VARDGES ARTSRUNI, Moscow, RF honored construction worker, President to the Board of Trustees at the Political and Social Research Institute in Black Sea-Caspian Steppe.

During the recent months a group of publicists, politicians and statesmen from Russia have shown too much interest in the efforts by Armenia to immortalize the memory of the national hero GareginTer-Haroutyunyan (who is better known by the nickname Nzhdeh ‘the Pilgrim’). The erection of the memorial to Nzhdeh on May 28, 2016, with the participation of the president of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, gave rise to criticism by a number of media in Russia. On January 26, 2016, a Round Table was organized in the State Duma under «A Just Russia», a political party, themed «Combattingglorification of Nazism and revival of neo-nazism: legislative aspects.»
From the point of principle, the fight against Nazism is of crucial importance, which is indisputable. Lately, the UN National Assembly adopted a formula «Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance», which Russia and Armenia supported equally. But as it is clear from the situation and the sequence of main events during the discussion of the problem at the Round Table in the State Duma, the participants were unanimous in concern with only one historic figure, Garegin Nzhdeh when commenting on the Nazi glorification.
His character is multilateral, and his deeds as controversial as they are great, thus they need a peaceful and impartial observation.
General Nzhdeh is known as the national hero of Armenia. The main feat in his life (and they were not few) was that he helped to preserve a significant part of Armenia’s current territory within itself, which didn’t give the Turkish authorities of the time the opportunity to reshape the map of the Caucasus for their own benefits. In fact, Nzhdeh accomplished a feat nonpareil from a geographical-political point of view.
The first couple of decades were a most difficult period of time for the Armenian people. The Armenians, the Assyrians, the Yezidis living in the Ottoman Empire were violently slaughtered in the whole of the territory of their historical motherland, Western Armenia, with the pretext of being unfaithful to the Ottoman homeland which was fighting against the Entente.
In 1917 Russia witnessed, firstly, the decay of monarchy, and then of the bourgeois republic, too. The Bolsheviks accomplished the October Revolution in the hope of making it a world one. But it became obvious quite soon that it was going over and over again in the West, so Moscow had to stare into the direction of the East. It was here that the Bolsheviks saw chances to implement a world revolution.
Besides that, a mass movement burst out in Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Paşa, who later on was given the name Atatürk, meaning ‘father of all Turks’. The relations between the two countries evolved fervently and efficiently. Kemal didn’t have enough food, weapon and money, due to Greece, to defeat the Entente. After several years of World and civil wars, Russia was severely destroyed, people from a number of regions, and first of all those living in Povolzhye were suffering from famine. Yet, the huge plans of the world revolution demanded new efforts and new victims. So the authorities of the Russian Federation took that step, first of all at the expense of its people. A Chrestomathy example might be how the Kremlin leaders robbed their starving and dying fellow countrymen off the few pounds of wheat and sent it to Turkey. The revolutionists here also got hundreds of cannons, thousands of machine guns, hundreds of thousands of rifles and various other outfits. A financial aid of ten million roubles in gold calculated by the currency of the day, a huge amount of money, was sent to Kemal’s followers. Frunze, Aralov, Mdvidani and other commanders of the Soviet Russia, who had gained a lot of experience in the battlefields of the civil war, handed all it successfully to the Turk Askeris and took part in the military actions against the Greeks.
Trotsky’s ideological formulation of «No war, no peace» led to the attack by the Germanic forces on Russia, and in the January of 1918 to the promulgation of the order about the dissolution of the Caucasian Front. The Russian army left, groups of Armenian volunteers prevented the attacks of the regular Turkish army.
At that time the political party in authority was the Armenian Revolutionary Confederacy (Dashnaktsutyun). Its leaders didn’t support the idea of world revolution. They were concerned with the fate of Armenia and the Armenian people, a number of whom were killed in the 1915 genocide. The survivors were moved to Eastern Armenia and were not at all in the first lines of the «global proletariat» which was in fraternal relations with Turkey. The ARC, which followed the ideologies of nationalism, was deemed audacious by Chicherin, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs in Russia, firstly, because the fighters of the party beat the Turks skillfully.
The Treaty of Brotherhood signed in the May of 1921 changed substantially the geographical-political situation of the region. The territories traditionally inhabited by Armenians within the Russian Empire, i.e. Kars, Ardahan, etc., were handed, according to the treaty, to «the revolutionary Turkey», Nakhchivan (Nakhijevan) – to «the revolutionary Azerbaijan», under the auspices of Turkey. For the first time in history the winning country lost its own territory, and the losing Turkey got hold of territories which had been part of the Russian Empire.
The 11th army of the Bolsheviks, which was completely composed of Turks, had already established Soviet Power in Azerbaijan, and now it was Armenia’s turn, where the Dashnaks held the power stubbornly and defended Zangezur (Syunik) instead of yielding it to Azerbaijan. And it was here that General Nzhdeh committed his ‘crime’ in reference to the Soviet Power.
In the year 1920 the 33-year-old Nzhdeh was appointed Commander of the south-eastern front in Zangezur.[1] In the early October, 1920 a massive revolution burst out against the Soviet Power. By November 21, two brigades of the 11th Army (of Red Army) and a few battalions of their ally Zaval Paşa were devastated at the battles against the rebels nearby Tatev Monastery, and on November 22 Nzhdeh entered Goris. The Soviet Forces left Zangezur [2]. On December 25, 1920, the Convention which took place in Tatev Monastery proclaimed the Autonomous Republic of Syunik, whose factual leader became Nzhdeh. The republic withdrew successfully the attacks of the Turkish, the Azeri and the Soviet Armies.
It was only in July, 1921, after the promulgation of the Revolutionary Committee about including Syunik within the Soviet Armenia, and after getting guarantees that Syunik will remain within Armenia, that Nzhdeh left his homeland with his comrades-in-army for Perisa. While wandering around diverse countries Nzhdeh settled down in Bulgaria.
Why did Nzhdeh get a shelter in Bulgaria? During the First Balkan War in 1912 he had fought on the Bulgarian side as a Commander of an Armenian platoon. For his participation in the destruction of Yaver Paşa’s corpus he had received Bulgarian and Greek medals, and the Title of “Hero of the Balkans People”. During World War I he was the vice-commander of the 2nd Armenian voluntary squad within the Russian army. He was awarded Order of St Vladimir and another Order of St Anna, and was a knight of two Eagles of Georgia. Due to his merit he became a citizen of Bulgaria.
After General Nzhdeh’s arrest in 1944 the main accusation against him made by the Soviet Authorities was the capital punishment of the Red Army guards, or rather of Turk soldiers dressed as Red Army guards. Moreover, Nzhdeh himself rejected having given an order to implement their capital punishment. And nobody has presented any documentation concerning the matter so far. On the contrary, according to his orders the soldiers were to be treated philanthropically.
With respect to the criminal case against Ter-Grigoryan, he was accused of working in support of the German investigation, of creating an Armenian legion within «Wermacht» and of being involved in an anti-Soviet preach.
An Armenian legion (11th battalion) was, in fact, created in Poland in March, 1942. But as Hitler had told Rozenberg, the Raich Minister of the occupied territories, he trusted the Muslims only and didn’t believe the Georgians or the Armenians. Thus, being not reliable the legion was sent to Holland, but not to the eastern front. Only one battalion was sent to the Crimea to fight against the Red Army. In addition, the warriors of the battalion escaped to the Red Army as soon as possible. Based on that battalion a partisan squad was created, which was led by former legionnaires too.
In the result the Armenian legion didn’t cause any significant damage either in the Western, or the Eastern battlefield in particular, which doesn’t free its soldiers from the responsibility of being unfaithful to the homeland. By the way, we should take into account the fact that according to the claims of the legion’s leaders, in this way they had tried to set the Armenian prisoners of war free from the German Concentration camps.
Let’s compare.
In 1944, thirty-eight thousand Azeri volunteers fought on the German side. Besides Wermacht and the RA, Abver organized investigation-sabotage squads out of Azeris. Anyhow, in the year 1942 «Tsepeli» set up the investigation-sabotage group «Zed» in the school of Abver, which was made up of Azeris. Besides the group «Zed», by the command of the chief of Abver, Admiral Kanaris, the special squad «Bergmann» was created, which had a separate platoon made up of Azeris. The latter was being used in the back of the Red Army during German attacks on the Caucasus to explode bridges, ammunition and to destroy the military officers. As has been claimed by German commanders, the Azeri platoon of «Bergmann» behaved perfectly well, based on which an Azeri battalion «Bergmann-2» was created. After the battles of the Crimea in 1944 the special squad was sent to Poland, and in the August of 1944 it took part in the oppression of the rebellion in Warsaw with another 1.111 Azeri battalion «Dönmek». Those were the hardest and the bloodiest days in the modern history of Poland.
Based on the data of August 5, 1944, the soldiers of the Azeri «Dirlewanger» and «Kaminski» brigades had violently killed over 10 thousand peaceful citizens, mainly old men, women and children.
Let’s go back to Nzhdeh’s story.
Besides the anti-Soviet preaches, no other documentation has been found to prove he had been collaborating with the Nazis. Well, the general didn’t like the Soviet Regime. But the claims that he had been participating in the creation and commanding of the Armenian controversial legion have not been proved.
Still Nzhdeh had been keeping in touch with the leaders of the third Reich. And here’s why. After the outburst of World War II, papers in which the Nazis called for the annihilation of the Armenians for being a Semitic people, started being published by the urge of the Turk Panturkists. Persecutions were organized against the Armenian communities in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria [3]. Nzhdeh revealed the plans of the Panturkists and could convince the Germans that the Turks would only be a burden for them, and he could convince the Caucasian nationalists that they were under threat by the Turks and the Panturkists. He was able to create a unique anti-Panturkist bloc in the Caucasus – a union of the outcast from the Caucasus. It’s interesting that among them was Rasulzadeh, a co-founder of the Azeri legion, and the representatives of the outcast from Georgia. Nzhdeh could find common grounds with Rasulzadeh, who despite being a follower of the Panturkists’, became a non-less consistent nationalist when he understood that Panturkism would destroy and devour Azerbaijan [4].By the way, several of Mamed Emin Rasulzadeh’s statues and busts are erected in a number of regions in Azerbaijan. In addition, no notice was made by Nzdeh’s Russian critics.
Could it have been so that Nzhdeh had relied on an aid by the Soviet Union trying to get Armenia back its historical territories? Considering the facts, he most probably made such an attempt in 1944. He remained a true patriot and nationalist in 1944 as well, when the Soviet Army had already entered Bulgaria. He refused to leave the country, remained in Sofia and offered the Soviet Authorities his help in fighting against «Feudal Turkey». Nzhdeh was sure, the Unions, which had been cheated by Turkey, hadn’t forgotten the dual game played by the Panturkists, and that now the communists would try to use all his experience and contacts in the Armenian Diaspora in the evolving war against Turkey. It was also well known that during the pre-war period he had refused to propagate against the Soviet Union.
But at the end of October, 1944 the «СМЕРШ» arrested Nzhdeh and took him to Moscow. In the beginning his hopes were justified. The Turks were made to get an army of one million recede, which after their intrusion into the USSR, kept the Germans from being defeated at Stalingrad, put an end to all diplomatic relations with Germany, and Germany stopped supplying chromium and food, which was of vital importance for Germany. Also trials began involving Panturkist organizations. Despite that, the Soviet Authorities were ready to punish the unfaithful neighbor for their cooperation with Germany and to start a military action against Turkey, and for that purpose all those who were willing to participate in the realization of that end were involved in the action.
First secretaries of city and region committees were appointed by I. Stalin’s order. The Transcaucasian army and the divisions in Iran were brought to a military state.
But the political situation dramatically changed in the summer of 1945 after the death of the US president R. Roosevelt and the resignation of the prime minister of Great Britain, W. Churchill. In August 1945, the USA hit Japan with an atomic weapon. Stalin’s refusal to attack Turkey is connected with that fact.
Those events effected negatively Garegin Nzhdeh’s destiny. In 1948 he was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment and was kept there until 1952. Due to the serious illness he got there, Nzhdeh died in that prison in 1955.
Garegin Nzhdeh’s body was taken back to Armenia during the office of the USSR General Secretary Yuri Andropov. In 1987 the remnants of the great son of the Armenian people found their last stop in the yard of Gladzor’s St Spitakavor Monastery. But in his will Nzhdeh had expressed his wish to be buried at the foot of Mount Khustup near Kapan. That wish was fulfilled only in the April of 2005 [5].
A street and a metro station in Yerevan were named after him in 1992.
In 2016 a statue of his was unveiled.
And here a hysteria burst out in some of the Russian media, and according to them Nazism was supposed to proliferate.
How could such shameful things be said about a country which had in fact had a historic contribution in demolishing Fascism during the Great Patriotic War?
More than 600 thousand Armenians were fighting in the battlefields. Half of the soldiers didn’t come back home. The Armenian people are proud of four marshals — Baghramyan, Babajanyan, Khudyakov (Khanperyants), Aghanov, and an admiral of the USSR fleet, Isakov. History has validated the military feat of the Armenian village Chardakhlu, from wherein 1250 people left for the front. 853 of them were awarded with orders and medals, 452 became martyrs in the battlefield. That village prides itself with two marshals – Baghramyan and Babajanyan, four Soviet Union heroes, several officers of higher rank. The people’s feat, the names of the winning marshals are glorified as much in Armenia, as they are in Russia, statues of the heroes have been erected, and streets and education institutions have taken their names after them. As we come to speak about it, it’s worth being stated that a statue of Marshal Baghramyan was demolished in Azerbaijan in 1988. No complaints in concern with that fact have been made heard by the Russian politicians and statesmen who argue about General Nzhdeh’s right to have a monument.
Garegin Nzhdeh is a complicated and controversial character. But the Armenians respect his memory for his endless devotion to his homeland, for his ideologies of Freedom, Independence and Territorial Unification.
Nzhdeh found that the main enemy of the Armenians was Turkey, and he defended his point till the end of his days.
Since that time the prior years have not changed anything in believing in it. Every Armenian patriot knows from where to expect the main threat. I reminded about it once again at a special conference in the Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense in Russia in June, 2016.
Nzhdeh is a great patriot of Armenia’s, but not a Nazist.
It’s time to stop this argument.

[1] Нжде, Гарегин /Гарегин-Нжде
[2] In the same place.
[3] Гарегин Егишевич Тер-Арутюнян (Нжде) Армянские фидаины. / Май 2, 2017 /
[4] In the same place.
© AZG Daily, 2008

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