June 26, 1861|
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
|Died||July 20, 1915
Near Urfa, Ottoman Empire
|Title||Member of the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies|
|Religion||Christian (Armenian Apostolic)|
Krikor Zohrab (Armenian: Գրիգոր Զօհրապ; June 26, 1861 – 1915) was an influential Armenian writer, politician, and lawyer from Constantinople. At the onset of the Armenian Genocide he was arrested by the Turkish government and sent to appear before a military court in Diyarbakır. En route, at a locality called Karaköprü or Şeytanderesi on the outskirts of Urfa, he was murdered by a band of known brigands under the leadership of Çerkez Ahmet, Halil and Nazım some time between 15 July and 20 July 1915
Zohrab was born into a wealthy family in Beşiktaş, Istanbul in 1861. His early education was completed at a local Armenian Catholic school. He received a civil engineering degree from Galatasaray Institute, but did not work in that field. Instead, he enrolled in a newly opened law school, the Imperial University of Jurisprudence, and received his law degree in 1882. He was a revered lawyer in the courts of the Ottoman Empire. He became a professor at the university, teaching law. At the age of 27, he married Clara Yazejian, and fathered two daughters and two sons. One of the daughters, Dolores Zohrab Liebmann, eventually became an American philanthropist.
Krikor Zohrab defended successfully many Armenians charged with a variety of political and criminal offenses between 1895-96. As a result of his defense of a Bulgarian revolutionary in the course of which he accused a Turkish official of torture, he was disbarred and forced to live abroad.
In 1908, following the revolution of the Young Turks, he became a member of parliament in the Ottoman Council, and also served his community as an Armenian councilor.
Personality and lifestyle
Zohrab was a great intellectual that lived a very busy life. He had to balance his professional life with his personal life. He had a rich personality along with a generous heart. He loved life and its pleasures. Although he usually was open to progressive ideas he was steadfastly conservative to women’s role in society. He believed that women should keep their traditional roles and not venture further.
Ever since he was a teenager, Zohrab showed great interest in national work and contributed heavily to his community. At the age of 30 he was chosen to be part of the national council of Constantinople and served on the council until his death.
From 1908 onwards, Zohrab was a member of parliament and known for his eloquent speeches. He vehemently defended Armenian interests and rights inside the council and at all levels of the government. In 1909 during the Adana massacre, he strongly criticized the Turkish authorities for their actions and demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.
To serve the Armenian cause, he wrote an influential paper in French called “La question arménienne à la lumière des documents” (The Armenian question in light of documents), published in 1913 under the pseudonym Marcel Leart in Paris. It dealt with many aspects of the hardships endured by the Armenian populace and denounced the government’s inaction.
Zohrab wrote many articles in Armenian daily newspapers such as Masis (Մասիս), Hairenik (Հայրենիք), and Arevelk (Armenian: Արեւելք). One of his famous articles, entitled “Broom,” criticized Armenian nationals and works saying they needed some “sweeping” to bring them back to order.
One of his characteristics was that he would regularly express himself in a provocative fashion with disregard to the Turkish state's repressive authority. He had condemned the state on countless occasions for their many shortcomings.
Zohrab can be said to be the master of the Armenian short story. Despite being influenced by the romantic writers as a youngster, he quickly joined the French realism movement propelled by such writers as Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet and Émile Zola. He is probably the best Armenian writer of the genre.
He lived and wrote about what he lived through. He said that writing was an exhilarating activity into which he could delve himself and forget the pains of everyday life. He had a very sharp eye for human characteristics, both physical and psychological. Descriptions of the human persona were one of his stronger points. He was able to accurately portray faces and gestures in a vivid way. In short, dense, but highly expressive lines, he was able to clearly illustrate a tragedy or a character’s qualities.
Arrest and assassination
During the mass arrests and execution that would signal the start of the Armenian Genocide in and around April 24, 1915, Zohrab was diligently working to try to stop the atrocities. As a member of Parliament he tried to contact the Turkish authorities and to plea for the immediate cessation of the massacres. He even contacted his supposed friend Talat Pasha to protest and ask for redress, but to no avail. Zohrab told Talat that one day he would demand an explanation for these actions. This would be the last time the two would meet. Some in his immediate circle strongly encouraged him to leave the country, but he refused.
The following day, on May 21, 1915, Zohrab was arrested by the Turks, together with another deputy to the Ottoman Parliament. Ordered to appear before a court martial in Diyarbakır, they traveled together by train to Aleppo, escorted by one gendarme. They remained in Aleppo for a few weeks, waiting for the results of attempts by the Ottoman governor of the city to have them sent back to the capital. Some sources state that Cemal Pasha himself tried to secure their return, but Talaat Pasha insisted on having the pair court martialed. They were then dispatched to Urfa and remained there for some time in the house of a Turkish deputy friend. Later, they were taken under police escort and taken to Diyarbakır by car. They were allegedly[according to whom?] accompanied on a voluntary basis by some notable Urfa Armenians. Many sources state that they were murdered by the well-known band of brigands led by Çerkez Ahmet, Halil and Nazım, at a locality called Karaköprü or Şeytanderesi in the outskirts of Urfa, some time between 15 July and 20 July 1915. The murderers were tried and executed in Damascus by Cemal Pasha in September 1915, and the assassinations became the subject of a 1916 investigation by the Ottoman Parliament led by Artin Boshgezenian, the deputy for Aleppo.
Some of his published writings:
- A Vanished Generation (Անհետացած սերունդ մը) is one of his works. Considered a great piece of realist writing.
- Familiar Faces (Ծանօթ դէմքեր), a piece where he draws portraits of prominent figures of his time.
- From the Journeyman’s Diary (Ուղեւորի օրագրէն), a book about European travels and the impressions they left on him.
- (French) Kévorkian, Raymond H. "R. P. Yervant P‛erdahdjian: événements et faits observés à constantinople par le vicariat [patriarcal] (1914-1916)," Revue d'histoire arménienne contemporaine 1 (1995), p. 254.
- El-Ghusein, Fà'iz (1918). Martyred Armenia. London: C. Pearson Arthur. pp. 17-20.
- Ara Baliozian: Zohrab: An Introduction., Ara Baliozian and National Association of Armenian Studies & Research, Kitchener (Canada) 1985 ISBN 0-920553-00-1
- Üngör, Uğur, The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 84.
- Haigazn K. Kazarian, "The Murder of 6 Armenian Members of the Ottoman Parliament," Armenian Review 22 (Winter 1970), pp. 26-33; "'How Krikor Zohrab was Murdered': The Account of a Sergeant of Gendarmes at Urfa," Armenian Review 35 (Spring 1982), pp. 26-29.
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