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Chapter 4: The Armenian Question Kamuran GÜRÜN*
The Armenian File
à àle="text-align: juÿØ Chapter 4: The Armenian Question208oc >CHAPTER FOUR|
The Armenian question
1. First attempts at reform
The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury, in the dispatch he sent to the British Ambassador in Istanbul, Sir Henry Layard, on 8 August 1878, instructed him to press the Ottoman government to implement the reforms to which it had agreed in the 4th of June Agreement (Cyprus) and the Berlin Treaty. Layard submitted a diplomatic note to the Babiali on 19 August.
The Ottoman government was not against the reforms. As a matter of fact, the intentions of the government were clear in the reply given to Layard’s note on 24 October 1878.
The Ottoman government stated that it was considering the establishment of a special gendarme force in the eastern provinces, that the Gendarmerie would be a central administrative body, in which European officers would be employed, that changes would be made in the legal system, and that in some central courts European judges would be charged as inspectors.
Although the Babiali was ready in principle to make these reforms, the Treasury was empty. We learn from the British documents that this financial situation was explained to Layard during his meetings with Abdulhamid and Prime Minister Mehmet Esat Saffet Pasha, and that the Sultan even requested the British government to provide a loan of £6 million sterling. However, it is apparent that the British government was not able to give this loan. For this reason, soon after the Berlin Congress, the Ottoman government was unable to implement the measures which it had considered in good faith.
Immediately after the Berlin Congress, Russia began to provoke the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire with propaganda to the effect that the reforms would not be implemented, so that they would be driven to emigrate to Russia. The Russians were even spreading rumours that they would rebuild the city of Ani, which had come into their possession with the most recent land gains, and that they would make it the capital of Armenia. (Nothing was done in Ani, until it was returned to Turkey after the First World War.)
Layard reported these developments to the Sultan and called his attention to the need for security and order in the eastern provinces. Layard informed the Foreign Office that Ismail Hakki Pasha, commander of the eastern army, had been instructed, as a result, to take every possible measure for the Armenians’ security and protection, and added that various intrigues originating abroad were inciting the Armenians to rebel against the Babiali.
It was mentioned in the reports of British Consuls in Trabzon and Erzurum that the Russians’ activities bore fruit, and that Armenians inhabiting the regions which would be evacuated by the Russians started to emigrate in large numbers.
However, although the Russians spread rumours which encouraged emigration, they were also opposing emigration. The reason for this was clear. They could take advantage of the Armenian community, which was thus troubled, within the Ottoman Empire, instead of within Russia. If the Armenians could be maintained ready to explode in the eastern provinces of Turkey, when the time was ripe and the ground was prepared, this explosion could be ignited.
Faced with these developments, the Patriarchate did not follow a policy of reconciliation. As a matter of fact, the Patriarchate had almost adopted, especially after the Berlin Congress, the general policy of provoking the Armenians, instead of pacifying them, and had provoked incidents. We mentioned earlier that the Patriarch, during his conversations with the British Ambassador in 1877, had stated that if rebellions were necessary to gain the attention of Europe, they could be arranged.
Esat Uras reported by translating from the minutes of the Armenian Assembly the statements made by the Patriarch to justify himself, when he was required to give explanations to the Armenian National Assembly after his lack of success at the Berlin Congress. Some parts of this speech especially shed light on future events.
The Patriarch made the following statements in his written declaration read on 21 July 1878 at the Armenian National Assembly.
.... When neither the question of Bosnia-Herzegovina nor the political situation of Bulgaria were existent, the Armenian question had been around for ten years. This question stemmed from the hostilities which the Armenians were subjected to in Armenia.... Then the problems of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria came about. Related to these two problems, injustices and national independence arose....
.... The Ottoman nation shed great quantities of blood on the battlefield, and after so much sacrifice when they were defeated, and due to the fact that it was ringing in their ears that the suffering was the fault of Christians, they became extremely excited.
Prudence and farsightedness are required more than ever, and at the same time we must act effectively....
The Ottomans had not yet sent their qualified representative to Edirne, when my respectable friends and I started working.
As we obtained the 16th article of the Ayastefanos Treaty, which provided us with new spirit and strength, we began working with greater aspiration and zeal.... The 16th article was certainly going to be changed.... The political situation of the region of Euphrates, too, had a close relationship with Britain’s interests.... Britain would see that this article prepared the ground for the establishment of a new province in the region of Euphrates in the interest of one state especially among those who signed. Britain would certainly not accept this....
Any impartial analysis will show that, if the Turkish-British Agreement had not made certain that the reform project for the Christian Asian community would be decided with agreement between the British and Turkish governments, the powers would decide on this project from the standpoint of their own interests. The 61st article of the Berlin Agreement is this [see above, p. 104]
The sad part of this article is that, it temporarily delayed the solving of our problem, did not fulfil the hopes of the nation, and did not provide a reward for the future. Which country has immediately obtained its desires....
For this reason, I have considered it necessary to complain here to the Ambassadors, and in Berlin to the delegates. Let us continue the work we have started.
Such problems can neither be solved in one day, nor by a single man. Let us be prepared for the future. Let us not stay here and there. Let us go to Armenia. Let us send to Armenia the competent, reputable, patriotic ones of our nation, our educators, our Churchmen. Let our educators, our teachers, our fervent youth go to Armenia....
The Patriarch had summarized in this manner what was and what would be accomplished. We do not think it is necessary to describe what had been accomplished and to speculate what would be accomplished, for the Patriarch’s statements are clear enough.
Because of this attitude, when the British Ambassador pointed out the unfortunate consequences of provocation in the eastern provinces and of the discontent stirred among the people, and suggested to the Patriarch that he do something about it, the Patriarch stated that the Armenians accused him of having deceived them. He added that discontent would continue as long as Armenia was not granted autonomy, that the Babiali was no longer trusted, and that only when an Armenian governor was appointed to Armenia, would trust perhaps be re-established.
Again, we are informed by the British documents that the British did not accept the idea of an Armenian governor. The British Consul in Trabzon, Alfred Bliotti, affirmed that the administration of the eastern provinces was indeed oppressive; this, however, was not directed specifically at Armenians, but, rather, was a general maladministration. He further stated that Muslims were more oppressed by this administration, for the non-Muslims could voice their complaints through the Consuls, whereas there was nobody the Muslims could complain to. Moreover, the Consuls did not see the necessity of speaking up against the treatment of Muslims. He added that appointing an Armenian governor to the East would have no effect, other than to facilitate Russian intrigues, and consequently to harm British interests.
Towards the end of 1878, Britain sent military Consuls to the main eastern provinces, with the aim of closely following Russian activities on the one hand, and supervising the reforms on the other. Thus Major Trotter was sent to Diyarbekir, Captain Clayton to Van, and Captain Everett to Erzurum. This was not well received by the Ottoman government.
On Wednesday, 4 December, 1878, the Grand Vizier Saffet Pasha was dismissed from office, and Senator Hairettin Pasha of Tunisia was appointed in his place. It is said that the dismissal was due to the fact that an informer reported to Abdujhamid that Saffet Pasha, along with members of the Cabinet, was thinking of dethroning the Sultan.
The subject of reform was mentioned in the imperial decree following the announcement of the new government, and the new Grand Vizier was asked to implement it without delay.
The new Grand Vizier, Hairettin Pasha, decided in February 1879 to send commissions to the eastern provinces with the aim of studying the condition of the region and the Christians’ complaints. These commissions, which consisted of three members, also included an Armenian member. A commission in which Yusuf Pasha and Nuryan Efendi participated was sent to Van; another, which included Abidin Pasha and Manas Efendi, was sent to Diyarbekir and its vicinity; another, which included Sait Pasha and Sarkis Efendi, was sent to the province of Aleppo.
It is known that a project prepared by the Patriarchate entitled the Reform Project of the Province of Erzurum was submitted to the commission which was sent to Erzurum, and that the same project was also sent to the British Embassy in Istanbul. We have not included the text of this project because we have been unable to discover what formal procedures were undertaken concerning it. However, there was no mention in this project of either autonomy or an Armenian governor.
The prerequisite of any reform was the establishment of a police and gendarme force; this, however, was impossible, because the Treasury was empty. As a consequence, the year 1879 saw nothing but continued discussions between the British Embassy, the Patriarchate and the Babiali concerning the subject of reforms.
Because it was only Britain that was interested in the subject of reforms, Russia having ceased to be involved, and because Britain was continually sending reports of complaint to the Babiali through the military Consuls whom it had sent to various provinces, the Babiali and especially the Sultan began to hesitate. Moreover, the Patriarchate was in a suspicious position because of its work on the idea of an autonomous Armenia, and the discontent created in the eastern provinces. The attitude of Britain during the rebellion which occurred in Zeitun in 1878 (we shall discuss this subject on page 150.) indicated that the Armenians were on the point of creating a question in Anatolia, similar to a new Serbian or Bulgarian problem. Indeed, the British documents have proved that this was exactly the intention of the Armenians.
The year 1880 started in such an atmosphere, and the elections which took place in March in England brought the Liberal Party to power. Gladstone became Prime Minister, and Lord Granville Foreign Secretary.
2. The internationalization of the subject of reform
We have mentioned Gladstone’s opinion regarding the Ottoman Empire and the Turks. It was expected that he would use every opportunity to benefit the Armenians. Whereas Salisbury had preferred that Britain should handle the matter alone, without the involvement of other powers, Granville adopted a totally different policy and invited other powers to work with Britain.
With this intention, he sent circulars in May to the British Ambassadors in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, St Peterburg and Rome urging them to persuade the governments of the countries to which they were accredited to put pressure on the Babiali to implement the reforms put forward in the 61st article of the Berlin Treaty.
While he sent this instruction, Granville changed the Ambassador in Istanbul and appointed Goschen to replace Layard. From this time forward, it was Goschen who was to play a major role in Istanbul. However, before looking at his activities, it is useful to look, first, at the last report Layard sent to the Foreign Office before he received the order to return. Layard wrote:
The Armenians who expected that, after the announcement of the Cyprus Agreement, Britain would immediately have the reforms implemented, were disappointed when they saw that nothing was done, and Russia, taking advantage of the situation, began to encourage them to ask its help. Such a situation would prepare the ground for the occupation of these provinces by Russia. It was necessary to have the Ottoman Empire take action.
The Armenians, if absolute autonomy was not possible, expected partial autonomy. But under these circumstances, to provide them this possibility would eventually result in disaster for the Armenians, for it would lead to the oppression of the Armenians, who are everywhere in a minority, by the majority of the population, and this would open the way for Russian intervention. While it cannot be expected that Russia would grant autonomy or independence to the Armenians, it would be inevitable that the Armenians would be lost in the Russian Empire.
The accuracy of Layard’s statements cannot be refuted. However, Granville was not of the same opinion, and considered granting independence to the Armenians. But, to do this, he had to obtain the consent of Russia. Russia, knowing that Brtain coveted Arabia, did not see any benefit in the establishment of an independent Armenia. The Ottoman Empire, too, realized that Britain would cease to protect the integrity of its territory, but would rather try to obtain whatever it could get, and subsequently began to see the advantage of turning towards Russia.
It is impossible to affirm that the Sultan’s opinion was erroneous, for the period of pillaging the Ottoman Empire had begun. In 1881 France would obtain Tunisia, and Thessaly be relinquished to Greece; in 1882, Britain would occupy Egypt; in 1885, Eastern Roumelia would become part of Bulgaria. Although the Turks were to win the 1897 Turco-Greek War, they would have to recognize the autonomy of Crete. It cannot be assumed that Abdulhamid had foreseen all this, but the fact that he was determined not to let the last Anatolian territory go, knowing that he had no chance in Europe and Asia, is an attitude that can easily be understood.
However, the Ottoman Empire was not in good condition. It was impossible to talk of a continuous and stable administration. The only continuity was in the Sultan, and he seemed determined not to let any government stay in power. Indeed, we can easily see this if we enumerate the Ottoman Grand Viziers from the Berlin Congress to the establishment of the Second Constitutional government:
| Saffet Pasha
|| 4. 6. 1878—4. 12. 1878
| Hairettin Pasha of Tunisia
|| 4. 12. 1878—29. 7. 1879
| Ahmet Arifi Pasha
| 29. 7. 1879—18. 10. 1879
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
|| 18. 10. 1879—9. 6. 1880
| Mehmet Kadri Pasha
| 9. 6. 1880—12. 9. 1880
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
|12. 9. 1880—2. 5. 1882
| Abdurrahman Nurettin Pasha
||2. 5. 1882—11. 7. 1882
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
|| 12. 7. 1882—1. 12. 1882
| Ahmet Veffik Pasha
||1. 12. 1882—3. 12. 1882
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
||3. 12. 1882—25. 9. 1885
| Mehmet Kamil Pasha
||25. 9. 1885-4. 9. 1891
| Ahmed Cevad Pasha
|| 4. 9. 1891—8. 6. 1895
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
||8. 6. 1895—1. 10. 1895
| Mehmet Kamil Pasha
|| 2. 10. 1895—7. 11. 1895
| Halil Rifat Pasha
||7. 11. 1895—9. 11. 1901
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
|| 18. 11. 1901—14. 1. 1903
| Mehmet Ferid Pasha
|| 14. 1. 1903—22. 7. 1908
| Mehmet Sait Pasha
||22. 7. 1908—4. 8. 1908
18 Grand Viziers in 30 years, and 14 Grand Viziers in 18 years between 1878 and 1896, which we can consider a critical period, was quite high for the execution of an important task.
When Goschen arrived in Istanbul in June 1880, an agreement had been made between the powers for common action. At that time, the Grand Vizier was Mehmet Kadri Pasha, and the Foreign Minister was Abidin Pasha, who had gone to Diyarbekir and its vicinity as the chairman of the investigation commission.
The joint note of the six powers was submitted to Abidin Pasha on 11 June 1880. This note mentioned the Armenian topic, among various Reform matters, and requested information as to what had been accomplished regarding the 61st article of the Berlin Agreement. The attention of the Babiali was drawn to the responsibility that would arise from new delays in the application of those measures, which the great powers agreed were necessary in the interest of the Ottoman Empire and Europe.
When Goschen submitted this note, he did not have the time or the opportunity to learn the opinion of his staff in Istanbul. He did this later on. He gathered the opinion of the Embassy staff and the Consulates. Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson from the Embassy, too, had prepared a long memorandum. We summarize below the opinion of Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson in the memorandum sent by Goschen to Foreign Secretary Granville on 16th June:
The Armenians are divided into the Gregorian (Orthodox), Roman Catholic, and Protestant sects, ‘vhich are usually at variance with each other, and rarely combine for any common object. Not only do the different sects intrigue against each other, but the Gregorians are rarely if ever united among themselves on any question of local politics. [There is a paragraph which extensively describes the weak and corrupt character of Armenians which we prefer not to include here.] The mixed population of Anatolia has not Reached the maturity necessary for reforms in the Western sense. The masses of the people are generally uneducated and far from civilized. Possible reforms would be re-assembly of the Imperial Parliament, [the Sultan had closed the Assembly eleven months after its opening on 13 February 1878], the execution of existing laws, the implementation of the reform envisaged in the 1867 Vilayet Law, abolition of the system of ruling the people by religious communities, the improvement of civil service regulations, to enable Christians to become government officials, the reorganization of local administration budgets, reforming the tax laws, improving the courts, making a civil law for various cases, the modification of laws concerning bribery and embezzlement, reforming the jails, establishing a real gendarmerie, and appointing selected European full-pay officers for the gendarmerie, having Christians, too, become gendarmes, agrarian reform, improving the educational system, granting freedom for the press, encouraging various industries, and to give them to foreign capital.
This is all very well, but there is no information in the report as to how the necessary funds would be found. The reports coming from the Consuls emphasized that the Armenians were preparing to secede from the Ottoman administration and that their goal was autonomy.
The Consul of Erzurum, Everett, in particular, wrote in his report dated 25 June that the Armenians did not believe Europeans would help them to obtain autonomy, and that they had prepared themselves for the necessary action; that teachers coming from Istanbul attempted to give direction to the people; that they imported arms; that he had heard weapons were hidden in all the Armenian houses; that they were not yet ready, but serious troubles would arise when the time came.
The Ottoman Empire gave a reply to the joint note of the six powers on 5 July 1880.
It was stated in this reply, signed by Abidin Pasha, that meticulous investigations were carried out in the eastern provinces, and that the work had begun; that commissions would be established in nahiyes, formed by a president belonging to the sect of the majority of the nahiye, a vice-president of the minority sect, and 4—6 members, which would be responsible for the administration; that the bujaks would have their own gendarmerie; that a gendarmerie force would also be established in the province; that itinerant courts would be formed for penal matters; that in principle the right to become government officials had been granted to non-Muslim, and that this right would be extended even more; that one-tenth of the sum remaining after having subtracted local expenses from provincial income would be left in the province for public works and educational services; and that a regulation was being drafted for all the Anatolian provinces. The note ended with the following statement: ‘Before concluding my reply, I would like to inform you that it was established in the census arranged by the Babiali in the provinces of Van, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Erzurum, and Sivas, where Armenians are present in large numbers, that only 17 per cent of the total population were Armenians, approximately 4 per cent were other non-Muslims, and 79 per cent were Muslims.’
It is clear that Goschen especially focused on the information given about the Armenian population.
The Armenian Patriarch, too, had provided him with some statistics on the population subject. (We noted them in Chapter 3.) Goschen began an investigation on this subject through his local organization. (Major Trotter’s conclusions were based on this investigation.) Parallel to this, the Ambassadors in Istanbul of the six powers began to work together to submit another note concerning matters which were not satisfactory in the reply of Abidin Pasha. The Patriarch took part indirectly in this, by providing them with various information.
A new note was subsequently prepared and, after the concerned governments’ approval had been obtained, was submitted to the Babiali on 7 September 1880. Abidin Pasha was still the Minister of Foreign Affairs when the note was submitted. However, three days later the Grand Vizier was dismissed, being replaced by Sait Pasha, and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs was Asim Pasha. Consequently, the responsibility for examining and answering the powers’ note was left to the new cabinet.
This note, dated 7 September is quite long. We summarize its main points:
The six powers, after having stated that the explanation given by Abidin Pasha was in no way satisfactory, and that it did not comply with the obligation of article 61 of the Berlin Agreement, make the following observations.
There is no indication that reforms have been applied to the legal organization. Although the reform concerning all provinces is pleasing, priority must be given, above everything else, to the provinces mentioned in the 61st article. Not only the bujak leaders, but higher officials too, must be selected from among the sect of the majority. The gendarmerie organization must also include non-Muslims as officers and privates. The authority of governors must be extended. The population question must be established as soon as possible through a special commission, but this must not cause delay in other respects.
The Babiali did not answer this note separately. However, in the note sent by Minister of Foreign Affairs Asim Pasha to the powers on 3 October 1880, concerning the reform to be implemented in Roumelia, this subject, too, was mentioned, and information was given about the decisions taken following the investigations made by delegations sent to the eastern provinces, most recently by Baker Pasha.
We summarize below the information given by the Babiali to the powers.
The courts of Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Van, and Erzurum would be reformed, the police and the gendarmerie would be reorganized in these provinces, the colonels of gendarmerie would be appointed from the Ministry of War, other officers would be selected by regiment assemblies and they would be appointed through the suggestion of the governors, by the Ministry of War.The bujak organization mentioned in the note dated 5 July 1880 would be completed shortly. 10 per cent of provincial income would be allotted to the province for educational and public services. Provincial administrative offices would be open to every subject.
Military courts would apply the civil code and the other statutes in force. This constituted a sufficient answer to the powers’ note. However, they, and especially Britain, were not willing to consider it as an answer, and from this date on, some sort of dispute began between Britain and the Babiali. Various endeavours we shall mention, before going into detail, will clarify this point.
Ambassador Goschen, in a telegram he sent to the Foreign Office on 16 November 1880, mentioned that the Babiali had not replied to the joint note, and stated that the Armenians did not have the patience to wait endlessly, that they could attempt to revolt, and that it would be well to invite the powers which had signed the Berlin Agreement to a new joint undertaking.
The Gladstone cabinet wanted such an undertaking anyway. However, Russia did not want the Armenian question to be put forward, when the Karadagh and Greek topic was being discussed. Germany and Austria did not find it appropriate to put pressure on the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, Granville was unable to send Goschen the instructions he wanted concerning a joint undertaking.
In March 1881, Tsar Alexander II was shot by a nihilist. From this date on, Russia began to apply a policy of opposing any kind of liberation movement, and taking as priority the russiffication of the country. Subsequently it lost almost all interest in the subject of implementing reforms to the advantage of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Britain was thus left totally alone.
Goschen made no new attempts until he finally left Istanbul in June 1881. He was replaced by Lord Dufferin in that month.
Dufferin mentioned the Armenian question the first time he saw Sultan Abdulhamid, and suggested that a competent governor should be sent to the region. The British Ambassador repeated his views when he was received in July by the Grand Vizier Sait Pasha.
Not only did the British Embassy make these attempts, but it was also in the process of preparing proposals concerning the reform to be made. We have mentioned these activities during the time of the former Ambassador Goschen. The new Ambassador also got involved in this subject, and had Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, who was the Embassy expert on these matters, prepare new proposals. We mention this, not to report these proposals, but to show the extent to which the British took this matter seriously.
A report by Dufferin dated 23 August informs us that during another visit he paid to the Grand Vizier Sait Pasha on 22 August he mentioned these proposals which he was having prepared.
On Dufferin’s instruction, Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson and Major Trotter prepared a new note on 23 August and submitted it to the Ambassador.
On 29 August Dufferin organized a meeting with the Ambassadors of the other five powers, and suggested that a joint note should again be submitted to the Babiali, and that an answer to their note dated 7 September 1880 should be requested.
On 9 September 1881, the Ambassadors met again at the British Embassy. Dufferin suggested that the six powers should write a new joint note and request from the Babiali first of all that a general-governor should be appointed to the East, that they should state that their opinion in their note dated 7 September 1880 had not changed, and that they should insist on the subject of reform. He also suggested that the Ambassadors should prepare reform proposals among themselves.
The Ambassadors accepted these suggestions, on condition that their respective governments approve of them: however, the Russian Ambassador suggested that, instead of submitting a joint note, they should separately make these requests orally, using the same terminology, and this suggestion, too, was accepted.
When Dufferin was received by the Sultan on 15 September, he mentioned the subject and elaborated on the idea of sending a governor-general, stating that it would be time to implement the reforms when the governor-general was in control of the situation and when he had dealt with complaints. We are informed by Dufferin’s report dated 19 September 1881 that Sultan Abdulhamid replied that he would send a high-ranking official to the region in a month.
On 1 October 1881, the Ambassadors met again, at Dufferin’s invitation, to study the reform proposals prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson and Trotter. It was decided at this meeting that the Russian Ambassador Novikoff and Dufferin should work as a subcommittee, that they should prepare a memorandum, and that the Ambassadors should meet again.
In November, Dufferin made various requests to be informed about the progress of the decision to send a governor-general to the East; he was told that reform proposals were being prepared, and that he would soon be informed of them. This was at the time when the Zeitun incidents, which we shall describe on page 150 occurred.
On 22 November, Dufferin paid a visit with the Russian Ambassador to Minister of Foreign Affairs Asim Pasha, and mentioned the subject of appointing a governor-general.
When Dufferin learned in December from the secretary-general of Foreign Affairs, Artin Efendi, that the Sultan would do nothing about the Armenians without the insistence of Germany, he asked his Ministry to approach Germany. Germany did not want to exert pressure, nor was a British approach to Austria successful.
Dufferin was received by the Sultan on 14 January 1882. During the meeting, the Sultan told him that difficulties arising from the application of the decrees established by the Berlin Treaty concerning the eastern borders had been overcome; that the subject of reform in the eastern provinces had also been examined, and that it would be put into effect; that a qualified governor-general had not been appointed because one had not yet been found, and that he needed time.
In 1882, Britain encouraged Germany to act with it. The German Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, in the instruction he sent to the Embassy in London, that they would lose the Sultan’s trust if they interfered in Turkey’s internal affairs, and that they wanted to maintain this trust from the perspective of European peace.
No further attempts were made, because 1882 continued with unrest in Erzurum.
When the British Foreign Secretary realized that he was not going to succeed in obtaining the support of other powers, he decided to resort to threats. And he decided to dwell on the Cyprus Agreement.
On 10 May 1883, Dufferin, following the instructions of his government, paid another visit to the Sultan, and when they were discussing the Armenian question, told him that the 4 June 1878 Cyprus Agreement put forward obligations on both sides; that if the Ottomans would not fulfil theirs by implementing reforms, then the obligation on Britain to protect Turkey would be annulled. The Sultan then asked the British Ambassador why, in that case, they still remained in Cyprus. This approach, too, proved fruitless.
In 1883, the Foreign Secretary, Granville, made new approaches to Germany and Austria. However, these too were fruitless. The German Minister of Foreign Affairs stated the following points in his instruction No. 84 which he sent to his London Ambassador on 17 May 1883:
I do not understand what England will gain by putting the Sultan in an uneasy situation. The matters called Armenian reform are ideal and theoretical requests, and they have been included in Congressional discussions, with the thought that they could be useful in Parliaments. Their practical value and the Result they will give are doubtful, and constitute a double-edged sword for the Armenians. In our opinion it should not be part of British policy, to weaken the Ottoman Empire, and to cut the ties connecting Armenians to Turkey. To interfere in such internal matters is the surest way to bring distressful results. I find Dufferin’s attempt unfortunate for European peace and the tranquillity of the East.
The Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs was not so categorical. However, he did not conceal that he wanted to maintain the friendly attitude of the Sultan, and that consequently he could not act with Britain.
The stubborn insistence of the British, the fact that in the meantime they invaded Egypt, and the fact that they remained in Cyprus despite their declaration that they would not keep their obligations under the Cyprus Agreement (Britain did not annul the 4 June 1878 Agreement until Lausanne) clearly indicated the new policy of Britain and its intentions concerning the Empire.
This change in British policy was the main reason why the Ottoman Empire turned towards the Central powers. It was for the same reason that Von der Gotz Pasha came to Turkey (in the spring of 1883) and began the reform of the Ottoman Army.
In spite of the attitude of Germany and Austria, Granville insisted on his policy. But nothing was obtained in 1883, because of Britain’s unnecessary insistence. After 1883, the attitude of Russia towards the Armenians became even harsher. Naturally this left Britain more isolated.
In 1885, the Liberals lost the election in Britain, and Lord Salisbury became Prime Minister. However, Salisbury’s government did not last long, a new election became necessary and Gladstone again became Prime Minister in February 1886.
One of the first subjects that the new Foreign Secretary, Lord Rosebery, became occupied with was, as was to be expected, Armenian reform. He requested the Ambassador in Istanbul, Sir E. Thornton, in June 1886 to remind the Ottoman Empire of the obligations of the 61st article, since there was no other bone of contention left.
Instead of making this request orally, the Istanbul Ambassador preferred to submit a memorandum when he visited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sait Pasha, on 16 August 1886. This memorandum had no result other than angering the Ottoman government. The Grand Vizier Mehmet Kamil Pasha even demanded that the memorandum be taken back.
This last attempt of the British was not welcomed by Germany and Austria. In the meantime there was a new Foreign Secretary, Lord Iddesleigh replacing Lord Rosebery. Lord Iddesleigh was compelled to reply to the German and Austrian Ambassadors that the instructions had been sent by the former Foreign Secretary, and that their Ambassador had not felt the need to request a new instruction before making an approach to the Babiali.
3. Armenian preparations for revolt
We have mentioned that, at the beginning of the Berlin Congress, when talking to the British Ambassador, the Armenian Patriarch stated that if revolt was necessary to gain the attention of the European powers, it would not be difficult to achieve. We have also pointed out that the Patriarch, in the speech he made at the Armenian National Assembly after the Berlin Congress, encouraged teachers, radicals, and enthusiastic youth to go to the eastern provinces.
The information coming from the British Consuls in the eastern provinces from 1880 on showed that the Armenians were beginning to be restless. At that time only Russia and Britain had Consulates in the eastern provinces, Britain at Trabzon, Erzurum, Van and Diyarbekir, and Russia at Erzurum and Van.
Reports were coming from the provinces through the governors-general and the security offices to the Ministry of the Interior, but because these were more case reports, and did not include evaluations, and because the Consul’s reports in some cases included information given by Armenians, we have preferred to analyse developments on the basis of the latter.
The Consul of Van, Captain Clayton, wrote in his report dated 12 October 1880 that he was informed that associations were being formed in Russian Armenia to send weapons to the Armenians of Turkey, and that agents had been engaged for the distribution of these weapons. In November, Clayton stated that the Armenians were preparing to rebel, and that an American missionary in Van had stated that weapons were continuously being sent from Russia.
The Consul of Erzurum, Everett, gave similar information concerning his region, and wrote in his report dated November that it was a certainty that weapons were being gathered in Russia; because it was out of the question that these weapons would be used in Russia, it should be accepted that they were gathered to be used in Turkey. He then stated that the Russian Consul-General in Erzurum, M. Obermüller, had confirmed this, but that he did not know what his government thought about it.
On 23 December 1880, the Consul of Izmir, Colonel Wilson, wrote on the basis of the information he had gathered that he had heard that Armenians would want to use force, and that many young people had gone to Istanbul, Tiflis, and Van. He added to his report a memorandum by Lieutenant Herbet Chermside. In this memorandum, the lieutenant wrote that a rebellion movement could be organized in Van; that he had obtained a letter written by a doctor named Rufrenian (who had previously been employed in Turkey, and who had gone to Ighdir in Russia) to his wife, in which he stated that he had become the leader of an organization formed in Russia against Turkey.
The Consul of Van, Clayton, reported in the last days of 1880 that the Russian Consul-General, Major Kamsaraghan, had informed him that the Armenians were preparing to revolt, but that he was trying to persuade them not to.
The Consul of Trabzon, Alfred Bliotti, in his report dated 5 March 1881, gave an account of a discussion he had with the Russian Consul-General of Erzurum. He wrote that the Russian Consul-General had told him that ‘the Russian Consul in Van, who is of Armenian origin, was attempting to create incidents in Armenia, that he had reported the situation to his government, but that he was dismissed instead of the Consul’. Bliotti went on to say that the former chief translator of the Istanbul Embassy, Belotsercovetz, had been appointed to the Trabzon Consulate, and that this individual had played a very active role in the Bulgarian rebellion.
At the beginning of 1882, Everett wrote that evidence was increasing that the Armenians were preparing to revolt. The Consul had been provided with two documents, in Armenian, which were used to register volunteers. The first document was used for the oath of loyalty of the volunteer, and the second was used for the employment of the taker of the oath. The Consul-General reported that the quality of the paper indicated that they had been printed in Russia, and that the watermarks showed that they could have been printed between December 1880 and August 1881. (When this information was submitted to Dufferin, he instructed the Consul that there was no need to inform the local authorities.)
Everett, in his report of June 1882, stated that he had received his information from totally reliable sources, that the attempts of the Armenians were preparations, that they were working to raise the people’s consciousness, to strengthen nationalistic feelings, that the activities extended in the south to Mush and Van, that Van was one of the main centres, that the activities were supported by Russia, and that the main agent was the Russian Consul in Van, Kamsaraghan.
The new Consul of Erzurum, Eyres, in a report he sent to his Embassy on 9 December 1882, wrote that the day before the government had discovered a rebellion attempt of Armenians, that there were about 40 arrests, and that the government knew the identity of approximately 700 participants. (We shall return to this subject on page 130.)
Portakalian was one of those who worked with Hrimyan in Van. When arrests started following the Erzurum incident, and he was forbidden to reside in Van, Portakalian decided to leave the country with some of his followers. He went to Marseilles and in 1885 began to publish there a newspaper, Armenia, which is still published. One of Portakalian’s sup-porters, Avetisian, return to Van and organized a revolutionary party, ‘Armenakan’.
Following Portakalian, an Armenian group in England began to publish a newspaper, Hayastan. Later, this group succeeded in founding the British-Armenian Committee in England in 1888. This committee, which included some prominent members of the Liberal Party, became one of the most important propaganda centres of the Armenian question.
In 1885, the Armenakan Party was founded in Van, in 1887 the Hunchak Party was founded in Switzerland, followed by the Tashnak Party, and the revolt activities became the responsibility of these parties and committees.
4. Associations and committees
The first association founded by Armenians within the Empire was the ‘Benevolent Union’ founded in Istanbul in 1860. The aim of this association was to restore Cilicia. The association included such well-known figures as H. Shishmanian, M. Beshiktashian, N.Sivajian, S. Tagvorian, and Dr H. Katibian. It is reported that the association did not secretly get involved in the subject of revolt, but that some of its members took part in the 1862 Zeitun events, and the names of Hasip Shishmanian and Migirdich Beshiktashian are given.
Between 1870 and 1880, the societies of ‘Araratian’ in Van, ‘The Friends of the Schools’ and ‘The East’ in Mush, and ‘Nationalistic Women’ in Erzurum appeared. Later, the ‘Araratian’, ‘Friends of the Schools’, and ‘East’ united and formed ‘The United Association of Armenians’. In outlook, all of these associations were committed to social affairs.
Revolutionary associations were also founded alongside these societies. In 1878 the association of ‘Black Cross’ was founded in Van. This association was similar to the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. In 1881, the association of ‘The Defenders of the Motherland’ (Pashtpan Haireniats) was founded in Erzurum. Its aim was to arm Armenians to protect them from attacks. It was this organization whose activities had been discovered in 1882, and whose members had been arrested. (We shall return to this subject.) This association only lasted for one and a half years, from May 1881 to November 1882.
The first revolutionary political party was the Armenian Party. Although he had nothing to do with the founding of the party, Migirdich Portakalian’s name is associated with Armenakan. Portakalian, who was born in Istanbul in 1848, was a teacher who spent many years in Van teaching in the school he had founded, and trained a generation of revolutionaries.
When, in 1885, he was forbidden to reside in Van, as we have mentioned, he went to France and began to publish the Armenia newspaper there. Although in the beginning he presented himself as a loyal Turkish citizen, his views changed with time; he became a real revolutionary, and began working on the slogan that independence would not be gained without shedding blood.
In the autumn of 1885, nine individuals who were Portakalian’s students founded the Armenakan Party. These nine individuals were Migirdich Terlemezian (Avetisian), Grigor Terlemezian, Ruben Shatavarian, Grigor Adian, Grigor Ajemian, M. Barutjian, Gevord Hanjian, Grigor Beozikian, and Gareghin Manukian. It is believed that Avetisian was the leader of this organization and that he made the contact with Portakalian. Although the newspaper Armenia was connected with this party, it never became the official newspaper of the party. Despite the fact that in August 1885 Armenia was not allowed to enter Turkey, it continued to be secretly introduced. (In 1886, it was forbidden that the newspaper enter Russia.)
The Party Programme was written by hand in seven or eight copies, and was published for the first time after the Second World War. We summarize it below.
The Party was founded in order to obtain the right of Armenians to rule themselves. Only Armenians can be Party members. To attain its goal, the Party shall unite all patriotic Armenians who share the same cause, shall spread revolutionary ideas, shall teach members to use weapons, shall teach them military discipline, shall provide weapons and money, shall organize guerrilla forces, and shall prepare the people to a general movement. The Party shall be formed of active and auxiliary members; the latter shall only provide financial support. A central organization shall be formed, and regional committees shall be established. The Central Organization shall be formed by representatives of Regional Committees. An additional committee shall be formed to ensure cooperation with other revolutionary groups.
It is also reported that the Russian Consul Major Kamsaraghan gave instruction about using weapons and military strategy in the Armenian School in Van.
It is reported in Nalbandian’s book that the known activities of the party were the shoot-out between three revolutionaries disguised as Kurds (Hovannes Agripassian, Vardan Goloshian and Karabet Kulaksizian) and Turkish gendarmes, Avetisian’s attack with three accomplices on a Kurdish group, and various murders, including that of police officer Nuri Efendi in Van on 16 October 1892.
There is also a rumour that the Armenakan Party became in time the Ramgavar Party. The two organizations which we must focus on are, without any doubt, the Committees of Hunchak and Tashnak.
(a) The Revolutionary Hunchak Party
In Armenian, Hunchak (Hinchak or Henchak) means Bell. The founders of this party were the children of well-to-do families, who had never set foot in the Ottoman Empire, who were sent to Paris to study, and who had adopted Marxist theory. It is accepted that it was Portakalian and the newspaper Armenia which he published that united them. As a matter of fact, Avetis Nazarbekian, who wrote fervent revolutionary articles in the newspaper Armenia, was a student in Paris. In the summer of 1886 he went from Paris to Geneva with his fiancee Marian Vardanian. At that time they were both only in their twenties. In Geneva they met four Russian Armenian students, Gabriel Kaflan, Ruben Hanazad, Nicoli Martinian, and Migirdich Manucharian. All were readers of Armenia. Because Armenia dwelled on the situation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the main topic of conversation between these six students was how to save the Armenians of Turkey, which they had never seen. Later, Manucharian left the group, but another student, Gevorg Harajian from Montpellier, joined.
This six-member group decided to organize a society, and asked Portakalian to lead them, but did not receive a positive answer. The group then decided to publish another newspaper in response to Armenia, and began a campaign to raise money. They applied to the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna, and requested Armenian type for a newspaper to be published in Armenian.
While waiting for the type they formed a three-member committee (Nazarbekian, Vardanian, and Harajian) towards the end of 1886 and began preparing the programme of the future organization. We give below the main points of the project which was later announced as the programme of the Revolutionary Hunchak Party.
1. The present order must be removed by a revolution and must be replaced by a new sbciety based on economic realities and social justice.
2. The first goal of the Party is to obtain the political and national independence of Turkish Armenia. After having attained this goal, an attempt will be made to reach various political and economic aims. The political aims are:
— the establishment of a Legislative Popular Assembly to be elected with free elections by general and direct vote;
— the election of national representatives from all classes of society;
— extensive provincial autonomy;
— extensive city autonomy;
— the right for every individual to be employed in any office;
— absolute freedom of press, speech, conscience, assembly, organization, and vote;
— general military service.
3. The economic aims shall be established after a careful study of the people’s needs and wishes. Probably a progressive tax above a certain income level will be applied.
4. The method to be used to attain goals which will be realized in Turkey through revolution is propaganda, provocation, terror, organization and the peasant and worker movements.
The propaganda will consist of explaining to the people the basic reasons and the appropriate time of the revolt against the Government. Provocation and terror are necessary to increase the people’s courage. The main methods of provocation are demonstrations against the Government, not paying taxes, not wanting reform, creating hatred against the aristocratic class. Terror is the method for protecting the people and obtaining their trust in the Hunchak programme. The Party’s aim is to use terror against the Ottoman Government, but the Government will not be the only target. Terror will also be used against dangerous Turks and Armenians working for the Government, spies and informers.
5. A special branch will be formed to organize these terrorist activities.
6. The Party shall include a central committee. Two large revolutionary groups shall be formed by workers and peasants. In addition to these groups, bands of guerrillas shall be formed.
7. The most appropriate time to realize the revolution will be when Turkey is at war.
8. Syriacs and Kurds must be won over in the struggle against Turks.
9. After the independence of the Armenia of Turkey, the revolution will be extended to the Armenia of Russia and Iran, and a Federative Armenia will be established.
It appeared that the Hunchak programme was both nationalist and communist. First it based the revolution on class struggle against economic exploitation, and then it aimed at establishing a nationalist state.
It was clear that the students who had drafted the programme had adopted the views of revolutionary Russians; they were in contact with Plekhanov and Zasulich, Russian revolutionaries who were in Geneva.
This project was unanimously accepted by the students, and the Hunchak Party was founded de facto in Geneva in August 1887. However, it was later called, in 1890, the Revolutionary Hunchak Party, referring to the newspaper it published.
The Armenian type arrived in 1887, and the Hunchak newspaper began to be published in Armenian. The Party Programme was published in the October—November 1888 issue.
The economic and social views of the Hunchaks did not find an audience among the middle- and upper-class Armenians in Russia, or in Turkey. The Hunchaks chose Istanbul as their centre of operation, and sent organizers to other regions (Bafra, Merzifon, Amasya, Tokat, Yozgat, Arapkir, Trabzon). The Hunchaks were supported by young people, and began to gather supporters among them in Turkey, Russia, and Iran.
According to Esat Uras, those who came to Istanbul to open the Centre were Shimavon from Tiflis, Megoveryan from Batum, Danielian from Iran, and Rupen Hanazad from Russia. This last was one of the founding members of the Party in Geneva.
The Hunchak Party took responsibility for the demonstrations of Kumkapi and the Babiali, and the rebellions of Sassun and Zeitun. We shall later examine each of these in turn.
When it became apparent that the activities undertaken in Turkey did not produce the desired result, the Hunchak Party was split into two factions. One group claimed that the European powers did not support them because of the socialist ideas of the Party programme. They wanted to exclude all socialist principles from the programme. This difference of opinion resulted in a split into two factions in 1896, the Nazarbekian faction, and the anti-Nazarbekian faction which wanted to abandon socialist ideas. This second faction held a meeting in 1896 in Alexandria and founded the ‘New Hunchak Party’. The Revolutionary Hunchak Party held its second general congress in London in 1896 and continued to exist.
(b) The Revolutionary Armenian Federation (Dashnaksutyun)
In Armenian the word Dashnaksutyun means Federation. Because this party was born through the unity of various Armenian groups, especially those in Russia, it was called the Federation. The word was shortened into ‘Tashnak’ when using it in Turkish.
The factions which gave rise to the federation can be divided into three main groups.
The first, called non-socialist revolutionary nationalists, was formed by individuals who were interested in the independence of the Armenians of Turkey, and who leaned towards the Armenakan Party. Most of them were students studying in St Petersburg, and their spokesman was Konstantin Hatisian, a wealthy Russian Armenian. This group was called the Northerners, based on the name of the boarding house where they gathered (Severnye Nomera = Northern Boarding House).
One group of the socialist revolutionaries wanted to cooperate with Russian and Georgian revolutionaries and abolish the Tsarist regime. A second group focussed only on the Armenians of Turkey. Both socialist groups were generally supported by students in Moscow. They were called the Southerners from the name of the boarding house where they gathered in Tiflis (Iuzhnye Nomera = Southern Boarding House). Within the group which focused on the Armenians of Turkey there were some who were members of the Hunchak Party.
It is not known how and when these various groups came together. However, it is known that Christopher Mikealian, Stepan Zartan, and Simon Zavarian made unification possible in the summer of 1890, and that Ruben Hanazad took part in the meetings in the name of the Hunchak Party.
It is said that, at the beginning, a secret bureau established in Geneva organized and administered the activities, and that this bureau managed the other members with very strict discipline. Even so, the area where the main activity took place and where the most important leaders were was Tiflis. According to another report, Trabzon was chosen as the centre. Nalbandian, who gives this information, states that ‘The Central Committee was formed of five members, and most of them continued to live in Tiflis. These five individuals who were elected to the executive board were C. Mikaelian, S. Zavarian, Abraham Dastakian, H. Loris Malikian, and Levon Sarkisian.’
When the federation was formed in 1890, it appeared that the Hunchak Party was included in it. This unity, however, did not last long. The Hunchaks severed their ties with the federation on 5 June 1891, claiming that the Tashnaks were very slow in organizing their activities. Obviously it was hardly practical for the Hunchaks, who had communist tendencies, to remain in the federation.
The Hunchaks were followed by non-socialist leaders such as Konstantin Hatisian. Discontent arose from the fact that the Tashnaks had first announced a Manifesto, before drafting a programme. They decided to hold a General Congress in the summer of 1892, and began to publish the newspaper Droshak, one of the Party’s official journals.
The programme of the Tashnaks was drafted during this 1892 meeting. The programme stated that the Party would form revolutionary groups to reach its goal by means of revolts, and indicated that the methods of the Russian nihilists would be adopted.
The methods to be used by revolutionary bands organized by the Party were as follows:
1. To propagandize for the principles of the Dasnaksutyun and its objectives, based upon an understanding of, and sympathy with, the revolutionary work.
2. To organize fighting bands, to work with them with regard to the above-mentioned problems, and to prepare them for activity.
3. To use every means, by word and deed, to arouse the revolutionary activity and spirit of the people.
4. To use every means to arm the people.
5. To organize revolutionary committees and establish strong links between them.
6. To stimulate fighting and to terrorize government officials, informers, traitors, usurers, and every kind of exploiter.
7. To organize financial districts.
8. To protect the peaceful people and the inhabitants against attacks by brigands.
9. To establish communications for the transportation of men and arms.
10. To expose government establishments to looting and destruction.
The Party also drafted an organizational regulation and founded the Eastern and Western bureaus. The Eastern bureau included the area east of the Giresun—Harput—Diyarbekir axis, Caucasia, Russia, and Iran. The Western bureau included the area west of Giresun—Harput—Diyarbekir, the Balkans, America, Egypt, and other foreign countries. The Western bureau also organized the activities of these bureaus.
From the moment it was founded, the Tashnak Party was a terrorist organization. While the Hunchak Party wanted to form a politically independent Armenia by uniting the Armenias of Turkey, Russia, and Iran, the Tashnak Party did not even mention the word independence in its 1892 programme. It also did not claim a separation from the Ottoman Empire. Nalbandian states that ‘the fact that the political goals of the Tashnaks were almost identical to the reform project submitted by the Patriarch Nerses to the Berlin Congress, was expressed in the first editorial of Droshak’. In 1919, during their 9th General Congress, the Tashnaks expanded their programme, and adopted the goal of founding an autonomous and independent Republic by uniting the Armenias of Turkey and Russia.
The Tashnaks, who started their activities as a terrorist organization, assumed responsibility for the attack on the Ottoman Bank, the 1904 revolt in Sassun, and the assassination in Yildiz. In addition there were various other incidents. We shall examine these later.
Let us first make the following observation. Before the Tashnaks appeared as an organized party, they had started their terrorist acts. The Tashnaks had assassinated Gerekjian, the former president of the ‘Defenders of the Motherland’ Society, in 1891 in Erzurum, acting on the decision taken by the local central committee. Gerekjian’s error had been to oppose immediate revolutionary activity and to suggest prudence and preparations. The local central committee had him killed, following the motto that he who is not with us is against us. In 1892, the Tashnak Central Committee disapproved of this assassination, but did not punish Aram Aramian who was responsible for it.
The ideas of rebellion which developed after the Church and the religious factor on one side, and the policies of the powers on the other, had prepared the ground, were easily utilized by the terrorist organizations, and the epoch of rebellions came. In this period, propaganda became a very effective weapon.
5. Terrorist activities, rebellions
Before describing Armenian terrorist activities and rebellions, it will be useful to record various reflections and observations that have been made regarding this topic.
We cited one, from Sydney Whitman, in Chapter 2.44 During his discussion with the British Consul in Erzurum, Whitman asked whether, in his opinion, any killings would have taken place, if Armenian revolutionaries had not arrived in the country to encourage the people to revolt, and the Consul had replied, ‘No, without any doubt, not one Armenian would have been killed’. Clair Price observed in 1923:
... the Capitulations were more than merely a legal process. They constituted a mental attitude toward the Ottoman Government. They made it the Western habit to disregard the Ottoman Government and to establish contacts with its subjects quite independently of the existing relations with that country. Under the Capitulations, the West long ago established contact with the Ottoman Government’s Christian subjects and a code of governmental conduct was unwittingly built up which the West applied to that Government alone. Under this code, any Ottoman Christian was given the right to rebel against the Government but the Government, although it was the only body charged with the maintenance of peace in the country, was denied the right to put down Christian rebellion. This code the West has applied to no other Government.
William Langer records:
One of the revolutionaries told Dr. Hamlin, the founder of Robert College, that the Hentchak bands would ‘watch their opportunity to kill Turks and Kurds, set fire to their villages, and then make their escape into the mountains. The enraged Moslems will then rise, and fall upon the defenceless Armenians and slaughter them with such barbarity that Russia will intervene in the name of humanity and Christian civilization.’ When the horrified missionary denounced the scheme as atrocious and infernal beyond anything ever known, he received this reply: ‘It appears so to you, no doubt; but we Armenians have determined to be free. Europe listened to the Bulgarian horrors and made Bulgaria free. She will listen to our cry when it goes up in the shrieks and blood of millions of women and children.... We are desperate. We shall do it’.
David Hogarth noted, in 1896:
The Armenian, for all his ineffaceable nationalism, his passion for plotting and his fanatical intolerance, would be a negligible thorn in the Ottoman side did he stand alone. The Porte knows very well that while Armenian Christians are Gregorian, Catholic, and Protestant, each sect bitterly intolerant of the others, and moreover while commerce and usury are all in Armenian hands, it can divide and rule secure; but behind the Armenian secret societies (and there are few Armenians who have not committed technical treason by becoming members of such societies at some period of their lives) it sees the Kurd, and behind the Kurd the Russian; or, looking west, it espies through the ceaseless sporadic propaganda of the agitators Exeter Hall and the Armenian committees. The Turk begins to repress because we sympathize, and we sympathize the more because he represses, and so the vicious circle revolves. Does he habitually, however, do more than repress? Does he, as administrator, oppress? So far we have heard one version only, one party to this suit, with its stories of outrage, and echoing through them a long cry for national independence. The mouth of the accused has been shut hitherto by fatalism, by custom, by that gulf of misunderstanding which is fixed between the Christian and the Moslem.
In my own experience of western Armenia, extending more or less over four years up to 1894, I have seen no signs of a Reign of Terror.... Life in Christian villages has not shown itself outwardly to me as being very different from life in the villages of Islam, nor the trade and property of Armenians in towns to be less secure than those of Moslems.... There was tension, there was friction, there was a condition of mutual suspicion as to which Armenians have said to me again and again, ‘If only the patriots would leave us to trade and to till!’.... The Turk rules by right of five hundred years’ possession, and before his day the Byzantine, the Persian, the Parthian, the Roman preceded each other as over-lords of Greater Armenia back to the misty days of the first Tigranes. The Turk claims certain rights in this matter — the right to safeguard his own existence, the right to smoke out such hornets’ nests as Zeitun, which has annihilated for centuries past the trade of the Eastern Taurus, the right to remain dominant by all means not outrageous.
In 1915, Sir Mark Skyes wrote:
As for the tactics of the revolutionaries, anything more flendish one could not imagine — the assassination of Moslems in order to bring about the punishment of innocent men, the midnight extortion of money from villages which have just paid their taxes by day, the murder of persons who refuse to contribute to their collection-boxes, are only some of the crimes of which Moslems, Catholics, and Gregorians accuse them with no uncertain voice... the Armenian revolutionaries prefer to plunder their co-religionists to giving battle to their enemies; the anarchists of Constantinople throw bombs with the intention of provoking a massacre of their fellow-countrymen.
If the object of English philanthropists and the roving brigands (who are the active agents of revolution) is to subject the bulk of the Eastern provinces to the tender mercies of an Armenian oligarchy, then I cannot entirely condemn the fanatic outbreaks of the Moslems or the repressive measures of the Turkish government. On the other hand, if the object of the Armenians is to secure equality before the law, and the maintenance of security and peace in the countries partly inhabited by Armenians, then I can only say that their methods are not those calculated to achieve success.
In the same year, Sir Edwin Pears recorded:
Under such circumstances the revolt of a handful of Armenians had not a chance of success and was therefore unjustifiable. As a friend to the Armenians, revolt seemed to me purely mischievous. Some of the extremists declared that while they recognised that hundreds of innocent persons suffered from each of these attempts, they could provoke a big massacre which would bring in foreign intervention. Such intervention was useless so long as Russia was hostile. Lord Salisbury had publicly declared that as he could not get a fleet over the Taurus mountains he did not see how England could help the Armenians, much as she sympathised with them.
Dixon-Johnson, a year later, wrote:
The advent of these revolutionary agents into Kurdistan had the inevitable result of embittering the former good relations of the Turkish Government and the resident Moslem population with the Christian, and especially the Orthodox Armenian section of the inhabitants.
This was natural for the reason that in Turkey the people have a horror of secret societies and plots, founded on the experience of their own suffering at the hands of the Greek Hetairia and the Bulgarian Komitadjis. The fears of the Turks and the Kurds were genuine. They believed that the members of the once loyal ‘millet-i sadika’ (the loyal nation) no longer merited that title, and that they were arming and preparing to massacre the Moslems. The whole country became like a powder magazine....
These passages that we have quoted were taken from books written after the rebellions, and during the First World War, and whose authors were mostly Armenian sympathizers. These books, and others, include many degrading passages about the Armenian character. However, we have preferred to exclude such passages degrading the Armenian nation as a whole.
We shall cite one more author before examing the events themselves: the reply of the Armenian representative, Avetis Aharonian, to Lord Curzon on 8 April 1920, when Curzon asked for the Armenians’ attacks on the Azerbaijani Turks in Caucasia to be stopped: ‘“Your Lordship of course knows that the bone of contention here is our land,” I replied. “Zangezour is Armenian; Karabagh is Armenian; Nakhitchevan has been an inseparable part of our land for a thousand years. It is natural that when our enemies are trying to seize our lands we are forced to defend them, no matter what.” ‘
(a) The arrest of the ‘Defenders of the Motherland’
We have mentioned that the British Consul, Eyres, reported to Istanbul that approximately forty arrests had taken place in Erzurum on 8 December 1882. Those who were arrested were members of the ‘Defenders of the Motherland’ society. The documents obtained by Everett at the beginning of 1882, which pointed to the founding of a revolutionary society, concerned this society. ‘The founders of the “Defenders of the Motherland” were Hachatur Kerekchian, Karabet Nishkian, Agop Isgalatsian, Aleksan Yetelikian, Hovannes Asturian, and Yeghishe Tursunian. The society began its activities in May 1881, and within three months had obtained the oath of more than a hundred people. The Erzurum Bishop Ormanian was aware of this, and had informed the Patriarch in Istanbul, who had approved the establishment of the organization.’ As soon as the Government officials obtained the oath documents published by the organization, the arrests began. Bishop Ormanian was summoned to Istanbul.
While investigations concerning this matter were still in progress, the British Ambassador Dufferin visited the Sultan, and stated that if reforms were not implemented, Britain Would not abide by the Cyprus Agreement.
The case of 76 individuals who were arrested began in 1883 in Erzurum; 40 of them were convicted. Kerekchian was sentenced to 15 years, and the others received sentences of 5—13 years. However, through the continuous mediations and favours of atriarch Nerses and Bishop Ormanian, most of the convicts were pardoned by the Sultan in July 1884, and founding members such as Kerekchian, Ishgalatsian and Asturian were pardoned in September 1886.
After this date, the Armenakan Society established in Van engaged in a continuous propaganda campaign, through the efforts of Portakalian on the one hand, and of Agopian, who was at the head of the organization in England, on the other. Agopian was immediately informed of every arrest, and presented many petitions to the British Government on this subject.
Here is a very interesting point. In a letter he sent to Salisbury on 29 March 1888, Agopian stated that five innocent individuals had been arrested, and gave their names. One of the five was Migirdich Terlemezian. We have mentioned above that Terlemezian was the founder of the Armenakan Party. It is impossible for us to state whether the British were indeed uninformed of the establishment and aims of this party, or claimed to be unaware. We know, however, that Salisbury, who received this letter from Agopian, sent instructions to the Ambassador in Istanbul, Sir William White, and requested that he investigate the matter. It is impossible not to accept that the Ottoman Government was right to arrest Terlemezian, whose deeds were proclaimed as national heroism after everything was over, and many years had passed. Although the Empire was badly administered in those years, there is no doubt that the authorities had easily obtained information about the events, at a time when informants were prevalent. Possibly the Ottoman administration could have prevented the Armenian rebellion, had the constant intervention, mixed with threats, of the powers not occurred.
(b) The incident of Musa Bey
To report the incident of Musa Bey is useful in that it shows the extent of British interference. It was claimed that Musa Bey, the leader of the Mutki tribe, and one of the feudal princes of the Mush area, had abducted an Armenian girl, had raped her, then had wanted her to marry his brother on condition that she convert to Islam; that, when the girl refused to convert, he had beaten her, and injured one of her eyes. The Patriarchate had reported this incident to the Sultan as an example of the cruelty and torture inflicted on Armenians. Abdulhamid ordered that Musa Bey be tried, and he was summoned to Istanbul.
Because the Armenian Press exaggerated the incident, especially outside the country, the trial which took place in August 1889 was followed by many foreign journalists and the representatives of Embassies in Istanbul. Everything seemed to be normal up to this point. However, the British Ambassador acted almost as a special official to demonstrate his role as the defender of the Armenian people, and engaged in constant attempts to ensure the conviction of Musa Bey. The reader may find the correspondence between the British Embassy and the Foreign Office in the British Archives, in dossier F.O. 424/162. Musa Bey was acquitted at the end of the public trial, but the British Ambassador had made this into a matter of honour. He continued his attempts at the Babiali level and finally the Sultan was forced to send Musa Bey into exile to a distant region. This decision, which was taken about an individual who had been acquitted in court, was unfortunate, not only for the Ottoman Empire, but for the British Government as well.
(c) The shoot-out with the Armenakan band members
A major event in the party’s history was the sanguinary encounter between three revolutionaries and some Turkish officials in May 1889. The comrades Karapet Koulaksizian, Hovhannes Agripasian, and Vardan Goloshian, armed with rifles and disguised in Kurdish costume, left the village of Hatvan, in the Salmast district in Persia, for Van, on the night of May 16, 1889. After nine or ten days of travel by foot, they passed the Persian frontier into Turkey. As they proceeded on their journey to Van, they were stopped on the Bashkaleh road near Van by four zaptiehs (Turkish police) who were accompanying a caravan. The zaptiehs demanded that the three men disarm. When they refused, the zaptiehs fired on them.
The important point to emphasize here is that these three Armenians were disguised as Kurds, and that the zaptiehs fired on them when they refused to disarm. This incident is enough to refute the claim that Ottoman soldiers connived at brigands’ attacks on Armenians.
As a result of the firing, Goloshian was killed, Agripasian was seriously injured and Kulaksizian managed to escape unharmed.
These two individuals would have been buried without even their identity being known, had it not been for letters found on them, letters which had come from Portakalian from France and Patighian from England, and which mentioned that a secret society had been founded and that it needed funds and members. However, the documents which were found, and especially the fact that Portakalian, in the letter he sent to Kulaksizian, stated that he had published the information Kulaksizian had given him in his newspaper, and that he asked him to continue sending him such information about the region, made the situation much clearer.
As a consequence, this was a case for the police and at the same time provided the Government authorities with new information about the secret society. It may be assumed that the British Consul did not need to be interested in this case, and if he did, he did not need to go further than to report it. However, the British Consul in Van, Derey, had sent pages of reports with the intention of proving that these individuals were not revolutionaries.
As we examine these events after some 100 years, and see how the British Consuls in the area presented these events which Armenian writers still report with pride, it is easy to understand how propaganda against Turkey was fed and developed. Nevertheless, we must add that not all the British Consuls acted in this manner, although the points which they reported with
honesty were not brought into the open in England, owing to the increasing activities of the British-Armenian Society and the Armenian newspapers published in London.
(d) The Erzurum incident
While these secret parties were organized within the Empire, the Hunchak and Tashnak parties were founded outside the country, the Armenian societies were established in France and England, and the fact that they engaged in systematic propaganda against Turkey drove the Babiali and the local authorities to follow the Armenians and their activities closely, the identity of the old ‘millet-i sadika’ began to disappear and the Armenians began to be considered a dangerous element.
On 20 June 1890, a revolt occurred in Erzurum. Let us first note how the incident was described in an article written by Han-Azad (one of the founders of the Hunchak Party), for the anniversary of the incident, in the Hayrenik newspaper published in America in 1927.
The founder of the Sanasarian School had died in 1890. The government had been informed that there was a workshop in this school which produced weapons. It was thought that the informers were the Armenian Catholic priests. Two hours before the search, an individual named ‘Bogos the dog’, belonging to the ‘Defenders of the Motherland’ Society, spread the news that the school would be searched. Immediately, national history books, notebooks, objects which would draw suspicion and curiosity were concealed. Nothing was found during the search. Armenians cried out that the entering of the Turks into the Church was flith and indecency. The men of Gerekchian, who was one of the founders of the ‘Defenders of the Motherland’ Society, and who was later killed by the decision of the Erzurum centre of the Dashnaksutyun Committee, began to engage in provocations among the people. Shops were closed, worship in Church was forbidden, bells were not rung. As soon as they were in control of the situation, they seized this opportunity to yell that Armenians have been free for three days, and that they shall defend their freedom with arms. They demanded that the government reduce taxes and abolish the military conscription tax, that the Church which was desecrated be demolished and built anew, that the 61st article of the Berlin Treaty be implemented.Armenians stayed for 3—4 days in the cemetery, in the Church and in the School yard. Some prominent Armenians, who were trying to disperse the Armenians, were beaten. The order of the government, which demanded that everybody go back to their business, went unheeded. The committee members went around encouraging the people, Meanwhile, Gerekchian’s brother shot two soldiers and fighting began in the city, and continued till evening. It was believed that there were many casualties. The following day the Consuls visited the city. There were more than 100 dead on both sides, and 200—300 wounded....
This is the version coming from a Hunchak leader, who was in a position to know the causes of the incident better than anybody else, and is the same, with its incomplete details, as the Ottoman version. The differences in detail were as follows. The denunciation made to the Government was that weapons were produced not only in the school, but also in the church. The church and the school were searched in the presence of the church priest and the school president. (This is the reason for the charges that the church was desecrated.) The revolt did not occur on the day of the search, but the following day (it is obvious from the Armenian version, how the people were provoked). Shots were fired on the soldiers who were sent to establish order, one soldier was killed, and four were wounded. Following this the Muslims and the Armenians who had rebelled began fighting, 8 Armenians and 2 Moslems were killed, 60 Armenians and 45 Moslems were wounded.
The report sent by the British Consul, Clifford Lloyd, to the Embassy clarifles certain points:
The order to search the Armenian institutions in Erzurum had come from Istanbul. This search had created some discontent among the Armenians. They decided to close the shops and schools, and send a letter of protest to the Sultan. The Consul tried to pacify them, and to persuade them to open the shops. The Muslims and the local authorities saw the closing of the shops as an antagonistic act. The governor-general discussed for this reason with the Armenian bishop, and the Bishop who returned to the Church advised the people, but the people began demonstrations against the Bishop. Upon this, the Bishop had asked the help of the soldiers, a battalion of soldiers had arrived, and the Armenians had shut themselves in the Church. It was then that some Armenians had opened fire on the soldiers, had killed two soldiers, and had wounded three. [In the Ottoman version it was stated that there were one dead and four wounded; it is possible that one of the wounded died later.] Upon this the Muslims attacked the Armenians with sticks and daggers, and chased them as far as the neighbourhoods of the Consulates. The British Consul had informed the governor-general and had asked for help. The unit arrived shortly and was in control of the situation. Meanwhile 12 Armenians were killed and 250 individuals were wounded.
The Consul’s report does not mention any Muslims who were killed or wounded.
These accounts of the Erzurum incident, from three different sources, are in near agreement. However, the incident was reported in Europe as a massacre of Armenians. Europe accepted that this was a massacre, and the incident entered the literature as the first accusation of massacre concerning Armenian revolts, which would be continued.
The matter did not stop here. The Armenians who were caught and sent for trial, accused of having opened fire on the soldiers, were freed on 28 September as a result of undertakings by the representatives of the great powers in Istanbul (there were 28 accused), and the Attorney-general who had arrested them was dismissed from office. Thus, Gerekchian’s brother, whom we know today, through Hanazad’s article, had opened fire and killed a soldier, was freed without punishment.
We can assume that this will have encouraged the rebels in the future.
(e) The demonstration of Kumkapi (Kumkapu)
The Hunchakian Revolutionary Party revealed its power for the first time in Constantinople on Sunday, July 15, 1890, when it organized the Demonstration of Kumkapi. The purpose of the demonstration was’... to awaken the maltreated Armenians and to make the Sublime Porte fully aware of the miseries of the Armenians.’ The demonstration started in the Armenian Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Kumkapi. Here Patriarch Khoren Ashikian was addressing a large congregation gathered for the Vartavar (Transfiguration of our Lord) services. In the cathedral, Haruthiun Jangulian, a party member, read a Hunchak protest directed to the Sultan which advocated Armenian reforms. Afterward, he went to the Patriarchate and smashed the Turkish coat of arms. Although the Armenian Patriarch protested, he was forced by the Hunchaks to join them in presenting the protest to the Sultan. Hardly had the procession toward Yildiz Palace started when it was blocked by Turkish soldiers, and a riot ensued in which a number of people were killed and wounded. Jangulian, who was considered the Hunchak hero of the demonstration, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.
This account by Nalbandian is accurate, but it is necessary to examine the preparations for the incident in more detail.
First of all, it must be recorded that the Hunchak Party wanted to organize a movement in Istanbul, because the Erzurum revolt, and the incident of Musa Bey, did not produce interest in Europe to the extent that had been expected. This demonstration would be partly against the Babiali and partly against the Patriarch himself, because the Hunchak Party was convinced that the Patriarch Ashikian was not protecting the interest of the Armenian nation. The decision to hold a demonstration was taken by the Istanbul Committee of the Hunchak Party. Among them were prominent individuals such as Hanazad Negovarian and Simeon, but it was decided that these individuals would not take part in the demonstration because they were Russian citizens. The demonstration would be led by Jangulian, Murad and Damadian. Later, Mihran Damadian organized an anti-Turkish demonstration in Athens in July 1891, and participated in the Sassun rebellion in August 1891. Hamparsoun Boyajian, who was using the nickname of Murad, had also taken part in the Sassun rebellion, and entered the Assembly as the Kozan representative during the Second Constitutional Government. We shall return to him later.
In the Kumkapi Church, the Patriarch, seeing that the situation was out of control, fled to the Patriarchate, but the Armenians also raided the Patriarchate, and tried to put him in a carriage and take him to the palace by threatening him (some say that he was shot at). The soldiers who arrived in response to the request for help of the Patriarchate, brought the situation under control. Jangulian reported the intervention of the soldiers: ‘Our men were savagely firing shots one after another at the soldiers, and the soldiers were trying to arrest those who were shooting. 6—7 soldiers fell to the ground, seriously wounded, approximately 10 of them were also wounded. Two of us died.’ However, two soldiers were killed during the incident.
The Ottoman Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the circular telegram No. 97842/19 that he sent on 30 July 1890 to the Embassies to inform them of the incident, reported that only the Gendarmerie Commander Server Bey had died in the fight; it is herefore apparent that one of the wounded died later.
Jangulian and the other leaders were arrested and tried. On 20 August, Jangulian was sentenced to death, and the others had various sentences. Abdulhamid changed the death sentence to a life sentence. Thus, this demonstration, too, ended without having produced the intervention desired by the Armenians. However, as the German Ambassador in Istanbul stated, ‘the Patriarch who was for peace, was sacrificed, and it became apparent that even in the capital of the Empire an Armenian revolt was possible. The propaganda of Armenians living in foreign countries, which encouraged revolt, here too, attained their goal, and endangered the tranquillity of the Armenian community living in Istanbul and its vicinity, who were outside such movements, and who constituted the majority.’
In spite of everything, the Armenians believed that the demonstration of Kumkapi had drawn the attention of Europe to the Armenian question. The Hunchak newspaper, in its issue of 7 September 1890, wrote: ‘Armenians shall refuse European proposals that are contrary to their supreme objective, and are ready to fight for this cause until their last drop of blood.’
Nalbrandian observes: ‘These party declarations were bold statements, which, when analyzed, bring up the following questions. How much blood was to be sacrificed for the revolution and who were to die for the cause, only a few Hunchak revolutionaries or numerous Armenian inhabitants of the interior provinces? What would be the value of an independent country whose people had been nearly wiped out in the revolutionary process? The opponents of the Hunchaks were not willing to see a large part of their nation destroyed in order that the Hunchaks might attain a dubious political goal.’
Although the activities of the Armenian Committees were arousing reactions in Europe, they had no effect on the powers at governmental level.
The German charge d’affaires in St Petersburg stated in his report dated 15 September 1890:
In the most recent meeting I had with Giers [the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs], he told me that Russia’s interest in the Armenian topic was only moral rather than political, and consequently, although they were not uninterested, they were passive.... Despite the fact that the articles concerning Armenians of the Berlin Treaty had not yet been implemented, Russia was not interested in them, and was doing nothing to speed their implementation. The British attempts to force Russian involvement in Asia Minor failed.... Giers stated that England was the only state which had a political interest in the Armenian question, that the British wanted to establish an independent Armenian principality on the Russian border, which would prevent Russia from reaching the Mediterranean. He added that Russia had no desire to create a second Bulgaria, and that an autonomous Armenian Principality would constitute a danger, while it would be a temptation for the Armenians in Russia.
The German Ambassador in Istanbul reported the following statements the British Ambassador made in a meeting, in his report to his Ministry dated 28 September 1890:
Sir William White said that an autonomous Armenia was the Request of Committees only in foreign countries, and especially in England, that it had been supported only by Mr. Gladstone, and that the present government paid no attention ot it. A little while ago, Mr. William Summer, from the Liberal Party, had come here. He was one of the followers of the Armenian question. He had told the British Ambassador that the only reason why Gladstone and himself were interested in the Armenian question, was to create difficulties for the Salisbury cabinet.
But it was impossible for them to stop the Hunchaks. In 1891, the Hunchaks joined the Eastern Federation formed by the revolutionaries of Macedonia, Albania, Crete and Greece, in order to synchronize their activities. As we have mentioned above, Mihran Damadian organized a large demonstration against Turkey in Athens in July 1891. In 1892, various incidents occurred in some of the provinces of Turkey.
(f) Other incidents before the Sassun rebellion
At the beginning of 1891, Abdulhamid declared an amnesty for Armenians. As a result, Armenians who had been arrested were freed. 76 Armenians who were thus freed in Istanbul went to the Patriarchate and gave an oath that they would never take part in such movements again.
However, the agents of the Hunchak Party continued their activities. The hostile and false propaganda outside the country became increasingly harsh. A claim was made that Armenians were being forced to convert to Islam.
The following statements of the Armenian Bishop of Izmir, Melchized-ech, against the claim that Armenians were being forced to convert, are worth recording:
Our devotion to truth makes a duty for us to say that the Ottoman Government has given clear instructions to have those who wish to convert to the religion of Islam, sent to their own religious leaders, for a last suggestion to keep their old faith, let alone torture us, or restrict our religious freedom. As the Bishop of Izmir, I have personally witnessed many similar cases.
These statements, however, fell on deaf ears.
Now, the revolutionaries had begun to collect funds for their ‘national cause’, by sending anonymous letters to wealthy Armenians, threatening them. This activity was especially practised in Van. Naturally, this led to more arrests. Similar cases occurred in Harput, and in Arapkir.
In March 1892, 250 Armenians who had petitioned the Russian Government to be under its protection were arrested. Those who were arrested usually received short prison sentences. Invariably, these incidents were used by the Committee in London and by Garabet Agopian as examples of Turkish oppression.
In the summer of 1892, Gladstone was returned to power. This gave even more hope to the revolutionaries.
In December 1892 they attempted to assassinate the governor-general of Van.
In the summer of 1892, an organization was established which would ensure the systematic distribution of various pamphlets and other publications published outside the country and which encouraged Armenians to rebel. For this reason, Merzifon was chosen as the centre because of its proximity to the Samsun harbour, and branches were established in Kaiseri,Yozgat, Chorum, and other areas. From 1893 on, posters began to be posted on the walls.
In January 1893, placards were posted in Amasya, Merzifon, Chorum, Tokat, Yozgat, Ankara and Diyarbekir, directly accusing the Sultan, declaring that he was incompetent and that a great state which ruled millions of Muslims would soon come to help.
Upon this, various suspect Armenians were arrested in these cities. Armenians claimed that these placards had been posted by Muslim fanatics. (The announcements had been signed by the Patriotic Muslims Committee.) Nalbandian records that these announcements had been posted by Armenians, referring to Max Balian, who was one of them.
The same placards had been posted on the walls of the Anatolian College belonging to the American missionaries in Merzifon. (Years later, Max Balian stated that he himself had posted these placards.) Tumanian and Kayayan, who were among the school teachers, were arrested. Bliss states that these two professors had been arrested without any evidence. He also states that ‘The Armenians said that the placards were posted by the Turks; the Turks returned the charge upon the Armenians. Just where the truth is, it will probably be some years before it is possible to state with accuracy.
The fact that they were posted by the Armenians has been proved today through their own confessions. We find the following statement in Nalbandian’s book: ‘We are informed by Aderbed (Sarkis Mubehadjian) of the Hunchak Committee, that Tumanian was carefully followed by the Government, and that since the beginning of 1891, he and the other Hunchaks were consulting with one another and planning a revolution against the State.’
This shows that the Ottoman authorities, in spite of maladministration, were not totally unaware of the situation, and that the arrests, as stated by Bliss, had not arisen out of a hatred against a missionary school. Despite this, these two professors, who had been arrested, were pardoned by Abdulhamid.
Again, at the beginning of April 1893, Abdulhamid declared a general amnesty for the Armenians who had been arrested in various provinces for posting placards, and they were subsequently freed. Naturally, those who had been arrested for murder and other common crimes did not benefit from this amnesty. Their trial took place in Ankara. Five individuals were sentenced to death, and others received various prison sentences. The sentences were carried out.
The revolutionaries continued their activities in Merzifon. Finally, in September 1893, the authorities found the house in which this group was operating, and the house was raided. The Armenians who were in the house opened fire and threw a bomb at the soldiers. Twenty-five soldiers died or were wounded; 4 of the Armenians were caught dead, and the other 4 alive.
In December 1893, an Armenian revolt occurred in Yozgat. In this city too, shots were fired at the soldiers, but the incident was crushed before it got out of control.
On 27 April 1894, there was an attempt to assassinate the Patriarch Ashikian in Istanbul. The Armenian aggressor was arrested. The Patriarch resigned after this incident.
On 4 August 1894, an Armenian band attacked the mail coach, killed the courier, and stole the mail. They were caught after they fought with the detachment which had been sent after them, after having killed a gendarmerie sergeant.
Finally, in August 1894, the Sassun rebellion began.
(g) The first Sassun rebellion
It is said that the Sassun rebellion began with simple confrontations between various tribes of the area (Bekhranlu, Hayanlu, Yapanlu, Vilikan) and Armenians, but the truth is more complicated.
Mihran Damadian, who was one of the organizers of the Kumkapi demonstration in Istanbul, had escaped from Istanbul to Athens, had returned to Turkey after the Athens demonstration ofJuly 1891 , had arrived at Sassun, where he organized a band, and had begun to encourage the people to rebel. This Damadian band had raided the village of Avzim in Mush in December 1892, killed a Turk named Sergeant Ishak in the street, and fled. Subsequently, the Gendarmerie had pursued the band. In 1893 army commanders informed Istanbul that the bands were increasing.
In June 1893, Armenian bands killed a member of the Hayanlu tribe; upon this, the tribes of Bekhranlu and Hayanlu attacked Taluri to take revenge. A few people died on both sides. The tribes retreated because the Armenians were better organized. As soon as the incident was known, soldiers were sent to the region and brought the situation under control.
During the activities of the bands in 1893, Damadian was caught wounded, and sent to Istanbul. He was later freed there.
When Damadian was still in the region, Hamparsum Boyajian, with the nickname Murad, came to the area, and cooperated with him. After Damadian was arrested, he continued the preparations for rebellion. Boyajian’s aim was to incite the Armenians to attack the local tribes, provoke intervention by the army, and thus stir up Europe by claiming that Armenians were being massacred.
Naturally, Boyajian did not express this aim. He told the Armenians of Taluri that he had come from Europe; that if they rebelled, the European powers would intervene and found an Armenian state. It is known that Boyajian’s activities were successful, especially in Shirik, Semal, Gulguzar, Herenk, and Taluri. Those who participated in the revolt were from these areas. The Armenian villages of the Sadak township remained outside the events. It is a fact that Murad succeeded in inciting 3,000 Armenians to rebel, including those who came from Mush, Koulp, and Silvan.
It was even stated in the report compiled by the foreign Consuls who were included in the investigative delegation sent to the region after the incidents that Damadian and Boyajian had arrived in the region with a concealed political aim, and had attempted to create confrontations between Armenians and the other inhabitants of the region.
The Boyajian band organized many attacks on various tribes of the area in 1894. They pillaged the properties of the Bekhran and Zadian tribes. They killed more than ten individuals during separate attacks, including the son of a prominent member of the Bekhran tribe. These incidents gave rise to an armed confrontation between the Bekhran tribe and the Armenians. The Armenians, who had expected such a confrontation, retreated and gathered on the Antok mountain, where they had previously sent their women and children. (The fact that all the children, women, and cattle had been sent before, was even included in the Consuls’ report: Document No. 31, p. 136.)
When the Government heard of the events, it sent soldiers to the region. The Armenians who had retreated to the Antok mountain resisted the soldiers with arms. After a quick operation, the rebellion was crushed. It is known that the insurrection began in mid-August and ended on 23 August with Murad’s arrest.
This rebellion gave rise to much anti-Turkish propaganda in Europe. For example, A. W. Williams cites the following statement made by an Armenian native of Sassun: ‘There is hardly a man left alive in Sassun, and pleading women and little children, all together, old and young, have been sacrificed by the swords of the Turkish soldiers. They besieged the village from the last of April until the first of August, and during all these weeks we fed on vegetables and the roots of grasses.’ Again according to Williams, 6,000 Armenians were killed in Sassun. The soldiers arrived in Sassun on 14 August. (Williams notes this on p. 327 of his book, but sees no inconsistency in quoting the above account four pages later.)
Bliss does not fall short of Williams. ‘Then followed a general attack upon the different villages. The Armenians had the better situation, and defended themselves with considerable success.... The result was that for nearly three weeks from the latter part of August there was a general campaign of butchery. So bitter was the contest, that the Governor of Mush, fearing that he had not sufficient force at hand, sent word to the general commander of the Turkish forces in Eastern Turkey.’ According to Bliss, more than 6,000 Armenians were killed.
Pastermadjian writes that the Ottoman soldiers used the confrontation between the tribes and the Armenians as an excuse and engaged in massacring the Armenians of the area, butchering 3,500 of 12,000 Armenians. But he does not mention the fact that the Armenians put up armed resistance to the soldiers, and does not explain why the 12,000 Armenians had not all been killed if the aim was to get rid of Armenians.
With regard to the number of Armenians killed, we find the best reply to this exaggeration, which was to constitute an example to the future rebellions, in the Consuls’ report and in the British documents.
In my opinion, before making an observation, we should first examine the region. The Taluri valley, which was the area of the rebellion, is a mountaineous area to the south of the plain of Mush. The region has many villages which are in close proximity to one another. Some of the villages are inhabited by Armenians, and some by Muslims. Very few of the villages are mixed. According to Cuinet’s statistics, there were 8,369 Armenians in the entire Sassun region.
It is stated in the Consuls’ report that the number of those who were reported dead, and whose names were established, was 114 individuals in the village of Shenik, 65 in Semal, 40 in Guliguzar, 22 in Ahgpi, 10 in Ispagank, and 14 in Taluri, the total being 265 individuals. The British representative who took part in the delegation of Consuls states in his memorandum dated 12 October that, taking as a basis the number of houses, it would be established that there were at most 10,000 Armenians in the region, and that taking into consideration those who were alive, the number of those who had died could not exceed 900.
The interesting point is that nobody mentioned the number of Muslims who were killed.
The Sassun rebellion ended, as we have mentioned above, on 23 August, 1894.
However, the repercussions of this rebellion in Europe once again brought Britain to the fore. Britain suggested that the powers which had Consuls in Erzurum should each send a representative along with the Commission of Enquiry. While the British Ambassadors in Paris and St Petersburg were suggesting this, the British Ambassador in Istanbul forced the Babiali to accept it. As France and Russia accepted the British suggestion, the Consuls or representatives in Erzurum of the three powers went to the area. Even the report dated 20 July 1895, which they prepared in common, could not prove that the Armenians had been innocent and that they had been massacred. (The report of the Turkish delegation is included in the Yildiz Palace Archives; Documents of the year 1312 on Armenian affairs No. 666: 302—180595—1.)
In order to find the original report today, one must apply to the official archives. In the references made in Armenian books to this report, generally Damadian and Boyajian are not mentioned.
The subject of the Sassun rebellion was thus closed.
This rebellion gave Britain the chance to involve France and Russia, and to make a new joint attempt in the matter of reform. We shall return to this attempt, which began the second period of pressure on the Babiali, and the developments which followed it, after the discussion of the rebellions.
(h) The Babiali demonstration
In the years 1895—6, there were Armenian rebellions or attempts at rebellion in many provinces of Anatolia. Most of them lasted for one or two days; only the rebellion of Zeitun and the second rebellion at Sassun kept the Babiali busy for long. We shall leave these two rebellions to last, and first quickly examine the others. Although departing from chronological order, it is useful to examine first the Babiali demonstration, which can be considered the most important, owing to its repercussions. Nalbrandian writes:
In the Turkish capital there were two separate Hunchak committees. One was the Board of Directors; the other was the Executive Committee. The Board gave instructions for nearly all of the revolutionary activity in Turkey, with the knowledge and approval of the General Headquarters at Geneva. The Executive Committee of Constantinople directed the organizational work according to the instructions of the Board of Directors. The members of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee did not know one another, but there was complete cooperation between them. This cooperation was achieved by having one man, called the Representative of the Two Committees, who acted as the intermediary between the two groups.
The Executive Committee, after receiving the order from the Board of Directors to organize the Demonstration of Bab Ali, chose three men to supervise the project. The leader was Karo Sahakian (Hevehili Karon). Patriarch Mattheos Ismirlian, hearing rumors of a demonstration, called Karo and asked if the rumors were true. If there was to be a demonstration, the Patriarch insisted that it should be a peaceful one. Karo also wished a peaceful demonstration, but some members of the Committee did not agree; the matter was left to the Board of Directors, who decided that it should be peaceful.
Months of secret preparations ended on September 16/28, 1895. On that day the Hunchaks presented a letter, written in French, to the foreign embassies and to the Turkish government.
As can be seen, the Patriarch was aware of the matter from the beginning, as he knew the individual named Karo (and probably his position in the Hunchak Committee.)
This letter dated 28 September, signed by the Revolutionary Committee, stated that ‘The Armenians of Constantinople have decided to make shortly a demonstration, of a strictly peaceful character, in order to give expression to their wishes with regard to the reforms to be implemented in the Armenian provinces. As this shall not be an aggressive one, an intervention by the police or the Armed Forces to prevent it could create remarkably unfortunate results, and the responsibility will not fall on us.’
In this letter, two points call for attention. First, despite the fact that such demonstrations were forbidden in Istanbul, the Hunchaks submitted their decision, without even asking permission. Second, they declared beforehand that in the event of intervention, unfortunate results could occur.
The French Ambassador in Istanbul, Paul Cambon, summarized the development of the incident, in report No. 174 which he sent to his Ministry, dated 3 October:
... the origin of the September 30 bloody demonstration is now evident. In the beginning, the date of the demonstration had been established as September 22nd, but for various reasons, this was postponed to the later date.
On Saturday, September 28th, 1 received the letter which I have enclosed [the letter quoted above] from the secret Istanbul Hunchak Committee. The Committee stated that they had decided to hold a peaceful demonstration, and declared beforehand that they would not be responsible for the results in the event of intervention. This letter was also sent to the other Embassies, the Ministry of Gendarmerie, and the office of the Attorney General.
The Ottoman Authorities did not rely upon this assurance and took dispositions to prevent the demonstration, in case of necessity with force. [The Ambassador’s logic is interesting. He seems to think that it was necessary for the government to remain inactive, when it received the communication of this secret revolutionary committee.] On the morning of Monday, September 30th, I received a petition. The said demonstration had begun as I received the petition.
At nine a.m. a crowd including men, women, and children, went to the Armenian Patriarchate. It was the Epiphany day, and the Church was full of people, where, the day before, 5,000 people had been baptized, possibly in the desire to be killed in battle. The Patriarch, who was at his summer residence in Buyukdere, had returned the night before to Kumkapi when the event was announced. [We are informed by Nalbandian that the Patriarch had been told of the event much earlier.] The people demanded to see him. They told him the miserable condition of the Armenian nation... and announced their decision to give a petition to the Grand Vizier, as the reforms had not been implemented. The Patriarch tried to dissuade them, told them that he could give the petition himself, and asked that the crowd disperse. [We know that he wanted the demonstration to be peaceful.] The Armenians did not accept this.... They wanted the Patriarch to accompany them. Izmirlian tried to explain to them that this was not possible.
Meanwhile another group gathered in Sultanahmet at the beginning of a street going to the Babiali, and the crowd increased with Armenians coming from every direction.
In my telegrams Nos 128 and 131, I reported a march of 2,000 people. [The Ambassador’s telegram No. 131 is interesting. In that telegram he reports the march in the following manner: ‘The Kum Kapu group gathered behind the Patriarchate Church. The Sultanahmet group, which was approximately 2,000 people, marched to the Babiali between 10 and 11 p.m., led by a priest.’ Is it possible to claim that the Patriarch could not control the priests?] In front of the iron door of the Babiali, an officer who was at the head of the gendarmes tried to stop them. The Armenians stated that they wanted to give a petition to the Grand Vizier, that they would give the petition and disperse if they were let alone. The officer told them that he would not permit their passage. and told them to disperse. As the Armenians refused, he ordered the gendarmes to disperse the crowd. However, after many demonstrators had been beaten with rifle-butts, an Armenian fired a shot and killed the officer. Your Excellency knows very well how demonstrations turn into armed confrontations. Soon, the dead and the wounded were piled around.
Let us turn now to the observations of the British Ambassador:
As I telegraphed to your Lordship on the 30th ultimo, a communication bearing the seal of the ‘Hindchag’, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee, was addressed to the Embassies on the 28th ultimo, stating that a strictly peaceful demonstration was about to be made by the Armenians in order to express their desire for reforms.... The demonstration took place on the 30th ultimo, but unhappily it had not the peaceful character attributed to it. The demonstrators were armed with pistols and knives of a uniform pattern which had no doubt been issued to them by the organizers of the movement.
There is good reason to suppose that the object of the ‘Hindchag’ was to cause disorder and bloodshed with a view to inducing the Powers of Europe to intervene on behalf of the Armenians.
It is stated that 3,000 persons took the Sacrament in the various Armenian churches on the preceding Sunday in order to be prepared for death.
On the morning of the 30th ultimo, crowds of Armenians assembled in various quarters of the town, the largest assemblage being in the Armenian quarter of Koum Kapou. They proceeded towards the Porte in numbers, estimated by eye-witnesses at about 2,000, though this is probably an exaggeration.
The authorities appear to have taken some steps to organize a counter-demonstration, and it was observed that an unusual number of Softahs and other Turks armed with sticks were collected in the streets.
The police appear to have made some effort to induce the crowd to retire peaceably.
According to the statement made by the Minister of Police to one of the Dragomans of the Embassy, he deputed Server Bey, a Major in whom he had special confidence, to urge the crowd to disperse.
On their refusing to do so, and stating their intention of proceeding to the Porte, he ordered his men to drive back the crowd with the flat of their swords and the butt-end of their muskets. At the same time, two mounted gendarmes seized upon the leader of the procession, who carried the Memorial which it was intended to present to the Porte. Shots were then exchanged.
In another telegram, the British Ambassador stated: ‘... Shots were exchanged, and the officer of the gendarmerie was killed. About fifteen gendarmes and sixty Armenians fell. The police then dispersed the Armenians, pursuing them and arresting large numbers.’
In another telegram he stated: ‘It appears that the police charged the Armenians and struck them with the butt of their muskets and flat of their swords, and seized upon their leaders; but there seems no doubt that it was the Armenians who fired the flrst shot.’
We can read the government version in the report of Nazim Pasha, the Minister of Gendarmerie:
The Armenian organizations held a meeting on September 30th in the church of the Patriarchate.... It was investigated that they wanted to create an insurrection by attacking the Babiali, and obtain the intervention of Europe. The superintendent of the police, Husnu Bey, was sent to the Patriarchate and the situation was explained to the Patriarch.
The Patriarch said that there was not enough time, that the people were also desperate, that he could not be much help, and thus showed that although he was capable of preventing an attempt at revolution, he did not wish to prevent it.
Under these circumstances... we had recourse to preventive measures.... The Police and the Gendarmerie were given the order to refrain from force and shooting... that the crowd be dispersed without shedding blood... by the mounted gendarmes.
.... A group of individuals from the crowd of more than 1,000 who had gathered in the church went to the Patriarchate and spoke there, then they began walking armed with pistols and daggers. The crowd increased in number as they were joined in Divanyolou by companions coming from various quarters.... In spite of warnings made until the last moment, they did not hesitate to reply by firing shots.... They brutally killed Major Servet Bey, a member of the Istanbul Gendarme regiment in front of the people. Then they fired shots on the Muslim and Christian people they encountered, and on the gendarmes on duty, and wounded many individuals.
As can be seen, these three versions are in agreement, the only exception being that the report of the Embassies does not mention the fact that the superintendent of police had gone to the Patriarch. There is no reason to doubt that he had.
As the Armenians fired shots and killed a few privates along with Server Bey, the police and the gendarmes opened fire. The Armenians then began to flee in various directions, and continued to fire shots indiscriminately on the people as they made their escape.
Incidents continued after 30 September. Armenians opened fire on the people collectively from the quarters they resided in. Incidents occurred in Chukur Cheshme, Kasimpasha, Karagumruk, Eyub, and Vanikeuy, and there were armed confrontations between Muslims and Armenians.
The Embassies’ telegrams and the Report of the Minister do not include the number of dead and wounded. If it is possible to believe Lepsius, 172 Armenians died in this incident. Bliss gave the same figure. We have not found another figure anywhere else.
It can be assumed that the majority of the persons who died were killed, not during the incident, but during the confrontations between Muslims and Armenians which occurred after the incident. The incidents were suppressed by the army troops, as they took control of every quarter of the city.
The following statement was made by the German Ambassador, Saurma, in the report he sent to his Ministry, dated 6 October:
All the Armenian rebellion attempts here and there, are organized by the revolutionary committees. This is, in anycase, recorded in their programme. However, the Turkish Government had to be prepared, and had to have prevented, by using the army troops, which have now occupied Istanbul, armed confrontations between the antagonistic demonstrators, as they occurred the last time.
Most of the Armenians here have not taken part in this.
Only a group of them, those who were scared by the revolutionary committees who took arms and money, participated in the demonstration.
For this reason, a very unfortunate panic occurred, and it can be assumed that the Committees will take advantage of it, and new excesses may be expected.
It may well be that the German Ambassador was right to some extent, that the Government had to give orders to the troops beforehand. However, as the French Ambassador stated, mass psychology must be kept in mind. The Ambassador stated that the Government did not trust the assurance that this would be a strictly peaceful demonstration, and took measures to prevent it. However, it is apparent that the Government did not take adequate measures thinking that the Armenians would not attack with arms, that the demonstration would, after all, be held peacefully, and that it could easily be dispersed by mounted gendarmes. When events occurred contrary to these expectations, and the Muslims were agitated, it naturally took time to control every quarter of the city. Moreover, it is also apparent that Armenians again opened fire on the police from their hideouts. It is of course usual to attempt to arrest those who participate with arms in a demonstration by a revolutionary organization. The incidents caused by those who resisted the investigations led to the continuation of the confrontations.
The Babiali demonstration, having prepared the ground for concluding the joint attempt made by Britain, France, and Russia concerning the reforms after the Sassun rebellion, was hailed by the Hunchak Party as their own victory.
(i) Incidents in other cities during 1895—6
After the three powers made a joint attempt at reform, following the Sassun rebellion, the Hunchak Committee decided to bring its activities to the final stage. It was assumed that the reform which was considered and whose preparations had begun could thus lead on to independence.
It was stated in a report sent by the British Embassy in Istanbul to the Foreign Office, dated 18 July 1895, that ‘The Armenian Committees are determined to provoke another massacre and it is rumoured that they are preparing rebellions in various areas.’
This information of the British Embassy was not inaccurate. As a matter of fact, many incidents created by Armenian revolutionaries in every part of the country occurred in 1895.
Let us examine these incidents chronologically.
On 1 July 1895, Karabet Kuyumjuian, who did not want to take in the Hunchak Committee, was killed in Merzifon.
On 12 July, the Turkish School in Merzifon was set afire; 30 houses, 20 shops and 3 inns were also burnt in the fire that spread.
In August a fire was started in Amasia; 58 houses, 165 shops, 2 inns, 1 mosque, 1 Muslim theological school, 1 dervish lodge and 1 Turkish school were burnt.
All the British Consuls in Anatolia stated that in the months of July and August 1895 the activities of the Committee had reached such a point that incidents could occur at any time. We do not see the necessity of citing each of these reports. Those who wish may find them in the British Blue Books Turkey No. 1 (1896) and No. 2 (1896).
These preparations made by the Committee gave results which were in their interest. Almost in every province insurrections of a similar nature occurred approximately at the same time.
We give below the dates and localities of these insurrections or disorders in chronological order. In most cases, these incidents also spread to the neighbouring townships and villages.
In parenthesis are given the names of the provinces, according to the administrative division of that time.
| 29 September 1895
| 2 October 1895
| 6 October 1895
| 7 October 1895
| 9 October 1895
||Akhisar (the gubernatorate of Izmit)
| 21 October 1895
| 25 October 1895
| 25 October 1895
|26 October 1895
| 27 October 1895
| 30 October 1895
| 2 November 1895
| 2 November 1895
| 4 November 1895
| 7 November 1895
| 9 November 1895
| 15 November 1895
| 15 November 1895
| 16 November 1895
| 18 November 1895
| 22 November 1895
| 3 December 1895
| 3 December 1895
Let us now examine quickly the reasons and the manner in which the most significant of these incidents started.
The Trabzon incidents began when the former governor-general of Van, Bahri Pasha, and the Trabzon commander, Hamdi Pasha, were attacked on Wednesday, 2 October 1895 (20 September 1311) by two Armenians, and were wounded. The aggressors, who escaped, had been pursued, and measures had been taken to prevent an incident occurring in the city. The actual incident began when an Armenian named Shinark opened fire on the people from the balcony of an inn on 8 October, upon hearing that a relative of his had died during the Istanbul incident. The Muslims and the Armenians began to fight and the incident was stopped by the intervention of the army.
The incident in Erzinjan began when a few Armenian volunteers shot a few Muslims on 21 October in the local weekly market. The army brought the situation under control.
The incident which occurred in Bitlis on 25 October 1895 began when Armenians attacked a mosque as the Muslims were praying in the Friday noon service. An investigation showed that the Protestant missionary George had provoked the incident.
The incident which occurred in Marash on 27 October began when Armenians opened fire on Muslims.
The Erzurum incident of 30 October began when a group of armed Armenians entered the Government Office with the aim of assassinating the governor and the staff, and killed the gendarmes who encountered them. The incident spread when fire was opened on the soldiers who arrived there, and was crushed with difflculty.
The incident in Diyarbekir began on 2 November, when shots were fired on the Muslims who were praying in the mosque for the Friday noon service. In the fire that was later started, mosques and Muslim theological schools, as well as shops, 90 per cent of which belonged to Muslims, were destroyed.
The Malatya incident began on 4 November, when a Muslim named Hemo went to the barbershop to be shaved, and the Armenian barber, Ehlijanoghlu Serkis, cut his throat with a razor and killed him.
The Harput incident began on 7 November, when an Armenian named Baghjian Kirkor fired shots from his house and wounded three Muslims named Hoca Mustafa Efendi, Vartafilli Ali Efendi, and Bekir Efendi.
The year 1895 ended with such confrontations between Turks and Armenians. Armenian sources give unbelievable figures for the number of dead as a result of these confrontations, which lasted for a day or a few days. Naturally the figures are not supported by any document, and nowhere is it mentioned how many Muslims lost their lives. Moreover, the fact that almost all these figures are in the hundreds or thousands, without any variance, indicates how these figures were computed.
The Ottoman Government established the number of Muslims and non-Muslims who were killed or wounded as a result of the confrontations in 1895:
The overall table, which will be published among the Ottoman documents, gives an account of the townships within the provinces one by one, as well as the number of dead and wounded for men, women, and children within each community.
According to this list, the total of those who were killed during the confrontations in 1895, having added the flgure 72 given by Lepsius for those who died in the Babialli demonstration to the list of the Armenians who were killed, is 10,617, 1,828 of which were Muslims, and 8,789 were non-Muslims.
In 1895, apart from the incidents we have enumerated, a rebellion occurred in Zeitun. However, we shall include those who died in this rebeilion in the 1896 total, because this rebellion lasted until that year.
In our opinion, the fact that the number of wounded is relatively low is because it included only those who were brought to the hospital to be treated. Otherwise, in these confrontations where 10,545 people died, the number of wounded must have exceeded 3,671.
(j) The Zeitun rebellion
Zeitun was a township centre, under the jurisdiction of the province of Marash, by a stream which was the confluent of the Ceyhan river at the foot of the Berit mountain; it was located in a very mountainous and unfruitful area. (Its name today is Suleimanli.)
The inhabitants of Zeitun claimed that they had received a decree from Sultan Murad IV exempting them from taxes, since they had asserted that they lived in a very poor region,and had no means. According to their claim, through this firman which they said had been destroyed in a fire in 1884, the Sultan had fixed the annual tax for the town of Zeitun at 15,000 kurush, and had ordered that no other Sultan might modify this firman, and that Ottoman officials were not to reside in the town.
The very idea that a Sultan such as Murad IV, who struggled the most with the rebellious tribes of Anatolia, could have decreed such a firman is absurd.
However, the inhabitants of Zeitun who rebelled, giving as an excuse this fictitious firman,were a rebellious community unequalled in Anatolia. Esat Uras has enumerated the rebellions which occurred in Zeitun to 1852 on pp. 488—9 of his book:
The Governor of Marash, Ömer Pasha, ordered that the taxes be directly paid to Marash during the 1774 Russo-Ottoman war: as a result a rebellion occurred in 1780, during which Ömer Pasha was killed, and Zeitun was besieged for 7 months.
After Ömer Pasha, Ali Pasha started action against Zeitun in 1782, and was defeated in the area of Göredin.
In 1808, Kalender Pasha, a sanjak governor of Marash, came to Zeitun and besieged the town for 9 months, and forced the inhabitants to accept a tax of 6 purses of gold.
In 1819, as Chapanoghlu Jelal Mahmut Pasha was returning after having punished the son of Hulbul in Aleppo, he marched on Zeitun at the request of the inhabitants of Marash, but did not obtain any result.
In 1829, the Governor of Kayseri, Köse Mehmet Pasha, was sent, but was unable to obtain anything substantial.
In 1832, Beyazitoghlu Suleiman Pasha marched on Zeitun, and tried to disseminate discord among them.
After Suleiman Pasha, Tosun Pasha imprisoned some inhabitants of Zeitun in 1835 for the accumulated 7-year tax debt; the Zeitunites retorted by abducting various prominent members of Marash. The two sides compromised by releasing the prisoners.
In 1836, the incident of Deli Keshish occurred when Topalian was killed in Marash.
In 1840, the Akchadagh operation was organized.In 1842 an armed confrontation occurred with the inhabitants of Tejer.
In 1852, Mustafa Pasha of Scutari, the sanjak governor, marched on Zeitun for their tax debt of 150,000 kurush.
In 1853 the first ‘ideological preacher’, Melikian Ardzruni Hovagim, came to Zeitun from Constantinople and acquired a very important administrative position. Hovagim, among other things, took steps to strengthen the defenses of the town. To secure additional funds for this purpose, he planned a journey to Russia in 1854. The Ishkhans (local notables) tried to discourage him from making the trip because of the dangers he might encounter as a result of the Crimean War then in progress. Disregarding these warnings, Hovagim started on his unsuccessful mission. In Erzurum he was arrested and hanged by the Turkish authorities.
Hovagim’s presence in Zeitun, together with his contemplated journey to Russia, indicates the national character of his activity. It implies that as early as the 1850s Armenians in Constantinople had direct interests in Zeitun and that the Armenians in Russia were concerned with the political situation in Turkish Armenia.
Another rebellion broke out in Zeitun in 1862. This time, the Babiali sent a bigger force to crush the rebellion. The inhabitants of Zeitun, through their connections in Istanbul, requested the mediation of the French. Their connections were members of the Benevolent Union. As a result of the French mediation, the forces which had been sent were called back.
During the 1877—8 Russo-Ottoman War, there was another rebeilion in Zeitun. ‘This time the British mediated.
In 1895, it became known that some Hunchak revolutionaries had arrived in Zeitun with the aim of causing an insurrection.
I was born in the Taurus mountains. In 1888 I left my village and went to Istanbul to study, in 1891 I went to France, and in 1893 I went to Cilicia at the request of my fellow countrymen. I felt that after the Sassun massacre, a similar incident would also threaten our region, and I began to take precautions to defend the people against possible attacks by the Muslims. The patriotic youth of the country did not remain uninterested in my calls, and began defence preparations, in spite of their limited means....
I took upon myself the responsibility of fulfilling this mission in Zeitun. I was accompanied by my friends Abah, Mleh, and Hratchia. Towards the end of July, we arrived in Zeitun.
These statements are taken from the diary of Aghasi, who began the 1895 Zeitun rebellion. Aghasi goes on to say:
This brave population, who for a while had been forced to show restraint, voluntarily came to our call. A great number of Zeitunites came to join us in the mountains where we had been hiding.... They had all come with arms; there were even children who carried a knife or a gun. [p. 189]
On August 7th, the first encounter between Armenians and the gendarmes occurred. The Armenian named Jellad, who had gone with a friend to the village of Dashaluk, to visit his mother, had been surrounded by 40 gendarmes. Both of them defended themselves for half an hour and succeeded in putting the 40 gendarmes to flight.... On September 30th, a big demonstration was organized in Istanbul by Armenians.... On October 10th the government of Zeitun had sent for the last time two gendarmes to Alabash, to examine, in secret, the situation of the Armenians, in view of a definitive attack. The inhabitants of Alabash, in an outburst of anger, tied these two gendarmes to a tree, and burnt them alive. [p. 193]
On October 24th, we hung a red flag in the valley of Karanlik Dere. From that morning forward, the prominent leaders of all the Armenian villages started arriving with some fighters. Among them were Vartabed Bartholomeos, the priest Der Mardiros, Prince Nazareth Yeni Dünya.... At noon, we began negotiating. The discussions lasted for two hours; we established the plan of our struggle. [p. 197]
The Zeitun rebellion was thus begun. According to the West, the crushing of this rebellion was a massacre. We do not intend to summarize Aghasi’s book; however, we want to cite a few more passages, because they may constitute an example for all the rebellions, and because they cannot be refuted, as they were written by an Armenian.
Then we saw Vartabed Sahag, a 90-year-old lame man; he seemed happy and was crying out to thank God: ‘Praise the Lord! I was afraid of dying before smelling for the last time gunpowder; the perfume of incense was beginning to disgust me, and sometimes I would put gunpowder in the incenser.’ [p. 214] The women, armed with axes, guns, daggers, and sticks, chased the Turkish prisoners who were escaping, and killed most of them, only 56 of them were able to escape. [p. 289]
Finally, we quote the following to reply to the massacre claims:
From the beginning until the end of the insurrection, the Turks lost 20,000 men, 13,000 of whom were soidiers, and the rest were bashi-bozuks [irregulars]. We had lost only 125 men, 60 of whom had died in battie, and 65 of whom were dastardly killed during the cease-fre. [p. 306]
This is- what Aghasi states. However, according to Lepsius, 6,000 Armenians were killed in Zeitun.
The Zeitun rebellion, which began on 24 October 1895, ended on 28 January 1896. The 50 officers and 600 soldiers who were in the barracks in the town were taken prisoner in a surprise attack. Aghasi informs us of their fate.
On 3 November 1895, the rebels of Zeitun informed the British Consul in Aleppo that their ammunition was running low, and requested the intervention of the British Government. The British Ambassador requested the Babialli to treat the Zeitunites with mercy if they surrendered.
On 24 December, the armed forces besieged Zeitun. Approximately 5,000 rebels fled the town and the barracks in the direction of Kilis. Some of them were captured, and to capture the rest was no longer a difficult task. This time the six powers proposed an agreement which was accepted.
On 31 January, the Russian, Italian (representing Germany and Austria), French, and British Consuls in Aleppo came to Zeitun.
As a result, the rebels surrendered under the agreement that they return their arms, with a general amnesty, allowing five revolutionaries to leave the country, the annulment of past taxes, and a reduction in public taxes. Thus the rebellion ended.
When the rebels no longer had the power to resist, the fact that Britain, followed by the other powers, saved the rebels without even granting the right to the Government to try the guilty ones, as if she were ending a war, is interesting. The actual cases of death occurred among the Armenians of Zeitun after this, due to epidemics of typhus, dysentery, and variola. Naturaily the Muslim villages were not preserved from these epidemics. The Armenian villages which had been demolished during the rebellion were rebuilt with the help of American missionaries. Nobody was interested in Muslim villages.
The Hunchak revolutionaries who started the rebellion left Zeitun on 13 February under the protection of the British Consulate, and on 12 March they departed from Mersin to Marseilles.
The Zeitun rebellion was thus concluded.
With the Zeitun rebellion, the activities of the Hunchak Party in Turkey ended. The Party had acted in order to gain the attention of Europe and obtain independence for the Armenians, but had failed. Actuaily, the subject of reform was reopened after the Sassun rebellion, and Abdulhamid, as we shall see later, announced reform principles. But their implementation was not possible.
The Hunchak Party, as we have stated above, split into two factions in 1896, and began to deal with its internal problems. Although some of its members took part in some incidents in Turkey, such as the Van rebellion, this participation was no longer a result of instructions coming from abroad.
After 1896, the Tashnak Party was slowly becoming the main actor in Turkey.
(k) The Van rebellion
Although the Van rebellion occurred on the night of 14 June, preparations for it had begun much earlier. General Mayewski, Russian Consul for six years in Van, and later in Erzurum, wrote:
In 1895, the revoiutionaries of Van were working to draw the attention of Europe once again to the Armenian question. Letters were sent to wealthy Armenians asking for money, threatening them with death. During this time, some political crimes were committed by order of the revolutionary committee of Van. The most important of these crimes was perpetrated on January 6th, that is on the day of the biggest Armenian holiday, on the person of the priest Bogos, as he was on his way to church to celebrate the holy service. The poor old man had been condemned to death, as he had strongly opposed the ignominious deeds of certain revolutionaries.
During the winter of 1895—96, young Armenians gathered in the spacious rooms of the houses near the Russian consulate [in Van], where they engaged in patrol and even detachment drills, and sometimes, transported by their zeall, they practised shooting.
As happens everywhere, with spring, the preparations of the revolutionary movement began to gain importance. One even heard of certain attempts, such as the murder of some Kurds in the proximity of the city, whose bodies had been cut to pieces. The revolutionaries, seeing that no investigation was carried out in regard to these murders, increasingly plucked up courage. However, the patience of Muslims was being exhausted in proportion to the Armenians’ audacity.
The British Consul Williams, too, foresaw the future. ‘The Tashnaks have in Van about 400 members. With the Hunchaks, who in my opinion do not exceed 50 members, they terrorize their coreligionists, and provoke the Muslim community with their excesses and frenzy, and are an obstacle to the implementation of reforms. If they can be sillenced, I am certain that the main obstacle to the region’s security will disappear.’
Saadettin Pasha, the Military Commander in Van, seemed to be of the same opinion. In fact, from October 1895 onward, isolated incidents continued to occur in Van, and he was constantly vigilant. It appears from the provincial reports that until the date of the rebellion, twenty-three incidents were recorded. Saadettin Pasha, in his report subsequent to the rebellion, stated these points and summarized developments before the rebellion. We shall summarize the passages of this report regarding the beginning and the development of the rebellion.
On the night of the third Monday of June, Armenian bands opened f?re on the detachment patrolling behind the Armenian quarter of the Van orchards, and seriously wounded the commander Recep Efendi and a soldier. In the morning, the prosecutor, the coroner, the commander of the gendarmes, and the superintendent of police went to the site of the incident, made investigations, but were not successful. The only road from the orchards to the city had houses on both sides inhabited by Armenians. At 4 p.m. shots were f?red from these houses on the Muslims who were waiking on their way home. The soldiers intervened to prevent an incident, and attempted to advise the Armenians, who retorted by firing shots and did not let anyone approach them. On the contrary, the houses were almost fortifled and prepared for a skirmish. On June 6th, the British, French, Iranian, and Russian Consuls were sent to the Armenians to ask them to lay down their arms, but the Armenians refused the offer. On the night of June 8th, shots were exchanged between the rebels and the soidiers. On June 9th and 10th when shots were no longer fired from the fortifed houses, it was understood that the rebeis had fled, and the neighbouring localities were informed.
When it was known that a group of 780 of the rebels who had fled, had passed through the kaza of Hamidi, and had attacked the Muzerki tribe in the village of Elbak, soldiers were immediately dispatched to the area, and the rebeis who fled again took refuge in the Isbestan village. When they were asked to surrender, they refused, and attempted to escape next morning to Iran, but were caught.
It became known that the 286 men from Troshak and Hunchak group which had escaped from Van had attacked the Shemiski tribe in the viliage of Salhane of the Jermeliye kaza; soldiers had been sent to the area, and as a result of an armed confrontation with the soidiers, all of them had been killied except for one who succeeded in fleeing to Kotur.
Among the local brigands, those who were from the kaza of Shitak escaped from Van to Shitak, but surrendered there.
In this rebellion, the number of casualties in Van was 879. Among them 340 Muslims were dead, and 260 were wounded. Of the Armenians there were 219 dead and 59 wounded.
[Until this point, the report is in agreement with the report dated 28 June 1896 by Major Williams, the British Consul: the Consul gives the number of casualties as 500 Armenians and 300 Muslims. (Turkey No.8 (1896), No.337, enclosure 1.)]
When these incidents were occurring in Van, incidents occurred in neighbouring kazas as a result of Armenian attacks on Muslims. In the confrontation which began on June 5th, when Armenians murdered Suleiman Agha and Mahmut Agha in the village of Olgullu, and ended on June 7th, 12 Muslims had died, and 16 had been wounded, whereas 205 Armenians had died.
In the confrontation which began after the attack of an Armenian band in the kaza of Kuvash, 4 Muslims and 100 Armenians had died, and 8 Muslims had been wounded.
During the pursuit of the two Armenian groups who had escaped from Van, it was recorded that 39 Muslims had died and 38 had been wounded. [We noted above that only one person had escaped of the two groups, one group being 780 people, and the other 286 people.]
During the confrontation with the brigands who had escaped to Shitak, 15 Muslims had died, and 30 had been wounded, 30 Armenians had died, and 8 had been wounded.
6 Muslims and 27 Armenians had died, 8 Muslims and 4 Armenians had been seriously wounded in the confrontation which began when Mehmet Agha of the Haydaranli tribe was killed on June 5th in the village of Berdek of the kaza of Erjis.
Moreover, 30 Armenians had died in the villages of Gurzot and Anguzk, 8 in the village of Nekes, and 31 in the kaza of Adil jevaz. Among the Muslims, 2 had died and 3 had been wounded.
Thus, the Van rebellion continued between 15 and 24 June, and in total, in the separate incidents we have indicated above, 418 Muslims and 1,715 Armenians had died, and 363 Muslims and 71 Armenians had been wounded.
After this date separate incidents occurred in Van, with bands coming from Iran, but these did not constitute a rebellion.
(l) The raid on the Ottoman Bank
The last incident in 1896 was the raid on the Ottoman Bank on 26 August. This incident was entirely organized by the Tashnak committees. After those attempts in which the Hunchaks had not been successful, the Tashnaks wanted to try their luck.
The organizers of the raid were three Armenians named Varto, Mar, and Boris, who had come from Caucasia. Karekin Pasdermadjian, who used the nickname Armen Garo, who later was elected deputy to the National Assembly from Erzurum during the 1908 Constitutional Government and fought against Turkey in Caucasia with his band during the First World War, came from Athens to join them.
Before the Armenian revolutionaries had surrendered and had been sent to Marseilles, they had stayed on the yacht of Sir Edgar Vincent, the president of the Ottoman bank. The president’s secretary. too, had stayed with them. The revolutionaries had told secretary F. A. Baker of the plans they had prepared. Below, we summarized the secretary’s report on the subject.
The events of the 20th were schemed and planned out some three months ago by the Foreign Committees, and the chiefs of the various bands only came to Constantinople some three weeks back. The attack on the bank was one part of their programme, as they told me that the following points and places had been singled out for their demonstrations: the Sublime Porte, the Armenian Patriarchate, that part of Stamboull sloping down towards Makri-keui [today Bakir-keuy], the Ottoman Bank (occupation), the Credit Lyonnais Bank (occupation), the Vaivoda police-station (bomb attacks), the Galata Serai police station (bomb attack), the Aia Triada Greek Church (bomb attack).
The bombs were made by them here, they had obtained their dynamite here. The Bank was attacked at 1, and at the same time a raid was made on the Vaivoda police-station in order to prevent assistance being sent to the Bank by the latter.
They gave me the following reasons for having singled out the Imperial Ottoman Bank and Credit Lyonnais for occupation. As these establishments contain people of so many nationalities, all the Powers would be ready to assist in obtaining their demands from the Turks, in order to save the lives of their subjects; that the Bank was the easiest building to resist a siege and to defend; that being the most prominent building in the town, more attention would be attracted to their attempts to bring the Armenian cause before the lower classes, and thus instil more ardour in their weaker brethren.
They used bombs because, they said, they were more destructive, and caused more consternation, owing to the novelty of the thing.
The assailants were all Turkish subjects, and, with the exception of the three chiefs, of the ‘hamal’ porter class.
One of the chiefs was killed. Two of the chiefs were not Armenians from Constantinople, but from Van, and of superior education, knowing Russian, French, Turkish, and Greek.
The third had evidently lived a long time here, and knew the place well. They were all most determined men, and repeatedly told me that they would not give themselves up, but were most anxious as to how far their ultimatum to the Turks would be successful. For free pardon they did not care, except inasmuch as if not obtaining the reforms they asked for they would be alive for a new attempt, which they declared would be more terrible than anything known yet.
Their hatred of the Turks was beyond all description. They declared that they would return here, through Macedonia, and were confident of success in their next demonstration. They were anxious to know whether their fellow men had done much damage with their bombs, whether many soldiers had been killed, and whether the soldiers had been firing on the Armenians. They also told me that it had been their intention to kill all the Turks in the employ of the Bank before blowing the latter up, but that they had not time to do so, as things finished sooner than they expected.
This was the revolutionaries’ plan and intention. Esat Uras has quoted from pp. 160—3 of Vartanian’s book, History of Dashnaksutyun, written in Armenian, where Hayik Tiryakian, who took part in the movement, gives an account of the occupation which took place on 26 August.108 We summarize this passage bellow.
August 26th, 6:30 in the morning. 6 people were sufficient to begin the occupation. We set out early, with sacks full of bombs on our shoulders and guns in our hands. As we approached the Bank, we heard the sound of guns, and bombs thrown by our vanguard friends. We rushed into the Bank. They thought we were robbers. I told them not to be afraid. The bombs were giving incredible results, they did not kill instantly, but tore their flesh apart, and made them writhe with pain, and agony. We went with Garo to the President’s office, and wrote down our conditions. We demanded that the Powers fulfil our requests, that those who took part in this confrontation be freed; if not, we would blow up the Bank with ourselves. There were 17 left who could fght. 3 had died, 6 of our friends had been wounded. Our enemies’ casualties were also heavy.
The demands of the revollutionares were:
— the appointment of a European as Chief Superintendent of police, chosen by the six powers;
— the appointment of the governors of provinces, and sanjaks, and the head officials of districts, by the Chief Superintendent of police, with the Sultan’s approval;
— the militia, the gendarmerie and the police to be recruited from the local people, and to be under the command of a European officer;
— a judiciary reform consistent with the European system to be instituted;
— absolute freedom of religion, education, and the press;
— the allocation of three-quarters of the country’s income to local needs;
— the annulment of tax debts;
— a tax exemption for five years, and the next five-year tax to be assigned for the damage done in the recent disorders;
— the immediate return of embezzled properties;
— the emigrants to be allowed to return freely;
— an amnesty for Armenians sentenced for political reasons;
— a temporary commission to be formed with representatives of the European countries, which would supervise the implementation of the above demands.
In the end, the General Director of the Bank, Sir Edgar Vincent, went to the Palace with Maximoff, the head dragoman of the Russian Embassy, and obtained authority to solve the problem. It was guaranteed that they would leave the country freely. 17 people left the Bank with Maximoff, and went to Sir Edgar’s yacht. From there, they set out for Marseilles on the French ship Gironde.
The occupation of the Bank was thus concluded. However, the bombs thrown and the bullets fired on that day by Armenians on the police and the people aroused the Muslim community of Istanbul. The disorders in Istanbul lasted for a few days. This was not only an attack by Muslims on Armenians. The Armenians, too, continued their attacks.
The British Embassy in its telegram dated 30 August, wrote that ‘?n Istanbul and Bosphorus, tranquillity was totally established as of last night and today. However, this evening, around 6 p.m. some Armenians threw a bomb in Galata near the Ottoman Bank and the soldiers replied to this by opening fire... It cannot be denied that this constant bomb throwing by Armenians has seriously provoked the Turks.’ Likewise, the British Embassy informed its Ministry that the Armenians had thrown yet another bomb on 3 September.
According to Western sources, the number of Armenians killed as a result of this incident was between 4,000 and 6,000. A document concerning this subject has not yet been found in the Ottoman archives. However, in our opinion, the figure 6,000 is exaggerated. In the case of the Babiali demonstration, too, the disorders continued for a few days, but the number of dead did not exceed 172. To be able to reach the figure 4,000—6,000, the incident had to last for weeks. Moreover, it is written in all the sources that the Muslims fought with sticks and knives, and it is hardly possible to kill so many people with these means. We have nowhere encountered the number of Muslims killed. But according to the British document, 120 soldiers of the Grand Vizier were killed, and there were approximately 25 wounded. Again in the same document it is stated that about 300 Muslims were arrested because of the incidents, and that the preventive measures taken by the Government were satisfactory.
A special court was established for this incident, and the Muslims and the Armenians who were arrested were tried in this court.
(m) The second Sassun rebellion
The first attempt of the Tashnaks did not produce any result. They attempted their second blow in July 1897. The Tashnak bands generally entered Turkey from Iran by way of Van. However, the Mazrik tribe which was on their way used to annoy them. In order the eliminate the tribe, they attacked the tribe’s tents in Honasor in July 1897 (with a band of 250) as the sun was rising. However, they did not succeed and were forced to retreat and flee, having faced the danger of being surrounded.
After this date, the Tashnaks extended their activities to the region of Sassun and Mush. Antranik now had responsibility for oranizing the activities of the bands. Antranik was born in 1866 in Sharki Karahisar, had entered the committee at an early age, had been imprisoned for the murder of a Turk, and had gone to Batum after the Committee helped him escape from prison. He later made a reputation through his band fights during the First World War, and he became Regimental Commander. His name first appeared during the period we are examining.
The Ottoman Government decided in 1901 to build barracks on the hills of Talouri and Shenik to put the administration of Sassun in order. The Armenians opposed this project. The struggle with the bands led by Antranik began at this date, but the actual rebellion began to spread from 1903 onward, in the entire region. On 13 April 1904, soldiers were dispatched against the rebels. The rebels were unable to resist for long, but the struggle with Antranik’s band continued until August. In the end, Antranik was forced to flee to Caucasia. Esat Uras quotes from The Antranik Battles, a book written in Armenian by K. Kukulyan and published in 1929 in Beirut:
In April 1904, the Armenian rebellions spread from the hills of Sassoun and the plain of Mush to Van. The Consuls mediated and offered an agreement with Antranik. Among the band leaders were the renowned Tashnak Committee members of Mush and Sassoun, Murad of Sivas, Sebuk, Kevork, Mko, and the new revoluntionary Sempad.... The Dashnaksutyn bureau met with the representatives of the Mush Central Committee, and chose Antranik to be the commander. Sebuk was seriously wounded. Keork of Akcha died. The renowned Hirayr, who did not want to leave Sebuk to the enemies, and tried to take him along, was also shot.
The passage reported the confrontations as well as the number of Turks and Armenians killed during each confrontation. During the confrontations which occurred on 14, 16, and 22 April, on 2 May and 17 July, 932—1,132 Turks were killed, as opposed to only 19 Armenians. These are figures provided by Armenians. But this rebellion, too, was included in the literature as a massacre. However, earlier interest was not renewed, for in this period the powers were concerned with other subjects.
(n) The Yildiz Palace assassination attempt
The final effort by the Tashnaks was the assassination attempt on Abdulhamid. Papazian states that ‘The attempt on the life of Sultan Abdul-Hamid in 1905 constitutes the last episode of the revolutionary attempts of the A.R. Federation on behalf of Turkish Armenia. This was another of the spectacular but futile acts of the Dashnagtzoutune. Its success would not have helped the Armenian cause; its failure probably saved our people from greater misfortunes.'
The assassination attempt occurred on Friday, 21 July 1905. The bombs, which were planted in the carriage the Sultan would take, exploded before he got in, while he was talking with the Sheikhulislam. The Sultan pardoned the assailants.
(o) Overall picture of the rebellions
The assassination attempt at the Yildiz Palace was the last assault organized by the revolutionary committees. In 1908 another insurrection took place in Adana, but the nature of this revolt was different.
The period starting with the 1890 Erzurum incident and ending with the 1896 Van rebellion is known in the West as the period of massacres.
Nalbandian states that in this period 50,000—300,000 Armenians were killed.
David Marshall Lang writes that between 1894 and 1896, 200,000 Armenians were killed.
According to Pastermadjian, 100,000-1 10,000 died.
Misseskian states that at least 300,000 were killed.
The figure given by Lepsius is 88,243. However, there is no indication as to the source of this figure. For example, he states that in 1896, 20,000 persons died in Van. However, most of the bands in Van had come from Iran, and there is no reason to doubt the figures given by Saadettin Pasha. Likewise, he states that 6,000 died in Zeitun. Aghasi writes that they had 125 casualties. It is stated in the British documents that approximately 3,000 died of the epidemics after the rebellion, and these deaths have no direct relationship with the rebellion.
The figure for 1895 given by Bliss is 35,032. When we add to this figure the number of those who died during the 1896 incidents (Zeitun, Van, Ottoman Bank), which according to the West is 6,000—7,000, we obtain a figure of 42,000, approximately.
The figure the Ottomans give for 1895 is 8,717. When we add to this the figure 3,715, the number for Van being 1,715 and for the Ottoman Bank being 2,000, and having raised to 1,000 the figure 125 for Zeitun given by Aghasi, we obtain 13,432.
One thing is certain, and that is, even if we are to include the Armenians killed by the bullets of the Armenian rebels as having been killed by Turks, the number of Armenians who died during the rebellions in the 1890s will hardly reach 20,000.
There is a great difference between 20,000 and 300,000. At the very least it would be fair for those who give these figures to remember how many people lost their lives in rebellions or disorders in their own or other countries, and think how much right they have to use the term massacre.
In the meantime it is also necessary to compute the number of Muslims who died in the same period. If we are to take seriously Aghasi’s statement that they killed 20,000 Turks in Zeitun, then the Muslim casualties would approach 25,000, and would be twice the Armenian casualties. We leave aside this exaggeration. The number of Muslims who died during these rebellions in a two-year period is not less than 5,000. Most of these Muslims were killed without provocation, by shots fred on them or with bombs, so that the rest would be aroused and attack the Armenians. This is the real murder, the real massacre.
6. Further attempts at reform
We left the subject of reform with the memorandum submitted by the British Ambassador to the Babiali on 16 August 1886, mentioning the Cyprus Agreement.
We have mentioned that Patriarch Ashikian resigned after the assassination attempt on his person in April 1894, that the Sassun rebellion started in August 1894, and that an investigative delegation was sent to the region on the insistence of Britain after the rebellion had been crushed.
The year 1895 began with the election of Mateos Izmirlian, who looked to be another Hrimyan, to the Patriarchate, and in the same year the British Ambassador, Sir Philip Currie, re-opened the subject of reform. The Ambassador asked permission to show the Russian and French Ambassadors the proposals he had asked the Military Attache. Colonel Chermside, to prepare, and to submit them to the Babiali, if they agreed. The Earl of Kimberley granted permission.
On 17 April the British Ambassador met the Russian and French Ambassadors, and they agreed to prepare a final draft of the reform proposals which they would submit to the Babiali, and to submit them first to their Governments for approval. The proposals were approved by the French and Russian Governments, and were submitted to the Babiali, along with a memorandum, on 11 May. We shall not dwell on the details, as it will be sufficient to report the text accepted by the Babiali.
On the same day, the proposals were also submitted to the German, Austrian, and Italian Ambassadors.
As Abdulhamid delayed his reply, the British Foreign Secretary suggested that the powers should press for a reply jointly. However, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that they would not take part in such an approach.
On 3 June, the Babiali gave its answer to the Ambassadors and stated that it would not accept some paragraphs of the proposals.
On 4 June, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs explained to the British Ambassador in St Petersburg that they did not consider the reform proposals as an ultimatum, that they would not approve the use of threatening language in view of the Babiali’s counter-offers, that Russia would not accept the creation of an Armenian state in Asia Minor, which would constitute the nucleus of an independent Armenia and was clearly the aim of the Armenian Committees.
On 14 June, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lobenoff, was even more explicit, and told the British Ambassador:
... Russia would be pleased by the development of the Turkish administration, by the Christian community having greater security for their lives and property, but oppose the creation of a country in Asia where Armenians would benefit from exceptional privileges. According to the Ambassadors’ proposals, this country would be quite large, and would comprise almost half of Asia Minor. Russian Armenians have become very excited, and the authorities have been forced to take measures to prevent them from sending arms and money to the other side of the border. I understand that the Government of Her Majesty is somewhat unconcerned with the subject, due to the great distance between England, or more specifically, between the lands under British rule, and the said region, but Russia cannot allow the creation of a second Bulgaria on its borders.
On 27 June, the Babiali appointed Mushir Shakir Pasha as the inspector of the eastern provinces. This appointment almost complied with the suggestion of the three powers that a High Commissioner should be appointed. At the same time, the Liberal government of Rosebery resigned and Lord Salisbury formed a new government.
‘Lord Rosebery, in a speech he gave on July 5th, as the opposition leader, stated that the Liberal Government had reached an agreement in Istanbul with Russia and France concerning the subject of exerting strong pressure to save the Armenians from this unbearable oppression, torture and barbarity, that he hoped that the new government would continue this policy, otherwise the United Kingdom would be forced to take into account all the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire.’ The German Ambassador in London, Hatzfeld, informed his Ministry of these statements, and added that Rosebery probably gave this speech to put his opponent in a difficult position.
As there was no agreement to exert pressure on the Babiali, it is obvious that the speech was delivered to create problems for the new government, but in fact the speech did not have this effect, for Salisbury now had a different view of the subject. To preserve the integrity of the Ottoman Empire was no longer in accordance with British interests. An independent Armenia in eastern Turkey could very well be useful to Britain. However, as she would not be able to achieve this because of Russia, and as the Ottoman Empire would disintegrate anyway, an alternative might be to come to an agreement with Russia, to obtain Syria and Iraq, and to relinquish the eastern provinces to Russia.
The ultimate partition of the Ottoman Empire finally became part of British policy. What was once considered by Tsar Alexander was now the view of Salisbury.
Under these circumstances, Germany would certainly not be excluded.
As we shall see, this policy of Britain’s became increasingly clear.
The conversation Salisbury had with the German Ambassador Hatzfeld on 9 July may be considered as the first indication of this new policy. The British Prime Minister, after having stated that he would not be able to abandon the former Cabinet’s policy concerning the Armenian question, and that the Sultan had at least to suggest an acceptable governor for the eastern provinces, added that one day Britain and Russia might once again share the same viewpoint, and that this would mean the end of Turkish sovereignty.
As the German Ambassador pointed out that Russia would never permit the creation of an independent Armenia, Salisbury stated, ‘That is true. However, the changes that will occur may also be in Russia’s interest.’
The German Ambassador who reported this discussion added the following remarks to his telegram: ‘Although our conversation was strictly confidential, I did not want to follow up this point, but I am absolutely certain that the Minister, with the changes he mentioned, was thinking of dividing Turkey, and relinquishing the Turkish provinces on the Russian border to Russia, rather than granting them autonomy.'
We shall not follow developments in this subject step by step, as it is not our object to examine British foreign policy. However, we shall note some turning points as they occur.
The Babiali presented a new paper on 2 August, on the subject of the reform proposals, indicating which articles would be accepted and which would not. This paper was entitled ‘Observations concerning the proposals submitted by the Ambassadors of the three powers about the reform to be implemented in various provinces in Anatolia’, and had been prepared by a Commission charged with examining the proposals.
Correspondence regarding this subject continued for a while between the Babiali and the Embassies, between the Embassies and their Ministries, and on 30 September the Babialli demonstration occurred. These incidents encouraged the three powers to press the subject of reform.
Finally, on 22 October 1895, agreement having been reached on a text on reforms, it was sent with a diplomatic note to the three Embassies, to six provinces as instructions, and to Mushir Shakir Pasha.
We summarize below the text of the reform measures that were now agreed. The original text written in French and English is in the document Turkey No. 1 (1896) no. 204 and enclosures. The text in Turkish is given on pp. 345ff of Esat Uras’ book.
It appears from the title of the decree that the reform was to be implemented in the provinces of Erzurum, Bitlis, Van, Diyarbekir, Elaziz, and Sivas. Its main points are:
Art 1. A Christian assistant shall be appointed for each Governor.
Art 2. In sanjaks and kazas with a high proportion of Christians, a Christian Assistant shall be appointed to the Muslim Governor of the sanjak and to the Muslim kaymakam [head official of a kaza].
Art 3. The kaymakams shall be chosen from among the graduates of the School for Civil Servants, regardless of sect or religion, and shall be appointed by order of the Sultan.
Art 5. In the six provinces local officials shall be appointed in accordance with the proportion of the population.
Art 9. If the inhabitants of a bujak [sub-district] belong to one single community, the members of the Assembly shall be selected only from that community.
Art. 20. Police officers shall include Muslims and Christians in proportion to the population of the province.
Art. 22. Officers of gendarmerie, low-ranking officers, and privates shall be selected in proportion to the population.
Art. 28. It is forbidden for the members of the Hamidiye regiments to bear arms and uniforms outside training.
Art. 31. The tithe [ashar] shall be collected by the tax contractors.
Art. 32. A permanent Supervisory Commission, comprising a Muslim President, and Muslim and non-Muslim members in equal numbers, shall be formed. The Commission shall operate in the Babiali and supervise the reforms.
These are the main articles of the regulation, which has 32 articles in all. This decision was accepted, but the subject was not concluded. Rebellions had made headway in almost every city of the country. The fact that the Sultan established and announced the Supervisory Commission did not change much.
The powers insisted that the text of this decree should be officially announced but Abdulhamid demurred. He asserted that it was sufficient for the decision to be published in the code of laws [Düstur] and that an announcement might create discontent among the Muslim community. In view of disorders which broke out with the Van rebellion in June 1896, and the raid on the Ottoman Bank on 26 August, the powers focussed once again on the subject of reform, joined this time by Germany and Austria, and began to insist that it be announced with a decree (irade).
The Russian Ambassador, too, made great efforts to have the reform measures made public. The Russian Ambassador, Nellidov, informed the British Ambassador that on 4 October a decree had been prepared and that it would soon be published, and also sent the text to be published. When publication was once again delayed, Salisbury took the initiative himself,
suggesting on 20 October 1896 to the Governments of the other five powers that they should secure publication of the decree, if necessary by exerting pressure, and that they should give authority to the Ambassadors in Istanbul for this purpose.
The Sultan informed the powers on 25 October that preparations for reform were concluded.
It appears that the decisive factor for the Sultan was the fact that on 3 November 1896 the Armenian question was brought to the agenda of the French Assembly. After the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Hanotaux, announced that the six powers were acting jointly to improve the administrative system without endangering the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and without interfering with its internal affairs, the Sultan told the French Ambassador in Istanbul that the reforms would be extended to all provinces, that this would be accomplished in the quickest manner, and that political prisoners would be pardoned.
The Iradei Seniye (official decree) was published in the newspapers on 11 November 1896. The decree extended the application of the text drafted a year earlier to all the provinces, instead of only six provinces, but excluded some articles of the previous text, such as those concerning regiments and the judiciary inspectors. The British Ambassador was quick to inform London that he found the decree insufficient.
The Sultan kept the promise he gave to the French, and pardoned political prisoners, except those who were sentenced to death, on 23 December 1896. Those who were sentenced to death were sent to a fortress to be freed at a later date.
In the meantime, Maghanian Ormanian was elected to the Patriarchate, which was vacant, on 18 November 1896.
Britain continued its attempts to complete the parts of the reform which had been excluded. The powers agreed that their Ambassadors in Istanbul should work to this end. Meetings were held in Istanbul. However, except for Britain, motivation was lacking. A meeting held on 23 December 1896 was probably the last meeting. The year 1897 was bringing new problems. When the Turco-Greek War began on 18 April 1897, the subject of reform was put aside until the end of the Balkan War.
7. The Adana incident and the end of attempts at reform
(a) The Adana incident
The years 1897—1914 constitute the most disastrous period of the Ottoman Empire. Within and outside the country, incidents were occurring every day, and the Empire was clearly disintegrating.
The regime within the country was now unbearable. The administration could no longer control the insurrections and rebellions, and followed such a policy that it seemed to vent its anger, arising out of its inability to control, on a silent community. As a result of this, secret organizations were founded inside and outside the country, working to put an end to this absolutist regime.
Although the Turco-Greek War ended in victory, the Ottoman Empire came out of the war empty-handed, owing to the intervention of the great powers, and had to recognize the autonomy of Crete. Moreover, France landed soldiers on Lesbos in 1901, the Macedonian rebellion occurred in 1902, and the Arabian peninsula was in turmoil.
The struggle which was begun by the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti), in the hope of putting an end to this process, ended on 24 July 1908 with the declaration of the Second Constitutional Government. However, this Government was unable to find any way of improving the condition of the Empire. On 5 October 1908, Austria occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the same day Bulgaria declared its independence, and on 6 October Greece annexed Crete.
The first Assembly of the Second Constitutional Government was opened on 17 December 1908 in this situation.
On 13 April 1909, the reactionary coup known as ‘the event of 31 March’, aimed at abolishing the Constitutional Government, took place in Istanbul.
The next day a confrontation between Muslims and Armenians occurred in Adana, and the last bloody stage of the Armenian question began.
At this time, Adana was like a barrel of gunpowder ready to explode at any moment. The British documents clearly attest to this. We read as follows in the report of the British Embassy:
[After the proclamation of the constitution] nearly no one in Adana was really satisfied. The Turks hated the idea that they were no longer masters. The Armenian wanted to rush into Home Rule. The Greek mistrusted the constitution because he had not made it himself and because under it he seemed likely to lose certain facilities he had enjoyed under the old venal system...
Under the constitution all men might bear arms. From the delightful novelty of the thing, many thousands of revolvers were purchased. Even schoolboys had them and, boy-like, flourished them about. But worse followed. The swagger of the arm-bearing Armenian and his ready tongue irritated the ignorant Turks. Threats and insults passed on both sides. Certain Armenian leaders, delegates from Constantinople, and priests (an Armenian priest is in his way an autocrat) urged their congregations to buy arms. It was done openly, indiscreetly, and, in some cases, it might be said wickedly. What can be thought of a preacher, a Russian Armenian, who in a church in this city where there had never been a massacre, preached revenge for the martyrs of 1895? Constitution or none, it was all the same to him. ‘Revenge,’ he said, ‘murder for murder. Buy arms. A Turk for every Armenian of 1895.’ An American missionary who was present got up and left the church. Bishop Mushech, of Adana, toured his province preaching that he who had a coat should sell it and buy a gun.
It appears that the Governor and the Commander in Adana at the time were not capable of resisting an incident of any kind. In his memoires, Jemal Pasha wrote:
A young priest who passionately sought authority, named Mushech, was at the time a member of the Adana Armenian Delegation, and was also one of the leaders of the Hinchaks.
Monsignor Mushech had begun to have rifles and revolvers brought from Europe to arm his men. He was publicly announcing that [Armenians were now armed, that they would no longer fear incidents such as the 1894 massacres, and that should so much as a single hair on an Armenian’s head be disturbed, ten Turks would be destroyed.]
It is here that the biggest responsibility of the Adana government begins.... To arrest and imprison His Excellency Mushech and his accomplices, to undertake legal investigation with regard to them, and even to declare a state of siege in the province was the best short cut.
Unfortunately in Turkey... such a government did not exist in 1908.
At that time, the province of Adana was administered by Governor Jevat Bey, who was a perfect example of a cultured gentleman. However, his lack of administrative talent could not be replaced by his culture. In short, he was not the man to serve as Governor of Adana at such a time.
As for the Division Commander, he was an old soldier named Ferit Mustafa Remzi Pasha.
The Governor of the Jebelibereket sanjak was Asaf Bey. I cannot understand how this faint-hearted man who was afraid of his own shadow could become a governor.
In the beginning of 1909 there were rumours circulating in Adana, that soon the Armenians would rebel and annihilate the Turks, that the European fleet would invade the province on this pretext, and that they would ensure the establishment of Armenia.
The Turks paid so much attention to these rumours that some of the notables attempted to send their families to safer areas.
In the month of April 1909, there was so much tension between the two sides, that nobody had any doubt that a confrontation would occur at any moment.
Finally, on April 14th, the [Adana incident] occurred, first of all with the Armenians’ attacks on the orders of Monsignor Mushech.
Such horrible massacres had begun in Adana, Hamidiye, Tarsus, Misis, Erzin, Dortyol, Azizli, in short in every area where the Armenians were in a majority, that reading their details would afflict one with great hatred.
The Government, which was quite helpless in the provincial centre, demonstrated its stupidity to the extent of ordering a general insurrection to prevent attacks against the Muslim folk under its jurisdiction. When he was informed that the Armenians of Dortyol were advancing with an armed convoy to the town of Erzin, the centre of the sanjak of Jebelibereket, the sanjak governor Asaf Bey, without even leaving his office, sent telegrams to all the places under his jurisdiction, as well as to the neighbouring sanjak of Kozan, stating that it would be necessary [for every patriotic Turk to take his arms and rush to the aid of the sanjak of Jebelibereket, as the Muslims here were in danger of being massacred].
These are the reasons and causes of the first Adana incident. The second Adana incident occurred eleven days after the first, and was restricted to the city of Adana. It began when some Armenian youths opened fire on the soldiers’ camp at night, and this in turn triggered worse massacres in the city of Adana.
In my opinion, the sole responsibility for the Adana massacres lies in the person of the renowned author of Les Vepres Ciliciennes, Monsignor Mushech. The Adana government of the time, which realized the harm this individual was capable of, and did not take any preventive measures, is also responsible.
We should bear in mind that the above statements are taken from the memoirs of Jemal Pasha,and therefore reflect his own version of these events. Recently the memoirs of Asaf Bey, who was the Governor of the sanjak of Jebelibereket at that time, have been published, and the picture he presents is somewhat different. As Asaf Bey was exonerated in the investigation which followed the Adana incident, at the very time when the government was looking for a scapegoat for these events, it may well be that the accusations of Jemal Pasha were somewhat subjective and exaggerated.
The British also shared Jemal Pasha’s view of Bishop Mushech. The above-mentioned document also includes the following footnote:
Since writing the above on Bishop Mushech I got another view of him and his conduct, which may be of some interest. I was urging on one of the Delegates of the Patriarch the necessity of finding some modus vivendi between the two races. In the forefront of his conditions forpeace he placed the pardon of this Bishop.
‘He has done nothing,’ he said, ‘nothing at all. It is true that he took bribes from Bahri Pasha. It is true that he was in the arms trade, and sold the people bad arms for good money. It is true that he preached to them to buy arms, and thereby made much money. It is true that he made foolish speeches. It is true that he used to go to the vineyards with a rifle and bandolier on his shoulder. It is true that he had himself photographed in the costume of the old chiefs of Armenia, But what of all that? It is nothing.’
At the time of the incidents, Mushech was in Egypt. Without doubt he would have taken an active part in the incidents, if he had been in Adana. The British Ambassador, in another report dated 4 May 1909, states that the Armenian Patriarch was responsible to a great extent for the incidents.
The incidents spread when Armenians killed two young Muslims and refused to hand over the assailant, and Muslims and Armenians fought in the streets for three days.
The government immediately dispatched soldiers from Dedeaghach to Adana. Their arrival rekindled the incidents, but this time they were easily crushed. Jemal Pasha writes that in the Adana incident 17,000 Armenians and 1,850 Muslims were killed, and that, had the population ratios been in favour of the Armenians, the statistics would have been reversed. The inclinations shown by both sides during the fighting did not differ from one another.
The Patriarchate gives the number of dead as 21,300 based on the investigation it carried out. The Edirne representative, Babikian Efendi, had prepared a report to be submitted to the Assembly. He gave the number of dead as 21,001 in his report which was not discussed in the Assembly, as he died shortly after. Because the figure given by Jemal Pasha pertains to the time after the trials, it can be accepted that the number of Armenians who died is closer to 17,000 rather than 20,000, as it is possible that some had returned after having fled during the incidents.
The Adana incident appears as a case in which Armenians were responsible in so far as they engaged in provocation until it erupted, and the local government was responsible in that it was unable to control it once it happened. However, this was not in any way a case of one side massacring the other, as the Armenians and the Muslims both fought fiercely. As Jemal Pasha pointed out, if the Armenian population had been in the majority, instead of being one-tenth of the Muslim population, the numbers of dead might well have been reversed.
The British Ambassador, in the reports mentioned above, stated that it was not possible to make the two sides declare a cease-fire, and that the cease-fire which was obtained with the soldiers’ intervention was disregarded as soon as the soldiers left the area.
After the incident, martial law was declared in Adana. The Armenian and Muslim culprits were sent to the military court martial. Jemal Pasha, who was appointed to Adana after the incident, wrote as follows:
Four months after I arrived at Adana, I had 30 Muslims, among the martial court convicts, hanged, only in the city of Adana, and 2 months later I had 17 Muslims hanged in the town of Erzin. Only one Armenian was hanged. Among the Muslims who were hanged, there were young members of the most established and wealthy families of Adana, as well as the mufti of the kaza of Bahche. This mufti had great influence on the local Turks. I regret deeply that I was unable to capture Monsignor Mushech as he escaped in a foreign ship to Alexandria, on the second day of the Adana incident. If I had captured this person, who was rightly sentenced to death in default, I would have hanged him oppsoite the mufti of Bahche.
The last incident of Adana was thus concluded.
(b) Final attempt at reform
The incident of Adana, which, if it had occurred at a time of tranquility, would have aroused a storm in Europe, had in fact occurred at the same time as the 31 March rebellion. Attention was chiefly directed to Istanbul, on the attempt to dethrone the Sultan. Moreover, conflicts were brewing in the Balkans, incidents were continuously occuring. In 1910, a rebellion began in Albania, in 1911 the Benghazi war with Italy broke out and finally, on 8 October 1912, the Balkan War began.
Report No. 1129 sent by the British Ambassador to the Foreign Office on the last day of 1912 indicates how this last period of the reform attempts began.
[The Armenians] would seem to feel that now that article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin has eventuated in the freeing ofthe Macedonians, the time has come to deal with the provinces affected by article 61 of the same treaty. Recent despatches from his Majesty’s consular officers at Erzurum, Van, Bitlis, etc. ,would point to an increase in these expectations of the Armenians; while their communities in Geneva, Paris, Marseilles, America, Egypt, and notably in the Caucasus, would seem to cherish the hope that the present chapter of Balkan history will not be closed by Europe without the commencement of a better era for the Asiatic provinces inhabited by the Armenians.
Here in the capital — though for obvious reasons the movement is not so overt as, e.g. , in the Caucasus — the Armenian community, numbering over 150,000 souls, is also preoccupied with the immediate future of their ‘millet’ [nation]. On an intimation from the Armenian Catholicos, George v, or supreme spiritual head of the Armenian Church, who resides at Etchmiazin, in the Caucasus, it has been decided to appoint as bishop of the Armenian communities in Europe Mgr. Ormanian, who was Patriarch during the last twelve years of Abdul Hamid’s reign, and who was unceremoniously deposed by the violent agitation of the Tashnag Armenians, allied to the Committee of Union and Progress, shortly after the inauguration of the Young Turkey regime in 1908. False charges of simony and corruption were trumped up against him and now that the majority of the Tashnags have broken off their alliance with the Committee of Union and Progress, owing to its failure to carry out any of its promises and undertakings to the Armenians, the Armenian patriarchate and the National Assembly are taking steps to exonerate and rehabilitate Mgr. Ormanian before he proceeds to Europe, where part of his mission will be to make known and plead the cause of the Armenians in European centres.
The son of Boghos Nubar Pasha is reported to have endeavoured to gain the sympathies of M. Poincare in the Armenian cause and to have also spoken on the subject with Rifaat Pasha, the Ottoman Ambassador in Paris, urging that the reforms of 1895 should be put into execution by the Porte on its own initiative. On receipt of Rifaat Pasha’s reports on the subject, Reshid Bey, the Minister of the Interior, with the sanction of his government drew up a fresh scheme for the improvement of conditions in four of the six Eastern Anatolian vilayets, and a Ministerial commission, composed of the Grand Vizier; Gabriel Effendi; the Minister of the Interior; and Damad Sherif Pasha, Minister of Public Instruction, has discussed the matter with four prominent Armenians, viz., Mgr. Ormanian; Diran Kelekian, formerly Secretary-General of the Patriarchate, and now chief editor of the ‘Sabah’ newspaper; Gulbenkian, an Armenian established in England; and Dr Djavarian, deputy for Sivas. These Armenians urged that the scheme should apply not to four, but to the six vilayets to which the 1895 reforms were applicable, viz., Erzurum, Van, Bitlis, Kharput, Diyarbekir, and Sivas; and this was agreed to in principle, it being also decided to divide the six provinces into two groups, the first comprising Bitlis, Van, and Erzurum, with head-quarters at the latter town, and the second Sivas, Diyarbekir, and Harput (also called Mamouret-ul-Aziz), with head-quarters at Kharput. The valis (governors) of the six provinces would be abolished, and each province reduced to a sanjak with a mutessarif as governor, while each of the two groups would be administered by a commission sitting at the head-quarters and composed of seven members, to wit: two Armenians, two Moslems, and two foreigners, with a third foreigner as president, the latter preferably English. The gendarmerie and police would be officered by Europeans, while there would also be European judicial inspectors. The military forces in each group of provinces would be under the command of a marshal, who would also be inspector-general. The Armenians consulted by the commission further advocated that the local revenues should be assigned to the provinces....
While these matters were under discussion at the commission, the Armenian Patriarch and community informed the Government that the four Armenians consulted by the commission were not representative, as they had not been chosen by the National Assembly of the Armenian ‘millet’. It would appear that while the Patriarch and his council are loth at the present stage to appeal to foreign Governments, the four Armenians in question and a section of the community would prefer that a Government scheme should be drawn up and that an endeavour should be made to induce Europe to have the matter discussed and sanctioned by the meeting of Ambassadors in London or a European Congress, should it be decided to convene one to give the imprimatur of Europe to the changes to the Treaty of Berlin resulting from the Balkan War. There is, however, in Armenian circles a growing conviction, based on the bitter experiences of the last thirty-odd years, that the Turkish Government is incapable of executing real reforms in non-Turkish Ottoman provinces, that a general European guarantee, even on a Lebanon basis, as suggested in the enclosure in your despatch No. 560 of the 11th instant, cannot, owing to international divergences of interest and rivalries, be effective, that the time is gone by for palliatives based on status quo theories and that nothing short of autonomy or the cessation of direct Turkish administrative rule in such provinces will meet the necessities of the present time. The holders of these views would prefer to see Europe give a mandate to Russia, as was given to Austria in 1878, to take in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to introduce reforms in the six vilayets under the suzerainty of the Sultan. The Turco-Russian railway agreement as to the basin of the Black Sea and the corresponding self-denying arrangements as to the north-eastern provinces of Asia Minor accepted by Germany at Potsdam, seem to them to have simplifled such a solution from the international stand-point...
This telegram is significant for two reasons. First, it shows to a great extent the future of the Armenian question; second, it clearly demonstrates that the Ottoman Empire was in the process of being divided into spheres of influence.
Let us briefly examine, without going into detail, the division of the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence, as it concerns, even if indirectly, the Armenian question, or rather the Armenians within the Ottoman Empire.
The aim of dividing the Empire into spheres of influence was to give the privileges of public works and industry in specific regions to certain powers.
The Ottoman Empire, through the dual treaties and agreements, had given the privileges of the Baghdad Railway construction to the Germans. The text of the general agreement to be made in this subject could not be signed until the First World War, and was later abandoned. On 19 March 1913, the Ottoman Petroleum Company, in which the Ottomans had very few shares, was founded , and the privileges of Iraqi Petroleum were given to this company. Approximately three-quarters of the capital was British. On 29 July 1913, the Shattularab (the area of the united Tigris and Euphrates from their junction to the sea) Agreement was made with the British, the privilege of operating ships on the Euphrates and the Tigris was given to the British, and it was decided that a mixed commission should administer Shattularab. Moreover, the irrigation of Iraq was left to the British. On 29 October 1913, an agreement was reached to the effect that the privileges of the railways to be constructed to the east of Trabzon—Pekerich—Harput— Diyarbekir should be given to Russia. On 9 April 1914, an agreement was made, which gave the French extensive privileges in Western Anatolia.
When we say an agreement was made, it is only in a manner of speaking. Actually these agreements were almost forced onto the Ottomans.
Although an agreement was reached with the Italians giving them privileges to construct a railway in the region of Antalya, it did not produce any result, owing to the objections of the British.
Making an agreement with the Ottoman Empire was not sufficient. This agreement had to be sanctioned by the other powers. On 15 June 1914 Britain and Germany made an agreement, to the effect that each would recognize the privileges given to the other. A similar agreement was made on 15 February 1914 between France and Germany. In February 1914 Britain and Russia, too, made such an agreement. France and Britain had previously reached agreement, and on 5 December 1912, Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, had even told Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador, that Britain did not covet Syria, and had offered Syria to France.
When the First World War began, as a result of these agreements every inch of Ottoman Anatolia had been divided into spheres of influence controlled by various powers (see Map 1).
It is useful to take a look at some German documents to understand how this distribution was arrived at. Because these documents were translated by Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, we quote them from his book. The statements in parentheses in the German documents are the observations written by Kaiser Wilhelm as he read the telegrams.
The German Ambassador to Moscow sent the following report dated 23 January 1913 to his Prime Minister, Bethmann-Hollweg:
During my most recent discussions with Mr. Sazanov, my attention was drawn to the fact that, when we were discussing the dangers which would arise, should the Balkan War continue, he brought the conversation a few times to Armenia (This is now an old story) and stated his fears that a massacre of Christians might occur there. (These would be organized so that this would constitute a pretext for intervention and annexation. The fleet show will be useful for the same reason.) Minister (Sazanov) made the following remark: ‘Disorders which would occur on our borders will not leave us unconcerned and should something like this occur, we cannot not intervene....‘
According to reliable sources here, the local authorities are split into two groups. One group advocates action in Armenia, so that Russia is not left empty-handed when the problems in the Near East are solved, and the other group opposes such a policy.
In many instances it is claimed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports the first group. I do not agree with this claim, taking into account the fact that Mr. Sazanov until now has been moderate and prudent in the Balkan crisis. Nevertheless, some newspapers which have obvious relations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are openly attempting to arouse interest to the advantage of Armenia, and to point to the necessity of Russian intervention, with the aim of protecting the Christians who live there, should this be necessary. (Good bait catches fine fish.)
According to my investigation, among the opponents of an active Russian policy in Armenia is the Governor-General of Caucasia. According to a well-informed diplomat here, when Voronzov-Dashkov was asked his opinion, he pointed out the dangers that Russian action in Armenia would create for the Caucasus. The governor-general defended the following viewpoint.
The goal of such an action should be, first of all, reform and autonomy. However, it can be expected that the Armenians, who live in the Caucasus in great numbers, would demand the same rights as soon as they heard of the privileges granted to their fellowmen in Turkey, and that disorders would arise in the Caucasus.
Apparently, Mr. Sazanov yesterday told the councillor of the Austro-Hungarian Embassy (Count Chernin), ‘I insistently suggested to the Turkish Ambassador here, that he offer his Government to implement reforms in Armenia, to prevent disorders there.’ (Like in Macedonia? This is exactly what Voronzov is afraid of.) Turhan Pasha did not mention this Russian suggestion to me; however, he talked about the Russian intentions in Armenia in the most suspicuous manner. (He was right.) Until a few weeks ago, the Ambassador fully defended the moderate and honest character of Russian policy. Now he tells me that the Minister’s attitude towards him has completely changed, and that this makes him suspicious. (Of course, because everything in Istanbul is in a mess.) He is afraid that Russia is preparing a plan which she does not want to make public.
(For weeks this was obvious to the non-diplomats.) Turhan Pasha stated that the claim that the Christians in Armenia were in danger was totally unfounded, but on the other hand, there was no doubt that creating disorders in Armenia by way of the Caucasus was entirely within the Russians’ powers, if they could benefit from these disorders. (He’s right. That’s how it will be.)
A point which drew my attention is that the Italian charge d’affaires (Tommasi della Torretta) who openly supports Russia (he has assured me until now that Russian policy is not based on interests) (The fool.) has mentioned his fears about the Russian aims in Asia Minor. When I made the observation that Russia has to take England into account when she wants to expand into Asia Minor (The opposite is true , they have no need , London does whatever Benkendorff wants.), Marquis Toretta’s reply was: ‘What if the states of the Triple Entente have agreed on this subject?’ (Right.) The charge d’affairs then pointed to the attention France paid to Syria (A blow to the Bagdad railway.) and stated that it was not impossible that England was coveting the Arab shores of the Red Sea. (Right.)
Marquis Toretta stated that he had no clear indication that the members of the Triple Entente have reached such agreements. I am not in a position to report events which point to the existence of such agreements. However, I did not think it was right not to include in my report the distrust which began to be felt here among diplomatic circles against the Russian plans. (Quite late, I’ve had this fear for very long, but they never believe me, finally Petersburg has begun to spoil the game, which has aroused this general distrust.)
The German Ambassador in Istanbul, Vangenheim, sent the following report dated 21 January 1913:
... However, with another observation having no relation to the Balkan alliance, one reaches the conclusion that Germany will be under the necessity of defending the perpetuation of Asiatic Turkey after peace is made. If Turkey is left alone, it is possible that the process of disintegration which caused the breaking up of European Turkey will spread soon to Asia Minor. The conviction that Asiatic Turkey in a few years will fall victim to being divided, as long as the central system is not changed, and the army continues to interfere constantly in the inner politics of the country, is prevalent not only among the Turks of Istanbul, but among the inhabitants of Asia Minor as well. Russia and France keep in mind the possibility that the situation in Asia Minor will evolve in a way to justify intervention in Europe to protect Russian and French interests that are in danger. Today, Asia Minor resembles the state Morocco was in before the conference of Algeciras. The subject of dividing Asia Minor can be brought up, sooner than expected. We have few interests in Morocco, but we are engaged in Asia Minor through hundreds of millions and our prestige which is linked to the Baghdad railway. The possibility that the areas which were opened to world transport, thanks to German achievements, might fall into the hands of foreigners, is an unbearable thought for the German national consciousness. If we do not want to be excluded from this division, we must from now on come to an agreement with the interested powers, and especially with England. Our relations with Great Britain are now improving thanks to Your Majesty’s dominating and prudent policy. This is also being felt here. However, it is yet quite doubtful that this policy of approaching England is popular in England, to the extent that the British Government will consent, without pondering much, to Germany obtaining an area in Asia Minor, and especially to occupy a harbour on the shores of Asia Minor. A German Mersin, or a German Iskenderun will probably be a more unpleasant thought to the British today, than a German Aghadir. Every rational German politician would hope that something comes out of this modest beginning of the German-British entente. But this delicate plant needs many years to flourish, and at this point, it must be handled with care. However, if the Turkey of Asia Minor is not supported in an energetic and substantial manner by friendly powers, this country will not be able to survive for long. The future of Asiatic Turkey has been discussed recently by my Austrian and Italian colleagues in detail. As soon as peace is made, Marquis Pallavicini as well as Marquis Garroni will suggest to their Governments that they defend the thesis that the Triple Alliance must give its support to Turkey.
The German Ambassador in London sent the following report on 24 January:
Sir Edward Grey has just discussed with me the incidents which occurred in Istanbul [He refers to the toppling of the Kamil Pasha Cabinet by the Young Turks and Enver Bey Pasha], and stated that ‘A coup d’etat does not necessarily mean that the war will rekindle’. First of all the intention of the Young Turks is only to take power into their hands. In fact, it will be difficult for them to give up Edirne from now on, but everything is possible with the Turks. We should first wait for the reply note. Grey has said this to their plenipotentiaries in the Balkans, and suggested to them that they should not take action and should return to their country.
Taking advantage of this opportunity I mentioned the issue of Asia Minor, and told him, ‘We are ready to guarantee the countries under Turkish rule, along with the other powers. Because we have no intention of obtaining any country, we do not want other countries to have such an intention.’ He gave me this reply: ‘First of all peace must be obtained. It is impossible to focus on other issues before it is obtained, because we cannot know beforehand whether the war will spread to Asia Minor or not.’ Then he asked what we would do, should anarchy arise and our interests and the Baghdad railway be in danger, and stated that we might engage in military intervention, that our situation in Mesopotamia corresponded to the situation of the French in Syria. I replied that 'We should never, and we shall not cross the boundary of protecting our economic interests; on the other hand, we expect the same from France and other powers.’
I had the impression that he [Grey] was preoccupied with the question of the disintegration of Asia Minor, and that although he does not want to take part yet in the division into spheres of interest, he is thinking of Russia and France, and for this reason he will not be able easily to approach the agreement which is being considered.
The opinion of the German Government is clear in the telegram sent by the Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to their Ambassador in London on 27 January 1913.
I entirely agree with the phraseology used by Your Highness during the conversation which took place on the 24th of the current month with Sir E. Grey on the subject of Asia. As long as we only have economic interests in Asia Minor, and should inner conflicts arise, it is true that there is no reason for us to cross the boundaries of these economic interests on condition that France and other powers do likewise , because we are pleased with the present administrative system of Asia Minor, and we are far from wanting the abolition of Turkish rule or that it be threatened. On the other hand, if there is an attempt to change the present situation of governing, and to begin the division of Asiatic Turkey, then it is natural that our interests which are only economic will immediately become first class political interests. (Yes.) Then we will be forced to interfere and obtain our share from the inheritance, because Germany is engaged in Asia Minor, not only through hundreds of millions, but through her prestige. German national consciousness will not allow areas which have been opened to culture and international transport through German achievements to fall into entirely foreign hands.
Germany would not desire that Asiatic Turkey be eliminated today. Our relations with Great Britain are, in fact, being improved. But it is doubtful whether this development is popular in England to the extent that the British government will quietly accept that Germany settle in Asia Minor, and even on the coasts of Asia Minor. For this reason, our intervention today in Asia Minor would encounter the opposition of England. (?) Moreover, it should be added that the provinces Germany would demand in the event of a partition constitute the core and backbone of the Turkish state and are inhabited by a Muslim community which has remained extremely loyal to the Sultan and his chalifs. Disintegration in Turkey has not reached such a point that we should not take into consideration these elements which are the best in the population. Should we attempt to settle in Anatolia, we must also count on the fierce resistance of the people. However, England in Arabia, Russia in Armenia, France in Syria will be more successful because of the liberation movements which have been present in these areas for a long time. For this reason, not only will it be necessary to use substantial military forces for the realization of our action, but it also seems doubtful whether it is justified to leave the motherland in such an unguarded state, when one bears in mind the relationships between the great powers today.
The above observations, presented with the only aim that Your Highness has an idea of the situation, show how much vital interest we have in the continuation, as long as possible, of Turkish rule in Asia Minor. For this reason, within the framework of the instructions submitted to you, we request that, at all costs, you prevent the Asia question from being brought up.
While this attitude of Germany made the other powers forget the subject of partitioning the Ottoman Empire, it showed the need to strengthen spheres of influence, and as a result of this, the agreements we have mentioned above were reached. For the same reason, the Armenian question was not brought up during the London talks which concluded the Balkan Wars, but the Armenians, of course, had no idea then that this would happen.
Without doubt, the Babiali was informed of the activities the Armenians engaged in, and especially of Bogos Nubar Pasha’s contacts. Bogos Nubar Pasha had even met Javit Bey, who at the time was meeting the French in Paris, and had not concealed his opinions.
The Babiali felt that European pressure was likely, and began to consider ways of preventing it. It is necessary to study the conversations reported by the British Ambassador in his telegram against this background.
Accordingly, the Babiali enacted the law of General Provincial Administration dated 13 March 1329 (26 March 1913) which gave authority to make decisions in local matters in the provinces to the provincial assembly, and which accepted special budgets for the provinces; the law of the Justices of the Peace (Sulh Hakimleri Kanunu) dated 11 April 1329 (24 April 1913) which would permit the establishment of new courts in various areas; and other laws. At the same time, in 1913, the Babiali made an approach which it thought would please the European powers, requesting experts and officers for gendarmerie from Britain to work in eastern Anatolia and in the Ottoman Ministry of the Interior.
This request made the Armenian question reappear. Russia very strongly opposed this. However, still on 23 January, Russia declared that it. did not find it convenient to bring up the Armenian question at that time.
We shall not dwell on the details. Russia claimed that sending foreign experts, who would work on the topic of the Armenians, to Turkey, could only be done within the framework of general reform, and that this subject should be discussed between Russia, France and Britain at the level of the Ambassadors in Istanbul.
Germany asserted that the subject concerned all the great powers. As a result, Russia invited France, Britain, Germany, Austria and Italy to handle this subject through their Ambassadors in Istanbul, with a circular note it sent on 6 June 1913.
This time, Germany suggested that the Turks should also participate in the discussions. Russia strongly opposed this. Finally, Russia’s suggestion was acted on. The Ambassadors were headed by the Austrian Ambassador who had seniority in service, and met in his waterside residence in Yenikeuy. During this meeting on 30 June 1913, the Russians submitted proposals. (These had been prepared by the Russian, British, and French experts.)
The text of the proposals was:
1. The provinces of Erzeroum, Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Kharpout, and Sivas shall be united as a single province. Some of the bordering areas of these provinces shall be excluded from this new province. (The region of Hakkari, the region of Birejik in Siirt, south of Malatya, the north-west of Sivas [that is, approximately today’s province of Tokat].)
Attention shall be paid to ensuring that the population is homogeneous as far as possible within each subdivision, as the new vilayet is divided into sanjaks, kazas, and nahiyes.
2. The governor-general of this ‘Armenian province’ shall be appointed for a period of five years by the Sultan, with the consent of the great powers. He will be an Ottoman Christian, or preferably a European foreigner.
3. This governor-general will be the executive officer of the province and may, without exception, appoint and dismiss all the officials. Likewise he will appoint the judges. The police and the gendarmerie are directly under his command. When he requires it, the army too will be placed under his command to establish order.
The officials, the judges, the police, and the gendarmerie will be formed of Muslims and Christians in equal numbers. When the governors of the sanjaks and the head officials of the districts are being selected, the number of various elements and their economic importance must be taken into consideration. The organization of the police and the gendarmere shall be given to foreign officers, who will be in the service of Turkey, and who will also have the high command of the police and the gendarmerie.
4. The governor-general shall have an administrative assembly in an advisory role. Its members will be: (a) Presidents of various departments, (b) Spiritual leaders of various congregations and (c) six advisors, three of whom will be Muslims and the other three Christians, selected from among the members of the provincial assembly.
An administrative assembly of the same nature and formation shall be established in each sanjak and kaza.
5. The provincial assembly shall be formed of Muslim and Christian members in equal numbers.
The Assembly memberships which shall be given to various Muslim and Christian peoples shall be established separately for every kaza. These numbers will be proportionate to the numbers of various elements in each kaza, on condition that the above-mentioned equality in numbers of Muslims and Christians as a total is maintained.
This assembly will possess great powers to enact the budget and the laws. The decree of the Sultan approving or rejecting these laws must arrive within two months. If there is no reply within two months, this means that the law is accepted.
6. The boundaries of the nahiyes will be established in such a way that they include, as far as possible, villages having a homogeneous population. The nahiye will have an assembly selected by the inhabitants. This assembly will elect from among its members the governor of the nahiye and his assistant. The governor will belong to the community in the majority and his assistant will be from the community in the minority.
7. The centre of each nahiye and kaza will have a justice of the peace appointed by the governor-general. The justice of the peace of the nahiye will belong to the creed of the majority.
Even in the courts the principle of having Muslim and Christian judges in equal numbers will be respected.
8. In peace time, the population of the province will do military service within the province. The light cavalry regiments of Kurds (the former Hamidiye regiments) will be abolished.
9. The right to vote in various elections, and the right to be elected is restricted to the sedentary inhabitants. [That is, the tribes and nomads are excluded.]
10. All laws, regulations etc., shall be published in three languages (Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian). Likewise, in the courts, in the official requests, these three languages may be used.
11. Every community living in the province may found a private school of any level, and may collect taxes from its members for this reason. Turkish will be compulsory in these schools, and their inspection will be the responsibi?ity of the governor-general.
12. The governor-general shall appoint a commission to examine the subject of returning the lands taken from the Armenians.
13. The various privileges of the Armenian community and the rights it obtained through the 1863 organization will not be infringed.
14. Nomads will not be allowed to settle in the province.
15. Measures will be implemented in accordance with the principles above, to improve the condition of the Armenians outside the new province and especially in Cilicia.
16. A commission formed of the delegates of the Ottoman Government and of the great powers will establish the constitution of the new province.
17. The great powers will pay attention to the implementation of these principles, and will ensure their implementation.
It is useful to look at the telegram dated 30 June, sent by the German Ambassador to his government concerning this meeting.
Mr Giers made the following observations today during the meeting of the Ambassadors:
1. This conference is organized through Russia’s encouragement.
2. Russia is more interested than the other powers in the question of eastern Anatolia and the Armenians.
3. The discussions must be concluded as soon as possible. Following this, Von Giers submitted Mandelstam’s proposal.According to this proposal, the six provinces must be united into one province under the supervision of a governor-general to be appointed by the Sultan, or better, of a European governor-general. From an administrative and military point of view, this province will be entirely separated from the Ottoman states. The officials and judges without exception will be nominated and appointed by the governor-general. Military troops will include only Armenians and during peace time will be used only in that area. This proposal goes beyond the 1895 programme and even beyond the status of Lebanon. Acceptance of this proposal will create an Armenia, more than half of Anatolia, which is flimsily bound to Turkey only with the sovereignty of the Sultan.
Because the other half of the Armenians live in Russia, Russia claims a first class right in this subject. This subject means the beginning of the division [the division of Ottoman Asia]. France will implement this action in Syria, likewise. If we do not want to abandon Anatolia, we will request a similar regime for the region we are interested in. The Russian proposal also protects the province of Diyarbekir, which is partly our region, in the name of Armenia. Upon the suggestion of the most senior Ambassador [Austria], the proposal was referred to a commission formed by Embassies’ delegates to be examined. I plan to be represented through Schönberg, the Turkish translator of the Embassy. Marquis Pallavicini and I are giving instructions to our representatives not to engage in any argument about the main points, but to insist that a comprehensive discussion take place concerning the separate points of the Russian programme and study of the Turkish offers. Above all, the important point is to gain time so that the detachments which are about to return may re-enter Armenia, and in this way, time is gained for the British position. If England consents to Russia’s offer, this would prove that England is not willing to delay the division.
As for the Ottoman Government, it informed the Ambassadors of the reform which would be implemented through the changes made on the subject of the general administration of the provinces on 1 July. Thus two sets of proposals had appeared. These were discussed during eight meetings held between 3 and 24 July at the subcommission formed by the Ambassadors, and no result was obtained. Germany, Austria, and Italy supported the Turkish thesis during these meetings, and the British seemed to lean towards them.
Russia realized that in order to have the proposal approved, it had to obtain the consent of Germany. We shall not dwell on the details. The German Ambassador Vangenheim and the Russian Ambassador Giers began discussions and reached an agreement on a new proposal. The text, which the other powers did not object to, was submitted to the Babiali by the Russians. Between September 1913 and February 1914 offers and counter-offers were made between the Russian Ambassador and the Grand Vizier. Now Russia was taking the initiative on the subject, with the consent of the other Ambassadors, and was informing them of developments. Each time the Grand Vizier requested support from the other powers, they replied that he should conclude the matter as soon as possible.
Thus, the final text was signed on 8 February 1914. We quote the text from Hikmet Bayur:
An agreement has been reached between His Highness Prince Said Halim Pasha, the Grand Vizier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Ottoman Empire, and Excellency Constantin Gulkevitch, the charge d’affaires of Russia, that after the designation of two inspector-generals who will be brought to the head of the two sectors of Eastern Anatollia, the Babiali shall send the following note to the Great Powers:
Two foreign inspector-generals will be brought to the head of the two Eastern Anatollian sectors: Mr. A— will be at the head of the sectors including the provinces of Erzurum, Trabzon, and Sivas, and Mr. B— will be appointed to the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Kharput, and Diyarbekir.
The inspector-generals will have control ofthe administration, the judiciary, the police, and the gendarmerie in their sectors.
Should the general security forces there not be on hand in time, upon the request of the inspector-general, the armed forces will be given under his command for the implementation of the measures he has taken, within the boundaries of his jurisdiction.
The inspector-generals will dismiss officials, as need may be, should they detect any incompetence or poor conduct on their part, and will send for trial those who have engaged in activities punishable by the courts. They will replace the lower officials whom they have dismissed by officials who are qualifled according to the rules and regulations. They possess the right to submit the names of officials who will replace the higher officials to the Government of His Majesty the Sultan. The inspector-general will immediately inform the interested Ministry with a telegram, and a short memorandum, and within eight days they will send the dossiers of these officials, along with the detailed memorandums, to the same place.
In serious cases, which necessitate quick implementation of measures, the inspector-generals have the right to suspend officials of the judiciary who cannot be dismissed (such as judges), on condition that they immediately inform the Ministry of Justice.
Should it be detected that the governors are engaged in acts requiring that urgent indispensable measures are taken against them, the inspector-generals will inform the Ministry of the Interior of this with a telegram, and the Minister will make a decision at most within four days of receipt of the inspector-general’s telegram.
The agrarian conflicts [the lands claimed by the Armenians to have been taken away from them] will be resolved under the direct supervision of the inspector-generals.
More detailed regulations will be drafted, concerning the duties and jurisdictions of the inspector-generals, after these have been appointed, and with their cooperation.
Should there be a vacancy during the next ten years in the office of the inspector-generals, the Babiali will rely on the benevolent assistance of the great powers for their election.
Laws, regulations, and official communications will be announced in every area in the local languages. If the inspector-general regards it as feasible, everyone will have the right to use his own language in the courts and in government offices. Court sentences will be given in Turkish, and when possible they will be translated into the language of the interested parties.
The portion allotted to each community for the public instruction budget in each province will be proportional to its portion of the tax levied for public instruction. The Imperial Government will not oppose in any way that within a congregation, those who are of that faith, help in the administration of their schools.
During time of peace and tranquility, each Ottoman will do his military service within the military inspectorship of his residence. Nevertheless, the Imperial Government, till further orders, will send land army units, formed by recruits from all parts of the Empire, in accordance with the population ratio of those areas, to the remote areas of Yemen, Asir and Nejd in Arabia; likewise it will draft soldiers from all parts of the Empire for the navy.
The Hamidiye regiments will be organized as reserve cavalry. Their arms will be kept in military depots, and will be given to them only during mobilization and manoeuvres. These regiments will be under the orders of the commander of the army corps of their region. During peace time the commanders of the regiments, companies, and squads will be chosen from among the Regular Army officers of the Imperial Army. The privates of these regiments will do their military service for one year, and to enter the regiment, they will themselves provide their horses with all their equipment. Everybody of that area who accepts these conditions will be taken into the regiment regardless of religion and origin. When they are gathered for mobilization or manoeuvres, these units will be subjected to the same disciplinary measures as the regular army units.
The authority of the provincial general assemblies has been established according to the principles of the law dated March 13, 1329 [26 March 1913, i.e. the law of the general administration of the provinces].
A definitive census will be made as soon as possible within a year, under the supervision of the inspector-generals, and will establish the proportion of the various religions, communities, and languages in the two sectors. Until then, half of the members elected in the general assemblies and committees of the provinces of Van and Bitlis will be non-Muslims. If the definitive census is not made within one year, then the members of the general assembly of the province of Erzurum, too, will be elected in the same proportion as the two provinces mentioned above. The members of the general assemblies of the provinces of Sivas, Kharpout, and Diyarbekir will be elected according to the present principle of proportionality. [This refers to the proportion of various religions.] To achieve this, until the definitive census is made, the number of Muslim voters will be established based on the tables used during the last census, and the number of non-Muslim voters will be established according to the tables provided by the congregations. However, if some financial difflculties make the implementation of this temporary census system impossible, the inspector-generals have the right to suggest a system better suited to the present needs and conditions of the provinces of Sivas, Kharpout, and Diyarbekir, for the distribution of the memberships in the general assemblies of these provinces among various communities.
In all the provinces based on the principle of proportionality in the elections of the general assemblies, the minorities will have members on the committees.
The elected members of the administrative assemblies will be Muslim and non-Muslim in equal numbers.
If the inspector-generals have no objection, as there are vacancies in the police force and the gendarmerie of the two sectors, the principles of equality among Muslims and non-Muslims will be the basis in the employment of new officers. This principle of equality will also be the basis as far as possible for the distribution of all the other officials in the two sectors.
In confirmation of these articles, the above mentioned individuals have initialled and sealed this document.
Because this agreement was made with Russia, Russia was its supervisor. That is, the other five powers left Russia to act freely in the matter of the eastern provinces.
The Ottoman Government did not have the courage to announce this agreement to the people. The following news item was published in the newspaper Tanin on 11 February 1914:
As we have written previously, the discussions which have been occurring for some time concerning the reforms to be implemented in the eastern provinces have reached a good result, and a total agreement has been made in all the reform principles. As the Government has decided to communicate soon through the press, the text of this communication is being finallized and presented by the Babiali.
Although some of our associates have written that a protocol would be organized and signed, this is an erroneous statement. However, the Babiali will restrict itself to submit the reform principles to the Embassies.
The only thing that remained was the election of the inspector-generals. This was not easily achieved, as the powers had difficulty in reaching agreement. Finally, Major Hoff of the Norwegian army was chosen for the region of Van, Bitlis, Harput and Diyarbekir; Westenek of Belgium was chosen for the region of Trabzon, Erzurum and Sivas; and the Babiali signed a contract with them on 25 May 1914.
On 28 June 1914 the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was assassinated in Bosnia, and the developments leading to the First World War began. When the Ottoman Empire entered the war on 1 November, the inspector-generals had not begun their work.
On 31 December 1914, the Babiali announced with an official decree that it had dismissed them.
The subject of reform for the benefit of the Armenians was thus concluded.
- The Armenian File
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