The Treaty Of Alexandropol: 90 Years of Delusion and How It Came To Pass


BY: ARA PAPIAN

The study of history, particularly of the history of international relations, is not an end in itself. In studying history, man tries to learn from the past, so as to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It seems, then, that we are continually rejecting the lessons of history and directing ourselves with the delusion of perceiving what is desirable instead of what is real. If this were not the case, then we would not have signed the humiliating Armenia-Turkey protocols in Zurich, protocols which provided a temporary sense of relief, but which remained fruitless and barren, thereby rendering themselves exemplars of political onanism.

During these very days ninety years ago, the Armenians and Turks were carrying out negotiations in the ill-fated city of Alexandropol (now Gyumri), perhaps the most difficult negotiations in our brief political history. The negotiations ended with the signing of that most burdensome Treaty of Alexandropol, on the 3rd of December, 1920.

I shall relate a comparative analysis of the negotiations process, the legal status of the treaty itself and its contents in a future article. At present, a few words on what lead up to the treaty. Of course, the signing of the Treaty of Alexandropol was not some isolated incident. It was a consequence, in particular, of the military and political situation in Armenia after the havoc caused by the May, 1920 uprising, the ever-increasing Bolshevik-Kemalist co-operation, as well as the immense gap that had been formed between the authorities of Armenia and the people.

As the current state of Armenia mirrors the Armenia of May- November, 1920 in many ways, I thought it helpful to discuss certain key points. One question has always bothered me, as I am sure, it has others. How did it come to pass that, in almost the absence of an army, the Armenian people managed to defeat or at least provide an adequate defense to the Ottoman forces in open battle in May of 1918, and just two and a half years later, in September-November, 1920, with more weapons, ammunitions and soldiers than in 1918, it suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of the remnants of the very same Ottoman army in the well-bastioned fortress of Kars? When one studies the documents, press and memoirs of the time, one thing becomes clear: the roots of the defeat rested more on morale than on the military or the political.

Yes, costly mistakes were allowed in organizing the defense; yes, there were many unfavorable circumstances, even accidental ones. And, what, were there none in May of 1918? Of course there were! But in May of 1918, the Armenian man and soldier was certain that the Ottoman army was advancing towards the southern Caucasus to finish what it had started with the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, there were no alternatives to facing and struggling against the enemy; the willingness to fight was borne by the entire people. And also, the real reason for the victory of the first battle over Artsakh (Karabakh) was its own characteristic of being national, aimed at liberation and the fact that its essence was shared among the people.

But when one casts a glance at the circumstances in September-November, 1920, then it becomes clear that the Armenian soldier had simply given up on fighting, and the Armenian man, on showcasing any resistance. The most revealing testimony to that fact are the Turkish casualties. According to Kazim Karabekir, commander of the eastern front of the Kemalist forces, in the course of three days of battle (from the 31st of October to the 2nd of November, 1920), including the taking of Kars, the Turks lost only nine and had 42 wounded.1 This served as a realization of the Bolshevik calls of “the times have changed”, “these are different Turks”. And upon the withdrawal of “the Turks new and made anew”, the local authorities had to bury 4,386 bodies – 90% of which were women and children – in but three villages of Shirak (Ghaltaghchi, Aghboulagh and Barapol, as they were then called).2 This, too, was a manifestation of the policy of brotherhood towards “the new and made anew” Turks. Most unfortunately, it is the same song being sung today, the same old story; only the Bolsheviks getting assistance from abroad have been replaced by numerous grant-gulping organizations and so-called political scientists.

As the Bolsheviks were unsure whether or not it would be possible “to destroy Imperialist Armenia” solely by deluding the Armenians and breaking their spirit of resistance, they combined other steps with that of propaganda. Starting in May-June, 1919, when Semyon Budyonny met with Mustafa Kemal, the Bolsheviks provided immense military and material support to the Kemalists under the sway of the dream of a global revolution.

And those relations were particularly deepened with the signing of a secret treaty of co-operation between the Kemalists and Bolsheviks on the 24th of August, 1920. As a matter of fact, one of the signatories to the treaty on behalf of the Turkish party was that war criminal, former Minister of War for the Ottoman Empire, Enver Pasha, something which testifies to the following: although Kemal and Enver despised one another for years, all Turks found common ground in their efforts against the Armenians. Immediately following the secret treaty of the 24th of August, 1920, the Bolsheviks transferred over 200 kilograms of gold  and much arms and ammunition to the Kemalists. 3

The provision of military assistance is a relatively well-known fact, but few are aware that the Bolsheviks supported the Kemalists by directly fighting within their ranks against “Armenian Imperialists.” At the end of August, 1920, the first detachment of Bolsheviks, 7,000 soldiers, arrived in Karin (Erzurum). Some time later, another detachment of 10,000 arrived in aid of the Kemalists.4 Whereas the orders of the first detachment were to participate in the military actions against Armenia, the second was to be involved in maintaining the Mesopotamian front, so that the British forces stationed there would not be able to strike at the Kemalists from the rear and come to the assistance of Armenia in that way.

And so, under these circumstances – deserted by allies Britain and France, betrayed by ally Russia, internally weakened and militarily brought to her knees – the delegation of the Republic of Armenia arrived at Alexandropol (Gyumri) on the 24th of November, 1920, in order to commence negotiations with the so-called new, self-declared revolutionary Turkey.

To be continues…

_________
1. Harb Tarihi Vesikalari Dergisi (Journal of Documents pertaining to Military History), September, 1964, doc #1146
2. R. Hovannisian, The Republic of Armenia, v. IV, Berkeley, 1996. p. 286
3. Embassy of the Russian Federation in Turkey –http://www.turkey.mid.ru/20-30gg.html
4. M. J. Somakian, Empires in Conflict: Armenia and the Great Powers, 1895-1920, London, 1995, p. 229.

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11 Comments

  1. Seervart said:

    Thank you for the above article. Indeed with the degrading protocols of 2009, history did repeat itself. It’s sheer shame that today’s Armenia’s government didn’t look back nor learned from the past mistakes. I hope that this sort of thing will never happen again and Armenia will come forth better prepared from the past mistakes.

  2. Aram said:

    Thank you for clarifying that Armenians suffered for the past 2000 years because one part was with the Romans and the other with the Persians, one with the West and the other with the East.
    Thank you for highlighting that relying on the west means defeat throughout history, without going into the many unfavorable circumstances one thing is clear West=Defeat, unfortunately the western Armenian Diaspora is trying to look to the west for help and trying to detach itself from the past, we lost in 1920 because of Dunsterforce. if I am living in Yervan, kars or Sebastia in the years of 1918 & you tell me that I have to go to Baku to defend the oilfield on behalf of somebody that will desert me in the middle of the fight and give me false (W) promises, for sure there will not be any MORAL to defend Gars & Ardahan, without the Bolsheviks we wouldn’t have todays Armenia.
    Bolsheviks are no more, so please Armenian people move along, stop serving all other nations , be one like in May find out what have united US, and try not to do the same mistakes again and again. We won in Artsakh because we where united, we were serving Armenia, are we now? We have some kind of democracy if we compare it to our neighbors, but will our DEMOcracy help us when US desert us for OIL?
    Today we are facing the same dilemma, but unfortunately 99% of Us are looking WEST.

    • Fred said:

      It is not a matter of relying on the West. Relying on any one becides the ourselves is a mistake. That also includes the Russians as well as the West. I have no faith on Western goverments. My faith is with Armenians no matter where they reside. Their efforts to win the political war against the Turks in Western parliaments is admirablebut in my opinion a complete waste of time. We should direct all our efforts to boost Armenia and Artsakh militarily and economically. We must utilise our scientific and inventive energy to make our country the most advanced nation on earth. A feet our ancestors had already achieved. An Armenian Defence industry with advanced Armenian made weopons would be a majour player in the reagion and would be taken very seriously by all nations. We have the mind and the means to achieve this. We need the unity of all Armenians to make it happen.

    • namik said:

      Unfortunately you served Russia and Russia granted you for a place to settle in Caucasus. You won Nagorny Karabakh because of Russian military support. Sorry, you have never been independent. Please see see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry8jUPmGlcg

      Putin quotes an order ever issued by Russian Tsar Peter the First: “You have to pet Armenians as much as you can. You have to make their lives as easy as possible. This will motive their people to migrate in great numbers”. Then Putin says: “We are now 300 years further, we accomplished what we wanted”.

  3. Zareh said:

    Dear Aram it’s not as simple as saying “looking to West=defeat”, what is the alternative looking towards East or North ? A very quick and superficial review of how the “North” has treated Armenians would reveal that it is as bad, if not worse, than the West. Looking towards East does not bode much better. The only alternative , which you also mention, is relying on our unity and strength, this is not a mere cliché but it is the truth and today’s Arstakh is a living proof. With similar approach of unity and self-reliance, not only Azerbaijan but we would also bring today’s Turkey down to its knees. This is not an exaggeration.

      • Arn Sweden. said:

        Maybe you wanted to say that we will restore historical Armenia instead of will bring turkey to its knees.

        WITHOUT BRINGING TURKEY TO ITS KNEES,
        NO RESTORATION OF HISTORICAL ARMENIA IS POSSIBLE,
        AND DOING THIS NEEDS ALLIES.

        Arn.Sweden.

  4. Aram said:

    Armenia, allies??? Who is that, just can you name one country for example? USA? France? Maybe Iran or Russia. each one is acting for his own benefit, so it will be impossible to BRING TURKEY TO ITS KNEES, unless Zareh has a very detailed plan that we don’t know, and maybe it is not the right place to expose this plan.
    And what shall we do with the inhabitants of our land; shall we do the same what they did to us?
    We will have a HISTORICAL ARMENIA, but democratically it will be renamed Armenistan.

  5. troy said:

    Blame everyone else except for your own leaders who are still leading your people from destruction to destruction. Maybe Kim Kardashian would govern better…?

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