Armenian Congresses

The Paris Congress Of 1979

The "First International Congress of Armenian Groups" was held in Paris on 3-6 September 1979. ASALA was very strongly represented at this congress and played a very influential role. The congress exerted a very considerable influence on the progressive Armenian groups in France, particularly in persuading them to become involved in terrorist activity. The main aim of this congress was to gather the Armenians of the world around a single idea and a single flag, and to make territorial demands on the basis of a careful evaluation of the political environment.

The most important proposals put forward at this congress were the following:

a. An end should be put to party and sectarian squabbles and a "Central Committee" established.

b. Measures should be taken to prevent the assimilation of Armenians in the Diaspora.

c. Military theoreticians and tacticians should be employed in their operations.

The decisions taken were as follows:

a. Extra impetus should be given to the Pan-Armenian movement. In the diaspora the concept of Armenianism should be politicised and importance given to the organization of an international "Armenian Front".

b. An investigation should be made into the possibility of help for the Armenian cause by Armenians living in the USSR and measures should be taken to facilitate such assistance.

c. Territorial claims should be made directly to Turkey.

d. The Armenian Church should be given a national character.

e. Work should be begun on the foundation of an Armenin bank.

f. Central Bureaus should be established and publication and communication facilities developed.

The Paris Congress resulted in an increase in violence and terror. ASALA was strengthened by the introduction of fresh blood. Military training was increased in a number of centres.

The Lausanne Congress Of 1983

The Lausanne Congress had been preceded by a number of very important developments. Terrorist activities had attained very serious dimensions, and world public opinion was becoming aroused in condemnation of Armenian terrorism. Some of these terrorist activities, which were now taking the form of massacres, were beginning to constitute a matter of deep concern and anxiety, not only for impartial observers but even for friends and allies of the Armenians and, above all, for the Armenians themselves. The Lausanne Congress met against this background with the aim of uniting Armenian political views and of directing all action towards a common goal. ASALA did not participate in this congress and those in favour of violence found themselves in a minority. The Congress ended with splits and factions appearing in both ASALA and the Dashnak groups and with vain attempts by the terrorist teams and groups to form new organizations. Most of them were expelled from the organization, arrested and condemned.

The following were the most important of the proposals put forward and the topics discussed:

a. A constitutional council should be established to decide upon basic politics, to determine and formulate views with regard to territorial claims, and to establish such claims on a sound basis.

b. A national liberation movement should be established on the basis of nationalism and democracy.

c. These congresses should be similar to the International Jewish Congresses and display a strongly democratic, parliamentarian character.

The following decisions were taken:

a. Measures should be taken to ensure that the congresses should possess a democratic, parliamentarian character, and that a "Constitution" should be drawn up.

b. The Constitution should be drawn up by a constitutional council, which should also be responsible for the preparation of a text presenting a synthesis of the various political views held.

c. The work of the council should be published and distributed to the international public.

This congress ended in disagreement and great confusion. The moderates proved dominant but were unable to achieve any notable proved dominant but were unable to achieve any notable results. The conflict continued after the close of the congress, and the factions and splits referred to above began to make their appearance.

The Sevres Congress Of 1986

This congress met at Sévres on 7-13 July 1985 under the title "The Third International Congress of Armenian Groups". Its aim was the discussion and acceptance of the "Armenian Constitution". This was to lead to work on the establishment of a "Union" representing Armenians throughout the world.

The Armenian terrorist groups did not participate in this congress. The question of Dashnak representation gave rise to protracted disputes. ASALA was not represented at this congress and was exposed to violent criticism.

The following proposals were put forward:

a. The slogan "One Armenianism, one goal, one struggle and one voice" was proposed and accepted.

b. It was proposed that the Congress of Sevres was to be accepted as valid and the Congress of Lausanne as invalid.

c. The proposal that no support should be given to ASALA was accepted.

d. It was proposed and accepted that the struggle against Turkey should be continued.

e. It was proposed and accepted that support should be given to the struggle being conducted by Greece and the Greek Cypriots against Turkish expansionist policy.

f. It was proposed that the Congress should bear a character similar to that of the "Palestine National Congress in Exile", and this was accepted on the basis of observation of the required developments.

The congress decisions are as fallow:

a. The Congress accepted the text of an "Armenian Constitution".

b. The Congress accepted the application of a many-sided strategy for the achievement of their aims.

aa. It was decided that collaboration should be established between progressive and revolutionary movements in Turkey and the Armenian nationalist movement, as well as between the Armenians and the various other peoples engaged in the struggle against Turkish oppression and exploitation, and that recognition should be given to the inevitably close links between the struggle of the Armenian people and that of other oppressed peoples.

bb. The International Armenian Congress decided that although it was in no way connected with any state or power, it would accept aid and assistance from any country that respected and supported the Armenian cause.

c. It was decided to send a note to the United Nations, the USA, the USSR, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, the Council of Europe, the unaligned states and all signatories of the Lausanne Agreement bringing to their attention the fact that the Armenians were the only people who had failed to profit from the abolition of colonialism.

d. The Congress, convinced that Turkey should be compelled to admit its involvement in the genocide of 1915 and that such an admission would open the way to the liberation of Armenian territory, decided to disseminate information on this question and to have recourse to the necessary quarters.

The USSR was praised for its recognition of the genocide of 1915 and for the publication of an article on this subject in Pravda in April 1985, while at the same time criticism was levelled at the American administration for having failed to ensure the passage through the US Congress of a genocide bill.

The Armenian Constitution

In his speech introducing the Armenian Constitution, accepted by "Third International Armenian Congress", Mr. James Karnuzian declared that "the Armenians had been greatly handicapped by their lack of unity" and that the only means of removing this handicap and ensuring unity was to form "a unified group". He went on to say that the text known as the "Constitution" comprised all the various views consonant with this aim.

Impartial observers announced that, in the event of this Constitutions being put into effect, "all groups and organizations engaged in the struggle for the victory of the Armenian cause would be gathered together under the aegis of the Armenian Congress".

The main aims of the Armenian Congress as reflected in the Armenian Constitution were as follows:

a. To unite the Armenians scattered throughout the world into a single body.

b. To disseminate information throughout the world concerning the work of the Congress.

c. To make use of all political and diplomatic means at their disposal to liberate Armenian territory now under Turkish occupation.

d. To organize the return of the Armenians to their homeland and to make the necessary preparations for this.

In order to realize these aims, the Congress would seek ways of ensuring the participation of other groups, without, however, sacrificing anything of their independence and autonomy. Every group of ethnic Armenians composed of over twenty members should have the right to representation in the Congress in accordance with democratic principles, thus accepting the principle of a wide popular base.

According to the Constitution the work of the Congress centre should be based in Switzerland.

Traditional bodies such as the "Armenian National Council" should be divided into organizations such as the "General Council" and "Executive Council".

Aims Of Armenian Congresses

Throughout the period covered by the "Armenian Question" or "Armenian Problem" the Armenian terror groups have been given indirect encouragement by certain churches and states, while at the same time a number of Armenian congresses have been held at their request and invitation. Most of these congresses have been organized by the Dashnak or Hunchak terror groups and attended by their own members, together with other Armenians interested in the topic and representatives of the churches. Such congresses have normally been in the nature of forums at which topics such as the actual situation and conditions together with the activities and potential capabilities of the organization were discussed, and at which a number of decisions were taken. These decisions were, however, very rarely actually applied and most often served merely to foment faction and conflict.

In the period 1973-1985, during the New Armenian Terror, congresses under such titles as "The International Armenian Groups" were held in Paris in 1979, Lausanne in 1983 and Sevres in 1985. At these congresses attempts were made to address world public opinion, as well as the various Armenian communities and members of the Armenian terror groups. At the congress held in 1985 under the chairmanship of a priest, James Karauzian, the text of an "Armenian Constitution" was accepted.

The declared aims of the congresses held during this period were "to foster unity and co-operation among Armenians", "to form a centre for the formulation of political demands and aspirations", and "to combine the various Armenian terror groups in a single organization". Priority was given to a massive propaganda and psychological campaign to inform international public opinion of their activities. Attempts were also made to interest Armenians in the work of the various groups and to involve them in terror or other operations. Another aim of these congresses was to ensure harmony and co-operation between the various separate Armenian terror groups. Thus all terror and other activities could be presented as the common policy of the international Armenian community, and the various elements brought together in a united front.

These congresses had a number of characteristics in common:

a) In all of them priority was given to discussions concerning armed struggle. Disagreements between those who supported armed struggle and those who opposed this strategy finally led to splits in the Armenian terror groups. ASALA refused, or was not allowed, to participate in any of the congresses held after the Paris Congress of 1979.

b) It was decided that the texts of all decisions taken at these congresses should be forwarded to the various international bodies and that these decisions should be considered and discussed at various levels in the international forums. Means were also discussed by which this decision could be put into effect.

c) One of the most important topics of discussion was the union of all Armenians in a single organization, but no agreement could ever be reached on how this aim was to be achieved. The text known as the "Constitution" accepted the idea of a preparatory period.

d) The number of participants at these congresses steadily diminished.

e) No effective measures were taken to remove the differences of opinion that were very clearly revealed at these congresses.