The history of the National Congress of Western Armenians and its constitutive Third Congress of Western Armenians can be dated back to the first quarter of the 20th century when the First and Second Congresses of Western Armenians took place in Yerevan, Armenia in 1917 and 1919.

The tragedy of the Medz Yeghern claimed the lives of more than 1.5 million Armenians, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their country and leave behind the land that had been their motherland for millennia. Following the mass deportations, anti-Armenian policies, ethnic discrimination, forced Islamization, and deprivation of the civil rights, the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire and later the Republic of Turkey were expelled from Anatolia and Armenian Highlands (Eastern Anatolia) and were forced to live outside their country.

To overcome the dire consequences of Medz Yeghern, a number of patriotic organizations and volunteer associations strived to help Armenian survivors and refugees. The two Congresses of Western Armenians were formed to lead the nation-wide efforts to support refugees, provide aid to new settlements and organize repatriation of displaced people back to their homeland.

The First Congress of Western Armenians

Yerevan, May 2–11, 1917

Some 400 guests and dozens of delegates took part in the First Congress of Western Armenians, including from political parties, religious clerics, Russian, British, and American refugee aid organizations. The meeting was called to order by one of the leaders of the Armenian national movement, Andranik Ozanian.

The primary purpose for convening the First Congress of Western Armenians was to help accommodate numerous Armenian refugees in the aftermath of the extermination and decimation and to discuss the destiny of those left in Eastern Anatolia. The First Congress discussed the social and political situation following the February Revolution in Russia and sent a welcoming telegram to the new Russian democratic government. The Provisional Government of Russia, in turn, supported and encouraged the revival of the Armenian nation in Western Armenia and took a direct control over the territories of Western Armenia that had been liberated by the Russian army.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the Armenian organizations of the First Congress it was made possible to open a great number of elementary schools in Turkish Armenia and repatriate some 150,000 Armenians back to Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, and Trabzon.

The Second Congress of Western Armenians

Yerevan, February 6–13, 1919

The Second Congress of Western Armenians was convened after the counter-revolutionary takeover in Russia in October 1917, the beginning of the civil war, and the Russian military withdrawal from the Caucasian front.

Delegates from Armenian communities and refugee centers strived to determine the political goals of Western Armenians. The Second Congress discussed the question of forming a united Armenian state through unifying the Western Armenian territories with the Republic of Armenia in Transcaucasia. The Second Congress also discussed the problems of repatriation and ways to provide for the safety of settlements of Western Armenians in Turkish Armenia.

The Armenian National Congress

Paris, February 1919–July 1920

The Armenian National Congress unified the Armenian elites from around the world and gathered many eminent national, political, cultural and church leaders, including former ministers of the Ottoman Empire Gabriel Noradunkyan, Grigor Sinopyan, Persian ambassador Khan Maseyan, writers Lev Shant, Arshag Chobanian, Vahan Tekeyan, and others. The Congress was charged to organize a delegation to the Peace Conference and produce Armenian national claims.

The representatives of the Armenian Diaspora, led by a national leader Boghos Nubar, and the delegation of the Republic of Armenia, headed by Avetis Aharonian, formed the Armenian National Delegation that submitted territorial and material claims at the Peace Conference in Paris in February 1919. The Armenian delegation claimed seven Armenian provinces (vilayets) and Kilikiya along with a monetary compensation for casualties and expropriated property amount to 19 billion French Francs. The demands were mostly satisfied, and according to the Treaty of Sèvres, Armenia received four provinces (vilayets) of Turkish Armenia, including Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, Trabzon. Together with the First Republic of Armenia in the Transcaucasia, the independent and united Armenian state would have been in possession of more than 150 thousand square kilometers with the access to the Black Sea.

This historic event was much due to the active cooperation of the two parts of the Armenian world – the Armenian Diaspora and the Republic of Armenia. However, further, so called, Armenian-Armenian negotiations have failed. Two parties did not agree on forming a coalition government: Armenia refused to accept the involvement of representatives from the Armenian Diaspora in its government and thus withdrew itself from the potential support of the Armenian Diaspora in the Armenian state-building. However, the financial and military support of the diaspora could have helped Armenia to form a powerful army which could have provided the necessary means to protect the territories of Armenia, granted by the Treaty of Sevres. The Republic of Armenia, eventually, suffered a defeat from the Kemal-Bolshevik aggression, which resulted in the country being occupied, divided, and Sovietized.


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