This Week in Armenian History

Birth of André Mandelstam (March 6, 1869)

André Mandelstam was involved in the program of Armenian reforms before the Genocide, and he also became the author of important works of international law, including a book about the Armenian situation after World War I.

He was born on March 6, 1869, in Mahiliow (Belarus), then part of the Russian Empire, in a Jewish family. He earned a law degree at the University of St. Petersbourg, where he also studied oriental languages. He was sent by the university to Paris in 1897-1898 as an auditor at the Free School of Political Sciences and in 1900 he was granted a doctorate in International Law.

Mandelstam started his diplomatic career in 1893 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1898 and 1914, he was a dragoman at the Russian embassy of Constantinople, becoming a great connoisseur of the Ottoman Empire. He first saw the Ottoman Revolution of 1908 as the end of despotism and the advent of liberalism, but he later denounced the dictatorial drift of the Committee of Union and Progress. He played a decisive role in the negotiation of the project of Armenian reforms in 1912-1914, writing its draft in 1913.

He left the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of World War I. Between 1914 and 1916, he was deputy head of the section of war prisoners at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1916-1917 he was attached to the Russian legation in Switzerland for the issues of war prisoners. He wrote his work “The Fate of the Ottoman Empire” in 1917, in which he showed sympathy for the Armenians’ fate.

In March 1917, after the first Russian revolution of February 1917, André Mandelstam became legal director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but a few months later, the October Revolution forced him to abandon the country and settle in Paris.

In the interwar period, Mandelstam taught at the Institute of Higher International Studies (Paris), participated in the activities of the Advisory Committee of Private Organizations created by Fridtjof Nansens as part of the High Commissariat for Refugees in Geneva, and was member of the Council of Former Russian Ambassador. He participated in the creation of the Russian Association for the Society of Nations in 1920 and became secretary of its central committee. He was also an adviser to the Delegation of the Republic of Armenia

In 1926 he published “The Society of Nations and the Powers before the Armenian Problem.” In this study he characterized the situation of the Armenians as worse than in the prewar period, especially after the Genocide and the lack of interest of the great powers for the Armenian Question, including the lack of guarantees for an independent state. The abandonment of the Armenian Cause meant “the implicit consecration of the solution that has been applied to the Armenian Question in Turkey: the solution by the extermination of an inopportune minority.

In the late 1920s, Mandelstam participated in a legal advisory to the Central Committee of Armenian Refugees of Paris about the confiscation of properties of the refugees by the Kemalist government and the impossibility of the survivors to recover their assets. He published two books in 1931: “International Human Rights” and “International Protection of Minorities.”

After publishing a work about the second Italian-Ethiopian war in 1937, Mandelstam slowed down. He passed away on January 27, 1949, in Neuilly-sur-Seine and was buried at the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois.