Garegin Nzhdeh: national hero or war criminal?
We're no longer surprised by demolition of Soviet monuments in Poland, by people calling Banderivtsi heroes of the Second World War in Ukraine and by parades of Nazi veterans in the Baltic states. Even if it continues to outrage us, we kinda got used to it. But the glorification of fascism takes place not only there, but also in the neighboring and, as we continue to believe, friendly Armenia?
In 2016, a monument to a new national hero of Armenia, Garegin Nzhdeh, was erected on the main square of Yerevan. Why new? Because in the days of Soviet Armenia, Nzhdeh was considered a collaborator, one of creators of the Armenian Legion of the Wehrmacht. So who Garegin Nzhdeh is and what's wrong with him?
"Aryanism, courage - this is the religion of your generation, young Armenian" - Garegin Nzhdeh
In the 1930s, Armenian military officer, who once served in the Russian Empire's army, Garegin Ter-Harutyunyan, who was later known as Nzhdeh, created a doctrine called Tseghakronism. It's a nationalist ideology, according to which a nation is the highest value for any individual, without which he can't exist.
It seems like a decent idea - love your motherland, be a part of the nation and help to preserve its original culture. And it would be great if it wasn't for one similarity with another notable "author", who at this time was operating in Germany. In his works, Nzhdeh divides Armenians into three groups: Tsekhamard, Zhokhovurd and Takank. The former are the best part of Armenian nation, the latter are far from eternal ideals and goals. But the third ones are internal enemy of Armenians, a part of the external enemy. They are spineless and disgusting people who don't do anything useful for the state. Does it sound familiar?
It's very similar to racist concept of mensch and untermensch - a human and a subhuman. By the way, one of Nzhdeh's "works" is called "My Credo": even the name looks very similar to "Mein Kampf". Another work of this "hero" of Armenia is called "People Professing Courage and Aryanism". Yes, Aryanism! Garegin Nzhdeh wanted to cooperated with Hitler as early as the 1930s, and in order to obtain a loyal ally in the Caucasus, the Third Reich had to recognize "Aryan origin of Armenians".
"Native land of one nation can't become home for another" - Garegin Nzhdeh
In 1919, after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, Garegin Nzhdeh decides to fight for creation of independent Armenia. In September of the same year, he arrives to Zangezur (South-East Armenia) and begins to forcibly "Armenize" this region, expelling remaining Azerbaijani population and brutally suppressing uprisings in 32 local Azerbaijani villages.
Garegin Nzhdeh, just like Germans, considered Bolsheviks as "organic enemies". That's why when the Red Army entered Armenia, he organized an uprising. Only in Zangezur, Soviet authorities killed 12,000 soldiers. But this was only the beginning of the war that Nzhdeh waged on Soviet Union.
"Those who die for Germany, die for Armenia" - Garegin Nzhdeh
In 1921, Nzhdeh flees abroad. First to Persia, then to Bulgaria. He lived in the US for some time he until he finally settled in Germany, where he begins cooperation with the highest representatives of the Third Reich.
These days, Armenian intellectuals often say that Nzhdeh was forced to cooperate with them to protect Armenia from possible attack by Turkey and in order restore the independence of the republic from the USSR. However, documents that declassified were by the CIA tell a different story. On September 1, 1945, Armenian Mirror-Spectator newspaper, published in the United States, published a document, according to which the National Council of Armenia appealed to Alfred Rosenberg, asking turn Soviet Armenia into German colony. Garegin Nzhdeh was among the members of this Council.
The fact that Garegin Nzhdeh voluntarily began to cooperate with the Nazi regime and became one of the founders of the Armenian Legion of the Wehrmacht (soldiers of this formation participated in occupation of Crimea) is enough to call him a criminal.
In October of 1945, Garegin Nzhdeh was arrested and sent to Lubyanka. He died in 1955 in Vladimir prison.
"If you want to see the future of the nation, look at its youth" - Garegin Nzhdeh
25 years after the collapse of the USSR, Armenia once again remembered about Nzhdeh. It remembered him not as a collaborator, but as a "national hero" and... philosopher. The country started to name streets and squares after him, erect monuments, make films, publish books.
Of course, revival of the "cult" of Nzhdeh in Armenia was quickly noticed. The reaction of the Russian Foreign Ministry was relatively restrained, but straightforward: "Everybody knows what we think about the Great Patriotic War, as well as how we treat any forms of revival, heroization and any manifestations of Nazism, neo-Nazism, extremism. It's not clear for us why this monument was erected, because we all know about the immortal feat of Armenian people during the Great Patriotic War, World War II," official representative of the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said.
Some time after this monument was installed, a petition appeared at change.org. It demanded to demolish this monument. It was mostly signed by grandchildren of those who participated in the war and don't agree with the opinion that "Nzhdeh is the greatest humanitarian philosopher and commander of all time". Fascism is not as far away as it seems.
You can argue with this statement, but Nzhdeh's words about the future of the nation and its youth, which were mentioned above, are pretty correct. This is one of the few quotes that should be remembered. It's a pity that new Armenian generation does it in such a way. It looks like it created an alternative history. But why should we be surprised? Russian schools in Armenia were shut down right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and by 2000 they remain only in the garrisons of Russian army. In other words, Armenian government did everything to ensure that Armenian children couldn't study in Russian schools.
Elite of the country is actively trying to convince modern Armenian youth that Garegin Nzhdeh is the savior of their nation. And, by paying tribute to the time when he fought for independence from the Soviet government, they turn a blind eye to the facts of cooperation with the Nazi regime. Is it fair? If it is, then you can justify any betrayal and any crime against humanity. Be it general Vlasov, or even Hitler himself, since he also wanted to create a better world for his people. We all remember how it ended.