Armenia and Hitlerism: Unpleasant situation around monument to Nzhdeh
Vestnik Kavkaza was the first agency in the Russian information space that widely highlighted the installation of a monument to the Nazi criminal Garegin Nzhdeh in the capital of Armenia, at a time when almost all the media, including the profile ones, as well as Russian officials were not yet aware of this provocation against Russia.
Then we called on all Russian patriots to give their assessment of the behavior of Yerevan.
A week later, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Marya Zakharova responded to our call, and analytical materials similar to the material published on the website Radius began to appear in the media. Vestnik Kavkaza thanks all the authors of the articles and all the publications that published them for the fact that they did not stay away.
The author Stanislas Smagin:
The resolution by the German Bundestag on recognition of the Armenian Genocide,which received wide coverage in our media, has pleased very many people. Including me, an avid armenophile, who has put this wise and talented people in one of the top places on my list of personal sympathies. Alas, another recent event prevents me from being happy fully for a long-awaited German enlightenment. This event has been ignored generally by our domestic media, even though our intellectual class has noticed certainly it – one of the rarest notes published in hot pursuit has been commented by Mikhail Remizov and Sergei Markov, not the latest media figures. Only after the news about the request by the State Duma deputy, Maxim Shingarkin, in the foreign minister's name, the information received a little more publicity.
What’s this about? At the end of May Yerevan hosted the grand unveiling of a monument to Garegin Ter-Harutiunian, better known as Garegin Nzhdeh. After Dmitry Dontsov, who formulated the Ukrainian version of ‘integral nationalism’, Nzhdeh shifted the same idea in the Armenian manner and called it ‘tseghakronism’ (’tsegh’ in Armenian means clan or tribe, ‘kron’ means religion or faith) and tried his best to implement it. One of the most odious of Nzhdeh’s steps was active collaboration with the Germans during World War II, particularly speeches like ‘He who dies for Germany, dies for Armenia’ to Soviet prisoners of Armenian origin.
In 1944 the Soviet secret service arrested him on Bulgarian territory. Ethnic policy is delicate and tricky, its logic is often inaccessible to mere mortals. So, apparently, Nzhdeh was less fortunate than Galician Metropolitan Sheptytsky, who was writing flattering epistles alternately to Hitler and Stalin and who died suddenly in order to avoid complications. But still he was more fortunate than the Russians, Vlasov, Krasnov, Rodzaevsky, Shkuro, who somehow served the Axis powers. The Transcaucasian powerful and ardent Nzhdeh was shuttling between prisons and prison hospitals up until his death in late 1955, and once he was allowed to take a car trip to Yerevan, under guard, of course.
It is possible that the penalty actually corresponded to the seriousness of the offense. The Armenian Legion of the Wehrmacht, formed with the active participation of Nzhdeh, like most of the national groups of Hitler's invading army, was more a bulwark than a real power, and its core eventually turned its weapons against the Germans. Again, if we reject the memories of past Russian-Armenian relations and take a position of purely cynical immorality and pragmatism, Nzhdeh doesn't look as much like a traitor (I will stress, talking about the difference in degrees) with regard to his people as Vlasov with regard to the Russians. Yes, Nazism was a total and unconditional opponent of the USSR as a whole, but it was less a threat to the Armenians than to the Slavs, although their lives under the thumb of Berlin, obviously, would not be much sweeter than in an alliance with Moscow.
In general, the nuances, viewing angles, as well as who actually carries out an assessment are important in evaluating the various kinds of anti-imperialist movements and fighters for national freedom. The participants in the struggle for Irish freedom in the early 20th century actively used the support of the Second Reich. One of the participants of this struggle, Eamon de Valera, after he became the head of the Irish state, expressed his condolences for the death of the leader of the Third Reich, who had gone to the other world in a known manner and in view of known causes. However, de Valera is quite worshipped In Ireland to this day.
Stepan Bandera did not fight just for the freedom of Galicia from the Muscovites, but also disgraced himself with the gravest war crimes. Nevertheless, the cult of the OUN-UPA, not too loud and localized within a few Western regions, would unlikely have caused such outrage if there had not been attempts to spread it to Lugansk and Donetsk; and if Galicia had been a sovereign state, not trying to beg the Russian and Polish victims of Bandera for gingerbread and glorifying Bandera at the same time, this issue would not have arisen at all.
Processions and celebrations of SS legionaries of all sorts in the Baltic states also cause increased resentment, precisely because of their underlined approval by the states organizing them. The inhabitants of the Baltic states reinforce respect for the pro-Nazi past by a resuscitation of its traditions, openly oppressing the Russians, surprise at judicial performances like ‘Kononov’s case’, and at the same time they want to maintain favorable economic ties with Russia.
If the parades’ background had been less odious and unambiguous, we would not have been annoyed so much by old ‘veterans’ on the streets of Riga and Tallinn. Finally, the example of a country that is certainly not suspected of love for Hitler. One of the most active members of the Jewish struggle against British rule in Palestine was the underground organization ‘Lehi’, that was noted not only for the murders of the UN's Middle East representative, Folke Bernadotte, and a number of British officials, but for earlier attempts ... to conclude an alliance with the Third Reich, although not too successful. Lehi in general, and its leaders personally, are more than respected in Israel, and one of its leaders, Yitzhak Shamir, served twice as prime minister.
Actually, the current Armenian case lies both in a combination of factors and in a general picture. Well, the authorities have forgotten about the fraternal Russian-Armenian ‘yesterday’, along with the theorist of ‘tseghakronism’ (more precisely, it was ‘yesterday’ for Nzhdeh, now it is the ‘day before yesterday,’ and ‘yesterday’ is Nzhdeh himself) and decided to visualize and embody this forgetfulness.
But what about ‘today’s’ category? Today Armenia has just experienced an unprecedented worsening of the Karabakh conflict, resulting in the fact that the question of the legal recognition of the NKR has been raised ever more seriously. Erdogan’s Turkey, a strategic partner of Baku and at the same time a huge threat itself, is losing adequacy more and more. Russia is the main, strongest, and virtually the only ally of Armenia. Under these conditions, the unveiling of a monument to a man who is unpleasant for Russia symbolically, even though he did not inflict visible injury on Russia, is a very dubious decision.
It would be possible to see here an attempt to search for new allies to replace Russia or in addition to it. But who? London, Paris and Washington have nothing to do with Nzhdeh at all. The Armenian authorities have done Berlin a sorry service voluntarily or involuntarily. The fact is that the Bundestag’s decision on the genocide of 1915 was made a few days after the unveiling of the monument, but it had been announced and prepared for a long time. Eventually it turned out that the pro-Armenian act of the German parliamentarians and the unveiling of the monument to the Armenian figure, who was focused on Hitler's Germany, were separated by only a few days, and the monument appeared to be an advance for a resolution, kind of part of a single package. It is unlikely that the Germans, who try very hard to exonerate themselves from the baggage of 1933-1945, liked such a surprise.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, as well as the Russian media, was trying not to comment unnecessarily on the situation during all the time that passed since the unveiling of the monument. Once in hot pursuit, Maria Zakharova said in emphatically neutral terms that she did not have any information about the incident in response to a direct question from a journalist. After the deputy Shingarkin’s request she has reformulated the position, speaking about a ‘surprise’ and simultaneously softening what she said by adding: ‘’The main indicator of official Yerevan's position on the issue of preserving the historical truth about World War II is its attitude to May 9th, the common Victory Day.’’
Is there diplomatic guile in this exaggerated slowness and the softness of the reaction? Even if so, it is a little clear, even purely humanely. Even to me, the news of the monument has been more unpleasant than the permanent drift of Lukashenko from the slogan ‘A Belarusian is a Russian with a quality mark' to the unspoken, but obvious, ‘Belarus is not Russia.’
But the head of the Foreign Ministry, Sergey Lavrov, has a blood relationship with the Armenian people in addition to an emotional one. It is also clear that it is absolutely unclear. It is unclear how to act. Should we make a statement about single statements, worthless quarrels and episodes of no systemic importance? So due to the constant uncritical replenishment of this folder, we have received today’s Ukraine, a non-zero probability of repetition of the Ukrainian scenario in Belarus, for example, regular hints of Tajikistan, outsourcing its labour to us, for a withdrawal of the 201th Division. Should we apply to the capital’s authorities for the unveiling of a monument to the victims of the terrorist acts in the Moscow metro in 1977, organized by the members of the underground ‘National United Party of Armenia? This monument deserves more than a right to exist, but as a ‘randomly deliberate’ countermeasure will not look very attractive.
In general, there is no clear answer. But there is a slightly bitter bewilderment.