21.5.18

3660) Pasdermadjian On The War In The Caucasus 1917-18 | A Militarised People

By Dr Pat Walsh
May 2018

Garegin Pasdermadjian, the Dashnak leader, had two small books published under his revolutionary name of “Armen Garo” (Armenian Hero) as he waited in Washington for his nation to be provided for by the victorious Allies in Paris. The books were called ‘Why Armenia Should Be Free’ (1918) and ‘Armenia and her Claims to Freedom’ (1919).. . .



The first of these is a description of the Armenian Insurrection of 1914 and its contribution to the military efforts of the Great War Allies that was deserving of reward at the Peace Conference. ‘Armenia and Her Claims to Freedom’ is quite different. It is made up of four parts; a description of the ‘Armenian nation’ that is split between Russia, Persia and the Ottoman Empire in the first two; the third part consists of the case for a large Armenian state to be established by the Peace Conference, and the fourth part is an argument why the Allies, for their own interests, should establish this state.

The two books were published when the Great War was won, or about to be won by the Allies. Ottoman Turkey was presumably going to pay a high price for being on the losing side in this highly moral war of Good over Evil. It had been described as the personification of Evil for half a century by the Liberal wing of the victors of 1918 so it was going to get its come-uppance if the war was an honourable one at all.

The Armenians had suffered defeat, but they were very much on the side of “Civilisation against the Barbarians” and had contributed something to the victory, whilst sustaining enormous losses in the process. They expected to be getting a large share of the spoils for their suffering for the cause that was often described as their martyrdom. Or so it was hoped.

It is probably because the two books were written at this precise moment of seeming triumph that they are amazingly candid. Of course, there is much propaganda in them, of an anti-Ottoman and anti-Moslem nature, but there is also a recognition of facts that are nearly always hidden in publications since that time, about what happened to the Armenians in these years.

Pasdermadjian was keen to emphasise that the Armenians were no passive victims of Ottoman massacre.His books describe an Armenian Insurrection, beginning in late 1914, that, it is argued, contributed substantially to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, and which was seen by Pasdermadjian as well worth the lives of the hundreds of thousands, or more, it consumed, because it had presumably achieved its objective.

Below, from ‘Why Armenia Should be Free’ (1918) is Pasdermadjian’s account of the ‘Role Played By the Armenians in the Caucasus after the Russian Collapse.’

I do not intend to comment on the assertions made in it by Pasdermadjian. Of course, he had to present the Tartars (Azerbaijani Turks etc.) as aggressors and the Armenians as victims. And that is more or less how it is presented to the Western world today.

However, anyone with any knowledge of these events, knows differently – as did British officers in the area and Ministers in Whitehall.

Who, after all, had armed these hordes of Tartars? Who had established their army and trained it? The answer is nobody. The Azerbaijani Turks were the most unmilitarised element in the whole region, excluded from the Tsar’s army before the Great War and refused enlistment in it during conscription. On the other hand there were hundreds of thousands of Armenians under arms in both regular and irregular forces with a long tradition of guerrilla warfare behind them. They were trained by the Tsar in his army, reconstituted by Kerensky in a new army, employed by the Bolsheviks in the absence of a Red Army and then funded by the British to make up a new line in the Caucasus against the Ottomans.

So, in which people did the military art and experience lie in the Caucasus in 1918 and how was that likely to determine who was aggressor and who was victim?

The only thing that the Azerbaijanis had in their favour was that they constituted the majority of humanity in the area. But that was something that was of little concern to the Armenian Dashnaks in establishing their Greater Armenia. And in the one area where the Armenians had the advantage – their military forces – they could always reduce that majority if given the chance.

‘Role Played By the Armenians in the Caucasus after the Russian Collapse.’ (Garegin Pasdermadjian)

This was the state of affairs when there came the crash of the Russian revolution. The heart of every Armenian was greatly relieved, thinking that the greater part of their torments would come to an end. And in truth, during the first few months of the revolution, the temporary government of Kerensky made definite arrangements to rectify the unjust treatment of the Armenians by the government of the Czar. But events progressed in a precipitate manner. The demoralization of the Russian troops on all the fronts assumed greater proportions as the days went by. Foreseeing the danger which threatened the Caucasus, the Armenian National Organization of the Caucasus, as early as April, 1917, sent to Petrograd on a ‘special mission Dr. Zavrieff, already mentioned, and the writer of these lines, in order to have them obtain permission to transfer to the Caucasus some 150,000 Armenian officers and men (scattered throughout the Russian army), by whose assistance the Armenians might be able to protect their own native land against the Turkish advance.

Mr. Kerensky, who was well acquainted with the abnormal conditions reigning in the Caucasus, agreed to grant the request of the Armenian delegates, but, on the other hand, for fear of receiving similar requests from the other races in case he granted an order favourable to the Armenians, he decided to fulfill our request unofficially, that is, without a general ordinance, to send the Armenian soldiers to the Caucasus gradually, in small groups, in order not to attract the attention of the other races. And he carried out this plan.

But unfortunately, scarcely 35,000 Armenian soldiers had been able to reach the Caucasus by November, 1917, when Kerensky himself fell at the hands of the Bolsheviks, and there was created a chaotic condition the result of which was the final demobilization of the Russian army. During December, 1917, and January, 1918, the Russian army of 250,000 men on the Caucasian front, without any orders, abandoned its positions and moved into the interior of Russia, leaving entirely unprotected a front about 970 kilometers (600 miles) in length, extending from the Black Sea to Persia.

As soon as the Russian army disbanded, the 3,000,000 Tartar inhabitants of the Caucasus armed themselves and rose en masse. Toward the end of January last, the Tartars had cut the Baku-Tiflis railroad line as well as the Erivan-Joulfa line, and now began to raid and plunder the Armenian cities and villages, while behind, on the frontier, the regular Turkish army had commenced to advance in the first days of February. Against all these Turks and Tartars the Armenians had one army corps made up of some 35,000 regular troops under the command of General Nazarbekoff, and nearly 20,000 Armenian volunteers under the command of their experienced leaders.

Armenia’s only hope of assistance was their neighbours, the Georgians, who were as much interested in the protection of the Caucasus as the Armenians were, because the Turkish demands of the Brest-Litovsk treaty included definite portions of Georgia, as well as of Armenia; for example, the port of Batoum. And in fact, during the months of January and February they seemed quite inclined to help the Armenians, but when the Turks captured Batoum on April 15 and came as far as Usurgeti, the morale of the Georgians was completely broken, and they immediately sent a delegation to Berlin and put Georgia under German protection.

From this time on the 2,000,000 Armenian inhabitants of the Caucasus remained entirely alone to face, on the one hand, the Turkish regular army of 100,000 men, and on the other hand, the armed forces of hundreds of thousands of Tartars. From the end of February the small number of Armenian forces commenced to retreat step by step before the superior Turkish forces, from Erzingan, Baiburt, Khenous, Mamakhatoun, Erzeroum, and Bayazid, and concentrated their forces on the former Russian-Turkish frontier. Here commenced serious battles which arrested for quite a long time the advance of the Turkish troops. It took them until April 22 to arrive before the forts of Kars, where the first serious resistance of the Armenians took place. The fierce Turkish attack which continued for four days was easily repulsed by the Armenians, owing to the guns on the ramparts of Kars.

During these events a temporary government of the Caucasus existed in Tiflis, composed of representatives of three Caucasian races Georgian, Armenian, and Tartar. This Caucasian government was formed immediately after the coup d’etat of the Bolsheviks, and conducted Caucasian affairs as an independent body. It refused to recognize the authority of the Bolshevik government, or the terms of the Brest-Litovsk treaty signed by its accredited delegates. The president of the government was Chekhenkeli, a Georgian. Immediately after the capture of Batoum the Caucasian government opened peace negotiations with Turkish delegates in Batoum itself.

The Turks, by their usual crafty tricks, persuaded the Georgian delegates that they would return Batoum to the Georgians if Kars surrendered without resistance. Feeling assured of this Turkish promise, the Georgian president of the Caucasian government, Chekhenkeli, on the night of April 25, without consultation with the other members of the government, telegraphed the commander of Kars that an armistice had been signed with the Turks on condition of surrendering Kars, and therefore to give up the forts immediately and retreat as far as Arpa-Chai. On the following day the commander of the Armenian soldiers who were defending Kars delivered the fortress into the hands of the Turks and retreated to Alexandropol. Then it became known that Chekhenkeli had sent the fateful telegram on his own responsibility, but it was already too late. This event occasioned very strained relations between the Armenians and Georgians. Not long after, on the 26th of May, the Georgians, assured of German protection, declared in Tiflis the independence of Georgia. Thus the temporary Caucasian government dissolved.

After the separation of the Georgians the Armenian National Council of the Caucasus declared Armenian independence, under the name of the Republic of Ararat, with Erivan as its capital. While the negotiations were going on in Batoum always between the delegates of the Turks and the three Caucasian races comprising the Caucasian temporary government, the Turkish armies, after the occupation of Kars, became more aggressive and commenced to advance toward Alexandropol and Karakilissa.

Concentrating their forces around Karakilissa and Erivan, early in June, the Armenians in two fierce battles drove the Turks back almost to their frontier. In the battle of Karakilissa, which lasted four days, the Turks left 6,000 dead before the Armenian posts, and escaped to Alexandropol. When the Turks felt that their position in the face of the Armenian resistance was becoming more and more hopeless and that it would cost them dear to continue the fight, they immediately began to make concessions.

Up to that time the Turks had not yet recognized the right of Russian Armenia to independence, their objection being that they only recognized in the Caucasus Georgian and Tartar countries. But when they heard the news of the last military victory of the Armenians, on June 14, in Batoum, the Turkish delegates, together with the representatives of the Republic of Ararat, signed the first terms of armistice, leaving the final peace signature to the congress of Constantinople, where the final negotiations were to take place.

The delegates of the three nations of the Caucasus reached Constantinople on June 19. They were 32 in number. Among them were also the representatives of the Republic of Ararat, Mr. A. Khatissoff, the minister of foreign affairs, and Mr. A. Aharonian, the president of the Armenian National Council. In that congress, which convened in presence of the delegates of the German and Austrian governments, the Turks signed peace treaties with each of the newly-formed Caucasian Republics. It is needless to say that those treaties had as much value as that which the Roumanian government was forced to sign a few months before by the central powers. And, as was expected, the Turks and the Germans rewarded the Georgians and the Tartars at the expense of the Armenians. They gave the greater part of the Armenian territories to the other two nations, and the remainder was claimed by Turkey, with the exception of 32,000 square kilometers (about 12,350 square miles), with 700,000 Armenian inhabitants, which were left to the Republic of Ararat.

According to these terms only one-third of the Armenians of the Caucasus are included within the Republic of Ararat, while the remaining 1,400,000 Armenians are left in territories allotted to the Tartars or the Georgians. That portion of the Armenians which inhabits the mountainous regions of Karabagh (which was assigned to the Tartars), up to this very day, October, 1918, resists the Turco-Tartar hordes and refuses at any price to be subjected to the unjust terms of the treaty of Constantinople, while beyond, the Armenians at Van, when their military forces realized that their retreat was cut off early last May, after being sheltered for two whole months in Van, moved toward Persia, there joined the Christian Assyrians in the neighbourhood of Urmia, repulsed for a long time the Turkish and Kurdish attacks, and only early in September succeeded in shattering the Turkish lines and thereby reached the city of Hamadan in Persia, where they entrusted to the care of the British forces the protection of about 40,000 Armenian and Assyrian refugees. In order to complete this picture of the heroic resistance of the Caucasian Armenians, let me say a few words more about the struggle at Baku.

As already mentioned, early in May, 1917, through the efforts of the Armenian National Organization of the Caucasus, the Armenian soldiers and officers scattered throughout Russia were gradually brought together and mobilized on the Caucasian front. With that purpose in view an Armenian Military Committee was formed in Petrograd with General Bagradouni as president. Bagradouni was one of the most brilliant young generals of the Russian army. He had received his military training at the highest military academy of Petrograd, and, during Kerensky’s administration, was appointed Chief of the Staff of the military forces at Petrograd. When the Bolsheviks assumed power they ordered him to take an oath of loyalty to the new government. General Bagradouni refused to do so, and for that reason he was imprisoned, with many other high military officials. After remaining in prison two months, through repeated appeals by the Armenian National bodies, he was freed by the Bolsheviks on condition that he should immediately leave Petrograd.

After his release from prison, General Bagradouni, accompanied by the well-known Armenian social worker, Mr. Rostom, with 200 Armenian officers, left for the Caucasus to assume the duties of commander-in-chief of the newly-formed Armenian army. This group of Armenian officers reached Baku early in March, where it was forced to wait, for the simple reason that the Baku-Tim’s railroad line was already cut by the Tartars. During that same month of March from many parts of Russia a large number of Armenians gathered at Baku and waited to go to Erivan and Tiflis in response to the call issued by the Armenian National Council. Toward the end of March nearly 110,000 Armenian soldiers had come together at Baku. By the 30th of March the news of German victories was spread throughout the Caucasus by the Turco-German agents. On the same day in Baku and other places appeared the following leaflets:

“Awake, Turkish brothers !

“Protect your rights; union with the Turks means life. “Unite, Children of the Turks! “Brothers of the noble Turkish nation, for hundreds of years our blood has flowed like water, our motherland has been ruined, and we have been under the heel of thousands of oppressors who have almost crushed us. We have forgotten our nation. We do not know to whom to appeal for help. “Countrymen, we consider ourselves free hereafter. Let us look into our conscience! Let us not listen to the voice of plotters. We must not lose the way to freedom; our freedom lies in union with the Turks. It is necessary for us to unite and put ourselves under the protection of the Turkish flag. “Forward, brothers! Let us gather ourselves under the flag of union and stretch out our hands to our Turkish brothers. Long life to the generous Turkish nation! By these words we shall never again bear a foreign yoke, the chains of servitude.”

And on the following day (March 31) from all sides of the Caucasus the armed hordes of Tartars attacked the Armenians. The leaders of the Tartars at Baku were convinced that they would easily disarm the Armenian soldiers, because they were somewhat shut up in Baku, but they were sadly mistaken in their calculations. After a bloody battle which lasted a whole week the Armenians remained masters of the city and its oil wells. They suffered a loss of nearly 2,500 killed, while the Tartars lost more than 10,000. The commander of the military forces of the Armenians was the same General Bagradouni, who, although he lost both of his legs during the fight, continued his duties until September 14, when the Armenians and the small number of Englishmen who came to their assistance were forced to abandon Baku to the superior forces of the Turco-Tartars, and retreat toward the city of Enzeli in the northern Caucasus.”

During these heroic struggles, which lasted five and a half months, the small Armenian garrison of Baku, together with a few thousand Russians, defended Baku and its oil wells against tens of thousands of Tartars, the Caucasian mountaineers, and more than one division of regular Turkish troops which had come to the assistance of the latter by way of Batoum. Time after time the Turkish troops made fierce attacks to capture the city, but each time they were repulsed with heavy losses by the gallant Armenian garrison.

The Armenians had built their hopes on British assistance, since nothing was expected from the demoralized Russian army. But, unfortunately, the British were unable to reach Baku with large forces from their Bagdad army. Nevertheless, on August 5, they landed at Baku 2,800 men to help the Armenians. The arrival of this small British contingent caused great enthusiasm among the tired and exhausted defenders of the city. But meanwhile the Turks had received new forces from Batoum and renewed their attacks. After a series of bloody battles the armed Armenian and British forces were forced to leave Baku on September 14 and retreat toward Persia, taking with them nearly 10,000 refugees from the inhabitants of the city.

As to the condition of those who were left behind, this much is certain; that on the day the city was occupied by the Turco-Tartars, nearly 20,000 Armenians were put to the sword, the greater portion of them being women and children. According to the news received from Persia, after that first terrible massacre, other massacres likewise have taken place. The number of the losses is not known; but it may safely be surmised without any exaggeration that out of the entire 80,000 Armenian inhabitants of Baku, all those who were unable to leave the city in time were slaughtered by the revengeful Turks and Tartars. Thus ended the resistance of five months and a half by the Armenians at Baku against the Turco-Germans.

The remnants of the retreating Armenian garrison of Baku, at the time of writing, are located in the Persian city of Enzeli, where, under the command of their heroic leader, General Bagradouni, they are recuperating before hastening to the aid of the Armenians in the eastern Caucasus, who, as already mentioned, up to this very day are resisting the forces of the Turco-Tartars in the mountains of Karabagh.

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In the last article, Pasdermadjian and the War in the Caucasus, I noted;

“The Azerbaijani Turks were the most unmilitarised element in the whole region, excluded from the Tsar’s army before the Great War and refused enlistment in it during conscription. On the other hand there were hundreds of thousands of Armenians under arms in both regular and irregular forces with a long tradition of guerrilla warfare behind them. They were trained by the Tsar in his army, reconstituted by Kerensky in a new army, employed by the Bolsheviks in the absence of a Red Army and then funded by the British to make up a new line in the Caucasus against the Ottomans.

So, in which people did the military art and experience lie in the Caucasus in 1918 and how was that likely to determine who was aggressor and who was victim?

The only thing that the Azerbaijanis had in their favour was that they constituted the majority of humanity in the area. But that was something that was of little concern to the Armenian Dashnaks in establishing their Greater Armenia. And in the one area where the Armenians had the advantage – their military forces – they could always reduce that majority if given the chance.”

Now we have confirmation of this from another Armenian source from the time.

A.P. Hacobian wrote Armenia and the War in early 1917. It contains a Preface by James Bryce, of Blue Book fame. Within this pamphlet, which is basically a plea to Britain to reward Armenia well when its Great War is won, is a section detailing the Armenian contribution to the Allied War effort.

Hacobian steers a careful path. He must present the facts of Armenia’s fighting contribution against the Ottoman Empire while arguing that it came about as a kind of natural reflex against Turkish oppression. At the same time Hacobian stresses that the Armenians have always been struggling against the Ottomans, for centuries, despite being peaceful and reluctant combatants in 1914.

He suggests that the Armenians were a law-abiding, loyal people until the Ottomans suffered defeat and then they willingly stabbed them in the back.

It is full of contradictions like that.

However, the interesting thing about it is how it shows what a militarised people the Armenians were in 1917 with their large numbers in the Tsar’s regular armies, along with the many bands operating with extensive experience of behind the lines, irregular warfare.

Pasdermadjian in his similar pamphlet, Why Armenia should be Free, written a year later suggested that the Armenians were outnumbered in the Caucasus by the millions of Tartars (Azerbaijani Turks) and yet the Dashnaks were prevailing.

Hacobian’s pamphlet lets the cat out of the bag. It is very likely that a minority will prevail over a majority if the minority is highly militarised, heavily armed, extensively trained in warfare and battle-hardened, whilst the majority lives contented and peaceful lives without bothering too much about such matters.

When the Russian lines in the Caucasus began to collapse in late 1917 they were filled by the militarised Armenians. And because the Allies relied on the Armenians to now hold the front they facilitated their organisation in the Southern Caucasus/Eastern Anatolia and armed them without asking many questions about what they would do with the weapons supplied to them by the dissolving Tsarist armies, paid for by Britain.

On the other side the Azerbaijani Turks who had been excluded by the Tsar’s military conscription and who had got on with their normal lives, as best they could, whilst the Great War raged to the West, were expected to be the passive objects of history.

As Hacobian explained:

“The political effect of the strong and enthusiastic support of the Russian cause by Armenians has been to keep in check the discontented and fanatical section of the Tartars and other Moslems of the Caucasus, who would have been disposed to make common cause with the Turks whenever a favourable opportunity should present itself to do so without much risk to themselves. The Tartars and other Moslem elements of the Caucasus are as a whole genuinely loyal to Russia, but the existence of a minority who would welcome the success of the Turkish invasion cannot be denied.”

So the Azerbaijani Turks, who had, unlike the Armenians, remained loyal to the state they formed part of, were kept down by the Armenians so that they would not be troubled by history. They were kept as passive observers of events whilst the Armenians carved out their great state. They were a sea of non-people, so to speak, among a special people destined to be a nation. That was the Armenian nationalist view and it was propagandised by the Liberal Anglosphere.

As Lord Bryce wrote in his Preface:

“… those who know something of Asiatic Turkey will recognize with him (Hacobian) that the Armenians are, by their intelligence and their irrepressible energy, the race best fitted to restore prosperity to regions desolated by Turkish oppression. The
educated Armenians, notwithstanding all they have suffered, are abreast of the modem world of civilization. Among them are many men of science and learning, as well as artists and poets. They are scattered in many lands. I have visited large Armenian colonies as far west as California, and there are others as far east as Rangoon. Many of the exiles would return to their ancient home if they could but be guaranteed that security and peace which they have never had, and can never have, under the rule of the Turk. May we not confidently hope that the Allied Powers will find means for giving it to them at the end of this war, for extending to them that security which they have long desired and are capable of using well?”

However, the Azerbaijanis were not content to be passive victims of what the West saw as ‘progress’ in the region. And they responded to Armenian nationalism by building a nation of their own. It is what Hacobian describes below, which confronted them in late 1917-early 1918, that made that a necessity of survival:

ARMENIA’S SERVICES IN THE WAR by A.P. Hacobian

I have spoken earlier in these pages of the services of the Armenians to the Allied cause in the war. What are these services?

The Armenian name has been so long and so often associated with massacre that it has given rise to the general but utterly unfounded belief by those who have not gone deeper into the matter, that Armenians are devoid of physical courage and allow themselves to be butchered like sheep. Where this belief is not based upon ignorance of the facts and circumstances, it is, I am bound to say, a particularly dastardly piece of calumny upon a people who have groaned for centuries under a
brutal tyrant’s heel, with an indomitable spirit that has ever been and is even to-day the Turk’s despair. The struggle that has gone on for five or six centuries between Armenian and Turk symbolizes, perhaps better than any event in history, the invincibility of the spirit of Christianity and liberty and the ideal of nationality against overwhelming odds of ruthless tyranny, the savagery of the Dark Ages and the unscrupulous and mendacious exploitation of religious passion. That struggle has been as unequal as can well be imagined, but we have not permitted the forces of darkness to triumph over the spirit of Light and Liberty, though the price paid has come very near that of our annihilation. Nevertheless, we have been able, in this world-wide struggle, not dissimilar to our own long struggle in the moral issues
involved, to render services to the cause of the Allies, which is the cause of Right and Justice, and therefore our cause also, quite out of proportion, in their effect, to our numbers as a race or our contribution of fighting men as compared with the vast armies engaged, although that contribution has been by no means negligible.

On the eve of Turkey’s entry into the war the Young Turks employed every conceivable means–persuasion, cajolery, intimidation, the promise of a large autonomous Armenia, etc.–to induce the Armenian party leaders to prevail upon the Russian Armenians to join themselves in a mass rally to the Turkish flag against Russia. They sent a number of emissaries to Russian Armenia with the same object. The Turk must have a peculiar understanding of human nature, and not much sense of humour, to have the naïveté to make such overtures to Armenians after having
persecuted and harried and massacred them for centuries. All the Armenian leaders promised was a correct attitude as Ottoman subjects.

They would do neither more nor less than what they were bound to do by the laws of the country. They could not interfere with the freedom of action of their compatriots in the Caucasus who owed allegiance to Russia. They kept their promise scrupulously in the first months of the war. Armenian conscripts went to the depots without enthusiasm. How could it be otherwise? What claim had the Turks upon the sympathy and support of their Armenian subjects? Is sympathy won by tyranny, or
loyalty bred by massacre? They (the Armenians) were placed in a most difficult position. They were naturally reluctant to fight against the Russians, and the position was aggravated by the fact that the Russian Caucasian army was largely composed of Russian Armenians. But in spite of these sentimental difficulties, mobilization was completed without any serious trouble.

Soon, however, Armenians began to desert in large numbers; the Young Turks had joined the war against their wish and advice; they had not their heart in the business, and, last, but not least, they were harried, ill-treated and insulted by their Turkish officers and comrades at every turn… Then came the defeat of the Turks at Sarikamysh and the ejection of Djevdet Bey and his force from Azerbaijan. On his return to Van, Djevdet Bey told his friends: “It is the Armenians much more than the Russians who are fighting us.”

The massacres and deportations began soon after the collapse of the Turkish invasion of the Caucasus and Northern Persia, and it is only after it was seen clearly that the Turks were determined to deport or destroy them all that the Armenians in many places took up arms in self-defence. There was no armed resistance before that, and the Turkish and German allegations of an Armenian revolt are a barefaced invention to justify a crime, a tithe of which not one but a hundred revolts cannot justify or palliate. This is proved beyond all question by Mr. Toynbee’s concise and illuminating historical summary at the end of the Blue-book on the Treatment of Armenians by the Turks during the war.

There was no revolt. But when the Armenians were driven to self-defence under the menace of extermination, they fought with what arms they could scrape together, with the courage of desperation. In Shahin-Karahissar they held out for three months and were only reduced by artillery brought from Erzerum. In Van and Jebel-Mousa they defended themselves against heavy odds until relieved by the Russians and the Armenian volunteers in the first case, and rescued by French and British cruisers in the second. The Turkish force sent against the insurgents of Jebel-Mousa was detached from the army intended for the attack on the Suez Canal.

Of course ill-armed, poorly equipped bands without artillery, wanting in almost all necessaries of modern warfare, brave as they may be, cannot possibly maintain a prolonged resistance against superior forces of regulars well supplied with artillery, machine-guns and all that is needed in war. Nevertheless, some of these bands seem to have succeeded in holding out for many months, and it is believed in the Caucasus that there are groups of armed Armenians still holding out in some parts of the higher mountains behind the Turkish lines. It will be remembered that some weeks ago–I do not recall the date–a Constantinople telegram reprinted in The Times from German papers stated that there were 30,000 armed Armenian rebels in the vilayet of Sivas. This is an obvious exaggeration, and it may simply mean that a considerable number of Armenians were still defending themselves against the menace of massacre. When the Russian army entered Trebizond a band of some 400 armed Armenians came down from the mountains and surrendered themselves to the Russians. Quite recently a band of seventy men cut through the Turkish lines and gained the Russian lines in the neighbourhood of Erzinjian.

The Turks have repeatedly declared that the “Armenian revolt” threatened to place their army between two fires. The particle of truth that there is in this assertion is, as may be judged by the facts so far known as cited above, that the Armenian resistance to massacre and deportation proved to be more serious than they had anticipated, and that they had to detach large numbers of troops and in some cases artillery and machine-guns to keep these “rebels” in check. It is consequently undeniable that Armenian armed resistance to deportation and massacre has been a considerable hindrance to the full development of Turkish military power during the war and has, in that way, been of material, though, indirect assistance to the Allied forces operating against the Turks….

Such in general outline have been the services of the Turkish Armenians to the Allied cause. It is not my purpose here to endeavour to appraise the possibly ill-concealed, but not by any means ostentatious or provocative, sympathy of the Armenians for the Allies, upon the sinister designs of the Young Turks…

The following extract from a dead Turkish officer’s notebook, reproduced in the Russkaia Viedomosti (No. 205), throws some light on the Turkish estimate of the value of Armenian support in the war. “If our Armenians had been with us,” wrote this Turkish officer, “we would have defeated the Russians long ago.”

The services of the Russian Armenians to the Allied cause, but principally, of course to the Russian cause during the war, have been of a more direct and positive character and of far-reaching importance. They may be divided into two distinct parts, namely, military and political; and in order the better to explain the full meaning of the Armenian “strong support of the Russian cause” (in the words of The
Times), I will deal with each of the two parts separately.

The Armenian population of Russian Armenia and the Caucasus numbers, roughly, 1,750,000 souls, and there are probably another 100,000 to 200,000 Armenians scattered over the other parts of the empire. They are liable to military service as Russian subjects, and it is estimated that they have given to the Russian army some 160,000 men. Apart from this not negligible number of men called to the colours in the ordinary course of mobilization, the Armenians, as a result of an understanding
with the authorities, organized and equipped at their own expense a separate auxiliary volunteer force under tried and experienced guerrilla leaders, such as Andranik, Keri and others, to co-operate with the Caucasian army. This force contained a number of Turkish Armenians, mostly refugees from previous massacres. Some twenty thousand men responded to the call for volunteers, though I believe not more than about ten thousand could be armed and sent to the front. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed. Armenian students at the Universities of Moscow and Petrograd and educational institutions in the Caucasus vied with each other in their eagerness to take part in the fight for the liberation of their kinsmen from bondage. Several young lady students offered to enlist, but I believe all but two or three were dissuaded from taking part in actual fighting. Boys of fourteen and fifteen years ran away from home and tramped long distances to join the volunteer battalions. It is recorded that an Armenian widow at Kars, on hearing that her only son had been killed in battle, exclaimed, “Curse me that I did not give birth to ten more sons to fight and die for the freedom of our country.”

The volunteer force was not large, but it was a mobile force well adapted to the semi-guerilla kind of warfare carried on in Armenia, and the men knew the country. They seem to have done good work as scouts in particular, though they took part in many severe engagements and were mentioned once or twice in Russian communiques as “our Armenian detachments.” Generous appreciation of the services and gallantry of
the volunteers as well as of Armenians in the army has been expressed by Russian military commanders, the Press, and public men. High military honours were conferred upon the volunteer leaders, and His Imperial Majesty the Czar honoured the Armenian nation by his visit to the Armenian Cathedral in Tiflis, demonstrating his satisfaction with the part played by Armenians in the war.

There are, of course, many Armenian high officers in the Russian army, including several generals, but so far they have not had the opportunity of producing in this war outstanding military leaders of the calibre of Loris Melikoff and Terkhougasoff. General Samsonoff, “the Russian Kitchener,” was killed early in the war in East Prussia in his gallant and successful attempt to relieve the pressure on Paris.

The political effect of the strong and enthusiastic support of the Russian cause by Armenians has been to keep in check the discontented and fanatical section of the Tartars and other Moslems of the Caucasus, who would have been disposed to make common cause with the Turks whenever a favourable opportunity should present itself to do so without much risk to themselves. The Tartars and other Moslem elements of the Caucasus are as a whole genuinely loyal to Russia, but the existence of a minority who would welcome the success of the Turkish invasion cannot be denied. Some of the Ajars did, in fact, join the Turks during their invasion of Ardahan.

All things considered, therefore, those who have any knowledge of the racial and political conditions in the Caucasus will not, I think, regard it as in any sense an exaggeration to assert that the whole-hearted support of the Armenians–and I may also add, though in a lesser degree, the Georgians–has contributed very materially to the success of Russian arms in the Caucasian theatre of the war. The absence of that support, or even mere formal or lukewarm support, would not only most probably have had serious consequences for the Caucasus, it would have left the whole of Persia at the mercy of the Turks; and who can say what the consequences of such a catastrophe would have been on Arabia, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan and even the northern frontiers of India itself?…

Propaganda in neutral countries has played an important part during the war. The just cause of the Allies has had no stauncher supporters or better propagandists than the hundred and twenty-five thousand or more Armenians in the United States, while the Great Tragedy of Armenia has incidentally added to the armoury of the Allies a melancholy but formidable moral weapon.

Source

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