The Lobbying Activities of the North Caucasian Intelligentsia in the Centers of the European Diplomacy, Episode 2

  • 18/01/2024
President Wilson and the Caucasian Mountaineers

Haydar Bammat, who arrived in Switzerland on the eve of the Versailles Peace Talks in Paris, made his first diplomatic contact with the French ambassador in Bern and then made his second contact with the President of the USA, Woodrow Wilson, the world's new playmaker and the person who changed the course of World War I and started to play a decisive role in the implementation of the new world order. Bammat, who described the quest for freedom of the North Caucasian people in a five-page letter to Woodrow Wilson on December 2, 1918, asked for his support. 
Bammat, who started his letter by describing himself as "a Caucasian who is a fan of the American Revolution", explained Russia's imperialist ambitions in the Caucasus by giving historical examples and emphasized the exiles and genocides suffered by the people of the North Caucasus. He asked for support from the president of the USA to prevent Russian imperialism which advanced under the guise of Bolshevism from breaking the winds of freedom and independence that began to blow in the North Caucasus with the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Although the entire history that Haydar Bammat summarized in five pages was an excellent article, there was a very important handicap that Bammat did not know about. Woodrow Wilson suffered from severe dyslexia and had great difficulty reading throughout his life. Therefore, Haydar Bammat was at the mercy of whoever read the letter to President Wilson. Likewise, the fact that Bammat expressed his thoughts in sentences close to a page in length in his article created a very distressing situation for the reader and for a person with dyslexia who was expected to understand him.
I translated such long sentences in Bammat's letter by dividing them into shorter sentences to make them more understandable for our readers.[1]

Haydar Bammat's first letter to President Wilson dd. 2 December 1918
(Click on the image to access the original file) 
“Please allow a Caucasian who is a fervent admirer of the great American nation, of the sublime ideas of your revolution of July 4, 1776, as well as of your democratic institutions, to appeal to your noble impartiality towards all races of the world; to explain to you the sufferings and martyrdom that the Circassian peoples of the Caucasus endured during the conquest of their country by the Russian armies, a conquest that lasted no less than a century.
The Circassian peoples, the most democratic in their social institutions and manners, and the most aristocratic in their character, among the peoples of the East, are not fatally found in the way of the great Asiatic invasions coming from Asia and rushing upon Europe, from which they suffered during the whole of the Middle Ages. Recovering from the age-old struggles against the incessantly renewed hordes, these peoples had begun to forge their happiness again until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when a new power, born in the vast plains of Russia, greedy and insatiable, came to find them in their plains, their happy valleys and disturbed their happiness of living sheltered by their social institutions.
Mr. President is too great a historian for him to be able to ignore the broad outlines of this centuries-old struggle from 1760 to 1864, unique in the history of all peoples and all ages, both by the disproportion of forces and by the harshness and excessive length of the fight. The high value of our social institutions has allowed us to train citizens capable of sacrificing themselves at any time and in all circumstances for the good and for the defense of the homeland. This self-denial, this voluntary and spontaneous sacrifice in the manner of ancient and heroic Greece, of the individual for the collectivity, has enabled us to hold in check all the forces of the most colossal empire that human ambition has ever been able to forge.
From 1830 to 1864 all the generous spirits of England and France were concerned with our heroic efforts in defense of our freedom and our independence. But the sublime principles of international justice and human solidarity that your deep understanding of the ills of humanity and the remedies to bring them was able to make understood and accepted today after this terrible ordeal of the world war, had not yet seen the light of day. Despite the few attempts that England made the first time in 1856 at the end of the Crimean War and again in 1861, the inevitable happened: despite the prodigies of valor demonstrated by the Circassians, the armies of Czar Alexander II were able to penetrate the heart of Circassia, ravage the country, massacre its inhabitants without any respect either for age or for the seхe.
To take revenge on these people, who had stood up for a century with valour and honor against the organized hordes who had driven the assault with knouts, and who had delayed for a century the execution of the famous program of policy of Peter the Great concerning the East and Central Asia, the liberal Czar had them expelled from their homeland,  under the threat of mitrailleuse and bayonet point, 750,000 Circassians in the unfortunate year of 1864 alone. Other expulsions followed this first one. Civilized Russia did not recognize the expelled Circassians as having property, furniture, or buildings.  Stripped of everything, of the most indispensable things of human life, these millions of human beings have been torn from their homes and thrown out of their homeland, some on boats, others along the paths of the mountains of Transcaucasus. According to the testimonies of all those who have described the horrors of her forced exoduses, neither the deportations of the Jews by the Roman armies nor the deportations that certain governments caused to be carried out in modern times, can ever give an idea of the magnitude of the catastrophe which Russia inflicted on the Circassian peoples. In many cases, 60% of those expelled from these patriots whose only crime was to want to live independently perished on the way for lack of food, health care, and clothing. As for those whom Russia had not been able to expel from 1864 to the revolution of 1917, they did not even know the retrograde Russian laws against which all the peoples of the Czar’s Empire protested. The perpetual state of siege, arbitrariness, exiles, deportations to Siberia by whole villages, and collective executions, these are how Holy Russia, assigned by God with the civilization of the East, has conducted herself towards the most generous and chivalrous peoples of all Eastern Europe.
After the Russian Revolution, which is the common work of all the Russians and peoples with various origins in Russia, it was quite natural that the Circassian peoples who dwell between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and the northern slope of the Caucasian mountain range, and who suffered more than any other people from the excesses of the Russian armies during the conquest and sack of their country and from the detestable administration,  after the conquest were in the first rank of the peoples who have the name of Russia. In May 1917, they first founded the Union of Circassian Peoples of the North Caucasus and Dagestan, at the head of which was placed a Central Executive Committee. After the General Assembly of Vladikavkaz in September 1917, the Central Committee was transformed into a provisional government that did not recognize the power of the Bolshevik Government which had come to power in October 1917. From that moment on, relations between the Russian Central Government and the provisional government of the Union of Circassian Peoples of the Caucasus were virtually severed, which brought us war with it, massacres, and all the horrors that resulted from a war in revolutionary Russia.
The independent Circassian peoples, by their efforts and the constitution of their government, which has severed all relations with Russia, are independent, and they declared this independence on the 11th. May 1918.
Mr. President, I am assigned by the Circassian people with the honor of bringing to your attention this independence, born of the sufferings, the pains they have endured, and the blood they have continuously shed for 100 years. I am also assigned to explain to you at the same time that, basing themselves on their right several thousand years old and on the torrents of blood that they have generously shed during a century in defense of this right,  of their freedom and independence against Russian imperialism, and which they continue to pour out against Russian nationalism which marches under the cover of Bolshevism, and in the name of the sublime principles of humanity, fraternity, and high international justice, outlined in its speeches and conditions of peace which will serve as the basis for the elaboration of the new International Charter. The Circassian peoples of the Caucasus and the millions of political émigrés, their compatriots, whom Russian cruelty compels to live in a foreign land, solicit the high protection of Mr. President, who is now the authorized and undisputed arbiter of peace, by Providence, and beg him to intervene, during the final settlement of national questions, to have it sanctioned by an international act, their independence, for which they have been fighting, they have suffered relentlessly for a century.”

Bammat’s letter was delivered to Woodrow Wilson in Paris directly by the world-famous Swiss ethnographer and anthropologist Professor Eugene Pittard.  President Wilson, who wanted to meet with Bammat directly, requested help from André Tardieu, a member of the French delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference and The French-American Military Affairs Council, to provide Haydar Bammat with a travel visa. Upon President Wilson’s request, André Tardieu wrote a message to Stéphen Pichon, the French Foreign Minister who was asked to intervene in the matter.[2]

Tardieu's letter to Pichon concerning Bammat's Visa
(Click on the image to access the original file)
André Tardieu in 1919
“I believe I must draw your attention to the presence of Mr. HAIDAR BAMMATE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the North Caucasus in BERNE for three months, who requested to be heard by the Conference, or who at least wished to be authorized coming to Paris.
I believe that it would be good policy to respond to his letter, which has not been done until now because this Republic constitutes an element of order and French sympathy that is interesting to use.
This country, though agricultural, also contains mines and oil deposits, and until now succeeded in protecting itself against Bolshevism. It claims its independence, declaring itself ready now to take responsibility for its share of the Russian debt. A representative government functions: It includes a Lower House, at the rate of one deputy per thirty thousand inhabitants, and an Upper House, where the representatives of the States are located.
The above information was communicated to me by Mr. PITTARD, Professor of the University of Geneva, and seemed interesting enough to attract your attention."

Although the principles of visa issuance sound quite materialistic compared to Woodrow Wilson's famous 14-item principles, finally, Haydar Bammat obtained a French visa to attend the Versailles Peace Conference.  Haydar Bammat’s visa application delivered to the French embassy in Berne was more of a memorandum than a usual visa request;[3]

“The Peace Conference in Paris has to urgently take supreme decisions at this moment when Muscovite Bolshevism is taking a violent resurgence and risks overwhelming us, on the other hand, having received communication through the intermediary of Mr. Professor PITTARD, a member of the Institute, of his Excellency Mr. DUTASTA, Secretary General of the Peace Conference, that the Conference not having taken any official decision on the subject of national governments formed by non-natives of the former Empire of the Czars.  My trip to Paris was to be made rather on a private basis.
I have the honor to ask Your Excellency to kindly grant me a passport on a private basis as a Circassian of ancient Russia, as well as to my secretary Mr. Aziz MEKER, which will allow me to present to the Conference our national demands and to explain to the French government and the allied governments our situation and the atrocities of which we will be victims as in the past so that they can advise with the Circassian and Dagestan peoples with rapid and energetic means to counter this new Bolshevist wave which will this time tie the Middle East to the Orient of all of Europe in anarchy and blood if we do not take important precautions in time.”

Bammat and Meker arrived in Paris on April 21, 1919.  In the message from Woodrow Wilson delivered by American diplomat and the head of the Russian desk of the American Committee, Professor Robert Howard Lord to Haydar Bammat on May 27, it was stated that the US President wanted to meet with Haydar Bammat at his hotel on Wednesday, May 28, at 14:30.  President Wilson had invited Azerbaijani representative Alimardan Topchubashi together with Haydar Bammat at the same time. After listening carefully to both statesmen, the US President said;[4]

Professor Robert Howard Lord's ID Card
“Gentlemen, I am glad to meet you and hear about your demands, but the question of the independence of your country cannot be resolved until the Russian question is finally resolved. We do not want the world divided into too many small states. The unity of the Caucasus is also beneficial for the peoples of the Caucasus. Please send your memorandums to the peace conference. I'll study them. I believe that your requirements will be satisfied. I will always be happy to listen to you whenever you have new information to convey to me.”

President Wilson ended his speech with a very strategic question;[5]

“Will the Caucasus agree to a mandate?”

Both statesmen, who had submitted their declarations to the Peace Conference management long before, handed over to the President the written declarations they had kept ready with them when they went to meet with President Wilson.  Haydar Bammat stated the following in his memorandum for President Wilson;[6]

“The peoples of Circassia and Dagestan, who have nothing in common with the Russians from an ethnographic point of view and who made the most difficult sacrifices in order not to be dominated by the Muscovites, whose country, from a geographical point of view, is a separate world with all the natural resources necessary for the economic viability of the modern states, express the firm hope that Mr. President, being the apostle of universal peace and the impartial arbiter of international differences, will consider our national demands and, for ethnographic and economic reasons, and also, mainly, because of the centuries-old and unequal struggle to which they have been forced to lead against Moscow despotism and nationalism, will provide them with its high protection with the aim of Recognition of the complete independence of the Republic of the North Caucasus, based on the brilliant principles proclaimed by Mr. President.”

In fact, all balances had changed in the North Caucasus in the six months since Haydar Bammat sent his first letter to President Wilson.  In those days, the Bolsheviks were no longer the main threat to the North Caucasus, and the White Volunteer Army emerged as a much greater danger. General Denikin and his army, which the British had highlighted since the first day of their arrival on the grounds of a joint fight against Bolshevism, quickly launched an operation in the North Caucasus under the pretext of securing their rear. While the Whites started the Ice March Campaign, they displayed more of a hostile image than an ally with whom to fight against Bolshevism.  Such important topics that Caucasian statesmen should discuss with President Wilson were not included in the agenda of this meeting.  Long before this meeting with President Wilson, in successive meetings held in hotel rooms in Paris and London, the Allies were discussing the amount of military aid to be provided to Denikin's army and making plans for dispatch. British intelligence services began to feverishly search for ways to make Denikin dominate these areas, using maps showing the underground and aboveground riches of the Caucasus, especially oil and gold reserves.
An obvious sign of the shift in British policies could be seen in a secret message sent by General Milne to the Ministry of War from Istanbul as early as February 18, 1919, where he clearly and briefly states that the promises made to the Mountaineers will not be kept at the expense of losing their trust, the way will be paved for General Denikin's invasion of the North Caucasus, independence assurance will only be given for Georgia, and Abdulmedjid Chermoy, who is waiting in Tbilisi to go to the Paris Peace Conference, will be prevented.   By an order dated November 14, 1918, the Ministry of War had already decided to establish contact with Denikin in Novorossisk and provide him with all the necessary support. As a matter of fact, one of the first decisions taken by Winston Churchill after he was officially appointed as Minister of War in the first days of 1919 was to allocate and dispatch 14 thousand tons of aid material, consisting of ammunition and clothing, to Denikin. Churchill persuaded the British parliament to send a bigger aid package, including 100 warplanes, to Denikin. In his reply message dated February 21, 1919, to the House of Commons who reacted to the warplanes, he said, "There are opportunities that these lands promise us much more to exploit than this!” he said.  Within less than another 2 weeks, on March 3, 1919, the logistics departments were instructed about the aid to be sent to Denikin, including weapons, equipment, and various military materials sufficient for an additional force of 150 thousand people, and to make preparations for a 150% capacity increase in addition to the previously announced amounts. To send these materials, the naval unit is requested to allocate 20 or more ships, each with 5 thousand tons capacity.[7]

Riches of the Caucasus in the British Intelligence report (Click on the image to access the original file)
The report prepared by British Lieutenant Colonel Claude Bayfield Stokes on the North Caucasus in the same period was another striking document proving the slippery policy followed by the British in the North Caucasus.[8] In this detailed report titled “The North Caucasus Republic”, Stokes stated that the three preeminent enemies of the Mountain Government were the Terek Cossacks, the Bolsheviks, and General Denikin. Mentioning a summary of the disagreements between the Cossacks and the Mountaineers, Stokes emphasized that the Cossacks, who were abused by both the Bolsheviks and the Whites, had to seek shelter from the Mountaineers, and that the latter protected and took care of them despite the historical hostilities. The report, which also revealed the hypocrisy of British politics regarding General Bicherakhov, also admitted how the Ingush, who saved the members of the British military mission who were previously held captive by the Bolsheviks in Vladikavkaz, was forced to obey General Denikin and pushed the Ingush into the arms of the Bolsheviks. Stokes, who also made some statements about the physical borders of the North Caucasus Republic, gave crucial statements about a question that contemporary Georgian historians create a polemic today. Stoke clearly stated that the agreement between the Abkhazian and Georgian National Councils dated 9 February 1918, overtly was not an autonomy agreement (Stokes mistakenly mentioned the date of the agreement as 8 July 1918), but it was an agreement that testified that Abkhazia was independent within its historical borders with the clear promise and consent of the Georgian Government.  Another important emphasis in Stokes' report was made on the initiative of The North Caucasus Government in favor of establishing a Caucasian Confederation together with the Georgian and Azerbaijani Governments. Stoke expressed that The  North Caucasus Government did not print their own banknotes for this reason. According to Stokes, 10 Million Rubles were to be allocated for the Mountaineers’ Government by the Georgian and Azerbaijani Governments, but no payment had been made to the Mountaineers except 3 Million Rubles which was loaned by Azerbaijan.
Stokes also emphasized that the governments of the North Caucasus and the Republic of Azerbaijan were in difficulty understanding why the British Government still turned a blind eye to General Denikin's invasions despite the statements about the recognition of independence.  The British Government kept stalling them by saying that the issue of recognition of independence would be resolved at the Paris Peace Conference. Stoke stated that both the Mountaineers and Azerbaijanis were aware of the contradictory attitude of the British towards the independence of Georgia and Armenia. Stoke admitted that the contradiction of the British was rooted in their religious dogmatism against the Muslims.[8]
Under these circumstances, Haydar Bammat presented an ultimatum to President Wilson just three weeks after their initial meeting with him.  The text of the ultimatum read the following;[9]

Colonel Stokes at the Celebrations of Georgian Independence Day in 1919 (from left 1) Noy Jordania, 2) Colonel Stokes, 3) Colonel Corbel, 6) Leo Kereselidze 
“In receiving the North Caucasian delegation who had come to present to you their homage of deep respect and immense gratitude, you consoled and encouraged them with the greatness of soul that characterizes you. You allowed them to address all the difficulties they have encountered.
Today, the Delegation finds herself in the need to address you, the impartial arbiter of peace and protector of the rights of oppressed peoples, to make you aware of the acts of injustice against humanity and the violence that the Muscovite Volunteer army, under the orders of General Denikin, summit on the territories of our young Republic.
The people of the North Caucasus have been at war with the Soviet Government since November 1917. The people of the North Caucasus supported this unequal war without anyone's help when Denikin's scattered volunteer army hid everywhere. From November 11, 1918, this army, which we incorrectly call voluntary, was organized with the assistance of the Allies and especially the English Government, while the North Caucasian government which, through the organization it had succeeded in creating, had contained Bolshevism and had prevented him from pouring into Transcaucasia and from there into Western Asia to continue his cover of social dissolution not only could he not receive aid, assistance from the allies, but he constantly came up against indifference and often to an attitude that was far from friendly towards the North Caucasus whose people had constantly fought for their independence.
Despite the formal and repeated assurances of the representative of the Allies, British commander General Thomson, that General Denikin aims to combat Bolshevism and will not interfere in the affairs of the North Caucasian Republic. The so-called voluntary army instead to go and fighting Bolshevism, attacked the North Caucasian government and directed all the means of destruction that the English government had made available against the freedom of the peoples of the North Caucasus.
The North Caucasian Government, still busy with the fight against Bolshevism and completely trusting the formal assurances of General Thomson representing the Allies, took no precautions against the volunteer army.
Thanks to the assurances of General Thomson, on whom General Denikin completely depended, he was able to surprise the good faith of the North Caucasian Government and invade the territories of the Republic and commit misdeeds there during the time of the conquest of the country by the armies of the Czars. Entire villages were razed to the ground around Grozny, and women and children were mercilessly massacred.
The North Caucasian Government, in the presence of unprecedented acts that were in flagrant contradiction with the assurances of General Thomson, representative of the Allies, addressed him several times to ask him to order General Denikin so that the latter would stop his military operations against the North Caucasian Republic. All requests from the North Caucasian government were in vain. But towards the beginning of April when General Denikin's military situation had become critical, General Thomson intervened to instruct the North Caucasian Government to remain on the defensive and not to undertake any offensive against the volunteer army.
On April 24, 1919, when the military situation improved in Denikin's favor, the English command, in a letter addressed to the President of my Government, intervened to impose on the latter a treaty entirely in Denikin's favor. So following this treaty, the North Caucasian Government must allow the volunteer army to use the port of Petrovsk which is the main port of the Republic on the Caspian. Another article from the same convention would suggest that General Denikin occupied the territory and made a modus vivendi with the Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, and Ossetians, the peoples of the North-Caucasian Union which he invaded. This article in this form under the signature of the Commander of the English forces only confirms the violence committed against populations stricken with the heaviest requisitions in money and kind, forced to enlist in Denikin's voluntary army, and who saw their territory plundered. Finally, following this convention, any military action on the part of the Republican army against the Russian garrison of Petrovsk is considered a hostile act against it. On the other hand, General Denikin agreed not to undertake a new offensive against the rest of the country of the republic.
Even this treaty imposed by the British Command was violated by General Denikin, who undertook a new offensive and occupied, towards the middle of May, the main towns of the territory, guaranteed by the convention of April 24, 1919, such as Hasavyurt, Derbend, etc.
It appears from the above presentation that the British command which also represented all the Allies, not only took no account of the immense services that the North Caucasian Republic had rendered to humanity and especially to the British aspiration of Asia by preventing anarchy from spreading in Transcaucasia and from there to Asia, but he constantly supported the action of General Denikin against the Republic of the North Caucasus, continually weakened his Republican Government by using above all the high authority conferred on him by his status as representative of all the Allies.
The North Caucasian Government vigorously protests near the Peace Conference which is laying the foundations of law, justice, and freedom of people for the reconstitution of international relations, against the action of the Voluntary Army on the territory of the North Caucasian Republic, an action which seriously undermines the principle of free self-determination of peoples accepted by all Allies as one of the main bases for the settlement of the current situation in the world, and took the Conference to kindly order General Denikin to evacuate as soon as possible the invaded territories of the North Caucasian Republic.
This order would be in perfect correspondence with the intentions of the Peace Conference which, at the end of the agreement which appears to have been reached between it and Admiral Kolchak, places the solution of the question of the Caucasus countries under the control of the League of Nations.
However, the presence of General Denikin's army and the atrocious war waged by this army against the North Caucasian Republic is sufficient indication that General Denikin, who appears to be a Lieutenant of Admiral Kolchak, does not intend to even comply with the clauses of the said convention and seeks to present the future League of Nations with the fait accompli of the annihilation of our republic and the physical and political crushing of our people.
In these painful circumstances, Mr. President, we firmly believe that You in whom all humanity has placed its last hope for its regeneration based on law and Justice and the oppressed peoples their supreme hopes for their rebirth, You will not allow not to the brutal forces organized by the former servants of the Muscovite autocracy supported by certain powers of the West, to suppress our republic and that You will use all your high authority to evacuate the territory of our young republic by the armies of the Muscovite reaction commanded by General Denikin.
Mr. President, by supporting the rebirth of oppressed peoples, you ensure the stability of the world of the future and you ensure the eternal gratitude of these peoples for you and the great democracy that you so worthily represent.
On behalf of the Circassian and Dagestan peoples who throughout all ages have been supporters of freedom and Justice, the North Caucasian Delegation has the honor to present to you, Mr. President, our warmest and most grateful thanks. the deep expression of our gratitude.”

A few days later, American diplomat Robert Howard Lord responded to the ultimatum of Bammat, which diplomatically confronted the lies of the Allies in Paris before President Wilson who tried to put the world in deep sleep with stereotypical promises such as bringing justice to the oppressed nations and the principles of self-determination of the peoples, with the following single sentence; [10]

“The President has asked me to tell you that he has received your letter and that it will receive his most serious attention.”

Cem Kumuk
Istanbul, 18 January 2024

[1] Haydar Bammat Private Archive, Haydar Bammat’s letter to Woodrow Wilson dd 2 December 1918, HB-1871
[2] Archives diplomatiques du ministère des Affaires étrangères (AMAEF), André Tardieu’s letter to Stéphen Pichon dated 24 March 1919, Série Z (Europe), dossier n° 834, F.107
[3] AMAEF, Haydar Bammat’s appeal to Georges Clinchant dd 27 March 1919, Série Z (Europe), dossier n° 834, F.31,2
[4] Archives d’Ali Mardan-bey Toptchibachi, carton n° 4/1.
[5] AMAEF, Série E (Levant), Caucase-Kurdistan, dossier n°4, Fol. 231.
[6] Archives d’Ali Mardan-bey Toptchibachi, carton n° 4/1.
[7] The National Archives, Foreign Office, Cabinet Papers, CAB-24/54/83, FO 608/196, CAB-24/74/52, CAB-24/75/67, CAB-24/76/23
[8] Imperial War Museum, Report of Colonel Stokes on The North Caucasus Republic, 2347/3/3.
[9] Haydar Bammat Private Archive, Ultimatum from Haydar Bammat to Woodrow Wilson dated 18 June 1919, HB-2089
[10] ibid, Robert Howard Lord’s reply on President Wilson’s behalf to Haydar Bammat dd. 23 June 1919, HB-2088