Sunday, June 4, 2017

Treaty of Batum (June 4, 1918)

In the early months of 1918, two parallel processes developed in the Southern Caucasus: on the one hand, Ottoman military actions, and on the other, diplomatic efforts. The signature of the Treaty of Batum marked a temporary end to both processes. 
After the second Russian Revolution (November 7, 1917, according to the Gregorian calendar) and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks headed by Lenin, Soviet Russia took measures to sign a separate peace with the Central Powers. Russians and Ottomans signed the armistice of Erzinga on December 5, 1917, ending the armed conflicts between both sides. The armistice was followed by the Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 3, 1918), which marked Russia’s departure from World War I. The Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Seim (Parliament) of Transcaucasia, formed by Georgians, Armenians, and Tatars (not yet named Azerbaijanis), held the peace conference of Trebizonda between March 14 and April 5. The Ottomans offered to surrender any ambition in the Caucasus in return for the recognition of the conditions of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, which delivered Western Armenia, Kars, and Ardahan to the Ottoman Empire. Akaki Chkhenkeli, head of the Transcaucasian delegation, accepted the treaty as a basis for further negotiation. However, Armenians refused to accept the situation and hostilities resumed. The Ottoman army advanced further to the east, despite Armenian resistance. 
A new peace conference between the Ottoman Empire and the newly-independent Republic of Trancaucasia (proclaimed on April 22) opened at Batum on May 11. The Ottomans left aside the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and increased their demands to include Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri), Surmalu (including Mount Ararat), Akhalkalak, and Akhaltskha. They also requested the construction of a railroad that connected Kars and Julfa (in Nakhichevan) with Baku. The transport corridor would run through Armenia, which was to give free right of passage. The Armenian and Georgian members of the Republic’s delegation began to stall the negotiations. The Ottoman army moved ahead and occupied Alexandropol on May 14. Between May 21 and 28, the fate of Armenia and Armenians was decided in the historic battles of Sardarabad, Gharakilise, and Bash Abaran. After the dissolution of the Republic of Transcaucasia on May 26-27 with the declaration of independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan, on May 30 the Armenian National Council of Tiflis (nowadays Tbilisi) assumed the authority of the Armenian provinces, retroactive to May 28. 
Despite its defeat at the three battles, the Third Ottoman Army held positions 4 miles from Yerevan and 6 miles from Etchmiadzin. Armenians had exhausted their possibilities of resistance and had no choice but to make peace with Turkey and sign a treaty that, despite its humiliating conditions, would give them a minimum respite, hoping that the world war would end soon and the Allied victory would bring justice to their cause. 


The territory of the Republic of Armenia after the signature of the Treaty of Batum
Three separate treaties were signed in Batum between the Ottoman Empire and the three Transcaucasian republics on June 4-5. The treaty of “peace and friendship” signed with the Republic of Armenia, represented by Alexander Khatisian, Hovhannes Kajaznuni, and Mikayel Babajanian, tacitly recognized its independence, ironically, three years after the genocide had started. The treaty left to Armenia Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, and the district of Nor Bayazid (now Gavar), around Lake Sevan. Parts of the districts of Sharur, Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, and Alexandropol were seized by the Ottoman Empire, as well as Akhalkalak and Akhaltskha, with a total of almost 18,000 square miles and a population of around 1,25 million people. Armenia was left with a landlocked territory of around 4,250 square miles (half of the extension of New Jersey), fifty kilometers of railway in the north and six kilometers extending west from Yerevan. 
As historian Richard Hovannisian wrote in 1967: “Thus, the Republic was created under conditions so tragic as to defy adequate description. Yet, there was an Armenia. In mid-1918, even that was a remarkable accomplishment.” The situation would change by the end of 1918.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Death of Kevork Chavoush (May 27, 1907)

There were names that rose to legendary proportions at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, when Turkish and Kurdish marauding of Armenian peasantry was met with armed resistance by fedayees (freedom fighters). Kevork Chavoush was among the most prominent figures leading that struggle.
He was born Kevork Atamian in 1870, in the village of Megtink, district of Psanats (Sasoun). In 1886 his family sent him to the school of the monastery of the Holy Apostles (Arakelots) in Moush. At school, he heard about Arabo (Arakel Mkhitarian, 1863-1893), one of the founders of the fedayee movement. He decided to join the movement in 1888. He left for Aleppo, where he spent two years working to buy a gun. In 1890 he returned to Sasoun. 
In 1892 Gurbo, the head of the neighbor village of Alizernani, betrayed Arabo and reported his location in the village of Pertag to the Turks, who managed to capture him despite heavy casualties. Kevork Chavoush punished Gurbo’s treason by killing him in his own home. 
After Arabo was killed in 1893, Kevork Chavoush participated actively in the first rebellion of Sasoun in 1893-1894. He was captured and condemned to 15 years of prison. However, he was able to escape from the prison of Bitlis in April 1896 and return to Sasoun, where he met legendary freedom fighter Antranig (1865-1927) and entered the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Serop Aghpiur (1864-1899), another famous fighter, was forced to leave his home in Khlat and move to Sasoun. Kevork Chavoush and Antranig, joined him with their own groups. Serop established certain rules among the fedayees. The first rule was that the fedayee was married to his weapon. He noticed that the Armenian villages were in enmity, since men from one village stole women from another, and declared that anyone doing such a thing would be severely punished. Kevork’s uncle, Ave, kidnapped a housekeeper at the monastery of the Holy Apostles. Serop left it to Kevork to decide the punishment. He was forced to kill his uncle, but depression led him to leave Serop’s battalion and isolate himself for a few days.
In his absence, Serop was betrayed by a villager from Keghashen, also called Ave, who let the Turks know about Serop’s position and poisoned him. A troop of 2,000 Turks and Kurds soldiers surrounded the village of Gelieguzan. Aghpiur Serop, his son, and his brothers fell during the unequal battle. His wife Sose continued the fight, but was wounded and taken prisoner by Turkish chief Khalil bey, who beheaded Serop. His death did not go unpunished. In April 1900 Kevork Chavoush liquidated Ave and all other people implicated in the betrayal. In November a group of 30 fedayees, headed by Antranig and Kevork, ambushed Khalil bey and his 40 horsemen. They took Khalil prisoner and beheaded him.
On November 1, 1901, Antranig and Kevork Chavoush, together with a group of 25 to 27 fighters, occupied the Holy Apostles monastery. The operation had been carefully planned to attract the attention of the foreign powers. A few days later, 3,000 Turkish soldiers besieged the monastery. During the siege, typhus declared among the Turks, who started negotiations on November 18. However, on the night of November 27 the fedayees managed to cut through the siege and disappear in the dark.
After the defeat of the second rebellion of Sasoun in 1904, Kevork Chavoush fought heroically in the plain of Moush with Antranig and other fedayees, and later he went to the region of Vaspurakan (Van). The meeting of local leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, held at the island of Aghtamar in September 1904, decided that a group of fighters return to Sasoun and continued the struggle against the Turkish authorities. Kevork became the A.R.F. representative in the region of Moush and Sasoun, and the leader of Armenian freedom fighters in the region from 1905-1907.
Kevork Chavoush had left his sweetheart, Yeghso (Heghine), when he had entered the cause of freedom. However, she never ceased to love him, even after she was forced to get married. In 1905 she escaped her home and tried to see Kevork for the last time before taking her own life. He first rejected, but then his comrades of arms convinced him. They married the same day, breaking the rule of fedayee etiquette, and had a son called Vartkes.
On May 25, 1907, an unequal fight broke in the village of Souloukh, in the plain of Moush. Eighty fedayees fought against a 2000-strong Turkish troop. The Turkish troops gave 120 dead and 110 wounded. The Armenian losses were seven dead and 21 wounded. Most importantly, however, Kevork Chavoush was mortally wounded in the fight. He passed away on May 27. After his death, the Turks tried to kill his wife and son, but his comrades saved their lives.
Kevork Chavoush’s life and exploits became the material for songs and novels. Like the rest of the fedayee movement, his name was banned for many years in Soviet Armenia. In the 1960s h is relative Kevork Melkonian managed to install his statue in the village of Ashnag, whose population had its roots in Sasoun, complemented by a museum he inaugurated in the 1980s. After the independence of Armenia,  other statues were inaugurated in Yerevan, Artashat, Jermuk, and the village of Lousarat. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Birth of Arman Manookian (May 15, 1904)

The Hawaiian scenes of Arman Manookian, an Armenian-American painter with a premature and tragic end, have been rediscovered in the last years.



The elder of three siblings, he was born Tateos Manookian in Constantinople on May 15, 1904. His father Arshag was a printer and publisher of an Armenian newspaper. 


Tateos was a student at the St. Gregory the Illuminator school in Constantinople, whose principal was poet Taniel Varoujan. On the fatidic night of April 24, 1915, Varoujan was arrested (he would be killed on the road of exile months later), and Arshag Manookian and his brother-in-law hid in the family’s print shop to save their lives. Young Tateos’ father somehow fled the Ottoman Empire, only to die in France two years later during the epidemic of the Spanish flu. The Armenians of Constantinople lived in an atmosphere of terror until the end of World War I, with arrests, executions, partial exiles, and rumors and threats of general deportation hanging over their heads. The future painter would spend some time in Egypt during those years. His mother managed to sell the print shop and gave a large amount of money to her sixteen-year-old son, allowing him to leave for the United States.

Tateos Manookian arrived at Ellis Island in April 1920. He went to live with a relative of his mother in Providence, where he studied at the Rhode Island College of Design from 1920-1922. His talent was already apparent, as a state scholarship paid for his tuition to take classes in drawing. In 1923 he enlisted in the Marine Corps with a new name, Arman Theodore Manookian, and claimed American citizenship, which he actually did not have. 

In 1924 Private Manookian was assigned as a clerk to Major Edwin North McClellan, a Marine historian, who had worked for the previous five years preparing a history of the Marine Corps during World War I. History of U. S. Marines and Origin of Sea Soldiers, never published (the only extant complete copy is kept at the New York Public Library), would be eventually completed with more than a thousand pages of text and eight hundred pages of notes, and over a hundred illustrations by Manookian, who also started publishing some of his work in magazines. 

In 1925 McClellan, who was a mentor of sorts during their time together, was dispatched to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and took his talented clerk with him. The archipelago fired Manookian’s creativity, who transformed himself from an illustrator into an artist. His approach to Hawaiian culture was bound with idealization—“no more intriguing artists’ paradise than these mid-Pacific gardens of the Gods,” he stated in 1927—as shown in the historical and mythological images that he created to accompany McClellan’s pieces.

“Hawaiian Boy and Girl” (collection of John and Patsy Dilks)
In 1927 Manookian was honorably discharged as a corporal and decided to stay in Honolulu, while McClellan was called to the mainland and then to Nicaragua. The painter had found work as an illustrator with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and would continue working with the magazine Paradise of the Pacific. In the almost six years that he lived in Honolulu he produced paintings, magazine illustrations and, most impressively, murals that “were completely unlike anything that Honolulu audiences had previously seen,” in the words of art historian David Forbes. His use of color was particularly original. Another art historian, John Seed, who has researched Manookian’s life and art in depth, has noted: “His bond with Hawaii suggests a deep longing to be connected to a place and culture, perhaps as a replacement for what had been lost.”
"Men in an Outrigger Canoe Headed for Shore"


After the stock market crash of 1929, the Hawaiian economy declined, with tourism and construction slowing down. Manookian’s workload also went down. In late 1930 he met Cyril Lemmon, a young architect who dabbled in painting. They started working together, and Manookian moved to the home of his new friend, who had recently married.

He continued working until the end of his life, but he was emotionally fragile. The years of terror during the genocide and his uprootedness, as well as his separation from his mother and siblings, who had been able to move to Switzerland in the late 1920s, took its toll. On May 10, 1931, while the Lemmons and a few friends were playing the parlor game “Murder,” Arman Manookian drank poison and stumbled in the kitchen, never to regain consciousness.

A memorial exhibit for the unfortunate painter was held at the Honolulu Academy in the fall of 1933. Manookian’s works are held in several museums, and only 31 of his oil paintings are known to exist. They have become very valuable in the last few years, with several exhibitions held in Hawaii, where he was acknowledged as “Hawaii’s Van Gogh” in the House of Representatives resolution that recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Death of Martiros Sarian (May 5, 1972)

Martiros Sarian, one of the two names of Soviet Armenian culture who earned the title of Varbed (Վարպետ “Master”), was the founder of a modern Armenian national school of painting. 


He was born into an Armenian family in Nakhichevan-on-Don (now part of Rostov-on-Don, Russia) on February 28, 1880. In 1895, aged 15, he completed the Nakhichevan school. He received training in painting at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1897–1903) and then worked in the studios of the noted painters Konstantin Korovin and Valentin Serov. Soon Sarian became a member of a group of Moscow symbolist artists, and he began exhibiting his brightly colored paintings. He had works shown at the Blue Rose Exhibit in Moscow.


He first traveled to Armenia in 1901, visiting the regions of Lori and Shirak, the convents of Etchmiadzin, Haghpat, and Sanahin, Yerevan, and Lake Sevan. His first landscapes depicting Armenia (1902-1903) were highly praised in the Moscow press.

In 1904-1907 Sarian created the watercolor series "Fairy Tales and Dreams." Some pieces of this cycle were exhibited first at the Crimson Rose exposition in 1904 in Saratov and later at the sensational Blue Rose exposition in 1907 in Moscow. Starting from 1908, Sarian completely replaced watercolor with tempera. During this period, he took an active part in the exhibitions organized by the magazine Zolotoye Runo

From 1910 to 1914 he traveled extensively in Turkey, Egypt, northwestern Armenia, and Persia. These trips inspired a series of large, fresco-like works in which he attempted to communicate the sensuousness of the Middle Eastern landscapes. He also incorporated into a number of his paintings the Persian motifs he had seen in the Middle East. Like many Russian artists of the early decades of the 20th century, Sarian was greatly influenced by impressionism. He was also interested in the paintings of Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin, as can be seen in his use of areas of flat, simplified color.

In 1915 he went to Etchmiadzin to help refugees who had fled from the Armenian Genocide. In 1916 he settled in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) where he founded the Society of Armenian Artists with fellow painters Yeghishe Tateosian, Vardges Sureniants, and Panos Terlemezian. 

He married Lusik Aghayan, daughter of writer Ghazaros Aghayan, in 1917. The newly married couple moved to Nor Nakhichevan, where Sarian continued painting. In 1920 he became director of the museum of Armenian Folklore in Rostov. In 1921 he moved to Yerevan with his wife and two children, Sarkis (future literary scholar) and Ghazar (future composer). He organized and became director of the museum of archaeology, ethnography, and fine arts (now the National Gallery of Armenia). He also participated in the establishment of the Yerevan Art College and the Artists Union of Armenia. In 1922 Sarian designed the coat-of-arms and the flag of Soviet Armenia, as well as the curtain of the First Drama Theater in Yerevan. In 1924 his works participated in the 14th Bienale of Venice. He was awarded the title of People’s Artist of Armenia in 1925.

 From 1926–1928 he lived and worked in Paris, but 40 paintings, most of his work from this period, were destroyed in a fire on board the boat on which he returned to Armenia, where he lived until his death. He spent most of his career painting scenes, especially landscapes of the homeland, often employing the impressionist technique of vivid, dappled color to capture the effects of light. He also painted many floral still lifes, as well as portraits.

In the difficult years of the 1930s, he was criticized as a formalist, since his work did not fit the state-sponsored artistic ideology of socialist realism. Sarian’s creative work was removed from the context of world modern art. A dozen of his portraits, which represented figures who were victims of the Stalinist purges, were destroyed in 1937. His famous portrait of Yeghishe Charents, however, survived. Nevertheless, he managed to continue his work and come out of this period unscathed. In 1941 he won the State Prize for his design of Alexander Spendiarian’s opera, Almast. 

Portrait of Yeghishe Charents, by Martiros Sarian


His work was subjected to new official criticism after World War II. Nevertheless, artistic freedom was more or less regained after the death of Stalin (1953), and Sarian returned to his traditional themes. His series of landscapes “My Homeland” won the State Prize in 1961. His 85th birthday was widely marked, and a documentary on his life and work was released in 1966, when he also obtained the State Prize of Armenia for the third time. The Martiros Sarian house-museum was opened in 1967, when his memoirs were also published. He was also elected as a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet several times and awarded the Order of Lenin three times, as well as other awards and medals. He was a member of the USSR Art Academy (1974) and the Armenian Academy of Sciences (1956).

Sarian continued his creative work almost until the end of his days. He passed away in Yerevan on May 5, 1972. He was buried at the Gomidas Pantheon, next to Gomidas Vartabed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Birth of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (April 26, 1856)

Righteous men were a plenty during the years of the Armenian Genocide, and Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Ambassador of the United States to the Ottoman Empire, was the prominent American name among them.
Morgenthau was born in Mannheim (Germany) on April 26, 1856. He was the ninth of eleven children to a Jewish family. His father, Lazarus Morgenthau, was a prosperous manufacturer and merchant, who bought tobacco from the United States and sold it back as cigars. However, the American Civil War hit him severely: German cigar exports ceased after a tariff on tobacco imports was set in 1862. Four years later, the family migrated to New York. Despite his father’s unsuccessful attempts to re-establish himself in business, Henry Morgenthau—who knew no English on his arrival at the age of ten—graduated from City College in 1874 and from Columbia Law School in 1876. Beginning a career as a successful lawyer, he would later make a substantial fortune in real estate investments. He married Josephine Sykes in 1882 and had four children. He served as a leader of the Reform Jewish community in New York.
In 1911 Morgenthau, then 55, left business to enter public service. He became an early supporter of President Woodrow Wilson’s election campaign in 1912. He had hoped for a cabinet post, but Wilson offered him the position of ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, with the assurance that it “was the point at which the interest of American Jews in the welfare of the Jews of Palestine is focused, and it is almost indispensable that I have a Jew in that post.” The encouragement of his friend, Rabbi Stephen Wise, led him to reconsider his decision and accept the offer, although Morgenthau was no Zionist himself.
The United States remained neutral after the beginning of World War I, and since the Allies had withdrawn their diplomatic missions following the outbreak of hostilities, both the American embassy and Morgenthau himself additionally represented their interests in Constantinople. American consuls in different parts of the Empire, from Trebizond to Aleppo, reported abundantly about the Armenian plight and documented the entire process of the Armenian Genocide. Morgenthau continuously kept the U.S. government informed of the ongoing annihilation and asked for its intervention. His telegram to the State Department, on July 16, 1915, described the massacres as a “campaign of race extermination.” He intervened upon the Young Turk leaders to stop the mass killings, although unsuccessfully. His friendship with Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, ensured a wide coverage of the Armenian atrocities throughout 1915.
Morgenthau reached out to his friend Cleveland H. Dodge, a prominent American businessman, who was instrumental in the foundation of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief in 1915 that would later become Near East Relief (nowadays the Near East Foundation). Finding “intolerable” his “further daily association with men . . . who were still reeking with the blood of nearly a million human beings,” as he wrote in his memoirs, he returned to the United States in February 1916 and campaigned to raise awareness and funds for the survivors, resigning from his position as ambassador two months later. In 1918 he published his memoirs, including his account of the genocide, as Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (published in Great Britain as The Secrets of the Bosphorus).
He attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and worked with various war-related charitable bodies. He also headed the American fact-finding mission to Poland in 1919 and was the American representative at the Geneva Conference in 1933. He died on November 25, 1946, in New York City, at the age of 90, following a cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried in Hawthorne, New York. Morgenthau was the father of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, and the grandfather of Robert Morgenthau, long-time District Attorney in Manhattan, and historian Barbara Tuchman. He appeared in “Ravished Armenia,” the film based on the memoirs of survivor Aurora Mardiganian, commissioned by the Near East Relief. One of his dialogues with Talaat is portrayed in the forthcoming film The Promise. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Birth of Arnold J. Toynbee (April 14, 1889)

Arnold Joseph Toynbee was an influential British historian, widely read and discussed in the 1940s and 1950s due to his prodigious output of books, papers, articles, speeches, and presentations, especially his twelve-volume A Study of History. He also had an important role in the early documentation and characterization of the Armenian Genocide.
Toynbee was born in London, the descendant of a family with generations of intellectuals. His sister Jocelyn was an archaeologist and art historian. He won scholarships to Winchester College and Balliol College in Oxford (1907-1911), and studied briefly at the British School at Athens. He became a tutor and fellow in ancient history at Balliol College in 1912. A year later, he would marry Rosalind Murray, daughter of historian Gilbert Murray. They would have three children. In 1915 he began working for the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office. From 1915-1917 he would write nine books, mostly about German and Turkish atrocities, the first of them being his survey of the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Atrocities: The Murder of a Nation (1915), based on much of the documentation collected in The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (1916), which he co-edited with Viscount James Bryce. The information provided by credible eyewitness accounts of Armenian persecutions, arrests, murders and deportations withstood modern historical scrutiny, despite futile attempts by the Young Turks and their German allies—followed by contemporary denialist writers—to dismiss it as wartime propaganda.
Toynbee served as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. His support for Greece and hostility to the Ottoman Empire during the war earned him an appointment to the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies at King’s College. He became the correspondent for the Manchester Guardian during the Greco-Turkish War of 1921-1922, which resulted in the publication of The Western Question in Greece and Turkey. His change of heart, accusing the Greek military government of massacres and atrocities in temporarily occupied Turkish territory, was followed by enmity from wealthy Greeks who had endowed his chair, and he was forced to resign in 1924.

Toynbee became research professor of international history at the London School of Economics (1925-1956) and director of studies (1925-1939) and director of foreign research (1939-1943) at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which conducted research for the British Foreign Office. During World War II, he served as director of the research department of the Foreign Office (1943-1946). In 1946 he divorced his wife and married his long-time research assistant, Veronica Boulter.

Meanwhile, he had started publishing his master work, A Study of History. Three volumes appeared in 1934 and three more in 1939. The one-volume abridgement of the first six volumes, published in 1946, sold over 300,000 copies in the United States alone, and the ten-volume edition sold more than 7,000 sets by 1955 in the U.S. Two more volumes would be published until 1961. Toynbee was featured on the cover of Time in 1947, with an article depicting his multivolume study as “the most provocative work of historical theory written in England since Karl Marx’s Capital.” According to historian Michael Lang, “For much of the twentieth century though, Toynbee was perhaps the world’s most read, translated, and discussed living scholar. His output was enormous, hundreds of books, pamphlets, and articles. Of these, scores were translated into thirty different languages. . . . Among intellectuals, response to his work was de rigueur. Indeed, the critical reaction to Toynbee constitutes a veritable intellectual history of the midcentury: we find, for example, Aron, Frye, Huxley, Kennan, Kracauer, Kroeber, Morgenthau, Mumford, Niebuhr, Ortega y Gasset, Popper, Ricoeur, and Sweezy, as well as a long list of the period’s most important historians, Beard, Braudel, Collingwood, and so on.”

After 1960, Toynbee's ideas faded both in academia and the media, to the point of seldom being cited today. However, his work continued to be referenced by classical historians.
He continued producing books and memoirs in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1972 he published, in collaboration, a new one-volume abridgement of the entire Study of History. Meanwhile, after four decades of silence, he spoke in his two memoirs, Acquaintances (1967) and Experiences (1969), of his views regarding Turks and Turkey, but he also became one of the first worldwide known historians to unambiguously characterize the Armenian annihilation that he had documented fifty years before as genocide. He repeated his qualification in his posthumously published Mankind and Mother Earth: A Narrative History of the World (1976).

Toynbee had written in The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (1916): “In one way or another, the Central Government enforced and controlled the execution of the scheme, as it alone had originated the conception of it; and the Young Turkish Ministers and their associates at Constantinople are directly and personally responsible, from beginning to end, for the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.” In Acquaintances (1967), he underscored: ''They therefore decided to deport the Armenians from the war-zone, and this, in itself, might pass for a legitimate security measure. In similar circumstances, other governments have taken similar action. ... In Turkey, however, in 1915, the Ottoman Armenian deportees were not only robbed; the deportations were deliberately conducted with a brutality that was calculated to take the maximum of lives en route.
“This was the C.U.P.'s crime; and my study of it left an impression on my mind that was not effaced by the still more coldblooded genocide, on a far larger scale, that was committed in the Second World War by the Nazis. ... My study of the genocide that had been committed in Turkey in 1915 brought home to me the reality of Original Sin.'' 
The British historian passed away on October 22, 1975, at the age of 86.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Birth of Levon Shant (April 6, 1869)

Levon Shant was perhaps the most important playwright in the history of Armenian theater, but he was primarily a seasoned and accomplished educator. He was also an active participant in the Armenian liberation movement. 

Shant was born Levon Nahashbedian on April 6, 1869, in Constantinople. He lost his parents at an early age and adopted the last name Seghposian after his father Seghpos. He attended the Armenian school of Scutari (now Uskudar) until 1884, and then the Gevorgian seminary at Holy Etchmiadzin for the next seven years. He returned to Constantinople in 1891, where he worked as a teacher. He published his first literary piece in the local daily Hairenik in the same year. In 1893 he departed to Germany, where he studied science, child psychology, education, literature, and history in the universities of Leipzig, Jena, and Munich. Meanwhile, he started his literary career with the poem The Mountain Girl (1892), published under the pen name Levon Shant (shant/շանթ means “lightning”), but soon shifted to a series of novellas (Dreamlike Days and The Outsiders, 1894; Vergine, 1896; The Return, 1896, and The Actress, 1898). After finishing his university studies in 1899, he taught for more than a decade at the Gayanian Girls School in Tiflis and the Diocesan School of Yerevan. He became a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the 1890s.
The turn of the century brought in him a different literary persona: the playwright. He wrote his first play, The Egoist, in 1901, followed by For Someone Else (1903), and On the Road (1904). After this string of plays inspired in contemporary life, he turned to the historical past and wrote his masterpiece Ancient Gods (1909), published in 1912, which made a huge impact on the Armenian literary world when it was premiered in Tiflis (1913). This was the first of several successful historical dramas he would write over the next two decades: The Emperor (1916), The Enchained One (1918-1921), The Princess of the Fallen Fortress (1922), Oshin the Bailiff (1932).
In Tiflis, Shant participated actively in the gatherings of the literary circle “Vernadun” (Վերնատուն), held at the attic of poet Hovhannes Tumanian’s home, and was in close contact with other writers of the group, like Ghazaros Aghayan, Avetik Isahakian, and Derenik Demirjian. In 1909 he published, together with Hovhannes Tumanian and Stepan Lisitsian, the series of Armenian textbooks Lusaber.
In 1911 he returned to his birthplace, Constantinople, and taught at the Central (Getronagan) and Esayan schools until 1914. By that time he was already married and moved with his family to Lausanne in Switzerland. He returned to the Caucasus in 1915 to supervise the publication of textbooks, but was unable to go back to Europe and remained in Tiflis until 1917, when he returned to Switzerland. However, after the independence of Armenia, he returned to Yerevan, where he became a vice-president of the Parliament of the first Republic. In April 1920 he led a delegation to Moscow to carry out negotiations with the Soviet regime, which would fail in the end. He was imprisoned by the new government after the Soviet takeover, but freed following the uprising of February 1921. In April 1921, after the end of the uprising, he left Armenia.
For the next thirty years of his life, Shant would live abroad, first in Paris, then in Cairo, and finally in Beirut. He wrote political essays, like Nationhood as the Basis of Human Society (1922) and Our Independence (1925). In 1928, together with educator and literary critic Nikol Aghbalian, theater director Kaspar Ipekian, and former prime minister of the Republic, Dr. Hamo Ohanjanian, as well as a group of less known A.R.F. members, he was one of the main founders of the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Society in Cairo. In 1930, together with Nikol Aghbalian, he settled in Beirut, where they founded the Armenian Lyceum (Jemaran) of Hamazkayin in 1930, later known as the Nishan Palanjian Lyceum and currently as Haig and Melanchton Arslanian Lyceum. Shant was the school principal for the next twenty years, while at the same time he taught pedagogy and psychology. He created a unique pedagogical atmosphere in the Jemaran, focused on his belief that the school should educate a humanistic education also linked to the preservation and development of national identity.
Engaged as he was in education and school management, Shant continued with the task of preparing school textbooks. He did not leave literature. In 1945 he published the novel The Thirsty Souls, and from 1946-1951 he published an edition of works in eight volumes, which included a yet unpublished history of Armenian literature. He passed away on November 29, 1951.
His name was banned in Soviet Armenia, as were many other writers who were A.R.F. members or sympathizers. Nevertheless, a monograph about him was published there in 1930, and a collection of his plays appeared in 1968. After the second independence, a school in Yerevan was renamed after him in 1994.