Lecture on the Dawn of 2015, the Year of the Armenian Struggle for Historic Truth
“The struggle of 5000 people on Musa-Dagh had so fascinated me, that I wished to aid the Armenian people by writing about it and bringing it to the world”. Franz Werfel, German writer and historian
Los-Angeles based historian and researcher Mr. Bedros Tomassian has decided to swap his comfortable lifestyle in sunny California and move to the Motherland with his charming wife, Harchoohi Pogossian, a renowned professor and NASA physicist and with just two suitcases and masses of optimism. On the way to his new home in Yerevan, Mr. Tovmassian stopped over in London to give his fourth lecture on Armenian history at Navasartian Centre on the 28th of December 2014. By Hasmik Harutunyan
The lecture on the 28th of December was organised by Hamazgayin London Chapter. After a brief introduction of the speaker by Mr. Hratch Pogossian, the President of Hamazgayin London- Mr. Bedros Tomassian presented the results of his long-term research. This lecture was on the 7 regions where Armenians tried to defend their homes and families during the collective and brutal massacres of the Armenian population in 1915 in Turkey- which used to be their homeland before the expansion of the Ottoman Empire under the flag of the Islamic faith from the Far East to the gates of the Western Europe in the Middle Ages. In 1915, there were around 2 million Armenians living in the territory of Turkey and around 2 million Armenians living in Eastern Armenia under Russian rule.
During 1914-1915 the seven regions that stood against massacres organised by Turkish government were: Shatach, Van, Shapin-Karahisar, Moush, Sassoun, Mousa Ler, and Ourfa.
On 21st of July, the Turkish government forced 300,000 male Armenians to join the Turkish Army in military preparation for the War. They participated in building bridges, roads, weapons and cannons and later killed the majority of them, leaving no trace. On October 8th Turkey joined World War I with Germany fighting mainly against Russian geo-political interests in Caucasus and Eastern Europe. At the same time, the Turkish Government passed the law not to buy land, property or valuables from Armenian population, proving once again their planning of the forthcoming Armenian massacres, to be followed by seizure of their belongings, homes, schools, businesses, churches and everything else that they owned. Armenians were told they would avoid deportation if they agreed to convert to Islam- it was kept hidden, however, that even this prospect was not a guarantee to survive the mass killings of 1915.
1- Shatach region: the resistance movement in Shatach region started on 4th of April where 10,000 Armenians decided to take weapons to defend their homes from Turkish troops. Records show that there were only 400 weapons available for them, and while they resisted for 40 days against the Turks, some families managed to flee from the massacres to the safety.
2- Van region: During the self-defence operation in Van, some families managed to take refuge on the island Van in St. Gevork church. Thousands of Armenians died in the surrounding villages of the lake Van, among them the Duke of Van. However, Aram Manoukian- one of the organisers of the self-defence- survived. Some families took refuge in the village Aygestan: one of those families was Hambartsum Poghossian’s family, well known in the Armenian community of London today.
3- Shapin-Kharahisar: One of the less successful self-defence areas was
Shapin-Karahissar- where the legendary General Andranik was born. Much of his family and relatives lost their lives in 1915, as well as 4 local Armenian priests, who were burnt alive in their churches.
4- Moush: As there were around 25,000 Armenians living there in 1915, the Turkish government sent a 20,000 strong Army. Consequently, only 700 people survived in Moush. Records show that 20,000 Armenians who converted to Islam still live in Moush.
5- Sassoun region: there were 20 Armenian villages with an overall population of around 50,000 in Sassoun. Several famous Armenians were native of Sassoun; such as Rouben Pasha and the famous Shakespearean actor Vahram Papazian. One of the other famous orphans of Sassoun was poet, writer and Sakespearean translator Khatchik Dashtentz who devoted his most famous book “the Call of Ranchpars” (Ranchparneri Kanche) to the heroic resistance of the Armenian of Sassoun during World War I.
6- Moussa Ler: this proved to be one of the most successful resistances against the Turkish army. Refusing deportation and conversion, 250 Armenian volunteers organised Armenian populations to find refuge on the highest mountain in the area, Moussa Dagh. They defended themselves for 40 days until the arrival of the French ships to save 4000 Armenians from the massacres by the Turkish army. In 1933 Jewish-born German language writer and historian Franz Werfel, wrote about this heroic struggle of Armenian people in his famous book “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, thus becoming the eternal defender of the Armenian Cause. His book should be a MUST in the home library and in the education of young Armenians around the world.
7- Ourpha: there were 35,000 Armenians living in this region and only 15,000 (mostly women and children) survived the Turkish attacks. Most of the men were called to join the Turkish army- all of whom were all killed, according to two survivors who hid under dead bodies.
Mr. Tomassian concluded his presentation by quoting that out of 2 million Armenian civilians living in Turkey, only 7% had the opportunity to take part in resistance. He noted that some 151,000 Armenians with as little as 5000 weapons, enabled hundreds of individuals of all ages to escape to the massacres by moving to the North, East, South and West- away from Turkey. He added that those fights (even if they were not connected to one another) were sporadic in nature, and contributed to the formation of: Armenian self-determination, the Armenian Liberation Army and the creation of the first Independent Republic of Armenia in 1918. The lecture was followed by an extensive question and answer session. For obvious reasons, the lecture was very emotional (due to the sensitive nature of the topic) for the audience at Navasartian Hall.
Mr. Tomassian is the author of two major books, and has written several articles on Armenian history. Moreover, he has given lectures in many Armenian communities around the world. Surely, the move to Armenia will be beneficial not only for his research, but also for Armenia; where he will join forces with renowned scholars of modern and ancient Armenian history in their intellectual battle for historic truth.
We wish Mr. Bedros Tomassian successful and lasting research on Armenian history in the Motherland, and hope that he will continue to enlighten Armenian Diaspora with the results in future lectures on the turbulent and troubled waters of the history of Armenia.