians working in the 1950s wrote of immigrant communities' efforts to lobby the U.S. government for policies favorable to the interests of their ancestral homelands, though these historians' purpose was to complain and to sound an indignant alarm against such consciousness.4 4
John Higham, in the preface to his edited volume, Ethnic Leadership in America (1978), suggested that "ethnic groups in an open society are, in some degree yet to be specified, the creation of their leaders." Without insisting on that notion in its extreme form (as Higham himself clearly did not), without echoing the plaintive tones found in some of the past historiography on ethnic and Diaspora political consciousness, and without reducing bearers of such consciousness to passive objects of elite propaganda, one can legitimately view ethnic leaders and institutions as influencing both the intensity level of group identity and, in the case of political allegiances vis-à-vis the ancestral homeland, the nature of the specific options available on the menu and the rhetoric with which to extol those options. In the case of the Armenian Americans, the rival political parties in question owned the major press organs that their constituency read. Through control of the newspapers, as well as the social clubs to which many Armenian Americans belonged, the parties in effect marketed their respective visions of the homeland's future and their interpretations of unfolding events, both local and global, to the ethnic populace.5 5
The differential reporting of the news during the days of the republic and the differential rehearsing of the memories from the same camps in the years from the collapse of the republic to Archbishop Tourian's refusal to share the stage with its flag on July 1, 1933, go far to explain why the two sets of Armenians interpreted that deed in such opposite ways and displayed such starkly contrasting reactions to his December 24 stabbing death. With great influence from the press and other channels of communication within their respective political parties, Armenian Americans had internalized two conflicting visions of their nationality and two starkly contrasting memories of what had taken place in the days from May 1918 to November 1920. This article will trace the chronology of that influence, emphasizing the one channel of communication most effectively preserved and accessible today: the partisan press. 6
THE REPUBLIC'S RISE AND FALL
On the eve of the 1915 Turkish genocide, Armenians had already established communities in many American cities, although small in number compared with other immigrant groups. They brought with them two major religious denominations: the Armenian Apostolic Church, an independent liturgical structure somewhat resembling Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy but distinct from both, and the Armenian Evangelical Church, a product of nineteenth-century American Protestant missionaries. In considerably smaller numbers, a Roman Catholic Armenian sector also existed and founded a modest handful of churches. Armenian political parties also came with the immigrants to America. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), or Tashnak party, had been founded in 1890 in the city of Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia) by a merger of several groups dedicated to the defense of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. It defined itself as both revolutionary and socialist, with the socialism—especially in the United States—always subordinate to intense Armenian nationalism. Several other parties, by no means always in harmony with one another, together made up the Tashnak party's opposition. From the early 1920s and continuing through and beyond the time of the Tourian assassination, this opposition found its strongest articulation through the Armenian Democratic Liberal, or Ramgavar, party, which took its fullest form in the mergers occurring in 1919 and then 1922. For the decade prior to that, the parties and subsections of parties that would comprise the merger remained divided, but as early as 1909 a party existed with the word "Ramgavar" (democrat) in its name which, as a shorthand in the interests of brevity, provides for us an ideologically consistent articulation of the views of the Tashnaks' rivals. Originally founded in 1908 by wealthy merchants and church leaders, giving it what some have called a "bourgeois-clerical" image, the Sahmanatir (constitutional) Ramgavar party became more heterogeneous through subsequent mergers with splinter groups from the other parties. While other parties, including the leftist Social Democratic, or Hunchak, indeed continued to exist (as well as a Reformed Hunchak party that merged with the Ramgavars in 1922), by 1914 Armenian American community institutions and their memberships had already moved toward a general bifurcation between Tashnak and non-Tashnak, with the Sahmanatir Ramgavar party and institutions closely aligned with it, including the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the upper hierarchy of the Apostolic Church, increasingly dominating the non-Tashnak coalition. (To be sure, the Apostolic Church had some Tashnak priests and bishops.)6 7
During the genocide and its immediate aftermath, Tashnak Armenians equated Armenia's future aspirations with the work of the Tiflis-based Armenian National Bureau (ANB), whose leadership the party dominated. In the final days of May 1918, three years after the genocide in which the Turkish government presided over the killing of over one million Armenians, and half a year after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a complex chain of events brought the Republic of Armenia into existence in the Caucasus, formed from provinces of the former Russian Empire. (Governing leaders proclaimed the republic's existence on May 30 but predated it to May 28, the date thereafter celebrated as the republic's birthday.) From that point onward the Republic of Armenia functioned, with multiple parties in its parliament and cabinet but decisively dominated by the Tashnak party—and ruled exclusively by Tashnaks during its last several months of life. By all accounts, the republic suffered serious problems. In its first winter, 1918–19, the phrase "the starving Armenians" found the greatest currency as harsh cold, shortage of food, and the aftereffects from 1915 combined to kill thousands more, including many refugees from the Turkish provinces who had fled eastward.
Meanwhile, internationally, Tashnak Armenians regarded the torch of Armenia's essence as passing from the ANB to the republic itself.7 8
During that same time period, an entity called the Armenian National Delegation operated in Paris, appointed by the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church to lobby for international support for Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as early as 1913. A wealthy and prominent Egyptian Armenian named Boghos Nubar Pasha, who had founded AGBU in 1912, headed this delegation, which held much the same place of importance to Armenia's future for non-Tashnak Armenians that the ANB and then the republic held for Tashnaks. Thus, both the Tashnak leaders of the republic and the Nubar delegation at Paris claimed to speak for Armenia's future, and both entities had followers worldwide who associated them, rather than their counterparts, with it. The diplomats at the Paris Peace Conference in early 1919 heard from both Nubar and a delegation leader from the republic, Avedis Aharonian.
Aharonian and Nubar, even as each delivered his own statement to the Council of Ten (composed of two delegates each representing the United States, the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan, meeting at the Quai d'Orsay) on February 26, did not refute each other. Indeed, all Armenian leaders agreed that Armenians, as a nationality, deserved permanent control, not only of the territory within the bounds of the republic, which consisted merely of the eastern, formerly czarist-Russian-ruled portion of their historic homeland, but also of some sizable portion of the eastern region of Turkey which, prior to the genocide, had had Armenian majorities or near-majorities. Still, the two factions represented two distinct visions of Armenia and its future, one believing that the free and independent Armenia already existed by way of the Tashnak-dominated republic, the other envisioning a future Armenian nation-state to be cobbled together at negotiating tables, with the church hierarchy and Nubar taking much of the initiative.8 9
The collapse of the Tashnak-dominated regime occurred due to forces largely (though not entirely) out of the hands of Armenians. The Turkish nationalist regime of Mustafa Kemal, in August 1920, reached a secret accord with Vladimir Lenin's government of Soviet Russia, whereupon the Turkish army from the west and the Soviet army from the east (the latter enjoying the cooperation of Armenia's growing internal Bolshevik ranks, which had attempted a coup the previous May) both proceeded to close in on Armenia. The Tashnak Armenian government at Yerevan, after fighting hard and appealing in vain for American and Allied assistance, surrendered control of the country to a Soviet-installed junta in November. After a brief Tashnak uprising in February 1921, the much-reduced eastern slice of the homeland (the Soviets ceded a portion to the Turks) began life under Bolshevik rule as the Soviet Republic of Armenia. As the decade of the 1920s got under way, recriminations flew in both directions between Tashnak and non-Tashnak over the nature of the republic and the circumstances of its collapse. The Tashnak party declared a stance of fierce opposition to the new regime, while the other groups—the Hunchak party, the newly reconstituted Armenian Democratic Liberal, or Ramgavar, party, and the newly founded and ardently pro-Bolshevik Progressive party—accepted Soviet rule over the eastern remnants of historic Armenia.9 10
The lines that were drawn at the time of the republic's collapse remained drawn in 1933. What stands to be examined now is the particular set of factors that caused so many Armenian Americans to have internalized these partisan interpretations of past and present events. For that, a major factor in the equation is the role that the partisan press in the United States played throughout this entire period. 11
PARALLEL PRESSES, PARALLEL UNIVERSES
Through the entire period under consideration here, the major Armenian-language newspapers came directly from the Boston headquarters of the leading political parties and circulated nationwide. As early as 1899, the Tashnak party published Hairenik, named for the Armenian word for "homeland" or "fatherland." That paper continued as an Armenian-language daily for most of the twentieth century, joined in 1923 by the Armenian-language literary journal Hairenik Amsakir (monthly) and in 1935 by the English-language, youth-oriented newspaper Hairenik Weekly. During the years of World War I, the Sahmanatir Ramgavar party published the Armenian-language Azk (nation) several times a week. In the wake of the 1922 merger, the reconstituted Ramgavar party launched the long-enduring daily paper Baikar (struggle). In 1933 the Ramgavar party began publishing its own English-language weekly for the American-born generation, the Armenian Mirror, merging it in 1939 into the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. An additional weekly, Gotchnag (bell), published by affiliates of the Armenian Evangelical (Protestant) Church, generally echoed the Ramgavar critiques of Tashnak actions. The Armenian political parties, like the churches and other institutional entities, made full use of the press and worked tirelessly to mobilize Armenian American support for their efforts in the homeland. Much of the work involved straightforward humanitarian fund-raising, and not all of it carried heavily partisan overtones. Generally, though, during the years of genocide, independent republic, and Sovietization, editors of Hairenik and Azk asked their readers to see the Armenian world, respectively, through Tashnak and non-Tashnak eyes. 12
An early example of this phenomenon can be found in how the partisan papers treated the initial, very incomplete, tidings of the new republic's existence. First, before any real details had reached America's shores, a pithy report came in mid-June to the effect that, in the fighting on the Caucasus front, Armenian forces had inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Turks, driving them back to the border and inspiring the Georgians, a fellow Christian nationality also defending the besieged Caucasus, to keep on fighting. Very shortly after, a cryptic blurb appeared in the New York Times, drawing upon a report in a German newspaper, stating that an independent Armenian republic had been declared in the Caucasus and that an Armenian deputation had arrived at Constantinople, the capital of Turkey. For several days, this was all the information to which anybody in the Western Hemisphere, including the Armenian editors in Boston, had access. Yet as meager as these tantalizing tidbits might seem, both Azk and Hairenik found much use to make of them, even while they awaited further details. The announcement "Caucasian Armenia has declared its independence" was enough to prompt a giant-sized, front-page headline and a lengthy celebratory article in Hairenik, the Tashnak paper. The Ramgavar Azk, by contrast, ran only an unceremonial and easy-to-overlook reprint of the Times blurb. Over the next few days, the editorial page of Hairenik expressed total confidence in the actions of Armenia's new rulers, assuming that both the declaration of the republic and the diplomatic mission to Constantinople represented the fruits of hard-won battlefield victory.
The editorial page of Azk, in contrast, expressed ongoing doubt and skepticism and found the preliminary reports contradictory. If Tashnak forces were victorious on the battlefields, one editorial opined, they could not plausibly have sent a friendly delegation to their enemy's capital so soon after.10 13
Presently, the details arrived. The leaders of the newly proclaimed republic had reached an armistice with Turkey at Batum, even though Armenian armies had appeared to be winning at that moment and even though some Armenian-inhabited territory in the Caucasus, the region previously ruled by czarist Russia, remained under the control of the Turks. In the summer and fall of 1918, readers of the Armenian-language press in America received two conflicting renditions of this truce. The Tashnak press portrayed the armistice as a military decision necessary for the security of the newly formed republic which, in itself, embodied a free and independent Armenia. Readers of Azk received an entirely different story: that the Tashnak leaders, for their own ambitions of power, had surrendered Armenian lands with Armenian inhabitants to Armenia's worst enemy, a surrender that they had no authority to make. In Boston, the two competing factions of the tottering Armenian National Union, a coordinating agency in the United States with representatives from all the major groups, issued their rival resolutions, which the respective presses printed and endorsed. The Batum armistice would endure as part of the litany of contested memories between Tashnak and anti-Tashnak.11 14
Not long after, another episode occurred that also demonstrated both the intensity of the schism and the diffusion of interpretive news reportage from party elites to the general community. At the start of 1919, at a time when ethnic and national delegations from everywhere in the world were converging on Paris, Boghos Nubar Pasha asked the Armenian American community to send four delegates to a diasporan Armenian congress. At the insistence of Tashnak leaders, an election was called. Almost overnight, tickets, platforms, and campaigns swung into motion, with the main contest played out between the Tashnak ticket and a non-Tashnak coalition, or "bloc," encompassing the Ramgavar party, the AGBU, and the leadership of both the Armenian Apostolic and Evangelical churches in the United States. The Tashnak campaign, predictably, placed all trust and credit in the republic as the true bearer of Armenia's hopes, while the platform of the "bloc" downplayed the importance of the republic and aligned Armenia's interests with the Catholicos and with Boghos Nubar Pasha's delegation. In the days leading up to the election, the front pages and editorial columns of both Azk and Hairenik devoted much space to electioneering. Tashnak campaign manifestos reviewed the history of the past several decades, using the terms "the Armenian people" and "the Tashnaks" interchangeably, depicting the Tashnaks as the creators of "a free and independent homeland." An opposing Azk editorial warned that, if Tashnaks dominated the convocation at Paris, they would endanger "the likelihood of establishing a government founded on democratic principles," a clear implication that such a regime did not already exist. Azk also heavily spotlighted the life and work of Boghos Nubar Pasha during this time. Both papers, with enormous exaggeration (as later events would show), staked the future of their homeland on the Armenian American voters' choice of the right four delegates to go to Paris.12 15
Not surprisingly, the ensuing election produced disputed results and charges of fraud. From what can be gathered from reports of the returns, nearly equal numbers appear to have voted for the Tashnak and "bloc" slates. The leaders of the Boston-based Armenian National Union, in one of their last actions before the union collapsed under the weight of all the dissension, sent a split delegation of four to Paris. For all the difference it made to Armenia's actual future, they might as well have sent four carrier pigeons to Antarctica, but to the partisan factions in the community in America at that time (and to scholars studying their actions years later), it still rendered great significance. It afforded the parties an opportunity, not only to communicate their competing visions and aspirations to their desired constituents in America's cities, but to foster in the Armenian American rank and file a sense of personal stake and participation in the future of the ancestral homeland, intertwined with a righteous indignation at the treachery of the other camp's leaders. 16
Generally, throughout the life of the republic, Hairenik praised the work of the regime and treated it as synonymous with the homeland and the nation. Azk wrote skeptically and critically of the Tashnak-controlled republic and at times barely acknowledged its relevance. In June 1919, on the occasion of one of the Ramgavar mergers, the Azk editorial celebrating this move characterized the reconstituted party as filling a void, giving Armenians new direction and having an enormous role to play in "tomorrow's free Armenia." The editorial proudly boasted that the expanded coalition embraced those Armenians "scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific who want to bring a true remedy to our homeland's material and moral pains and unstable political condition."13 17
With the collapse of the Tashnak-dominated republic and the creation of Soviet Armenia at the end of 1920, Armenian American community life moved into a new stage in its relationship to the homeland, one characterized more by a status quo than by the constant upheaval over the war years. Armenians in America had much in their current local environs with which to occupy themselves, matters of working at jobs, saving money, maintaining homes, and raising children. At the same time, however, both the status quo and the memories of the war years provided much material over which to quarrel. Armenian immigrants continued to frequent party clubs and read the partisan press. In these forums, partisan advocates continued to rehearse the contested memories from the war and republic years, with conflicting commentaries on the present situation and indictments of each other's actions and motives. One editorial in Hairenik (whose editorial staff now included several political and military leaders from that thousand-day regime) recalled the republic as the time "when the Armenian people enjoyed a completely free and democratic order."
Both the daily Hairenik and the monthly literary journal Hairenik Amsakir (launched in 1923) insinuated repeatedly that the internal divisions caused by the Ramgavars had helped weaken the defenses of the republic and hastened its collapse. The Ramgavar press, meanwhile, recalled the Tashnak regime as corrupt and oppressive, its collapse as partly the result of the dissatisfaction of its people, and the Sovietization of the country as a nick-of-time rescue. On some occasions, rather than explicitly condemning the leaders of the thousand-day republic, Baikar implicitly rendered its existence irrelevant. A 1930 editorial marking the tenth anniversary of the launching of the Soviet republic observed that Sovietization was "the event that made the impossible possible." Yes, the editorial continued, Armenia from 1918 to 1920 enjoyed independence, but an independence that could not be sustained "as long as our people's economic and physical powers were not equal to the task" and foreign assistance was not forthcoming. Significantly, May 28, 1928, the date observed as the tenth anniversary of the republic's founding, saw numerous celebratory articles and announcements of public commemorations on the pages of Hairenik, but no mention of the occasion at all in Baikar. The two presses also differed sharply over Armenia's present status: Hairenik editorials read like briefs for the prosecution against the Soviet government, while Baikar editorials often had the air of apologia. When the Soviet government began its massive confiscation of land from the Armenian Holy See at Echmiadzin, for example, Baikar editorialized in 1924 that ecclesiastics did not need to live like princes and that the resources of the church might well be better used to benefit "the people." Responding to Hairenik's blasting of the Soviet constraints on the Armenian church, Baikar decried "these eleventh-hour defenders of the church" who seized upon reports of persecution as a source of ammunition against the Soviet government.14 18
Conflicts anticipating that of 1933 played themselves out in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Tashnak-sympathizing primate of the churches in America from 1921 to 1928, Archbishop Dirayr Der Hovannisian, encouraged May 28 observances in the churches, an action that drew the wrath of the church authorities in Echmiadzin as well as of the editor of the Ramgavar Baikar, who viewed celebration of the thousand-day republic as an open challenge to the legitimacy of the Soviet regime that had replaced it. From the Tashnak point of view, such criticism represented acquiescence in a state of affairs whereby not only the geographical homeland but also the church worldwide writhed under the Soviet yoke.15 Shortly before the Chicago flag incident, at an April 24, 1933, commemoration of the genocide (though that actual word would not come into usage until much later) in the social hall of an Apostolic church in Providence, Rhode Island, conflict arose between the non-Tashnak church council, which refused to display the Tricolor on the stage of the event, and a Tashnak contingent, which insisted on putting it there. This skirmish appears to have remained verbal, the only physical action being that the Tashnaks walked out, Tricolor in tow and singing the national anthem "Mer Hairenik" (our fatherland), and then convened their own ceremony for the martyrs in their own club hall nearby.16 19
THE EVENTS OF 1933–34: THE SIMMERING TENSION BOILS OVER
By 1933, the battle lines existed with sufficient intensity that, had the Armenian newspapers suddenly disappeared at this point, popular reactions to the year's events probably would have played themselves out much as they actually did. Still, as it happened, the same presses that had played such a major part in constructing and maintaining the parallel universes in which Armenian Americans lived took no hiatus from making sure their readers knew, at every turn, both their rendition of what happened and their prescriptions for how good Armenians should feel about it. From the start, the July 1, 1933, Chicago incident—which happened to occur just on the heels of the Tashnaks' fervent celebrations of the fifteenth anniversary of the republic's May 28 founding—came through to readers of the partisan press in notably different versions. While no one disputed that the Armenians present that day included both Tashnaks and non-Tashnaks, each camp, via its press organ, claimed majority status. Both the Ramgavar Baikar and the Tashnak Hairenik reported that the official in charge of the event, Major Felix J. Streyckmans, called for a vote on whether to honor the primate's demand, and that in the initial round of voting a language barrier made the question unclear to some. Baikar reported, however, that the language barrier was quickly overcome when a bilingual person provided translation, while Hairenik's version depicted the translator as a less-than-articulate person whose speaking efforts amounted to gibberish. Thus, while agreeing that Major Streyckmans declared a majority had voted for the flag's removal, the partisan organs differed over the validity of his finding. Both camps agreed that fists and a few chairs flew, and that such a fracas at an Armenian event in front of so many outsiders constituted a disgrace and an embarrassment to Armenians. They differed, though, on where to place the blame. Hairenik opined that the archbishop should have thought about the consequences his actions would have before committing an act so certain to inflame passions and provoke a fight; the Baikar editorialist, meanwhile, wrote ironically that the Tashnaks must feel very proud of themselves for having gained so much attention, stirring up trouble at an otherwise peaceful affair and bringing such dishonor to the community.17 20
In the half year from the July 1 incident in Chicago to Archbishop Tourian's Christmas Eve assassination, the controversy dominated the pages of both Hairenik and Baikar. Throughout July and August, Hairenik ran a plethora of articles, editorials, and letters deploring Tourian's action as an affront to the Armenian nation. "Has our Archbishop forgotten why our nation has suffered through long centuries?" asked one contributor. "Has the blood of our one million martyrs been shed in vain?" Baikar, in contrast, defended the archbishop for following the church's policy not to antagonize the Soviet government, lambasted his persecutors, and in one essay expressed condescending pity for persons who had no more important concerns than a flag about which to agitate themselves. It did not take long for the editorials to revisit the debate over the events of 1918–20. A July 19 editorial in Baikar charged the Tashnak rulers of the thousand-day republic with having lost independence "by reason of their political mistakes and their absolute inability to conduct the nation's works" and with having squandered all their resources on bravado and self-aggrandizement. Hairenik, of course, ran articles and editorials praising and defending the Tashnak party's record of governance. A physical assault on Archbishop Tourian at an August church picnic in Massachusetts, apparently by a group of Tashnaks who had driven over from a picnic of their own a few towns away, triggered reactions that somewhat foreshadowed the later responses to his assassination. Baikar predictably condemned the assault as well as the ongoing persecution of the spiritual leader whom non-Tashnak Armenians continued to revere. (Gotchnag, the weekly newspaper of the Evangelical, or Protestant, Armenian church, concurred completely with the Ramgavars in their defense of Archbishop Tourian and their anger at his attackers.) Hairenik's editorial on the assault, while falling short of applauding it, found that the picnic incident showed Archbishop Tourian to be "a source of scandal for our community" and that the situation he had created made his removal from office a necessity.18 21
The new contested memories of 1933 continued to mount up when the annual Diocesan Convention took place in New York City on September 2 and 3. The assembly, with both elected delegates and a mob of spectators, convened on September 2 at the St. Illuminator Church on East 28th Street. Archbishop Tourian ordinarily would have presided, but through a letter read by Bishop Hovsep Garabedian, he announced that he was ill and unable to attend. Then, amid debate over whether the convention should remain open to the public or take place with only the delegates behind closed doors, the proceedings adjourned for the evening. The following day it reconvened—in two different places. The meeting sanctioned by Archbishop Tourian from his sickbed occurred in the Grand Suite of the Hotel Martinique; the other was held at the original site, presided over by the same bishop who had opened the convention the night before, Garabedian. According to the Reverend Oshagan Minassian's history of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America, Archbishop Tourian had decided upon the change of venue and instructed Bishop Garabedian to inform all the delegates, but Garabedian failed to comply. Somehow, though, partisans of the archbishop knew where to report, and Archbishop Tourian, upon learning that Bishop Garabedian was not presiding at the Hotel Martinique, appointed another church leader for the task, the Reverend Mampreh Kalfayan. Each convocation, of course, considered itself the authentic Diocesan Convention and the other a rump assembly of dissidents. The delegates at the Hotel Martinique voted to affirm Archbishop Tourian's leadership; those at St. Illuminator voted to remove him from his seat. Both conventions reported their results to Echmiadzin, which promptly sided with Archbishop Tourian and the delegates at the Hotel Martinique.19 22
When the December 24 assassination occurred, the partisan presses reacted swiftly. In the December 28 Baikar editorial, written when the press knew only that five Armenians were in custody and that the police investigation had focused on the Tashnak party's New York club, the Ramgavar organ meditated over the question of who would choose the holiest of places on the holiest of days to commit such a horrid, fratricidal crime in the clear view of a multitude that included women and children. The answer was clear: the Tashnaks would. The editorial noted, moreover, that Hairenik had continually stirred up rage on its editorial page ever since the Chicago incident and, even if for that reason alone, deserved a share of the blame. Only the wielders of the knife could go to jail, but "those who, with their inflammatory spoken and written words, spurred on the rage of the assassins" would bear the wrath of the Armenian people.20 23
The same morning's Hairenik reciprocated the unfriendly sentiment. The editorial began by philosophizing about the lamentably divided state of the Armenian population.
It can be said confidently that life in our colonies would have far more peace and harmony if we did not now have a government seated at the head of Armenia, run by a foreign power's tutelage and force, steeped in anti-national and anti-religious ideas, which carries out the work of systematic and boundless oppression, to divide and destroy all our national organizations ... and sow discord in every phase of Armenian life in the name of worldwide revolution.
What was more, disquiet and dissension would not exist appreciably in the ranks of Armenians "if there were not among us whole organizations which, addicted to their blind hatred of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, encourage in every way the plots and connivances of the Soviet government against international Armenian solidarity." The situation had grown more grave, the writer continued, now that "the enemy Soviet government [had] decided to turn the international Armenian church into a tool to destroy the peace-loving Armenian nation and decisively bury the Armenian cause." It was from this resolution that had arisen "the past year's furious struggle against the Armenian Tricolor and all the national values which that flag symbolized." All those who aided and abetted this work of the Soviet enemy (a category in which Tashnaks clearly held the felled churchman himself) shared in the moral responsibility for "Sunday's frightful event." So too, the editorial continued, did those Armenians (obviously including the editors of Baikar) who, instead of calling for the archbishop's removal after his misdeed in Chicago, had turned the affair into an anti-Tashnak crusade and intensified the disunity. This tragic spilling of blood, the writer concluded, should stand as a lesson to all those intent on making Armenians a divided community.21 24
The mutual recriminations continued well into 1934. One Baikar editorial asserted that Archbishop Tourian had been murdered "because he loved the reborn Armenia" and wanted to keep himself clear of "the bad influence of agitating anti-Armenia groups." A 1934 Ramgavar pamphlet titled Patriotism Perverted dwelt heavily on the Tourian assassination while also condemning the Tashnak party's total history of activity, including its governance of the thousand-day republic. "The country was not unified internally," Ramgavar author K. S. Papazian wrote, "and the army was demoralized by Dashnak military methods.... A timely intervention of Soviet Armenia saved the Armenians"—showing again what an integral role this contested memory played in the current conflict. The Tashnak party, meanwhile, vehemently denied complicity in the crime, and Hairenik editorials attributed it to a Soviet conspiracy to divide the Armenian community and tighten its own control over the church worldwide. The Tashnak paper also saw irony in Archbishop Tourian's having observed steadfast loyalty to the government that had made itself the great persecutor of all great spiritual institutions and apostles, and the paper regarded the Ramgavars and other opposing parties as exploiting the tragedy to widen the rift.22 25
The trial took place in New York from June 8 to July 14, 1934, with forty-two witnesses testifying for the prosecution and thirty-five for the defense. The presses of both factions devoted column after column to detailed summaries and transcriptions of testimony, as well as numerous editorials on the subject. Here again, readers of the competing presses received starkly contrasting pictures. The Tashnak Hairenik made much of discrepancies between vividly detailed accounts offered by prosecution witnesses during the trial and the vagueness of their earlier statements to police. The archbishop's bodyguard, for example, testified that he had seen one of the defendants with the murder weapon in his hand and that another of the nine had threatened him outside the church, "Be careful or you'll be next," but had not volunteered those details right after the crime. Similarly, a cook at a nearby restaurant told the court, but apparently had not previously told the police, that he had overheard two men firming up plans for the crime over coffee in his restaurant an hour before. An editorial in Hairenik remarked skeptically on the number of witnesses who had cited either confusion or fear of Tashnak reprisal as their reason for having taken so long to bring their stories into focus for the authorities, and it charged that they had been prompted, or even bribed, by the Archbishop Leon Tourian Committee, which the archdiocese had formed several days after the murder. Summaries of damaging testimony, at times, appeared with the word egher, which translates as "supposedly," sprinkled in. 26
Baikar, for its part, stopped short of declaring the nine guilty while the trial was in progress, but one editorial noted that the editors of Hairenik, having repeatedly chanted "wait for the verdict" over the past six months, were now appearing to lose faith in the judicial process, clearly shaken by the damaging testimony heard in court against their comrades. To see what a strong case the Ramgavar editors perceived the prosecution as having, readers needed only to glance at the front page of Baikar or the newly founded English-language weekly Armenian Mirror to see such headlines as "Chef Says He Overheard Two Men Plotting Crime," "Artist Identifies Six [sic] Defendents as Attackers," and "Witness Saw Knife in [defendant Mateos] Leylegian's hand." The existence of a mysterious suspect dubbed "Mr. X" figured prominently in both Tashnak and anti-Tashnak reportage, but anti-Tashnak observers considered him to be merely the tenth Tashnak conspirator who eluded capture, whereas for Tashnaks he was the real culprit instead of these nine innocent scapegoats. When the jury convicted the nine, Hairenik ran an editorial accusing the judge of bias and opining that a truly impartial trial would not have produced such an outcome; the corresponding Baikar editorial declared, "Unavoidable Justice finally gave its verdict on the nine Tashnak plotters who, by command of their criminal leaders, brutally murdered Archbishop Tourian." The Ramgavar press, shortly after the verdict, also reported in tones of complete acceptance the belief of authorities that an Armenian murder victim in Providence, Rhode Island, had been slain by fellow Tashnak party members for refusing to take part in the murder of Archbishop Tourian "after twice getting the fateful 'ticket' in the drawing of lots."23 27
Reaction to the assassination and trial, of course, played itself out on the streets as much as on editorial pages. One morning in mid-January, somewhere between 75 and 100 Tashnak-affiliated merchants found placards nailed to their businesses that read: "Do Not Patronize This Store! It is a member of the Dashnak—A secret order that assassinated Archbishop Leon Tourian of the Armenians of U.S.A." In at least one apartment building full of Armenian families, on East 25th Street in New York City, Ramgavars and Tashnaks called each other murderers and Communists in graffiti on the walls. Armenian schoolchildren called each other names, some having no comprehension of what they meant. In an Armenian grocery store in Washington Heights in New York City, a Ramgavar mother, in the presence of her daughter of about five years old, menaced a Tashnak woman with one of the little girl's roller skates. Tashnaks "became people with horns to the children," the daughter would later recall. Early April saw riots break out in Boston and Chicago, pitting Tashnaks against a coalition of anti-Tashnaks, the former dubbing the latter "Bolshevik mongrels" in the Boston incident. Personal relationships were affected; in some instances, siblings who had fled the genocide together now stopped speaking to each other.24 28
The Tourian assassination effected a formal split in the church. In the aftermath of that bloody Christmas Eve, individual congregations became either entirely Tashnak or anti-Tashnak in their membership, with forcible expulsions and violent fights in some instances. In January 1934 St. Gregory's Church in Philadelphia saw the two factions take turns seizing control of the building and locking each other out of Sunday services, with local police and courts called upon to referee the mess. In Troy, New York, the anti-Tashnaks ousted four trustees from the area church and announced plans to publish the names of Tashnaks who lived in that part of the state, even appealing to non-Armenians to assist in their social ostracism. The schism became even more formalized in 1956 when, after an elaborate and ugly imbroglio, the Holy See at Antelias, Lebanon (which continued to bear the name of its former site, Sis, in the historically Armenian region of present-day Turkey known as Cilicia), broke away from the Holy See at Echmiadzin, with Tashnak congregations aligning themselves with Sis and non-Tashnak churches remaining under the jurisdiction of Echmiadzin. Again, old memories were rehearsed and new ones created. There are, to this day, two Armenian Apostolic Church structures in the United States.25 29
As had been the case during the days of the republic, in 1918–20, members of the Armenian American community heard and read about the events of 1933 and 1934 as two starkly contrasting and irreconcilable narratives. Book and pamphlet authors, as well as the editors of the partisan dailies and weeklies, articulated their versions of both the events of the fateful Christmas Eve of 1933 and where those events fit into the larger historical picture. One side depicted a multi-decade history of the crimes of the Tashnaks; the other situated the upheavals of 1933 in the context of Echmiadzin's subservience to the enemy Soviet regime and the even more reprehensible willingness of much of the church leadership in America (including the slain archbishop) to align the church in America with that subservience, rather than professing an independent national identity that, to persons who made this critique, the Tricolor represented. The populace of each camp would rehearse these interpretations for decades to come. During the 1970s, when she conducted her research on the Armenian communities of Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts, anthropologist Jenny Phillips found that Armenian Americans who were alive at the time remembered exactly where they were when they first learned of the killing. Both Phillips and Doudoukjian found the memories to be polarized along lines of Tashnak and anti-Tashnak, with some anti-Tashnaks comparing the Tashnaks to the Turks, and some Tashnaks expressing satisfaction at the primate's death. "I felt bad.
I didn't expect this to happen," one elderly Tashnak Armenian man told Doudoukjian, "but after two hours I questioned myself and I realized that this man asked for it." Another informant told Phillips, "For me, and for the Tashnakzoutyoun, he was dead when he committed that act in Chicago. When you ignore your symbol of independence, the tricolor flag, you are dead." Even so, Tashnaks would maintain that neither the nine Tashnak defendants nor the Tashnak party at large had had any part in the murder, and they recalled the trial as having been run on flimsy and circumstantial evidence. Tashnak-affiliated writers of community histories, including Sarkis Atamian in 1955 and Arpena Mesrobian in 2000, reflected that view. Atamian approvingly noted that "the Dashnak community at large refuses to believe the guilt of the prisoners" and "has come to define them as heroes, indeed." Mesrobian, in her local history of Armenians in Syracuse, New York, writes, "Some ARF members were arrested and several were imprisoned, although it was never clear what had happened or who was responsible."26 30
THE PARTIES AND THE SECOND GENERATION
The polarized reactions to the Tourian assassination and the role that diasporan institutions played in shaping those reactions need to be understood in an even broader context. Most obviously, any discussion of the several decades after World War I must factor in the intense trauma suffered by those Armenians fortunate enough to be alive at all after 1915. In the immigrant communities, those who had not experienced the genocide firsthand still knew its horrors intimately. The grief, the anger, the consolation of brave stands at Musa Dagh, Van, and Sardarabad (the first of which would soon be shared with a much wider public through Franz Werfel's famous novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, published the same year that the nine Tashnaks stood trial), the hope of seeing some kind of restitution in the future—these were all part of what members of the immigrant generation carried with them, and part of what the children of the second generation would not only hear about, but feel called upon to carry in their own internal worlds. Years later, psychiatrists Levon Boyajian and Haigaz Grigorian would report, from their clinical experience with genocide survivors and their children, that many survivors displayed a "survivor syndrome" comprising depression, anxiety, and guilt over having survived while others perished. Many of the children grew up with "the sense that there is an obligation ... to be the bearers of the hopes and aspirations, not only of a given family but of a whole people." Armenians scarcely needed the press to persuade them that high stakes rode on such visions. Even so, the press did much to shape the specificity of those visions.27 31
Alongside the news and commentary on the status of Armenia, the ethnic press provided ideas and exhortations to readers, a form of prescriptive literature, about how to negotiate their dual Armenian and American identities and navigate the economic and social waters of America. When it came to behavioral prescriptions, the rival camps oftentimes scarcely differed: Tashnak and Ramgavar editors both called upon their readers to live as patriotic and socially integrated Americans, while at the same time remembering their Armenianness and their connection to the historic homeland. Encouraging their constituents to be both good Americans and good Armenians made pragmatic sense. If Armenian advocates were to solicit mainstream American sympathy for their causes, they would need to boast of their followers' steadfast loyalty to the host country. Moreover, the parties, for their aspirations abroad, would always need to draw on the bounties of an Armenian American community. A 1926 essay published in the Tashnak Hairenik opined that, even if Armenia became liberated from its oppressors and sizable numbers of Armenians repatriated to the homeland, the country's future would still require a contingent of Armenians remaining in America and prospering in the American economy so as to have resources to contribute to both their own individual relatives and the Armenian nation at large. Baikar, though not speaking of any mission to liberate the homeland from an oppressor, concurred that the future of the Armenian nation required the community in America to be both successful Americans and loyal Armenians.28 32
The urgency of such exhortations reached a higher level when a new second generation, born of refugees from the genocide, reached adolescence. Both the Ramgavars and the Tashnaks launched English-language weeklies in 1933 and 1935, respectively, and founded nationally based youth organizations in the same decade. On the subject of the homeland, the opposing stances remained consistent, with the Tashnaks writing of a homeland that suffered under an oppressor's yoke and the Ramgavars depicting a homeland that enjoyed the protection of a friendly power. It followed logically that the Tashnaks would present all matters of Armenian identity with a higher level of ideological intensity and a greater sense of struggle. It was thus predictable that the Tashnak youth organization's creed would depict a good member as "One who demands a free and independent Armenia," and that a contributor to Hairenik Weekly would write, with reference to the prototypical Armenian youth, "His thought must be clarified." Articles and editorials in Hairenik Weekly regularly reinforced the theme of homeland deprivation for their young subscribers. Columnist John Melikian told readers in 1937 of one afternoon when he was walking to see the movie The Good Earth. "I started thinking of our earth, the place on earth we used to have and how we haven't got a grain of the earth. I felt kind of sad realizing that once we were a part of a part of the earth, that we put our hands into that soil, that we drank the water from the many streams, that we breathed our own air." Presently, he stopped for a hamburger.
It was different. It looked different. It was thick. Real thick. And it tasted different. Parsley taste. Taste like hamburger my grandmother used to make.
Boy, this is swell, I said. Real Armenian Hamburger. And it seemed my sadness disappeared for a moment and I became happy.
And when the girl came I looked at her and we both smiled.
She knew then that I was Armenian and I knew that she was too. We didn't say anything because it wasn't necessary, but in our minds we embraced each other somewhere in Armenia, where the soil was fertile, where the good earth was waiting for us to go and plant our seeds.
What must have looked to any outside observer like a waitress serving a customer a hamburger was, in the diasporic imagination of the Tashnaks, a moment of empathy between two sorrowful exiles from their homeland.29 33
While the Tashnaks in the 1930s maintained a constant tone of hostility to Soviet rule over Armenia, it should not be inferred that they advocated an armed attack on the regime. Tashnaks grudgingly admitted that, for the moment, the Soviet regime was a lesser of two evils and, for that reason, could only be opposed in the long run rather than the short. Vartouhi Calantar Nalbandian, writing in Hairenik Weekly in 1935, explained, "The A.R.F. cannot eject the Soviets from Armenia, in fact, it does not want them to go at this time." Such a withdrawal, Nalbandian was convinced, "would mean instead invasion by Turkey and fresh massacres." But, she hastened to add, "that is no reason why [the Tashnak party] should refrain from criticism of and opposition to an odious tyranny and cease laboring for a better day." Similarly, at a 1937 meeting of the Brooklyn chapter of Tzeghagron, the Tashnak youth group (a name that would shortly change to "Armenian Youth Federation"), when one of the young diasporic patriots raised the question of when the ARF would realize its aim of an independent Armenia, the Tashnak guest speaker replied that "it is too early now to think of independence. First we must follow the ideals of political aspirations and follow the ideals of true Tzeghagrons before we think of that." Thus the prime goal of Tashnak leaders in America in the 1930s was not so much one of liberating Armenia as of making sure the next generation of Armenians understood that Armenia needed liberating. The ideal state of mind for them was a sense of membership in an exiled people, a feeling of having once had a homeland and of having been robbed of it, robbed by the Soviets as well as the Turks.30 34
The term "diasporic nationalism" clearly applies to the rhetoric of the Tashnaks. The term might appear more questionable when used concerning the Ramgavar party, inasmuch as the latter acquiesced in Soviet rule over Armenia and viewed its role for these years as essentially auxiliary. Yet there were elements of nationalism even here. One of the contested memories from the republic involved the May 1918 armistice at Batum, with the charge by the Ramgavars that the Tashnaks had failed to fight aggressively enough to defend Armenian land. Moreover, in the 1930s, if the Tashnak camp was where one could find the greater sense of exile and struggle vis-à-vis Armenia, the Ramgavar press shared the desire to affect Armenia's future and the sense of importance of the role their young readers might play. "It is they," a 1932 editorial in the English-language Armenian Mirror posited concerning the youth, "who are to supply Armenia with architects, mechanics, engineers, intellectuals, and artists tomorrow." While this rhetoric lacked the sense of a contemporary struggle for the homeland (the author of this same editorial referred to "the greatest reality of contemporary times, the reawakening of Soviet Armenia"), it nonetheless displayed a spirit of nationalism in its linkage of the present-day young generation in America with the future creation of an independent Armenia. The Ramgavar party, moreover, while taking care to keep its stance toward the Soviet regime friendly, did not hesitate to express a sense of struggle against Turkey. "Our party," read a resolution passed at a party convention in 1934, "maintains as its project the cause of liberation of our Turkish-controlled lands." Moreover, Ramgavar commentators would at times challenge the Tashnaks' claims to nationalism and paint them as opponents of the homeland and the nation. A resolution passed during that same 1934 convention condemned the Tashnak party for having taken "a position of enmity toward Armenia" and having "turned into an anti-Armenia organization."31 35
Much of this discourse came in the context of a shared concern among immigrants for retaining the loyalty of the second generation to their heritage. In this spirit, the English-language weeklies constantly ran profiles on historic Armenian military, political, and literary figures in efforts to keep their young readers mindful of what a glorious lineage had spawned them. The youth organizations of both parties also regularly ran New Year's Eve dances, social cruises, and athletic tournaments to maximize opportunities for their second-generation constituents to find friendship and love with others of the same descent. And, in an awareness that much in their constituents' lives centered on their achievements in the non-Armenian world, the English-language organs of the parties proudly announced the names of young Armenian Americans when they won piano competitions, edited yearbooks, and graduated from high school or college. Tashnak and Ramgavar leaders clearly agreed that to be a good Armenian was to be a good American and that the Armenian identity could and should be maintained within the mainstream social, recreational, and educational infrastructures and folkways of modern urban America.32 36
How the connection between the Armenian and the American components of the group identity could yield maximum mileage is further illustrated by the actions of the Tashnak leaders, as represented by their Boston-based editors, in the early 1950s when the anxieties of the Cold War reached a high intensity level. Because the Tashnak party had consistently condemned the Soviet Union, attaching itself to the more vehement anti-Communist elements in the United States hardly constituted a reversal. It did, however, represent the Americanization of an Armenian nationalist struggle. By tying their long-felt aspirations of liberating Armenia from the Soviet yoke with the American government's more generalized anti-Communist crusade, leaders could declare that a good Armenian (read, a good Tashnak Armenian) was a good patriotic American, and that the Armenian struggle as they defined it coincided with the American struggle. In this manner, they joined the Cold Warrior camp, linking loyalty to America with devotion to the liberation of the ancestral homeland. (In this respect, the Tashnak party had its anti-Soviet counterparts within the ranks of other American ethnic groups whose lands of origin also now lay behind the Iron Curtain, including the Ukrainians, Poles, and Slovaks. The organ of the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine [ODWU], for example, in 1936 equated the struggle to liberate the Ukrainian homeland from Soviet rule with America's own war for independence and noted, "A person brought up in Ukrainian Nationalism will make a 100 percent better American citizen than one who was not taught any nationalism at all.")33 37
It can easily seem paradoxical that the Armenian party with the more bourgeois origins accommodated itself to the Soviet regime, while the party whose founding precepts encompassed socialism took the more vehemently anti-Soviet stance. Journalist Avedis Derounian, covering the Tourian trial for the New York-based Armenian Spectator, remarked on this apparent oddity in his handwritten notes taken on the last day of testimony, when the prosecutor produced a purported Tashnak constitution that read like a socialist treatise featuring references to the "bourgeois" and the "oppressed masses." Derounian, as he listened to this segment, mused to himself, "This is very much like Russia—Why don't Tashnaks like Russia!" Moreover, the American Tashnak press, even while it did not emphasize the party's socialist proclivities with any great frequency, did run editorials observing the significance of May 1 for the socialist movement (though generally taking care not to imply even the slightest discourtesy to its capitalistic host society), and in one of its most fiery Cold War editorials in 1952, maintained that socialism was compatible with democracy and that true socialism was not at all compatible with support for the Soviet state. Yet all this notwithstanding, the partisan division in America can best be understood as something largely divorced from these familiar debates over economic theories. It hinged, rather, on the respective factions' contrasting rhetoric and style of ethnic nationalism in the American immigrant context. For the faction that rooted its rhetoric in a struggle to liberate the homeland from an enemy occupier, the Soviet Union constituted a villain. For the coalition that saw less of a struggle and more of a hope for fulfillment in the indeterminate future, the Soviet Union appeared more as a caretaking power, and friendly relations with that caretaker seemed apropos. When the Tashnak party adopted its hard-line Cold War stance after World War II, even then, the issue in the Tashnak mind was not so much the difference between Communism and capitalism, as rather the difference between strong and weak Armenian patriotism, a binary which at that point could seamlessly merge with the language afloat in the larger society of strong versus weak American patriotism.34 38
Ultimately, of course, the point is not how accurate such leaders were in suggesting that their constituents in America could influence the fate of the homeland. To great extents, as with the Armenian American delegate election of 1919, the advocates were spinning out a fiction, the main significance of which lay in its usefulness for cultivating and shaping among their constituents the desired vision of peoplehood. The strength of that collective vision would, in turn, affect the quality of the support base upon which the global partisan organizations could draw to maintain their existence and play a part in Armenia's future. 39
Observing that these diasporan institutions needed support and that they strategized to solicit it should not be construed as reducing the general Armenian American population to passive or reluctant objects of manipulation. This article, to be sure, emphasizes the persuasive power of institutional elites, but that needs to be understood in the context of an ongoing symbiotic exchange between leaders and constituents, a discourse heavily shaped by the realities of immigrant life in the receiving country. During the same years that Armenians in America were both supporting their homeland and quarreling over it, they were also working in factories, managing shops, pursuing education, entering professions, and forming opinions as to who should be president of the United States. They were, in short, making lives for themselves as Americans. Their circumstances ensured that both the first and second generations—and to an extent even the third—would have a dual identity to negotiate. The parties, if they wanted to maintain their position of influence, would have to help their constituents negotiate that identity. They did so, in both Armenian and American terms. It is not to deny the autonomous decision-making powers of the general Armenian American population—who, after all, freely chose what newspapers to buy and in what clubhouses to socialize—to point out the degree to which the elites of international organizations affected the menu of options before them when it came to issues of who spoke for, and what symbols represented, their ancestral homeland, and of how their Armenian ancestry should fit in with their present and future lives as Americans. 40
On July 1, 1933, when Archbishop Tourian refused to share the stage with the Tricolor, the multitude of Armenians in the room witnessing the incident saw two completely different occurrences, a product of the disparate histories that they either remembered or had heard recounted about the events of 1918–20. Some looked upon the Tricolor as the sacred symbol of their nation and upon Archbishop Tourian as a tool of that nation's enemy. Others in that room saw Archbishop Tourian himself as the sacred symbol of their nation and the Tricolor as a much less meaningful entity. The contrasting perceptions they harbored that day reflected the contrasting stories they had been hearing and retelling in the meeting halls of their social clubs and reading on the pages of their newspapers. They were, to be sure, active agents in their choices of social affiliations and news sources. Even so, the memories they carried directly reflected two decades' worth of the symbiotic marketing relationship they had with their respective partisan diasporan institutions, which had a stake in keeping constituents mindful of their particularistic versions of reality. The cultivated ideologies were specific enough that, in the outrage over the flag incident of July 1 and the assassination of December 24, Armenian Americans as well as Armenians worldwide displayed a variety of diasporic nationalism which entailed loyalty and solicitude, not only to their homeland, but to their respective partisan factions as well. 41
A shorter version of this article was presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Washington, D.C. Special thanks to the following kind people for reading and commenting on either the present work or earlier inceptions: June Granatir Alexander, Aram Arkun, Hasia Diner, Anna D. Jaroszyn'ska-Kirchmann, Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill, Louise Michaud, Robert Mirak, and Costas Panayotakis, as well as to JAEH editor John J. Bukowczyk and the two anonymous readers.
1. Oshagan Minassian, "A History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church in the United States" (ThD diss., Boston University School of Theology, 1974), 478–85; Jenny Phillips, Symbol, Myth and Rhetoric: The Politics of Culture in an Armenian-American Population (New York, 1989), 128–34; and Gregory Doudoukjian, "Oral History: An Intergenerational Study of the Effects of the Assassination of Archbishop Leon Tourian in 1933 on Armenian-Americans" (master of divinity thesis, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1993), 30–32 and passim.
2. Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 451–56; Phillips, Symbol, Myth, and Rhetoric, 121–24; Doudoukjian, "Oral History," 28–29.
3. Doudoukjian, passim; Phillips, esp. 121–30; George Byron Kooshian Jr., "The Armenian Immigrant Community of California, 1880–1935" (PhD diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 2002), 354–400; Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 437–85.
4. Matthew Frye Jacobson, Special Sorrows: The Diasporic Imagination of Irish, Jewish, and Polish Immigrants in the United States (New York, 1995); Victor Greene, For God and Country: The Rise of Polish and Lithuanian Ethnic Consciousness in America, 1860–1910 (Madison, WI, 1975); June Granatir Alexander, Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era (Philadelphia, 2004); Anna D. Jaroszyn'ska-Kirchmann, The Exile Mission: The Polish Political Diaspora and Polish Americans, 1939–1956 (Athens, OH, 2004); Peter R. D'Agostino, Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004). Examples of the plaintive historiography of the 1950s include Robert L. Daniel, "The Armenian Question and American-Turkish Relations, 1914–1927," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 44 (September 1959): 252–75; and Louis L. Gerson, Woodrow Wilson and the Rebirth of Poland, 1914–1920: A Study in the Influence on American Society of Minority Groups of Foreign Origin (New Haven, CT, 1953).
5. John Higham, "Introduction: The Forms of Ethnic Leadership," in Higham, ed., Ethnic Leadership in America (Baltimore, 1978), 2, and Preface, ix. Important works on the ethnic press include the classic Robert Park, The Immigrant Press and Its Control (Monclair, NJ, 1971 reprint; originally New York, 1922), and the recent Sally Miller, ed., The Ethnic Press in the United States (New York, 1987). In particular, see Miller, xvi, and Park, 304–06. The Armenian press straddled at least two of Park's categories at once, being both party organs and commercial ventures.
6. Robert Mirak, Torn Between Two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I (Cambridge, MA, 1983), 241–54; Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties through the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967), esp. 151–78; Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill, Like Our Mountains: A History of Armenians in Canada (Montreal, 2005), 94–100; and Kooshian, "The Armenian Immigrant Community," 146–53.
7. Richard G. Hovannisian, The Republic of Armenia, Vol.1: The First Year, 1918–1919 (Berkeley, CA, 1971), 1–38, 126–55.
8. Hovannisian, Republic of Armenia, 1, 450–59; Kooshian, "The Armenian Immigrant Community," 146–70, Margaret MacMillan, Paris, 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (New York, 2001), 377–80; for full text of both speeches, see Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States: The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Vol. 4 (Washington, 1943), 147–57.
9. Cook, "United States and the Armenian Question," 150–287; Marashlian, "Armenian Question," 52–62; Richard G. Hovannisian, The Republic of Armenia, Vol. 3, From London to Sèvres, February–August, 1920 (Berkeley, CA, 1996), 71–93; Vol. 4, 1–44, especially 40–44, 180–236, 373–408; Balakian, Burning Tigris, 299–318, 349–62; Mary Kilbourne Matossian, The Impact of Soviet Policies in Armenia (Leiden, Netherlands, 1962), 29; Kooshian, "The Armenian Immigrant Community," 304–09, 321–28; and Robert Mirak, "Armenians," in Stephan Thernstrom, ed., Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, MA, 1980), 145–46.
10. New York Times, 29 June 1918, 3; Hairenik, 28 June 1918, 1; 29 June 1918, 2; 4 July 1918, 2; Azk, 4 July 1918, 2; 7 July 1918, 2.
11. Kooshian, "Armenian Immigrant Community," 176–81; Azk, 8 August 1918, 2; Hairenik, 9 October 1918, 1; Phillips, Symbol, Myth, and Rhetoric, 83.
12. Kooshian, "The Armenian Immigrant Community," 179–88; Hairenik, 24 January 1919, 1, 2; 4 February 1919, 2; 5 February 1919, 2; Azk, 28 January 1919, 2; 1 February 1919, 2.
13. Azk, 9 June 1919, 2.
14. Baikar, 11 March 1924, 1; 7 April 1924, 2; 19 January 1926, 2; 26 January 1928, 2; 27 May 1928, 1, 2; 28 May 1928, 1, 2; 30 November 1930, 2; Hairenik, 20–25 March 1924, 2; 22 January 1926, 2; 21 February 1926, 4; 28 May 1928, 1, 2; Hairenik Amsakir I:8 (June 1923), 72; Kooshian, "The Armenian Immigrant Community," 306–07, 324–28. The apparent paradox wherein the more religiously rooted party had the friendlier stance toward the anti-religious Soviet regime can be reconciled by noting that the Holy See at Echmiadzin had reached its own accommodation with that regime, and thus, within the diaspora, loyalty to Echmiadzin for many adherents entailed cooperation with that accommodation. Thus, the Ramgavar party and much of the church hierarchy in the United States held compatible stances.
15. Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 325–27.
16. Hairenik Amsakir, May 1933, 169–70.
17. Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 455; Baikar, 7 July 1933, 1, 2; Hairenik, 8 July 1933, 1, 2, 4.
18. Hairenik, 11 July 1933, 2; 19 July 1933, 2; 17 August, 1933, 4; 24 August 1933, 1; Baikar, 12 July 1933, 2; 19 July 1933, 2; 24 August 1933, 2; Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 461.
19. Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 462–72.
20. Baikar, 28 December 1933, 2.
21. Hairenik, 28 December 1933, 4.
22. Baikar, 13 June 1934, 2; K.S. Papazian, Patriotism Perverted (Boston, 1934), 4; Hairenik, 10 January 1934, 4; 11 January 1934, 4; 20 January 1934, 4; 29 March 1934, 4; 5 May 1934, 4.
23. Hairenik, 17 June 1934, 3; 23 June 1934, 4; 17 July 1934, 4; Baikar 19 June 1934, 1; 24 June 1934, 2; 17 July 1934, 2; Armenian Mirror, 8 June 1934, 1; 15 June 1934, 1; 13 July 1934, 1; 31 July 1934, 1. See also the extensive coverage in general in Hairenik, Baikar, and the Armenian Mirror between 8 June 1934 and 31 July 1934. Two of the nine were sentenced to death and the other seven given prison terms of varying lengths, but Governor Herbert Lehman commuted the two death sentences to life imprisonment. The trial is summarized in Minassian, "History of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church," 519–39. See also Alexander H. Kaminsky, "The Murder of the Archbishop: A New York Atrocity," The Master Detective XII (July 1935), 6–15, 65–70, written by the prosecutor in the trial and available in the clipping file "Tourian, Ghevont," at the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, 630 Third Avenue, New York, NY. Elaborate commentaries published at the time by the respective partisan factions include A. Partizian, Hay Ekeghets woy tagnape ew anor pataskhanatownere (Boston, 1936); Leon Tourian Committee, Patmut'ean Hamar: Matenashar Turian H'antznakhumpi t'iw, 5 vols. (New York, 1934); and Papazian, Patriotism Perverted.
24. Armenian Mirror, 19 January 1934, 1; 19 February 1934, 1, 3; Doudoukjian, 72, 50–54.
25. Phillips, Symbol, Myth, and Rhetoric, 147–50; Armenian Spectator, 18 January 1934, 1, 4; 25 January 1934, 1, 4; Armenian Mirror, 19 February 1934, 1, 3. For most of the United States, the non-Tashnak Apostolic Church network, aligned with Echmiadzin, has as its nerve center the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America (Eastern) at 630 Second Avenue in New York, while churches that host largely Tashnak and Tashnak-leaning memberships are affiliated with the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America at 138 East 39th Street, also in New York. The counterparts on the West Coast are the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America in Burbank, California, and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America at La Crescenta, California.
26. Phillips, Symbol, Myth, and Rhetoric, 123–24, 132; Doudoukjian, "Oral History," 45, 50–54, 79; Sarkis Atamian, The Armenian Community: The Historical Development of a Social and Ideological Conflict (New York, 1955), 369–70.; Arpena S. Mesrobian, "Like One Family": The Armenians of Syracuse (Ann Arbor, MI, 2000), 148.
27. Levon Boyajian and Haigaz Grigorian, "Psychosocial Sequelae of the Armenian Genocide," in Richard Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective (New Brunswick, NJ, 1986), 177–85; Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (New York, 1934). For another episode of Armenian valiance ubiquitously read and celebrated in Armenian circles in the 1930s, see Onnig Mukhitarian and Haig Gossoian, The Defense of Van: An Account of the Glorious Struggle of Van-Vasbouragan, S. Tarpinian, trans. (Michigan, 1980).
28. Hairenik, 24 January 1926, 1, 2; Baikar, 29 July 1925, 2.
29. Hairenik Weekly, 24 May, 1934, 1; 10 July 1936, 2; 8 October 1937, 2; 29 October 1937, 2.
30. Hairenik Weekly, 29 March 1935, 3; 29 October 1937, 2; see also 15 January 1937, 2.
31. Armenian Mirror, 8 July 1932, 2; "Democratic Liberal Party American District, Report of the 14th Deputational Meeting," 1934, Ramgavar party files, Drawer 2, Folder 1, Baikar Building, Watertown, MA.
32. Hairenik Weekly, 7 January 1934, 4; 24 May 1934, 2; 5 June 1936, 2; 10 July 1936, 5; 4 December 1936, 1; 8 October 1937, 2; 29 October 1937, 2; Armenian Mirror, 1 July 1932, 2; 8 July 1932, 2; 1 January 1935, 1, 2; 5 June 1935, 2.
33. Examples of Tashnak Cold War rhetoric can be found in Hairenik Weekly, 20 January 1943, 3; 21 February 1952, 1; 6 March 1952, 2; 13 March 1952, 4; and 20 March 1952, 4. This whole theme is discussed in more detail in Benjamin F. Alexander, "Armenian and American: The Changing Face of Ethnic Identity and Diasporic Nationalism, 1915–1955" (PhD diss., City University of New York Graduate Center, 2005). On anti-Soviet stances within other groups, see Richard Polenberg, One Nation Divisible: Class, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States since 1938 (New York, 1980), 121; Jaroszyn'ska-Kirchmann, The Exile Mission, 185–205; Myron B. Kuropas, The Ukrainian Americans: Roots and Aspirations, 1884–1954 (Toronto, 1991), 247–302, 1936 quotation on 236–37; Joseph Pauco, ed., Sixty Years of the Slovak League of America (Middletown, PA, 1967), 101–29; on the general theme of homeland- and identity-related factionalism in immigrant communities, see John J. Bukowczyk, And My Children Did Not Know Me: A History of the Polish-Americans (Bloomington, IN, 1987), 43–51; Victor Greene, For God and Country: The Rise of Polish and Lithuanian Ethnic Consciousness in America, 1860–1910 (Madison, WI, 1975), passim; and June Granatir Alexander, Ethnic Pride, 45–55, 192–207.
34. Hairenik, 1 May 1941, 4; Armenian Spectator, 12 July 1934, 1, 4; Avedis Derounian, "Notes Taken at the Trial," Derounian Collection, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Belmont, MA; Hairenik Weekly, 21 February 1952, 1, 4.
Alexander, Ben, Contested Memories, Divided Diaspora: Armenian Americans, the Thousand-day Republic, and the Polarized Response to an Archbishop's Murder. Journal of American Ethnic History 27.1 (2007): 41 pars. 20 Feb. 2009
(End of Attachment 1)
The Armenian Qestion In The Early Cold War: Repatriaton Scheme Süleyman SEYDİ Review of ARMENIAN STUDIES, Number 3, Volume 1 - 2003
This article focuses on Armenian repatriation scheme supported by the Soviet government at the end of the Second World War. This issue was first raised by the Soviets in the summer of 1945 in the following sense that Turkish provinces of Kars and Ardahan, formerly inhabited by Armenians, should be annexed to Soviet Armenia. Thereafter, the Armenian diaspora organisations in America, in the Balkans and in the Middle East simultaneously presented memorandums on several occasions to the world leaders, Churchill, Attlee, Truman and Stalin and to world organisations, urging the cession of the Turkish territories to Soviet Armenia, and facilities for the repatriation of those one and a half million Armenians living outside the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic who might wish to return there. After a short propaganda campaign the Soviet Union put the Armenian repatriation scheme into effect in March 1946. To do so, a Committee was set up by the Soviet Armenian Government to administer the migration. The Armenians living in Romania, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were targeted by this scheme. Soviet diplomats in these countries took a great part in it.
Amenian repatriation, Second World War, Soviet Armenia, Armenian diaspora, Soviet Union
From the historical point of view, one might see that the Armenian question emerged as part of the Great Powers’ policy in the nineteenth century that envisaged the partitions of the Ottoman State. In the middle of the second half of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of twentieth century a struggle for the supremacy over the Caucasia, Iran and the eastern parts of Anatolia took place between Russia, Britain and Ottoman State. During these conflicts all sides exercised the policy of forming an alliance with those ethnic and religious minorities that were located in these regions and provoked these ethnic groups against each other. The Chrazist Russia, which became an important element of the great powers’ balance policy from the beginning of the nineteenth century, adopted the Ottoman territories that appeared to be a land barrier in front of the imperialist policy of Russia, namely reaching warm water. The Armenians became the main pillars of Russian policy in the Caucasia. As a matter of fact, Russia performed similar policy in the Balkans when she had involved in the Greek independence by which Moscow acquired a foothold in the Balkan affairs. Now the Russians began to be interested in Armenian Affars in the name of protecting the Orthodx Christians. In this regard, Church of Edmiadzin was influenced by Moscow. The same claims were put forward by Britain and France in order to prevent Soviet expansion over the region.
The Armenian Church was the vanguard of the organizing some activities against the Ottoman Turks and of establishing an independent Armenian State in the Turkish territory. The time when the Ottoman State declared war on 3 August 1914, in a letter to Dashkof, the Soviet governor of Caucasia, the Catholicos of Ecmiadzin, Kevork V (1912-1930), guaranteed that they would fight with Russia against the Ottomans, in return for protection of Armenains by Russia. Simultanously, Dashkof met with the members of Armenian Council in Tibilis and the Mayor Hadisian who encouraged KevorkV that with the help of the Armenians if the six provinces – eastern parts of Turkey – were captured by the USSR an atonomous Armenian State would be recognized by Moscow. Besides, KevorkV issued a statement in Agust 1914 in the official paper of the Catolicos encouraged the Armenians to revolt against the Ottomans. As a result of this collobaration with Soviets, he Armenian betrayed to the Ottomon State and committed several crimes against Turks. Whereas the leaders of Tasnak promised that in the event of Ottoman’s involvement to the war they would join the Ottoman army and fight together against the enemy. On the contrary, soon after this guarantee, the Tasnak leaders ordered their organisation in the Ottoman provinces to betray the Ottoman army and join the Russian forces with their weapons if Ottoman State entered the war against Russia. In the end the Armenians betrayed their country and murdered many Turkish civilians. For this reason, Ottoman authorities forced the Armenians who had lived in a strategic location to migrate.
There was a contradictory view regarding the number of Armenans who were killed during the First World War. The Armenian contention is that the the dreams of greater Turan of the Ottoman authorites, namely Talat Pasha, Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha metiously planned and then executed a systematic genocide of some one and half million Armenian citizens both by outright massacres in situ and forced marches into the Syrian deserts. These claims are mostly based on the Bryce-Toynbee compilation of more than 600 pages of mostly eyewitness accounts, and the memoirs of Mortgenthau, the US ambassador to Turkey at that time. The Bryce-Toynbee’s compilation was edited by historian Arnold Toynbee. The academic value of these studies, of course, was open to question. Besides, in a later study Toynbee, although not denying the accuracy of his earlier work, wrote that it had been duly published and distributed as war-propaganda. He pointed out that all parties had committed in turn and not as the peculiar practice of one domination or nationality.
Zaven Efendi, the patriarch of Istanbul, who had been exiled to Baghdad due to his activities at the expense of Ottoman State, returned to Istanbul following the Mudros Agreement of 30 October 1918 and launched a serious campaign amongst the representatives of Allied power for establishing an independent Armenian state. Afterwards they sent a delegation to Paris Peace Conference, demanding an independent state from Caucasia to Mediterranean and from Black Sea to Syrian deserts. However, the interests of both England and France prevented this. Though the Sèvres Treaty of 1920 allowed the Armenians to establish a state in the eastern part of Anatolia, the Turkish forces, commanded by Kazim Karabekir Pasha destroyed the Armenian dreams. When French forces were withrawn from Antep, Maras and Adana regions by Ankara Agreement of October 1921 the Armenian fled to Lebenan, Syria and Cyprus. Thus Britain, Russia and France, who had been using the Armenians for their own causes since the second half of nineteenth century, left the Armenians in the lurch.
Between the two World War periods the Armenian affairs the Great Powers seemed not to interested in Armenian affairs. It was because they were very much concerned with the European affairs. During the period there was also no interests of conficlict as much as it had been between the Great Britain and the Soviet Union over the region. The USSR also was very much concerned with her domestic affairs and left the foreign policy as secondory matter. However, during this period, Armenian diospara organisations maintained their campaign against Turkey. The largest and best organised of the Armenian American organisations was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, with headquarters in Boston. This was the American branch of the strongly nationalist Tashnak party, which long strove for the establishment of an independent Armenia and followed a bitter anti-Soviet policy. The Federation had a daily newspaper, Hairenik, which advocated a complete Armenian Republic. Realising the futility of this programme, the organisation officially renounced its anti-Sovietism in July 1944. Pro-Communist Armenian Americans were organised in the Armenian Progressive League of America in New York City, which had been consistently enthusiastic about the role of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic as a member of the Soviet Union. The Armenian Democratic Liberal Union of Boston, an American branch of the Ramgavar party, had liberal views, anti-Communist and constantly in dispute with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, on the other hand increasingly friendly towards the Soviet Union. This Union had a daily newspaper called Baikar. Occasionally Baikar condemned ‘Soviet Tyranny’ but in general it was friendly to the USSR, the Soviets was regarded as their protector against Turkey. The differences between these fanctions were united by a common dislike of Turkey.
Since the Hitler’s defeat had removed the chief raison d’être of the Grand Alliance, the capability of co-operation in the war turn into conflict when the post-war settlement was brought into agenda. Faced with the Soviet consant pressure regarding the East European countries the Western powers became more careful about the Soviet policies on Turkey. When Turkey had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany and Japon, and declared war without actually taking part in it on a demand by Roosevelt and Churchill the Soviet press launched a daily campaign of criticism and abuse of Turkey early in March 1945. The main lines of such criticism were the following: Turkish courts tried to appear as ‘champions of democracy’ by penalising the Communists while ‘the Partisans of Fascism, the Pan-Turanians’ were leniently treated. In fact there was evidence that the Turkish Government was penalising Communists, but that they also penalised Pan-Turanians. Ridiculing the Turkish declaration of war at this late stage, although there had been a hint by the Soviet delegations to the Turks at the Yalta Conference that they should enter the war by 1 March.
SOVIET UNION'S DEMANDS FOR THE ARMENIANS
Moscow put pressure on Turkey in order to dictate its objectives by using the Armenian card in the following sense, that Turkish territory formerly inhabited by Armenians should be annexed to Soviet Armenia, thus enabling the Armenians abroad, who had variously estimated at one or one and a half million in number to return to the motherland. Though Molotov demanded Kars and Ardahan from Sarper in June 1945 and also Stalin in December 1945 told Bevin in Moscow that the Soviet Government was claiming the pre-1921 frontier in Caucasus, these claims had not been publicly put forward by the Soviet government and population pressure in Armenia was only being gradually built up the early June 1946 with the return of Armenians from overseas. The Armenian expectations in this campaign were to obtain some compromise at the expense of Turkey and envisage an Armenian State that was imagined at the abortive Sèvres Treaty of 1920. The political conjecture was also suitable for such demands since the victorious powers of the Second World War had gathered for the post-world settlement. They believed that they had a great advantage as the Armenians openly supported the Allied Powers in the war. Whereas Turkey stayed in a neutral position until very last moment of the war. Besides, regarding to the put the Sèvres Treaty into effect Armenians believed that the Western Powers had a word from the previous world war.
Whether the claim to Turkish territory was in the first instance raised by the Armenians spontaneously or at Soviet instigation did not perhaps matter much. There was little doubt that the Armenians in Romania, the Middle East and particularly in the US, who put the claim forward in the summer of 1945 at the time of the Potsdam Conference and later, did so with Soviet approval. As a matter of fact, by using the Armenian card, the soviets was after pushing Turkey for making some concessions in favour of Soviet Union regarding the Montreux Convention of 1939, such guaranteeing a military base and a joint administration in the Straits. Thus, Moscow would be in a position to dominate the Mediterranean affairs. The Soviet terrotorial demands from Turkey on behalf of the Armenians well undrstoon one if one looks from this perspective.
Indeed, one could not deny the role of Moscow in this campaign, as was seen in the election of a Supreme Catholicos. The Armenian Church Council in February of 1945 was accorded permission by the Soviet Government to elect a Supreme Catholicos, an office which had been vacant since 1938. During this interim the affairs of the Armenian Church had been conducted by the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, an arrangement which did not appear to have given the Soviet Government any particular concern. As the result of the election Archbishop Corekciyan was elected Catholicos, then named KevorkV (1945-54). Afterwards Moscow gave special privileges to the Catholicos of Echmiadzin in the line of other churches. Making the Church accepted single religious authority Soviet Union would be in a position to use the Armenian question for their own cause.
It was shortly after the announcement of this pending church election that the Soviet Government denounced the Russian-Turkish Treaty and subsequently informed the Turkish Government of the condition that it considered indispensable to a renewal of friendship. A few days after the election of the new Catholicos at Echmiadzin, Kevork V. had a contact with Washington and London so that Kars and Ardahan should return to Soviet Armenia. Simultaneously, Armenian National Council presented its memorandum to the San Francisco Conference, including charges of mistreatment of Armenians by the present Turkish Government.
Indeed, inspired from Moscow, the Armenian diaspora organisations in America, in the Balkans and the Middle East presented memorandums on several occasions to the world leaders, Churchill, Attlee, Truman and Stalin and to world organisations, urging the cession of Kars and Ardahan to their sole legal representative, Soviet Armenia, and facilities for the repatriation of those one and a half million Armenians, living outside the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic who might wish to return there. The Armenian National Council in Syria and Lebanon organised meetings at Beirut, Aleppo, Damascus and Zahlel in September 1945. At the end of these meetings the conclusion was reached that ‘the time was ripe to incorporate Armenian lands occupied by Turkey in Soviet Armenia.’ To do so, an appeal was made to Stalin, Truman and Attlee to win them over to this cause.
A resolution with similar basis was passed at the National Meeting of Armenian Refugees in Romania at the end of July 1945. It was drawn up by Dangoulov, the Head of the Press and Propaganda Department at the Soviet Legation, who was of Armenian origin and consequently much interested in the activities of the Armenian community in Romania.
In Greece, the president of the Committee for the Vindication of Armenian Rights took part in this campaign against Turkey by addressing a letter to Clement Attlee with a confirmatory signature by Mazlumian, the Archbishop of the Armenian Community of Greece. In this letter it was claimed that the Armenians had been left alone to deal with the Turks although they had fought heroically on the side of the Allied armies during the First World War, as a result of which three million unarmed Armenian inhabitants of the Armenian provinces in Turkey, were ‘so mercilessly and brutally slaughtered or faced leaving their homes to take refuge in foreign countries.’
The American Committee for Ensuring Just Treatment of Armenia and the Armenian National Council in Egypt and Lebanon also took part in this campaign by sending telegrams at the beginning of 1946 to the General Assembly on the question of the transfer of Armenian territory occupied by the Turks to Soviet Armenia. These stressed Armenia’s legal rights recognised by international treaties and the great sacrifices made in the joint struggle of the UN against tyranny; the second demanded the return to Soviet Armenia of Armenian lands under Turkey from which Armenians had been forcibly ejected and their property seized. The latter claimed that European and Asiatic countries used Armenians as pawns in their disputes while only the Soviet Union had given Armenian territory security and cultural advantages. A later problem was the presence of over a million hungry and oppressed Armenians in the Near East. The newly established American Committee for Attainment of a Just Attitude to Armenia and the Armenian National Council in America had sent a telegram at the end of December 1945 to the foreign ministers in Moscow, dwelling on the Turkish persecution of Armenians and calling for arrangements for their repatriation. The telegram of the new committee dealt at length with President Wilson’s recommendations for the revision of Armenian’s frontiers and called on the foreign ministers in Moscow to reach agreement on Armenia’s frontiers and the creation of an Armenian home. Telegram from the Armenian council demanded the liberation of Armenia’s historic home within the frontiers defined by Wilson. The Radio and the press in the USSR took up these themes; Tass gave the widest publicity to these activities. The main theme was that European and Asiatic countries used Armenians as pawns in their disputes while only the Soviet Union had given Armenian territory security and cultural advantages. A later problem was the presence of over a million hungry and oppressed Armenians in the Near East.
While Washington was in the process of taking a firm stand against the Soviet policy in the region, the Soviet Union, after a short break in her war of nerves the Soviet Union devoted increasing attention to the Middle East area generally, and to Turkey in particular by putting the Armenian repatriation scheme into effect in March 1946. To do so, a Committee had been set up by the Soviet Armenian Government to administer the migration. Papken Asvatzadourian was the president of this committee and Sahag Karabetian, Haigaz Marzanian, Mardiros Sarian, Ardashes Melik Adamian were the embers of it. Its aim was to send of its members on a visit to the Balkans and the countries of the Middle East in order to facilitate migration of Armenians. For instance, when the departures were to commence during the months of July 1946 in Greece, in order to accelerate this emigration scheme, two representatives from Soviet Armenia, Kourken Koverkian and Serko Manousian, arrived in Athens, where they were accompanied by Vahan Takasian, uncrowned chief of Armenian Communist newspaper, Vie Nouvelle. This movement was sponsored by ‘People’s Organisation of Armenians in Greece’, the political complexion of which was decidedly left. . The head of this organisation was Mazloumian, the Armenian Arc-Bishop in Athens, who had already organised means by which Armenian students might travel from Greece to the USSR or Soviet Armenia for study at Soviet or Armenian universities. The first batch of Armenians for repatriation, which was estimated about 2,000 persons some of whom registered unwillingly as a result of pressure, left Greece towards the end of this July. The cost of this repatriation was 50 dollars per person, and was being borne by Greek Armenian Community and by the Armenian Benevolent Society in US. Looking from another aspect, the repatriation movement served, to some extent, for the Greek government’s cause in a view that this might prevent any perceptible number of Armenian Communists from joining the armed bands of Atika and Thessaly since the majority of Armenians in Greece were known to be of left-wing sympathy. Therefore, Athens welcomed to seeing more Armenian involved in the repatriation scheme. For instance in April 1946 Soviet Embassy in Athens notified the Greek Aliens Department of Ministry of Interior that all Armenians without Greek or foreign passports should be allowed to emigrate to the USSR. The Aliens Department agreed to this suggestion at first. However, when the Soviet Embassy proposed that any Armenian wishing to travel to the Russia should be issued with a Russian passport it was opposed on the ground that an Armenian, once in possession of a Soviet passport, they might possibly continue to reside in Greece. It was finally agreed, between the Aliens Department and the Soviet Embassy that all Armenians, leaving Greece would be issued with Greek papers. Once they had crossed the Greek frontier the Soviets could then supply them with whatever papers they desired.
The Armenians living in Romania, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were affected by this scheme. Soviet diplomats in these countries took a great part in it. As the result, fifty thousand Armenians from Aleppo registered for repatriation, and all of them were encouraged to think that they would leave very shortly; whereas in fact only ten thousand were likely to be repatriated from their region within the year. This state of uncertainty dislocated the economy of the community, which anti-Communists circles at Aleppo suspected to have been the aim of the USSR in sponsoring repatriation. In the end, approximately three thousand Armenians returned to Soviet Armenia in two caravans from Syria and the same number from Greece in the summer of 1946. However, as regards the Armenian in Iraq they were advised by the Soviet officials that although the Soviet government approved the admission of Armenians living abroad into Soviet Armenia and into other territories which would be annexed in the future, ‘the time was not yet ripe for registration of Armenians in Iraq.’
There was naturally a good deal of discussion among the Armenians in Istanbul, and particularly those who had relatives in Syria. The passage of the Soviet ship named Garcia, carrying Armenian repatriates through the Straits’ did not give rise to any agitation in Istanbul. There were no meetings or organised activity among the Armenian colony in Istanbul, nor was any move made by the Soviet Consulate. The general trend of opinion, however, was to take no precipitous action but wait to see how things would turn out. The reasons for this cautious approach were that the Armenians in Istanbul were not subject to any solid doses of Soviet propaganda and were fairly sceptical about the conditions of life in USSR. They were waiting to find out how the repatriates from other areas fared in their new home. Another factor weighing against any sudden move was that the Armenians hoped that steps would be taken to improve their conditions of life in Turkey. So on this account also, they were waiting to find what the future held in store. During the process of the Soviet recruitment of Armenians throughout the world, 1,200-1,400 Armenians in Istanbul also registered for immigration. After the Turkish government’s announcement, however, that they would facilitate their departure, there were a number of withdrawals. Armenian language newspapers in Istanbul published articles declaring the complete loyalty of the Armenian community to the Turkish government. “Jamanak”, on of these newspapers, added that ‘every single Armenian will do his duty with the other nineteen million Turkish citizens.’
It is not true to say that all the scattered Armenian people, were willing to migrate to the presumed homeland, a great many of them did not dare take the risk. However, pressure was being brought to bear on those who, though not communists, had registered for repatriation, and they were told that their chances of being included in the list for embarkation depended on their conversation to communism. Some of them suspected them all these schemes were being supported by the Soviet government with the intention of exploiting them for their own cause. For instance, the Armenian community in Romania were disturbed by the Soviet propaganda against Turkey, and they refrained from any nationalist propaganda. Following the return campaign several Armenian holders of Nansen passports applied to the Romanian authorities for Romanian identity papers fear that they might eventually be deported to the USSR.
Some political and religious leaders in the Levant were also annoyed by the repatriation scheme and by Soviet activities of every kind in Lebanon. The Tashnak Party leaders criticised the local Repatriation Committee for having rushed into the scheme without proper preparation or recognition of the financial difficulties involved. They accused the Committee of having upset the community by encouraging an appetite for mass repatriation, without possessing the means to satisfy it; and they urged that, as it was obvious that the great majority of local Armenians would have to remain where they were, there was great danger that their patriotic urge return to their motherland might be exploited as a political weapon by the USSR to further an aggressive policy in the Middle East.
Leon Pasha, the principal leader of the Tashnak Party in Iraq, believed that Soviets’ intention was to make use of the Armenians for their own cause; he pointed out that the departure of Armenians from Syria for Soviet Armenia to the effect that they were not going to Armenia but to the USSR and she would use them against Turkey. He also was of the opinion that the USSR would attack Turkey when preparations were further forward and that she would put the Armenians in the front line of the battle. Moscow was only endeavouring to secure her boundaries. Therefore, Leon Pasha decided not to take encourage any of his followers to return to Soviet Armenia.
Some of the more extreme Tashnaks considered that emigration to Erivan was the last thing that an Armenian, who wished to preserve a characteristic Armenian individuality, should favour; Soviet Armenia and the Levant Community would do better to work for the establishment of an independent Armenia under the patronage of some Western power, and within the framework of the Treaty of Sevres.
Karekin Hovsepian, Catholicos of Antilyas, was deeply concerned that this repatriation scheme might prejudice the political status of the Levant Armenians. He therefore refused to be drawn into arguments about the merits of the scheme. He was sure that the emigrants would regret their decision to move and were being made the victims of high politics. He also asked the political leaders to take a far stronger line against the local Communist Party.
There was little doubt that the Armenians in Romania, the Middle East and particularly in the US, who put the territorial demand from Turkey forward in the summer of 1945 at the time of the Potsdam Conference and later, did so with Soviet approval. In a conversation at a reception in Ankara, in reply to Vinogradov’s suggestion to make a little effort to improve two countries’ relations, Sümer told him that his government would do its best if Moscow withdrew its request regarding the eastern provinces and the Straits. Vinogradov replied that the Soviet government was obligated by its constitution to defend the interests of various Soviet Republics, that a request for the eastern provinces had been made on behalf of the Armenian representative and the Soviet government, and therefore, that the request could not be withdrawn. In a private conversation, Vinogradov remarked ‘We waited long time regarding arrangement we wanted with Poland and finally got it, we can wait regarding Turkey.’ No doubt such statements from Soviet quarters made the situation worse as Turkey felt the Soviet threat at her back. In addition to all these activities, Soviet military dispositions on the Caucasian border raised the question in Turkish circles as well as among the Western powers as to whether Moscow had decided to use force to achieve its assumed objectives. Ankara was not exaggerating the need to be anxious as the Soviets expended considerable efforts in endeavouring to win over the Kurds on the Soviet-Turkish and Iranian-Turkish frontiers. With little progress on Armenia, a new offensive opened on another front Turkish Kurds at the summer of 1946 at a time which coincided with opening of Foreign Minister Conference. As a matter of fact, with propaganda campaign for autonomous Kurdistan, the Kremlin could scarcely expect to make more progress towards inducing the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan than it had in bringing about the return of the Turkish Armenians to their Soviet motherland. It seemed that the Kurdistan campaign was not designed to achieve its pretended aims. Its objectives should have been the renewing of the war of nerves against Turkey on a new front; and raising a smoke screen over the issues at the Foreign Minister’s Conference which embarrassed the USSR
British Foreign Office circles reached the conclusion that their attitude to the successful outcome of the campaign of ‘investing Mount Ararat with the nostalgic glow of an Armenian Zion remains sceptical, but what was certain was the Soviet Government’s shrewd appreciation of the value of this minor religious development to its designs upon the warm waters not only of the Mediterranean but also - for there are Armenians in Iraq and Iran - of the Persian Gulf.’ Ultimately, London was worried that some scattered Armenian societies who had stood for an independent Armenia by supporting the Soviet policy might honestly believe that an Armenia expanded into Turkish territory would be a viable State. However’ from the view points of the British Foreign Office experts, it seemed both wrong and inexpedient to allow a historic Armenian claim to be exploited for what might be no more than the strategic advantage of the Soviet Union. Their view was strengthened by consistent Tass reports which overemphasised the importance of these various Armenian organisations in the US. Therefore, the Foreign Office instructed their diplomats in Washington and the other capitals not to give any encouragement to these Armenian Societies who had followed the general line of pro-Soviet Armenian groups. As part of this policy the British controlled Iraq CDI was ordered to make things difficult for any Armenian resident of Baghdad who indicated a desire to go to Soviet Armenia.
Similar line also had taken by the US authorities. In a letter to thye Secretary of State, James Byrnes, Admiral Leahy, the Joint Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, postulated a common cause between the US, Britain and Turkey to the effect that the Soviet demands for the provinces of Turkey was a manifestation of the Soviet desire to dominate the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. In other words, the objective of Soviet policy was to acquire a ‘new springboard for further Soviet expansion’ in order to ‘access the extensive oil resources in the Middle East; full utilisation in both peace and war of Black Sea ports to include ingress and egress therefrom and the prospect of alienating the Muslim World from British and US influence’. Thus the defeat or disintegration of the British Empire, Leahy believed, would eliminate ‘from Eurasia the last bulwark of resistance between the US and Soviet expansion’. Militarily, America’s present position as a world power was of necessity closely interwoven with that of Britain. He concluded his letter with the conviction that under these conditions, American acquiescence in whole or in part to these Soviet demands would definitely impair American national security by weakening Britain’s position as a world power and reducing the effectiveness of the UN.
In the end, not only the Soviets used the Armenian for their own cause but also Armenian communities around the world threw their support to the Soviet cause. Under the Cold War diplomacy the Washington authorities come to believe that any Soviet domination over Turkey would jeopardise the American interests in the Middle East as well as the western interests. Therefore, the support was given Turkey by Washington under the Truman Doctrine and this probably prevented the enlargement of Soviet Armenia at the expense of Turkey.
During the Cold War Turkey was a member of NATO, that alliance guaranteed the existing border. Therefore any Soviet attempt to encroach on it had to be more subtle. In early 1970’s Armenian terrorist campaign against Turkey began by ASALA who repeated the same terroterial demans with those made by the Soviets in the years of 1945 and 1946. Since then it was feel that the Armenian assassination of Turkish diplomats and their attack to the Turkish institution and foundation were carried out with Soviet supports. Because each Armenian assasination of a Turkish diplomat generated strain in Turkish relations with the country where it had occured. This was what the Armenian and the Soviets wanted. As Fred Ikle, the American Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, stated that ‘if ASALA were to be successful in its aim it would lead directly to th expansion of the Soviet Union’. Paul Henze, a member of the National Security Council during the Carter administration, also saw the Soviets as playing a major role, arguing that the Soviet invested more in destabilizing Turkey through terrorism and subversion than it had spent on any single country since Vietnam. Distmantling the Southern flank of NATO was not only benefit the Soviet would receive if ASALA’s terroterial aim were satisfied, but also a truncated Turkey would eliminate it as an attractive model for the Turkic and Islamic populations of the Soviet Union. From this point of view, it is possible to urge that the activities of ASALA were a Soviet sponsered one. However, a tangible proof is difficult to achieve. What is most likely is that the Soviets had simply played their usual game of trying to destabilise their potential foes.
 Nihat Ali Özcan, Rengin Gün, PKKD’dan KADEK’e : Degisim mi Takiyye mi? Stratejik Analiz, cilt 2 May 2002, pp.6
 Yusuf Halaçoglu, Ermeni Tehciri ve Gerçekler (1914-1918), (Ankara: TTK, 2001), pp. 15-25.
 Erdal Ilter, Ermeni Kilisesi ve Terör (Ankara: 1999, p, 53.
 Hasan Babacan, Ermeni Tehciri Hakkinda Bir Degerlendirme, Yeni Türkiye, January*February 2001, year 7, number 37, pp. 406-419.
 Arnold Toynbee, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey: A study in the Contact of Civilisations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922), s. 50.
 Ibid. pp. vii-viii.
 Public Record Office (PRO), HS 3/227 Memorandum by Office of Strategic Services Foreign National Branch on Armenian Press in the United States, 16 December 1942; PRO FO 371/48795, R 1689/11137/44, Wright (Washington) to Southern Department, no. 1388/16/45, 26 September 1945.
 PRO FO 371/48773, R 4972/4476/44, PRO FO 371/48773, R 4972/4476/44, Foreign Office to Moscow, no. 1383, 20 March 1945.
 FO 371/59227, R 12306, Roberts (Moscow) to FO, no. 2714, 20 August 1946.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 1689/11137/44, Wright (Washington) to Southern Department, no. 1388/16/45, 26 September 1945.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R12420/11137/44, Roberts (Moscow), no. 3268, 23 July 1945. The Armenian National Committee once again presented a similar memorandum to President Truman and Byrnes on 22 September 1945, which, in addition to above the two demands, claimed reparations from Turkey for property confiscated during the First World War. PRO FO 371/48795, R 1689/11137/44, Wright (Washington) to Southern Department, no. 1388/16/45, 26 September 1945.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 1638/11137/44, Roberts (Moscow), no. 4385, 29 September 1945.
 The Armenian stand in the Second World War, once again standing against tyranny and with the organised regular armies of the Soviet Armenia, strengthening the British and American Armies, was also underlined in this letter. As they had paid their share of blood for the cause of liberty the Greek Armenians requested Attlee to use all possible means to set right ‘the injustices of 1914-18, so that all the historical Armenian provinces of Turkey could be united with Soviet Armenia, thus enabling a million and a half wandering Armenians to settle within the boundaries of their historical land’. PRO FO 371/48795, President of the Committee for the Vindication of Armenian Rights in Greece to Attlee, 10 September 1945.
 PRO FO 371/59246, R 1150/145/44, Roberts, no 297, 22 January 1946.
 PRO FO 371/59246, R 1995/145/44, Roberts, no. 523, 7 February 1946.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 21571/11137/44, Clark Kerr, no 5486, 28 December 1945.
 PRO FO 371/59246, R 1995/145/44, Roberts, no. 523, 7 February 1946.
 It was officially announced that the number of Armenian, who had registered under the scheme, was between 30,000 to 35,000. A reliable source stated. However, that this figure was grossly exaggerated, and that the actual figure did not exceed 5,000 to 6,000.
 FO 195/2597, BCIS (Greece) HQ LF (G), Special Report no:195, 26/53/46, 19 July 1946 Armenian Affairs
 PRO FO 195/2597, BCIS (Greece) HQ LF (G), Special Report no:195, 26/53/46, 19 July 1946 Armenian Affairs.
 State Department Archives, 761.67/1-2546, Schoenrich to Byrnes, no. A-22, 25 January 1946.
 PRO FO 195/2597, no. 26/43/46 26 August 1946; PRO FO 371/59240; R 4436/52/44, Helm to Hayter, 11 March 1946.
 PRO FO 195/2597, no. 121/404-26/46/46, 2 July North Syria: Repatriation of Armenians, 9 July 1946.
 This was an identification card for displaced persons mostly given to White Russians, to the Armenians from Turkey, and, later, to the Jews from Nazi Germany.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 13912/11137/44, Le Roujefel (Bucharest) to Ernest Bevin, no. 263, 9 August 1945.
 PRO FO 195/2597, no. 5467, 120/1/484, The report of the British Embassy in Ankara on Tashnak Opinion, 20 August 1946.
 PRO FO 195/2597, no. 121/399-26/46/46, 2 July 1946, Levant States-Political: Armenian Repatriation, 2 July 1946.
 State Department Archives, RG 59, 761.67/2-1346, Wilson to Byrnes, no. 4949, 13 February 1946.
 State Department Archives, RG 59, 761.67/6-1746, Decimal File 1945-49, Smith (Moscow) to Byrnes, no. 5799, 17 June 1946. As a matter of fact, the Soviet propaganda regarding the Kurdish case was given a start in the initial phase of the war. According to SOE sources, the Soviets brought about a thousand Kurdish youths into the USSR without the knowledge of the Turkish authorities taught them Russian and succeeded in winning them over to the communist cause. In addition to the youths, the Soviets had been smuggling aged and unemployed Kurds into the Caucasus on the understanding that they would give them work and food. As a result of this, many Kurds near the Soviet frontier regarded the Soviets as their friends. Further Russian activities had been noticed around Erivan where they had managed to organise large numbers of Armenians under the Armenian committee. In the final stages of the war, Soviet propaganda was naturally being disseminated in Turkish Kurdistan, the main theme being that the Turkish Kurds must give every assistance to the Red Army, which would be fighting on their behalf for the establishment of a ‘Greater Kurdistan’. As Turkey was to be finished off with a lightning blow, irrespective of whether the Red Army went into action at the same time or not, the Kurds must carry out their various tasks without any hesitation as soon as the signal was given. Kurds from the Red Army were being demobilised and infiltrated into Kurdistan with the object of acting as partisans when the time arrived. See PRO HS 3/221, Chastelain to Directorate of SOE, no. 1734/13/18, 8 February 1943: PRO FO 195/2595, Soviet propaganda in eastern Turkey, no. 18/8256, 24 January 1946.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 1689/11137/44, Wright (Washington) to Southern Department, no. 1388/16/45, 26 September 1945. Wilson also reported to the State department that the USSR would use indirect methods of aggression against Turkey, such as employing Armenian and Kurdish fronts in the Eastern Provinces, rather than take the risks involved in open war. Thus, the Soviets stood to gain by postponing action against Turkey and letting time work in their favour. The Soviets were consolidating the position in Iran, which meant the eastern prong of the pincers closed on Turkey. After the Greek elections, British Government could hardly withstand the pressure to withdraw troops from Greece, which would open the door to civil war, and intervention by Tito and Company, and creation of a friendly government in Greece, thus closing the western prong of pincers and isolating Turkey from British help through the Mediterranean. 761.67/3-1846 Wilson to Byrnes, 18 March 1946.
 PRO FO 371/48795, R 17431/11137/44, Armenian Claim to Turkish Territory 5 October 1945.
 PRO FO 371/59247, R 6228/145/44, Mr. Maclean, no. 827/3/46, 16 April 1946.
 State Department Archives, RG 59, 761.67/1-2546, Schoenrich to Byrnes, no. A-22, 25 January 1946.
 RG 59, Decimal File 1945-49, 867.80/3-1346, William D. Leahy to Byrnes, 13 March 1946.
 Michael M. Gunter, The Armenian Terrorist Campaign Against Turkey, Orbis, Summer 1983, Vol. 27, no:2, s.473-74.
(End of Attachment 2)
ANCA-WR Honors Community Leaders At Annual Banquet
J. Michael Hagopian recognized as 'Man of the Year'; Mourad Topalian receives 'Freedom Award'
ENCINO (Asbarez) -- The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region honored two community leaders Sunday, at the ANCA-WR Annual Banquet, which attracted a record number of attendees and supporters.
Dr. J. Michael Hagopian and Mourad Topalian received the 'Man of the Year' and 'Freedom Award' respectively, for their dedication to advancing the Armenian Cause.
Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian School's Avedissian Hall was filled to capacity as some 600 guests, including elected officials and political candidates, took part in an evening of tribute to leadership and commitment to the Armenian nation.
Among the special guests present at the banquet were Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau members Dr. Viken Hovsepian of Southern California, as well as visiting Bureau member Viken Hovsepian of Canada; representatives of the ARF Western United States Central Committee included, Chairman Viken Yacoubian, , Khajag Dikidjian, Bedig Kazandjian, Vahe Bozoian, Anoush Chalian Arto Keuoleyan, Ara Khanjian and Shahan Stepanian.
Also attending the banquet, were guests from the State of Georgia. Georgia Armenian American leader Haroutiun Agasarkissian was accompanied by Georgia State Senator Van Streat. Both leaders were instrumental in the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the Georgia State government.
Agasarkissian has maintained an active presence in Georgia politics, organizing numerous commemorations of the Armenian Genocide.
The evening began with an outdoor cocktail reception, which also included a silent auction organized by the Armenian Film Foundation, of which Dr. Hagopian is the chairman. Items on the auction bloc included rare books, sports memorabilia, various events' tickets, and other items. At the conclusion of the reception, guests were escorted into the beautifully transformed Avedissian Hall, where the main portion of the evening got underway with remarks from Master of Ceremonies, ANCA-WR Board member Vicken Sonentz-Papazian welcoming the attendees to the evening's festivities. Sonentz-Papazian then invited AFF Board member Maria Mehranian to explain the silent auction procedure for those who wished to continue bidding on their favorite items. Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian was invited to deliver the invocation.
Following the four-course meal prepared and served by Robert's Catering, guests were invited to participate in a program celebrating the lives of Dr. Hagopian and Toplian, commending these two individuals for their unique brand of leadership in driving forward and promoting Armenian history and the cause of the Armenian nation.
In his remarks, Sonentz-Papazian paid homage to the surviving and courageous Armenian spirit, which, as he explained, was represented in different generations in the banquet hall by the likes of Eleanor Dickranian, Walter Karabian, Mourad and Alique Topalian, and countless other dedicated and committed Armenians. The master of ceremonies went on to thank these individuals and challenge those present to take note and be inspired by the essence of the Armenian spirit and by the example of the honorees of the night.
In introducing Man of the Year J. Michael Hagopian, Sonentz- Papazian invited the guests to view a compilation film prepared especially for the evening, showcasing some of the honoree's work over the past half century. The film included sequences from Dr. Hagopian's "The Armenian Case," "Ararat Beckons," and it concluded with the final sequence from the newly completed "Voices from the Lake.The Secret Genocide," the first installment in the landmark trilogy "The Witnesses," currently in production. The compilation took the viewers through a visual journey of history, the return of Armenians to Mount Ararat, the Armenian Genocide and the face of a surviving nation as represented by J. Michael Hagopian and his generation, proclaiming that the voice of the Armenians, as evidenced by the evening's gathering, will never be silenced.
Sonentz-Papazian then invited Congressman Brad Sherman, State Senator and 27th Congressional District candidate Adam Schiff, and ANCA-WR Board member Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian to present Dr. Hagopian with the 'Man of the Year' award. In his statement at the conclusion of the long standing ovation for Dr. Hagopian, Sherman congratulated the honoree for his relentless work and his contribution to the cause of human rights. Sherman, who is a member of the House of Representative International Relations Committee, recounted moments from the previous week's Subcommittee hearing on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and spoke of the upcoming vote in the House International Relations committee. Sherman presented Dr. Hagopian with a flag, which had flown over the US Capitol in commendation. Senator Schiff' whose efforts helped secure a grant of almost a half million dollars for the AFF's work on "The Witnesses," expressed his pride of having the opportunity to congratulate ANCA- WR Man of the Year for his decades' of service to the Armenian- American community.
Zerounian-Khanzadian presented Dr. Hagopian with the ANCA-WR Man of the Year award.
In his address to the guests, Dr. Hagopian, expressed his deepest gratitude for the recognition to the organizing committee, and those involved in preparing for the evening. He went on to thank his colleagues and family, expressing his appreciation for their support of his work. In addition, Dr. Hagopian went on to recognize the ANCA as a visionary organization for having the foresight, "for coming to me 30 years ago and asking me to make the first film on the Armenian Case."
"The ANC should be recognized as the organization of the decade," explained Dr. Hagopian in conclusion, for the work the organization has done on behalf of the Armenian American community.
Prior to presenting the 'Freedom Award,' Milen Hayryan, a talented young Armenian, recited Paruir Sevak's "We are Few, But We Are Called Armenians."
Following the recital, Sonentz-Papazian introduced the recipient of this year's 'Freedom Award' "as a leader whose life's work has been to advance the Armenian Cause." Topalian, who was present with members of his family, including wife Michelle, daughters Nicole, Sosse and Alique, and son Aram, was introduced by the master of ceremonies as an advocate of the highest caliber for the Armenian Americans, and a leader who has continued to inspire Armenian Americans over the last three decades. "Through many difficult times, Unger Mourad has persevered and led our community to great victories," explained Sonentz-Papazian. He, then, invited past ANCA- WR chairmen, Armand Keosian, Jack Misserlian, and Neshan Peroomian, as well as banquet committee chairman and ANCA-WR board member Karo Khanjian to join him on stage in presenting Topalian with the ANCA-WR 'Freedom Award."
Topalian in his acceptance speech thanked the Armenian American community as represented by the audience, for allowing him to be their representative as ANCA chairman. He went on to recount moments of triumph from his years in that post, and spoke of the difficult times he and his family have endured. Topalian directed a special note of thanks to his wife Michelle, who "has stood by me through some difficult times, some embarrassing times, but has always given me strength," explained the honoree. Turning to his children, he thanked them for being strong and proud, and for standing by him through the tough times. He thanked the ANCA for giving him opportunities to serve the Armenian American community. An emotional audience gave the leader a standing ovation, thanking him for his dedication, and personal sacrifice.
The concluding remarks of the evening were presented by ANCA-WR Chairman Berdj Karapetian, who again acknowledged the two honorees' contributions to the Armenian Cause. He went on to speak about the pending Armenian Genocide Resolution in Congress, calling on the attendees and the community at large to struggle to garner this important victory. He also challenged the community to not allow the Armenian Genocide resolution to become a pawn in political games, and to demand responsibility from legislators who have given their word to the Armenian American community. Karapetian called on the community to continue to remain active in the political process and to drive forward Armenian issues through the ANCA and its activities. As a surprise presentation for the evening, Karapetian invited ANCA-WR Executive Director Alex Sardar to join him on stage to present a commemorative award to Sonentz-Papazian for his long-time service to the Armenian American community, as the ANCA-WR Executive Director.
The closing benediction was offered by Bishop Mardirossian.
Among the invited officials were: John Chang of the Board of Equalization, Los Angeles Councilwoman and City Controller candidate Laura Chick, democratic candidate for the 43rd State Assembly district Dario Frommer, Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, former State Assembly Majority Leader Walter Karabian, Los Angeles Unified School District member Julie Korenstein, democratic candidate for the 44th State Assembly district Carol Liu, Glendale Councilmember Rafi Manoukian, republican candidate for the 43rd State Assembly district Craig Missakian, Torrance City Councilman Jack Misserlian, State Senator and 27th Congressional district candidate Adam Schiff, State Assemblymember and State Senate candidate Jack Scott, Congressman Brad Sherman, Glendale Police Chief Russell Siverling, Los Angeles Unified School District Board member David Tokofski, Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver, State Assemblymember Scott Wildman, LaCrescenta Town Councilmember Vasken Yardemian, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Judge Richard Kolostian, and Judge Ronald Sohigian.
End Of Attachment 3
All-ASA Leadership Retreat Trains Next Generation of Community Organizers
By Arek Santikian • February 13, 2009
President Obama has made community organizing a hot topic these days. But very few understand what it actually means to organize people around community-based issues. It’s not an easy task, but a group of young Armenians took time out of their busy schedules to spend their weekend, secluded from city life, learning just what it takes to effectively harness the potential of their respective communities and organizations.
This leadership retreat brought some 40 college students and graduates to AYF Camp in Big Pines, Calif., on the weekend of Jan. 24-25 for a series of group activities and educationals to build leadership skills for organizing Armenian youth throughout California’s colleges and Armenian communities. Organized by the ARF’s Shant Student Association (SSA) through the All-ASA Confederation, the retreat featured discussions with accomplished leaders from the community on effective organizing, as well as group activities on team building techniques and strategies. Participants from Armenian Student Associations (ASA) at the Universities of California in Irvine, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, as well as Glendale Community College, Pasadena City College, and Loyola Marymount University (LMU) spent the weekend networking with members from various AYF chapters throughout the western region, discussing community issues and strengthening ties between their organizations.
“I came up to camp to build new relationships and network with other ASA’s and AYF’s so that we can collaborate on and off the campus in future programs,” said Iren Tatevosyan, the president of the ASA at UCLA. “I think others had the same intention to come here to work together and build bridges with other organizations.” The challenges facing Armenian youth groups today make it necessary to work together, she explained, stressing the singularity of their cause as Armenian youth in America.
Effectively channeling Armenian youth to understand and work toward that cause was the main focus of the weekend seminar. California’s only elected city clerk of Armenian descent, Ardashes Kassakhian, spoke to the participants on the importance of effective communication and organized meeting structure. Kassakhian’s comments combined his experiences as an ASA president at UCLA, his tenure as the government relations and executive director of the ANCA-WR, and his current post as city clerk and the executive parliamentarian for the city of Glendale.
During his presentation, Kassakhian discussed ways to maximize organizational potential, discussing methods for running effective meetings and strategies for planning successful campaigns or events. He stressed the importance of communication within groups, respect among members, and the logistics behind organizing productive meetings. “Respect your members, and they will respect you,” Kassakhian kept emphasizing. He also spoke about the importance of networking with other organizations and ethnic groups. A leading expert in the Armenian community on community organizing and political advocacy, Kassakhian urged the students to take an active role in campus advocacy efforts.
“The university is the perfect platform for advocating for Armenian American issues and building coalitions with groups eager to help raise awareness of your cause,” he said. “Here you have a captive and educated audience motivated to learn about your issues and take what they learn back with them to their own communities.”
Many of the participants saw in Kassakhian’s presentation a large number of the issues they face trying to organize their communities on campus. “I think it’s very important to be efficient,” said Artin Sarkisian from the ASA at UC Santa Barbara. “Ardy really touched on great points and tactics on how to have an effective meeting. We haven’t been that precise about everything, the way he told us to be. Following his advice would make our meetings run that much better.”
For Andre Kazanjian, the biggest challenge his ASA faces at Loyola Marymount is getting students involved. “We have about 40 Armenians at LMU,” he explained, noting that less than half that number can be considered active. “Our biggest challenge is getting people involved, and I think if we start having agendas for our meetings and being more organized and goal-oriented, we will attract more members” he added.
Efficient meetings, however, are not the end all and be all of organizing. “We need to show enthusiasm and motivate our members to not only understand the issues, but push them forward,” Tatevosyan said, commenting on a discussion about activism led by longtime community organizer Mourad Topalian.
Activism, Topalian said, is not just about holding picket signs at protests. “We need all forms of activism in the Armenian community. There’s a place for everyone, from that guy carrying the sign, to you writing the article for your school paper on genocide denial.” Everyone has a role to play and an opportunity to contribute, he added, noting how one person’s desire to practice law can lead to their filing a lawsuit against the Turkish government, or another’s passion for medicine can find them in Armenia helping villagers in their local hospitals.
Stressing that point, Topalian painted a portrait of Armenian activism in the United States, from its explosion on the scene in the 1960’s to its ever-evolving role in driving community life today. “We came up in an age and a time where Armenian activism was just coming about, when our people were still in a state of depression over the genocide and its denial,” he explained. “The establishment of the Armenian community then was so set in its ways and so shocked that a group of Armenian boys and girls would chant and demonstrate peacefully.”
Talking about the issues that inspired his generation, Topalian asked the group to take a good, critical look at their own communities. The challenge facing this generation, he explained, are apathy and a natural acceptance of the status quo. “Most of the students you are trying to reach were raised protected by their parents, insulated so much they became complacent and took things for granted,” he said, pointing to the unspoken reality that genocide commemoration events in the community accomplish little when we don’t try to raise greater attention on the issues outside the American public and media at large.
“If you are truly a good leader, you will prepare the next generation of leaders to take our people to the next level, to be even more professional, more original, and more active than you. Because that’s what our people call for, that’s what our nation needs,” Topalian exclaimed.
The problem with getting people active, according to some of the participants, is that young people have a hard time seeing how their involvement on campus can affect the current affairs of Armenia and Armenian communities throughout the world. “Before this seminar I thought of myself as just another guy in the ASA, but now I really feel that I can actually make a difference,” said Sevak Abrahamian, an executive member of the ASA at UC Santa Barbara, who described Topalian’s discussion as motivational and eye-opening to the reality of his potential. “I think inspiration is very important for us on campuses to bring about change.”
That inspiration, according to Topalian, must come from this generation. “You the young people have to think critically and outside the box to change us,” he stressed. “I need you to step up because there is a hell of a vacuum between my generation and yours. All leadership becomes complacent and comfortable in leadership and needs the youth to demand change—to change how we are doing things, our ways of publishing our papers, raising our money, our Hai Tahd work, as well as our community organizing.”
Motivated by the discussion, UCLA’s Lilit Azarian said she found inspiration in knowing exactly what her generation is capable of. “Learning about the accomplishments Armenian youth have had in the past shows you what we are capable of doing,” she said. “We shouldn’t let them down. We should be a part of history too.”
To expand on the discussions, Chris Minassian, a member from the SSA, who holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology, took the participants out of their comfort zones with a series of group exercises designed to teach the importance of communication and teamwork. “One of the activities, called the ‘human knot,’ brought groups of 10 together to hold hands and create a knot,” he explained. “It’s up to them to communicate and use problem-solving tactics to work together to break the knot and untangle to form a circle without letting go.”
Two other activities followed and each time, the participants were forced to work closer together to come up with unique solutions to unorthodox problems. One exercise required each group to get as many of its members off the ground as possible in a minute, using only their bodies as a means of elevating off the floor. Another exercise had the groups struggle to fit as many members as possible inside a small 2×2 square perimeter taped onto the floor.
“With these very basic exercises, we were able to split participants up from the groups they came in and take them out of their comfort zones to interact closely with others and build a cohesive bond, which gets them to not only solve their problem but also build relationships that will take the team to the next level in terms of cohesion,” Minassian explained. He added that these exercises build the most basic foundations for an organization, creating an environment where you and your peers are comfortable to communicate ideas, to comment, criticize, and debate.
Communication is vital to a successful organization, according to Armine Alian, a member from ASA at UC Irvine. “If I become an executive at my school’s ASA, I will enforce it as much as possible,” she said. “Without it you can’t get anything done.”
Alian was among a number of participants at this year’s seminar who have yet to be elected to leadership roles within their organizations. In prior years, the leadership seminar had been open only to executive members of the AYF, SSA, and ASA. Things were different this year, however. The organizers pushed hard to have regular members attend the retreat, dropprf participation fees, and advertised the weekend with the general memberships of these organizations. Raffi Missirian, a member from the ASA at Pasadena City College, emphasized that it is “vital for regular members to take the initiative and learn these types of skills.” Meetings, he explained, are not designed to be one-way mechanisms for executives to dictate their agendas to a quiet membership. “Regular members are also part of the meetings and if regular members don’t participate and take the initiative we won’t have good ideas for the future of the ASA,” he stressed.
Missirian, who recently joined the ASA, said the retreat went a long way in preparing him for a future leadership role in the organization. “I was new to the ASA and I didn’t feel like I had done enough to help. Now I will be reporting on the weekend to my executive body, and relaying important information and experiences that will help them run better and more efficient meetings.”
But the weekend wasn’t all about work. Aside from the educational activities, the participants also had a night to party, barbequing kebab by the campfire, and dancing and singing into the night. Creating a social atmosphere is just as important as creating a work atmosphere, according to Patil Aslanian, a member of both the UC Irvine ASA and San Fernando Valley Chapter of the AYF. “AYF camp is a great environment for having retreats of this kind. It creates an atmosphere that brings people together and makes a serious seminar like this not only bearable but exciting.”
Although camp makes it fun to learn, leadership takes more than one weekend to develop, said Armen Aboulian, who chairs the SSA. “There is no sure-fire way to become a leader, but at least through this event we can conceptualize what it takes and motivate each other to realize our potentials,” he said. “The process has to start somewhere, so why not at camp.”
“It sends a powerful message that the All-ASA Confederation, a body consisting of ASA’s throughout California, was able to bring students and young activists from across the state to one location to work together to develop and advance leadership skills, which will benefit them not only as student leaders, but as future leaders of our community,” said Raffi Kassabian, a former president of both UCLA’s ASA and Armenian Graduate Student Association.
End Of Attachment 4