102 years ago on this day, on March 15, 1921, the Armenian avenger Soghomon Tehliryan executed Talaat, the main organizer and responsible for the Armenian Genocide. It happened in broad daylight in Berlin, on Hardenberg Street in the western part of the city. The execution of Talaat was one of the key episodes of the “Special Operation” (better known as “Operation Nemesis”), which became the beginning of the demand for the Armenian Genocide, and the person who brought it into being became a symbol of that struggle.
Who was Soghomon Tehliryan?
Tehliryan was born in the village of Bagarich, in Derjan province of the world of Great Hayk of Big Hayk. 85 people from the Tehliryan tribe were killed as a result of the genocide organized by the Ottoman Empire. However, Tehliryan himself was not in his native village at that time, and the information in later reprints of his trial materials that he allegedly saw the extermination of his family with his own eyes is not true. Tehliryan was involved in the liberation and anti-Turkish struggle even before “Nemesis”, both in the form of regular warfare and revenge. Thus, in March 1919, even before the approval of the “Nemesis” project, Tehliryan on his own initiative with the help of Yeranuhi Danielyan, an employee of the “Jakatamart” newspaper operating in Constantinople, executes the Armenian traitor Harutyun Mkrtchyan, who participated in the compilation of the list of Armenian intellectuals to be arrested on April 24. Later, this action of Tehliryan played a role within the framework of “Nemesis”, due to which he was entrusted with the execution of Talaat.
What was “Nemesis”?
“Nemesis”, under the primary name of “Special Operation”, was a secret operation approved during the 9th general meeting of the A.R.F. held in Yerevan in the fall of 1919, the purpose of which was to find and execute the organizers and perpetrators of the Armenian massacres. Many of them had already been sentenced to death by the Ottoman court, which, however, had not been carried out. Apart from the criminals on the “Special Operation” list, Jemal Pasha (under the leadership of the Georgian Central Committee of the A.R.F.), as well as Azerbaijani criminals and Armenian traitors, were also executed. All these operations are collectively known as “Nemesis”.
Who were the leaders?
The general coordinator of the operation was Armen Karo, the diplomatic representative of Armenia in the U.S.A. He dealt with organizational and ideological issues. Shahan Natali was the one who influenced the adoption of the decision with active propaganda during the general assembly. And, Aharon Sachaglyan, who remained unknown to the general public for a long time, took care of the logistical issues. Operation “Nemesis” is the joint child of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
How did the execution of Talaat took place?
Despite months of meticulous reconnaissance, on the day of the operation, Tehliryan still had a doubt whether the man walking in front of him was Talaat. It was the pre-Internet era, and Tehliryan had never seen Talaat’s face. This practical consideration was the reason why Tehliryan shouts “Talaat” one last time before shooting. Although the latter had changed his name to “Ali Saleh Bey” in order to disguise himself in Germany, however, he instinctively responds to his name by leaning towards the caller. That’s when Tehliryan shoots the criminal from the temple. The phrase “shot from the forehead” in the famous song is an artistic metaphor; fully convincing that the person facing him was Talaat. Tehliryan executes him in a half-turned position from the side.
And does the weapon which executed Talaat exist?
Unfortunately, no. After the trial, the weapon was returned to Tehliryan, but during the Second World War, the avenger threw it into the Danube River with his own hands to avoid searches. Instead, over the years, Tehliryan’s finger, with which he pulled the trigger, turned into an object of worship. After friendly gatherings and public events, people always came to kiss the finger that executed the greatest perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide.
Where is Soghomon Tehliryan buried?
The avenger is buried in the “Masis Ararat” Armenian cemetery in Fresno. Entrance to the cemetery is free, regardless of the time of day. The exact coordinates of the monument are: 36°44’44.0” 119°50’03.6″. William Saroyan and the parents of Monte Melkonyan are also buried in the same “Masis Ararat” cemetery.
Do we need Tehliryan again?
This claim is often heard in our public discourse, especially after the signing of the shameful capitulation at the end of the third Artsakh war. There are two definitional problems with this claim. What does “Tehliryan” mean, and what question does the idea of “Tehliryan” solve?
First, we must define that “Tehliryan” is not a person, it is a system, organizational structure, logistics, intelligence. Thus, the preliminary list of those to be executed was drawn up in December 1918 by A.R.F. member Manuk Hambardzumyan. In advance, a complex investigation was carried out. Thus, Hratch Papazyan, as a Turk with the pseudonym “Mehmet Ali”, penetrated the exiled circles of the Young Turks in Berlin, got close to the son of the former governor of Trabizon, Jemal Azmi. Hakob Zoryan was the first to discover Talaat, RA representative in Berlin, vice-consul Liparit Nazaryants was also involved in the intelligence work. The material and technical resources were also procured through party organizational channels. In short, this was a comprehensive special operation that at the time could be the envy of the secret services of many developed countries.
The second misunderstanding: What issue did Tehliryan and “Nemesis” solve? Of course, a very important question. But what kind of a question was that? It was revenge and retribution for a crime. A crime that meant political defeat for us, Armenians. Our efforts, the Armenians’, in terms of self-determination in the Western Armenian lands and the recreation of the Armenian statehood ended with a political defeat. “Nemesis” was at the same time revenge against those who caused that defeat, but also a record that during that time, the score of the political ground was against us. Therefore, talking about the “necessity of Tehliryan” nowadays means subconsciously accepting that the issues of Armenia’s independent existence from Turkey and Azerbaijan, the struggle for Artsakh and the Armenian Cause have been lost in a political sense, and all that remains is to take revenge from those who are victorious.
Like the Lausanne Pact, which, according to Alexander Khatisyan, “became one of the tragic stages of the Armenian cause, but never its end”, similarly the treasonous treaty of November 9, 2020 cannot be the end of Armenian national aspirations, struggle and the Armenian Cause…
PS: After all, Tehleryan or Tehliryan?
Tehliryan. The “Tehlerian” version is an accidental error that spread randomly, especially in Armenian textology.