Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
Garegin Nzhdeh was a pragmatic, who was well aware that he could not influence his peers who had long lost the country and the will to fight for the national statehood. Therefore, Nzhdeh paid special attention to instilling nationalist spirit to the Armenian youth in the countries of the diaspora, as he believed that only the young generation of Armenians could perceive his ideals of self-sacrifice in the name of the nation.
In spring of 1933, Nzhdeh left Bulgaria and moved to the USA. On July 16 in Boston, MA, he held the founding congress of the youth wing of the Dashnak Party, which he called Tseghakron. Many modern Western European and even Armenian authors living in the diaspora (Volker Jacobi, Thomas de Waal, Vahe Sahakian) consider his ideology explicitly proto-fascist and racist. Nzhdeh contrasted Tseghakron with Dashnaktsutyun, for he believed the Dashnak policy was hesitant. Thus, these divergent views have eventually exacerbated relations between Tseghakron and Dashnaktsutyun since the mid-1935. There has been also increased competition for sole leadership between Nzhdeh and the head of the Dashnak administration, Ruben Ter-Minosian, who believed that Nzhdeh's organisation was dangerous for Armenians and could split the Dashnak party from the inside. In 1933-1938, assisted by Asatryan, Nzhdeh wrote and published a number of brochures and articles criticising the policy of the Dashnaks. He considered their halfway solutions not sufficiently relevant to the demands of the Armenian nation, hence demanding more radical actions, following the model of the German Nazis.
However, some of the contemporary proponents of Tseghakron from among the right-wing Armenian nationalists do not agree with such an interpretation of the origin of this theory. Mushvig Lalayan, editor of the previously mentioned ideological brochure of the Republican Party of Armenia Garegin Nzhdeh and His Teaching, made an allusive claim about the precedence of Tseghakron in comparison with Nazism and fascism: "In 1919, well before any mention of fascism and Hitlerism, those who made to Nzhdeh a vow to fight wrapped themselves in black shrouds during the military campaigns and took lessons in courage and pride from their Sparapet. Mussolini was just beginning his movement of the black-shirts."
Incidentally, Armenian nationalists had voiced similar opinions even before. In 1926, the former Prime Minister of the Dashnak Republic of Armenia, Simon Vratsian, openly accused Benito Mussolini of plagiarism in the Armenian nationalist magazine Droshak published in Paris, claiming that Mussolini borrowed the ideas of fascism from the program of the Dashnaktsutyun party. In March-April 1927, in response to this publication, the main communist newspaper of the Azerbaijan SSR Bakinsky Rabochiy published a pamphlet article by S. Aghamirov, The Followers of Armenian Chauvinism (according to the Armenian press), which mocked Vratsian's statements, considering them rather self-confident and pretentious than justified.
In his testimony, dated October 21, 1948, the curator and chief recruiter of Armenian Nazis, Peter Kamsarakan of SD, said that during the cooperation talks with the Nazis in the summer of 1940, the leader of French Dashnaks Arshak Jamalian, who had actively collaborated with French military intelligence and defected to Nazis after the occupation of the Northern France, had openly declared that the Dashnaktsutyun party, not NSDAP, was the ancestor of national socialism. Below is an excerpt from Kamsarakan's testimony:
"Whenever possible during the negotiations with the Germans, Jamalian used to emphasise that Dashnaksutyun had been essentially the first national socialist party and that he had always personally voted for cooperation with the Germans."
We do not have reliable sources describing the reaction of the Nazis to such statements of Armenian nationalists. But there is no doubt that the loyalty expressed in this way, albeit awkwardly, was accepted, since the cooperation between Armenian nationalists and the Nazis was close and very active.
Reading the testimonies of the SD officer Peter Kamsarakan to the Soviet security authorities involuntarily draws one's attention to the fact that absolutely all Armenian nationalists, whom he cooperated with or recruited as agents to gather intelligence for the Nazi Germany, expressed their admiration for the Third Reich and its Führer. This was also true for Garegin Ter-Harutyunian (Nzhdeh) and Haik Assaturian, Sarkis Araratian and Drastamat Kanayan (Dro), who had business interests in Romania, as well as the head of the Armenian diaspora in France, Arshak Jamalian. Kamsarakan testified that although not members of NSDAP, they all had sincerely considered themselves either Nazis or carriers of a Nazi-related ideology, and used to emphasise this fact whenever possible. This publicly demonstrated affinity or identity of ideas of German Nazism and Armenian nationalism largely explains why the Armenian nationalists could be reached and convinced so easily to collaborate with the German intelligence, with which they had maintained close contacts until their arrest or fall of the Hitler regime in Germany. On the other hand, they could very easily betray their country of residence and even commit crimes by spying against these countries.
In fact, one can find much more commonalities than differences between the ideologies of German Nazism and Armenian nationalism. Aside from the ideological patter about the Aryan roots of the German nation, Hitler's theory in fact boiled down to three practical provisions: 1) to build a party state, where the bureaucracy and all financial and commercial bodies are focused on solving political problems defined by the party and the Führer; 2) to secure a living space for the rule of the German nation; 3) to solve the Jewish question by separating the Germans from the Jews. In essence, the ideologies of Dashnaktsutyun and Tseghakron were also based on three goals very similar to the ones mentioned above: 1) to build a party state in Armenia, where all of the key posts would be occupied by Dashnaks or the supporters of Nzhdeh depending on who formulated ideology; 2) to secure a living space for the Armenian nation by annexing the lands of neighbouring Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan; 3) to solve the Turkish question by separating the Armenians from Turkic-Muslim peoples of the South Caucasus through their total expulsion from Armenia. As we can see, the fundamental difference between the theories of German Nazism and Armenian Nationalism was the identity of the enemy number one, while there was the highest degree of correlation between both ideologies in other matters.
There were also some minor differences in practical implementation of these plans between the German Nazis and Armenian nationalists. It took Hitler and his associates six years to build their own party state and to prepare for the war for global domination, and another six years until the complete military and political collapse of these plans. Armenian nationalists, however, first launched the war in Karabakh in 1988-1994 to expand their habitat on the ruins of the Soviet Union and expelled almost 1.2 million ethnic Azerbaijanis from Armenia and the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, and only then did they start building a party state, when the junta of field commanders of the illegal Armenian separatist groups from Nagorno-Karabakh led by the natives and former citizens of Azerbaijan Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sargsyan came to power in Armenia as a result of the coup in November 1999.
For eighteen years, they have maintained a political dictatorship of the Republican Party of Armenia, while all other parties and party unions have played exclusively decorative and cosmetic roles. Like the Nazi Party in Germany, the ruling party of Armenia also had its own guard units made up of the members of the Union of Veterans (Yerkrapah), the veterans of the Karabakh war or retired military personnel who had taken part in the occupation of Azerbaijani lands. As a semi-military organisation, Yerkrapah is part of the Armenian Armed Forces, has separate legal norms regulating its activities, own property, including military property, and attributes very similar to those of the SA and SS units of NSDAP in Germany.
After the collapse of the USSR, contemporary Armenian nationalists, unlike their German counterparts, have managed to implement almost all the ideas stemming from Nzhdeh's Tseghakron theory, so similar to the ideas of Hitlerism, on the controlled territories, including the occupied regions of Azerbaijan. In fact, the transformation of Armenia into a mono-national state is the result of this deliberate and systematic implementation of the Tseghakron policy over the past thirty years. Thus, other ethnic communities make up no more than 2% of the entire Armenian population. The first step in this direction was made back in 1989-1992, when the entire Azerbaijani population was expelled from Armenia and the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Jews and Russians have left the country soon afterwards. Currently, the Jewish and Russian communities of Armenia consist of no more than hundred and five thousand people, respectively, most of their representatives being mixed couples. The majority of secondary schools teaching in Russian and all schools teaching in Azerbaijani were closed. Unable to choose the language of education, the representatives of other national minorities, including Assyrians and Yezidi Kurds, have become assimilated or Armenianised. This policy implemented officially by the state of Armenia fundamentally violates the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, dated February 1, 1995. Signed and ratified by Armenia on July 25, 1997 on July 20, 1998, respectively, the Convention has become effective in Armenia since November 1, 1998. However, the actual policy pursued by Armenian authorities does not comply with the provisions of this document, particularly the articles 4 (prohibition of discrimination), 5 (prohibition of assimilation), 11 (use of minority languages in public places and personal names), 16 (waiver of measures altering population proportions), 17 (cross-border contacts), and 18 (cross-border cooperation).
On April 25-28, 2017, during the hearings of the report on the implementation of international obligations of Armenia under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination at the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Ashot Khovakimian admitted that the whole population of modern Armenia was monoethnic. He honestly answered the question that there was not a single ethnic Azerbaijani left in Armenia, whereas there were more than half a million of Azerbaijanis just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, Mr. Khovakimian repeated the absolutely racist thesis on the genetic incompatibility of Armenians and Azerbaijanis expressed by the former president of Armenia Robert Kocharian at the first session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on January 30, 2003, which was completely in line with Nzhdeh's theory of Tseghakron.
Yet another aspect proves that the ideology of Armenian nationalism surpasses German Nazism in certain issues in terms of its practical implementation. After the seizure of the habitat for the German nation, the Nazis intended to carry out Germanisation of the occupied areas including by renaming all geographic objects, but they failed. In Armenia, the same practice is a fait accompli – all place-names have already been renamed in the Armenian language. It was not just a mere translation of traditional names with Turkic, Persian or Russian roots into Armenian, but involved the invention of 2,000 completely new place-names that have nothing to do with the pre-Armenian history of the area, which fundamentally violates the principles of UNESCO.
Certainly, these place-names are not recognised anywhere else but Armenia and will be renamed after the de-occupation and return of these areas to Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, Armenians have already Armenianised the territory consciously, in their minds, and will continue to consider this habitat of their own even if they do not have resources and potential necessary for populating it.