Hovhannes Kajaznuni

Hovhannes Kajaznuni
Յովհաննէս Քաջազնունի
Hovhannes Katchaznouni hat.jpg
1st Prime Minister of Armenia
In office
6 June 1918 – 7 August 1919
Preceded by position established
Succeeded by Alexander Khatisian
Chairman of the Parliament of Armenia
In office
4 November 1920 – 2 December 1920
Preceded by Avetik Sahakyan
Succeeded by position abolished
Personal details
Born (1868-02-14)14 February 1868
Akhaltsikhe, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 15 January 1938(1938-01-15) (aged 69)
Yerevan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Armenian
Political party Armenian Revolutionary Federation
Spouse(s) Satenik Mirimanian (m. 1889)

Hovhannes Kajaznuni, or Hovhannes Katchaznouni (Armenian: Յովհաննէս Քաջազնունի) (14 February 1868 – 15 January 1938), was the first Prime Minister of the First Republic of Armenia from June 6, 1918 to August 7, 1919. He was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Early life

Kajaznuni was born as Hovhannes Ter-Hovhannisian in 1868 in the town of Akhaltsikhe, then part of the Russian Empire, now part of Georgia. He attended secondary school in Tiflis from 1877 to 1886. In 1887, he moved to Saint Petersburg and entered the Citizens' Architectural Institute, graduating with honors in 1893. While in Saint Petersburg, Kajaznuni joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, eventually becoming one of its most important figures. After graduation, he worked at the construction department of the Baku provincial administration (1893–95), as an architect in Batumi (1895–97), and as regional architect at the Tiflis provincial administration (1897–99). Between 1899 and 1906, he worked as a senior architect in Baku, designing hospitals and apartment buildings, his most notable work being the Saint Thaddeus and Bartholomew Cathedral completed in 1911. After 1906 he devoted himself to political and social activities.[1]

Political career

Kajaznuni was forced to leave the Caucasus in 1911 to avoid being called to testify at the trial of Armenian Revolutionary Federation members mounted by the Russian government in Saint Petersburg in January 1912. He lived in Istanbul and then in Van until 1914, when he returned to the Caucasus. He became a member of the Armenian National Council in 1917 and was an ARF representative in the Seym (the Transcaucasian Parliament) until 1918.

Trebizond Peace Conference and Transcaucasian Federation

He was part of the Armenian delegation that conducted peace talks with the Ottoman Empire at the Trebizond Peace Conference, beginning on March 14, 1918.[2] The three groups of Transcaucasus delegates—Muslim, Georgian and Armenian—had divergent aims, and were in a weak position to negotiate with the Ottomans.[3] While the talks progressed, the Ottoman Third Army retook Erzurum after the Imperial Russian army abandoned it and advanced to the previous frontier with Russia.[3] These setbacks spurred Akaki Chkhenkeli, the Georgian Menshevik leader of the Transcaucasus delegation, to unilaterally inform the Ottomans that he would accept the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk as the basis for negotiation, and thereby abandon Armenian claims to portions of Ottoman territory.[4] This concession was repudiated by the Seym, which ordered Chhenkeli and the delegation to return to Tbilisi.[5]

The capture of Batumi by Ottoman troops on April 14, 1918 sapped the will of the Georgian Mensheviks to continue fighting the Ottomans, and they pushed their Transcaucasus allies to accept the two Ottoman prerequisites for resuming negotiations: a recognition of Turkey's territorial rights and a full break with Russia.[5] This resulted in the Mensheviks and Muslims in the Seym proposing on April 22, 1918 to establish a Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic with reluctant endorsement from the increasingly isolated Armenian representatives.[6] The new republic's cabinet was selected by Chhenkeli as premier-designate, and included Kajaznuni as one of four Armenians.[7] One of Chhenkeli's first acts, without consulting the Seym or the Armenian cabinet members, was to order the Armenian army to surrender Kars to the Ottomans.[8] The furious Armenian leaders tendered their resignations from the cabinet and demanded Chhenkeli be replaced. The Mensheviks would only agree to replace him with Kajaznuni or another Armenian. The Armenians realized that nominating an Armenian premier would cause the Ottomans to attack Russian Armenia, which was on the front-line since the loss of Kars. Accordingly, Kajaznuni and his fellow Dashnaks allowed the Seym to confirm their cabinet positions on April 26, 1918.[9]

Batumi Peace Conference

Kajaznuni also accompanied Chkhenkeli as a delegate to the Batumi Peace Conference that began on May 11, 1918.[10] The conference saw the Ottomans extend their demands to include Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki in Tiflis Governorate and the western half of Erivan Governorate.[10] Before the Transcaucasus delegation had delivered a response, Ottoman forces invaded the Erivan Governorate, and on May 15 captured Alexandropol.[10] A week later, they had approached both Yerevan and Karakilisa.[10] Unable to negotiate anything more favorable than capitulation with the Ottomans, the Georgian leaders at the Batumi talks arranged a side-deal with Germany to exchange German protection for access to Georgia's economic resources. The result was that the Seym dissolved the federative republic on May 26, 1918, with the Democratic Republic of Georgia declared the same day and the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia declared on May 28.[11]

Independent Armenia

The Armenian National Council elected Kajaznuni as the first prime minister of the independent Armenian state on June 6, 1918 and his cabinet was formed on June 30. Kajaznuni held this position until August 7, 1919; with the nomination as a prime minister abroad from June 5, 1919. He was in diplomatic missions in Europe (beginning in August 1919) and the United States (from October 9, 1919 until August 1920). He returned to Armenia to become chairman of the parliament on November 4, 1920. Kajaznuni was arrested after the Bolsheviks came to power in December 1920 but was liberated during the February 1921 revolt against the Soviet regime.

Soviet Period

After the end of the revolt in early April 1921, he left the country and lived in Bucharest from 1921 to 1924. In 1925 he returned to Soviet Armenia and worked as an architect in Leninakan. He also taught at the technical department of Yerevan State University, lecturing on construction and architecture. In 1930 he joined the newly established Construction Institute and attained the title of professor there. Kajaznuni became a member of the Armenian Union of Architects. Kajaznuni was a victim of Stalin's Great Terror—arrested in 1937 and imprisoned, he died in prison in 1938. The exact date of his death is unknown.[12]

Report to the 1923 ARF Congress

Kajaznuni prepared a critical report for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party convention held in Bucharest during April 1923 (the 10th Congress of the Party was held in 1924-1925)[13][n 1][14][n 2] titled Dashnaktsutyun Has Nothing More to Do, which called for the party's support of Soviet Armenia.[15][16][17][18] Before this event, every single Armenian political party in exile was opposed to Soviet Armenia's stance.

Kajaznuni published his report in Vienna in 1923. In the same year it was republished by non-A.R.F. circles in Tbilisi, Alexandria (Egypt), and Bucarest.[19] Its claims immediately drew rebuke from the party.[20][n 3][21][n 4][22][n 5]

In 1927, Zakkniga in Tiflis published a Russian translation of Kajaznuni's report in an edition of 2,000 copies, with an introduction by S. Khanoyan.

A condensed version of the report was translated into English in 1955 by Matthew Aram Callender, and edited by Arthur Derounian.[23] In the introduction written by Derounian (whose birth name was Avedis Boghos Derounian), an anti-Dashnak journalist,[24] Kajaznuni is described as a "patriot" whose report was a "deep and incisive self-study" that is a "refutation" of the "grandiose, exaggerated and even outrageously false claims of the Dashnag leadership today".[25]

The Armenian original was reprinted twice in Yerevan in 1994 and 1995.[citation needed]

In 2007 Turkish historian Mehmet Perinçek produced new texts in Turkish and English claimed to be translations of Kajaznuni's 1923 report, based on a Russian copy (printed in Tbilisi in 1927) held in the Russian State Library in Moscow.[26] Perinçek said that the Russian State Library copy was unabridged and that translations for these copies were unavailable before. Callender's translation did abridge the main body of the book but translated Kajaznuni's introduction verbatim - this is the key section which contains the description of the holocaust.{{refn|Katchaznouni's description of the holocaust is given on pages 6 and 7 of Matthew A. Callender's translation.[27] A note on page 4 explains that Callender has translated most of Kajaznuni's remarks directly: "Except for abridgements, made for the sake of brevity by the translator and the editor, Katchaznouni's utterances appear verbatim."[28] On page 8, after the holocaust description, Callender indicates that he is switching from verbatim to selective translation: "Translator's Note: Up to this point the words of the author have been translated verbatim in order to give an idea of Mr. Katchaznouni's logical mind and the exposition of the facts that drove him to present his 'Manifesto' to his colleagues at the 1923 Convention. From here on, and solely for the sake of brevity, we shall quote excerpts of his arguments which led to his decision as to why the Dashnagtzoutiun, in his opinion, should 'decisively end its existence' because 'there is no work for the Party.'.[29]

Armenian scholar Viken L. Attarian claims Perinçek's "discovery" is actually a forgery made by partisan Turkish historians to deny the fact of the Armenian Genocide.[30] As evidence for his position, Attarian notes that these alleged translations into Turkish, English and German were published by Kaynak Yayınları in Istanbul as the first in a book series titled Ermeni Belgeleriyle Ermeni Soykırımı Yalanı (in English: The Lie of the 'Armenian Genocide' in Armenian Documents).

Attarian said: "The Turkish denialists are the ones who talk most about Katchaznouni and ... use texts and falsified translations that have nothing in common with the originals... Whatever the Turk denialists present about K is wrong and a lie... Katchaznouni never denied the Genocide and ... never betrayed his homeland.". In Matthew A. Callender's translation, made from the original Armenian text, Kajaznuni describes what happened to the Armenians as a "holocaust" (p. 7):

The second half of 1915 and the entire year of 1916 were periods of hopelessness, desperation and mourning for us. The refugees, all those who had survived the holocaust, were filling Russian provinces by tens and hundreds of thousands.[31]


  • Kachaznuni, Hovhannes (1923). H. H. Dashnaktsutiwne anelik chuni aylews. Vienna: Mkhitarean Tparan.
  • Katchaznouni, Hovhannes (August 1955). Carlson, John Roy (ed.). The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnagtzoutiun) Has Nothing to Do Anymore. Translated by A. Callender, Matthew. New York: Armenian Information Service. (Book cover), Full text online
  • Ovanes Kachaznuni. The Hundred and Ten Days in Europe. Baku, 1911 (new edition in Russian, Saint Petersburg, 2013)

See also