Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Armenians: "Dupes and Pawns" of the Russians  
First Page


Major Players
Links & Misc.



Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems

Richard G. Hovannisian gives a good account in his 1967 book, 'Armenia on the Road to Independence,' on how "the Armenians were dupes and pawns in the game of international politics." It was all of the Allies who used the Armenians, but in these excerpts the focus is on how big Orthodox brother, Russia, used them.

Can the Armenians blame the Russians? For such a clever people, it is not as if the Armenians were without signs regarding how untrustworthy the Russians were... the reason why William Saroyan pointed out the real enemy of the Armenians was not the Turks, but the Russians. Since the times of Peter the Great, the Russians made promises to the Armenians that they rarely kept.

It was Peter the Great who encouraged the Armenians to found colonies in Russia. He desired to develop the trade of his country and recognized the rare commercial attributes of the Armenians. Catherine II pursued the same policy, and the Armenians of the Crimea, tired of the oppression of the Tatar Khans, founded, on the banks of the Don, the city of Novo-Nakhtchevan. They entered the Russian armies and gave proof of those military talents which had distinguished them during the days of the Byzantine Empire.

Kevork Aslan ("Armenia and the Armenians: From the Earliest Times Until the Great War [1914]," 1920, MacMillan Co., NY, p. 114; Translated from the French by Pierre Crabitès) gave an idea of the background of the famous czar and czarina's beckoning of the Armenians, but the Armenian historian was not being completely sincere. The main reason why the Russians wooed the Armenians was to build up a dependable "Christian" community, for use in their Turk-smashing plans. The idea was to kick the Muslims out and to put the Christians in. Seduced by promises of free goodies the Armenians could not resist, it was an easy step for the Armenians to keep betraying their Ottoman nation where they had prospered for many centuries. Aslan gets more to the point of the matter by pointing to the entrance of the Ottoman Armenians into the Russian military.

It didn't matter to the Armenians how often the Russians kept breaking their promises. The Armenians were willing to betray their Ottoman nation time and again, since the end of the 18th century. This, in spite of their prosperity; as Hovannisian indicated earlier in this work (pg. 25):

Though some Christians surmounted the inferior status by converting to Islam, most Armenians held tenaciously to their native dialects and religion — the ability of the Armenians to maintain their national identity throughout centuries of Turkish domination can be attributed in part to the administrative structure of the Empire. When Mehmed II made Constantinople the Ottoman capital in 1453, the Turkic Moslem element formed a minority in many areas of his domains. The Sultan reduced his administrative problems by according INTERNAL AUTONOMY (emphasis Holdwater's) to the non-Moslem communities. In return, the religious superior of each group was responsible for maintaining order among his people and for collecting the required community levies. The Armenian bishop of Brusa was invited to Constantinople in 1461 and elevated to the rank of Patriarch of all non-Orthodox Christians. His community, the Armenian Ermeni Millet, and the Greek Orthodox and Jewish millets became the three official non-Moslem establishments within the framework of the Empire. [Footnote: Archbishop Maghakin Ormanian, Azgapatum (National History), Vol. II (Constantinople 1914) & Vol. III (Jerusalem, 1927).] The millet system proved workable and beneficial for the Armenians.


"...[Byzantine E]xpansionist policies had their crowning glory in Armenia....Constantine IX. Monomachus was a ruthless Orthodox zealot. He annexed 'heretical' Ani and made it part of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. The Armenian version reads, 'King Gagik II. is forced to surrender the Kingdom in Constantinople.' That was in 1045, another fateful year for the Armenians. Since 1045, there has never been an independent or semi-independent principality or kingdom in eastern Anatolia, the historical region of Armenia. There has been no trace of Armenian self-government or autonomy."

Erich Feigl, "The Myth of Terror," Austria, 1986, p. 42-3

The Ottoman Empire was no utopia and Armenians faced injustices from time to time, as did all other Ottoman citizens, including Turkish ones; even with its imperfections, the regime came closest to Plato's Republic, according to Wellington House propagandist Arnold Toynbee himself. Imagine the luxury of a subject people being afforded an autonomy, during medieval times, when most multi-cultural empires throughout the world were known for their cruelty and injustice. The Armenians were allowed to prosper ("For the Armenians, this was the beginning of a golden age... the domain for their activities as traders and craftsmen grew until it was a hundred times the size of their original district in eastern Anatolia" Feigl, "The Myth of Terror," p. 44), to the extent of being better off than the average Turk. Yet, Ottoman kindness was rewarded by Armenian treachery. The masses threw their lot in with their greedy and fanatical leaders, who actually encouraged their own to get massacred, so that the European powers would intervene. As Kerope Papazian wrote in Patriotism Perverted, referring to the outbreak of WWI, the Dashnak leaders "were swayed in their actions by the interests of the Russian government and disregarded, entirely, the political dangers that the war had created for the Armenians in Turkey. Prudence was thrown to the winds."

We begin with the excerpts from the book:


Revelation of Actual Tsarist Attitudes (pp. 57-58)


Prof. Richard Hovannissian

Prof. Hovannissian

While the Russian armies occupied most of the Armenian Plateau during the winter and spring of 1916, Armenian leaders were most apprehensive. Apparent respect of tsarist officials for Armenian political-civic bodies and volunteer groups had changed into expressions of sarcasm and distrust. As early as the first half of 1915, disquieting reports from Russian junior officers, accusing the volunteers of lawlessness and looting, had reached Tiflis. Publication of such dispatches elicited sharp protests to Vorontsov-Dashkov from the Armenian National Bureau. Subsequently, the Viceroy informed members of the Bureau that an investigation had proved the detrimental news unfounded, and he promised to publicize this report. That he did not was significant.90 The National Bureau also complained that in the occupied territories the Kurds, instead of being disarmed, were allowed freedom of action. While these "enemies of yesterday" continued their violations against the sedentary population, tsarist officials confiscated the weapons of the Armenian peasantry. A deputation composed of Bishop Mesrop, Mayor Khatisian, and Samson Harutunian requested that Vorontsov-Dashkov authorize the Armenian refugees to carry arms for protection and to settle in deserted Moslem villages.91 Though the Viceroy reassured the delegation of the government’s benevolence, Armenian leaders could not ignore the ascendance of traditional bureaucratic views toward the minorities. What the National Bureau did not know was that representatives of the Romanov sovereign were earnestly negotiating the partition of Turkey with the other members of the Entente. Moreover, Russian designs to annex the eastern vilayets included no provisions for Armenian autonomy.92

You heard it from Prof. Hovannisian: NO PROVISIONS FOR ARMENIAN AUTONOMY. After the professor reported the Armenians had autonomy for centuries, in the Ottoman Empire.

 Correspondence of ranking tsarist officials was indicative of the Russian retrenchment. In April, 1915, before the Van offensive, General N. N. ludenich, Field Commander of the Caucasus Army, reported to Vorontsov-Dashkov about the Alashkert Plain and Bayazit Valley:

The Armenians intend to have their refugees occupy the lands abandoned by the Kurds and Turks in order to benefit from that territory. I consider this intention unacceptable, for the reason that after the war, it will be difficult to reclaim those lands seized by the Armenians or to prove that the property does not belong to them, as was the case after the Russo-Turkish War [of 1877-1878]. I consider it very desirable to populate the border regions with a Russian element. . .

It has already pleased Your Excellency to affirm my recommendation for the immediate expulsion, to beyond the Turkish lines, of all those Kurds of the Alashkert, Diadin, and Bayazit valleys who have shown us any kind of resistance, and in the future, when these valleys enter within the bounds of the Russian Empire, to populate them with colonists from the Kuban and Don and in that way to form a Cossack region along the border.93

Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov

Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov
Russian Foreign Minister (1910-16)

A memorandum in a similar vein was relayed to Foreign Minister Sazonov in March, 1915, by Minister of Agriculture A. V. Krivoshein:

The success of our military activities on the Turkish front gives reason to think that, more or less, in the near future, we will have the opportunity to rectify our Caucasian boundary and to round out our possession of Asia Minor and Armenia.

After considering the agricultural prospects of the Black Sea coastal area, he continued:

. . .the other region, which falls southeast of the former, is the basin of the upper currents of the Araxes and Euphrates, which is generally called Armenia (Erzerum and Van vilayets as well as part of Bitlis vilayet). This region is mostly high above sea level and is completely suitable for Russian colonists.94

Wartime documents published by the Bolshevik government cast a good deal of light upon the foreign policy fostered by Nicholas II and his ministers. That the Armenians were dupes and pawns in the game of international politics is glaringly exposed in these records.95 An exchange of notes between Sazonov and A. P. Izvolskii, ambassador to France, touches on a special mission of Hakob Zavriev. After the outbreak of war, the Armenian politician had conferred with the Russian Foreign Minister and, having received certain assurances, departed for Paris to gain the blessings of the French government for an autonomous Armenia. On May 17, 1915, Izvolskii informed Sazonov:

Dr. Zavriev, who has come here, has presented a memorandum to me about the results of his talks in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this note, among other things, it is said that Russia intends to propose to the governments that within the Turkish boundaries there be created an autonomous Armenia, under Turkish suzerainty and the protection of the three governments, Russia, England, and France. Supposedly, Armenia’s lands are to encompass not only all of the Armenian provinces, except for a few border districts, but also Cilicia with a seaport on the Mediterranean Sea, at Mersin. . . . The point in relation to Cilicia is, I feel, especially delicate, because France has already expressed to us her ambitions concerning the area.96

On the following day, Sazonov replied, "Our talks with the Armenians have had a completely academic character." 97


Pp. 67-68


The Russian I Corps, including the First Armenian Rifle Battalion, advanced over Mamakhatun into Erzinjan on July 24 and occupied the western areas of the Armenian Plateau and the strategic crossroad between Erzerum and Sivas (Sebastia).124

Only after the rout of Vehib’s Army did Izzet Pasha attack the Russian positions along the Kighi-Ognot-Mush line. During August the Second Army’s II, III, IV, and XVI 125 corps attained their initial objectives, but then they too were stalled and repelled. Enver’s strategy had failed; he was spared further losses only by a Russian halt owing to the early snows of the 1916-1917 winter season.126 Grand Duke Nicholas and General ludenich, encouraged by successes on the Turkish front, planned for a spring offensive over Kharput, Sivas, and along the Black Sea coast toward Constantinople to force the Ottomans to capitulate. Such an eventuality in 1917 would not have been unlikely were it not for the March Revolution in Russia.

Georges Clemenceau

French Premier Clemenceau 

As the two opposing armies dug in for the winter, Turcophobe agitation by Armenians in America and Europe swelled. Many men already had departed for the Caucasus to enlist as volunteers, while in November, 1916, a new outlet for the revenge-hungry Armenians was provided by the French government. Negotiations of Boghos Nubar with French political and military authorities culminated in the formation of the Légion d’Orient, an auxiliary force made up of Armenians and Syrians of Ottoman origin. Ninety-five percent Armenian in composition, the Légion included refugees, former prisoners of war, and permanent residents of Egypt, America, and Europe. Under the command of General Edmund Allenby, the Légion, fighting in Palestine, Syria, and finally Cilicia, won the plaudits of Clemenceau’s government and its Entente allies. The légionnaires, like the volunteers in Transcaucasia, considered both the official declarations about Armenian indemnification and the bestowal of medals and certificates of valor equivalent to bona fide Allied commitments. Ironically, the Entente already had confirmed the secret agreements that partitioned the Armenian Plateau, Cilicia, and much more of Asiatic Turkey among themselves.127

In light of the guarded negotiations of the Allies during 1915-1916, the change of the official Russian disposition toward the Armenians, their volunteer units, and their political aspirations is more comprehensible, and the tsarist decree concerning the government of Turkish Armenia is especially significant. Signed in June, 1916, by Chief of Staff General M. V. Alekseev, the "Rules for the Temporary Administration of Areas of Turkey Occupied by the Right of War" transformed the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire into a military governor-generalship for the purpose of maintaining order and assisting the war effort. The governor-general, his chief assistants, and the administrators of the various territorial subdivisions were all to be officers of rank, while minor regional posts might be filled by civilians of rank. Use of confiscated enemy goods and lands, which were at the disposal of the governor-general, was reserved solely for the military forces. "Armenia" or "Armenian" were terms not found in the decree, which was worded so that it might apply to any territory occupied in time of war.128 In place of the autonomy envisaged by the Armenians, the eighth article of the "Rules" instructed the officials of the governor-generalship

to reestablish and uphold law and order, to protect the life, honor, property, religious-civil liberties of the inhabitants, to consider all nationalities equal before the Russian government, and to guarantee these inhabitants the possibility of free and tranquil labor, on condition that they submit in toto to the suzerainty of Russia.129

Appointed governor-general in the summer of 1916, General Peshkov began preparations for the direct and unconditional annexation of the Armenian Plateau to the vast Romanov Empire.130


 Renewed Russian Armenian Activity


The year 1916 was a black one for the Russian Armenians. The full extent of the blow that had struck from Constantinople to Bitlis was only then clearly comprehended. Russian occupation of Erzerum and Trebizond would have elicited delirious celebrations throughout Transcaucasia in 1914, but in 1916 it was greeted with silent interest, for the tsarist armies had occupied "Armenia without Armenians," the ideal not only of Enver and Talaat but also of the former Russian Foreign Minister, Lobanov-Rostovskii. With the tsarist order to disband the volunteer units, the Russian Armenians entered a period of shock, disillusionment, and dismay. It was the plight of the refugees which jolted them back into action. By the end of 1916, nearly three hundred thousand Ottoman Armenians had sought safety in Transcaucasia, where nearly half were destined to die from famine and disease.131 The revitalized National Bureau, philanthropic societies, and populace attempted to mitigate the suffering of the Turkish Armenian survivors by contributing over 5 million rubles for relief activities. Armenians from every corner of the Russian Empire participated in this newest of "all-national” efforts."132




After several delays and obstacles, the Russian government, in May, 1916, authorized Armenian leaders to convene in Petrograd on the condition that the agenda include only relief measures. Joining the delegates from the influential Armenian communities of Moscow and Petrograd were representatives from Transcaucasia, South Russia, and the United States, as well as spokesmen for the refugees from Turkey. The spectrum was broad, for among the more than a hundred delegates were the two Armenian members of the Russian State Duma, both Constitutional Democrats; ranking Dashnakists, Social Democrats, and Social Revolutionaries;133 several eminent scholars; and representatives of numerous philanthropic, social, cultural, and religious organizations. Officials of the Russian bureaucracy were also in attendance so that forbidden topics might not be broached. Though the tangible results of the deliberations were negligible, the Armenians were afforded a new and broader experience, the exchange of opinions by actual or potential leaders from widespread areas and with divergent ideological views.134 During these sessions, Duma member M. S. Ajemian, who had intimate contacts in the Russian Foreign Ministry, confided to a member of Dashnaktsutiun that the Armenian political future was endangered by secret Entente plans to partition Turkey. When Dr. Zavriev, Dashnaktsutiun’s most experienced international diplomat, was informed of the rumor, he dismissed it as useless gossip.135


No wonder Arthur Derounian (John Roy Carlson) had such contempt for the Dashnaks.





Further Reading:

How Well Did the Russians Treat the Armenians?







"West" Accounts


Armenian Views
Geno. Scholars


Turks in Movies
Turks in TV


This Site