83 Years With Respect and Gratefulness, Aziz Meker (1877 Biberdkyt – 1941 Ankara)

  • 24/03/2024
Türkçe Tercüme

Today, on the 83rd anniversary of his death, we commemorate Professor Aziz Meker, a very exceptional value raised by the Caucasus, a scientist, an intellectual, a diplomat, a politician, a man of action, and a great patriot. 

Aziz Meker 
Born in 1877 in the village of Biberdkyt in the Lower Kuban region to an Abaza family, Aziz Meker left his homeland at a young age and settled in the Ottoman lands with his family. Meker came to Istanbul in 1889 to have a high school education and was sent to France for university education in 1896 to become the first Agricultural Engineer of the Ottoman Empire. After completing his education in France, Meker returned to Istanbul and started teaching at Halkalı Agricultural School in 1907. He was also among the founders of the Circassian Union and Solidarity Association and the groups who fought for the liberation of the Caucasus during the Ottoman and Russian revolutions and World War I.  At the very beginning of World War I, he made various contacts with a delegation headed by Marshal Thygho Mad Fuad Pasha in European centers to explain the Caucasus cause. In 1916, he headed the delegation representing the peoples of the North Caucasus at the Third Conference of Nationalities held in Lausanne.  During this event, he met with Lenin, who was being patronized by the Germans in Zurich. The news appeared in media about the conference and the meeting minutes with Lenin made huge noise amongst the public. At the end of 1917, he was assigned to carry out contacts with resistance groups in the Caucasus as the delegate of the Caucasian Union Society.  In 1918, as a member of the Circassian committee in Istanbul, he performed sacrificing work with Haydar Bammat during the negotiations in Batumi for the recognition of the independence of the North Caucasus Republic. In 1919, together with Haydar Bammat and Ismail Abay, he took part in the delegation of the North Caucasus to Switzerland. In Switzerland, together with the well-known anthropologist and ethnographer Eugene Pittard, he prepared unique materials for the promotion of the North Caucasus independence cause to the Western world.  Meker, who also took an active role in the delegation representing the North Caucasus at the Paris Peace Conference, left Paris after the occupation of the North Caucasus by the monarchist forces of General Denikin and went to Tbilisi to take part in the Allied Madjlis of the North Caucasus established in February 1920.  He took an active part in the work of the North Caucasian Defense Council against Denikin's Volunteer Army and visited every inch of the country from the Black Sea to the Caspian. On May 10-11, he attended the last National Congress held in Kayish-Yurt, today’s Keshni Kert, and signed the final declaration. Meker, who came to Turkey via Georgia after the Bolshevik invasion became unavoidable, warned the Ankara government about the developments in the Caucasus and the danger of Bolshevism with the reports he prepared together with İsmail Hakkı Berkok. Meker, who also served in the delegation sent to Moscow by the Ankara Government in 1921, spent the last years of his life devoting himself to science by serving as a professor at the Institute of Agriculture in Ankara, the President of the Institute of Agriculture, and the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Aziz Meker (1920 Tbilisi)
Previously, I shared with you the original documents about Aziz Meker from the Lausanne Conference and the Kayis-Yurt Congress. Today in the Historical Memory of the North Caucasus, you will see a document penned by Aziz Meker, which has remained hidden in the dark shelves of the archives for the first time.  In this important document bearing Meker's signature, you will read about the request for aid for the arms and ammunition from the German Reich for the formation of a Circassian Legion to be sent to the Caucasus to fight for the independence of the North Caucasus.  

Aziz Meker's Appeal to the Imperial German Government
(Click on the image to access the original document)
“Berlin, 21 December 1915… The Legation Secretary, Mr. von Wesendonk,  By the memorandum that was handed over to the Imperial German Government and by the conversations that took place in recent times you were able to convince yourself that the Circassian people, who until 1864 supported a struggle as an example in the history of peoples, both by the disproportion of the adversaries and by the length of the war, made common cause today with the other peoples of the Caucasus to wrest this country from Russian despotism and found there an independent Circassia which would form a Confederation with the other countries of the Caucasus. To realize this sacred wish of all Circassians we need the powerful support of the German Empire.

Part of the Circassian people drag themselves into Turkey, while the other part is in the motherland. The Circassian committee wants to arm the Circassians of Turkey first, then those of Circassia. The Imperial Ottoman Government already authorizes Circassians who are not under arms to leave for the Caucasus expedition. As per this authorization of the Ottoman government, the committee has already started the enlistment and we believe that from here we will have approximately 10,000 (ten thousand) men. We need 10,000 rifles with ammunition and other war machines necessary to fight against an adversary who is not at all to be disdained. The Imperial Ottoman government promised to permit Circassian soldiers to be under arms if the Balkan affairs and the Dardanelles question took a favorable turn for Turkey. The events of recent days allow us to believe that our desires will come true and that we will take on 40,000 Circassians. The Turkish army in the Caucasus, aided by the Georgian, Circassian, and Azerbaijan Tatar contingents, will this time be able to break the resistance of the Russian army and others in the Caucasus. Then it will be a matter of quickly arming and organizing the natives.

The Caucasian peoples of the North of the mountain range are warrior people, farmers, and pastoralists; therefore all male individuals who have carried weapons can be easily enlisted. Out of a total population of 2,500,000 inhabitants, 300,000 men could easily be enrolled in arms.

From these summary explanations, it follows that;

  • The Circassian organization in Turkey needs a first batch of 10,000 rifles with abundant ammunition and other accessories;
  • That there is the possibility of organizing a second army of around 40,000 men who are soldiers under arms in the Turkish army, but who could be released;
  • 300,000 rifles for the arming of all the mountain peoples of the Caucasus.
I dare to hope that the German Imperial Government, which knows the full importance of the Caucasian question, will be willing to take into consideration the material sacrifices that are absolutely necessary for the formation of this confederation which will be the head of Persia, Turkey and the Central Asia in general. We must envisage a war which could last at least a year and a half, and calculate the ammunition accordingly. The starting point of the Circassian contingents for the Caucasus seems to have been Trebizond.”

After all these correspondences, the German Imperial Government was concerned that the members of the North Caucasus immigration in Turkey would be Ottoman supporters and made an effort to organize a legion directly and only affiliated with the German Empire in the Caucasus. The German Government, which channeled most of its investment to Georgian groups, started to work on the establishment of the Georgian volunteer legions in centers such as Trebizond, Samsun, and Amasia, together with Georgian leading figures such as Prince Machabeli and the Kereselidze brothers. In the North Caucasus, they hoped to organize rebellions through Ingush Hadıshko Arsamakov, aka Gazavat, who introduced himself as the leader of an underground organization called "Sun, Star and Crescent" and said that he had 1000 armed men, another Ingush Djemaleddin Albogachi and Dargin Djemaleddin Dalgat.

Aziz & Şevket Meker and their Daughter
However, none of these opportunistic plans of the Germans came true. Investments made in Georgians were wasted. Since they always saw the North Caucasians as Ottoman supporters, they were always cautious about aid. They always sabotaged and tried to disrupt the plans made by the Ottoman Empire. As a result, The Caucasus policy of the Central Powers pursued during World War I was a pure fiasco.

Cem Kumuk
Istanbul, 24 March 2024