Redistribution of Groong articles, such as this one, to any other
media, including but not limited to other mailing lists and Usenet
bulletin boards, is strictly prohibited without prior written
consent from Groong's Administrator.
© Copyright 2006 Armenian News Network/Groong. All Rights Reserved.
Why we should read... `Antranig and His Times - Volume II' by Hratchig Simonian (832pp, Gaysa Publishers, Yerevan, 1996) Armenian News Network / Groong June 12, 2006 By Eddie Arnavoudian `Not to know anything about Antranig is equivalent to knowing nothing about one's own modern (Armenian) history.' So wrote the great 20th century poet Barouyr Sevak in a 1963 article urging Soviet Armenian historians to restore Antranig to his rightful place in history. Hratchig Simonian's two-volume biography `Antranig and His Times' leaves us no excuse not to know. The second volume, albeit more controversial and debatable, is equal to the first, both in scope and depth. Covering the period from 1918 to Antranig's death in 1927, far from home in the USA, its considered narrative and rich detail provide a comprehensive historical overview into which Simonian fits an account of the last decade of his hero's life. Of particular interest is Simonian's reconstruction of events from January 1918 to Antranig's final departure from Armenian territories in April 1919. Here his focus is on Antranig's role in the 1918 Armenian-Turkish wars, on his relations with the First Armenian Republic established in May 1918 and on his military campaigns in Nakhichevan and Zangezur/Karabagh that together brought to the fore some of the critical issues of 19th and 20th century Armenian national and state formation. Despite the 1915 Young Turk genocide in western Armenia, the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman and Tsarist empires afforded new opportunities for Armenian national emancipation. Yet, as Simonian shows, the attempt encountered immense obstacles. The Armenian national movement never evolved the cohesive and single-minded leadership that was needed to tackle the problems of the day. Largely located outside Armenian territories, it was fragmented socially, economically and politically. It lacked an overarching national consciousness, political vision or practical ambition and proved incapable of overcoming the deep-rooted provincialism that debilitated every sphere of Armenian life. Critically it was unable to construct an effective national army, a first and decisive task for any nation emerging amidst wars and foreign invasion. More tragically still the Armenian leadership (and indeed those of the other national groups in the region) had no strategy to cope with the complex demographic composition of the historic provinces of western Armenia and the Caucuses that presented enormous obstacles to the emergence of exclusive, homogenous nation states. I. THE ARMENIAN-TURKISH WAR OF JANUARY-MAY 1918 In January 1918 with the collapse and then the retreat of Tsarist armies, significant portions of western Armenia were left in tenuous Armenian control. However Ottoman Turkey was not about to cede territory that it had for centuries regarded as its own. A Turkish offensive to re-conquer Armenian controlled territory was inevitable and urgently put on the Armenian agenda the task of forming a centralised and disciplined national army. For the first time, the Armenian national movement confronted a decisive problem that it had to resolve with no direct assistance from any foreign power. To this challenge the Armenian leadership could not rise, despite the fact that: `Russian forces...had left behind...vast stocks of weapons and ammunition, as well as clothing and foodstuffs. The Armenians failed to put all this to use... They could not even destroy these stocks to prevent them falling to the enemy. So the ill-equipped and half-starved Turkish soldiers were thus clothed and nourished and with invigorated spirit they threw themselves forward.' (p20) Poor military leadership and organisation led to the collapse of plans to create `a 64,000 strong Armenian Army under Tovma Nazarpekian's leadership' and an army of `30,00 western Armenians led by Andranig.' (p37) And in what became a lightening advance, Turkish armies confronted an ill-organised largely rag-tag, untrained and demoralised Armenian military force, mere remnants of the disintegrated Tsarist army composed of men exhausted by war and lacking any decisive or centralised leadership. Arriving in Erzerum on 18 February 1918, Antranig found the `substantial (Armenian) military force' in a state of such `extreme disorganisation' that it was `incapable of serving any purpose'. There was `no spirit of resistance'. Many soldiers simply `did not want to defend' the town. Fighting siprit was sapped further by rampant provincialism with eastern Armenian soldiers `having little desire to fight' for western Armenia on the grounds that `this is not our land'. (p49) As a result the Armenian military experienced a rapid collapse `of morale' and `discipline' that was followed by a tide of desertions'. (p25) Underlying and exacerbating the poor organisation of Armenian military forces was the lack of any dynamic national political leadership. During his military campaigns Antranig was outraged not just `by the inactivity of the military leadership at the front' but by the passivity of `the national authorities in Tbilisi.' Armenian forces that held lines from Erzerum to Van did so not through triumphant battle driven by clear political goals but by default, inheriting them after Russian troops retreated. The Tbilisi leadership showed neither the will nor the wisdom to elaborate a strategy that would replace its previous reliance on the Tsarist power. So it bickered internally, floundered and bent passively to Turkish military and political offensive. Paralysis, confusion and squabbling were aggravated by the provincialism that infected even the highest reaches of the political establishment. `Many eastern Armenian activists were of the view that the efforts in defence of western Armenia were of no value. Increasingly there took root the view that western Armenians should look after western Armenia whilst eastern Armenians should turn their attention to Caucasian (i.e. eastern) Armenia.' (p36) As a result of all these factors `Turkish troop, even though they were not large in number' were `superior' to the Armenians' `numerically and in their battle-readiness.' (p20) Turkish military superiority was reinforced significantly by support from Turkish and Kurdish communities in western Armenia. The hundreds of miles of lines defended by Armenian forces protected a hinterland that the 1915 Genocide had emptied of its native Armenian communities. Armenian troops were therefore denied important and strategic civilian support. On the other hand Turkish and Kurdish communities who had benefited by post-1915 seizures of Armenian land were now even more fiercely hostile both to Armenian military forces and the idea of an Armenian state in the area. Thus when Turkish troops entered Erzinckan Turks who had until then `been in hiding' emerged, `fell upon (the town's) Armenian districts' and `ruthlessly slaughtered those who remained.' (p30). In the environs of Erzerum Turkish troops `secured support from at least 20,000...Turks, Kurds and Lazars, of whom 7,000 were armed. Within Erzerum there were 4,000 armed men ready to fight alongside' the invading Turkish army. (p65) Antranig did attempt to establish harmonious co-existence with non-Armenian communities in the region. Throughout his military career he had been singular in his freedom from any chauvinist or racist attitudes. Such was the case during the Armenian-Turkish wars of 1918 as well. In his essay on the poet Hovaness Toumanian, novelist Gourgen Mahari tells of a meeting between Toumanian and Antranig in which Antranig recounted how: `During the Armenian-Turkish battles (Antranig) had gathered together Turkish women and children, fed them and under the supervision of two Armenian soldiers escorted them to Turkish held territory.' (Gourgen Mahari, Selected Works, Volume 5, p598) On entering Erzerum in 1918, Captain Bonapartian addressing the Turkish population on Antranig's behalf, stated that Turkish `people too, like the Armenians had suffered terribly at the hands of an unjust government.' `You can all be absolutely sure (Bonapartian went on to add) that General Antranig makes no distinction between people. He is opposed to no national group, so long as no national group conspires against or exploits another group' (p54). As for the Kurdish people Antranig considered `it a great tragedy for Armenian and Kurd to be in conflict' and urged that `every means be utilised to bring the Kurds closer to us' (p16). But with no national effective strategy to incorporate different national groups in joint projects of emancipation such ambitions could not be realised. No leadership by example from Antranig or from men such as Murat with their dedicated but tiny battalions could fundamentally alter the situation. Whatever Antranig's `astonishing daring, iron decisiveness, stubbornness, personal example', whatever his `immense military experience' and `overwhelming popularity' (p56), he could not substitute for the historically inherited indecisiveness and fragmentation of the Armenian national leadership. He and his men could not substitute for the broad social base for Armenian emancipation in western Armenia that was destroyed in 1915. Nor could Antranig's individual lack of hostility to Turkish and Kurdish people replace the lack of a national strategy that accounted for the demographic complexities of western Armenia. So, in the space of three to four months Armenian military forces were decisively repulsed. After Erzerum was `scandalously abandoned', the `140,000 Armenians that remained in western Armenian provinces' were once more `uprooted' and, so `began yet another round of tortured retreat.' (p72) The retreat went beyond even the 1878 Ottoman and Russian occupied Armenian borders. On 12 April 1918 the apparently impregnable and heavily fortified fortress of Kars was abandoned without a fight in the wake of the Armenian leadership's failure to respond to Turkish, Georgian and Azeri intrigue and machinations. In Simonian's view the surrender of Kars was: `... striking evidence that the Tbilisi-based national powers were incapable of rising to the level of their responsibilities. In those decisive days they were unable to offer wise and effective leadership. (p112) `As Antranig rightfully noted' concludes Simionian the `main responsibility' for Armenian defeats `rests with the national leadership' whose failures Simonian adds led to `heavy defeats' that `left to the enemy the wide expanse of Western Armenia. (p34) II. ANTRANIG AND THE FIRST ARMENIAN REPUBLIC In some important respects Antranig and the government of the First Armenian Republic (FAR) represented two opposing and even irreconcilable forces within the Armenian national movement. Antranig, even given his shortcomings, was a personification of a broader, all-embracing Armenian nationhood. Always ready to fight alongside the common people whatever province they hailed from his example and attitude contrasted sharply with narrower, even elitist, preoccupations of the trends that held the reigns in the FAR government. In his stature, his moral authority and popularity Antranig stood on a par with leaders of other national movements such as Garibaldi, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh or Nelson Mandela. His appeal cut across all provincialism or localism. Integrated into the leadership of the Armenian state and Republic he could have contributed enormously to welding the people and its army into a single united force. According to General Nazarbekian (1855-1931), a leader of the Armenian General Staff at the time and an outstanding figure in the victorious battles at Khrakilisa, Bash Abaran and Sartarabad, `Antranig (in 1918) was the only person who could save the Armenian people.' Yet there was, and it appears there could never be, a place for him within the leadership of the Armenian state that was established on 28 May 1918. The First Armenian Republic was not the realisation of a national ideal born on the wave of mighty popular triumph over provincialism and foreign domination, as had been the case in Garibaldi's Italy for example, or the unification of the Chinese or Vietnamese nations. It was rather an almost unsustainable entity foisted upon the Armenian people, and on an unwilling Armenian elite, against its will and in circumstances beyond its control. Repeating a widely held view Simonian argues that in 1918: `The establishment of an independent Armenian state in the conditions that then prevailed flowed from Turkish interests and were to the detriment of the Armenian people. In creating what was a travesty of a state Turkey hoped to divert attention away from the problem of western Armenia.' (p158) The full extent of the `travesty' was exposed a week after the proclamation of independence, when on 4 June 1918 representatives of the allegedly independent state signed the humiliating Treaty of Batum whose terms reduced Armenia to a dependent, apartheid Bantustan-like state. Presided over by representatives of a weak elite that had little enthusiasm for independence, some 800,000 people, many ill and starving remnants of the Genocide, were squeezed into a 10,000 square kilometre patch of virtual stone and desert around Yerevan. Turkey furthermore obtained rights to use Armenian road and rail facilities to transport its troops across the Caucuses. Under the pretext of maintaining law and order it also secured rights to intervene in domestic Armenian affairs. One significant clause in the Treaty highlighted the intractable demographic complications even within Armenian state borders. Intent on organising and deploying Turkish and Azerbaijani communities as a 5th fifth column within Armenia in anticipation of a further offensive to terminate the new republic, the Turkish state inserted a clause in the Treaty that curtailed Armenian government jurisdiction over these communities. The Armenian government meanwhile was required to demobilise a substantial part of its army. Finally Turkish officers were to be stationed in Armenia to supervise implementation of these clauses. In contrast to the Armenian national leadership that was willing to sign the Batum Treaty, Antranig could never reconcile himself to it, or to the government that had signed it. It was a treaty that made no provision for the western Armenian people. Angtranig's hostility to the FAR was fired by more than just what he judged to be a betrayal of western Armenians. He opposed it for its refusal to support eastern Armenian people in Nakhichevan, Zangezur and Karabagh who were themselves engaged in defensive battles against the Azerbaijani elite's attempt to annex Armenian populated areas of the region. Simonian for example writes that fearful of Turkish and European reaction Hovanness Katchaznouni (1868-1938), ARF member and first Prime Minister of the Armenian Republic, `categorically refused' `to offer military assistance' to Zangezur Armenians and advised them instead `not to raise arms against Azerbaijan but to submit to its authority. (p395) The story was similar first in Nakhichevan and then later in Karabagh. For Antranig `a government that displayed such indifference to the people' simply `did not exist'. (p56-58) Considering the new Armenian state as a `gift from the Turks' he `refused to submit `to its leadership and `right to the end of his life' `endlessly exposed it' and `subjected its work to constant criticism' (p.161-2). Tensions and stresses sometimes reached levels so acute that they threatened to explode into civil war. Simonian does not satisfactorily explain the deeper causes for the unceasing hostility between Antranig and the leadership of the First Armenian Republic. But he provides much material to ponder this and the related matter of the essentially deformed and feeble nature of the Armenian elite that in 1918 actually opposed the idea of independence. Alexander Khaddissian, (1876-1945) another ARF member and government minister, writes that the idea was in fact `first advanced by Turkey'. Simon Vratzian (1882-1969), a former Minister and later also Prime Minister recalled that as `Georgians and Azerbaijanis triumphantly declared independence the Armenian National Assembly `prevaricated' over what it considered a `bitter joke'. It's meeting that considered the proposal for independence resembled `a house in mourning with the corpse laid out in the hall.' (p155) But confronted with Turkish, Georgian and Azerbaijani pressures it felt it had no choice but to vote in favour. The moods and inclinations of the Armenian elites remained unaffected by the truly momentous Armenian military victories at Sardarabad, Bash Abaran and Kharakillissa. Independence represented totally different prospects for the Armenian elite on the one hand and the Georgian and Azerbaijani elites on the other. For the latter two it was a double victory. Freed from Tsarist colonialism, political independence also offered the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaderships the instruments with which to challenge and defeat one of their main internal competitors - the Armenian financial, commercial and industrial class. Brimming with confidence and enthusiastic in anticipation their resolve and determination was steeled by German and Turkish imperialist support. For the Armenian elite, in contrast, national independence represented something of a defeat on the wider Caucasian stage. The Armenian elite was largely located outside historical Armenia and outside the territories of the new Armenian state, dispersed in fact across the whole territory of collapsed empires and beyond. As an alternative to Tsarist rule the eastern wing of the elite that emerged dominant after the war preferred not independence but a federation of Caucasian states. This it considered more appropriate to protecting its commanding economic and even political positions in Georgia and Azerbaijan. (That the eastern Armenian elite regarded the entire Caucuses, including Georgia and Azerbaijan as the natural geographic site for its economic and social development finds striking expression in the 19th and early 20th century Armenian press, right across the spectrum, from the conservative `The Bee' to the radical liberal `Labour'.) In Tbilisi the Mayor was Armenian, as was the majority of the population. In Baku Armenians were significant players in the oil industry. Separate independent states would effectively remove these areas and Georgia and Azerbaijan as a whole from the Armenian elite's sphere of action. In all the elite's calculations, the impoverished and relatively backward eastern provinces of Armenia around Yerevan hardly featured. The very structure and nature of this elite almost pre-determined the absence of any national strategy that was in harmony with the interests of the people who actually inhabited eastern and western Armenia. With such origins and such character this elite could have no real interest let alone the will and determination to single-mindedly construct a national army and an effective state apparatus in what it regarded as a backwater around Yerevan that by 1918 was inhabited by a mass whose suffering it had never felt as its own. In contrast, Antranig who was borne of the common people, who always remained close to them, retained a steely will and unbending determination to fight alongside the ravaged people of a ravaged nation. Even as the First Republic leadership could not incorporate Antranig into its ranks, Turkish power remained hugely fearful of the military and political potential he represented for Armenian national unity and independence. `Even before the ink was dry' on the Batum Treaty it `demanded the immediate disarmament' of Antranig's military battalions' (p.163). Thereafter Turkish authorities applied unending pressure on the Armenian government to disarm and remove him (p339, 347). And for as long as Antranig remained in the region they waged a relentless campaign against him (p377, 411) intending to isolate him and divide him from the people. Turkish efforts were unfortunately bolstered, unintentionally or otherwise, by sections of the Armenian leadership. On the day the Batum Treaty was signed the new Armenian government sent a delegation that included a Turkish officer, to demand Antranig's submission. (p163). Antranig was categorical in his defiance: `Go and tell Vehib Pasha that I will not disperse my troops.' (p164) The Armenian government's position hardly changed later when Antranig was in Nakhichevan and Zangezur. Katchaznouni considered Antranig's `presence in Zangezur' `an evil' and thought it `necessary to neutralise and remove' him from the area. (p396) III. CAMPAIGNING IN NAKHICHEVAN AND ZANGEZUR/KARABAGH Despite the Treaty of Batum, Antranig remained determined to continue battle against Turkish power. So he prepared to depart from 1918 Armenian state borders and join up with British forces in Mesopotamia still engaged in war against Turkey. But en route, in June 1918 he halted his march to fight alongside Armenian communities in Nakhichevan resisting Azerbaijani nationalist assault. Then in November he moved to fight alongside Armenian communities in the Zangezur/Karabagh region who found themselves in a similar predicament. The defensive and necessary character of Armenian military operations in these regions cannot be called into question, whatever the claim of partisan historians and whatever the sometimes unacceptable conduct of Armenian forces. In these regions local Armenian communities were not fighting their Azerbaijani and Turkish neighbours. Without any support from the Armenian government, they were engaged in a battle for survival against a united and co-ordinated offensive by the Turkish and Azerbaijani states, with the latter assisted directly by British imperialism. Had Armenians not resisted they would have been forced out of land they had every right to inhabit. In Nakhichevan, Zangezur and Karabagh Antranig's operations were dogged not just by the absence of Armenian state support and once again by narrow local provincialisms, but by another more fundamental problem. In 1914 Armenians in Nakhichevan province constituted only a minority, albeit a large one, with 54,000 of the population, compared to 86,000 Azerbaijanis. In the main city of the same name only a third were Armenian and two-thirds Azerbaijanis. Though the situation in Mountainous Karabagh and the northern portions of Zangezur was significantly different, with Armenian communities accounting for 70 per cent of the population, there was still a substantial 24 per cent Azerbaijani community. Elsewhere, of Zangezur's four districts - Sissian, Ghaban, Meghri and Koris - only the latter retained an overwhelming Armenian majority. In Sissian there were at least 25 Azerbaijani villages, and of Upper Ghaban's 40 villages only four were Armenian. (p194-5, 343, 366,310) In these provinces demographic composition and population distribution was too fragmented to allow for simple resolution of national conflicts into independent self-sustaining political entities. With different communities sharing the same villages, or living in neighbouring ones and all sharing the same natural resources and means of communication the creation of nationally homogenous and economically and socially sustainable states was almost impossible. Allocating different parcels of territory to any one or the other of the three Caucasian states would not just break up the region's economic structure it would create patchworks of hostile national groups some of whom would be locked into borders against their will. The area's demographic topography also precluded easy military victories and dictated a conduct of war that rendered it more savage. Strictly military needs enforced extraordinarily brutal measures against civilian communities. With opposing villages and hamlets criss-crossing disputed territories military and political control of any area was never secure from renewed offensives organised from hostile neighbouring villages. Whatever the political and moral principles of war that were adopted by any military leadership, they were inexorably driven to clear and destroy villages and communities from opposing armies as the only means of securing safety on their flanks. Antranig could not escape these pressures despite his consistent and indeed ruthless opposition to violence against Azerbaijani and Muslim communities in Nakhichevan, Zangezur and Karabagh. When in Nakhichevan, two Russian soldiers in his battalion recall that passing through exclusively Azerbaijani villages Antranig issued strict orders: `...forbidding (his soldiers), and that on threat of firing squad, to lay hands on the Muslim population and its property. As (Antranig) had established stern discipline in the battalion these orders were carried out without hesitation.' (p212) In Karabagh Simonian, with an air of unpleasant disapproval, writes that: `Antranig ordered the immediate execution of anyone guilty of repression or plunder. There were unfortunate incidents: a few (Armenian) refugees suffered the ultimate punishment for trying to steal Azerbaijani cattle.' (p 311) Such attitudes were not exclusive to Antranig. In its address to `our Muslim brothers' of Zangezur the local Armenian National Assembly stated that `throughout the long years of war' Armenians had `not once acted in a hostile or inhuman way' towards the Azerbaijani population and affirmed that having `been neighbours for centuries' `each and everyone of us has full rights to live in his home surrounded by his family.' (p405) Yet despite these principles Antranig and his allies also resorted to village clearances and destructions as indispensable requirements of military security. In Sissian, assaults from neighbouring Azerbaijani villages `unavoidably put on the agenda the issue of disarming and deporting their populations'. According to Simonian he `was determined to secure agreement' for such policies. (p367) Village clearances and mass deportations were carried out elsewhere, by all sides, with inevitable instances of violence against civilians that Simonian alas does not fully and adequately examine. By the spring of 1919, with no backing from the Armenian government and after the fall of the Baku Commune to the British, the stage was set first for Antranig's retreat from Nakhichevan and then, and controversially, from Zangezur and Karabagh. Armenian communities paid a high price for the failure to democratically resolve national conflicts in these areas. Armenian communities in Nakhichevan were never to recover. Throughout the Soviet era they were systematically forced out of their ancestral lands. The present post-Soviet Azerbaijani leadership continues the steady annihilation of all evidence that Nakhichevan was once a shining site of Armenian culture and civilisation. And to this day a terrible question mark hangs over the future of the Armenian community in Karabagh. Furthermore the failure to find a democratic and collective inter-national solution to national problems in the region leaves even the what remains of Armenia as an object of revanchist ambitions both from the Turkish state and the Azeribaijani nationalists who claim it as territory its own, and that on the grounds of having been historically inhabited by Turks and Azerbaijanis. IV. PERFIDIOUS ALBION The entire modern history of Armenian nation formation and subsequent state building has been bedevilled and crippled by one single dominant weakness: the national leadership's lack of independence and its strategic reliance on foreign powers. In 1918-1919 Antranig did not remain immune from this virus. He was to commit one of the greatest errors of his career when he decided to embark on his march to Mesopotamia in the hope of there joining up with the British Army. Predisposing him to rely upon and trust Perfidious Albion his intended alliance undid his legendary resolve when fighting in Nakhichevan and in Zangezur/Karabagh. A collective international and democratic endeavour to resolve the difficult problems of national emancipation in the Caucuses was not excluded in advance, despite the apparent strength of chauvinist politics in the region. There were significant national democratic trends within all the major communities, the Armenian tradition being represented by thinkers, intellectuals and artists such as Abovian, Nalpantian, Broshian, Aghayan, Toumanian and others. The democratic character of their patriotism is reflected in Toumanian's remark that `I with my worldview, am not worn away by the absence of an Armenian kingdom. For me the Armenian people's cultural independence within a brotherhood of cultured people is entirely adequate.' The blinkered vision of regional nationalist forces contributed their bit to sidelining these trends, but primary responsibility must be laid at the door of the imperialist powers, first Tsarist and then British. To prop up its rule the Tsarist government had been single-minded in fostering, strengthening and whipping up animosities amongst Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani people. After the 1918 Armistice it was the turn of the British who for a short period effectively colonised the region deploying their military squadrons to every important and contested region. Whilst pretending to the role of impartial arbiter, British appetite for Baku oil dictated its consistent support for the Azeri elite. So it displayed a complete disregard for principles such as national self-determination, for regional demographic realities and the wishes of the populations of contested regions. As early as December 1918 writes Simonian: `General Thompson in a public statement officially confirmed that Great Britain regards Azerbaijani territory as an inalienable whole and recognises within it only one authority, that of the Azerbaijani government. This inalienable whole included Karabagh and Zangezur.' (p469) At every step Antranig was confronted by the fact of British support for the Azerbaijani elite. In February 1919 British Army Major Mick Mayor appointed extreme Azeri nationalist, Dr Sultanov, to the post of political governor over Armenian populated provinces in Karabagh with instructions `that each and every one of his orders was to be fulfilled without question.' (p490) Another Captain Shuttleworth declared that `every act against Azerbaijan in Karabagh and Shushi would be considered as an act against British authority.' (p490) The British also worked to undermine Armenian military advantage when they permitted Azeri nationalists to station 2000 troops in Shushi but denied Armenians similar right on `on the grounds that this could aggravate tensions.' (p493-94) But Antranig's expectations of an alliance with the British army in Mesopotamia trapped him in the web of British deception. Against both the caution and advice of some of his closest supporters he displayed: `...unnecessary faith in the allies, in the promises of their representatives and he particularly overvalued the orders and actions of General Thomson.' (p463) At one critical point in Karabagh, on General Thompson's orders, Antranig halted his march on Shushi calculating that if he `disobeyed the British order' he would end up `in conflict with both the British and the Azerbaijanis' and this was exactly what the `Turks wanted.' (p460). His failure to enter Shushi resulted in the loss of a firmer negotiating position that was to have critical consequences for the long-term fortunes of the Armenian communities in Karabagh. Local Armenian militants frequently grasped more clearly the devious designs of the British. The Shushi branch of the ARF thought that for Armenians `the political situation became more dangerous from the moment `the Turks retreated from Karabagh' and `the British stepped into the region.' In Yeghishe Ishkhanian's opinion `the British have come here to restrain the Armenians with the intention of forcing them to submit to Azerbaijan. (p488). He continues that the British pretence at supporting Armenians had generated a trust in British policy that undermined the Armenian people's `independent fighting spirit.' (p494) Antranig realised his mistake too late. But, when he did he turned on the British with a vengeance. In a speech before he and his forces evacuated Zangezur, and in the presence of British Major Gibbon, Antranig said, `turning and pointing to local peasants who were reduced to skin and bone and to refugees literally grazing in the fields': `Do you see Mr Major, representative of Great Britain, the world's richest and most powerful nation on earth... these people are dying because they tied their destiny to you...They are your victims...' (p558) As he withdrew from Zangezur, Simonian writes that Antranig was `determined to do everything to ensure that Armenians would never again go begging to foreigners', believing that `it would be better to see his troops and the people starving rather than beg for charity.' (p561). That he may have deviated from this position after leaving Armenia must be the subject for a future discussion. * * * * * In his relations with the leadership of the Armenian National Liberation Movement and the First Armenian Republic, in his commitment to the interests of the Armenian common people, in the absence in him of any chauvinism for Turkish, Kurdish or Azerbaijani people, in his inspiring leadership and his undaunted will for freedom, Antranig's life with all its stupendous achievements and all its failures tells more loudly than anything else of urgent issues that still need attending to in the process of 21st century Armenian nation formation. It behooves us well to learn some lessons from Antranig's history and the history of his times. Here, among others, Simonian is a first rate teacher. -- Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.