Hagop Der Hagopian
July 14, 1884
Huseinig, Mamuret-ul-Aziz (Kharpert) Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
|Died||April 19, 1983 (aged 98)|
|Resting place||Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA|
|Other names||John Mahy|
|The Turks and Us (1928)|
|Political party||Armenian Revolutionary Federation|
Shahan Natalie (Armenian: Շահան Նաթալի; July 14, 1884 – April 19, 1983) was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the principal organizer of Operation Nemesis, a campaign of revenge against officials of the former Ottoman Empire who instigated the Armenian genocide during World War I. He later became a writer on Armenian national philosophy, and notable for his essay, The Turks and Us.
Shahan Natalie was born Hagop Der Hagopian on July 14, 1884, in the village of Huseinig, in Mamuret-ul-Aziz Vilayet, also known as "Kharberd Vilayet" (modern day Elazığ Province), of the Ottoman Empire. He was the only son of a seven-member family, along with four sisters.
He received his primary education in the local Armenian school. His father, maternal uncle, and numerous other relatives were killed at the beginning of the 1895 Hamidian massacres. Separated from his family, Hagop, then 11, was taken in by a neighboring Greek family, who hid him for three days. He was later reunited with the surviving members of his family. He found his mother mourning over his father's lifeless body, which they dragged together and buried under a walnut tree. The scene of his mother, prostrate on her husband's body, left a deep and indelible impression on the young boy.
He studied for a year at the Euphrates College in Kharberd. Along with other orphans, he was then sent to the St. James Orphanage in Constantinople (now Istanbul), where a wealthy Armenian rug merchant living in New York City sponsored him. The following year he was admitted to the famed Berberian Academy, where he studied until 1900.
In 1901, he returned to his native Huseinig, where for three years he was a teacher at the Armenian parochial school of the St. Varvara Church. In the meantime, he studied the provincial dialect of Kharberd, earning him special honor in Patriarch Matthew II Izmirlian's literary competition.
In 1904, he joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Kharberd, and immigrated to the eastern United States, where he worked for three years as a laborer in a shoe factory in Watertown, Massachusetts.
In 1908, after the proclamation of the Ottoman Constitution, he returned to his home in Huseinig. His stay was short-lived, however, as the 1909 Adana massacre drove him into exile in America once again.
Education and political life
From 1910 to 1912, Natalie attended Boston University, where he studied English literature, philosophy, and theater as a special student. In 1912, he decided to return to his home in the Ottoman Empire, but on his way there, he was sent back to the U.S., as Greek authorities would not let him through, considering him a citizen of an enemy nation.
Back in the U.S., Natalie became active within the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was on the editorial staff of the party's Hairenik newspaper from 1915 to 1917, and was elected to the party's United States Central Committee. Not happy with the way the ARF was evolving, he later resigned from the party. He became a United States citizen on March 23, 1915, and assumed "John Mahy" as his official name in 1923.
Relation with the ARF and Operation Nemesis
From September 27 to the end of October 1919, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's 9th General Congress convened in Yerevan. Shahan Natalie participated as United States District delegate. The retribution against those who had been responsible for the genocide against the Armenians was one of the issues on the Congress's agenda. Shahan Natalie was appalled, when some of the delegates expressed their opposition to this policy. The opponents to retribution argued that the newly created Armenian Republic needed Turkey's friendship. Contrary to many of the Eastern Armenian delegates' vociferous objections, the ARF decided in favor of retaliation. It is generally assumed that the task force responsible for the execution of the retribution was organized at this meeting. Shahan Natalie was the primary motivator and planner of this small group. Grigor Merjanov assisted him. ARF Bureau members, specifically Simon Vratsian, Ruben Ter Minasian, and Ruben Darbinian tried to frustrate Shahan Natalie's determined efforts. Natalie, however was not to be stopped.
Under the most clandestine circumstances the work of eliminating the main perpetrators of the genocide was organized and the preliminary steps (surveillance, arms-gathering and transport, etc.) were carried out. The "black list" of executioners, consisted of approximately 200 names. The former executioners of the genocide against Armenians had moved to Berlin, Rome, Baku, Tbilisi and other cities. For Shahan Natalie, the primary target was Talaat Pasha, whom Shahan called "Number One". The mission was entrusted to Soghomon Tehlirian.
The two chapters which described Nathalie's role in the killing of Talaat are missing from the aforementioned Nayiri publication. They were removed by Simon Vratsian, a leader in the ARF.
The avengers executed also several Armenian spies and traitors, who, by denouncing their kinsmen to Turkish authorities, were responsible for their deaths.
The ARF Bureau was against these assassinations because they hindered its attempt of collaboration with Azeri and Turkish activists to regain control after being ousted from the homeland. It reportedly succeeded in ending the campaign. Subsequently, when the assassination of Turks proved "profitable" to revitalize party ranks, the Bureau did not hesitate to credit itself alone.
The pro-Turkish overtures were contrary to Natalie's conviction that "Over and above the Turk, the Armenian has no enemy, and Armenian revenge is just and godly." There were deep dissensions on both sides, but not yet to the point of separation.
In 1924, the ARF's 10th General Congress was convened in Paris. Shahan Natalie was elected as a new Bureau member, alongside Shavarsh Misakian, Ruben Ter Minasian, and Arshak Jamalian. He strove to change the party's pro-Turkish orientation, but failed, due to the trio's opposition.
The ultimate collision of these divergent directions became inevitable. In 1925, a group of nationalistic revolutionaries applied to the Bureau to establish relationships with Soviet governments in order to try to find ways of helping the homeland. The leadership delayed the examination and response to this issue.
On 29 December 1926, the ARF Bureau, with four votes in favor and one against (Natalie) decided to join the Promethean Alliance, which declared the Turk as defender of the Caucasian people.
The internal struggle became evident in 1928. Azadamard (Freedom Fighter) was published under the editorship of Haig Kntouni and Shahan Natalie in Paris from 1928–1929 as an expression of outrage toward the anti-national sentiment of the party leadership. Shahan Natalie defined the "Freedom Fighter" movement thus: "In Yerevan in 1919 during the Federation's 9th General Congress, many monuments were going to be destroyed and statues were to crumble within innocent and clean souls ... Before the eyes of the "Freedom Fighters, not only was the Revolutionary Federation being horribly transformed, it was also becoming an accomplice against Armenian Revolution. Not only had the Federation, in the person of its leadership, denied the Federation, but by the boorish expression of its traditional feudalism, it had assumed the right to ally itself with the Turk, to plot against Armenian Revolution."
To forestall the probable victory of the "Freedom Fighters" at the upcoming 11th General Congress (27 March to 2 May 1929), on the eve of the meeting, the Bureau began a "cleansing campaign." The first to be "removed"(3) 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'" 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.
Azadamard having ceased publication, the "ousted" revolutionaries of France established Mardgots (Bastion), a semi-weekly newspaper, under the editorship of Mesrob Kouyoumjian and Mgrdich Yeritziants. Contrary to popular belief, Shahan Natalie did not establish or leader the "Bastion"-ist movement, because at that time he had returned to America. He learned about the movement from reading the Mardgots newspaper and acknowledged this Reconstructionist movement. In issues of Mardgots are published Shahan's analytical articles, "Who Ousts Whom?", "Mine and Yours", "Curse, but Listen," and "I Am Inexperienced."
Generals Dro and Nzhdeh came to Paris for the purpose of defusing the disunion of the party, but they failed.
Gradually realizing their inability to control the expanding movement, the Bureau relocated its headquarters from Paris to Cairo.
However, the "Bastion"-ist movement was attacked from within. The collaboration of editor Mesrob Kouyoumjian with the Soviet Secret Service was revealed. General Smpad and Shahan Natalie went to Paris to forestall the break-up of the movement. Revolutionaries who had remained loyal to the "Bastion"-ists in 1934 established the "Western Armenian Liberation Alliance" in Paris and began to publish the Amrots (Fortress) weekly. "Alliance" members were relentlessly persecuted by Bureau killer bandits and by the Secret Service of foreign countries, which wanted to see the ARF as an anti-Soviet tool in their hands. Shahan Natalie relocated Amrots to Athens, where it was published from 1936 to 1937. ARF Bureau-hired hit men arrived there and with their bullets killed many loyal revolutionaries.
The situation in Europe within the environment of impending war and Bureau-ordered assassinations little by little eroded the "Amrots"-ist movement.
On the eve of the Second World War, Shahan returned to America and, embittered with Armenian political life, he took up community activism in the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). From 1943 to 1953 he was the secretary of its district office in New England.(5)
In 1963, for the first time since the Soviet annexation of Armenia, he visited his homeland and regained his voice. In Dzaghgadzor, he met schoolchildren at a campground. To them they embodied the promise of a new dawn for the Armenian people.
From the 1960s, Shahan Natalie preferred to be silent and remained within the confines of his home. He died at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts on April 19, 1983, at the age of 98. He was laid to rest in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, later being joined by his wife of 57 years, Angéle.
Short stories, verses, and plays
- Օրէնքի եւ ընկերութեան զոհերէն ("From the Victims of Law and Society"). Boston: Hairenik, 1909. 63 pages. Short stories.
- Ամպեր ("Clouds"). Boston: Hairenik, 1909. Verses
- Քաւութեան երգեր ("Songs of Expiation"). Boston: Hairenik, 1915. 31 pages. Verses
- Սէրի եւ ատելութեան երգեր ("Songs of Love and Hate"). Boston: Hairenik, 1915. 165 pages. Verses with preface by Hrand Nazariantz
- Վրէժի աւետարան ("Gospel of Revenge"). New York: Armenia, 1918. 39 pages. Verses
- Ասլան Բէկ ("Aslan Bek"). Boston: Hairenik, 1918. 62 pages. Tragedy in three acts
- Քեզի ("To You"). Boston: 1920. 116 pages. Verses written beginning in 1904.
- Թուրքիզմը Անգորայէն Բագու եւ Թրքական Օրիէնթասիոն ("Turkism from Angora to Baku and Turkish Orientation"). Athens: Nor Or, 1928. 172 pages.
- Թուրքերը եւ Մենք ("The Turks and Us"). Athens: Nor Or, 1928. 70 pages. Second printing, Boston, 1931. 93 pages.
- Ալեքսանդրապօլի Դաշնագրէն 1930–ի Կովկասեան Ապստամբութիւնները ("From the Treaty of Alexandrapol to the Caucasian Insurgencies of 1930"). Volumes 1 and 2. Marseilles: Arabian Publishing, 1934–35.
- Երեւանի Համաձայնագիրը ("The Yerevan Agreement"). Boston: 1941. 112 pages.
- Գիրք Մատուցման եւ Հատուցման ("Book of Dedication and Reparation"). Beirut: Onibar Publishing, 1949 (first printing). 160 pages. Beirut: Azdarar Publishing, 1954 (second printing). 134 pages. Contents:
- Այսպէս Սպաննեցինք ("How We Killed")
- Յաւելուած (Addendum), illustrated.
- Վերստին Յաւելուած—Ալեքսանդրապօլի Դաշնագրի «Ինչպէ՞սն ու ինչո՞ւն» ("Re-Addendum – The How and Why of the Treaty of Alexandrapol"). Boston: Baikar, 1955. 144 pages.
- An Eye for an Eye, by Tessa Hofmann, in Portraits of hope: Armenians in the contemporary world, by Huberta von Voss, p. 296
- Looking backward, moving forward: confronting the Armenian Genocide, by Richard G. Hovannisian, 2003, p 165
- Գորիսի Մէջ Բացումը Կատարուած Է Շահան Նաթալիի Նուիրուած Յուշարձանին
- General Andranik and the Armenian Revolutionary Movement, by Dr. Antranig Chalabian, 1988, p. 513
- Encyclopedia of Literature, Vol. 1, by Joseph T. Shipley, 2007, p. 62