3684) The Other Side Of The Coin: 24 April

Death of Shavarsh Missakian

The Other Side Of The Coin: 24 April

The events of 1915 are being told in a one-sided manner especially through organizations of the Armenian diaspora in Europe and the United States that are closed-off to dialogue. There are some politicians who have adopted this one-sided approach to the events of 1915, which is a legitimate debate subject in all aspects. The most recent example for this was the statement by the French President Emmanuel Macron that he made at an event organized by the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France (Fr. Conseil De Coordination Des Organisations Arméniennes De France). Macron stated that he would declare April 24 as a genocide memorial day. Despite Turkey’s warnings and the works carried out by think tanks that conduct studies on this issue, the one-sided narrative is the dominant view in France and in the countries where the Diaspora is effective. However, concerning these events that the ECHR had deemed to be matter of controversy, it is possible to find inconsistencies even in the Diaspora organizations’ own publications.
. . .

The Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia publishes a weekly called Crossroads[1] about important Armenian figures in history. This publication unintentionally reveals the fact that the genocide narrative about the events of 1915 is built on an inconsistent basis. For example, let us discuss the story of an Armenian journalist in the Ottoman period, Svarsh Missakian, who “escaped” from the 1915 Relocation and Resettlement. Missakian was an Ottoman Armenian born in Sivas. In 1899, Missakian, who worked as a journalist, wrote articles for a newspaper that was opposed to Abdülhamid II’s regime. In 1909, he joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and he sent his writings to ARF publications in Geneva and Bulgaria. In 1911, Missakian moved to Erzurum and began working as an editor for Haratch, which was an ARF newspaper. Later, he moved to Istanbul and joined yet another ARF publication called Azatamart.

According to the information relayed by Crossroads, Missakian was “a political activist”. However, ARF is an organization that had carried out many particularly violent attacks in the Ottoman Empire. For example, many civilians and soldiers lost their lives during the raid of the Ottoman Bank carried out by the ARF. ARF took an active part in the Sasun Uprising of 1904 and the Yıldız Assassination Attempt of 1905. It also aided the Ottoman Empire’s enemies during the First World War. However, Crossroads mentions that Mikassian provided information and documents to the media organs of the ARF.

Crossroads writes that Missakian’s name was added to the wanted persons list of the circular dated 24 April 1915. However, Missakian managed to escape with a group of ARF “militants”.[2] After his escape, he continued to provide information for the ARF organizations in Bulgaria until his arrest by Ottoman soldiers in 1916 under the charge of leaking information.

The life story of Missakian published in Crossroads shows that there is another aspect of the 24 April orders given by the Ottoman authorities. In the dominant, one-sided narrative, it is alleged that the arrests of 24 April were made arbitrarily and that the those who were arrested were killed. However, it can be seen from Missakian’s story that the Ottoman citizens engaged in activities endangering the security of the state were an important factor in the formulation of the 24 April orders and that the wanted persons were not sentenced to death upon their arrest.

[1] “Crossroads,” The Armenian Prelacy, accessed February 21, 2019, https://www.armenianprelacy.org/crossroads.html

[2] “Death of Shavarsh Missakian,” The Armenian Prelacy, January 24, 2019, https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Crossroads-E-Newsletter---January-24--2019.html?soid=1125408170891&aid=ekPzWE4viME

Death of Shavarsh Missakian
(January 26, 1957)
Shavarsh Missakian was a veteran journalist and political activist who played an important role both in the history of the Armenian press and the organization of the Diaspora.

He was born in August 1884, on the feast of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin, in the village of Zimara, near Sepastia (Sivas). He moved to Constantinople in 1890 with his family, where he studied at the Getronagan School, and became a journalist at the age of sixteen.

He started his career in the daily Surhantag (1899-1908) . During the early 1900s, in the last year of the tyrannical regime of Abdul Hamid II, he published and distributed revolutionary literature, and contributed to the journals Droshak (in Geneva) and Razmig (in Plovdiv, Bulgaria) of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which he joined in 1907. After the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution in 1908, he published the literary weekly Aztag, with Zabel Essayan, Kegham Parseghian, and Vahram Tatoul from 1908-1909. He also founded a bookstore called Ardziv, which doubled as a publishing house.

In 1911-1912 Missakian settled in Garin (Erzerum) as the editor of the A.R.F. newspaper Haratch. Afterwards, he returned to Constantinople and became a member of the editorial board of the A.R.F. daily Azatamart.

He initially escaped the arrest of Armenian intellectuals on the fateful night of April 24, 1915. He lived clandestinely until March 1916, heading a group of A.R.F. militants who had also escaped the arrests. He provided valuable information and articles to the journal Hayastan of Sofia (Bulgaria), published during 1915, about the ongoing Turkish repression and deportations. The Ottoman authorities could not locate him, and decided to deport his father to Konia, but the latter managed to escape. Shavarsh Missakian was denounced by a Bulgarian spy and arrested on March 26, 1916, when he tried to go to Bulgaria. He was imprisoned and tortured; he tried to escape by throwing himself from the third floor of the prison, but he broke his leg and was captured. He was condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to five years of prison. In the end, he was freed after the armistice of Mudros on October 30, 1918.

He soon became the editor-in-chief of the daily Djagadamart, which replaced Azatamart, closed on April 24, 1915. In 1919 he traveled to Armenia, where he participated in the ninth General Assembly of the A.R.F. in Yerevan.

The impending advance of the Kemalist forces over Constantinople compelled many Armenians, including Missakian, to take the route of exile. In November 1922 he left the Ottoman capital and moved to Sofia, where he married Dirouhi Azarian (1891-1964), whom he had known when she worked as the bookkeeper for Djagadamart. In November 1924 he was sent to Paris, where he participated in the tenth General Assembly of the A.R.F. (November 1924-January 1925) and was elected a member of the party Bureau, a position that he held until 1933.

In August 1925 he launched the daily Haratch as a personal undertaking. The daily soon became the main voice of the Armenian community of France, with a circulation of 5,000 copies and the sought-after articles of its publisher and editor. Haratch became also a gathering place for the young generation of Armenian writers in the 1920s and 1930s that would be known as the “Paris boys.” It appeared without interruption until the Nazi occupation of Paris, when Missakian decided to voluntarily close the newspaper in June 1940.

Haratch was reopened in April 1945, after the Liberation. Eight months later, in an editorial of December 1945, Missakian coined tseghasbanutiun, the Armenian word for an almost unknown term, “genocide.” He would be one of its frequent users in the press. In the same year, the editor of Haratch would undertake the organization of the new generation with the foundation of the A.R.F.-affiliated “Nor Seround” (equivalent to the Armenian Youth Federation in North America) and its journal Haiastan, which continues its publication.

Shavarsh Missakian directed Haratch until the last day. He passed away on January 26, 1957, and was buried in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise. His daughter Arpik Missakian would succeed him in the direction of the journal, which she would publish for fifty-two more years, until May 2009, continuing her father’s traditions.

Missakian’s short memoir of his survival in the Ottoman prison, Leaves from a Yellowish Journal, was published in 1957, and a collection of his articles scattered in the Armenian press, entitled Days and Hours, in 1958. His memoir was translated into French by his daughter and published in 2015. A square named after him was inaugurated in the ninth arrondisement of Paris in 2007.

Commentary No : 2019 / 18 , Avim 21.02.2019

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