Armenian News Network / Groong

The Critical Corner - 07/02/2012

Armenian capitalists and financiers in Baku's oil fields

	    `Yet from your capital if Armenia has no profit,
	    We spit on you and your capital too!'
				    -- Rafael Batkanian

Armenian News Network / Groong
July 2, 2012

by Eddie Arnavoudian

Rich in statistical data sifted from Tsarist and other records,
Khatchadour Dadayan's `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' (pp232,
2006, Noravank Publications, Yerevan) is an illuminating
socio-economic history of Armenian capital's contribution to the
development of Baku's oil industry and to the early industrialisation
of the region now known as Azerbaijan. Establishing the extent of
Armenian industrial power, the volume enables a finer appreciation of
the history of Armenian-Russian and Armenian-Azeri relations in the
era of Russian colonisation of the Caucuses.

With the spectre of Armenian economic power `constituting the spinal
cord' of Russia's historic `anti-Armenian policy', Tsarist officials
in the Caucuses ceaselessly sought to cut down to size the now more
ominous threat of Armenian oil power, to force it, as Dadayan writes,
into a `straitjacket'. Seriously troubling the Tsarist state, Armenian
oil power also aggravated Armenian-Azeri antagonisms, when in an era
of nationalism and nation-formation, a newly emerging Azeri industrial
elite battled to depose Armenians from commanding positions in a
region they considered theirs.

The web of Armenian oil and related wealth in Baku marks out in
addition some of those factors that shaped the Armenian commercial
class's opposition to separate nation states in the Caucuses. In an
independent Azerbaijan, Baku's Armenian oil magnates would be at the
mercy of a state at the service of an ambitious Azeri bourgeoisie. In
the context of tense Armenian-Azeri relations, Dadayan shows that to
advance its Caucasian oil interests British imperialism consistently
buttressed Azeri nationalists against the Armenians that it considered
perhaps a more formidable opponent and one in alliance with its
historic Russian enemy to boot.

Thank heavens then that the substance of this book is not vitiated by
its politics defined by a crass glorification of Baku's Armenian oil
millionaires and a resort to Genocide Recognition and Compensation
Politics with which it concludes. To these urgent issues we shall
return, also in conclusion, as a first foray into the debate on the
particularly unfortunate Diaspora form of Genocide Recognition and
Compensation Politics. As one reads one should also remain critically
alert to unreasoned outbursts of anti-Azeri chauvinism and empty
patriotic bombast. (See Note 1),

PART ONE: The History

I. Armenian capitalists and Baku oil

The history of oil in the Caucuses stretches back into antiquity,
registered in ancient literature, in fiery local folklore and, by the
by, in the work of 7th century Armenian mathematician and scientist
Shirakatzi. But as raw material for fabulous profits and fuel for
fierce political rivalries, oil comes into its own in the wake of the
Russian conquest of the Caucuses during the early 1700s. Thereafter
Armenian money played a major role in the exploitation of this `dark
liquid gold' that propelled rapid capitalist development in Baku and
beyond, especially during the second half of the 19th century.

In 1850, following unsatisfactory attempts at direct Tsarist state
exploitation, Baku oil was offered to private investors as a
concession. Among the major takers were three Tbilisi-based Armenian
merchants - Guguntchyan, Papanasyan and General Der-Ghugassyan - who
together invested 110,000 roubles. In the following decade a new
player, Hovanness Mirzoyan, entered the fray with a capital of 298,000
roubles. In 1872, hoping for quick money and more rapid and long-term
investment the Tsarist State auctioned off 68 oil plots earning some
2.98m roubles. Among the big bidders were 11 Armenians brandishing
wallets stuffed with 2,679,000 million roubles. Twelve Russian
consortiums together mustered a smaller sum of 1.333 million. Mirzoyan
who went on to become one of the biggest of players was prince with an
individual investment of 1.2m roubles.

Armenian oil capital played a leading role right up to World War One
and the Bolshevik Revolution. 1889 figures point to the huge gap that
divided Armenian and Azeri capital. Of the 59 oil firms valued at
approximately 192m roubles, 34 were Armenians with assets approaching
94m. Azeri capitalists owned only 3 valued at 14.5m, with one person,
Taghiev possessing a 13.9m share. Armenian prominence survived the
1902-1913 so-called `crisis years'. In 1902, of the top 24 oil
enterprises 13 were Armenian-owned with 203m roubles of assets from a
total of 521m invested not just by Armenian and Russian capital but by
European and British firms too. Despite a decline, by 1915 Armenians
still held some 190m of a total of 571m roubles of oil wealth in the

Oil inevitably spawned a web of auxiliary business that together set
foundations for Baku's sturdy industrialisation. Here too Armenians
led the way. Of 41 firms producing oil-related products 19 were in
Armenian hands. Fourteen of 66 shipping firms, three of nine
electricity suppliers, 95 of 194 engineering workshops and all three
water stations were owned by Armenians. In 1911 Baku, 43 of 88
manufacturing establishments were Armenian. Armenians were also
prominent in the food, tobacco, spirits and retailing businesses that
catered for a growing city. As it scoured for profit Armenian capital,
in joint ventures with British and Russian firms, also went global
with Mantashyants for example opening offices in London, Marseille,
Bombay, Smyrna, Salonika, Istanbul, Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said and

There was no gainsaying it, `Armenian oil... in (Baku) occupied a
dominant position and had a decisive say' in the region's economy.
But it was a fragile dominance that could not endure. Despite its
stupendous wealth, the Armenian capitalist class and the Armenian
community it had built in Baku had no firm foundation. It had no state
that would consistently protect its interests against Russian capital
and the Azeri elites. Beholden to a fundamentally hostile Tsarist
state, it was also encircled by a majority of non-Armenians being
whipped into anti-Armenian frenzy by an Azeri elite leadership
preparing the first opportunity to leap for the proverbial Armenian
oil jugular. Opportunity came in the wake of the 1914-1918 World War,
the collapse of the Russian Empire and the Russian Revolution.

II. Between the Tsarist hammer...

Historically the Russian State had always been willing to field
Armenian trading and manufacturing entrepreneurs as advance guards to
smooth its own pathways into the Caucuses and further afield. But
harbouring understandable fears that Armenian economic advance would
acquire independent national features capable of challenging Tsarist
authority, it was always carefully ruthless to stifle even the
slightest manifestation of any independent Armenian economic, national
or political development.

Having eradicated surviving ancient Armenian principalities after its
1827 conquest of Armenian Garabagh, Tsarism rested easy in the belief
that it had removed the core of any potential Armenian flight to
independence. However, as Armenians took up forward positions in
Baku's oil fields their unprecedented wealth triggered substantial
social advance and so significantly enhanced the status of the
Armenian communities in the Caucuses. A possible transformation in
Armeno-Russian relationships was heralded. An extract from an 1883
report on behalf of an ambitious Russian capitalist acutely
encapsulates Russian anxieties:

    `The entire economy of the region, rich in natural
    exploited by Armenians...and one can hardly hope that they will
    suitably serve Russian national interests.' (p78)

Another contemporary observers notes that Armenian `trade and
production' was developing `to the detriment of Russia' (p84), while
yet another expresses satisfaction that at least Russian Governor
Golytsin `understood that in the Caucuses Russia has its most
unrelenting enemy in the Armenians' (p87). Unearthing the history of
growing mountains of Armenian owned oil barrels Dadayan himself
concludes that, Armenians who:

    ` the early period were even encouraged to contribute to the
    consolidation of Russian rule had now become independent and
    appeared as a direct obstacle to Russian national interests and to
    the advance of Russian capital.' (p78)

The Russian response was to `impose a straitjacket' on the Armenians
and steadily tighten it and so restrain not just Armenian capital but
paralyse and suffocate any coherent flourish of Armenian political,
cultural, educational or social institutions across the Caucuses.
Knitted into a single fabric and sustained on sturdy economic pillars
of oil wealth these could become powerful contestants to Russian
authority throughout the Caucuses. That the healthy blooming of such a
national social fabric could indeed represent a serious threat to
imperial control and domination is significantly, albeit indirectly,
underlined on the other side of the Russian colonial border, in
Ottoman occupied Armenia.

In a series of 1918 articles Leo responding to one of the earliest
Turkish attempts to falsify the truth about the 1915 Genocide shreds
the credibility of a lavishly produced Turkish government tome that
shifted responsibility for the Armenian tragedy on to Armenian
revolutionaries. As he demolishes the construction of lies and
deceptions Leo notes the serious Ottoman consternation at the
flourish, not just of Armenian revolutionary organisations but of the
wide network of schools, welfare, charity, Church and other social
organisations. These were all regarded as dangerous building blocks
with which Armenians would cohere as a powerful entity to undermine an
already decaying Ottoman Empire.

So the systematic repression, imprisonment, exile, closure of schools,
social and welfare organisations, censorship and collaboration with
the Ottoman State to crush the emerging armed wing of the Armenian
national liberation movement. So intense and ruthless was Tsarist
repression that Rouben Ter-Minassyan in his `Memoirs of an Armenian
Revolutionary' (Note 2) records a popular saying that while `the Turk
struck his axe at the Armenian branch' the `Russian struck it at the
root.' (p48) There is no shortage of material registering the history
of Imperial Russia's systemic anti-Armenian strategies and policies.

For a slightly more detailed summary see `Russia's Armenian Problem- A
Historical Overview', 5 December 2011 at Groong's The Critical
Corner: tcc-20111205.html). Interested
readers can however more profitably turn to Leo's `From the Past',
John Kirakossian's fine two-volume study of imperialist diplomatic
treachery against the Armenian national movement as well as to
Rouben's `Memoir'.

III. ...and the Azeri anvil

Fatally for the multinational Caucuses, the Russian Imperial State did
not hesitate to put a match to a tinderbox of latent inter-national
rivalries now accentuated by the rapid development of economic and
political nationalism. Whenever it deemed it necessary to deliver
blows to local nationalist movements, Tsarist colonial governors
stoked clashes between national groups. In the business of taming the
Armenians, in Baku and the region, Russian authority had a willing
instrument in a resentful and ambitious Azeri elite and its growing
commercial-industrial wing eager to climb and sit atop the greasy

A swathe of economic statistics proclaiming Armenian primacy supplied
the Azeri nationalist movement with ideological petrol to fire flames
of anti-Armenian hatreds. From 1850 to 1918, decades of pronounced
separate nationalist development throughout Asia Minor and the
Caucuses, Armenians always constituted only a minority of Baku's total
population, rarely exceeding 25%. Nevertheless in all economic spheres
they dominated disproportionately constituting also the city's
`well-to-do class' (p59). In 1905, for example, when but 18.8% of the
population, Armenian businessmen owned 43% of the value of all fixed
assets. Azeris on the other hand held only 34% with the difference
distributed among Russians and others. (p57).

Azeri hostilities to the Armenian presence in Baku were further
cemented by the substantial positions Armenians occupied in the
administrative machinery of Tsarist colonial domination, second only
to Russian officials themselves. (p62) That Azeri's also played their
role in the organisation of Tsarist control did not stop them from
proclaiming Armenians as agents of Russian imperialism! Armenians
could be additionally targeted as servants of foreign imperial power
for frequently acting as diplomatic representatives for other European
states, in1908 for instance, for the Belgian and Italian missions in
Baku (p63).

Thus Armenians were cast as foreign intruders; a minority that
protected by and in alliance with Tsarist colonial oppressors had
seized what rightly belonged to the Azeri people. Thus Armenians were
deemed legitimate targets to be crushed and removed by any means
necessary. Armenian privilege could not withstand the assault. The
1905 Tsarist facilitated anti-Armenian pogroms provided the Azeri
elite with a first practice run (see Note 3) for their decisive
post-Tsarist era offensive. Armenian capital had survived enjoying,
albeit qualified and `straitjacketed', Russian protection. But with
the arrival of independent Caucasian states in Baku and Tbilisi it had
no barricade behind which to take shelter.

Azeri nationalism launched its decisive attack in September 1918, an
attack that was facilitated, significantly, by the disintegration of
the Baku Commune. On 15 September 1918 Azeri nationalist forces
arrived at the city gates but halted there for three days to allow an
orchestrated mob assault on the city's Armenian community. Organised
gangs were unleashed on all Armenians, rich and poor alike, even on
thousands of Armenians who had earlier in the year, according to Azeri
oil millionaire Taghiev himself, given shelter to 25,000 Azeris
fleeing Bolshevik forces. The horrifying catalogue of murder, pillage,
rape, robbery, arson and destruction that continued for two months
thereafter need not be rehearsed to be imagined (for details see
Chapter V).

A thriving community was devastated, its homes, social centres,
schools, Churches, shops, trading centres and factories ransacked and
put to flame. Armenians treated as enemy forces were left without
rights, imprisoned and enslaved.

    `With the Law of 8 October 1918 the Armenian working class,
    industrial and officer workers were turned out onto the
    streets...while on the other hand...the Armenian commercial
    class was robbed of all its property...'(p149)

In the space of two months the Armenian population of Baku was
decimated. 12,000 had been slaughtered and same number dead from
disease and hunger with a further 30,000 forced to flee. A vibrant
community that had done so much to develop the city of Baku, that was
to become the capital of Azerbaijan, was destroyed. If 1905 was the
first round of clearing Armenians out of Baku and 1918 the second, the
third and final round followed in the wake of the disintegration and
collapse of the Soviet Union.

PART TWO: The Politics

I. Armenian capital and the Armenian nation

The Noravank Foundation is more than simply a publishing enterprise.
It is a think tank devoted to issues of Armenian national and state
security across economic, political, military cultural and demographic
boundaries. `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' is not therefore
just an academic history with no contemporary preoccupation. It has a
sub-text, an unfortunate one it must be said, clear in the compound of
unflagging enthusiasm for Baku's Armenian oil millionaires, demands
for the imperialist recognition of the genocide and calls for Turkish
and Azeri material compensation that loudly conclude the volume.

Dadayan resurrects Baku as a `model' Armenian community (p65), united
around an `Armenian oil business' that was `national' `in the true
meaning of the word' (p35) and `fired' `by a sense of responsibility
for the nation'. Repeatedly bathed in the brightest of all possible
lights, one could reasonably assume that this reconstructed image of
the wealthy capitalist stratum of Armenian Baku performs as a sort of
role model for a contemporary Armenian capitalism that invigorated by
compensation for Armenian oil wealth confiscated in 1918-1920, could
act as a vanguard for national regeneration.

Many of Baku's Armenian millionaires were of course hugely
philanthropic (Note 4). But this magnanimity did not and could not
make them `national' capitalists in the only meaningful sense of
this term. National capital is productive business born from, rooted
in and sustained upon the homeland. It is economic production in a
defined territory producing an economic landscape upon which a nation
state and society can prosper. This is certainly not the role played
by Diaspora capital of which Baku's Armenian capital was a component.
Indeed, Dadayan's carefully assembled data reinforces the positions
established in Armenian political thought by Mikael Nalpantyan:

    'Only when a nation cultivates its own soil (i.e. develops its own
    economy in the homeland), can one speak of trade (and economy)
    that is genuinely Armenian and national.'

In `Agriculture and the True Way' Nalpantian in effect describes
Baku's Armenian millionaires and that to precision. They `may have
(and did indeed - EA) help enrich hundreds' and `hundreds more may
have (and did indeed - EA) receive a European education'. But `the
state of the Armenian nation as a whole' `remained paralysed and
static', for despite undoubted philanthropic generosity, Baku's
wealthy Armenians showed little or no interest in the economic
development of Armenia proper or in projects of Armenian statehood.
While Baku (and Tbilisi) thrived, thanks in significant part to
Armenian investors, Yerevan and the eastern Armenian heartlands
remained to a large extent a backwater.

Such Diaspora capital, removed from the homeland, is, again in
Nalpanatian's words:

    '... not national in anyway whatsoever and has absolutely no
    relation to the national interest ...(Diaspora) Armenian merchants
    (are) servants of Europe...

This attitude formed fact an important feature of the ideology of the
Armenian National Liberation Movement, underlined in Rouben's
`Memoirs' in which he condemns the Armenian capitalists of Baku and
Russia as Tsarist agents. Despite `their Armenian origins' they were
`advance guards' for Russian interests. At a point in his own
exposition Dadayan is at one with both Nalpantian and Rouben. Baku's
`Armenian nationals' he writes, being `subjects of the Tsarist
state' served the `formation of and became integral components of
Russian national capital (p188).' Unfortunately this observation is
left to sink in the morass of an over-buttered eulogy to Baku's
Armenian elite.

Armenian capitalists in the Diaspora like the capitalists of any
nationality are driven by the desire for profit. In the Caucuses these
were to be made not within but outside Armenian borders. The entire
network of Baku's `Armenian oil', its production and distribution, its
supporting industrial enterprises and its web of financial flows were
rooted outside the core homeland. Like capitalists the world over
Armenian capital's thirst for profit drove it in the direction of the
greatest gains. And Baku (and Tbilisi) was decidedly more profitable
than the urgent national business of modernising agriculture or
introducing manufacturing into Armenia's Yerevan regions, as first
steps to industrialisation and the development of a modern economy.

Indifferent to the national economy, Diaspora capital showed as little
enthusiasm for the Armenian National Liberation Movement. Rouben notes
that funds collected from the poor population of Kars, for Armenian
guerrillas organising to defend the common people in homeland, `put to
shame contributions from Baku that was a world of millionaires'
(Memoirs...' Vol 1, p52-53). Diaspora capital preferred to spend only
where its investments lay. While Baku's millionaires were reluctant to
fund the liberation struggle in the homeland, Hovig Grigorian reminds
us that in Baku for the direct `defence of its own life and wealth'
they opened their wallets `quite naturally' (`Problems of Arming and
Financing the Armenian Liberation Struggle').

With its foundations outside Armenia it is not at all surprising that
in the wake WW1, the collapse of the Tsarist Empire and the breakup of
the Caucuses, Armenian capital considered Armenian national
independence a last resort. Its geographic dispersal and remoteness
from Armenia proper dictated the ideal of a Swiss-style federation of
nations within the ambit of a single state that would protect their
capital in Baku and the region. This ideal collapsed before the
confluence of systematic Tsarist obstruction of Armenian national
development and the growing and confident ambitions of the Azeri and
Georgian nationalist bourgeoisie.

Clarifying the concept of national capital and the role of Diaspora
business in nation building is no exercise in idle definition. The
notion that Diaspora capital can function as a `national' force with
`responsibility' for the nation' is a diverting and dangerous illusion
upon which to premise strategy.

Whatever the scope, scale and generosity of Diaspora Armenian capital,
it cannot function as a driving force for Armenian national
regeneration. In view of the realities of contemporary Armenia,
private capital, of which Diaspora capital is but a form, cannot
initiate a consistent drive for recovery and regeneration. It cannot
replace or substitute for a concerted and determined role of a
democratic Armenian state in generating foundations of a genuine,
self-sustaining productive economy that would serve the people of

Armenia simply is not an attractive investment for capital in
quantities sufficient to generate a self-propelled economy. Since the
Genocide, the Armenian state has been squeezed into borders that have
limited natural resources, little natural power, difficult access to
trade routes and no access to the sea. Encircled in addition by
hostile and vastly wealthier powers bent on removing it, Armenia is
from the point of view of capitalist profit almost totally arid. Its
population is reduced to being a passive market for foreign
manufacturers and producers of food and household goods.

As with other nations in similar conditions, the role of the state
thus acquires critical importance. Can the Armenian State measure up
to the challenge? Is the elite that today controls this state capable
of undertaking the task of an Armenian national revival in
circumstances where private capital cannot? A think tank dedicated to
Armenian national security should address such questions instead of
dispatching them into obscurity by generating illusions about the
potential role of Diaspora capital.

In the future of Armenia Diaspora capital can have a role, and indeed
a substantial one. But this can be only secondary to systematic and
concentrated efforts of a democratic Armenian state to rebuild the
nation. Yet, unfortunately even among some of the best of contemporary
political analysts its role is magnified to distortion, a
magnification reinforced by the fact that some Diaspora capital has
reached Armenia.

II. The troubles of compensation politics

Besides disposing of illusions about the role of Diaspora capital,
debate on the future of the Armenian state and nation must in addition
avoid the marsh of Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation
Politics. Inspiring hopes for some sort of national renaissance to
flow from possible territorial and financial reparations obtained as a
result of the imperialist recognition of the Armenian genocide is the
cheapest and easiest route to avoid serious engagement with the actual
roots of contemporary Armenian decline. This however is the path opted
for by Dadayan.

There is a place for genocide recognition by the Turkish state and for
negotiations about reparations. But such can take place with mutual
benefit only between Armenian, Azerbaijani and Turkish democratic
movements. It can take place only when we have put our own house in
order. Only when the Armenian State is in a position strong enough to
negotiate independently and directly with neighbouring states, will
moves for genocide recognition contribute to the future of all the
people of the region. Relying upon any settlement driven by an
Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation is a disaster. It
bends us into postures of impotent, passive, helpless victims bleating
for justice from an alliance of muggers and thieves themselves rapidly
losing ground in global and regional politics, while Turkey on the
other hand flexes dormant Ottoman imperial muscles.

Unfortunately `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' does not go
beyond this paralysing template. Arguing correctly that the 1918
slaughter in Baku and the expropriation of Armenian wealth was a
component and extension of the 1915 Genocide, in part prompted by the
Young Turks' strategic pan-Turkish designs, Dadayan scrutinises
historical documents and financial audits and records, some prepared
by British imperial authorities, to arrive at a figure that he thinks
fits an adequate compensation bill. Having `declared itself the
inheritor of the 1918 Azeri Republic' the current Azeri government he
insists must in consequence `accept responsibility' for this bill.

    `I am not so innocent (however) as to think that even in the
    future Azerbaijan will acknowledge the genocide.... But, if it is
    of no purpose to speak...about moral (Azeri
    authority) is still obliged to offer financial reparation.'

The notion of the Azeri elite, today arming itself for final war
against Armenia, fulfilling such an obligation is laughable! Though
one must admit that it would perhaps be easier to extract compensation
from the Azeri State than to recover wealth Armenian elites have
robbed from their people. With an Armenian State crippled by an elite
happier plundering its own people, who is to force compensation? In
line with the dominant trend of Armenian political thought we are
offered the usual candidates - European and US imperial powers and
this despite the fact that with interests rooted in Turkey and
Azerbaijan they historically have without exception been and remain
today decidedly anti-Armenian.

The current form of the Diaspora Genocide Recognition Campaign knits
itself into the web of mainstream imperial politics and in doing so
serves in the very first instance the electoral interests of selected
imperial parties rather than those of the Armenian people and
nation. Whilst the activists quite clearly are dedicated primarily to
the aim of Genocide recognition, working to secure some form of
historical justice for Armenians, the PRACTICAL result of their work
has not been Genocide Recognition. It has been the supply of Armenian
support or delivery of Armenian votes to chosen political parties.
Where recognition has been secured it has made no fundamental
improvement to the fortunes of the Armenian people or to the
relationship of forces between the Turkish state and the Armenian

Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation Politics turns
Armenians into globe-trotting beggars seeking acknowledgement and
assistance from states for whom Armenians matters only when their
votes may be needed to tip electoral balances among contending forces
during their domestic clashes. Prior to some imperial state election
Armenian campaigners in return for delivering Armenian votes, secure
hints of a hint to recognise the Genocide that after the elections are
hurled aside. The charade is repeated endlessly.

Who benefits? The Armenian people gain nothing from this labour of
Sisyphus. The only beneficiaries are political parties within
imperialist states chosen by Armenian lobbyists as targets. In return
for meaningless never to be completed gestures of Genocide Recognition
Armenians offer them a free electoral machine that heartlessly
exploits the enduring memories and the enduring pains of the Armenian

How many times are Armenians prepared to be `betrayed', `disappointed',
`cheated', `deceived' and `swindled'...! Oh the tragedy and the
banality of it all.

If Armenian communities in the Diaspora carry any political clout then
this could perhaps be better deployed in a campaign aiming to secure
international recognition of the Armenian Republic of Garabagh on the
basis of the democratic right of nations to self-determination. Whilst
on genocide recognition mainstream imperial politicians can fudge and
mealy mouth, on the issue of recognition Garabagh there can be only a
yes or a no. Such recognition could serve significantly to stay the
hand of Azeri and Turkish aggression not just against the Republic of
Garabagh but the Republic of Armenia too.

There is an essential qualification that does need to be made about
the Genocide Recognition Campaign even as it exists now. Often
incorporated into the Imperialist Genocide Recognition and
Compensation Campaign is valuable material that is part of an urgently
necessary polemic against a strategically planned, organised and
financed Turkish falsification of Armenian history. This engine of
state sponsored and financed falsification is in part preparation of
domestic Turkish and international opinion for further systematic and
deadly assaults on the rights of Armenian nationhood and statehood. An
Armenian riposte is particularly urgent in view of the systematic
destruction of the remnants of Armenian civilisation within Turkey's
current borders and the flagrant Turkish disregard of the democratic
rights of the different nations, Armenians among them that constitute
the current Turkish republic.

Here Dadayan's volume is invaluable material for refutation.

			     * * * * * *

Jacqueline Rose, author of 'The Question of Zion' recently noted that:
`...victimhood is something that happens, but when you turn it into
an identity you're psychically and politically finished.'

For Armenians this cuts to the bone. Rose was not writing about
Armenians but what she says fits a swathe of modern Armenian
'intellectuals' like a bespoke suit. Imperialist Genocide Recogition
and Compensation Politics is but an expression of `victimhood as
identity'. It breeds a disgusting dependency on the more powerful, a
reliance on others, a complete abdicatiton of any sense of dignity, of
any self sustaining will. It leads to a pleading and begging of others
for a solution to your problems.

The definition of Armenian identity as Genocide victims awaiting
justice in foreign courts casts Armenians in a horribly helpless
posture with hands outstretched to imperialist passers begging for
compensation. We are reduced to pleading for justice for historical
wrongs from thieves gathered drinking champagne around the luxury
pools of Azeri oil. Preoccupied with Genocide Recognition and the
calls for compensation that flow from this, all expected to be kindly
donated to Armenians, the bandits riding their 4x4 chariots roughshod
over the lives and the future of the Armenian common people get away
with murder, the murder of a nation included.

The axis of Armenian politics must change. So must the axis of
international discussion about Armenia and Armenians. Dadayan's fine
volume of history does not however contribute to a process of change.


1) In a puerile claim of intrinsic business skills that apparently
mark them out from their neighbours, Dadayan writes that Armenians are
particularly suited to capitalism. They have he claims `preserved
traditions of 23 centuries of commercial economic activity (p10) and
`these thousands of years' have embedded in `us the genes of economic
excellence... (p58)'. One dares say that the same can be asserted by
Venetians, Arabs, Englishmen, Indians and indeed by all other nations
among whom trade is a part of economic life!

2) Rouben's `Memoirs' require careful reading. They are of indubitable
historical value, perhaps unprecedented in the richness of recollection
of Armenian revolutionary life communicated sometimes in fine artistic
form. Rouben however remained a stalwart ARF activist with his vision
framed by the characteristics of that organisation, positive and
negative. One has therefore to beware and sift the wheat from the

3) Dadayan offers some rather puzzling figures on comparative Armenian
and Azeri casualties during the 1905-1907 anti-Armenian pogroms,
figures that put Azeri deaths higher than those of their Armenian
antagonists. In Baku he claims 400 Armenian and 300 Azeri deaths,
whilst throughout the rural regions Azeri deaths are put at 1300
compared to 1100 Armenian. (p94) Concluding his paragraph Dadayan adds
`that, however given Armenians were better off, their material losses
were incomparably greater, 43million roubles worth.'

4) Armenian benefactors to Baku's community life did not however treat
their own Armenian workers with the same generosity. Even as they
offered up charitable money they were ruthless in the exploitation of
Armenian labour. The novelist Shirvanzade was shocked by the poverty
and social exploitation that he witnessed on moving to Baku in 1875
and in a string of articles exposed the horrific daily life of
labourers in the then burgeoning oil fields of Baku.

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.
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