ANI Research Center in Yerevan has just published a booklet titled Դաշնակցութիւնը Անելիք Չունի Այլեւս. (Loosely translated “ARF has nothing to do anymore”), by Hovanes Kachaznoony. Originally the booklet was published in July 1923 and is a report prepared for ARF Conference in Vienna in April 1923.. ANI also published four other booklets by prominent ARF leaders as answers to the critical booklet that were first published in 1924. A good and impartial decision by ANI indeed.
I only ordered Kachaznoony’s booklet and Simon Vratsyan’s answer to it, titled, Խարխափումներ. The reason that I ordered only these two booklets was that these two ARF leaders were not only lifelong close friends till 1923 and respected each other’s opinions, but also had a long letter exchange concerning the issues expressed in the booklet. Unfortunately, they grew apart in their political thinking as Simon Vratsyan will write “Գաղափարական վիհը անանցանելի դառցաւ մեր միջեւ”.
Both of these prominent ARF leaders apart from dedicating their entire lives to serving the Armenian people also served as Prime Ministers of the Republic of Armenia. Hovanes Kachaznoony was the first Prime Minister in 1918, and Simon Vratsyan was the last Prime Minister in 1920.
Kachaznoony writes about historical events specially from 1914 till 1920 and criticizes some of the ARF’ shortcomings not as an observer, but rather as a participant and he does not absolve himself from his responsibilities. Թող ոչ ոք չվիրավորվի այս խոսքերից. Անբարեացակամ մարդու չարախնդություն չէ սա, այլ մի պարզ ինքնագնահատում. Չէ որ անկարողների առաջին շարքում, ձեր կողքին ու ձեր հետ միասին, եղել եմ եւ ես. Ես ձեր գործակիցն եմ եղել, ձեզ հետ ու ձեր չափ պատասխանատու մեր պարտության համար.
He also states that Գանգատվել դառնորեն չար բախտից ու մեզանից դուրս որոնել մեր դժբախությունների պատճռը, սա եւս մեր ազգային հոգեբանության բնորոշ գծերից մեկն է, որից ազատ չէ իհարկէ Դաշնակցությունը. (To complain about our bad luck, and seek the reasons of our miseries beyond ourselves, is our national psychology, that ARF is not free from). How true even today.
Kachaznoony argues, now that ARF was defeated and exiled from Soviet Armenia, and since he believed that the Political Parties as organizations have no legitimacy to operate in Diaspora, he concluded that ARF must liquidate itself as an organization and made some specific recommendations that he did not include them in the booklet “զուտ կուսակցական բնույթի առաջարկկներ որոնց հրապարակ հանելու իրավունքը ինձ չի պատկանում”.
In his letter to Simon Vratsyan dated June 17 1923 he writes. Դու ինքդ հակառակ ես գաղութային կուսակցություններին. Միայն չես ուզում տեսնել որ ուրիշ ապագա չունի Դաշնակցությունը որ նա արդեն գաղութային է. (Loosely translated “you too do not believe in the legitimacy of Diaspora Political Parties, but fail to see that ARF is already a Diaspora Party”).
As for the necessity of the ARF to exist for future opportunities to return and govern the country, he stresses the point that when that time comes there will be others who will emerge in the country. Հարկավոր կը լինեն ուրիշ մարդիկ, ուրիշ անունով, ուրիշ հոգեբանությամբ, ուրիշ անցյալով, (կամ առանց անցյալի).
Needless to say, his prediction did come true about seventy-five years later in 1990. Some of the names of the none ARF leaders that emerged were, Levon Ter Pedrossyan, Vazken Manoogian, Papken Ararksyan, Raphael Ghazaryan, Ashod Manucharyan, and many and many others with “different perspectives and without any past political experiences”. as Kachaznoony predicted.
(The irony is that, after ARF returned from exile to the Republic of Armenia over 25 years ago, it is still mired in “diaspora mentality” Գաղութային հոգեբանություն. So far, apart from glorifying and dwelling on its past, the ARF organization has hardly gained any public support or credibility through the democratic electoral system, during the Presidential, Parliamentarian, or Municipal elections).
Kachaznoony was an Architect by education and training, and after publishing his critical book, he became one of the most prominent ARF leaders who returned to soviet Armenia despite the fact that he was among the first ARF leaders who were arrested and jailed when the Soviets took over the country in December 1920. He was saved from certain death during the February 18 1921 popular uprising against the Soviet regime
In his application for reentry to Soviet Armenia he writes Անկեղծ ցանկութիւն ունեմ մասնակցելու Հայաստանում կատարուող շինարարական աշխատանքներին, and in one of his letter to Simon Vratsyan, he writes Յամենայն դէպս, ապրում եմ այն յույսով թէ’ եթէ ոչ այսոր, վաղը պիտի կարողանամ վերադառնալ հայրենիք. Եթէ այդ յույսս չունենամ – ճշմարիտն եմ ասում – կը մեռնեմ.
It is generally known that, after his return to Soviet Armenia, Kachaznoony did not get involved in politics. I have heard that he was employed as an architect, and became a professor at the Architectural Institute, Ճարտարապետական Ինստիտուտ at newly established Yerevan State University.
After his return, he lived in Soviet Armenia for about 15 years before he was arrested again by the Soviet authorities during the Stalin/Beria brutal and deadly purge in the late nineteen-thirties that claimed the lives of not only many prominent Armenian intellectuals like Charents, Alazan, Totovents, and many others but also the lives of many patriotic Armenian communist leaders like Nersig Stepanyan, Akhassi Khanjyan, Sahag Der Kaprielyan, and others.
According to the one-page biographical notes printed at the end of his booklet, Kachaznoony had four sons and two daughters. Two of his sons were killed during the 1914-1920 wars serving as volunteers in the Armenian Army. One of his sons was wounded in Kars and held prisoner, and his youngest son was drafted into the Soviet army during the second world war Հայրենական պատերազմ and was killed fighting the Nazi army.
Kachaznoony is much more than the first Prime Minister of Armenia and the author of the “ARF has nothing to do anymore” booklet that he is mostly known for. He was an intellectual with depth, a free thinker, and a talented writer, that deserves better recognition and a rightful place in Armenian history.
Now that the Soviet archives are open and many books are being published based on archival evidence. I hope ANI publishing will be able to access those files and find more about how Kachaznoony lived in Soviet Armenia and hopefully discover some writings as well and publishes them.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian