Simon VratsianFriday, March 26, 2021
Simon Vratsian (1882 – 21 May 1969) was the last Prime Minister of the First Republic of Armenia. He also headed the Committee for the Salvation of the Fatherland after the February Uprising for 40 days in 1921.
After education at Armenian and Russian schools, he joined the Dashnak party. He received further education at the Gevorgian seminary in Echmiadzin from 1900 to 1906. Vratsian returned to Nor Nakhichevan as a Dashnak party worker and took part in the 4th general congress of Dashnaktsutiun at Vienna in 1907; where he supported the adoption of socialism.
In 1908 he traveled to St. Petersburg to study law and education. He traveled to the United States in 1911 where he edited the Hairenik newspaper.
In 1914 he made his way to the 8th general congress of Dashnaktsutiun in Ottoman Empire. He was elected to the party's Bureau and mixed with the leaders of the Young Turks. In August 1914 he was jailed as a Russian spy but escaped to Transcaucasia, where he became involved with the Armenian volunteer units who fought with the Russian army. After the disbandment of the units, he attended the Moscow state conference, the Armenian National Congress, and was elected a member of the National Council. Hovhannes Katchaznouni asked him to accompany him on his tour of Europe and America in 1919, but he was refused a visa by the British as they saw him as a radical socialist. In the same year he was appointed to ministry of labour, agriculture and state positions in Alexander Khatisian's Cabinet. His positions carried over to the government of Hamo Ohanjanyan; he also assumed responsibilities for information and propaganda. After the resignation of the government and the failure of Hovhannes Katchaznouni to form a coalition, Vratsian accepted post of Prime Minister on 23 November 1920.
On 2 December he handed over Armenia to the Bolsheviks. He subsequently went into hiding, and later emerged as President of the Committee for the Salvation of the Fatherland. He also was President of the short-lived Republic of Armenia after a revolution against the Bolsheviks in February 1921. However, this second republic only lasted around 40 days; he then escaped to Persia with his bodyguards and aides, leaving his wife and child with American Near East Relief worker Dr. Clarence Ussher. He also appealed to Europe and Turkey for assistance against the Bolsheviks. Vratsian then travelled over Europe, settling in Paris to edit the Droshak from 1923 to 1925. In 1945 he presented a petition to the UN General Assembly at San Francisco demanding the restoration of Wilsonian Armenia held by Turkey to Armenia.
During his lifetime he edited various now defunct Armenian periodicals and newspapers, including Harach and Horizon.
Simon Vratsian (born Simon Grouzian) was born in Metz Sala, Nor Nakhichevan, Russian Empire (now Nakhichevan-on-Don) in 1882. In his memoirs, he explains that his first surname, Grouzian, came from the Armenian word "grouz" (գռուզ), which means curly or frizzled. This was because many people from his extended family had curly hair. His surname was changed twice; the first time by a schoolteacher, Melikian (first name unknown), who observed that there is no such surname as Grouzian, just Grouzinian. The second time was when he changed it to Vratsian. He also describes that after the incident with Melikian, his family was divided into three camps: the Grouzian camp, which included his mother, who thought he was a traitor, and his conservative uncle Garabed. The Grouzinian camp, which consists of his "lover of all new things" (as described by Vratsian) uncle Mergian, and finally the Vratsian camp, in which Simon was the only member (he also says that his grandmother died at age 116, but that it cannot be proven since most countries didn't start recording dates of birth until the year 1900).
He describes his father as a storyteller, whose stories increased business for the family coffee shop. He also writes in his memoirs (Կեանքի Ուղիներով, Along Life's Paths) about his rich maternal uncle Mikishka, and estimates that his net worth in several millions of dollars. Vratsian recounts how his 'cheap' and 'stingy 'maternal uncle Mikishka gave him the equivalent of 20 modern US cents for a 2,000 kilometer journey. He also recalls how later, when he was getting involved in Armenian political parties, he was going to be a member of the Social-Democrat Hnchakian Party. However, he and his friend accidentally walked into a Dashnak meeting, themselves becoming Dashnaks. He also describes Dashnak General Congresses in detail, such as which member of the congress wanted an alliance with Russia, who wanted to fund the curing of Armenian villagers from lice, which hotel he stayed in, and who he became friends with. He describes friendships with Rostom, Hamazasp, Andranik, Armen Garo, Aram Manukian, and others. He even describes how those friendships began. For example, in the second volume of his memoir "Կեանքի Ուղիներով", he tells how he was a teacher of Armenian History for a year. One of his students who always disrupted class was Andranik's daughter. Vratsian hit Andranik's daughter, and was summoned to the Headmaster's office. There he met Andranik, and when Vratsian explained why he had hit his daughter, Andranik thanked Vratsian for disciplining her.
In Vratsian's memoirs, there are no accounts of his wife or any children. Oliver Baldwin's "Six Prisons and Two Revolutions" gives us the only piece of evidence about his direct family. Baldwin was an Englishman who became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armenian Army. He was at the house of Dr. Clarence Ussher (from the Near East Relief) when a messenger from Vratsian arrived asking Dr. Ussher to keep his wife and son safe when the Bolsheviks took over. However, while they were fleeing to Persia, Vratsian's son "died of exposure". There is no other mention of Vratsian's wife and son.
He died in Beirut, Lebanon at age 86 or 87, on 21 May 1969.