Who Was Mattheos Eblighatian? – Part 1.
Translated by Vahe H. Apelian
Edited by Jack Chelebian, M.D.
This translated segment is from the book titled “Mattheos Eblighatian – A Life in the Life of my Nation – Eyewitness and Participant Testimonials 1903-1923". His sons Melkon, M.D. and Krikor, Attorney at Law, edited the book, Antelias, Lebanon 1987.
“I was born in the city kirkagac (Գըրգաղան) in Izmir province, on October 21, 1881. In 1897, I graduated from Mesrobian School of Izmir. After graduating from the public gymnasium in the same city, in 1903, I was accepted to the Constantinople Law University and in 1908 I graduated with Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.
During the Ottoman Government’s constitutional period, I was appointed as a judge first in Yeberos Yania (Եպերոսի Եանիա) and then in Aleppo. In the summer of 1913, I was appointed the general prosecutor in Van and six months later the president of that city’s Court of Justice.
In July 1914, I was appointed the translator for the Norwegian Major Hoff who was tasked with inspecting and verifying the implementation of reformations in the Armenian provinces.
On June 14, 1919, I was appointed the executive director of the newly established National Relief in Istanbul. While keeping my role in that capacity, on July 3, 1920, by the edict number 4839 of the Armenian Republic’s Relief and Reconstruction Ministry, I was appointed the same ministry’s representative in Istanbul and on July 5, 1920, with the edict number 4863 I was appointed the director of Diaspora Affairs. Since the National Assembly resolved that the authority to appoint the Director of Diaspora Affairs would be transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Republic’s Relief and Reconstruction Ministry, with their September 25, 1920, edict number 6629, removed me from my post as their representative, but with September 28, 1920, edict number 5546 from the Republic’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamo Ohanjanian, I was posted as the temporary representative of the Republic of Armenia in Istanbul and my salary and other details were conveyed to me by representative Tahtajian.
The Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with edict number 5548, dated 28 September 1920 to F. Tahtajian, noted that Mattheos Eblighatian is being considered for the position of General Consul and that the Ministry is awaiting his acceptance to send him the relevant official documents. During that period, it is known that the Turks and the Russians attacked our free and independent Republic. My ties with Yerevan were severed and I, remaining with the title of “Director of Diaspora Affairs”, and with the consent of the Allied Powers’ authorities in Istanbul, carried out the tasks of the newly established consulate of Armenia in Istanbul until December 1922, when by the order of the British authorities we were forced to shut down the consulate.”
Mattheos Melkon Eblighatian
This handwritten biography is prepared by Mattheos Eblighatian himself and entrusted to his family a few years before his death “so that the newspapers would not publish erroneous information” about him at his death.
His writing resembles an official report much more than an autobiography. But most of those who knew him personally would attest that’s exactly the way Mattheos Eblighatian was, a lawyer in the scientific sense of the word. He was “a tall, gentleman, solemn, reticent. A man who avoided talking about himself and having others speak about him.” (Gayz Goganian).
His Holiness Karekin II Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia also characterized him similarly, noting:
“Whenever he came to our ancestral village (Kessab), he projected the image of a deliberate, calm and a nobleman, to the whole village, and especially to the adolescents who, like myself, viewed him with reverence and respect. We did not, nor could we at that age and in that context, know him. But whenever he walked with his cane up the hill on the narrow streets of the village or whenever we found him sitting in a public meadow with a newspaper in his hand; we thought that there was the story of our nation embedded in him and he was the paragon of healthy national consciousness and human nobility and virtue.”
Only his family members, close relatives and a few of his bosom friends knew that the solemn and impeccably attired judge would transform whenever he returned home every day precisely at his customary time. He would remove his “outside” clothes and would put on a comfortable wear, his slippers, nightcap on his head and occupy his customary seat on his cushion next to the water-pipe Mrs. Marie Eblighatian would have prepared for him. In his home, he would turn into the cheerful, witty, optimistic ordinary man that he was at his core, who enjoyed the pleasures of life.
He had an astonishing memory and would gladly talk about his birthplace kirkagac (Գըրգաղան), and especially about Armenia, its nature, climate, notable cuisine, harvests, customs and particularly its waters and springs. But he rarely made any reference to his life and the role he played in his nation’s life.
After entreaties over many years, he finally decided to write and publish his memoirs, which appeared in the “Hairenik Monthly” in Boston in issues ranging from 1951 to 1956. His eyesight had already weakened. So, instead of writing, he was compelled to have a dear friend stay with him in his house for a year jotting down the memoirs he narrated. After the publication, he found the style of the writing not to reflect his own. He also noted errors, minor omissions, duplications, and in a few instances erroneous interpretations. Naturally, he was not pleased and felt the need to revise and correct. Without a doubt, it would have been preferable to re-edit all of it not a series but as a book. Unfortunately, the author no longer had the stamina and the time to accomplish the task.
For that reason, in this book, the reader will come across some duplications, in spite of the fact that many have been removed. The author probably made these duplications consciously to refresh the reader’s memory because the articles were published on a monthly basis over a long period of time with some serials a year or two apart. To emphasize the link between various segments we resorted to adding subtitles.That is why we resorted to subtitles in an effort to link the articles. Finally we, as the editors, had to choose a title for the book because the components were not yet put together under a common title.
It should also be noted that Mattheos Eblighatian’s autobiography ends in December 1922, whereas he passed away thirty-seven years later. Those were daunting years of exile during which the family moved from one country or city to another five to six times. Therefore we resorted to filling some gaps before and after the ending of his biography. Unfortunately, our information is also partial and circumstantial abstracted from his notes, letters, and testimonies of relatives. (To be continued).