The Lone Crusader of Hayrenatirutyun – Reclaiming the Homeland

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Վահան Քարտաշյան, Vahan Cardashian
June 11, 2009 was the 75th anniversary of Mr. Vahan Cardashian’s demise.
He was one of the most prominent political personalities of modern Armenian history. His name may tell nothing to many people today; however, Mr. Cardashian’s self-sacrifice for the idea of Hayrenatirutyun (Reclaiming the Homeland) and his services for Armenian claims remain unsurpassed until these days.
Thanks to Vahan Cardashian, the Armenian people gained the greatest and probably the only victory in the US Senate so far. Vahan Cardashian was a man who unified the American public opinion and political will against American-Turkish treaty, which was signed on August 6, 1923 in Lausanne. Therefore, this treaty kept inviolable and even reconfirmed the basis of Armenian claims – the Arbitral Award of the US President Woodrow Wilson. 
Vahan Cardashian was born in Caesarea on December 1, 1883. His father was hadji Nazar agha Cardashian, and mother – Mariam Galaichian. Cardashian family had two sons – Garabed and Vahan, and a daughter – Hranoush.
After graduation from Armenian school, Vahan receives 10 years education at French l’Université St. Basil, and then studies at the local American college (Talas American College) during 2 years.
Vahan Cardashian immigrated to the US in 1902, where he studies law at world-known Yale University from 1904 to 1908. During this period, he is acquainted with American public life, writes a hundred of articles, and publishes two books: “The Ottoman Empire of the Twentieth Century” and “Actual Life in Turkish Harem”. 
On May 15, 1907, Mr. Cardashian married a leader of women's liberation movement – Cornelia Alexander-Holub.
He becomes a member of New York bar association and begins his private activity after the graduation from Yale University in 1909.
It was the period of crucial changes in the Ottoman Empire. “Young Turks” came to power with very fascinating and loud motto of liberty, equality and fraternity. It was the period, when Armenians believed again that Turks had been changed, and they were not “that previous Turks”. That is why Mr. Cardashian accepted the suggestion of Turkish consul to hold the position of counselor of the embassy and legal councilor of Turkish consulate in New York. 
However, when Mr. Cardashian heard about massacres and deportations of Armenians in 1915, he threw all his medals that he received from Ottoman Empire on the face of the representative of Turkish state and signed up to the sacred duty of helping his miserable homeland. From that moment, Mr. Cardashian was completely another man – Hayrenatirutyun fighter and consecrated to nation.
Armenians under the leadership of Mihran Svazli (Svazlian) created Armenian National Union (ANU) in 1915. ANU established Armenian Press Bureau with Vahan Cardashian as executive director and main author of published materials. He was going to Washington every week, where he had many meetings with powerful persons. After the proclamation of newly independent Armenian statehood (May 28, 1918) on a small part of Armenian broad homeland, Mr. Cardashian exerted every effort to recognition of Armenian state by USA and to assignment of American aid to his long-suffering country. 
In December 1918, Vahan Cardashian created American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), which had general council of 72 persons and was leading by 9 members of executive board under the leadership of James Gerard, the US former ambassador to Germany. The honorary chairperson of the general council of ACIA was ex-member of US Supreme Court and future Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. It was an unprecedented influential organization consisting of Americans except Mr. Cardashian. ACIA’s members were former lawmakers, ministers, ambassadors, rectors and 21 governors. ACIA had 23 branches in 13 States. 
The greatest achievement of Mr. Cardashian’s and his colleagues’ activity of this period was undoubtedly the recognition of independence of the Republic of Armenia by USA on April 23, 1920 (compare with known “event” of April 23, 2009). It is especially noteworthy because USA did not recognize independence of first Republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. 
Another tangible result was also assignment of 17 million 202 thousand USD humanitarian aid to the RA through different American agencies, as well as considerable facilitation of credit arrangement of 11 million USD.
The years from 1920 to 1923 were the period of greatest achievements and greatest losses in the modern Armenian history.
On the one hand, it was the period when international community recognized and approved the right of Armenians to have a state in the north-eastern part of their motherland by virtue of Wilson’s Arbitral Award. On the other hand, the embrace of two internationally unrecognized and unlawful administrative packs (Turkish and Soviet) strangled Armenian independent statehood. 
Despite the assurances of keeping the promises and legal commitments given to Armenians, there were obvious and hidden renunciations of these promises and commitments. This difficult political situation leaded to desperation of many people; many of them abandoned their ideas, and many deserted to the opposite camp.
And in these hardest conditions, Vahan Cardashian’s long-lasting patriotic activity recorded its’ most important and greatest result: he succeeds to block the US Senate consent and advise to the American-Turkish treaty, which was signed on August 6, 1923 in Lausanne. It was a diplomatic démarche, which reaffirmed the validity of the US President Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award on Armenian-Turkish borders and gave an opportunity to coming generations, i.e. to us, to have an invincible tool for Armenian claims, which is based on international law.
According to the American Constitution, the US Senate must approve every treaty in order to come into effect. As US-Turkish treaty the was submitted to the US Senate’s consideration on 3rd May 1924, Mr. Cardashian formed “American Committee Opposed to the Lausanne Treaty (ACOLT)” with the aim of preventing the approval of this treaty in Senate and keeping alive the rights of the RA at least in the legal field. The debates and voting of the treaty were postponed for almost 3 years because the memories about Genocide of Armenians by Turkish state were still fresh in the US.
During this period Vahan Cardashian, almost alone and on his own means, fulfilled the impossible: by writing, publishing and spreading many hundreds of letters, reports, statements, and publications to American political circles he kept alive the rights of Armenians.
Mr. Cardashian published “The Lausanne Treaty, Turkey and Armenia” collection in 1926. In this book, he brilliantly summarized all legal bases, political commitments and moral obligations against Lausanne American-Turkish treaty. The result was perfect! The US Senate refused the approval of this Treaty on 18 January 1927. Moreover, non-fulfillment of Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award by the RT was mentioned as the main reason of that refusal.
After several years of suspension in US Senate, the Lausanne Treaty was sent back to White House on 16 January 1934. Vahan Cardashian had completed the greatest mission of his life: he assured the legal anchor of Hayrenatirutyun struggle for his homeland. Henceforth he could finish his terrestrial path. 
Few months later, on June 11, 1934, at the age of 51, the heart of Vahan Cardashian, great patriot and “lone crusader” as his colleagues called him, ceased throbbing. The leading fighter of Hayrenatirutyun, whose activity’s outcome was irrevocable and unsurpassed, and who devoted himself entirely to the homeland, quit the world. 
Vahan Cardashian was one of the richest Armenians of the time at the beginning of his political activity. Following almost 2 decades of struggle, he did not have money even for his funeral. With fundraisings of New York Armenians, his body was modestly consigned to the earth at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Long Island. This is the end of one of the prominent national figures of modern Armenian history. 

P.S.: I was in New York in May 2008. I unsuccessfully wanted to visit the tomb of the great patriot Vahan Cardashian. Even his grave did not survive because for decades it had even a single visitor. Today our comprehensive and deepening crisis has many big and small reasons. Surely, one of the reasons is the denial of devotees to homeland and the idolatry for pseudo-heroes. Two main avenues in Yerevan bear the names of alien marshal (Soviet marshal Baghramyan) and admiral (Soviet admiral Isakov). We have erected their grandiose statues, and after all this we still wait that our young generation will devotedly serve to the Motherland and will not choose the way of winning fame at its’ homeland by means of serving to the foreigners. 

11 June 2009