Armenian capitalists and financiers in Baku's oil fields `Yet from your capital if Armenia has no profit, We spit on you and your capital too!' -- Rafael Batkanian Armenian News Network / Groong July 2, 2012 by Eddie Arnavoudian Rich in statistical data sifted from Tsarist and other records, Khatchadour Dadayan's `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' (pp232, 2006, Noravank Publications, Yerevan) is an illuminating socio-economic history of Armenian capital's contribution to the development of Baku's oil industry and to the early industrialisation of the region now known as Azerbaijan. Establishing the extent of Armenian industrial power, the volume enables a finer appreciation of the history of Armenian-Russian and Armenian-Azeri relations in the era of Russian colonisation of the Caucuses. With the spectre of Armenian economic power `constituting the spinal cord' of Russia's historic `anti-Armenian policy', Tsarist officials in the Caucuses ceaselessly sought to cut down to size the now more ominous threat of Armenian oil power, to force it, as Dadayan writes, into a `straitjacket'. Seriously troubling the Tsarist state, Armenian oil power also aggravated Armenian-Azeri antagonisms, when in an era of nationalism and nation-formation, a newly emerging Azeri industrial elite battled to depose Armenians from commanding positions in a region they considered theirs. The web of Armenian oil and related wealth in Baku marks out in addition some of those factors that shaped the Armenian commercial class's opposition to separate nation states in the Caucuses. In an independent Azerbaijan, Baku's Armenian oil magnates would be at the mercy of a state at the service of an ambitious Azeri bourgeoisie. In the context of tense Armenian-Azeri relations, Dadayan shows that to advance its Caucasian oil interests British imperialism consistently buttressed Azeri nationalists against the Armenians that it considered perhaps a more formidable opponent and one in alliance with its historic Russian enemy to boot. Thank heavens then that the substance of this book is not vitiated by its politics defined by a crass glorification of Baku's Armenian oil millionaires and a resort to Genocide Recognition and Compensation Politics with which it concludes. To these urgent issues we shall return, also in conclusion, as a first foray into the debate on the particularly unfortunate Diaspora form of Genocide Recognition and Compensation Politics. As one reads one should also remain critically alert to unreasoned outbursts of anti-Azeri chauvinism and empty patriotic bombast. (See Note 1), PART ONE: The History I. Armenian capitalists and Baku oil The history of oil in the Caucuses stretches back into antiquity, registered in ancient literature, in fiery local folklore and, by the by, in the work of 7th century Armenian mathematician and scientist Shirakatzi. But as raw material for fabulous profits and fuel for fierce political rivalries, oil comes into its own in the wake of the Russian conquest of the Caucuses during the early 1700s. Thereafter Armenian money played a major role in the exploitation of this `dark liquid gold' that propelled rapid capitalist development in Baku and beyond, especially during the second half of the 19th century. In 1850, following unsatisfactory attempts at direct Tsarist state exploitation, Baku oil was offered to private investors as a concession. Among the major takers were three Tbilisi-based Armenian merchants - Guguntchyan, Papanasyan and General Der-Ghugassyan - who together invested 110,000 roubles. In the following decade a new player, Hovanness Mirzoyan, entered the fray with a capital of 298,000 roubles. In 1872, hoping for quick money and more rapid and long-term investment the Tsarist State auctioned off 68 oil plots earning some 2.98m roubles. Among the big bidders were 11 Armenians brandishing wallets stuffed with 2,679,000 million roubles. Twelve Russian consortiums together mustered a smaller sum of 1.333 million. Mirzoyan who went on to become one of the biggest of players was prince with an individual investment of 1.2m roubles. Armenian oil capital played a leading role right up to World War One and the Bolshevik Revolution. 1889 figures point to the huge gap that divided Armenian and Azeri capital. Of the 59 oil firms valued at approximately 192m roubles, 34 were Armenians with assets approaching 94m. Azeri capitalists owned only 3 valued at 14.5m, with one person, Taghiev possessing a 13.9m share. Armenian prominence survived the 1902-1913 so-called `crisis years'. In 1902, of the top 24 oil enterprises 13 were Armenian-owned with 203m roubles of assets from a total of 521m invested not just by Armenian and Russian capital but by European and British firms too. Despite a decline, by 1915 Armenians still held some 190m of a total of 571m roubles of oil wealth in the city. Oil inevitably spawned a web of auxiliary business that together set foundations for Baku's sturdy industrialisation. Here too Armenians led the way. Of 41 firms producing oil-related products 19 were in Armenian hands. Fourteen of 66 shipping firms, three of nine electricity suppliers, 95 of 194 engineering workshops and all three water stations were owned by Armenians. In 1911 Baku, 43 of 88 manufacturing establishments were Armenian. Armenians were also prominent in the food, tobacco, spirits and retailing businesses that catered for a growing city. As it scoured for profit Armenian capital, in joint ventures with British and Russian firms, also went global with Mantashyants for example opening offices in London, Marseille, Bombay, Smyrna, Salonika, Istanbul, Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said and Damiet. There was no gainsaying it, `Armenian oil... in (Baku) occupied a dominant position and had a decisive say' in the region's economy. But it was a fragile dominance that could not endure. Despite its stupendous wealth, the Armenian capitalist class and the Armenian community it had built in Baku had no firm foundation. It had no state that would consistently protect its interests against Russian capital and the Azeri elites. Beholden to a fundamentally hostile Tsarist state, it was also encircled by a majority of non-Armenians being whipped into anti-Armenian frenzy by an Azeri elite leadership preparing the first opportunity to leap for the proverbial Armenian oil jugular. Opportunity came in the wake of the 1914-1918 World War, the collapse of the Russian Empire and the Russian Revolution. II. Between the Tsarist hammer... Historically the Russian State had always been willing to field Armenian trading and manufacturing entrepreneurs as advance guards to smooth its own pathways into the Caucuses and further afield. But harbouring understandable fears that Armenian economic advance would acquire independent national features capable of challenging Tsarist authority, it was always carefully ruthless to stifle even the slightest manifestation of any independent Armenian economic, national or political development. Having eradicated surviving ancient Armenian principalities after its 1827 conquest of Armenian Garabagh, Tsarism rested easy in the belief that it had removed the core of any potential Armenian flight to independence. However, as Armenians took up forward positions in Baku's oil fields their unprecedented wealth triggered substantial social advance and so significantly enhanced the status of the Armenian communities in the Caucuses. A possible transformation in Armeno-Russian relationships was heralded. An extract from an 1883 report on behalf of an ambitious Russian capitalist acutely encapsulates Russian anxieties: `The entire economy of the region, rich in natural resources...is exploited by Armenians...and one can hardly hope that they will suitably serve Russian national interests.' (p78) Another contemporary observers notes that Armenian `trade and production' was developing `to the detriment of Russia' (p84), while yet another expresses satisfaction that at least Russian Governor Golytsin `understood that in the Caucuses Russia has its most unrelenting enemy in the Armenians' (p87). Unearthing the history of growing mountains of Armenian owned oil barrels Dadayan himself concludes that, Armenians who: `...in the early period were even encouraged to contribute to the consolidation of Russian rule had now become independent and appeared as a direct obstacle to Russian national interests and to the advance of Russian capital.' (p78) The Russian response was to `impose a straitjacket' on the Armenians and steadily tighten it and so restrain not just Armenian capital but paralyse and suffocate any coherent flourish of Armenian political, cultural, educational or social institutions across the Caucuses. Knitted into a single fabric and sustained on sturdy economic pillars of oil wealth these could become powerful contestants to Russian authority throughout the Caucuses. That the healthy blooming of such a national social fabric could indeed represent a serious threat to imperial control and domination is significantly, albeit indirectly, underlined on the other side of the Russian colonial border, in Ottoman occupied Armenia. In a series of 1918 articles Leo responding to one of the earliest Turkish attempts to falsify the truth about the 1915 Genocide shreds the credibility of a lavishly produced Turkish government tome that shifted responsibility for the Armenian tragedy on to Armenian revolutionaries. As he demolishes the construction of lies and deceptions Leo notes the serious Ottoman consternation at the flourish, not just of Armenian revolutionary organisations but of the wide network of schools, welfare, charity, Church and other social organisations. These were all regarded as dangerous building blocks with which Armenians would cohere as a powerful entity to undermine an already decaying Ottoman Empire. So the systematic repression, imprisonment, exile, closure of schools, social and welfare organisations, censorship and collaboration with the Ottoman State to crush the emerging armed wing of the Armenian national liberation movement. So intense and ruthless was Tsarist repression that Rouben Ter-Minassyan in his `Memoirs of an Armenian Revolutionary' (Note 2) records a popular saying that while `the Turk struck his axe at the Armenian branch' the `Russian struck it at the root.' (p48) There is no shortage of material registering the history of Imperial Russia's systemic anti-Armenian strategies and policies. For a slightly more detailed summary see `Russia's Armenian Problem- A Historical Overview', 5 December 2011 at Groong's The Critical Corner: tcc-20111205.html). Interested readers can however more profitably turn to Leo's `From the Past', John Kirakossian's fine two-volume study of imperialist diplomatic treachery against the Armenian national movement as well as to Rouben's `Memoir'. III. ...and the Azeri anvil Fatally for the multinational Caucuses, the Russian Imperial State did not hesitate to put a match to a tinderbox of latent inter-national rivalries now accentuated by the rapid development of economic and political nationalism. Whenever it deemed it necessary to deliver blows to local nationalist movements, Tsarist colonial governors stoked clashes between national groups. In the business of taming the Armenians, in Baku and the region, Russian authority had a willing instrument in a resentful and ambitious Azeri elite and its growing commercial-industrial wing eager to climb and sit atop the greasy pole. A swathe of economic statistics proclaiming Armenian primacy supplied the Azeri nationalist movement with ideological petrol to fire flames of anti-Armenian hatreds. From 1850 to 1918, decades of pronounced separate nationalist development throughout Asia Minor and the Caucuses, Armenians always constituted only a minority of Baku's total population, rarely exceeding 25%. Nevertheless in all economic spheres they dominated disproportionately constituting also the city's `well-to-do class' (p59). In 1905, for example, when but 18.8% of the population, Armenian businessmen owned 43% of the value of all fixed assets. Azeris on the other hand held only 34% with the difference distributed among Russians and others. (p57). Azeri hostilities to the Armenian presence in Baku were further cemented by the substantial positions Armenians occupied in the administrative machinery of Tsarist colonial domination, second only to Russian officials themselves. (p62) That Azeri's also played their role in the organisation of Tsarist control did not stop them from proclaiming Armenians as agents of Russian imperialism! Armenians could be additionally targeted as servants of foreign imperial power for frequently acting as diplomatic representatives for other European states, in1908 for instance, for the Belgian and Italian missions in Baku (p63). Thus Armenians were cast as foreign intruders; a minority that protected by and in alliance with Tsarist colonial oppressors had seized what rightly belonged to the Azeri people. Thus Armenians were deemed legitimate targets to be crushed and removed by any means necessary. Armenian privilege could not withstand the assault. The 1905 Tsarist facilitated anti-Armenian pogroms provided the Azeri elite with a first practice run (see Note 3) for their decisive post-Tsarist era offensive. Armenian capital had survived enjoying, albeit qualified and `straitjacketed', Russian protection. But with the arrival of independent Caucasian states in Baku and Tbilisi it had no barricade behind which to take shelter. Azeri nationalism launched its decisive attack in September 1918, an attack that was facilitated, significantly, by the disintegration of the Baku Commune. On 15 September 1918 Azeri nationalist forces arrived at the city gates but halted there for three days to allow an orchestrated mob assault on the city's Armenian community. Organised gangs were unleashed on all Armenians, rich and poor alike, even on thousands of Armenians who had earlier in the year, according to Azeri oil millionaire Taghiev himself, given shelter to 25,000 Azeris fleeing Bolshevik forces. The horrifying catalogue of murder, pillage, rape, robbery, arson and destruction that continued for two months thereafter need not be rehearsed to be imagined (for details see Chapter V). A thriving community was devastated, its homes, social centres, schools, Churches, shops, trading centres and factories ransacked and put to flame. Armenians treated as enemy forces were left without rights, imprisoned and enslaved. `With the Law of 8 October 1918 the Armenian working class, industrial and officer workers were turned out onto the streets...while on the other hand...the Armenian commercial class was robbed of all its property...'(p149) In the space of two months the Armenian population of Baku was decimated. 12,000 had been slaughtered and same number dead from disease and hunger with a further 30,000 forced to flee. A vibrant community that had done so much to develop the city of Baku, that was to become the capital of Azerbaijan, was destroyed. If 1905 was the first round of clearing Armenians out of Baku and 1918 the second, the third and final round followed in the wake of the disintegration and collapse of the Soviet Union. PART TWO: The Politics I. Armenian capital and the Armenian nation The Noravank Foundation is more than simply a publishing enterprise. It is a think tank devoted to issues of Armenian national and state security across economic, political, military cultural and demographic boundaries. `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' is not therefore just an academic history with no contemporary preoccupation. It has a sub-text, an unfortunate one it must be said, clear in the compound of unflagging enthusiasm for Baku's Armenian oil millionaires, demands for the imperialist recognition of the genocide and calls for Turkish and Azeri material compensation that loudly conclude the volume. Dadayan resurrects Baku as a `model' Armenian community (p65), united around an `Armenian oil business' that was `national' `in the true meaning of the word' (p35) and `fired' `by a sense of responsibility for the nation'. Repeatedly bathed in the brightest of all possible lights, one could reasonably assume that this reconstructed image of the wealthy capitalist stratum of Armenian Baku performs as a sort of role model for a contemporary Armenian capitalism that invigorated by compensation for Armenian oil wealth confiscated in 1918-1920, could act as a vanguard for national regeneration. Many of Baku's Armenian millionaires were of course hugely philanthropic (Note 4). But this magnanimity did not and could not make them `national' capitalists in the only meaningful sense of this term. National capital is productive business born from, rooted in and sustained upon the homeland. It is economic production in a defined territory producing an economic landscape upon which a nation state and society can prosper. This is certainly not the role played by Diaspora capital of which Baku's Armenian capital was a component. Indeed, Dadayan's carefully assembled data reinforces the positions established in Armenian political thought by Mikael Nalpantyan: 'Only when a nation cultivates its own soil (i.e. develops its own economy in the homeland), can one speak of trade (and economy) that is genuinely Armenian and national.' In `Agriculture and the True Way' Nalpantian in effect describes Baku's Armenian millionaires and that to precision. They `may have (and did indeed - EA) help enrich hundreds' and `hundreds more may have (and did indeed - EA) receive a European education'. But `the state of the Armenian nation as a whole' `remained paralysed and static', for despite undoubted philanthropic generosity, Baku's wealthy Armenians showed little or no interest in the economic development of Armenia proper or in projects of Armenian statehood. While Baku (and Tbilisi) thrived, thanks in significant part to Armenian investors, Yerevan and the eastern Armenian heartlands remained to a large extent a backwater. Such Diaspora capital, removed from the homeland, is, again in Nalpanatian's words: '... not national in anyway whatsoever and has absolutely no relation to the national interest ...(Diaspora) Armenian merchants (are) servants of Europe... This attitude formed fact an important feature of the ideology of the Armenian National Liberation Movement, underlined in Rouben's `Memoirs' in which he condemns the Armenian capitalists of Baku and Russia as Tsarist agents. Despite `their Armenian origins' they were `advance guards' for Russian interests. At a point in his own exposition Dadayan is at one with both Nalpantian and Rouben. Baku's `Armenian nationals' he writes, being `subjects of the Tsarist state' served the `formation of and became integral components of Russian national capital (p188).' Unfortunately this observation is left to sink in the morass of an over-buttered eulogy to Baku's Armenian elite. Armenian capitalists in the Diaspora like the capitalists of any nationality are driven by the desire for profit. In the Caucuses these were to be made not within but outside Armenian borders. The entire network of Baku's `Armenian oil', its production and distribution, its supporting industrial enterprises and its web of financial flows were rooted outside the core homeland. Like capitalists the world over Armenian capital's thirst for profit drove it in the direction of the greatest gains. And Baku (and Tbilisi) was decidedly more profitable than the urgent national business of modernising agriculture or introducing manufacturing into Armenia's Yerevan regions, as first steps to industrialisation and the development of a modern economy. Indifferent to the national economy, Diaspora capital showed as little enthusiasm for the Armenian National Liberation Movement. Rouben notes that funds collected from the poor population of Kars, for Armenian guerrillas organising to defend the common people in homeland, `put to shame contributions from Baku that was a world of millionaires' (Memoirs...' Vol 1, p52-53). Diaspora capital preferred to spend only where its investments lay. While Baku's millionaires were reluctant to fund the liberation struggle in the homeland, Hovig Grigorian reminds us that in Baku for the direct `defence of its own life and wealth' they opened their wallets `quite naturally' (`Problems of Arming and Financing the Armenian Liberation Struggle'). With its foundations outside Armenia it is not at all surprising that in the wake WW1, the collapse of the Tsarist Empire and the breakup of the Caucuses, Armenian capital considered Armenian national independence a last resort. Its geographic dispersal and remoteness from Armenia proper dictated the ideal of a Swiss-style federation of nations within the ambit of a single state that would protect their capital in Baku and the region. This ideal collapsed before the confluence of systematic Tsarist obstruction of Armenian national development and the growing and confident ambitions of the Azeri and Georgian nationalist bourgeoisie. Clarifying the concept of national capital and the role of Diaspora business in nation building is no exercise in idle definition. The notion that Diaspora capital can function as a `national' force with `responsibility' for the nation' is a diverting and dangerous illusion upon which to premise strategy. Whatever the scope, scale and generosity of Diaspora Armenian capital, it cannot function as a driving force for Armenian national regeneration. In view of the realities of contemporary Armenia, private capital, of which Diaspora capital is but a form, cannot initiate a consistent drive for recovery and regeneration. It cannot replace or substitute for a concerted and determined role of a democratic Armenian state in generating foundations of a genuine, self-sustaining productive economy that would serve the people of Armenia. Armenia simply is not an attractive investment for capital in quantities sufficient to generate a self-propelled economy. Since the Genocide, the Armenian state has been squeezed into borders that have limited natural resources, little natural power, difficult access to trade routes and no access to the sea. Encircled in addition by hostile and vastly wealthier powers bent on removing it, Armenia is from the point of view of capitalist profit almost totally arid. Its population is reduced to being a passive market for foreign manufacturers and producers of food and household goods. As with other nations in similar conditions, the role of the state thus acquires critical importance. Can the Armenian State measure up to the challenge? Is the elite that today controls this state capable of undertaking the task of an Armenian national revival in circumstances where private capital cannot? A think tank dedicated to Armenian national security should address such questions instead of dispatching them into obscurity by generating illusions about the potential role of Diaspora capital. In the future of Armenia Diaspora capital can have a role, and indeed a substantial one. But this can be only secondary to systematic and concentrated efforts of a democratic Armenian state to rebuild the nation. Yet, unfortunately even among some of the best of contemporary political analysts its role is magnified to distortion, a magnification reinforced by the fact that some Diaspora capital has reached Armenia. II. The troubles of compensation politics Besides disposing of illusions about the role of Diaspora capital, debate on the future of the Armenian state and nation must in addition avoid the marsh of Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation Politics. Inspiring hopes for some sort of national renaissance to flow from possible territorial and financial reparations obtained as a result of the imperialist recognition of the Armenian genocide is the cheapest and easiest route to avoid serious engagement with the actual roots of contemporary Armenian decline. This however is the path opted for by Dadayan. There is a place for genocide recognition by the Turkish state and for negotiations about reparations. But such can take place with mutual benefit only between Armenian, Azerbaijani and Turkish democratic movements. It can take place only when we have put our own house in order. Only when the Armenian State is in a position strong enough to negotiate independently and directly with neighbouring states, will moves for genocide recognition contribute to the future of all the people of the region. Relying upon any settlement driven by an Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation is a disaster. It bends us into postures of impotent, passive, helpless victims bleating for justice from an alliance of muggers and thieves themselves rapidly losing ground in global and regional politics, while Turkey on the other hand flexes dormant Ottoman imperial muscles. Unfortunately `The Armenians and Baku - 1850 to 1920' does not go beyond this paralysing template. Arguing correctly that the 1918 slaughter in Baku and the expropriation of Armenian wealth was a component and extension of the 1915 Genocide, in part prompted by the Young Turks' strategic pan-Turkish designs, Dadayan scrutinises historical documents and financial audits and records, some prepared by British imperial authorities, to arrive at a figure that he thinks fits an adequate compensation bill. Having `declared itself the inheritor of the 1918 Azeri Republic' the current Azeri government he insists must in consequence `accept responsibility' for this bill. `I am not so innocent (however) as to think that even in the future Azerbaijan will acknowledge the genocide.... But, if it is of no purpose to speak...about moral values...it (Azeri authority) is still obliged to offer financial reparation.' The notion of the Azeri elite, today arming itself for final war against Armenia, fulfilling such an obligation is laughable! Though one must admit that it would perhaps be easier to extract compensation from the Azeri State than to recover wealth Armenian elites have robbed from their people. With an Armenian State crippled by an elite happier plundering its own people, who is to force compensation? In line with the dominant trend of Armenian political thought we are offered the usual candidates - European and US imperial powers and this despite the fact that with interests rooted in Turkey and Azerbaijan they historically have without exception been and remain today decidedly anti-Armenian. The current form of the Diaspora Genocide Recognition Campaign knits itself into the web of mainstream imperial politics and in doing so serves in the very first instance the electoral interests of selected imperial parties rather than those of the Armenian people and nation. Whilst the activists quite clearly are dedicated primarily to the aim of Genocide recognition, working to secure some form of historical justice for Armenians, the PRACTICAL result of their work has not been Genocide Recognition. It has been the supply of Armenian support or delivery of Armenian votes to chosen political parties. Where recognition has been secured it has made no fundamental improvement to the fortunes of the Armenian people or to the relationship of forces between the Turkish state and the Armenian people. Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation Politics turns Armenians into globe-trotting beggars seeking acknowledgement and assistance from states for whom Armenians matters only when their votes may be needed to tip electoral balances among contending forces during their domestic clashes. Prior to some imperial state election Armenian campaigners in return for delivering Armenian votes, secure hints of a hint to recognise the Genocide that after the elections are hurled aside. The charade is repeated endlessly. Who benefits? The Armenian people gain nothing from this labour of Sisyphus. The only beneficiaries are political parties within imperialist states chosen by Armenian lobbyists as targets. In return for meaningless never to be completed gestures of Genocide Recognition Armenians offer them a free electoral machine that heartlessly exploits the enduring memories and the enduring pains of the Armenian tragedy. How many times are Armenians prepared to be `betrayed', `disappointed', `cheated', `deceived' and `swindled'...! Oh the tragedy and the banality of it all. If Armenian communities in the Diaspora carry any political clout then this could perhaps be better deployed in a campaign aiming to secure international recognition of the Armenian Republic of Garabagh on the basis of the democratic right of nations to self-determination. Whilst on genocide recognition mainstream imperial politicians can fudge and mealy mouth, on the issue of recognition Garabagh there can be only a yes or a no. Such recognition could serve significantly to stay the hand of Azeri and Turkish aggression not just against the Republic of Garabagh but the Republic of Armenia too. There is an essential qualification that does need to be made about the Genocide Recognition Campaign even as it exists now. Often incorporated into the Imperialist Genocide Recognition and Compensation Campaign is valuable material that is part of an urgently necessary polemic against a strategically planned, organised and financed Turkish falsification of Armenian history. This engine of state sponsored and financed falsification is in part preparation of domestic Turkish and international opinion for further systematic and deadly assaults on the rights of Armenian nationhood and statehood. An Armenian riposte is particularly urgent in view of the systematic destruction of the remnants of Armenian civilisation within Turkey's current borders and the flagrant Turkish disregard of the democratic rights of the different nations, Armenians among them that constitute the current Turkish republic. Here Dadayan's volume is invaluable material for refutation. * * * * * * Jacqueline Rose, author of 'The Question of Zion' recently noted that: `...victimhood is something that happens, but when you turn it into an identity you're psychically and politically finished.' For Armenians this cuts to the bone. Rose was not writing about Armenians but what she says fits a swathe of modern Armenian 'intellectuals' like a bespoke suit. Imperialist Genocide Recogition and Compensation Politics is but an expression of `victimhood as identity'. It breeds a disgusting dependency on the more powerful, a reliance on others, a complete abdicatiton of any sense of dignity, of any self sustaining will. It leads to a pleading and begging of others for a solution to your problems. The definition of Armenian identity as Genocide victims awaiting justice in foreign courts casts Armenians in a horribly helpless posture with hands outstretched to imperialist passers begging for compensation. We are reduced to pleading for justice for historical wrongs from thieves gathered drinking champagne around the luxury pools of Azeri oil. Preoccupied with Genocide Recognition and the calls for compensation that flow from this, all expected to be kindly donated to Armenians, the bandits riding their 4x4 chariots roughshod over the lives and the future of the Armenian common people get away with murder, the murder of a nation included. The axis of Armenian politics must change. So must the axis of international discussion about Armenia and Armenians. Dadayan's fine volume of history does not however contribute to a process of change. NOTES 1) In a puerile claim of intrinsic business skills that apparently mark them out from their neighbours, Dadayan writes that Armenians are particularly suited to capitalism. They have he claims `preserved traditions of 23 centuries of commercial economic activity (p10) and `these thousands of years' have embedded in `us the genes of economic excellence... (p58)'. One dares say that the same can be asserted by Venetians, Arabs, Englishmen, Indians and indeed by all other nations among whom trade is a part of economic life! 2) Rouben's `Memoirs' require careful reading. They are of indubitable historical value, perhaps unprecedented in the richness of recollection of Armenian revolutionary life communicated sometimes in fine artistic form. Rouben however remained a stalwart ARF activist with his vision framed by the characteristics of that organisation, positive and negative. One has therefore to beware and sift the wheat from the chaff. 3) Dadayan offers some rather puzzling figures on comparative Armenian and Azeri casualties during the 1905-1907 anti-Armenian pogroms, figures that put Azeri deaths higher than those of their Armenian antagonists. In Baku he claims 400 Armenian and 300 Azeri deaths, whilst throughout the rural regions Azeri deaths are put at 1300 compared to 1100 Armenian. (p94) Concluding his paragraph Dadayan adds `that, however given Armenians were better off, their material losses were incomparably greater, 43million roubles worth.' 4) Armenian benefactors to Baku's community life did not however treat their own Armenian workers with the same generosity. Even as they offered up charitable money they were ruthless in the exploitation of Armenian labour. The novelist Shirvanzade was shocked by the poverty and social exploitation that he witnessed on moving to Baku in 1875 and in a string of articles exposed the horrific daily life of labourers in the then burgeoning oil fields of Baku. -- Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.
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