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“One who cries for strangers gets blind in both eyes”

Andranik Margaryan lives in the village of Tsav of Syunik marz. Hranush Kharatyan met him in his native village on June 7, 2012, in the household of Lendrush and Hranush Khachatryans.

Andranik Margaryan shares his recollections and his perceptions of the situation in aftermath of sovietization of Armenia.

“Nzhdeh came to this region in 1918 during the battles with the Turks. He started with setting up self-defense companies throughout the villages and regulating the defense. He was in command of the operations and his battalions managed to come to one another’s aid in the battle. There was this person in Shishkert village called Patvakan. Patvakan was a respected person in the village way before Nzhdeh arrived. He ogranized things in the village… solved the problems. The people accepted and respected him. When the Soviet rule was established, Nzhdeh fell back to Khustup and stayed there for six months. Shishkert peasants led by Patvakan and people of Vachagan village of Ghapan provided great support to Nzhdeh , seeing him as a patriot and their comander. Obviously, it was impossible to survive in the woods without supplies. Patvakan was captured in 1927 and exiled to the city of Vladimir as far as I remember… after a short while he got sick and died there. Patvakan’s eldest son is my father-in-law. He was born in 1910. In 1927, he was already a grown-up, conscious person 17 years of age. He had already finished a secondary school in Meghri: his father had sent him there, he wanted his eldest son to be a man of education.

In 1927, they arrested the boy and put him into prison. He was told to renounce his father. Both he and his family were threatened with exile lest he should sign the paper.  In order to save the family from repressions and to avoid any implication allegations, the relatives persuade him to write a paper renouncing Patvakan. Later, the interrogators revealed that document to him and that broke Patvakan’s heart: he was such a devoted father, you see, and he could not comprehend how his 17-year-old son could have written such paper. He was overwhelmed with the thoughts and he died sortly after. There was friend of his, a friend of Patvakan’s, who was with him in exile. Patvakan had this very good coat and the friend somehow managed to preserve it and bring it back to the family. It was actually he who brought the news of his death.

Most of Nzhdeh’s supporters and those who cooperated with Nzhdeh were taken in 1927… in 1927-30… Ohan Dayi from Nerkin Hand village was also taken then… he never came back. Simon from our village was also swept in 27… He did not come back either. Nevertheless, one thing I am certain of is that the people do have love and respect for all the participants of the liberation effort. The struggle against Bolsheviks is not seen as such, I would say that the term is only acurate with reference to the fight against the Turks. Perhaps Soviet propaganda is still hindering this kind of reckoning, however, it does not have to interfere with the sense of respect. Everybody liked bright and good-hearted people. One of our villagers was a very knowledgable person and was killed for his affiliation with the Communists. The murderer was from my extended family. I feel very uncomfortable for that.

When Nzhdeh learnt about that murder, he was very regretful: “How could they kill such person?”, he said.  My point is that people always ache for a worthy person regardless of ideology. Now there is a monument in our village in memory of that person.

There was a Bagrat Harutyunyan here. He was Nzhdeh’s bodyguard and Andranik’s soldier. He described Nzhdeh as a very knowledgable person, but Andranik, according to him, was fairly illiterate: he could not make up a coherent speach, while Nzhdeh was all about giving electrifing declamations. You know what, the Dashnaks were not the enemies of the people, were they? But there was a time when the Communist propaganda influenced people so much that if someone called you a Dashank dog, you could as well throw yourself from a rock. The label of a Dashnak was equal to an offense, that’s how we were taught.  Dashnaktsutyun was considered anti-state and anti-Communist. Nzhdeh was a Dashnak and therefore all those people who fought alongside him against the Turks were seen as Dashnaks, implying that they were also anti-Communist, anti-state and nationalists.

In 1917-18, both ideas were new in fact: both Nzhdeh’s liberation struggle and the dissemination of Communist ideology. It’s just that the Turks got overly active, infringement and harrasment were on the rise and in this situation emancipatory effort was inevitable. But the Communists extended their own share of support.

There are people now who hold high offices and back then, back in Communist times, they were also on high positions, taking advantage of the country’s resources. Today they are the ones speaking most vile of the Communists. Under the Communists they were the ones speaking ill of Nzhdeh. That’s where the tragedy starts. We have known such people in the past but there also was another type. Hayrapetyan Yerem was a Party Secretary in our village. He became a Communist in early 1920s.  He dealt a lot of damage in our village. He was behind all the arrests here – in Shikahogh. People know how many lives he extinguished but he did not harm people intentionally: he was simply devoted to the Communist Party.

He neither made a fortune nor got promoted. He gained nothing, not even his children benefited by any means. Their family line has broken, whereas many kids from the repressed families grew into honorable and respectable people. The son of Simon Melkonian from our village is one such example. Simon was a battalion commander, and got repressed later on. But his son obtained a PhD in Medicine worked as a surgeon in Lechkomisia [a prestigious hospital in Yerevan]. Then he left for Russia. After the independence there was a while when the government was providing support to the repressed families, so he got an apartment in Moscow. You know, for this secluded and remote region repression was also a chance for progress.

There is something else. I do not recall a single case when any of the informers or slanderers were punished. There was no such precedent. We had one such informer in the village. He once saw a guy rip a newspaper, a newspaper with Stalin’s image. The poor man was a war prisoner. The whole village stood up to convince him not to report that. Can you imagine what would happen if he did? He had a soul of a slanderer but he lived on. The people were afraid of his characer but did not act. Or that Abgar guy, the brother of Ginos, who fought with the guerillas. He was a good shooter they say, had fought with Patvakan against the Turks. His brother Abgar informed that he allegedly possessed a rifle. Until now, there is confrontation between the children of the brothers.

No, they were not punished, but the people knew them very well, the people knew all of them. The informers were not respected, were not loved. Even my father in law, who was a good man, raised good children but renouncing his father left a stain on his life. It stayed all the way, I could feel that.

Our elders have a saying “One who cries for stranger gets blind in both eyes”. That is if the person is concerned about the other, if he’s concerned about the society, he gets double the pain. Why would they say that? My guess is because one does not sufficiently appreciate, cherish and honor those who are devoted to his people, especially while they still live. We are afraid of evil people but we don’t value the good ones. Even in those years, back in 1937. Weren’t there good people, people concerned about the society? Sure there were. They helped both openly and secretly. Not all of them turned into beasts, did they? But we have forgotten them.

I recall the story of Martiros from our village. People called him Tsornater [wheat owner] Martiros. He worked hard and earned well. He never exploited others. He did all by himself. The labor hardened his hands so much even a thorn wouldn’t penetrate his skin. This man was arrested, swept to jail in Goris. In the same cell there was a fellow villager, the exact opposite of Martiros, jailed for weapon possession. He had a nagan [gun] and did not surrender it as required by law. So this guy used to say: “I cannot understand why they put me under lock, I didn’t work my entire life, I had a gun… but look at this guy. His cloths are all in work dust, his skin has turned into leather by now. Why is he here?” Martiros had two sons. When they saw that the groundless arrests of the people, especially the wealthy ones, were bound to continue, they left for Persia. They still live there.