"The right never dies": Karnig Sarkissian on the dispossessed Western Armenians and Britain's duplicity

Armenia has been called the remarkable disappearing country.

While it is widely known that there are many millions of Kurds in eastern Turkey and neighbouring states, it is much less well-known that there are many millions of Armenians—more specifically, Western Armenians—in diaspora around the world, whose homeland in what is now eastern Turkey was denied them in the post-First World War settlement, after first having been allocated to them by agreement of all the major powers. The lands and properties of the Armenians in Turkey were almost all declared forfeited at that time and have since been taken over by non-Armenians.

The Western Armenian diaspora is strongest in North America, Australia, France, Russia, Georgia, Iran and the Arab world (particularly the Levant). Britain has notably fewer Armenians, and this podcast explains much of the reason why. Besides the diaspora, there are in Turkey an estimated twelve million descendants of Western Armenian forced converts to Islam as a result of the genocide of the Armenians in the thirty years culminating in the First World War. Only in very recent years has their heritage started to become a matter of permissible discussion in Turkey.

In this podcast, recorded on location in Yerevan, Alex Thomson interviews Karnig Sarkissian, a Damascus-born engineer who moved in adulthood to the Republic of Armenia, the former Soviet state whose territory was historically called Eastern Armenia. In 1993, having moved on from the dead end of genocide-recognition campaigning and with the deadweight of the Soviet Union now out of the way, Sarkissian and associates founded a body to prepare the way for a Western Armenian National Supreme Council, which is intended to serve as the constitutional convention and the check and balance on the future Government of Western Armenia. In a previous stage of his career, Sarkissian served as Prime Minister of the Western Armenian Government-in-Exile.

The first quarter-hour of this podcast considers the Armenians' origin legends, which speak of their ancestor, the giant Hayk, as a champion of natural law and a forefather of anti-globalism circa 12,500 BC.

Discussion then turns to the ferment of the pre-First World War age, with particular consideration given to the 1871 secret correspondence between Giuseppe Mazzini and Albert Pike and how Mazzini's pernicious ideology gave rise to the first wave of what is now called "colour revolution" sentiment across Europe and the Middle East. The plight of the Armenians in this age was a useful tool to allow Britain and France to rival Russia as would-be guardians of the Armenian and other Christian subjects of the declining Ottoman Empire, but there was never any toleration in Western diplomacy of the Armenians' right to form a state, not even when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were slaughtered under Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the end of the nineteenth century.

The generation after the Second World War is also discussed, particularly developments in the Middle East and Sarkissian's conviction that they were co-ordinated between political Zionism and the City of London, the same interests which he resolutely blames for the unresolved loss of Western Armenia.

The core of the discussion, however, concerns Sarkissian's research (published in Arabic, and forthcoming in English and French) on the betrayal of 1920. That year opened with a declaration of the victorious Allied Powers that Armenia must regain her statehood and that her borders should be defined later. The next month, there were two endorsements of what the Armenian state should become, with identical borders: a 7 February memorandum submitted to the Paris Peace Conference by the British Foreign Office, and a 26 February memorandum submitted to the Conference by Poghos Nubar Pasha of the National Delegation of Armenia. Evidently, the British and Armenians had agreed on the same map and each submitted it separately.

In April, at San Remo, US President Woodrow Wilson was appointed arbiter of the delineation of Armenia's borders, although the US Senate subsequently refused to ratify his Armenian mandate. The restoration of Armenia with the agreed borders appeared to be confirmed by August 1920, when the Treaty of Sèvres was signed and duly ratified by the Ottoman Empire and the four members of the Allied Supreme Council.

Yet civil war was still raging in many former combatant countries, notably Turkey and Russia. The betrayal of the Armenians became evident in the three subsequent years, during the consolidation of power in Turkey and Russia by two new régimes—the Kemalists and the Bolsheviks—who both repudiated not only their countries' former emperors but also their predecessors' treaty obligations. Sarkissian, like many other analysts of the situation, is convinced that both Atatürk and Lenin led puppet governments steered by Western finance, which was desperate not to allow the opening-up of Eurasian trade routes and the confirmation of national self-determination which Wilson championed.

In the final ten minutes of the podcast, Sarkissian sets out his vision for a restored Armenia as a keystone state of a happier Middle East at the heart of a more harmonious world. 

Planned borders of Armenia, April 1920 (Public domain)
Planned borders of Armenia, April 1920 (Public domain)