Armenia 1915 -1920

Armenia 1915 -1920

Armenians commemorate the massacre of their people in what was then
Constantinople, and across Turkey, on April 25 every year. Here is a
selection of articles chronicling how the Manchester Guardian reported
the events in Turkey and Armenia between the massacre in 1915 and
Armenia becoming a socialist republic in 1920. Two years later Armenia
would become part of the USSR.

Tuesday December 21, 2004
The Guardian

April 25 1915 Turkish Army’s Plight

A Terrible Picture

Cities Turned into Cemeteries

Plague-ravaged towns

The “Corriera della Sera” (Milan) publishes a terrible account, sent
from Hoppa (Black Sea) of the sufferings of the Turkish army which has
been defeated in the Caucasus. It is, says the writer, a colossal
unknown tragedy. All Eastern Armenia is stricken with woe:
devastation, massacre, carnage, epidemics, misery, misery, misery! The
cities are cemeteries and hospitals. Trebizond, sweet voluptuous
Trebizond, which saw the glory of Alexis Commenus and which
degenerated under the corruption of the Empire risen on the dark
shores of the Black Sea, Trebizond is now half destroyed and its
inhabitants are fleeing. The disasters of the Turkish army in the
Caucasus campaign have sent survivors flocking here; a bloody spectre
of the Turkish army that was dispatched to the Russian frontier. Four
thousand sick or wounded soldiers have been sent to Trebizond from
Erzerum and from the frontier, and almost every day new and dolorous
convoys arrive from the interior. The authorities calculate that
Trebizond will be able to accommodate eight thousand patients, and so
from Eastern Armenia hundreds continue to arrive. They do not appear
to be men, but rather remnants of humanity. But however many are sent
it is unlikely that the figure mentioned will ever be reached, for
Death sees to the daily elimination among those already arrived. With
sickening regularity it frees the places for newcomers and those on
their way. There are more than a hundred deaths every day at
Trebizond. Typhus, small-pox and an infinity of other diseases play
havoc. Nearly all the doctors and chemists have contracted
illness. And there are only just five doctors to attend to the needs
of this entire city which lately counted a population of sixty
thousand souls, and to look after the thousands of wounded as
well. Sanitation material is nearly exhausted. There are no more
disinfectants. The best use is being made of whatever expedients can
be devised in order to keep going on.

The Spread of Plague

The Typhus spreads with amazing rapidity. Wounds not sufficiently
attended to become gangrenous. It is an infinite trial; a
slaughter. Until twenty days ago it was thought possible that the
epidemics might be confined to the encampments, but this has proved
and ingenuous illusion. When hospitals were improvised in the centre
of the city how could one believe that the epidemic would not spread
and become general! Hospitals rise beside the schools, the mosques,
the churches and near the Consulates. At the present moment there is
one on each side of the Italian Consulate. Naturally the plague
spreads among the citizens. A daughter of the German Consul is
suffering from typhus. Many families flee, terrified. But journeys
cost money and are disastrous. It is necessary to have or find means
of getting far away and there are no ordinary communications, because
in the interior there is not a single mile of railway, and the sea
route is closed – or else to resign oneself to a dangerous journey by
brief and painful stages. But towards what region! Where can safety be

Caravan Column’s Fate

A column of a thousand camels was sent from Constantinople for the
caravan service between Trebizond, Erzerum and the interior. Eight
hundred are already dead, stricken by diseases that kill them in a few
hours. The grotesque and precious beasts drop down by the wayside and
nobody troubles about them. Carrion hover over them and help to
augment the elements of infection. The sea route barred by the Turkish
fleet, which arrives here now and again to bombard, the communications
with the interior rendered difficult and extremely slow, Oriental
Armenia is now threatened with yet another scourge – hunger. Flour is
becoming scarce, there is no sugar and the deficiency in the supply of
coffee is beginning to be felt. And already there is no more
petroleum! The situation is even worse at Erzerum, in the interior,
320 kilometres from Trebizond. Erzerum is a fortress and chief town of
the vilayet. It has a hundred thousand inhabitants and is almost
completely Armenian. But the Ottoman Government has always neglected
it, only troubling about its military position, and then close up,very
little. The city is without sewerage or drainage. Around the outlying
quarters there are putrid, stagnant waters; they surround the city so
that it lies enclosed as in a purulent wreath of ill. Erzerum is full
of sick and wounded. >From eight hundred to a thousand die there
every day. It is something fantastic. The Ottoman Army had been
organised for the invasion of Russia from the Caucasus is now here or
in the surrounding districts. It comprises 350,000 men in the most
deplorable condition, and discouraged and afflicted. When the city is
considered to be too full of sick, convoys are organised and sent to
Trebizond. But the distance is too far, and hundreds die on the
way. Entire columns of soldiers, already infected, are obliged to
undertake the journey on foot, as there are not sufficient carts and
animals. Every now and again one falls out. Secure him. With what and
how, when the others, who endeavour to push along somehow, are in the
same plight? Trebizond was bombarded on January 24 and 28 and February
3. The military zones were hardly damaged at all, but the city has
suffered enormously, especially the Christian quarters. The Turks,
following their old and favoured practice, always occupy the Christian
quarters when they fire on the warships, with the result that these
quarters suffer most from the bombardment of the latter. Half of
Trebizond lies in ruins.

April 27 1915

The War in the Caucasus

Armenians enthusiasm for Russian cause

At the beginning of the war with Turkey the Russian Armenians of the
Caucasus petitioned the Russian Government to allow them to form
Armenian volunteer regiments. Armenians of Russian nationality are, of
course, subject to compulsory military service and contribute their
quota to the Caucasian regiments. But, in addition to this, the
Armenians of the Caucasus desired to form purely Armenian regiments of
volunteers, with Armenian officers and commands in the Armenian
language. The Russian Government consented, and several battalions
were formed. There are from 80,000 to 90,000 Armenians in the
Caucasian regiments, and in addition some 15,000 Armenian volunteers
have joined. It is hoped to raise this number to 20,000 men in special
Armenian regiments. When one considers that the Russian Armenian
population altogether is only 1,700,000, one has proof of the
enthusiasm with which they have supported the Russian cause. The
Armenian regiments were equipped as to clothing &c. with money
subscribed by the Armenian community in the Caucasus. The Government,
of course, armed them, but they receive no pay either for themselves
or their families – only food and maintenance in their field. Over and
above this special effort, the Russian Armenians have contributed to
various war charities – hospitals, hospital trains, and so on – some
1,500,000 roubles. This, with the cost of raising the voluntary
regiments, will total probably 3,000,000 roubles altogether – a huge
sum for so small a community. In addition to this, thousands of
Armenian refugees have fled to the border before the advance of the
massacring Turks. These refugees have been distributed through the
Armenian villages of the Caucasus and are being supported by the
Armenian community. The regiments of the Armenian volunteers have been
of the greatest service in the operations against the Turks and have
won the warm approval of the Russian commanders. They are hardly
mountaineers accustomed to the country and familiar with the methods
of warfare of the Kurds. They are more lightly dressed and equipped
than the Russian troops and perform the mountain marches more
quickly. In the operations against the Turks from the Caucasus they
always formed the vanguard of the Russian army.

The Present Position

The advance into Turkish Armenia was made at four points, by one route
westward from Northern Persia towards Lake Van, and southward along
three routes from the territory of Kars. The advance was very
rapid. Though they were outnumbered three to one at least, they drove
the Turks back before their swift advance, fighting day and night. But
a Turkish force operating to the westward of all the lines of advance
threatened towards Tiflia and menaced the Russian lines of
communication. The Russians therefore withdrew all their forces from
Turkish territory. Afterwards they outflanked the Turkish force in
their turn. The position remains so at present, and must remain so for
some three or four weeks. Desultory fighting goes on but a general
advance is impossible because the melting of the snow makes the passes
impracticable. The Turks will mass at Erzerum and there will be a
secondary concentration at Bitlin. Much depends on the command of the
Black Sea. If the Turks could bring their transports to Trebizond ,
that would be the easiest way of getting their army to Erserum. The
big battle will be there.

May 21 1918

The Turks in Armenia

Massacres at Van

A telegram from Tiflis states that pourpariers for a separate peace
between the Caucasus and Ottoman Governments have been broken off
owing to the monstrous demands of the Turks. The latter at once began
an energetic offensive on the whole front, and occupied the town of
Van, massacring the Armenian population.

September 30 1920

Atrocities by Red troops in Armenia

An appeal to Chicherin Reuter’s Agency learns that the Armenian
Government has sent the following telegram, dated September 17, to Mr
Chicherin, the Bolshevik Commissary for Foreign Affairs. “The Red
troops of Soviet Russia, followed by Tartar marauding bands, are
laying waste the peaceful Armenian villages in Karabagh and
Zangezour. General Vasilenko, the Commander of the Second Red division
operating in this region has taken no notice of the preliminary peace
treaty signed between us at Tiflis on August 10. “Fifty important
Armenian villages have already suffered heavily, and the peasants are
leaving their homes in Zangezour in order to avoid the brutality of
your troops. “For the sake of our future co-operation and good
neighbourliness we request the Russian Soviet Government to stay the
advance of Red troops into Armenian territory and prevent further
atrocities.”- Reuter

November 29 1920

Armenia and Turkey

Peace Negotiations to Begin

Difficulty with Georgia

Fresh arrangements between the Armenians and the Turks were concluded
yesterday. The Armenian delegation, with M. Khatissian as president,
proceeds to Alexandropol in a few days to begin peace
negotiations. Half Armenia has been overrun, and the reconstruction
work of the past two years has been destroyed. Tens of thousands of
refugees, famished and frost-bitten, are struggling towards Delijeh,
Karaklis and Erivan. Georgia, quite excusably, has closed her
frontiers. The toll of human suffering equals the worst during the
Great War. Armenia has permitted Georgia to occupy the neutral zone
for three months. Georgian troops have now advanced and occupied
Djellalbuglu, against which Armenia has formally protested. This
incident, however, is not expected to impair amicable relations
between Armenia and Georgia.

Mr Conwil Williams, secretary of the British Armenia Committee, adds
the following explanatory note: The neutral zone to which your Tiflis
correspondent refers consists of the Sanahin district,
north-north-west of Erivan. It contains the important copper mines of
Maverdi. When the British evacuated the Caucasus they failed to decide
between the opposing claims of Armenia and Georgia in regards to this
area. The Armenians who number 80 per cent of the population, were in
favour of inking a plebiscite, but the Georgians failed to agree. Its
occupation by Georgia may be a necessary military measure in view of
the Turkish advance. It is to be hoped, however, that the taking of
Djellalbuglu, in Armenian territory, does not indicate that Georgia is
taking a mean advantage of her neighbour’s desperate plight.