Sunday, August 26, 2018

Coronation of Ashot I Bagratuni (August 26, 885)

After 457 years, the Kingdom of Armenia was restored in 885 under the Bagratuni (also called Bagratid) dynasty. The Bagratunis had been one of the powerful noble families under the Arshakuni (Arsacid) dynasty, holding the titles of aspet (horse-master) and takatir (coronant of the king).

In the eighth century, under Arab domination, the Bagratunis rose to power after the Mamikonian family lost its preeminence in successive rebellions against foreign rule. During the rebellion of 852-855, Prince of Princes Sembat Bagratuni was imprisoned by the Arab general Bugha and refused to renege his faith. His refusal led to his martyrdom, for which he later received the surname “Confessor.” Ashot, one of his seven children, became his successor as sparapet (general-in-chief). He was thirty-five-years-old. He was married to princess Katranide and had seven children himself.

Ashot strengthened the unity of Armenia, intervening to solve conflicts between princely houses, and established kinship relations between the Bagratuni, Artzruni (in Vaspurakan), and Siuni (in Siunik) families, arranging the marriages of his three daughters with prominent members of the last two families. In 862 Ashot, who ruled over the province of Ayrarat (the plain of Ararat), received the title of Prince of Prince from the Arab caliphate and ceded the position of sparapet to his brother Abas. He was allowed by the caliphate, then in a weakened situation, to become the tax collector for the entire Arab province of Arminiya, which encompassed Armenia, Iberia (Georgia), and Caucasian Albania (now Azerbaijan). This recognition of his position, concentrating the military and economic power of the region, gradually turned the Arab rule into an administrative formality.

The support of other Armenian princes helped Ashot wage war against the Arab emirs in Armenia. He neutralized a conspiracy by the ostikan of Arminiya, the legal representative of the caliphate, and expelled him from Armenia in 877. On the other hand, Emperor Basil I of Byzantium (867-886, of Armenian origin) asked the Armenian prince to crown him as representative of an ancient lineage of coronants and to sign a treaty. Before him, Patriarch Photius had made a proposal for church unity in 862. However, the religious assembly of Shirakavan, gathered in 869, rejected the Patriarch’s proposal, but not the political and military alliance with Byzantium.

At the same time, Ashot also fortified the links with Iberia and Albania, where branches of the Bagratunis had taken an important role among the nobility. The demands of Armenian princes and the Catholicos to recognize Ashot as king were finally met by Caliph al-Mutamid, who decided to send a crown to Ashot in 885 with the aim of getting Armenians out of the Byzantine orbit. On August 26, 885, Catholicos Gevorg II Garnetsi (877-897) consecrated Ashot I as King of Armenia in the fortress of Bagaran, Ashot’s residence and new capital of the country. The new king had also received a crown from Emperor Basil I, which ensured international recognition. The restoration of the Armenian monarchy was accompanied by economic and urban growth and a revival of arts and religion, as well as territorial enlargement. Ashot I restored the court system existing in the Arshakuni period, with some modifications. In 887 he crowned the first King of Eastern Georgia, Atrnerseh IV Bagratuni (Bagrationi, 887-923).

In 890, on his way of return from a trip to Constantinople, Ashot died on the road. He was buried in Bagaran. He was succeeded by his son Sembat I (890-914).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Death of Catholicos Mateos I (August 22, 1865)

The Armenian Church had two Catholicoi called Mateos in the nineteenth and twentieth century, who also were Patriarchs of Constantinople at first, and lived and worked in difficult circumstances both in the Ottoman and the Russian empires.

Mateos Chuhadjian was born in Constantinople in 1802 and consecrated archimandrite in 1826. He was one of the best prepared and well-versed ecclesiastics of his time. Following instructions of Patriarch Stepanos Aghavni (1831-1839 and 1840-1841), he collaborated with writer Krikor Peshdimaljian and published a voluminous Synaxarion in 1831. (The Synaxarion-- in Armenian, Haysmavurk --is the compilation of the lives of saints arranged by the order of their anniversaries.) During his life, he would publish a dozen works of religious studies and theology, some of them polemical. 

He was named primate of the diocese of Brusa in 1835 and consecrated bishop three years later. In 1841 he became primate of Smyrna and in July 1844, at the age of forty-two, he became Patriarch of Constantinople. 

The relations between the Catholicosate of All Armenians and the Patriarchate had become frozen in 1828, when the dioceses under jurisdiction of the latter had stopped remembering the name of the Catholicos. In his first Holy Mass, celebrated on July 23, 1844, he remembered the name of Catholics Nerses V Ashtaraketsi. Patriarch Mateos worked towards restoring the relations between both sees. By mutual agreement, the two sees decided to maintain direct relations. The Patriarch of Constantinople was recognized as vicar, legate, and treasurer of Holy Etchmiadzin, that is, the only representative, and the activities and fundraising by other legates was forbidden. The boundaries of the diocesan divisions were also established and clarified.

During the four-year mandate of Patriarch Mateos, the simmering conflict between the Armenian Church and the few hundred followers of Protestantism exploded. Despite the assurances of Protestant leadership, as James L. Barton wrote in 1908, that the American missionaries’ “supreme endeavor was to help the Armenians and the Greeks work out a quiet but genuine reform in their respective churches,” their mission was characterized as an attack on the “Mother Church.” On June 21, 1846 the Patriarch issued an encyclical of perpetual excommunication and anathema against all Protestants, and four days later, a constitution was drawn up for the forthcoming Armenian Evangelical Church, which began on July 1.  

The Patriarch reopened the Lyceum of Scutari (1845), which had been converted into a military hospital by decision of the Ottoman government four years before. He also founded schools in Samatia, Smyrna, and other places. During his tenure, 25 schools and many printing houses functioned in Constantinople, several periodicals appeared, and various cultural societies were founded. He also ensured that promising young people were sent to Europe to pursue higher education.

He also formed the two administrative bodies of self-government for Western Armenians, the Religious Assembly (14 members) and the Supreme Assembly (20 members), which became the grounds for the preparation of the National Constitution fifteen years later. However, his activities were met with resistance by the amiras (the upper class magnates), and their pressure forced him to resign from his position in September 1848. It is interesting that, after his resignation from the highest position of the Armenian Church in the Ottoman Empire, he became the primate of the diocese of Nicomedia (Ismit) in 1853-1854, and abbot of the convent of Armash in 1855, when he was also designated chairman of the Religious Assembly.

After the death of Nerses V, the National Representative Assembly gathered in Holy Etchmiadzin decided to strengthen the links between Etchmiadzin and Constantinople and elect any Western Armenian ecclesiastic. The election fell on Archbishop Mateos Chuhajian, who was elected on May 17, 1858, and consecrated on August 15, 1859. 

During his six-year tenure, Catholicos Mateos I was again in conflict with Protestantism, this time in the diocese of Shamakha (current Azerbaijan), and his confrontational position ended with the incorporation of the few hundred Armenian Protestants to the Lutheran Church, the only one recognized in the Russian Empire, in 1866.

Tombstone of Catholicos Mateos I
He tried to reform the Holy See and regulate monastic life. He paid attention to education and in 1861 he approved the statutes of the Nersisian School of Tiflis (founded by his predecessor Nerses V in 1824), and established the programs and organizational rules of the parochial and diocesan schools, and at the same time incorporated many laymen in the school boards. He put in order the library of the Holy See and the first complete catalogue of manuscripts appeared in 1863. 

Catholicos Mateos I passed away on August 22, 1865 in Vagharshapat, and was interred in the narthex (gavit) of the nearby monastery of Surp Gayane.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Death of Jean Carzou (August 12, 2000)

Carzou was the most famous Armenian painter in France with a unique style of painting.

He was born Karnig Zouloumian on January 1, 1907, in Aleppo (Syria), then part of the Ottoman Empire. He first studied at the school of the Marist Fathers and then, when he moved to Cairo in 1919, he went to the Kaloustian School. His brilliant academic performance earned him a scholarship and he moved to Paris in 1924, after graduation, to study architecture.

He graduated from the School of Architecture in 1929. He created his name from the first syllables of his name and surname, to which he added the French name Jean, but he always kept close to his Armenian roots and Armenian life. However, he abandoned architecture for the fine artist. He started working as a theater decorator but quickly realized he preferred drawing and painting. He worked as a street artist to support himself, and his sketches of politicians and public figures found their way into Parisian newspapers.

Cannes, Le Suquet
In 1930 Carzou had his first exhibition at the Salon des Artistes Independants, which he would continue annually for more than six decades, until 1992. In the 1930s he also participated in the exhibitions of the Union of Armenian Artists “Ani.” He had his first solo exhibition at Galerie Contemporaine in Paris, and from then on he would have more than a hundred personal exhibitions in France and abroad (Belgium, Germany, Lebanon, Cairo, Switzerland, England, and the United States). In 1966 he had his first personal exhibition in Yerevan, followed by a second exhibition in 1983 and a posthumous one in 2007. Following their trip to Armenia in 1966, his wife Nan Carzou would write a celebrated travelogue, Voyage en Arménie (Travel in Armenia), and his son Jean-Marie Carzou, a journalist, would produce the first comprehensive account about the Armenian Genocide in French, Arménie 1915: un genocide exemplaire (Armenia 1915: An Exemplary Genocide), in 1975. In 1980 he was awarded the “Martiros Sarian” prize in Armenia.

Carzou started working in stage designing for the Opera de Paris for several operas and ballets during the 1950s. His designs of settings and costumes made him known to the general public. In 1957 he created his famous antiwar series “The Apolcalypse.” In the 1950s and 1960s he also created book illustrations with his line drawings and engravings (Andre Maurois’ France, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Albert Camus’ Notebooks, Edgar A. Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue ), and his sharp graphic style became extremely popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, he earned the coveted Hallmark prize in 1949, and became Knight of the French Legion of Honor in 1956 and Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters two years later. In 1955 the art magazine Connaissance des Arts rated him as one of the ten most important painters of his generation.

Near the age of seventy, Carzou became the first living artist to have his work, “Distant Princess,” appear on a French postal stamp in 1976, and the following year he was elected a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts, succeeding painter Jean Boucheaud. In 1977 he was also awarded the National Order of Merit. However, he garnered a great deal of hostility from the art world with a statement that Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne were symbols of the “decadence in painting.”

After a long career as a painter, illustrator, and stage designer, in 1991 he finished the design of a chapel in Manosque (Alpes of Haute-Provence) with more than 600 square meters of paintings of a huge Apocalypse, which was not a literal illustration of St. John’s book of Revelation, but the depiction of the “climate of our times.” The chapel later became the headquarters of the Carzou Foundation.

The prolific French-Armenian artist lost his wife in 1978. He passed away near his son on August 12, 2000, in Perigueux, at the age of ninety-three.  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Death of Enver Pasha (August 4, 1922)

Anyone who is aware of the history of the Armenian Genocide has heard the name of Enver Pasha as one of its key executors.

Unlike its mastermind, Talaat, Ismail Enver Pasha was a military officer, born in Constantinople on November 22, 1881. He studied in different military schools and graduated in 1903 with distinction. In 1906 he was sent to the Third Army, stationed in Salonica. He became a member of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) during his service.

When the Young Turk coup broke out in June 1908, Enver became one of its military leaders. He was actively involved in the suppression of the attempt of countercoup of April 1909, which tried to restore Abdul Hamid’s absolute powers. Afterwards, he was sent to Berlin as a military attaché, where he strengthened the ties between German and Ottoman military.

During the Italo-Turkish war of 1911, Enver left Berlin and organized the defense of Libya, where he was appointed governor of Benghazi. He was called back to Constantinople when the First Balkan War started in October 1912 and ascended to the grade of lieutenant colonel. In the same year, the CUP fell from government and was replaced by the Liberal Union party. However, the severe Ottoman defeat in the First Balkan War weakened the government and Enver organized a coup in January 1913. The power returned to the CUP and the triumvirate formed by Enver, Talaat, and Jemal Pasha took charge until the end of World War I. Enver became Minister of War and married into the royal family. When in June 1913 the Second Balkan War broke out, he reversed some of the losses by recapturing Adrianople (nowadays Edirne) from the Bulgarians. 

Enver was an architect of the Ottoman-German alliance in World War I, expecting a quick victory that would benefit the empire. He assumed command of the Ottoman forces in the Caucasus. Pursuing his quest for a Pan-Turkic empire stretching to Central Asia, he wanted to force the Russians out and take back Kars and Batum, which had been ceded after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. His offensive in the thick of winter ended with a catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Sarikamish in December 1914 – January 1915 and tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers dying in the subsequent retreat. On his return to Constantinople, Enver blamed his failure on his Armenian soldiers, although in January 1915 an Armenian soldier had carried him through battle lines on his back and saved his life, and a letter written by Enver himself to the Prelate of Konia, Bishop Karekin Khachadourian, praised the Armenians for their bravery and faithfulness in February 1915.

Enver played a major role in the Armenian Genocide. He took the first steps by ordering the Armenian recruits in the Ottoman army to be disarmed and reassigned to labor battalions before their summary executions. These instructions were explained on the basis of accusations of treasonous activity, but the defeat of his army only provided the pretext for escalating a campaign of extermination that was also unleashed against the civilian population with the use of the secret paramilitary Special Organization ( Teshkilât-i-Mahsusa ) to systematically massacre deported Armenians.

After the collapse of the Russian front in 1918, the Ottoman armies advanced into the Caucasus. The Third Army, commanded by Vehib Pasha, entered the territory of Eastern Armenia, and was halted at the battles of Sardarabad, Bash Aparan, and Gharakilise in May 1918. A new military force called the Army of Islam, commanded by Enver’s half-brother Nuri, advanced towards the territory of today’s Azerbaijan and, in combination with the Tatars (Azerbaijanis), occupied Baku on September 15, organizing a massacre of the local Armenian population.

However, the Ottoman Empire was faced with defeat. Enver was dismissed from his ministerial position in October 1918, and a month later he fled into exile together with other CUP members. Tried in absentia by a postwar courts-martial for crimes of “plunging the country into war without a legitimate reason, forced deportation of Armenians, and leaving the country without permission,” he was condemned to death in July 1919.

Enver first went to Germany, and shuttled back and forth between Berlin and Moscow trying to build a German-Soviet alliance. He went to Baku in September 1920 and took part in the Congress of Eastern Peoples. In July 1921 he tried to return to Turkey, but Mustafa Kemal did not want him among his forces, as he explicitly rejected Enver’s Pan-Turkic ideas. He traveled to Moscow where he managed to win the trust of the Soviet authorities. In November 1921 he was sent by Lenin to Bukhara, in Turkestan, to help suppress a revolt against the local Bolshevik regime. Instead, along with a small number of followers, he defected to the rebels and united their different groups under his own command to fight against the Red Army.

On August 4, 1922, a cavalry brigade of the Red Army under the command of Hakob Melkumian (known in Russian sources as Yakov Melkumov) launched a surprise attack over Enver’s headquarters near the village of Ab-i-Derya. The attack ended with Enver’s death. There are different versions. According to Melkumov’s memoirs, Enver managed to escape on horseback and hid for several days in the village of Chaghan. After the hideout was located, the Soviet troops stormed the village and Enver was killed by Melkumov himself in the ensuing combat.

Enver’s body was buried near Ab-i-Derya. As it happened with Talaat in 1943, the remains of this executioner of the Armenian people were brought to Turkey in 1996 and reburied at the Monument of Liberty cemetery in Shishli, Istanbul.