It is hardly possible to find a topic in Russian historiography that has been deliberately falsified for so long as the results and significance of the Brest Peace Treaty of 1918. The liberation of historical science from ideological cliches, from the fulfillment of a social order on the part of the CPSU, which was in power, gave rise to certain hopes for an objective and comprehensive consideration of the results of this shameful and treacherous world towards the Armenian people.
And indeed, in the early 90s, a number of works appeared in Russian historical science, in which an attempt was made to consider the issues raised from a new perspective. These publications include articles by N. Mikhailov, V. Zhuravlev, A. Panov and Y. Felydtinsky.
However, upon closer examination of these works, willy-nilly one comes to a disappointing conclusion: the fate of the Armenian people and the Armenian territories given by Russia to Turkey at the behest of Germany has again been beyond the attention of the authors of recent studies.
Again, as before, the thesis is repeated for the umpteenth time that Lenin’s wise forecast about the short-lived nature of this unjust world and about its annulment by the Central Executive Committee and the SNK on November 13, 1918 after the November Revolution in Germany was allegedly confirmed.
At the same time, it is stubbornly forgotten that the formal unilateral cancellation of the terms of this agreement in fact in no way led to the return of the Armenian lands given under the agreement to Armenia. And if Batum was eventually returned to Georgia, then Kare and Ardagan have never been separated from Turkey and are still part of it to this day.
Briefly, the main outline of events.
As you know, on March 1, 1918, the Soviet delegation at the peace talks in Brest-Litovsk received the final text of the ultimatum of the peace treaty, much heavier than in the earlier draft. It was in this ultimatum that a completely new demand was introduced, which dreadfully changed the fate of the Armenian people: the districts of Ardagan, Kars and Batum with a predominantly Armenian population were to be torn away from Russia in favor of Turkey. On March 3, the contract was signed.
What did that mean? This meant that the Bolsheviks decided the fate of an entire nation in less than two days, without even asking the latter’s consent. Article 4 of the Brest Peace Treaty returned to Turkey not only all the territories of Turkish Armenia captured during the war, but also the districts of Kars, Ardagan and Batum. The main question that we would like to draw attention to and which has never been raised in historiography is what was the reaction of the Armenian population of Nakhichevan and Rostov-Don to the news of the conclusion of the Brest Peace.
A unique document has reached us, which is given in the “Red Book” of G. H. Chalkhushyan and is called “Protest of the Don Armenians”. Since the works of G. H. Chalkhushyan, including the “Red Book”, are a bibliographic rarity; we present this document in its entirety.
Protest of the Don Armenians
“The Armenians inhabiting the Region of the Don Army, represented by the community council of Rostov and Nakhichevan-Don, elected by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot, vehemently protest against the Brest-Litovsk Peace, which negatively prejudged the issue of self-determination, allowed the annexation of the Armenian regions and gave the Armenians to be eaten by the Turks.
Even before the outbreak of the war, by an act of January 26, 1914, the great powers, including the now agreed powers: Russia, Germany and Turkey recognized the minimum of reforms necessary for the peaceful existence of Armenians within Turkey. The martyrology of the Armenian martyrs is endless, long, and monstrous.
Europe will be horrified when it learns about all our martyrs, all our sufferings, and millions of trampled lives, and, perhaps, Germany itself will be horrified and shudder, relying on the moral and physical strength of which the Turks allowed themselves all these outrages and atrocities, feeling their complete impunity. What does the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty give the Armenians? The areas densely populated by Armenians are given from Batum to Kars inclusive to the Turks. The zone of their possible atrocities against Armenians is expanding deeper and further.
And the Turks are already moving forward. They seize new villages, cities and commit outrages in Transcaucasia. We will light a new torch of a new, unheard-of fire and once again every Armenian is trampled, destroyed and subjected to robbery, murder and vilification. News is already being received from Transcaucasia: Armenians are being slaughtered, evicted and fleeing from the places where they worked peacefully for hundreds of years, and a small cultured people who survived Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are openly given up for destruction by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty signed by European states speaking in the name and in the name of free peoples. Let the whole Europe know how shameful this world is, which is equal to the murder of Armenians. Let our cry be heard everywhere where there is a person, where there is human dignity, where human feelings and thoughts are not yet dulled.”
It is difficult to add anything to this document. Although the protest is collective in nature, however, its style and language leave no doubt that its author was an outstanding Armenian figure of Nakhichevan-Don, lawyer, writer, vowel of the City Duma Grigory Khris Toforovich Chalkhushyan.
At about the same time when this document was being drawn up, in April 1918, the first Congress of Soviets of the Don Soviet Republic was held in Rostov-Don, which approved the Brest Peace Treaty. Among those who actively supported the slaughter of their compatriots under the Turkish scimitar was our countryman Sarkis Lukashin (Srabionyan). However, fortunately, there were a minority of people like S. Lukashin. The insult inflicted on the Armenians of Western Armenia has caused pain in the hearts of their compatriots not only in Nakhichevan-Don, but also in various cities of Russia. The protest of the Armenians inhabiting the Donskoy Army Region was accepted by many Armenian colonies of Russia. At the same time, the Petrograd colony of Armenians prepared its protest, which in its basic ideas echoes the Nakhichevan.
Protest of Petrograd Armenians
“Brest-Litovsk Treaty is a death sentence for Armenians. Armenia, drenched in blood, returns to its position. It is known that the Armenian blood was and is not being shed for the glory of the great competitors for its alien tasks. Armenians are fighting for their litigation, human rights, which they have not been able to achieve for centuries. The rights of Armenians are recognized by Europe. They are sealed by international acts signed by the Powers currently at war with each other. Russia and Germany, equally responsible for the fate of the Armenians, violated their commitments by the Brest Peace, strengthened by them once again almost on the eve of the war on January 26, 1914. Both sides found it possible to return again․
Armenia is under the power of Turkey, without saying a word about the conditions guaranteeing its security. The struggle of Armenians against Turkey for their existence is not a war against its allies. And there is no reason for them to change their attitude towards Armenians due to certain circumstances. The Brest Treaty, partly concerning Armenia, represents an act of deep violence against justice and against the rights of Armenia. Petrograd Armenians are protesting against the treaty with demands for the return of Armenia to Turkish rule, and for the removal of Armenian detachments from Armenia and occupied by Turkish troops. Protesting against the harassment of the Turkish government to settle Armenia with Muslims from outside Russia. They are protesting against Armenia’s denial of the rights of self-determination recognized for the rejected districts.
Petrograd Armenians appeal to the civilized world and present the new tragedy of Armenian life to the public conscience of all countries. May the voice of humanity rise in defense of the trampled foundations of humanity and the rights of the people, vainly striving to break out of the clutches of their existence into the open space of the free construction of their destiny.” Returning to the position of the Armenian community of Nakhichevan-Don in relation to the Brest peace, I would like to dwell on the following points. The paradoxical situation, in our opinion, is that the public of the Russian city – even if the majority is not ethnically Russian, but Armenian – is protesting against the decision of the Russian government. This is the first.
The second one: an equal share of responsibility for the concluded peace treaty is assigned to both sides: as for Russia, the traditional defender of the Armenians and Germany, with the support of which, the Turks created their excesses. These two countries are clearly named as the perpetrators of the continuation of the genocide of the Armenian people, the new starting point of which was the Brest Peace Treaty.
In these circumstances, when Russia, Germany, and even Turkey, having signed an act guaranteeing the rights of Armenians on January 26, 1914, actually crossed it out, the Nakhichevan public found it possible to appeal to the whole of Europe, hoping that this cry of despair “will be heard wherever there is a person, where there is human dignity, where human feelings and thought are not yet dulled.”
Europe has once again turned a deaf ear to this cry of despair. It would be naive to expect anything from the Bolshevik government of Russia, concerned solely with the preservation of its own power. But the powerful voice of protest of the Armenian community of Nakhichevan-Don, led by the indefatigable G. H. Chalkhushyan, served as a moral guideline to which the entire progressive community of the world was equal.
R.G.Tikijyan, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Hamaink Pyatigorsk 1996.