The Great Repatriation project came to a halt in 1948; it was basically interrupted. The reason was that Armenia was woefully inadequate to accept such a large mass of repatriates. But an incident was also needed, and it was quick in coming. On September 1, 1948, a fire broke out on the ship Pobeda, bring a second convoy of Egyptian-Armenian repatriates from Alexandria to the port of Batumi.
To date, how the fire broke out remains a mystery. We don’t even know where the Pobeda was located when the fire ignited. Given the nature of the Stalinist totalitarian regime, it’s a safe bet to say that negligence wasn’t the cause.
Based on archival documents we know that upon being informed of the fire, Stalin sent the following telegram to Georgy Malenkov (Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers: “There are American agents among the Armenian repatriates who planned a diversion on board the steamship Pobeda.” That same day Malenkov responds: “Of course, you are right. There are American agents amongst the Armenian repatriates who have carried out the diversion on board the steamship Pobeda, either before the Armenians disembarked or during that time. We will take all measures.” The next day, September 14, the repatriation was immediately halted.
Tens of thousands were still waiting in diasporan communities to repatriate. Buoyed by the general repatriation euphoria, they had sold their homes, possessions, and businesses, often at reduced prices, and, in some cases, had even given renounced their citizenship. Now, when the ships to take them to Armenia stopped coming, these people were caught unawares, with little left to their name.
From 1950 until the early 1960s, the Supreme Council of Soviet Armenia, the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Committee for Relations with Foreign Countries, received numerous letters from diaspora Armenians who were registered to repatriate but never were given the opportunity. These were petitions and requests to be granted special permission in order to relocate to Armenia.
Most of these appeals came from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
In 1952, many Armenians from Iran who had repatriated wrote the Soviet Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that they were ready to house their relatives back in Iran and noting that the Soviet Union’s consulate in Iran had declared that it would issue immigration permits to those meeting such a stipulation.
But granting or nor granting such permission wasn’t solely dependent on Soviet authorities or diplomatic representatives. In many cases, the desire of individuals to relocate to the Fatherland was never realized due to the negative attitude of local authorities or the tense relations existing between the Soviet Union and those countries.
Nevertheless, from 1950 to 1961, some 4,000 Armenians from various countries immigrated to Soviet Armenia on their individual initiative.