Armen GaroTuesday, November 17, 2020
Garegin or Karekin Pastermadjian, better known by his nom de guerre Armen Garo or Armen Karo (9 February 1872 – 23 March 1923) was an Armenian nationalist activist and politician. Armen Karo was a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for more than two decades. He was one of the masterminds of the 1896 occupation of the Ottoman Bank in response to the Hamidian massacres and Operation Nemesis, in which several perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide were assassinated. Between 1918 and 1920 he served as the first ambassador to the United States from the First Republic of Armenia.
Karekin Pastermadjian was born in Karin (present day Erzurum Province). He finished his elementary education as one of the first graduates of the Sanasarian College of Erzerum (Sanasarian Varjaran Academy) in 1891. Later in 1894, he continued his studies in France to study agriculture at the Agricultural School of Nancy-Université. During this period he was introduced to Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and become younger generation of Armenian students of ARF in Europe.
1895 Zeitun Resistance
His plans to return to his hometown after graduating came to a halt when massacres and conflict began in Zeitun. He left his studies to aid his compatriots in Zeitun. He soon found himself in Geneva, where he became an activist alongside his friends. He was sent to Egypt to assist the Zeitun Resistance. With Sarkis Srentz, Haig Tiriakian (who assumed the name Hratch), and Max Zevrouz, he left Egypt and returned to the Ottoman Empire to participate in the efforts of the ARF. It was around this time that Karekin Pastermadjian first assumed the name Armen Garo.
Ottoman Bank Takeover
The 1896 Ottoman Bank Takeover, executed on 26 August 1896, was his and Papken Siuni's brainchild. The attack took place at about 1 p.m. Armen Garo entered 10 minutes prior to the attack. He was to keep the teller busy and the bank officers from escaping. His men didn't arrive quickly so he went to a coffee shop across the street. When he saw the men through the doorway, he ran out to meet them. During the long and bloody battle, the group leader, Papken Siuni, was killed. Armen Garo took over as leader, ordering his group for much of the standoff.
Graduate studies, 1897-1900
After these events, Karekin Pastermadjian returned to Europe to continue his unfinished studies. French Foreign Minister Gabriel Hanotaux declared the Armenians who had been connected with the Ottoman Bank Takeover as persona non grata and denied their stay in France. Armen Garo transferred to Switzerland and studied natural sciences at the University of Geneva.
During his studies, he continued his activities with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was on the delegate roster of the second ARF general conference in 1898, representing the party committee in Egypt. Despite his youth, he had gained trust and authority in the leading circles of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. In 1900 he completed his courses at the University of Geneva and received a doctoral degree in physical chemistry. In 1901 he founded a lab in Tiflis for chemical research.
Armenian-Tatar massacres, 1905-1907
During the Armenian–Tatar massacres of 1905–1907 the ARF was involved in armed activities. Pastermadjian organized the self-defense of the Armenians in Tiflis. He and five hundred volunteers succeeded in securing peace in the capital of Transcaucasia.
Deputy from Erzurum 1908-1912
The situation in the Caucasus came back almost to normal. Pastermadjian was able to create a fairly prosperous life for himself. He secured the right to develop a copper mine, and worked towards a partnership with a large company. His business required that he should stay in the Caucasus to continue his successful enterprise.
When the Young Turk Revolution occurred in 1908, the Armenians in Erzeroum, as well as the ARF, telegraphed Pastermadjian and asked him to become their candidate in the coming elections for Representative to the Ottoman Parliament. He became a member of the Ottoman parliament part from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation deputies. After the end of the Balkan Wars, issues affecting the Armenians dominated mainstream politics during which Armen Karo was a deputy from Erzurum. During his four years in Constantinople (Istanbul) as a deputy, he worked for the railroad bill which was known to the public as Chester's bill. Its main objective was to build railroads as soon as possible in those vilayets which were considered to be Russia's future possessions. For that reason neither France nor Germany wished to undertake it, lest they should arouse the enmity of Russia. Another fundamental object was to build those lines with American capital, which would make it possible to counteract the Russo-Franco-German policies and financial intrigues. But in spite of all efforts unable to overcome the German, opposition in Constantinople, although, as the outcome of the struggle in connection with that bill, two ministers of public works were forced to resign their post.
Talaat, on behalf of the "Committee of Union and Progress", offered the portfolio of public works, refused these proposals, for the simple reason that he did not wish to compromise in any way with the leaders of the government.
He had taken too active a part in 1913 in the conferences held for the consideration of the Armenian reforms, and especially because, while parliamentary elections were going on during April, 1914, he was in Paris and the Netherlands, as the delegate of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, to meet the inspectors general who were invited to carry out the reforms.
World War I
In the autumn of 1914, a month and a half before the beginning hostilities, Armen Garo went to the Caucasus on a special mission given after the Armenian congress at Erzurum, and joined the committee which had been appointed by the Armenian National Council of the Caucasus to organize the Armenian volunteer units.
In November 1914, he accompanied the second battalion of the Armenian volunteers as the representative of the executive committee of Tiflis.
On 14 November, at the Bergmann Offensive, the second battalion of the Armenian volunteers engaged in battle for the first time, near Bayazid. In the course of a bloody combat which lasted twenty-four hours, Dro, the commander of the battalion, was seriously wounded, and Armen Garo was forced immediately to take his place. From that day to March of the following year, he remained at the head of that battalion, and led it into eleven battles in the neighborhood of Alashkert, Toutakh, and Malashkert, until Dro recovered and returned to resume the command.
In the summer of 1915, he went to Van during Defense of Van, becoming one of the first to enter the city after the Russians had liberated it. Khetcho (Catchik), his assistant, died on the shores of Lake Van in July 1915.
In the spring of 1917, when the Russian Revolution turned the Caucasus upside down, Armen Garo and Dr. Hakob Zavriev were sent from the Caucasus to Petrograd to negotiate with the Russian provisional government concerning Caucasian affairs.
He left for America in June 1917 as the representative of the Armenian National Council of Tiflis.
He was elected to be ambassador of the First Republic of Armenia to the United States in Washington, D.C.