Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
In December 2019, the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSS) declassified and published a series of court documents concerning the trial of Armenian Nazi collaborator, Garegin Nzhdeh, in 1948 in the Soviet Union. One of the reasons why the declassification of documents was possible was the growing international interest in this issue, particularly after the statement of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made at the Council of CIS Heads of State in Ashgabat in October.
Having made a number of references to Russian academic sources, Mr. Aliyev set the record straight: how long will the glorification of Nazism and the Nazi criminal Garegin Nzhdeh continue in Armenia?! In other words, the topic reached a boiling point, and President Vladimir Putin gave his instruction to make the relevant documents on Nzhdeh from the secret archives of FSS publicly available.
Two documents have been fully declassified: the agenda and the minutes of meeting of the Special Council under the USSR Ministry of State Security dated April 24, 1948, when Garegin Nzhdeh was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The available evidence shows that on that day the Special Council had to decide the fate of 303 people either by convicting or by exonerating them. This fact completely refutes the popular thesis of modern Armenian propaganda that Nzhdeh was allegedly judged on April 24 — the day of the notorious "Armenian genocide" by the Ottoman Empire — for purpose, which was to humiliate him even more. Obviously, it is naive and stupid to assume that the other 302 cases examined on the same day were specially made up for the 'Nzhdeh case' to give it greater significance. In fact, for the members of the Special Council, Nzhdeh was a faceless, abstract, and inconspicuous creature along with thousands of other traitors, Nazi criminals, collaborators, anti-Soviet elements and other 'enemies of the people.'
A few simple calculations show that, given the volume of questions asked to defendants, with at least three minutes spent to seal the fate of each of them, the meeting of the Special Council on April 24, 1948 would have lasted at least fifteen hours without a break. While, in fact, the Special Council was only confirming and legitimising the punishment or acquittal proposed by the prosecution. In such circumstances, the role of investigators and prosecutors was significant. Usually, the former would prepare indictments against defendants, while the latter would affirm them and propose relevant penalties to be approved by the Special Council later. The declassified documents show us the real drama of Nzhdeh.
It turns out that the preliminary investigation of Nzhdeh's anti-state activities was carried out by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) of Armenian SSR. When the Special Council convicted him, Nzhdeh was held in the internal prison of the ministry in Yerevan. The charges against Nzhdeh were supported by the prosecutor of the Special Affairs Department of the USSR Prosecutor's Office (later the USSR Prosecutor General's Office) Simonyan. In other words, in post-war Armenia, Nzhdeh was not considered the bearer of ideas of national identity, but as a Nazi, traitor and enemy. His case contains only the names of Armenian accomplices, no Russians, Azerbaijanis or representatives of any other ethnic group.
The evidence shows that the Armenians were persecuting Nzhdeh for betraying the interests of the Armenian people, while the Special Council under the USSR Minister of State Security only approved the penalty requested from Armenia. The authorities of modern Armenia were well aware of this fact, but they were ignoring it, actively promoting Nzhdeh as a national hero instead.
Information below is taken from the agenda of the meeting of the Special Council: "[Garegin Nzhdeh] was born in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan SSR, is an ethnic Armenian, a citizen of Bulgaria, a member of the Dashnaktsutyun Party in 1906-1937, a former general of the Dashnak army, an emigrant, the founder of the fascist youth organisation Tseghakron. Before his arrest, [Nzhdeh] has lived in Sofia working as a journalist. He is unfit for physical work. He was arrested on October 12, 1944, and is being held in the internal prison of the Ministry of State Security of the Armenian SSR."
The same document indicates what specifically Nzhdeh was accused of and in which he pleaded guilty. By the way, the military counterintelligence agencies of the prosecutor's office were charging Nzhdeh with crimes pursuant to three paragraphs of Article 58 ('Counter-revolutionary activities') of the then Criminal Code of the RSFSR.
So, Nzhdeh was charged with the following: "In 1920-1921, as the commander in chief of the Dashnak military forces and the prime minister of the counter-revolutionary government in Zangezur, he waged an armed struggle against the Red Army. After fleeing abroad, he carried out anti-Soviet propaganda. During the Second World War, he established contacts with German intelligence agencies in order to conduct subversive work against the Soviet army. He was engaged in the recruitment and training of people to carry out the tasks of the German intelligence and counterintelligence bodies, and was a member of the Armenian National Council created in Berlin in 1942. In other words, G. Nzhdeh is charged with the crimes stipulated under Articles 58-4, 58-11 and 58-6, part 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR."
Nzhdeh pleaded guilty in all the charged acts but denied only the charges of organising mass executions and bullying of captured Red Army soldiers and people sympathising with the Soviet regime in 1920-1921.
As we can see, Nzhdeh did not deny the fascist nature of the Tsegakron organisation that he created, nor cooperation with the Third Reich special services, nor his personal participation in the recruitment and training of ethnic and Armenian intelligence and sabotage-terrorist agents. Therefore, it is not surprising that the members of the Special Council did not object the penalty (25 years of imprisonment) proposed by the USSR Prosecutor's Office.
All this information is available in Nzhdeh's investigation file stored in the archives of the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia. Therefore, the commemoration of Nzhdeh's personality is nothing but an integral part of the state policy of the glorification of Nazism in Armenia.
Documents published by FSS of Russia dispel another myth invented by official Armenian propaganda using the "canonical biography" of Garegin Nzhdeh. Armenian sources actively promote an argument that on September 3, 1944, Nzhdeh allegedly came to the headquarters of the commander of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, Marshal F. I. Tolbukhin, who was liberating Bulgaria at that time, to persuade him to start military operations against Turkey, but he was arrested by Soviet military counterintelligence SMERSH. But the documents of the Special Council indicated the date of Nzhdeh's arrest in the USSR as October 12. This raises quite a reasonable question: what was Nzhdeh doing for 40 days between these two dates?
Investigation files show that all this time Nzhdeh was under arrest by the Bulgarian authorities. The same information can also be found in the memoirs of V. M. Hovsepian called 'Garegin Nzhdeh and the KGB'. In 1947-1948, Hovsepian was one of the investigators of the Nzhdeh case. It was the Bulgarian authorities who initially arrested Nzhdeh as a Nazi accomplice, then extradited him to the Soviet military administration. It turns out that after the arrival of Soviet troops in Bulgaria, Nzhdeh moved to an illegal position. The Bulgarian police had chased him for several days until detention and extradition to the USSR.
This explains another fact from Nzhdeh's biography. On September 17, 1955, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree "On the amnesty of Soviet citizens who collaborated with the invaders during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945." It is well known that Nzhdeh decided to take advantage of this decree to become pardoned but his request was rejected. There were two reasons for this - formal and real. Nzhdeh had never been a citizen of the USSR, at the time of his arrest he was a subject of the Bulgarian king, so there were no formal legal grounds for his release. But there was also a real reason why it was impossible to pardon him – his war crimes during the Second World War, which have not been understood in entirety yet.
During the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War, Bulgaria, even being a de facto ally of Nazi Germany, did not conduct military operations against the USSR and did not break off diplomatic relations. Therefore, Nzhdeh was considered a subject of a neutral country. However, Nzhdeh had become an agent of Nazi intelligence services voluntarily recruiting Bulgarian Armenians, i.e. other citizens of a neutral country, for reconnaissance and sabotage-terrorist activities. Thus, he was a war criminal not only for the Soviet authorities, but also for the Bulgarian Kingdom and, most importantly, in accordance with international military law of that time. Since his criminal actions against Bulgaria had done less harm to Bulgaria than to the USSR, the Bulgarian authorities extradited him to Soviets, who could not and did not want to pardon Nzhdeh without the consent of Bulgarians, as he was a war criminal not of a local, but truly international scale.
By declassifying and publishing the documents from its secret archives, FSS of Russia, in fact, put a big full point in the Nzhdeh case. The Kremlin demonstrated Yerevan that there was no compromise in its ubiquitous struggle against any manifestations of the glorification of Nazism.