Review of Armenian Studies
No. 25, 2012
Abstract: Examining the historical, political, and geographical context of the French evacuation of Cilicia, this article examines the different explanations for the flow of Armenian refugees which accompanied this withdrawal. Relying mostly on the French archives, it concludes that both the French and the Kemalist authorities did their best to prevent the flow of refugees and provided real guarantees to the Christian populations. The movement of refugees is largely due to the anti-Turkish policy followed by the Armenian committees and the Greek government.
Keywords: Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnak; Aristide Briand; Robert de Caix; Boghos Nubar Pasha; Cilicia; Henry Franklin-Bouillon; Hunchak Party; Kemal Atatürk; Ramkavar Party . . .
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Comments by Sukru Aya
1- Posting 3433: Thanks and compliments to Mr. Gauin; this is the most illuminating paper I have read on the short period of the French occupation and eventual evacuation of Cilicia. For the first time, we have a large selection of French archival documents, which tell the real stories and the provocations behind them, which I could have not thought under such dramatic circumstances. If Mr. Gauin will not mind, I should like to add the following (confirmation) paragraph from posting 3425,
"League of Nations - Publication: 291" REFUGEES 1930. (Page.52) [After Frank-Buillon Agreement 20.10.1921]
- The news of the prospective evacuation produced a panic among the Armenians, most of whom had recently settled there, on French invitation. The French authorities urged them to remain, and proclaimed the Turkish promise of an amnesty, while the Turks repeated the promise of amnesty and just treatment in the most explicit terms. The Armenians, however, after a vain appeal to the Powers to allow them to opt for a western nationality, or to indicate a place of refuge, preferred to leave their homes en masse. Some accompanied the retreating French on foot; others embarked on shipboard, and after a protracted cruise in the Mediterranean, attempting in vain to land in Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine, returned, for the most part, to the Syrian ports, a few finding refuge in Greece. Thus Syria again became the home of some 50,000 refuges, for the most part destitute.
(P.182) At that precise time, the Turks’ stocks of ammunition and food verged on exhaustion. Hence, a letter from Turkish leaders, proposing a truce, reached Querette on 9 February. On the next day, a Turkish truce delegate came to discuss terms. The general tenor of all evidence available indicates that the Turks were prepared to surrender Maras, to the French on three conditions. These were that the French should: (1) remove all their Armenian troops; (2) grant amnesty to all Muslims who had taken up arms against them; and (3) provide food and shelter to all elements. However, two circumstances intervened to cut negotiations short. When Quérette contacted Normand by heliograph on 8 February, the colonel inferred that Dufieux had ordered evacuation of the city. On the following day, the two commanders met and agreed to withdraw during the night of 10 - 11 February. In the interim, the Turkish peace delegate mysteriously disappeared. Most sources ascribe this to an Armenian assassin.
(P.183) On the second day of the retreat, an extraordinary blizzard beset the route of withdrawal, It raged continuously for three days. In consequence, the progress of the entire column on the road to Islahiye, everybody on foot, or at best, mounted on animals, became painfully slow. This and ambient temperatures well below freezing produced massive casualties among all marchers, especially among the unprepared Armenians. At least one-third of them perished. Even among the troops, who en regular meals and adequate wraps against the weather, over 700 were injured. Equally bad for French morale throughout the region was the news of their first defeat at the hands of the Turks. (*)
(*)All eyewitness accounts of the Maras, episode agree that the French kept their decision to evacuate the city secret from their Armenian protégés. On the other hand, see Jalabert, “Situation,” 577 n. 1. Here, Jalabert vehemently denied this, without revealing the source of his information.
- I would imagine that the unfortunate Armenians who perished because of blizzard, are coined inside the "massacred"(!). -
Sukru S. Aya