Operation Nemesis

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Operation Nemesis
Operation Nemesis exhibition Tsitsernakaberd.jpg
An exhibition dedicated to Operation Nemesis at the genocide museum in Yerevan, Armenia
LocationBerlin, Tiflis, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Rome
TargetOttoman officials responsible for the Armenian genocide, Azerbaijani officials responsible for the 1918 massacre of Armenians in Baku
Attack type
PerpetratorsArmenian Revolutionary Federation
MotiveVigilante justice[2]

Operation Nemesis (Armenian: «Նեմեսիս» գործողություն, romanizedNemesis gortsoghut'iun) was a program to assassinate both Ottoman perpetrators of the Armenian genocide and officials of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic responsible for the massacre of Armenians during the September Days of 1918 in Baku. Masterminded by Shahan Natalie, Armen Garo, and Aaron Sachaklian,[6][7] it was named after the Greek goddess of divine retribution, Nemesis.[8]

Between 1920 and 1922, a clandestine cell of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation carried out seven killings, the best-known being the assassination of Talaat Pasha, the main orchestrator of the Armenian genocide, by Armenian Soghomon Tehlirian in March 1921 in Berlin.


The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) was active within the Ottoman Empire in the early 1890s with the aim of unifying the various small groups in the empire who advocated for reform and a certain degree of autonomy within the empire. ARF members formed fedayi guerrilla groups that helped organize the self-defense of Armenian civilians. In July–August 1914, the 8th congress of the ARF was a watershed event. Members of the Committee of Union and Progress requested assistance from the party in the conquest of Transcaucasia by inciting a rebellion of Russian Armenians against the Russian army in the event of a Caucasus Campaign opening up.[9][10] The Armenians agreed to remain loyal to their government, but declared their inability to agree to the other proposal.[11]

Prominent ARF members were among the Armenian intellectuals targeted on April 24, 1915 in Constantinople.[12] The arrested people were moved to two holding centers near Ankara under Interior Minister Mehmed Talat's order on April 24, 1915, and mostly deported and killed.

In 1919, after the Armistice of Mudros, Turkish courts-martial were convened in Constantinople, during which some of the principal perpetrators of the Armenian genocide were convicted and sentenced to death.[13] The UK seized some of the perpetrators from the Ottoman authorities in several of Istanbul's prisons, after their incompetency in failing to hold fair trials, and transported them to the British colony of Malta. There, the Malta exiles (so-called by Turkish sources) were, after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's incarceration of Lord Curzon's relative, exchanged for British subjects detained by the Turkish government of Atatürk.[14][15] Since there were no international laws in place under which they could be tried, the men who orchestrated the genocide travelled relatively freely throughout Germany, Italy, and Central Asia.[15]

Congress in Yerevan[edit]

On May 28, 1918, the Armenian National Council, a group of professionals based in Tiflis, declared the independence of the First Republic of Armenia.[16] Hovhannes Kachaznuni and Alexander Khatisyan, both members of the ARF, moved to Yerevan to seize power and issued the official announcement of Armenian independence on May 30, 1918. Yerevan became the capital city of Armenia. At this city, from September 27 to the end of October 1919, the ARF's 9th General Congress convened.

The issue of justice against those responsible for the Armenian genocide was on the agenda of the congress. Over many of the Russian Armenian delegates' vociferous objections, it was decided to mete out justice through armed force. ARF Bureau members, specifically Simon Vratsyan, Ruben Ter Minasian and Ruben Darbinian, opposed Shahan Natalie's operation. However, a "black list" was created, containing the names of 200 persons deemed most responsible for organizing the genocide against the Armenian people.


The front page of the Ottoman newspaper İkdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. Showing left to right Djemal Pasha; Talaat Pasha; Enver Pasha.

The leader of the group responsible for the task was Shahan Natalie, working with Grigor Merjanov. For Natalie, the primary target was Talaat Pasha, whom Shahan called "Number One". The mission to kill Talaat was entrusted to Soghomon Tehlirian. Natalie's aim was to turn Tehlirian's trial into the political trial of those responsible for the Armenian genocide. In his memoirs, Natalie revealed his orders to Tehlirian: "you blow up the skull of the Number One nation-murderer and you don't try to flee. You stand there, your foot on the corpse and surrender to the police, who will come and handcuff you."[17]


After the Sovietization of Armenia, many of the First Armenian Republic's expatriate revolutionary activists did not hesitate to collaborate with Azeri and Turk Armenophobe activists to regain governmental control. This policy was contrary to Shahan Natalie's conviction that "Over and above the Turk, the Armenian has no enemy, and Armenian revenge is just and godly." There was deep dissent on both sides, but not yet to the point of separation. To forestall the probable victory of these "freedom fighters" at the upcoming 11th General Congress of the ARF (27 March to 2 May 1929), on the eve of the meeting, the Bureau began a "cleansing campaign". The first to be "removed" from the party was Bureau member Shahan Natalie. "Knowingly" (by his definition) having joined the ARF and unjustly separated from it, Shahan Natalie wrote about this: "With Shahan began again that which had begun with Antranig; Bureau member, Shahan, was 'ousted'."[citation needed] After Shahan were successively ousted Haig Kntouni, Armenian Republic army officer Bagrevandian with his group, Glejian and Tartizian with their partisans, General Smbad, Ferrahian with his group, future "Mardgots" (Bastion)-ists Mgrdich Yeretziants, Levon Mozian, Vazgen Shoushanian, Mesrob Kouyoumjian, Levon Kevonian and many others. As a protest to this "cleansing" by the Bureau, some members of the ARF French Central Committee also resigned.

On 31 May 1926, the Turkish government passed Law Number 882, which assigned property to the relatives of Ottoman leaders assassinated for their role in the Armenian genocide. This law covered the families of important CUP members such as Talaat Pasha, Ahmet Cemal Pasha, Said Halim Pasha and Behaeddin Shakir, amongst others. The regulations within the law defined that they would be allocated property belonging to "fugitive Armenians". MP Recep Zühtü Soyak, a loyal follower and private secretary of Atatürk mentioned this new law was a strong "warning message to assassins: you may execute a Turk through an assassination! But, we will raise his offspring with your money so that tomorrow, he will gouge out your eye and break your head."[18] Among those of those marked for assassination was Enver Pasha (killed 1922 in battle with the Soviets) and Abdülhalik Renda became President of Turkey and died in 1957.

List of assassinations[edit]

Assassinations performed under Operation Nemesis include:[1]

Date and location Target Assassin(s)
19 June 1920
Tiflis, Georgia
Fatali Khan Khoyski
Prime Minister of Azerbaijan
Aram Yerganian
Misak Kirakosyan
15 March 1921
Germany Berlin, Germany
Mehmet Talat Pasha.jpg
Talaat Pasha
Minister of Interior and Grand Vizier
Soghomon Tehlirian
18 July 1921
Ottoman Empire Constantinople
(Entente-occupied), Ottoman Empire
Behbud xan Cavanşir.jpg
Behbud Khan Javanshir
Minister of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan
Misak Torlakian
5 December 1921
Rome, Italy
Said Halim Pasha
Grand Vizier
Arshavir Shirakian
17 April 1922
Germany Berlin, Germany
Behaeddin Shakir
Founding member of the Committee of Union and Progress
Aram Yerganian
17 April 1922
Germany Berlin, Germany

Cemal Azmi
Wāli of Trebizond Vilayet
Arshavir Shirakian
25 July 1922
Soviet Union Tiflis, Soviet Georgia
Ahmed Djemal portrait Project Gutenberg eText 10338.png
Djemal Pasha
Wāli of Syria Vilayet and Minister of the Navy
Stepan Dzaghigian
Bedros D. Boghosian

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Motta, Giuseppe (2013). Less than Nations: Central-Eastern European Minorities after WWI, Volume 2. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 9781443854290.
  2. ^ Frey, Rebecca Joyce (2009). Genocide and International Justice. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 9780816073108.
  3. ^ Reidel, James (24 April 2015). "The Epic of a Genocide". The New York Review of Books. In the years following the war, the atrocities committed against the Armenians surfaced in the news stories, some tied to the revenge shootings of Talaat Bey, Jemal Pasha, and other wartime Turkish leaders, victims of an Armenian revolutionary assassination program with the chilling name of "Operation Nemesis."
  4. ^ Totten, Samuel; Jacobs, Paul R. Bartrop (2008). Dictionary of genocide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 320. ISBN 9780313346415.
  5. ^ Freedman, Jeri (2009). The Armenian genocide (1st ed.). New York: Rosen Pub. Group. p. 42. ISBN 9781404218253.
  6. ^ Eminian, Sarkis J. (2004). West of Malatia: The Boys of '26. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 3. ISBN 9781418412623.
  7. ^ Janbazian, Rupen (2015). "Book Review: 'Sacred Justice: The Voices and Legacy of the Armenian Operation Nemesis'". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  8. ^ Newton, Michael (2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 269–70. ISBN 978-1610692861.
  9. ^ Taner Akcam, A Shameful Act, p. 136
  10. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian, The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, 244
  11. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana, 1920, v.28, p. 412
  12. ^ Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, (Basic Books, 2005), 57; "Istanbul was only adopted as the city's official name in 1930..".
  13. ^ Charny, Israel W. (2000). Tutu, Desmond (ed.). Encyclopedia of genocide (Repr. ed.). Oxford: ABC-Clio. ISBN 0874369282.
  14. ^ "Turkey's EU Minister, Judge Giovanni Bonello and the Armenian Genocide – 'Claim about Malta Trials is nonsense' – The Malta Independent". Independent.com.mt. 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  15. ^ a b Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell", p. 16-17. Basic Books, 2002.
  16. ^ Hovannisian. "Armenia's Road to Independence", p. 298.
  17. ^ "Nayiri" weekly, v. 12, nos. 1-6
  18. ^ Cagaptay, Soner (2006-05-02). Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk?. p. 37. ISBN 9781134174485.

Further reading[edit]

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