3470) Book Review: Russian Origins of the First World War by Sean McMeekin

Sean McMeekin, “The Russian Origins of the First World War,” Cambridge (Massachusetts)-Londres, Harvard University Press, 2011: not perfect, but quite interesting by many aspects.

Pp. 272-273, n. 3: “More representative of the general Armenian line today are the books of Vahakn Dadrian and (with some exceptions) Richard Hovannisian. In ‘The History Armenian Genocide’ (orig. 1995; six editions so far, and counting) Dadrian devotes all of six pages of Russia’s role in ‘the Armenian disaster’—and these cover the pre-World War I period exclusively. Hovannisian in ‘The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire,’ his principal article in the volume he edited recently on ‘The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times’ (2004), does provide a fairly extensive discussion of Russia’s Armenian policy—but again, only in the period preceding the First World War. It is not that Hovannisian does not know about the Russian angle in World War I—in fact he covered this subject rather extensively forty years ago in ‘The Allies and Armenia, 1915-18’ (1968). Rather, he seems to have let it all slip down the memory hole in his later works, after becoming like an official spokesman for the Armenian cause in American academe.” . . .

P. 169: “Armenian historians tend to describe the Van rebellion as a kind of preventive ‘Warsaw uprising’ against the Turkish plans for mass expulsions (rather than, as the Turks claim, the event that justified the ‘relocation’ of Armenians from frontline areas), but this is certainly not how it was seen at the time. Tiflis command received messages from Van on two separate occasions in early May 1915 (sewn into the lining of the messengers clothing) while the Armenians still held the city, which suggests that, despite telegraphic communications having been cut, the Dashnaks still believe themselves to be aiding the Russian army, and vice-versa: the Armenians, a the second message specified, ‘were expecting Russian help everyday.’ ‘Mshak,’ the Armenian newspaper in Tiflis, openly boasted that Armenian partisans had delivered Van to the Russians—with reason for pride as its editors had been directly involved in the organization of partisan bands in border areas. According to a proud telegram sent from ‘the Armenians of Van’ to Vorontsov-Dashkov on 20 May 1915, after the city had fallen to the Russians (who had evidently restored the outgoing cable line), at least 3,000 Armenian ‘volunteers’ had accompanied the Cossacks on their triumphant ride into Van, which suggests that the recruiting by Tiflis command had not been in vain after all.”

P. 276, n. 62: “This document is cited by Akçam in ‘A Shameful Act,’ pp. 141-142. Here was elsewhere in his narrative, Akçam takes note of evidence of collaboration between the Russian army and Ottoman Armenians, but only insofar as this evidence was used by the Turks to justify deportations. Whether or not the evidence was true does not seem to concern him.”

P. 278, n. 75: “It is interesting that, to refute Turkish claims of a substantial Armenian threat in Erzurum—where the Ottoman Third Army headquarter was located—Akçam cites a report by German consul there, Scheubner-Richter (the same who would later be felled by Hitler’s side marching through Munich after the Beer Hall Putsch). The Russian consul in Erzurum, Adamov—who would have been better informed about Armenian activities—reported otherwise.”

Maxime Gauin


ssaya said...

Compliments to Maxime again...and thanks.

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