The Hinchak (Sound of the Bell) Committee was established in Switzerland in 1886 by Avedis Nazarbelg and his wife Maro, Caucasian Armenians of Russian citizenship, and a group of Caucasian students. They also started the publication of a newspaper titled Hinchak to propagate the ideas of the Committee, of which the leaders and members were Armenians from Russia. It selected the Eastern Anatolia as its field of operation and, after a while, its headquarters was moved from Switzerland to London.
The Hinchak Commitee's programme was socialist, Marxist and Centralist It adopted the principles of Karl Marx. Though it qualified itself as social democrat, its political programme is reminiscent of the communist manifesto. The Committee opened in 1890 a branch office in Istanbul with subdivisions at various provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The main political goal of the Committee was to save the Armenians in Turkey from the Turks, those in Iran from the Iranians, the Russian Armenians from Russia and to do away with all the capitalists in these countries.
The working and producing classes constitute the great majority of the humanity. The emancipation of these classes from the exploitation of a rich and sovereign minority will be achieved through the seizure of all production factors, soil, factories, mines and transports. The independence of the producing classes means the salvation of the entire humanity and a general and economic welfare.
The achievement of this goal and its physical implementation require the organisation as dictated by its own desiderata of working classes in all civilised countries and the accomplishment of the communist revolution everywhere using the general political capabilities at their disposal. Thus will be eliminated all other social classes and the producer classes will create a socialist order. In this new structuring, the people will make their own laws and display its might.
The Armenians today are under the subjugation of the classes run by monarchic rulers. Their administrative, fiscal and tax systems are self-destructing for themselves. Around these monarchies, all ancient economic and administrative structures wither away while the capitalist management systems are used in the production.
The introduction of a socialist order embracing the Armenian social democrats and all Armenians at large is admitted to be a distant goal under the prevailing conditions and, therefore, all tendencies and toils require a nearer target. It is this nearer target that created the Armenian Revolutionary Hinchak Party, which aims at the following:
a) To foment the revolution.
b) To annihilate the sovereign classes of the absolutist administrations.
c) To save the Armenians from slavery.
d) To strengthen the Armenians for entering into the political realm.
e) To eliminate the hurdles preventing the economic and cultural advancement of the Armenians.
f) To prepare an environment where the working classes will be able to freely express their opinions.
g) To improve the unbearable working conditions.
h) To provide the workers with knowledge on their own class for enabling them to organise into a special political entity of their own.
i) To facilitate the work by the people to attain the distant goals.
In line with these goals, the nearer targets of the Hinchak Committee are to destroy the monarchic administrations and to replace them by democratic and oligarchic regimes, for which the following conditions were set:
a) A constituent assembly should be elected, for a true popular representation, by direct votes of all citizens. This assembly should have the power of examining all political, economic and other issues and legislation of the country in question and resolving on them.
b) Provinces should be given a large autonomy.
c) Full independence should be provided for the people.
d) The people should be able to elect the government, security, justice and education officials in public service.
e) Every citizen, irrespective of nationality, should have the right to be elected to provincial and autonomous administration positions.
f) All citizens irrespective of nationality and religion differences should be equal before the law.
g) Full freedom of press, expression, assembly and election should be recognised to all citizens.
h) Homes of all citizens and citizens themselves should enjoy freedom from molestation.
i) The churches should be dissociated from the State and maintain their existence solely through the help of persons of their own congregation.
j) Military service should be performed by all citizens as militia members during the peace time.
k) A secular and compulsory education system should be implemented and the State should assist the poor in this field.
Since the improvement of the people's economic lot is involved, the following conditions must be fulfilled by securing the political rights listed above and based on them:
a) The existing taxation system should be replaced by one based on the payment power.
b) The indirect taxes should be abandoned altogether.
c) Peasants should be absolved of all of their debts.
d) Farm machinery should be provided with the help of Government and of the people, their proper use should be taught and they should be given to the people themselves.
e) Agrarian partnerships should be established among the people for the purpose of ensuring the sale of farm products and purchase of such amenities as seeds, fertilisers and the like.
f) Vehicles should be provided for all kinds of transportation and contacts.
g) The Government should prevent the exploitation of working classes and adopt laws for this purpose.
Regions where the Armenians hold the majority are also the largest areas of our country. The Armenian cause acquired the status of a right by the 61st article of the Berlin Treaty and under the pressure of other international conditions and was recognised by the European Powers.
The political, economic and financial déb'cle of the Ottoman Empire together with the internal uprisings appear to have been contributing factors that prepared its doom with also the assistance of the European Powers. It is therefore necessary that the following should be achieved tp comply with the requirement of a historical necessity as the Ottoman territories in European continent were seized by other States:
a) The Armenian rebels will concentrate their efforts for defending the Armenian cause and achieving the short-term goals.
b) The area where the revolution will be launched will therefore be that in which the Armenians live.
c) Since the future of Armenians need to be separated from the Ottoman Empire's destiny, the first condition of the short-term goal will be the Armenian independence.
For attaining the short-term goal, the Armenians decided that the peace and order should be interrupted and altered by a revolution and a war should be started against the Turkish Government and the revolution's tools were indicated as follows by the Armenians:
a) A propaganda campaign will be initiated among the people and particularly the workers through the press, books and speeches, to broadcast the revolutionary ideas of the Hinchak party, to create revolutionary organisations and to foment mutinies.
b) The terror will be used as a weapon to punish the Turkish secret police members, informers and traitors and the terror will be used as a shield for the defence of revolutionary organisations and a guard against the rascals that persecute the people.
d) An armed force will be kept in readiness and spearheading legions will be formed to defend the Government and the people against the soldiers and tribal groups and the legions will be used as the advance units in an uprising.
e) Suitable occasions will be created for instigating an uprising.
f) A general revolution organisation, consisting of several regular units commanded by a single central headquarter and marching in unison toward the common goal, within the context of which has been prepared a regulation for defining the responsibilities and powers of these units and the organisation and activities of the Hinchak Committee.
g) Efforts will be made to secure the alliance of other minorities having the same destiny as the Armenians and to have them to join the Armenians our common enemy the Turkish Government. The greatest objective of the Hinchak Committee will be to establish a federation similar to the Swiss one after throwing off the Ottoman yoke.
The Hinchak Committee operating under this political programme carried out an intense Marxist propaganda especially among the working classes. Both the youth and religious leaders, adventurers and unemployed went out of their way to foment unease and to foment a revolution while the Committee's leaders concentrated their efforts on creating an Armenian proletariat. These efforts, however, did not go beyond a socialist propaganda under the then prevailing conditions in Turkey. Persons coming from Russia and other countries with a flair for such work often took part in these activities.
The Armenian actions led in this country to many bloody incidents of which the relics will not easily be forgotten. Renowned militants like Shimavon of Tbilisi came from Geneva, S. Danielian arrived from Iran, Rupen Hanazat of Russia showed up from Trabzon and H. Megavorian appeared from Batoum to organise the subdivisions of the Hinchak Committee. Other revolutionary organisations formed in Istanbul prior to 1980 eventually joined this new setup.
It therefore becomes evident that the fate of Armenians in Turkey was left to the discretion of Russian Armenians. Pressure was being exerted on those refusing to join the Committee and to grant monetary aid and many of them were being murdered. Thus, the organisation rapidly started to spread to the other Anatolian provinces.
ACTIVITIES The charter and programme of the Hinchak Society was printed in Istanbul in 1909, submitted to the Ministry of Interior pursuant to the Law on Associations and received the approval letter no 90 of 8 February 1909. The charter consists of five parts. The ledger of resolutions seized by the security forces show that the following resolutions were adopted in q910, 1911, 1912 and 1913:during operations:
a) Efforts will be spent to secure weapons, ammunition and explosives.
b) Weapons training will be given by Marufian, Yavruian and Candan.
c) Propaganda work will be accelerated.
d) Relations will be established with the Tashnak Connittee.
e) Similar relations will be maintained with the Union and Progress Party.
f) Support will be given to the Orsfan, Cang, Gochnak, Jurachak, Penchak, Badami, Tejoheng, Maro and Paros bands in Van.
The Hinchak Committee held its third congress in Turkey on 24 July 1914. The congress, held with 28 delegates from 51 branch offices, was chaired by Cangulian with Tancutian as the secretary and the following decision was adopted:
"Taking into account the great responsibility necessitated by our goals and the dangers involved, and in an attempt to prove that we are a civilised people, care will be exercised for always avoiding adventures and actions not thoroughly planned in advance, and we will bear in mind the fact that a balanced attitude and proper means are the most suitable tools for reaching our final objectives. "
On the basis of this decision, the Hinchak leaders started to leave Turkey after 1896 and disagreements soon arose among them, with the result that the party broke into two factions. One faction was called the true Hinchaks (Nazarbeg's followers) and the other came to be known as the reformed (Veragasmial) one. The latter group was led by an Armenian named Arpiar Arpiarian.
It seems that both factions acted in obedience to the beliefs and opinions of their leaders rather than under valid principles and programmes. The disagreement among them often led to street fights, some of them were beaten and many were killed.
The Armenian people, realising that the Hinchaks were Marxists, gradually withdrew themselves from it. The divergence came to a head in 1902 when militants from both sides began murdering each other on streets in England, Russia, Egypt, Bulgaria, Caucasus and Iran. Though some small bands continued bearing the name of Hinchak, they lost their previous strength after the Van resurrection. Another factor contributing to the disappearance of the Hinchak Committee was the fact that several Hinchak leaders had seen the true intentions of the Russians and left the organisation.
Reference: SAKARYA, Ret. Maj. Gen. Ihsan, Armenian Issue with Decuments,Military History Publications of the Department of Military History and Strategic Studies, Turkish General Staff Printing Plant, Ankara 1984, 2nd ed., pp. 76-87.