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Chapter 5: the First World War Kamuran GÜRÜN*
The Armenian File
à àle="text-align: juÿÙ Chapter 5: the First World War208kì ">CHAPTER FIVE|
The First World War
1. The Armenians during the war
Nearly three-quarters of a century has passed since 1914, and the question whether the Ottoman Empire could have avoided entering the war is still being discussed today. As no one at that time knew with certainty why the Empire entered the war, and no discussion took place when the decision was made, it is not clear why it is being discussed today.
The subject is outside our topic of discussion, and we shall not dwell on it. We only wish to mention a point which most people are still unaware of, owing to the erroneous explanations made intentionally by those who were largely responsible for entering the war, to defend themselves.
In 1914, the Ottoman Empire was pursuing an agreement with any one of the Triple Entente or the Triple Alliance. There were very few prominent members of the government who supported Germany’s groups, that is the Triple Alliance. In fact, Enver Pasha was probably the only one.
Jemal Pasha, Talat Pasha and Javit Bey were supporters of the Triple Entente. They made many unsuccessful attempts to reach agreement with France or England. Then they turned to Germany. Contrary to what is generally known, Turkey made the request to Germany, rather than Germany to Turkey. At that time, Germany was convinced that Turkey would only be an impediment to its allies.
On 23 July, Enver Pasha courteously asked the German Ambassador whether an agreement could be reached with Germany. The First World War was about to begin.
We do not find it necessary to include it here, but the telegram sent by Wangenheim to Berlin concerning this meeting is worth reading (telegram dated 22 July 1914). Upon instructions given by the Kaiser himself, in the belief that even one more rifle would be useful in the coming war, it was decided to make an alliance with Turkey, and this agreement was signed on 2 August. The First World War had already begun on the 1st.
This agreement was not the decisive reason why the Ottoman Empire entered the war, for the agreement was drafted as a defensive alliance against Russia. The war began with Germany declaring war on Russia, so Turkey was not under any obligation to enter the war.
In spite of this, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on 31 October.
In order to explain the attitude of the Armenians during this period, we must refer to an incident which occurred in 1909.
After the event of 31 March and the Adana rebellion, an agreement was made between the Party of Union and Progress and the Istanbul delegation of the Tashnak Committee. We quote this agreement, which was published on 3 September 1909 in the Tanin newspaper, from Esat Uras’ book.
In order to ensure the independence of the country, to protect till the end its integrity and policy, to eradicate the evil thoughts appearing in various individuals, and to establish good relations between Ottoman subjects, total agreement has been reached between the Committee of Union and Progress and the Armenian Tashnaksutyun Committee on the following points.
1. The two said committees shall work without sparing any sacrifices, and to the utmost of their ability, to strengthen the constitutional government and to maintain the cultural education of the people on solid principles.
2. They shall act in a determined and specific direction within the limits of legal conditions, against the possibility of any reactionary movements.
3. Because the only aim of the activities of the two committees is to spare the sacred Ottoman country from any partition and separation, attempts will be made to eradicate the rumours that Armenians are leaning towards independence, rumours present in public opinion and which have remained from the period of despotism.
4. Both committees agree on [extending the authority of the provinces] necessary for the country’s progress and development.
5. The Committee of Union and Progress and the Tashnaksutyun Committee consider the incident of 31 March and the Adana disaster as a warning, and have decided to work hand in hand for the implementation of the above principles.
We have been unable to find a document to the effect that the Tashnak Central Committee approved this agreement made by the delegation responsible for Istanbul.
It is known that the Tashnak Committee held a congress at Erzurum in June 1914. Because, at that time, an agreement had been reached with Russia concerning the eastern provinces, and the inspector-generals had even been designated, Erzurum had become a place where the Tashnaks could speak freely on any topic.
Esat Uras reports the decision which was taken during this Congress: ‘The Tashnaksutyun Congress, bearing in mind the contradictory economic, social, and administrative policy implemented for a long time by the Government of Union and Progress in regard to the Christian communities, and especially to the Armenians, has decided to remain in opposition to the Government of Union and Progress, to criticize its political programme, and to engage in a fierce struggle against it and its organization.’
Y. H. Bayur has included this decision in his book, quoting from Esat Uras. However, Esat Uras gives no reference for this decision, and we have not found it in any other source.
On the other hand, it is reported in all the sources that representatives of the Committee of Union and Progress took part in this congress. Esat Uras denies this, asserting that there is no document to support it, and that this was a claim made by the Tashnaks in a book published in 1920 in Istanbul. We do not think that it was entirely impossible for the representatives of the Party of Union and Progress to have taken part in this Congress. Nevertheless, it seems impossible to establish what they suggested, if they did take part.
Clair Price wrote as follows on this subject:
The Armenian bloc in the Parliament at Constantinople was holding its 1914 congress at Erzurum in the eastern provinces when the Enver Government entered the war. Government emissaries visited them there and laid before them the Pan-Turanian project whose immediate object was to throw Russia back. A partition of Russian Trans-Caucasia was proposed, the conquered territory to be divided between Armenians, Georgians and Tartars, each to be accorded autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty. The Armenian bloc replied that if war proved necessary they would do their duty as Ottoman subjects but they advised the Government to remain neutral.
Toynbee’s memorandum, which we referred to earlier, says: ‘...In the fall of 1914, Turks came to the Armenians’ national congress in Erzurum, and offered them an autonomous Armenia (on Turkey’s and Russia’s lands) if they would actively help Turkey during the war. The Armenians refused this offer.’
When the world war broke out in Europe, the Turks began feverish preparations for joining hands with the Germans. In August 1914 the young Turks asked the Dashnag Convention, then in session in Erzurum, to carry out their old agreement of 1907, and start an uprising among the Armenians of the Caucasus against the Russian government. The Dashnagtzoutune refused to do this, and gave assurance that in the event of war between Russia and Turkey, they would support Turkey as loyal citizens. On the other hand, they could not be held responsible for the Russian Armenians.... The fact remains, however, that the leaders of the Turkish—Armenian section of the Dashnagtzoutune did not carry out their promise of loyalty to the Turkish cause when the Turks entered the war. The Dashnagtzoutune in the Caucasus had the upper hand. They were swayed in their actions by the interests of the Russian government, and disregarded, entirely, the political dangers that the war had created for the Armenians in Turkey. Prudence was thrown to the winds; even the decision of their own convention of Erzerum was forgotten, and a call was sent for Armenian volunteers to fight the Turks on the Caucasian front.
In the beginning of fall 1914, when Turkey had not yet entered the war, but was preparing to, Armenian volunteer groups began to be organized with great zeal and pomp in Trans-Caucasia. In spite of the decision taken a few weeks before at the General Committee in Erzurum, the Dashnagtzoutune actively helped the organization of the aforementioned groups, and especially arming them, against Turkey.... There is no point in asking today whether our volunteers should have been in the foreground. Historical events have a logic of their own. In the fail of 1914 Armenian volunteer groups were formed and fought against the Turks. The opposite could not have happened, because for approximately twenty years the Armenian community was fed a certain and inevitable psychology. This state of mind had to manifest itself, and it happened.
Kachaznuni was one of the prominent leaders of the Tashnak Party, and had been Prime Minister of the independent Armenian Republic. Consequently the information he gives is not based on hearsay, but carried his personal responsibility. His book, in fact, is his speech which was read in 1923 at the Party Council, and was not approved because it criticized the Party. He later published this speech, together with a letter written to a friend of his, named N.N. Towards the conclusion of the letter we read the following sentences: ‘You say “As we were unable to prevent the communication being read, I hope that it is forgotten as soon as possible”. I find it dangerous and useless that this subject too, causes arguments.... For me the publication of this communication was a moral obligation on behalf of the Armenian cause. If I had not written, I would have committed a great sin. Because the General Council was unable to meet, I submitted my comminication to the Advisory Council and I was told to “shut up”.’ (This may be the reason why it is not possible to find this book in the world libraries.)
These sources we have quoted indicate the possibility that representatives of the Committee of Union and Progress went to the Erzurum congress. However, the Armenians may also have discussed among themselves the kind of action to be taken during the war. Various dates are given as to when the congress was held. It seems logical that the date should be August or later. It also appears that it was decided during the congress that in the event of a Russo-Ottoman War, the Armenians in Turkey would not oppose the Government. But we are also informed by authorized Armenians that this decision was not followed.
It is apparent that the volunteers mentioned in all these sources were Armenians of Turkey. It is natural that the Armenians of the Caucasus were recruited and took part in the war, as they were Russian subjects.
When the Ottoman Government decreed mobilization, the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin sent a letter to Vorontsov-Dachkov, the Governor-General of the Caucasus, on 5 August 1914, and received a reply on 2 September. We quote a passage from the Catholicos’ letter:
Based on the information I have received from the Istanbul Patriachate and the Armenian Assembly, I am convinced that any reform to be implemented by the Government which today rules Turkey, for the improvement of the condition of the Armenians, will not survive long, as long as it is not based on particular and solid engagements.... I request from Your Highness that you present to His Majesty the Emperor, the devotion of his faithful subjects on my behalf and on behalf of my congregation in Russia, the sincere loyalty and attachment of the Armenians of Turkey, and at the same time that you defend to the Czar the hopes of the Armenians of Turkey....
This passage clearly indicates cooperation between the Istanbul Patriarchate and Etchmiadzin, and that the Catholicos could speak on behalf of the Armenians of Turkey. We shall now quote a few statements from Vorontsov—Dachkov’s reply:
I wish that the actions of the Armenians here, as well as those on the other side of the border, be now in accordance with my instructions. I request that you use your authority over your congregation, and ensure that our Armenians and those who reside in the border regions implement the duties and services which I will ask them to carry out in the future, in the event of a Russo-Turkish war, as in the situation of Turkey today.
The text of these letters was included in Gr. Tchalkouchian’s work entitled The Red Book which was published in Armenian in Paris in 1919. The second letter, in particular, indicates clearly the kind of instructions the Armenians of Turkey would be given in the event of a war. The quotation we have given from various sources show that they did indeed receive these instructions when the day arrived.
There is another document which few people remember today.
When the Ottoman Empire had not yet entered the war, but as soon as it declared mobilization, Turkish Armenians living in Marseilles held a large meeting on 5 August 1914, and drew up a declaration which was published in various newspapers. We quote below a few passages from this declaration which was published over Aram Turabian’s signature.
The Russian Armenians, in the ranks of the Muscovite army, will do their duty, to revenge the insult made on our brothers’ corpses; as for us, the Armenians under the domination of Turkey, no Armenian rifle must be turned towards the friends and allies of France, our second land.
Turkey is mobilizing, she calls us on active service, without telling us against whom.
Against Russia? Surely not! We shall not go and fight against our own brothers of Caucasus, against the Balkan States, for which we have nothing but sympathy. never! Gentlemen, you came to the wrong address; let us not forget the past, without being certain of the future yet.
Armenians, Turkey calls you to fight without telling you against whom: join as volunteers the ranks of the French Army and of her allies, to help destroy the army of Wilhelm II, whose railway is built on the corpses of our 300,000 brothers....
In this book, an alphabetical list of 400 individuals who enlisted as volunteers, complying with this summons, is included.
In fact, we find in almost every source that the Armenians cooperated with the Russians when war broke out. Let us give a few examples.
Rafael de Nogales writes:
After hostilities had actually commenced, the Deputy to the Assembly for Erzurum, Garo Pasdermichan, passed over with almost all the Armenian troops and officers of the Third Army to the Russians; to return with them soon after, burning hamlets and mercilessly putting to the knife all of the peaceful Mussulman villagers that fell into their hands. These bloody excesses had as their necessary corollary the immediate disarmament by the Ottoman authorities of the gendarmes and other Armenian soldiers who still remained in the army (probably because they had been unable to escape) and the utilization of their labour in the onstruction of highways and in carrying provisions back and forth across the mountains. The altogether unjustifiable desertion of the Armenian troops, united to the outrages they committed afterwards, on their return, in the sectors of Bash-Kaleh, Serail, and Bayacet, did not fail to alarm the Turks and rouse their fear lest the rest of the Armenian population in the frontier provinces of Van and Erzurum revolt likewise, and attack them with the sword. This indeed is precisely what happened a few weeks after my coming, when the Armenians of the vilayet of Van rose en masse against our expeditionary army in Persia; thus giving rise to bloody and terrible occurrences which, under the circumstances, might have been foreseen.
Let us now turn to Philips Price: ‘When war broke out the Armenians of these regions [the Eastern provinces] made secret contact with the Russian authorities in the Caucasus, and an underground network was created which enabled recruits to be gotten from these Turkish provinces for the Russian Army.
Philippe de Zara, who is not well known, writes:
After having accomplished the minimum of their duty as Ottoman citizens, the Armenians began to encourage the activities of the enemy. Their ambiguous attitude had certainly little to do with loyalty. But which Westerner would have the right to accuse them, when a tradition taught by Europe made the insubordination of the Sultan’s Christian subjects the most sacred of obligations? An insubordination which was often sanctioned by granting autonomy, if not sovereignty. Nevertheless, how can anyone deny that, in the opinion of the Turks, according to the law of all the states, the conduct of the Armenians, facilitating during the war the task of the adversary, can be recognized as anything but a crime of high treason?... The committees, divided among themselves for internal issues, were often in agreement to facilitate the advance of Russian armies: they were attempting to obstruct the retreat of Turkish troops, to stop the convoys of provisions, to form bands of francs-tireurs. Mass desertions took place in the Eastern provinces: Armenians thus formed many troops officered by Russian officers. Here and there local revolts occurred. The leaders were setting the examples: two Armenian deputies fled to Russia. A literature of hatred was recalled: ‘Let the Turkish mothers cry. . . . Let’s make the Turk taste a little grief .‘ The culpability of Armenians leaves no doubt.
Clair Price, too, has focussed on the subject of cooperation with Russia:
Under the 1908 Constitution, the Enver Government had a right to mobilize Armenians of military age as well as Turks, but armed opposition broke out at once, notably at Zeitun... Along the eastern frontier, Armenians began deserting to the Russian Armies and the Enver Government, distrusting the loyalty of those who remained, removed them from the combatant force and formed them into labour gangs....
In April, Lord Bryce and the ‘Friends of Armenia’ in London appealed for funds to equip these volunteers, and Russia also was presumably not uninterested in them.... These volunteer bands finally captured Van, one of the eastern provincial capitals, late in April and, having massacred the Turkish population, they surrendered what remained of the city to the Russian Armies in June. The news from Van affected the Turks precisely as the news from Smyrna affected them when the Greeks landed there in May, 1919. The rumour immediately ran through Asia Minor that the Armenians had risen.
By this time, the military situation had turned sharply against the Enver Government. The Russian victory at Sarykamish was developing and streams of Turkish refugees were pouring westward into central Asia Minor. The British had launched their Dardanelles campaign at the very gates of Constantinople, and Bulgaria had not yet come in. It does not seem reasonable to assume that this moment, of all moments, would have been chosen by the Enver Government to take widespread measures against its Armenians unless it was believed that such measures were immediately necessary. Measures were taken.
Felix Valyi has written:
In April the Armenian revolutionaries seized the town of Van, established an Armenian ‘General Staff’ there under the command of Aram and Vardan, which delivered up the town to the Russian troops on the 6th of May, after having ‘freed’ the district of Van from Mohammedans....
Amongst the most notorious of the Armenian chiefs was Karakin Pastermadjian, a former member of the Turkish Parliament, known by the name of ‘Garo’, who put himself at the head of the Armenian volunteers at the time of the opening of hostilities between Turkey and Russia, and the Turks accuse him of having set fire to all the Mussulman villages he found on his way and of massacring their inhabitants. It is known that the attempts made by Turkey to win the support of the ‘Dachnakzoutioun’ party against Russia at the beginning of the War were repulsed in the month of September, 1914, by the Armenian Congress at Erzurum, which declared itself ‘neutral’. Nevertheless the thousands of Russian bombs and muskets which were found in the hands of its members prove what this neutrality meant. And indeed the Turks attribute the Russian invasion of the north of Asia Minor to the behaviour of the Armenian bands whose attitude made the defence of the country exceedingly difficult.
It must not be assumed that these authors we have quoted are friendly to the Turks and hostile to the Armenians. Rather, most of them are Armenian sympathizers. The passages we have quoted from them indicate the grounds for the relocation decision. Actually, if we had continued quoting, we would have arrived at passages referring to this decision. However, it was necessary, in our opinion, to examine first the developments within the borders of the Ottoman Empire through concrete incidents rather than by making general statements. We shall do this now, based on the Ottoman documents.
The Ottoman Government decreed mobilization on 3 August. The Armenians of Zeitun did not want to be under the Ottoman flag, and wished to protect their region by forming a volunteer regiment of Zeitun led by their own officers. As their request was naturally denied, they rebelled on 30 August. As a result of the pursuit, approximately sixty rebels were caught with their weapons, and although tranquillity was established for a while, in December the Zeitunites began to attack civil servants and gendarmes.
In February 1915, it was necessary to send soldiers and ammunition to Zeitun from Marash. (It must not be forgotten that the country was at war.) The Armenians who attacked the troops guarding the ammunition killed six gendarmes, wounded two, and then escaped, and in the meantime cut communication links with Marash by breaking the telegraph lines. Almost all of those who had been enlisted from the area deserted. The rebellion of the Zeitunites continued until the implementation of the relocation decision. The brigands who had not been caught left the region when there was no place left to hide, and order was restored. In the pursuits which took place during the rebellion, 713 rifles, 21 shotguns, and 12 mausers were found, and 61 brigands, including their priests who had led them, were arrested.
We want to mention here a report sent by the American Consulate in Aleppo to its Ministry concerning these incidents which occurred in Zeitun during the war. The Consul included in his report a letter written by a Protestant priest, John E. Merill, an American missionary of the region. We quote a few passages from this letter:
Before a confrontation occurred in Zeitun, a Committee formed by Herr Blank, a Protestant missionary, and two Gregorians, went to Zeitun with the approval of the Government to obtain, if possible, a friendly agreement. As they met the inhabitants of Zeitun, they were told by the Zeitunites that they had attempted everything in order to persuade the outlaws to surrender, but that they were unable to persuade them. Naturally the Committee was not successful. The outlaws number around thirty, and hide in the hills between Zeitun and Marash. They have water, food, and ammunition, and the only road that leads to their hide-out is a path large enough for one person.... later the Zeitunites were persuaded to hand over these outlaws, and in return they have stipulated that their villages be not harmed.... But later some of the villagers were transferred to Marash. ... The inhabitants of Zeitun have been duped by the Government.... To force the educated and competent Christian community of the Marash region to migrate is a direct blow to the interests of the American missionaries. The results of more than 50 years’ work and thousands of dollars is being threatened....
This report is quite amazing. Missionaries are attempting to reach an agreement with outlaws in a country at war (these are deserters), and they consider the deportation to Marash of certain families who feed and hide them a blow to the missionaries’ interests. If these outlaws are killed in an armed confrontation, this is considered a massacre.
One of the main reasons for the misfortunes of the Armenians is this missionary mentality, and the uproar made by those who believe their claims.
A report sent on 30 August 1914 by the Eleshkirt Border Battalion Command to the 3rd Army Command stated that the Russians searching houses in the villages near the border gave the arms they found to the Armenians, and that the Armenians of the region were engaged in propaganda to escape to Russia.
A message sent by the Supreme Military Command to the 3rd Army Command on 6 September stated that information had been received to the effect that the Armenians of Van were in contact with the Russians.
On 13 September 1914, the Governor of Erzurum sent a memorandum to the 3rd Army Command, stating that he had been informed that the Russians were attempting to bring the Armenians to their side and were preparing to engineer a rebellion in the eastern Anatolian provinces whenever they wanted; that an individual named Aramayis, who had been exiled to Siberia after having been sentenced to one hundred and one years, had been freed by the Russians, and that he was now organizing bands in Kars; that a band had arrived at the village of Pasinler and was engaged in propaganda, telling the villagers to rebel when the Ottomans entered the war, and to desert if they were enlisted.
On 18 September 1914, the Governor of Bitlis, Mustafa Bey, sent a similar message to the 3rd Army Commander, and stated: ‘According to the recent decisions and suggestions of prominent Armenians, if there is a war, the Armenian soldiers in the Army will desert with their arms to the enemy. If the Ottoman Army advances, they will remain calm, if it retreats, bands will be formed to prevent passage to and from the front.’
A message dated 25 September sent by the Supreme Military Command to the 3rd Army Command, stated that ‘The Armenian Tashnakzutun and the Hinchakian Committees in the Caucasus have agreed with Russia to incite the Armenians of Turkey to revolt in the event of a war.’
The Governor of Trabzon, Jemal Azmi Bey, in a message he sent to the Ministry of the Interior on 8 October 1914, stated that ‘A band of 800 people comprising the Ottoman and Russian Armenians in Russia, has been armed by the Russians, and sent to the vicinity of Artvin. We have been informed that they will spread out between Artvin and Ardanuch, that their number will be increased to 7,000, and that they will be used to disturb security within the Ottoman country.’
On 11 October 1914, the 3rd Army Commander sent the following message to the Supreme Military Command: ‘?t has been established that the Russians are forming bands in the Caucasus by arming Russian and Ottoman Armenians and Greeks, that they will send them here and enlarge the bands in our territory. The Armenian desertions from our detachment are increasing.’
On 13 October 1914, the Commander of the 2nd Cavalry Division informed the 3rd Army Commander that the Russians were distributing arms to the Armenians of Narman.
On 14 October 1914, the Governor of the sanjak of Beyazit sent the following message to the Ministry of the Interior: ‘We have been informed that on September 26th, Sehpat of the Armenian revolutionaries in Russia came to Hoy with 600 Armenian volunteers, and that they went to Selmas. Most of these Armenians are Ottoman citizens and are inhabitants of Van, Mush, Bitlis, Kars, and Gumru. It has been established that they are waiting for the arrival of their commander Antranik. We have been informed that pharmacist Rupen Migirdichian living in Erjish in the region of Van, along with Toros Karakashian and Portakalian, and Surin, who is doing business in Beyazit, are thinking of going to Selmas with the force they have gathered in the regions of Ighdir and Revan, that the individuals named Melkon and Ohannes have gone from Hoy to Van to make propaganda.’
On 22 October 1914, the Commander of the 2nd Cavalry division informed the Army Commander that Armenian volunteers were gathered in the regions of Mush, Van, and Bitlis, that Armenian brigands were present near the borders, and that 30—40 brigands were present in the village of Pertos.
Command on 25 October 1914 stated: ‘Approximately 800 people, most of them Armenian deserters with Ottoman citizenship, have gathered in Kaghizman. They are armed by the Russian Government. The Armenians named Surien of Beyazit and Hachik Sirup, who have gone to Russia, have each gathered 2,000 people. We have been informed that one group will attempt to go to Mosson by way of lake Abbas, and that the other group will go to Beyazit or Iran.’
On 24 October, the Governor of Erzurum stated in a report that he sent to the 3rd Army Commander: ‘According to the statement made by Sitrak who is one of the brigands who a few days ago attacked the mail coach on the border of Gumushhane, and who was caught, his companions are in Bayburt and Surmene, and the head official of Bayburt has gone to arrest these individuals.’
On 28 October, the Governor notified the authorities that these indi-viduals had been arrested.
In November, the Ottoman Empire was at war. The first reports concerning the planned Van rebellion came, on 29 November, from Kazim Bey (Ozaip), the Gendarmerie Division Commander. Kazim Bey stated that, according to the statements of two spies who had been caught, a rebellion would occur in Van soon, and that the enemy was gathering the weapons of the Muslims in the areas it invaded, and giving them to the Armenians, thus forming detachments. All the Armenians in the division whose weapons had been taken, had deserted.’
The following day, 30 November, the Governor of Van, Jevdet Bey, stated in his telegram: ‘I am working to prevent the Armenians from creating an incident. The Russian Forces are advancing from Kotur. I do not think that the Gendarmerie Division will be able to resist these forces for long. I will start sending families to Bitlis.’
It may be appropriate here to depart from the chronological order of events, and to describe the Van rebellion.
A telegram sent on 2 December from the province of Van to the Ministry of the Interior stated: ‘At this point, Armenians are calm in the capital and in other areas; however, all the Armenians of the region of Selmas are working with the Russians. The person who leads the bands along the border is the notorious Antranik and his companions, who had once engineered the Taluri rebellion [the second rebellion of Sassun]. After the Hanik battle, some Armenian privates deserted and joined the ranks of the enemy. I was informed that an Armenian bishop was in contact with the Russian Commander in Gari. I had him placed under police supervision.’
A telegram sent on 15 December from the Ministry of the Interior to the Governor of Van stated that some of the telegraph lines of Reshadiye and Karjigan had been destroyed by the Armenians, and that the superintendent of the post had reported an armed confrontation with these Armenians.
Additional information was requested.
The Governor of Erzurum, Tahsin Bey, sent the following report to the Supreme Military Commander on 20 December: ‘The Armenians of the kazas of Kerchikan and Gevash in Van are preparing to rebel. They have cut the telegraph lines of the area and have killed a corporal. Gendarmerie and militia have been sent to the area from Bitlis, and armed confrontations have begun. Because our forces are few, and the Militias have insufficient arms, more forces are needed.’
The Governor of Bitlis sent the following telegram to the Ministry of the Interior on 21 February 1915: ‘The Armenians of the nahiye of Haksef have rebelled. In the village of Siranun under the jurisdiction of the central kaza of Mush, shots were fired on our detachment, and the confrontation continued for two hours. In the village of Kumes, under the jurisdiction of the bujak of Akan, shots were fired at the house where the bujak superintendent and the gendarmes were staying, and the confrontation lasted for eight hours.’
The same day, the governor of Bitlis, in a second telegram, stated: ‘Armenians have revolted in many villages. I became suspicious when I saw that among the Armenians who opened fire in Kumes, a village in the bujak of Akan, were Rupen, the Tashnak delegate of Van, Zovin, and Eshroone of the Tashnak leaders in Mush. As a precaution, I had the delegate of Van, Papazian, be a guest of the sanjak governor, to hold him as a hostage.’
On 27 February, about 300 volunteer soldiers from Siirt, who were on their way from Adiljevaz to Van, wanted to spend the night in the Armenian village of Arin. The Armenians, who attempted to prevent this, opened fire and killed eight privates. Upon this a detachment was sent from Erchish to Van, but the Armenian bands escaped to Lake Van.
On 4 March 1915, the head official of the district of Mahmudi in the province of Van sent the following telegram to the Ministry of the Interior: ‘As a result of the investigation carried out after our kaza was taken back from the enemy, the following profile with regard to the torture and massacre which took place emerges:
|Those who were killed in the village of Merkehu
||41 men, 14 women
|Those who were killed after having been raped
|Those who were killed in the village of Ishtuju
||7 men, 4 women
|Those who are alive among those who have been raped
||3 men, 2 women
A telegram dated 16 March sent by the Van Gendarmerie Division Command stated that in the kaza of Shatak of the province of Van, Armenians had attacked the gendarmerie station and the soldiers and had destroyed the telegraph lines, and that armed confrontations had occurred between the forces sent to the area and the Armenians. The incident began when a revolutionary teacher named Osep was caught with his weapon.
On 20 March, the Governor of Van stated: ‘?n all parts of the province, armed confrontations continued until the evening and have now increased. It is thought that the rebels number more than 2,000. We are trying to crush the rebellion.’
The Governor, in a telegram he sent on 23 March, stated that ‘the inhabitants of the villages of Bayrik, Alakoy, Iblankanis, and Buganis, which are at a distance of four hours from Van, are holding the strategic points above the village of Bayrik, and have besieged the village of Kusha. The number of rebels has increased to 1,000. Forces must be sent.’ Following this, the rebellion spread to the entire province. Ali Ihsan Pasha wrote about this rebellion:
Jevdet Bey, the governor of Van, had informed the First Army Commander and the Supreme Military Command, as early as March 1915, that the Van rebellion was about to begin, and finally the rebellion occurred on April 17, 1915 in all parts of the province. The same day, the First Army was only able to arrive at Rumiye. [This is the force of which Rafael de Nogales was a member.] After the rebellion began, it proved necessary to use the main part of the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division to crush the rebellion.
If the First Army had not spent weeks in Mussul and Revandiz, we might have repelled the Russians in the vicinity of Dilman, before the Armenian rebellion occurred in Van, by using all the forces of the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division. As time passed, the Armenian rebellion made it necessary to use an important part of our forces, and in mid-April, to make use of most of the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division in fighting against the rebels in the rear. On the other hand, the Russians took advantage of the situation to increase the number of their forces in the vicinity of Dilman.
In April 1915, the First Army encountered the Russians, engaged in an offensive (together with part of the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division on the eastern border of the province of Van) against the Russians on 1 May 1915 near Dilman, and retreated having suffered a great number of casualties. Because of the Armenian rebellion in Van, and the Russian forces advancing towards Van, the army was unable to free Van and was forced to retreat in the direction of Bitlis, through the mountains to the south of lake Van.
On 20 April 1915, the Governor of Van sent the following telegram to the 3rd Army Command: ‘The rebels have begun to open fire on our police stations near the Armenian quarters of Van, and on the Muslim houses. We are resisting and defending. In the confrontation which occurred near the village of Atalan until yesterday evening, most of the rebels have been crushed. The telegraph lines of Gevash have been repaired and opened to communication. Today the telegraph lines of Bashkale, Havasor, Memortki, Shersat have been cut. We have begun their repair. In the city, the confrontations are continuing with all their might. The insurrection is widespread. We request help and artillery.’
On 24 April, the governor sent the following telegram to the Ministry of the Interior: ‘Until now approximately 4,000 insurgent Armenians have been brought to the region from the vicinity. The rebels are engaged in highway robbery, attack the neighbouring villages and burn them. It is impossible to prevent this. Now many women and children are left homeless. It is not possible nor suitable to relocate them in tribal villages in the vicinity. Would it be convenient to begin sending them to the western provinces?’
On 8 May, the Armenians began their offensive and started burning down the Muslim quarters. Upon this, the Governor, Jevdet Bey, ordered the evacuation of Van. On 17 May, the Turkish soldiers left Van, then the Armenians began to set fire to the Turkish quarters which had been evacuated. The Russians then entered Van. (The booklet entitled Zeve about the Van rebellion is worth reading.)
The Turkish forces engaged in an offensive on 22 July 1915, and repossessed Van. In August they lost it again to the Russians.
The rebellion in Van had spread to Mush. The Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division was charged with crushing this rebellion, and the operation continued until 11 July 1915.
On 2 May, before the fall of Van, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Enver Pasha, sent the following message to the Minister of the Interior, Talat Bey:
Around lake Van, and in specific areas known by the Governor of Van, Armenians are constantly gathered and prepared to continue their insurrection. I am convinced that these Armenians who have gathered must be removed from these areas, and that the rebellion’s nest must be destroyed. According to the information provided by the 3rd Army Command, the Russians brought the Muslims within their borders into our country under wretched and miserable conditions, on 20 April 1915. In order to respond to this, as well as to reach the goal I have stated above, it is necessary to either send these Armenians and their families to Russia, or to disperse them within Anatolia. I request that the most suitable of these two alternatives be chosen and carried out. If there is no inconvenience I would prefer that the families of the rebels and the population of the region in rebellion are sent outside our borders, and that the Muslim community brought into our borders from abroad are relocated to their place.
This message is the first indication of the relocation decision.
Let us continue now with the chronological account of events, which we interrupted to report the Van rebellion.
On 17 December 1914, the Commander of the 12th Army Corps in Antakya stated that it was feared the Armenians of Antakya would engage in an offensive.
The Commander of the 11th Army Corps stated in a telegram he sent on 19 February 1915 from Elazigh to the Ministry of War, that Armenians, in various villages of the region, had opened fire on the gendarmes, and that the confrontation with the rebels had been continuing for the past three days.
On 21 February, the same Army Corps sent the following telegram to the Ministry: ‘Approximately 40—50 Armenian revolutionaries who were in the village of Siranun, two and a half hours away from Mush, have attacked villages, and have fought with the police and the cavalrymen who had been sent there.’
On 25 February 1915, the Commander of the 11th Army Corps informed the Supreme Military Command that they had been notified that bombs were being produced in the kaza of Develi, and that during the search that was carried out, bombs, guns, gunpowder etc. had been found.
The 10th Army Corps notified the 3rd Army Command in a report dated 27 March that the Armenians of the village of Purek in Sushehri had opened fire on unarmed volunteer soldiers who were passing by, that after the village was searched, 95 deserters and 25 guilty privates were arrested, and that guns and bullets had been found.
On 30 March 1915, the Commander of the 11th Army Corps wrote to the Supreme Military Command that a gendarmerie detachment had fought for two hours with an Armenian band near the village of Murfe, which is at a distance of four hours from Bitlis.
On 22 April 1915 the Governor of Sivas sent the following telegram to the Ministry of the Interior: ‘Within the province the areas having a dense population of Armenians are Shebinkarahisar, Sushehri, Haffik, Divrik, Gurun, Gemerek, Amasya, Tokat, and Merzifon. Until now, during the searches carried out in the Armenian villages of Sushehri and its vicinity, in the villages of Tuzhisar and Horasan of Haffik, and in the nahiye of Olarash of the provincial capital, a great number of illegal weapons and dynamite have been found. According to the statement of the suspects who were caught, the Armenians have armed 30,000 people in this region, 15,000 of them have joined the Russian Army, and the other 15,000 will threaten our Army from the rear, if the Turkish Army is unsuccessful. Armed confrontations took place between the Armenians and the security forces who were sent to the village of Tuzhisar where Murat, of the Armenian Tashnak Committee, was hiding; those who escaped are being pursued.’
The Governor of Diyarbekir wrote on 27 April 1915: ‘In Diyarbekir searches have been carried out for deserters, weapons, and bullets. As a result a great quantity of arms, ammunition, military uniforms, and explosives was found. In the capital alone, among the Armenian revolutionaries, more than 1,000 deserters were found.’
Such was the internal situation of the country in May 1915, when the Russians were advancing in eastern Anatolia, when the British and the French were threatening the Dardanelles, and the canal operation was in progress in the south.
Rebellions had occurred in Zeitun, Van, and Mush; the Van rebellion resulted in the Russian occupation of the city: the rebellions of Zeitun and Mush were still continuing. Every inch of the country was filled with deserters, every part was subject to the attacks of brigands. Because every Turk capable of bearing arms was recruited, the field was left to the Armenians. On the one hand, the state was fighting the war, and on the other, it was forced to deal with these insurrections.
The following information about the Zeitun rebellion is worthy of inclusion.
On 24 February, the Russian Ambassador in London went to the Foreign Office and stated: ‘An Armenian of Zeitun has consulted Count Vorontzov-Dachkov, the King Regent of the Caucasus, and told him that they have gathered a force of 15,000 to attack the communication lines of the Turkish Armies, but that they lacked guns and ammunition, and that it would be very convenient to provide them with their needs. The French and the British might send the provisions by way of the Antakia harbour. How would England react to this possibility?’ The project was abandoned as the British refused.
Under these circumstances, the Ottoman Government was forced to take the decision for relocation.
We have quoted various authors as they summarized the events leading to the relocation decision. None of these authors considered the decision unjust.
Before dealing with the subject of relocation, we want to mention a few more points:
The term tehjir (relocation) is Arabic and derives from the root hijret (emigration). It is used in the sense of ‘having one emigrate’. This word has no connotation of putting one in a concentration camp, but indicates ‘changing one’s location’. For this reason, the term ‘deportation’ used by the British and French is incorrect. Deportation has the connotation of forcing one to settle in a place under custody, that is, having one exiled. The individual who is exiled, who is deported, is not free in the place he is sent to. He lives in a specific place, in a prison, fortress, or camp, without any contact with the outside world.
The word tehjir has none of these meanings. If it was still used in Turkish today, we would be able to explain, for example, the transfer of those villagers whose villages were located on the site of the newly built Keban Dam, to other areas, using this term. Now, we use the term ‘relocation’ instead. In every language there are equivalents of this word tehjir. That they are not used, is another matter. In fact, even the term tehjir was not used in the decisions which were taken, as we shall see.
The second point we want to mention is that every country, during war, sends citizens of the enemy within its borders to concentration camps. This is an established practice implemented in every country. There have been cases when this practice was taken further, against individuals who had become citizens of a country. Now, naturally, it will be said that the Armenians were not foreign subjects. This is true, and for this reason they were not sent to concentration camps. However, remembering the attitude of the Armenians during the First World War, should they be considered Ottoman subjects or Russian subjects? This question cannot be easily answered. But one thing is certain, although the Armenians were legally Ottoman subjects, they acted in fact as Russian subjects. We shall return to this point later. We shall see that the Armenian leaders attempted to be known as belligerents.
A third point is that any country at war will consider as traitors those who work for the enemy, and even those who interrupt the war effort of the country. The punishment for traitors is invariably the most severe punishment in that country. For example, if the Ottoman Government had executed the insurgents of Zeitun who rebelled after the war started, along with those who helped the insurgents by hiding them, or by providing them with clothing, food, weapons and ammunition, this would have been a legal and justiflable attitude under the circumstances. To relocate them instead of executing the insurgents surely cannot be considered more inhumane. During war, the first obligation of the State is to protect the country, and this means to struggle with the enemies of the country according to the rules of war. We have seen the strangest and most far-fetched application of this rule, even in countries that were accusing Turkey most strongly. Oden Hedin has written:
At a time when the British were pleading for the Armenians in the entire world, when Lord Kitchener invaded Sudan, he established order in the country by exterminating the whole population capable of bearing arms. The French Archives are full of atrocious pictures of concentration camps in the Transvaal, where tens of thousands of Boer women and children starved to death. ‘As the British’, wrote the Irishman George Chatterton-Hill in the magazine ‘Ord och Bild’ (1916, p. 561), ‘could not annihilate them [the Irish] through outright murder or through laws which would force the entire nation out of the country, they attempted another method, which they have also tried in India: organized hunger. And this method proved itself to be very efficacious. In a period of seventy years, from 1841 to 1911, the population of Ireland fell from 8,196,597 to ,381,951! During the three years of the so-called great famine (1846—8) over one million people died of hunger in Ireland in the midst of rich fields of grain! During these three years, not less than 50 Million Pounds’ worth of foodstuff (grains and cattle) was taken out of Ireland under the charge of British bayonets, in order to pay taxes to the British State and rent to the absentee British landlords. During the next three years (1849—51) approximately 400,000 more people died due to privation.’
If the ‘Protector of the small nations’, of 380 Million people, does not have enough elbow-room for her philanthropic activity, then she should knock on the door of her closest ally! In Russia, there is much more to be improved than in Turkey!
The author of these statements is a Swede. Certainly many more examples can be added to the above, starting with the rebellion of the Sipahies in India. We have already mentioned, in Chapter 2, the treatment of individuals of German origin in England during the First World War.
There are many versions as to the number of people killed by France, another protector of the Armenians, during its notorious ‘paciffication’ policy in North Africa, during the struggle for independence of Algeria and Tunisia. But what is important is not the number of dead, but the attitude of the State. What is even more interesting in France is the condition of those who were killed by court sentences, or even without them, after the liberation at the end of the Second World War, because they collaborated with the Germans during the occupation. Again there are divergent numbers of dead. But we repeat, the important point is not the figures, but the attitude. After everything was over, and the country was liberated, old accounts were still being settled. It must not be forgotten that after 1923, no Armenian or Greek, let alone Turk, was persecuted. However, there were quite a few who collaborated with the Allied occupation forces in Istanbul.
As for the Russians, even if we do not dwell on how many people were killed during the rebellions under the Tsarist regime, what can be thought of the Crimean population which was collectively transferred to Siberia, on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Germans during the Second World War?
The same examples can be given for every state. The reason why we have mentioned only these three states is that they were the main defenders of the subject at that time. Thus, the attitude of every state during a rebellion, even when this rebellion does not occur within its borders but in occupied areas, is always the same. We have not encountered in the history of any state that the treatment was more merciful, when a rebellion occurred during wartime.
Moreover, the agreements made during the war by these three states we have mentioned, with regard to the dismemberment of Turkey, in which the Armenians were not mentioned, indicate to what extent these states were sincere in their interest in the Armenians. We shall return to this subject later.
As we shall see in the next section, before the Armenians were relocated their ringleaders were arrested on 24 April 1915 in ?stanbul. The same day, the President of the USA received the following telegram from Catholicos Kevork of Etchmiadzin:
Honorable President, according to the most recent information we have received from Turkish Armenia, massacres have started there, and organized terror has endangered the existence of the Armenian community. At this delicate time, I address to the noble feelings of Your Excellency and of the great American nation, and request, in the name of humanity and the Christian faith, that your great Republic interfere immediately through its Diplomatic Representatives, to protect my people in Turkey left to the horrors of Turkish fanaticism.
For the telegram to be received on 24 April, it is necessary for the Catholicos to have learned beforehand of the arrest, and to have sent the telegram before the 24th. As the American Ambassador sent his telegram about the arrest on the 27th, the telegram of the Catholicos is enough to point to the guilt of those who were arrested.
On 27 April, the Russian Ambassador in Washington requested the intervention of the USA. The telegram sent by Bryan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USA to the Embassy in Istanbul, informs us that the Russian Ambassador stated that quite a few Muslims were living in Russia, but that these people were not exposed to terror for religious reasons.
It is interesting that these arrests were seen as stemming from religious intolerance. The real significance of these initiatives is clear in the light of the information we have given above.
In the next section we shall examine the relocation decision and its implementation, but let us first state that when the decision was made and its implementation was begun, the destructive activities of Armenians did not stop, and this situation made it necessary for the relocation to be implemented over a wider area.
As a matter of fact, rebellions occurred on 23 July 1915 in Boghazlian, on 1 August 1915 in Findikchik (Marash), on 9 August 1915 in the village of Germush of Urfa, on 14 September 1915 in Antakya (Musa Mountain), on 29 September 1915 in Urfa, on 7 February 1916 in Islahiye, on 4 April 1916 in Akdaghmadeni, and on 9 April 1916 in Tossia.
2. The relocation decision and its implementation
We have mentioned that Enver Pasha, in the message he sent to Talat Pasha on 2 May 1915, stated that the Armenians always start a rebellion where there are large Armenian communities, and that it was either necessary to force them into Russia, as the Russians had done with the Muslims, or to disperse them within Anatolia. It is clear that Enver Pasha’s intention was to prevent the Armenians raising another rebellion. If the Armenians could be relocated in such a way that they would not form large communities, but would live in small groups far from each other, then the chance of organizing a rebellion would disappear.
It is again apparent from Enver Pasha’s message that relocation was being considered for the instigators of rebellions and brigandage. As a matter of fact, the relocation was carried out in this manner.
We sincerely believe that the uproar created by the powers at that time was due to the fact that they realized that the Armenian rebellions, upon which they had set great hopes, were now impossible. The initiative made by the Russians in the USA on 27 April cannot be explained otherwise. We have also mentioned, in Chapter 2, the real intention lying behind the massacre rumours.
In order to believe that the politicians who appeared as perfect humanitarians, and who shed tears claiming that Armenians were being killed, were concerned and saddened by the fate of the Armenians in Turkey, one must be not only rather naive but stupid.
Let us now examine in chronological order the measures which the Ottoman Empire was compelled to take regarding the Armenians, for the reasons stated earlier, and their implementation.
On 6 September 1914, the Ottoman Government sent a coded circular to provinces with a dense population of Armenians, and instructed them to keep the activities of the leaders of the Armenian political parties under constant supervision.
On 25 February 1915, the Supreme Military Command gave the following instruction to all the units, with order No. 8682.
In Bitlis, Armenian brigands have appeared and some Armenian deserters are engaged in brigandage. In Aleppo, in Dortyol, Armenians have attacked soldiers and gendarmes, and in the sanjak of Kayseri a great number of bombs, codes in French, Russian, and Armenian were found in Armenian houses. Although these incidents are not serious at the moment, they indicate that preparations for rebellion are being made by our enemies within our country. Consequently, it has been deemed necessary to circulate and announce again the points below.
1. Armenians shall strictly not be employed in mobile armies, in mobile and stationary gendarmeries, or in any armed services. They shall not be employed even in the suites and offices of the Commandants and the Headquarters.
2. The Commanders of the Army and the Army Corps, the Assistant Commanders of the Army Corps and the Divisions, and the regional Commandants are authorized and compelled to have recourse to the Armed Forces immediately to eradicate aggression and opposition, should they be aware of any opposition, armed attack, or resistance to the Government from the people. Likewise, the Commanders have authority to declare martial law immediately whenever necessary.
3. Although vigilance will be maintained in all areas, in areas where there is no indication of aggression one must refrain from putting pressure on the people, which would terrify them. Thus, the conviction that those who have remained loyal and obedient will not be harmed must be strengthened, and the people must not be driven to rebellion by making them desperate.
4. Because all matters concerning defence and public order are the responsibility of the military authorities, owing to general mobilization, civil service officials will refer these matters to the Commanders. Only the officials of the province of Istanbul will refer to the General Headquarters for matters and measures related to public order.
5. For matters concerning public order, the highest authorities in the sectors of the Third and Fourth Army and Iraq are the Army Commanders. In the sectors of the First and Second Army, the highest authorities are the Commanders of the Army Corps. These Commanders of the Army Corps will provide information to the Army Commander and to their Assistant Commanders.
6. The Commanders of the Third and Fourth Army will immediately inform the Assistants of the Commander-in-Chief of the preventive measures they have conceived and adopted.
On 24 April 1915, the Ministry of the Interior ordered with a circular that the Armenian Committee Centres be closed, that their documents be seized, and that the committee leader be arrested. On 26 April, the Supreme Military Command sent a similar circular to the units, requesting that the leaders be sent to military courts and that the guilty ones be punished.
Upon this instruction of the Ministry of the Interior, 235 people were arrested in Istanbul. This day, 24 April, on which the Armenians hold demonstrations each year claiming it is the date of the massacre, is the day when these 235 people were arrested.
On 26 May 1915, the Supreme Military Command sent the following message to the Ministry of the Interior:
It was orally decided that the Armenians be sent from the eastern Anatolian provinces, from Zeitun, and from such areas which are densely populated by Armenians, to the south of the province of Diyarbekir, to the valley of the Euphrates, to the vicinity of Urfa and Suleymaniye. The following points must be taken as a basis for settling the Armenians to ensure that pockets of rebellion do not reappear:
a) the Armenian population must not exceed 10 per cent of the tribal and Muslim population in the areas where Armenians will be settled;
b) each of the villages which the Armenians will found must not exceed 50 houses;
c) the migrant Armenian families must not be allowed to change residence even for reasons of travel or transport.
On the same day, the office of the Prime Minister received the following memorandum from the Ministry of the Interior:
Some of the Armenians residing in quarters near military areas are hindering the activities of the Imperial Army which is engaged in protecting the Ottoman borders against the enemies of the State. They combine their efforts and actions with the enemy, they join the ranks of the enemy, they organize armed attacks within the country against the Armed Forces and innocent people, they engage in aggression, murder, terror, and pillage in Ottoman cities and towns, they provide the enemy with provisions, and manifest their audacity against fortified places. As it has proved necessary that such revolutionary elements be removed from the area of operations, and that the villages which serve as a base of operations and refuge for the rebels be evacuated, some measures are being taken. We have begun to transfer the Armenians residing in the provinces of Van, Bitlis and Erzurum and in the villages and towns of the kazas of Iskenderun, Beylan, Jisri-i Shuur, and Antakia, with the exception of the city of Adana proper, the city of Sis proper, and the city of Mersin proper, to the southern provinces. We have begun to transfer and settle them in the sanjaks of Zor and Mussul, with the exception of the southern area bordering with the province of Van, to the southern part of Urfa, with the exception of the city of Urfa proper, to the southern and south-eastern part of the province of Aleppo, and to the eastern part of the province of Syria. The Armenians are being settled in quarters designated and assigned for this purpose. This course of events is considered favourable to the essential interests of the state.
In short, Armenians residing in the provinces bordering the area of military operations and in proximity to the Mediterranean Sea would be relocated.
On 27 May (14 May 1331), ‘the temporary law concerning the measures to be adopted by the military authorities for those whose activities are against the Government in wartime’ was adopted, and was published on 1 June (19 May 1331) in the Takvimi Vakayi (the Ottoman official gazette). We quote from Y. H. Bayur, who has included this law in his book:
1. In wartime should the commanders of the Army, the Army Corps, or the divisions face any opposition, armed aggression, or resistance to operations and arrangements related to the decrees of the government, the defence of the country, and the maintenance of public order, they are authorized and compelled to immediately implement punishment through the Armed Forces, and to suppress the aggression and resistance.
2. The commanders of the Army, the Army Corps, and the divisions may transfer and settle in other quarters the inhabitants of villages and towns should they engage in spying or treason, or in view of military exigencies.
The third article of the law states that the law will come into effect on the date of its publication.
Finally, on 30 May the Council of Ministers took the following decision:
It is absolutely necessary to annihilate and destroy by effective operations this possible harmful activity which has a bad effect on the war’s operations which are designed for the benefit of protecting the state’s security and existence.
The goal of the operation begun by this order of the Ministry is obvious. It is stated in the memorandum of the Ministry of the Interior that the Armenians who must be transferred, of those residing in the towns and villages, will be sent to their allotted local dwellings. Their transfer will be made in comfortable circumstances, their comfort will be provided on the way, and their lives and possessions will be protected. Until they are settled in their new dwellings, they will be fed through funds of the emigrants’ appropriation. In proportion to their previous economic and financial condition, they will be given property and lands; the Government will construct dwellings for the needy ones, will distribute seeds for sowing,tools, and implements to the farmers and craftsmen who need them. Possessions and belongings left behind will be returned to them in an appropriate way. After the value of the possessions and immovable property belonging to the transferred emigrants has been calculated and registered, it will be distributed to the immigrants. Immovable properties such as warehouses, factories, shops, orange groves, vineyards, olive groves, orchards, which would remain outside the specialized sphere of the immigrants, will be sold at auction, or will be leased, and their value will be deposited in financial offices for safe-keeping to be paid to their owners. A regulation has been implemented by the said Ministry to the effect that the expenditures arising from these transactions and procedures be paid from the appropriation set aside for the emigrants. Through this decree, the administration and maintenance of the abandoned properties will be ensured. The general transactions concerning the emigrants will be accelerated, regulated and supervised. Commissions will be formed, which will employ salaried officials who will have the duty and authority, and who will be directly dependent on the Ministry of the Interior. These commissions will be composed of one president and two appointed members, one of whom will be selected from among the officials of the Ministry of the Interior, and the other from among the officials of the Ministry of Finance. These commissions will be sent to their regions, and the quarters where a commission will be present, the Governor will submit to the said Ministry a note stating that they have begun the application of the said regulation, and they will give information to the responsible departments.
These are the texts concerning the relocation decision. As can be seen, the text does not even mention the word ‘relocation’. The temporary law says ‘transfer and settle in other quarters’, the note of the Ministry of the Interior and the decision of the Council of Ministers refers to ‘transferring’ and ‘settling’ in the designated and appointed quarters.
First of all, we must point out that the relocation process was begun before the Council of Ministers decreed it. This becomes clear in the memorandum of the Ministry of the Interior, as well as in other instructions which we shall quote below.
It can be accepted that the process was initiated after the instructions dated 24 April.
Secondly, although the Council of Ministers could put the relocation process into effect on its own responsibility without the need of a separate law, a temporary law was enacted in order that the military authorities, too, could be given the same authority.
Thirdly, a temporary law had to be enacted because Parliament was not in session. The Assembly opened on 15 September, and this temporary law was accepted by the Assembly.
A regulation was prepared on the subject of relocation. Below we quote Articles 21 and 22 of this regulation whose original text is in the British Archives. (We shall return to this in section 5. For the original text, see Salahi Sonyel, Shocking new documents, London, 1975; F.O. 371/9158 E. 5523.)
Article 21. Should emigrants be attacked on their journey or in camps, the assailants will be immediately arrested, and sent to martial law court.
Article 22. Those who take bribes or gifts from the emigrants, or who rape the women by threats or promises, or those who engage in illicit relations with them, will immediately be removed from office, will be sent to the martial law court and will be punished severely.
A temporary law was passed on 26 September 1915 to conclude the process of liquidation. The text of this law follows.
Article 1. The properties, debts, credits left behind by each person who was transferred to other quarters with the temporary law dated May 4, 1331, will be liquidated by the courts according to the official report which the commissions formed for this matter will prepare for every person.
Article 2. The rented foundation properties [house properties and landed properties] which the individuals mentioned in the first article possessed at the time of their transfer will be transferred to the Ministry of Foundations, and the other immovable properties will be transferred to the Treasury, and their equivalent value will be included in the liquidation which will be made according to the first article....
Article 3. The credits will be collected by the commissions through lawsuits, the deposits will be taken out of the banks, the movable properties will be sold by auction. The revenue will be deposited for safekeeping in the name of the owner to the flnancial office, and will be included in the liquidation. At the end of the liquidation the remaining sum will be paid to their owners....
The relocation process was begun on the basis of these principles. Now let us see how this operation was implemented by referring to documents that we found in the files of the Ministry of the Interior during our research, which began in 1981. Preparations are being made to publish all the documents.
On 18 May (5 May 1331) a message was sent from the Ministry of the Interior to the gubernorate of Erzurum. It stated that it was necessary for the Armenians who were evacuated from Erzurum to be sent to the southern parts of Urfa and Mussul and to the sanjak of Zor.
On 23 May (10 May 1331), the following instructions were given to Erzurum with message No. 14, to Van with message No. 21 and to Bitlis with message No. 14:
The Armenians within the province will be transferred and settled in designated areas of the southern part of the province of Mussul with the exception of its northern part bordering with the province of Van, in the sanjak of Zor, and in the sanjak of Urfa with the exception of its central kaza. The Armenians arriving at their new settlements will be relocated in dwellings which will be constructed in the towns and villages, or in villages they will found in areas designated by the local government. The responsibility for transferring and relocating the Armenians who must be transferred belongs to the local administrators. The administrative officials along the way are responsible for protecting the lives and possessions of the Armenians sent to their new settlements, for feeding them, and for ensuring their rest. The Armenians who will be required to emigrate may take with them all their movable possessions. This transport will of course be made in areas free of war operations.
On the same day a message was sent to the gubernorate of Mussul, and to the governors of the sanjaks of Urfa and Zor, which stated:
The Armenians who will be sent from Van, Bitlis, and Erzurum will be transferred and settled in parts of Urfa which Armenians do not inhabit, in the southern part of the province of Mussul, in areas designated by the local government.
The Armenians arriving at their new settlements will either be resettled in small groups in dwellings they will construct in existing towns and villages, or in the villages they will found in areas designated by the local government. It will be necessary for the towns and villages where the Armenians will settle, and the villages which they will found, to be at least 25 km away from the Baghdad railway and other railways. The officials on duty are responsible for protecting en route the lives and possessions of the Armenians being transferred, for feeding them, and for their rest. Armenians who are required to emigrate may take all their movable possessions.
Message No. 17 sent on 27 May from the Ministry of the Interior to the province of Erzurum stated: ‘Because the province borders with Russia, no Armenian must be left there. It is of course in their discretion that the Armenians in some areas are hastily transferred, and that the transfer of others is delayed. It has not been deemed necessary that the Armenians of Elazigh, Diyarbekir, and Sivas be required to emigrate.
On 1 June 1915 the Ministry of the Interior sent a circular notice to all provinces, drawing their attention to the following points: ‘It has become apparent that in some areas the instruction concerning the arrest and relocation of dangerous Armenians and committee leaders has been misinterpreted. In many areas people who are not guilty have been arrested and transferred from one place to another, while no measures have been taken about the actual harmful individuals.
On 5 June 1915, a message was sent from the Ministry of the Interior to the sanjak of Zor: ‘There is no harm in Armenian muleteers going and coming to Aleppo. However, it is necessary for their movements and attitude to be watched constantly.’
A message dated 9 June: ‘Because the equivalent value of the immovable properties of the Armenians will be paid by the Government to their owners, it is necessary that the properties left behind are protected, and that they are sold by auction in the name of their owners. It is suitable that the transfer of those who work in the Army, and of the feeble women is delayed.’
A significant message was sent on 14 June 1915 (1 June 1331):
The province of Erzurum has informed us that a convoy of 500 Armenians who were evacuated from Erzurum has been killed by tribes between Erzurum and Erzinjan. It is expected that efforts will be made to protect the lives of the Armenians being transferred, and those who try to escape en route and attack the officials responsible for protecting them will be punished. But under no circumstances will the people be allowed to interfere. Incidents resulting in such killings will not be allowed to occur. For this reason it is absolutely necessary that every possible measure is taken to protect the Armenians against attacks by tribes and villagers, and that those who attempt murder and violence are severely punished.
On 21 June, message No. 83 sent by the Ministry of the Interior to Mussul stated: ‘The Armenians who will be sent into the province to be relocated and those who have already arrived must under no circumstances be brought near the northern and eastern part of the Baghdad railway, and must be settled only in areas to the west of the said railway.’
A message was sent on 22 June 1915: ‘Among the Armenian families, the girls up to age 20, and boys up to age 10 who are orphaned will not be sent to the south, but will be adopted by families.’
On 23 June, message No. 21 was sent to the sanjak of Zor: ‘During the settling of the Armenians it must be ensured that the inhabitants of the same county and locality are settled in different areas, that the Armenians are not allowed to open Armenian schools in their new places of residence, that their children are required to attend the public schools, that the villages which will be founded are at a distance of five hours from one another, and that they are not founded in high places which would facilitate defence.’
On 26 June 1915 a message was sent from the Ministry of the Interior to the governor of Elaziz: ‘The Armenian convoys sent under protection from Erzurum have been attacked and killed by the brigands of Dersim. It is required that measures are immediately taken to ensure the protection of the convoys. These consistent attacks by the brigands of Dersim must be stopped.’
On 1 July 1915 (18 June 1331), the Ministry of the Interior sent a circular message: ‘It has been understood that some Armenians are converting to Islam collectively or individually, to be able to stay in their areas of residence. They must be transferred despite their conversion.’
On 4 July 1915 (21 June 1331), the Ministry of the Interior sent a message to the provinces of Trabzon, Sivas, Diyarbekir and Elaziz, and to the sanjak of Janik: ‘?t is ordered that the Armenians and their families whom the Government considers dangerous be removed, and that the merchants and artisans who are harmless be retained but that they be required to move out of their towns within the province.’
The relocation areas were extended by a circular of the Ministry of the Interior dated 5 July 1915.
This message was sent by the Ministry of the Interior to the province of Elaziz on 10 July 1915: ‘?t is ordered that children are to be adopted in accordance with Muslim traditions by prominent people residing in towns and villages where Armenians are not present. If there are a great many children, they may also be adopted by less wealthy, but honourable and honest families, who will be paid 30 kurush per month per child. It is required that a list be made of the families which have adopted these children and that a copy of this list be sent to the centre.’
On 12 July 1915 (29 June 1331), the Ministry of the Interior sent a message to the province of Diyarbekir: ‘We are informed that in recent times some Armenians within the province have been taken out of the city at night and had their throats cut like sheep. The number of those killed until now is estimated to be 2,000. It is ordered that this be absolutely prevented and that we are informed of the actual situation.’
On 12 July 1915 the Ministry of the Interior sent a circular: ‘It is ordered that no one else will be sent to the sanjak of Zor, whose population ratio has exceeded 10 per cent.’
The Ministry of the Interior sent a circular message on 24 October 1916:
‘The transferring of Armenians to other localities has been delayed. Information is requested as to the names and number of those harmful individuals who must be transferred.’
These telegrams are sufficient to determine the reasons behind the relocation decision, its extent and implementation. As can be seen, the Government particularly emphasized the protection of life and property, and continually gave instructions for necessary measures to be taken.
Individuals who did not comply with these instructions, and those who were guilty, were arrested and sent for trial. A special investigative council was formed at the Ministry of War to examine such irregularities, and this council performed its duty until the beginning of 1918, when its duty was over. Those who were found guilty were sent to the martial law courts. The number of these individuals was as follows.
|From the province of Sivas
|From the province of Elaziz
|From the province of Diyarbekir
|From the province of Bitlis
|From the sanjak of Eskishehir
|From the sanjak of Shebinkarahisar
|From the sanjak of Nighde
|From the sanjak of Izmit
|From the province of Ankara
|From the sanjak of Kaiseri
|From the province of Syria
|From the province of Hudavendigar
|From the province of Konya
|From the sanjak of Urfa
|From the sanjak of Janik
The total is 1,397. They were given various sentences including execution. Talat Pasha, in the speech he gave at the last Congress of the Party of Union and Progress on 1 November 1918, mentioned the subject of relocation. This speech, which was published in the 12 July 1921 issue of the Vakit newspaper, has been quoted by Bayur, from whom we quote:
The subject of relocating the Armenians is one of the most discussed subjects in the war cabinets in and especially outside the country.
First of all, it must be said, that the rumours of relocation and killings have been grossly exaggerated. The Armenian and Greek press, conscious that the rumours of oppression would have a great effect on public opinion in Europe and America where the Turks are unknown, or more exactly are known incorrectly, have created great uproar in the world through their exaggerations.
I do not wish to deny the incidents. I only wish to tell the truth, to destroy the exaggerations.
Notwithstanding these exaggerations, such relocation incidents probably occurred. However, the Babiali never acted in any of these incidents, based upon a previously made decision. The responsibility for the incidents lies above all, on the elements who committed unbearable acts which caused the relocation. Undoubtedly, all Armenians are not responsible for this. But is was of course necessary not to tolerate activities which obstructed the movements of the army during a great war which would determine the life or death of the state, and which endangered the security of the country and the army by creating rebellions.
The Armenian bands which obstructed the operations of our armies in the region of Erzurum were given support and refuge in the Armenian villages. When they were in difficulty, the villagers would answer their call, and rush to their aid by grabbing the weapons kept in the churches. We could not have tolerated the perpetuation of dangers which would continually obstruct our line of retreat and the services behind the front. Information received from the armies, communications constantly sent by the provinces, finally brought forth the necessity of adopting a definitive measure on this question.
Thus the relocation question arose above all from the measures adopted as a result of this military requirement.
What I mean to say is that the relocation was implemented everywhere in an orderly manner and to the necessary extent. The hostilities which had accumulated for a long time then exploded and brought forth abuses which we in no way desired. Many officials used force and violence more than was necessary. In many areas some innocent people unjustly fell victim. I admit this.
Before we conclude the subject of relocation, a point we must mention is the number of individuals who were required to emigrate.
In a report submitted by the Ministry of the Interior to the Grand Vizier on 7 December 1916, it was stated that about 702,900 individuals had been relocated; in 1915 25 million kurush had been spent for this purpose; until the end of October 1916 86 million kurush had been spent; and until the end of the year 150 million kurush more would be spent.
According to anti-Turkish propaganda, 2,000,000 Armenians were massacred during the relocation.
The figure given for those who died was 300,000, c. 1915. This figure increased with each passing year, and in the 1980s it reached 2,000,000. Although it is normal for the population of a society to increase with the year, the reproduction of individuals who died at a speciffic time is an occurrence peculiar to this subject.
We shall not dwell on who gave what figure on which date. Various deaths occurred for various reasons during the relocation. Some of the deaths were due to epidemics, some were due to climatic factors, some were due to the hardships suffered during the journey, some were due to attacks, because officials did not protect them or because some officials engaged in illegal acts. Moreover, many died during the. rebellions or the band fights started in 1914 even before the war, and continued after the relocation decision was made until 1916. Many others died while fighting against the Turks in the Russian Army which they joined as volunteers.
Who are the one who can be pointed to as ‘murdered’ in these deaths? Certainly not the ones who were killed while fighting, nor those who died of epidemics of typhus, typhoid fever, cholera, and variola, which were then widespread in Turkey, or of famine. It cannot be claimed that they would not have died if they had stayed in their homes, because the epidemics spread to the areas of their residence and took hundreds of thousands of lives. The number of those who died in Turkey at the fronts during the First World War is 550—600,000. The rest, more than 2,000,000 people, died of epidemics, malnutrition, and the attacks of Armenian and Greek bands although they were not soldiers. Therefore this group, too, must be excluded.
Should we include in this group those who died because of climatic factors and the hardships of the journey during their emigration? We do not think so. Again, it will be claimed that they would not have died if they had stayed in their homes. That is true, but there is a point which should be remembered. Among the nations Turkey fought during the First World War, the Armenians were included. And these were Armenians living in Turkey, Armenians who were Turkish citizens. Just as the Arabs after May 1916. Certainly it cannot be denied that Turkey was at war with the Armenians of Turkey.
The meaning of the telegram which reads: ‘I would like to thank the inhabitants of Van for their sacriffices’ sent after the fall of Van by the Russian Tsar to the Russian Army Command of the region of Beyazit on 18 May 1915 is quite clear. The article published on 13 August 1915 in the newspaper Le Temps in Paris about Aram Manoukian is similar: ‘At the beginning of this war, once again Aram relinquished his comfort and business, resorted to arms, and took the leadership of those who rebelled in Van. Russia, who now controls this province, appointed Aram as governor to please the Armenians who did their part extremely well in this war against Turkey.’
An article published on 9 February 1916 in the Soleil du Midi stated:
...According to detailed information we are receiving, especially the declaration given by M. Sazanoff at the Duma, the Armenians, numbering 10,000, under the leadership of Aram Manoukian, have resisted the Turkish troops in Van for a month, and succeeded in putting them to flight before the Russian armies arrived.
In the mountains of Sassun, 30,000 Armenian revolutionaries have been fighting hopelessly for nine months, while waiting for the arrival of the Russian armies as well as of the troops of Armenian volunteers.
In Cilicia, in the mountains of Kessab, thousands of Armenians as well are awaiting the arrival of the French and the British....
The statement Sazanoff had made in the Duma was that ‘?n this war the Armenians are fighting with the Russians against the Ottoman Empire.’
The details we have given in this chapter leave no doubt that during the war the Armenians of Turkey were fighting against their country, with its enemy. As a matter of fact, they themselves stated as much during the Sevres talks.
General Bronsart, who was Chief of Staff to the Ottoman Commander-in-Chief, wrote as follows in an article in the 24 July 1921 issue of the newspaper Deutsche Aligemeine Zeitung:
As demonstrated by the innumerable declarations, provocative pamphlets, weapons, ammunition, explosives, &c., found in areas inhabited by Armenians, the rebellion was prepared for a long time, organized, strengthened and financed by Russia.
Information was received on time in Istanbul about an Armenian assassination attempt directed at high ranking state officials and officers.
Since all the Muslims capable of bearing arms were in the Turkish Army, it was easy to organize a terrible massacre by the Armenians against defenceless people, because the Armenians were not only attacking the sides and rear of the Eastern Army paralysed at the front by the Russians, but were attacking the Muslim folk in the region as well. The Armenian atrocities which I have witnessed were far worse than the so called Turkish brutality.
Let us quote now a few statements from an anti-Turkish book. Hassan Arfa writes:
When the Russian armies invaded Turkey after the Sarikamish disaster of 1914, their columns were preceded by battalions of irregular Armenian volunteers, both from the Caucasus and from Turkey. One of these was commanded by a certain Andranik, a bloodthirsty adventurer....
These Armenian volunteers, in order to avenge their compatriots who had been massacred by the Kurds, committed all kinds of excesses, more than six hundred thousand Kurds being killed between 1915 and 1916 in the eastern vilayets of Turkey.
The Armenians were forced to emigrate because they had joined the ranks of the enemy. The fact that they were civilians does not change the situation. Those who were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War were also civilians. Those who were killed during the First World War in France, Belgium, and Holland were also civilians. Those who died in London during the Battle of Britain were also civilians. We gave above some examples as to how the civilians were killed. Turkey did not kill them, but relocated them. As it was impossible to adopt a better solution under the circumstances, it cannot be accepted that those who died because they were unable to resist the hardships of the journey were killed by the Turks.
Let us give a similar example. During the struggle for independence, the French evacuated Marash, and 5,000 Armenians left Marash with the French. The date was 10 February 1920. The journey lasted until 14 February. ‘The result: 200 dead, among which 7 officers, and commander Marty; 300 wounded were brought back; 11 wounded were abandoned in Marash; 150 evacuated had their legs frozen; 2—3,000 Armenians died during the retreat.’
Did the French massacre these Armenians?
There remain only those who were killed en route, defenceless. The responsibility here lies with the Government because it was unable to protect these individuals, or because officials winked at the killings. The Government arrested those who were responsible for this, as far as it was able to determine the culprits, and sent them to the martial law court. Quite a few of them were executed.
How many individuals lost their lives as they were killed defencelessly? Even at that time it was not possible to determine this, and it is impossible to determine it today.
The statistics given as the death toll today are invariably the total of the individuals who died for all reasons we have stated above, from the declaration of war until the armistice. The figure which is increased today to 2,000,000 is this total. In his blue book, Toynbee wrote that the number of Armenians who died might be 600,000.92 He computed this number by subtracting the number of Armenians who were alive after the emigration from the Armenian population before the war. Today we are able to do this computation more easily, by comparison with the existing documents.
Dr Fridtjof Nansen’s report states that, according to the League of Nations Emigrants’ Committee, the number of Armenians who emigrated during the First World War from Turkey to Russia was between 400,000 and 420,000. This figure is the number of Armenians who emigrated from Turkey, and who were living in Russia at the end of the war. It is apparent that these emigrants went to Russia before the Moscow Treaty with Russia, which was signed on 16 March 1921.
In 1921, the Istanbul Patriarch, in a statistic he gave to the British, showed the number of Armenians living within the Ottoman borders before the Sevres Agreement as 625,000, including those who returned after they had emigrated.
Including those who emigrated to Russia, we reach the figure of 1,045,000.
As the Armenian population in Turkey in 1914 was approximately 1,300,000, the total number of Armenians who died during the war cannot be more than 300,000.
Another method of computation is possible. In Toynbee’s computation in the document we have mentioned above (note No. 92), it is stated that on 5 April 1916, in the regions of Zor, Aleppo, and Damascus, the number of emigrants was 500,000. It is natural that this figure will have considerably increased up to the end of 1916, because the process of emigration continued until the end of 1916, and because all those who had been required to emigrate were not sent only to these three regions.
We stated that the number of those who were required to emigrate was 702,900. Even if the emigrants who were alive on 5 April 1916 were from these three regions, and even if all those who emigrated after this date died, the number of those who died during the emigration would be 200,000. Because it is impossible that the sum of those who emigrated other than to the regions of Zor, Damascus, and Aleppo on 5 April 1916 and the sum of those who emigrated after this date could have died, it is aparent that, based upon this computation, the number of those who died from all causes was well below 100,000. And this would indicate that most of the casualties occurred during armed confrontations outside the process of emigration.
A third computation method would be based on the population of the Republic of Turkey.
In the Turkish Republic the first census was held in 1927. At that time the Armenian population of the country was 123,602.
In the 1931 census in France it was established that there were 29,227 foreigners, who were born in various countries, 5,114 who were born in Turkey, but who were French citizens. There were approximately 35,000 Armenians. It is obvious that all of them had come from Turkey.
The Canadian records show that 1,244 Armenians had come from Turkey between 1912 and 1914 (Imre Ferenczi, International Migration, Vol. 1, New York, 1929, p. 891).
In the same period, 34,136 Armenians emigrated to the United States, all of them from Turkey (Robert Mirak, Armenian Emigration to the U.S. to 1915).
In 1928, the number of Armenians who emigrated to Greece was 42,200 (League of Nations A. 33—1927).
The Bulgarian statistics record that in 1920 there were 10,848, and in 1926, 25,402 Gregorian Armenians (Annuaire statistique du Royaume de Bulgarie, 1931, p. 35). It is apparent that the difference of 15,000 Armenians came from Turkey.
Again according to the statistics of the League of Nations, 2,500 Armenians went to Cyprus.
Hovannisian gives the number of Armenians who emigrated to the Arab countries and Iran in the following list (‘The Ebb and Flow of the Armenian Minority in the Arab Middle East’, Middle East Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1(Winter 1974), p. 20):
When we add to these figures the 420,000 Armenians who emigrated to Russia, we reach 824,560, or 825,000 if we round it up. If we count those who went to other European countries, the missing and the forgotten as 50,000, we reach the figure of 875,000. With the population of 123,000 in Turkey, we obtain 998,000. When we subtract this number from the Armenian population in Turkey in 1914 of 1,300,000, we obtain 302,000.
Therefore, every computation indicates that the number of casualties (we use this term because this is a society at war) of the Armenians of Turkey, for all reasons, did not exceed 300,000. It is obvious that among these casualties the number of deaths which occurred for whatever reason during the emigration will be less than this figure, and the number of those who can be considered as having been killed will be even less.
A murderer is a murderer, no excuse can be given. Just as we do not condone the fact that the Armenians massacred the Turks, we do not condone the fact that the Turks massacred the Armenians. However, the Armenians who were massacred were not massacred on the orders of the Government. As we have stated above, the culprits who were arrested were sent to the courts, were given sentences, including the death sentence, and the sentences were carried out.
We would have wished that the Armenians who massacred the Turks had also been punished. But, in Armenian books, they are portrayed as national heroes.
There is one more point we must mention before we conclude this subject. The British were the leaders among those who were spreading the rumours of Armenian massacres throughout the world, and who were attempting to shape public opinion in that direction during the First World War. The famous Masterman bureau, which we mentioned in Chapter 2, had created a massacre story by publishing the blue book, which we have referred to on various occasions, in order to win over American public opinion and to turn the Islamic world against Turkey. Later, Toynbee made great efforts to substantiate these items of information sent to him, but was not successful.
There is another person who dealt extensively with this subject, Dr Johannes Lepsius. Today the Armenians attach even more importance to Lepsius’ work, as they are aware that the blue book was published by the propaganda bureau.
We think it important to examine Lepsius’ background and his aims. For this reason we shall refer to Frank 0. Weber:
Lest other Armenians of the Ottoman Empire attempt to imitate the insurrectionaries of Van, Enver decided to suppress all Armenian schools and newspapers. Wangenheim regretted these orders as both morally and materially deleterious to Germany’s cause... Nevertheless, the Ambassador instructed his consuls to collect any kind of information that would show that the Germans had tried to alleviate the lot of the Armenians. These notices were to be published in a white book in the hope of impressing Entente and German public opinion. (German Archives Band 37, No. A.20525.)
The last found a powerful voice in Dr. Johannes Lepsius. The son of a famous chaeologist and himself a noted traveller and writer on the Near East, Lepsius was delegated by various Protestant Evangelical societies to enter Armenia and verify the atrocity stories at first hand. Wangenheim did not want the professor to come. He was as certain that the Turks would charge the Germans some sort of retribution for causing them this embarrassment as that not a single Armenian life would be spared because of Lepsius’ endeavours. But Lepsius convinced the Wilhelmstrasse that his intention was not to put pressure on the Turks but instead to argue the patriarchal entourage into greater loyalty toward the Ottoman regime. Alleging this as his reason, he got as far as Constantinople, where the Armenian Patriarch acclaimed him but Talat refused him permission to travel into the interior. He had badgered Wangenheim unmercifully with letters, and the Ambassador described his reaction to Lepsius’ proposals as something between amusement and contempt. Yet Lepsius emphasized an argument to which the Ambassador was always open: the liquidation of the Armenians would seriously and perhaps irreparably diminish the prospects of Germany’s ascendancy in Turkey after the war.
When Lepsius returned to Germany, he devoted himself to keeping the German public unsparingly informed about the Armenian massacres. Though the German newspapers were not as chary of this news as might have seemed desirable in the interests of the Turkish alliance, the professor still preferred to make his disclosures in the journals of Basel and Zürich. What he wrote was not always up to date or unbiased. Much of it came from Armenian informants in the Turkish capital, and a large source, reworked with many variations, was given him by Ambassador Morgenthau at the time of his visit to Constantinople in July 1915. Morgenthau showed him a collection of American consular reports detailing the atrocities and suggested that the Armenians be removed from the Ottoman Empire and resettled in the American West. Lepsius took up that idea enthusiastically....
...Lepsius pointed out to the Chancellor that if Germany made herself popular in Turkish Armenia, the Russian Armenians would be more likely to put themselves under German protection after the war.
Lepsius had not set foot in Anatolia, had not talked to one single Armenian there. All the information he gathered consisted of what he learned from the Patriarchate and to some extent the reports which the American Ambassador Morgenthau showed him. We shall see in section 5 that these reports were all based on hearsay.
It is necessary to put Dr Lepsius on the same level as the Protestant missionaries, and to give the same value to his writings.
There was another decision taken during the war with regard to the Armenians of Turkey. This decision concerned the Patriarchate. With a new regulation published in the 10 August 1916 issue of the Takvimi Vekayi (Ottoman official gazette), the Armenian Churches in Turkey were no longer connected to Etchmiadzin, the Catholicates of Sis and Akdamar were united, the centre of the Catholicate was transferred to Jerusalem, and the Istanbul Patriachate was brought under this Catholicate. It was ruled that the Istanbul Patriarch could only establish contact with the Ministry of Sects.
The regulation reorganized the election of the Patriarch and the Patriarchate Assemblies. (A detailed explanation of this regulation may be found in Bayur’s work, Vol. II, Chapter 3, p. 57—9.)
3. The partition of the Ottoman Empire
Because they directly concern the Armenians, it is necessary to mention the agreements on the partition of the Ottoman Empire when we examine the First World War.
We have mentioned the division of the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence before the outbreak of the war. When the war began, Russia, France and Britain naturally excluded Germany, and began bargaining among themselves with the aim of an actual division and partition of the Empire. These attempts did not begin by collective meetings of the three powers, but two by two.
In the beginning, when the Babiali had not yet begun to make the Armenians emigrate, Russia coveted all the lands inhabited by Armenians, including Cilicia. The Tsar stated that ‘I cannot put them [the Armenians] again under the Turkish yoke. Should I include Armenia in my country? I will only do this by an explicit and definitive request by the Armenians, or I will establish an autonomous administration for them.’
However, we know that on 15 March 1915 Russia was willing to relinquish Cilicia to the French. Without going into details, we shall briefly state the result. Nevertheless, we wish to report one point which is also mentioned by Armenian authors. After the Russian Army had taken Erzurum, it was stated in an order by the Supreme Military Command that the Armenians did not have the right to reside in Erzurum. It is a historical truth that towards the end of 1915 the Archduke Nicholas stated: ‘As there is no Yakut problem in Russia, there is no Armenian problem.’ These statements surely indicate the real intentions of Russia.
During these negotiations to decide the partition of the Ottoman Empire neither the Armenians nor Armenia was mentioned. The lands called Armenia were divided between Russia and France. Even this indicates that the reaction shown by the three powers with regard to the issue of relocation was entirely hypocritical, and that they used the Armenians simply as a means of relieving the burden of their own war efforts.
During the partition negotiations France was represented by George Picot, the former consul-general in Beirut, and Britain by Sir Mark Sykes, who was considered an expert on eastern affairs. In Russia, Sazanoff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was personally involved. The agreements that were reached are known as the Sykes—Picot Agreements.
The first negotiation consisted of the discussions between Russia and Britain on 12 March 1915, concerning the relinquishing of Istanbul and the area of the Straits to Russia. Britain accepted this on condition that commercial ships could pass freely through the Straits, and that the region which had been recognized as neutral through the 1907 agreements should now be included in Britain’s sphere of influence.
On 3 January 1916 the French and the British reached an agreement. According to this, Britain would dominate the region that included Baghdad and Basra in the south of Iraq; Beirut and the shores of Syria would be given to France, where Arab states would be formed under the protection of France and Britain, under the sovereignty of Hussein, the Governor of Mecca; Palastine would be an international zone; the southern part of a triangle extending with a narrow strip from the Syrian shores to Cilicia and Sivas would be given to France.
On 26 April 1916 France and Russia reached an agreement. Russia officially recognized the agreement between France and Britain, and obtained the provinces of Erzurum, Trabzon, Van and Bitlis (with the borders of that date), and the area extending to a locality to be selected to the west of Trabzon on the Black Sea. Russia was also given Mush, Siirt, and the valley of the Tigris. In return, Russia recognized French domination of the area between Aladagh and Kayseri, between Yildizdagh and Zara, and between Eghin and Harput.
Finally, on 16 September an agreement was reached between Britain and Russia similar to the one between France and Russia.
It is apparent that these agreements were reached over a map.
When it was decided that Italy would join the Triple Entente during the war, she too was included in the partition plan, being offered the region of Antalya. Italy also wanted to have the province of Aydin (Izmir is part of the province of Aydin) but Russia opposed this, stating that under these circumstances Turkey would not survive. Nevertheless in the St. Jean de Maurienne agreement (19—21 April 1917) made with Italy there was a clause giving Izmir to Italy, on condition that Russia gave her approval. This clause was not implemented as Revolution broke out in Russia before she had given her approval. Later on, the province of Aydin was offered to Greece, which resulted in a dispute between Italy and her allies after the truce.
The extent of these agreements can best be understood from Map 2.
None of these agreements mentioned the Armenians. It was only when the Revolution broke out in Russia, and she withdrew from the war, that the idea of founding an Armenia in the regions which fell to her share reappeared.
Another subject which was to create problems later was the ‘Balfour Declaration’ made by the British Government on 2 November 1917. With this declaration, Britain proclaimed that a ‘national Jewish homeland’ should be created in Palestine. It appears that this intention was officially
announced to Hussein, the Governor of Mecca, in January 1918, and he replied that they did not see any inconvenience in this as long as the rights of Arabs in Palestine were respected.
4 The elimination of the eastern front
The Russian Revolution began with the insurrection in Petrograd on 8 March 1917. However, the Bolsheviks took control of the situation on the night of 7—8 November 1917. Until then Russia was still fighting in the war under the Kerensky administration.
When they seized power, the Bolsheviks declared first of all, on 15 November 1917, that all nations living in Russia were equal and sovereign, and that if they wished they could break off from Russia and establish their own independent governments. The fact that the Armenians were able to found an independent Armenian Republic had its basis in this declaration. The next few years have shown to what extent this first declaration of the Bolsheviks was sincere.
On 24 November 1917 the Bolsheviks began to publish the secret agreements which had been made during the war. The agreement about the division and partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was among them. We do not know whether this agreement opened the Armenians’ eyes.
On 28 November Estonia, on 6 December Finland, and on 24 December the Ukraine declared their independence.
On 26 November the Russians requested a truce. The Ottoman-Russian peace negotiations began on 4 December 1917 in Erzurum, and on 18 December the truce was signed. Its main articles stated that the two armies would remain where they were, and that they would not engage in new military build-ups.
Meanwhile the general peace negotiations were being held in Brest-Litovsk, in which the Ottomans took part. An agreement was reached on 15 December and on 17 December a cease-fire agreement was signed, which remained effective until 14 January 1918.
The peace talks began on 20 December 1917 in Brest-Litovsk. To begin with, Turkey was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Nesimi Bey. From January 1918, Talat Pasha, the Grand Vizier took part in the talks.
On 13 January 1918 a declaration known as ‘Decree No. 13’ signed by Lenin and Stalin was published in Pravda in Petrograd. Its main points were:
The Government of the Workers and the Peasants supports the right of the Armenians in Turkey and Russia to determine their destiny if they wish until independence. The Council of Commissars is convinced that this right can be fulfillied only by ensuring first of all the conditions necessary for a referendum. These conditions are as follows:
1. The retreat of armed forces from the borders of Turkish Armenia, and the formation of an Armenian militia, to protect life and property there.
2. The return of Armenian emigrants who have taken refuge in nearby areas.
3. The return of Armenians who have been exiled by the Turkish Government since the beginning of the war.
4. The establishment of a temporary National Armenian Government formed by deputies elected in accordance with democratic principles. The conditions of this government will be put forward during the peace talks with Turkey.
5. The Commissar for Caucasian Affairs, Shomian, will assist the Armenians in the relization of these goals.
6. A joint commission will be formed in order that Armenian lands can be evacuated by foreign troops.
This decreee indicated that the Russians would leave Turkey only after having armed the Armenians.
We shall not dwell on the details. The Brest-Litovsk negotiations ended on 3 March 1918 when the Peace Agreement was signed. Russia considered that this agreement had been virtually dictated, but signed it nevertheless because peace was necessary if the revolution was to continue. The general agreement stated that Russia would do everything possible to evacuate the eastern Anatolian provinces and return them to Turkey, that the regions of Ardakhan, Kars, and Batum would also be evacuated, and that Turkey and the other states of the region would determine the new situation there.
The main articles of the Ottoman—Russian Agreement which was added to the general agreement were:
1. Eastern Anatolia will be evacuated within 6—8 weeks.
3. Until the arrival of the Turkish Army, the Russians will establish order there, and will prevent incidents of revenge and brigandage.
4. The Russians will have a division every 150 km to guard the border.
5. The Armenian bands will be disarmed and dispersed.
7. Until the general peace, the Russians will not have units larger than a division in the Caucasus. If the situation requires otherwise, Russia will inform the four allies beforehand.
Because Turkey is fighting other enemies, it is necessary for her to have her army constantly mobilized.
Three months after the approval of this agreement, the Turkish—Russian Commission will draw the border including the regions of Ardakhan, Kars, and Batum. The border will be the one before the 1877—8 war.
Because all existing agreements, pacts and treaties between the two states have been annulled, both states will sign consulate pact and other necessary agreements as required by the first appendix of the general agreement and within the period of time stated in that appendix.
The agreements concerning the division of Iran have been annulled, and this country will be evacuated.
The Muslim elements in Russia have the right to emigrate to Turkey, either by disposing of their possessions, or taking them with them.
When the Brest—Litovsk Agreement was being made the situation in the Caucasus was as follows:
When Kerensky was still in power in Russia, a National Assembly election was held. The Bolsheviks had dissolved this Assembly. The deputies elected in the Caucasus for this Assembly held a meeting on 10 February 1918 [This is the old Russian calendar; it would be 23 February according to the Gregorian calendar], and announced that the nations in the Caucasus [that is the Georgians, the Azerbaijanis, the Daghistanians and the Armenians] had founded the ‘United Socialist Republic of Transcaucasia’. A provisional government was established under the leadership of Y. Ketetchgoni, a Georgian menshevik. Upon the request for peace made by Vehip Pasha, the first negotiations for peace began in Trabzon.
As a matter of fact the Eastern Army Commander of the Ottomans had invited them to discussions. However, it was not a question of making a separate peace agreement, but rather of establishing friendly relations with the Caucasian states within the framework of the principles agreed with the Russians. Besides, when the Russian army left after the truce and was replaced by the Armenians, and when this situation became clear with the declaration of 13 January, the Ottoman Army had begun its operations and had freed Erzinjan on 13 February, and Trabzon on 24 February.
When the Caucasian delegation arrived at Trabzon on 8 March 1918, this operation was continuing. The Ottoman Army recovered Erzurum on 12 March, Sarikamish on 5 April, Van on 7 April, Batum on 14 April, and Kars on 25 April.
In his memoirs, Twerdo Khlebof, the Commander of the Russian Second Artillery regiment, narrates the cruelties and torture inflicted by the Armenians on unarmed Muslims during this period in regions they seemed to have inherited from the Russians, and especially in Erzurum, and the wicked deeds of prominent individuals such as Torkom, Andranik and Jamboladian. We shall not dwell on these subjects.
As can be expected, the discussions in Trabzon did not have any result. Let us now follow the attitude of the Armenians in this period from Kachaznuni’s work:
The Armenians neither wanted to separate from Russia, nor expected anything from the Turks. The Armenians were still thinking of stopping the Turks by force of arms. In April a National Armenian Assembly met only to discuss this subject in Alexandropolis. In spite of the explanation I gave, this Assembly refused the Brest—Litovsk Agreement and decided to continue the war [paragraph 14]... Kars fell on April 25th. There was almost no resistance.... The Seym [the Assembly of the Republic of the Caucasus] immediately took the decision to continue the discussions interrupted in Trabzon, and to recognize the border of Brest—Litovsk. The discussions began at the beginning of May in Batum, where Turks had already settled. But the Turks had changed their minds. The Brest— Litovsk Agreement was no longer sufficient. They were saying ‘we shed blood after Trabzon, it must be indemnified’. They wanted new concessions from Armenian lands [paragraph 15].
The Batum Conference had met on 11 May 1918. This time Halil Pasha was requesting the area including Ahiska, Ahilkelek, Gumru (Alexandropol), and the Kars—Gumru—Julfa railway.
As a matter of fact the war had not ended. The forces of Yakup Shevki Pasha had requested on 14 May that way be made via Gumru—Hulfa in order to send soldiers against the British in Iran. When he did not receive an answer he occupied Gumru and defeated the Armenians near Karakilis.
Meanwhile the Armenian and Bolshevik units in Baku had begun their advance to come to the help of the Armenian army in Gumru—Karakilis, and were demolishing Muslim villages on their way.
We continue to quote Kachaznuni:
Armed confrontations continued in Sardarabad until May 22—26, and in Haraklis until the 25th—28th. Maybe last efforts were being made for the Armenian nation to continue its existence. And doubtless this fight at the front and this brave resistance (it was not the army which was fighting but the people, because there was no army left) somewhat restored our esteem in the eyes of the Turks, and enabled a peace agreement to be made. [paragraph 17]
This time peace was achieved. A truce was signed on 4 June with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, on 8 June with Daghistan. Nahjivan was given to the Ottomans and thus contact was established with Azerbaijan.
However, peace was not established in the Caucasus because of the Baku conflict. The British had landed in Baku. The Turkish forces began their operations on 14 September, and took Baku on 15 September.
This is the incident about which the British Army published an official declaration stating that the Armenians had abandoned the war, and about which Toynbee wrote memoranda asserting that ‘we must not inflict shame on the Armenians’. We have referred to these earlier, and in any case the events of the Caucasus are outside our topic.
As we conclude this discussion we want to mention one more point.
In Batum, the Turks had promised that they would intervene in order that the Caucasus states might make peace with the other allies (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria). For this reason the envoys of the Caucasus states had arrived in Istanbul. The delegates who came from Armenia were Aharonian and Hadissian. Vahdettin received them on 6 September 1918 in the ‘Selamlik’. The following telegram sent by Aharonian after this, on 9 September 1918, to Prime Minister Kachaznuni, is worth reading:
On September 6th, after we were in the ‘Selamlik’ we had an audience. We presented our congratulations on his accession to the throne. We submitted our best wishes for the development of the Empire and its well-being. We stated that the Armenian nation would never forget that it was the Ottoman Government which first conceived the idea of founding an independent Armenia, and recognized it, that the Armenian Government would do everything possible to protect friendly relations between the two countries and to strengthen them. His Majesty thanked us. He stated that he was very happy at seeing the envoys of independent and free Armenia, that he wished not only her development, but that she be strong in order to retain her independence. His Majesty is entirely convinced that friendly relations will always exist between the two neighbouring countries, Turkey and Armenia, in order that both of them may develop. He concluded his remarks by stating that he was very happy to see that Armenia had the strength to found an independent state which was able to send envoys to Istanbul, and repeated his best wishes for our country.
Talat Pasha went to Berlin to discuss the Caucasian matters. He is expected to return in two weeks. We hope that the issue of the Istanbul Conference will be resumed there.
On 8 October 1918, the Talat Pasha cabinet resigned, having requested peace on the basis of the Wilson principles. The request for peace was made through the Spanish Embassy in America, which was protecting Turkish interests, by requesting America’s mediation. On 14 October, Ahmet Izzet Pasha formed a new Government. Britain gave Admiral Calthrope full powers for the peace discussions, which began on 27 October 1918 in Mondros, and the armistice was signed on 30 October.
Articles 11 and 24 of the armistice, concerning our subject, are:
Article 11. The order which was previously given, concerning the withdrawal of the Ottoman Army present in the north-eastern part of Iran, behind the border in effect before the war, will be carried out immediately. Because it was previously ordered that the Ottoman Army partially evacuate Transcaucasia, the remaining areas will be evacuated if such an action is requested after the allies have examined the local situation.
Article 24. The Entente Powers have the right to occupy any area of the six provinces should any insurrections occur in the said provinces.
Let us read about the situation in the East on the actual day the armistice was signed, from Kazim Karabekir Pasha’s book:
I was the Commander of the First Caucasian Army Corps. My headquarters were in Tabriz. The 2nd Caucasian Division had occupied the Iranian Azerbaijan and the 9th Caucasus Division had occupied the region of Nahjivan [which was 6 kilometres south of Erivan] from the Turkish—Armenian border up to the Aras river. That is, it was covering an area of hundreds of square kilometres. Just as the Armenians were weakened through several blows, a British detachment which had approached Tabriz at a distance of three days had been expelled from Iranian Azerbaijan by successive offensives. Three aeroplanes had been shot down recently. On 15 September 1334 (1918) Baku was taken by our army, no enemy was left even in Azerbaijan. Georgia, too, was silent like Armenia, but had come under the protection of the Germans.
After the armistice the situation naturally changed. The British entered Baku on 17 November 1918, demanding that the Turks retreat. By taking advantage of the fact that the Ottoman armies had retreated to the 1914 borders, the Georgians took Ahiska on 1 March 1919, the Armenians took Kars on 19 April, and on 20 April the Georgians entered Ardakhan.
We shall deal with later events on the eastern front in Chapter 6.
On 13 November, the fleet of the Entente Powers, consisting of sixty ships, arrived at Istanbul, and on 14 November soldiers were disembarked.
The victorious powers began to invade the areas which they had reserved for themselves through the secret agreements made during the war.
5 Armistice and hunting of the offenders
As soon as news of the relocation of the Armenians and the massacre claims were beginning to circulate in Europe as elements of war propaganda, the British and French Governments announed in May 1915 that they would hold responsible for these murders the members of the Ottoman Government, and those who had taken part or would take part in the massacres.
When the armistice was signed and Turkey was occupied, it was necessary for this engagement to be carried out.
However, before the occupation forces acted, the Ottoman Government acted. Upon this, the invading powers, or rather Britain, because the French seemed uninterested in this subject, preferred to wait for a while.
For this reason the pursuit of the offenders which began with the armistice occurred in two stages. We summarize below the first stage, which consisted of activities carried out by the Ottoman Government.
After Talat Pasha resigned, the duty of forming a new cabinet was given to Ahmet Izzet Pasha on 14 October 1918. On 19 October Izzet Pasha read his Government’s programme in the Assembly. The following passage was included: ‘We decided that the citizens who were made to emigrate and resettle in other parts of the country due to necessities of wartime may return to their original places of residence, and we have begun to carry out this decision. A proposed law which was necessary for freeing those who were exiled by administrative and military decrees, and for declaring a general amnesty for political prisoners, will be prepared and submitted to the Assembly.’
Towards the end of 1918, upon the request of Vahdettin, the Party of Liberty and Agreement (Hurriyet ve Itilaf) was active again in Istanbul. The President was Nuri Pasha, the Head Court Chamberlain of Abdulhamid, and the Secretary General was Ali Kemal Bey. It was this party which mainly organized the pursuit of the culprits.
Vahdettin was not pleased with the Izzet Pasha cabinet. He based his criticism on the fact that the cabinet included supporters of the Party of Union and Progress and that the aforementioned party members were being protected. Meanwhile, two days after the armistice was signed, that is on 1 November 1918, Enver Pasha, Talat Pasha, Jemal Pasha, and the most prominent officials of the Committee of Union and Progress, Bahaettin Shakir Bey, Dr Nazim Bey, Azmi Bey, and Bedri Bey, fled the country. This incident was especially exploited to criticize the government. It was claimed that the escape had been facilitated by the government.
When the Sultan requested from Izzet Pasha that the ministers from the Party of Union and Progress be dismissed, Izzet Pasha resigned on 8 November 1918. Tevfik Pasha was charged with forming a new cabinet. After tumultuous discussions, Tevfik Pasha obtained a vote of confidence from the Assembly on 18 November 1918.
In the Assembly the atmosphere against the Party of Union and Progress was worsening. There were those who desired that members of the war cabinets, Sait Halim Pasha and Talat Pasha, be sent to the High Court of Justice. On 10 November 1918, Fuat Bey, the Representative of Divaniye, submitted a ten-article proposal to the Assembly President. The fifth article began: ‘Those people who by issuing temporary laws and orders have changed our country from one in which the spirit of our Constitution protected the legal and human rights into a place of tragedy....“
Before this report, which was referred to the Commission, came to the Assembly, the Assembly was dissolved, and the members of the war cabinets who remained in Turkey were sent to the martial law court and later taken to Malta.
The reason for the dissolution of the Assembly was a motion of censure which was submitted. On 21 December, Reshit Pasha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, read the Government’s reply to the motion of censure; immediately after wards Mustafa Arif Bey, the Minister of the Interior, took the floor and read out the Sultan’s order to dissolve the Assembly.
In the meantime, the British had started exerting pressure for the immediate arrest of the offenders, as we shall explain later.
Tevfik Pasha had a special and extraordinary court formed, to try those individuals who would be arrested as war criminals. It was presided over by Mahmut Hayret Pasha, and its members were Ali Nadi Pasha and Suleymaniyeli Mustafa Pasha. (All three were retired army officers.)
‘On January 30, 1919, 27 people, including Haji Adil Bey, former Minister and deputy, Huseyin Cahit Bey, Dr Tevfik Rushtu Bey, Mithat Shukru Bey, the general secretary of the Party of Union and Progress, Ismail Canbolat Bey, the former minister of the Interior, Kara Kemal Bey, member of the Central Committee, Ziya Gokalp Bey, deputy Karasu Bey, and Rahmi Bey, the governor of Izmir, were arrested and imprisoned in the Bekiragha Regiment.’ The names of most of those who were arrested were submitted by the British.
Meanwhile a most significant incident occured. Reshit Bey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent a telegram on 18 February 1919 to the governments of Denmark, Holland, Spain, and Sweden, informing them that a commission had been formed to investigate the subject of the relocation, and requested that each state send two legal experts as they envisaged that two members from each neutral country would take part in this commission.
The British tried to prevent the sending of this telegram on the grounds of military censorship. However, when they saw that they were too late and that the telegrams had already been sent, they attempted to prevent the sending of members to such a commission. It is interesting that the British objected to establishing the commission. It is apparent that they did not want anyone else to interfere with this matter but themselves.
But matters did not proceed as rapidly as was desired. The Sultan was not pleased with the Government. Finally Tevfik Pasha was forced to resign. Ferit Pasha formed a new cabinet on 4 March. The members of the new cabinet were from the Party of Liberty and Agreement.
Ferit Pasha established the court known as Nemrut Mustafa Pasha Martial Court, presided over by Mustafa Pasha, and on 10 March sixty more members of the Union and Progress Party were arrested.
We have been unable to determine the exact date when the court martial began to function. We can assume that this court martial, which we know sentenced to death Kemal Bey, the Kaymakam of the kaza of Boghazlian, began functioning towards the end of March.
It appears that the trial of the actual members of the Party of Union and Progress began on 27 April 1919. ‘The public trial has begun in the presence of the Grand Vizier Sait Pasha Bey, the President of the Legislature Halil, Ahmet Nesimi Bey [Minister of Foreign Affairs], Ibrahim Bey, Shukru Bey, Kemal Bey, Kuchuk Talat Bey, Topchu Riza Bey, Ziya Gokalp Bey, Atif
Bey, Colonel Jevat Bey, President of “Te?kilati Mahsusu”, and the ?stanbul Centre Commandant, and in default of Talat Efendi, Enver Efendi, Jemal Efendi, Dr Nazim Bey, Dr Bahattin Shakir Bey, Dr Rusuhi Bey, and the former chief of police, Aziz Bey. Because Enver Pasha and Jemal Pasha had been dismissed from the Army, they were referred to as “Efendi” along with Talat Pasha.’
While this trial was continuing, those individuals whom the British considered to be the most important were taken from Bekir Agha and exiled in Malta. This constitutes the second stage of the pursuit of the offenders. After this, the British were no longer connected with the trial in Istanbul.
On 13 July 1919, the trial, which was continuing in Istanbul, sentenced Talat Pasha, Enver Pasha, Jemal Pasha, and Dr Nazim Bey to death in default, and Javit Bey, Mustafa Bey, and Sherif Bey, who were secondary authors, to fifteen years.
The Istanbul trial was thus concluded. Talat Pasha and Jemal Pasha, whom the Nemrut Mustafa Pasha Martial Court had sentenced to death, died by Armenian bullets. Falih Rifki says about Jemal Pasha: ‘Sad Destiny! There are many who still like and miss Jemal Pasha in Syria, where he condemned to death and executed many of the prominent Arab leaders. Jemal Pasha was killed by the Armenians, among whom he had saved tens of thousands with his own hand.”
The Government of Ferit and Vahdettin acted as a tool of the British, exclusively in order to slander the Party of Union and Progress and to get rid of powerful opponents. If the British had not taken those individuals to Malta in order to try them themselves, the Ferit Government might have executed them too.
Before we deal with the second stage of the pursuit of the offenders there is another point we must mention.
It had been decided that the Armenians who had been made to emigrate might return to their previous places of residence, and that their possessions should be returned to them. This decision was immediately implemented.
The Armenian Patrirch gave the following information about this subject:
The Armenians of Istanbul, and the Armenians in the sanjak of Kutahya and the province of Aydin had not been required to emigrate. The Armenians who at the present time are in the sanjak of Izmit and in Bursa, Kastamonu, Ankara, and Konya, are those who had emigrated from these areas, and who have returned.
There are many Armenians in the sanjak of Kaiseri, and in Sivas, Kharput, Diyarbekir, and especially in Cicilia and in Istanbul, who have returned, but who are unable to go to their villages. The rest of the Armenians of Erzurum and Bitlis are in Cilicia.
The children who had been adopted and the women who had converted were being identifled and gathered by a commission. We can make the following observations concerning this issue.
In 1922 in the League of Nations it was claimed that hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Greek children and women were still hidden in the ‘harems’ in Turkey. We quote the following passage from a brochure published by the Ministry of the Interior:
After the Armistice the Ottoman Government spent more than 1,150,000 liras, and employed hundreds of officials to return the Greeks and Armenians to their previous areas of residence from the regions they had been transferred to. The procedures involving the transfer of these people to their homelands, and returning to them their movable and immovable properties, have been carried out through joint delegations formed by British officers appointed by the British High Commission, Ottoman officials, and one member of each of the interested nations. These delegations, whose number exceeded 62, formed by British and Ottoman officials, which were sent to all parts of the country, acted with the utmost attention and care. Even women who had married Muslim men of their own accord were summoned one by one, and were asked again if they had consented, and those who declared that they were pleased were left to their wishes. In the ‘harems’ or orphanages of Istanbul there were not hundreds of thousands of Armenian or Greek children and women, there are not even two children who remained. While there are no remaining Armenian children, some Muslim children, asserted to be Armenian, are still in Armenian orphanages, even though their mothers and fathers are known to be alive.
Then, how is it possible that thousands of Armenian children, as it is claimed, are still in the presence of Turks? How can the League of Nations, which does not have the legal character of an executive power, and does not have an organization or the means to investigate the actual situation in depth, conceive of the existence of children and women whom the police force, the joint delegation, and the high officials of the Entente Powers in Istanbul were unable to find?
For those who are somewhat aware of the actual situation, the matter is quite simple. Because, if an American historian, who has been in Turkey for more than thirty years, and who is at present a member of the Executive Committee of a Benevolent Society in Istanbul, can try to find (only a week ago) a slave market in Istanbul where girls and women are sold for money, then the report and speech reminding one of the Arabian Night Stories, made by Mademoiselle Vakaresko of Rumania, who does not know Turkey, who constantly looks at Turkey from the perspective of the Armenians and the Greeks, and who is influenced by their exaggeration of violence, must not be considered strange.
How can it be explained that this issue which has escaped the attention and the investigation of the officials, the official and non-official organizations of the Great Entente Powers in Istanbul, was able to be detected only by Mademoiselle Vakaresko who resides in Switzerland?’
Halide Edip makes an interesting observation about the children in the orphanages.
... Taking the Armenian children from the Turkish orphanages was becoming a tragic sight.... A committee was founded, presided over by Colonel Heathcote Smythe, and it was attempting to find the Armenian children and separate them from the Turkish children. They had rented a house in Shishli (a quarter of Istanbul). The majority of the central committee which was to separate the children were Armenians. Nezihe Hanim, General Secretary of the womens’ branch of the Red Crescent, had been invited to represent the Turks.... When children were brought from the orphanages in Anatolia, to Istanbul, they were sent to the Armenian church in Kumkapu, and there they were claimed to be Armenian. Some children tried to escape, but were caught and brought back.
It was a day when I had gone to visit Nezihe Hanim. Two frightened children came into the room, one was limping and the other had been wounded in the head... they had come from an orphanage and had been brought to a church. They had strongly resisted being considered as Armenians, as the Armenians had killed their parents. They had been severely beaten, but had succeeded in escaping. They were crying, they were pleading to be protected, not to be sent back.... Nezihe Hanim called a few journalists and requested that they be brought to Mr. Ryan, the head translator of the British Embassy.... Although it was known how much hatred he had against the Turks, Nezihe Hanim thought that he would be compassionate in the presence of these two innocent and desperate children.... I later heard that when these two children were speaking, an Armenian official entered the room to say something to Mr. Ryan. One of the children screamed ‘this was the man who beat and kicked us’. The man was a member of the delegation in the Church of Kumkapu....
The pain of this little creature aLected me very much. For me he symbolized the desperate Turkish nation. He was small and weak.
We can now deal with the second stage of the pursuit of the suspects.
On 3 January 1919, Admiral Calthrope (the British High Commissioner) sent the following telegram to the British Foreign Office: ‘It appears to me both useless and undignifled to continue to make protests to the Turkish Government whilst the present Cabinet gives every evidence of goodwill. Its orders are not obeyed.... The situation therefore calls for some fresh form of action and I can think of nothing more likely to be efficacious than to authorize me to demand the immediate arrest and delivery to Allied Military Authorities of persons against whom there appears to be a prima facie case.’
On 24 January, he sent the following telegram: ‘Grand Vizier told me the other day that between 160 and 200 persons had been arrested but I think that this must be an exaggeration: some persons however certainly have been.’
His telegram dated 31 January: ‘Action taken by Turkish Government in starting to arrest these people is very satisfactory... I intend to supply Minister of Interior with further names though I have not yet presented formal command for surrender of those implicated in cruelty to prisoners, as list is not yet complete.’
Telegram dated 11 March: ‘New Government has commenced making fresh arrests with commendable energy. Over twenty were effected yesterday including large number of those who were Ministers during the war, from ex-Grand Vizier, Said Halim, downwards.... Most of those on French list have been seized.’
Telegram dated 29 May: ‘British military authorities have now taken over from Turkish authorities sixty-seven persons arrested in accordance with Foreign Office telegram No. 233. They are being sent to Malta with the exception of twelve who will be landed at Mundros for detention there.’
Some persons who were arrested after the occupation of Istanbul on 16 March 1920 were also sent to Malta, and at the end of 1920 the number of arrested in Malta reached 118.
Among these 118 individuals, 55 were guilty of acts in respect of relocation. Among these 55, 16 were blamed with concrete accusations, 17 were blamed because they were in power during the relocation and thus winked at the incidents; 22 were deputies, and it was hard to determine whether these were connected with the so-called massacre.
Those who were arrested before the occupation of Istanbul were divided into three groups: (i) those were arrested by the Turkish authorities (30); (ii) those whose arrests had been officially requested by the British (2); (iii) those whose names were given unofficially by the British to the Turkish authorities. Four such unofficial lists were given, the first on 23 January 1919, and the last on 7 April 1919.
Now the question was to determine who would try these individuals and under what circumstances.
The opinion of the Prosecutor of the Crown was sought, and with this aim a report was sent on 10 July 1919.
In this report those who had been arrested were divided into seven groups based on the following factors: (1) failure to comply with armistice terms; (2) impeding execution of armistice terms; (3) insolence to British commanders and officers; (4) ill-treatment of prisoners; (5) outrages to Armenians or other subject races both in Turkey and Transcaucasia; (6) participation in looting, destruction of property, etc.; (7) any other breaches of the laws and regulations of war.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the Crown suggested that an article be included in the Peace Treaty concerning crimes connected with relocation.
An interesting point was that, in the report sent to the Prosecutor, it was stated that these individuals had been brought to Malta to be protected, at the request of the Ottoman government.
When the British High Commissioner in ?stanbul learned about this later, he was forced to state in a report dated 12 March 1919 that the Ottoman Government had never made such a request, and that the transfer of these persons to Malta had been made by a decision of the British Government.
An article was included in the Sevres Treaty, as requested by the British Prosecutor. This article was article 230 of the agreement. But there was more to the question than that. In order to have these persons convicted by an international or British court, one needed to have evidence. The Prosecutor of the Crown requested in his memorandum dated 8 February 1919 that the evidence be gathered and submitted to him.
The evidence sent from Istanbul was not satisfactory, for almost all the accusations were based on rumour and hearsay. The Armenian and Greek branch of the Istanbul High Commissariat had ordered the arrests, having considered the most trivial accusation sufficient. Because it had acted in this manner, and had not carefully investigated each incident, it was now impossible to determine whether those who were arrested were in fact guilty. The Prosecutor General of the Crown expressed this point in a report dated 29 July 1921.
Attention is called to the inherent difficulties with which the prosecution will be faced, if the Military Tribunals, before which these persons are to be arraigned, require the production of evidence of a character which alone would be admissible before an English Court of Justice. Up to the present no statements have been taken from witnesses who can depose to the truth of the charges made against the prisoners. It is indeed uncertain whether any witnesses can be found....
If the charges made are substantially true, it seems more than probable that the great majority of those who could appear as witnesses against the accused are dead or have been irretrievably dispersed....
... Until more precise information is available as to the nature of the evidence which will be forthcoming at the trials, the Attorney General does not feel that he is in a position to express any opinion as to the prospects of success in any of the cases submitted for his consideration.
Meanwhile Britain turned to one more possibility: to gather documents from the other powers. On this subject he could only benefit from the United States of America, because during the war the American Embassy and Consulates were in Turkey. If the French had any documents, they would have disclosed them themselves, in view of their existing engagement.
Instructions were given to the Washington Embassy. The Ambassador to Washington, Sir A. Geddes, stated in the telegram he sent on 1 June 1921: ‘I have made several enquiries of the State Department and today I am informed that while they are in possession of a large number of documents concerning Armenian deportations and massacres, these refer rather to events connected with the perpetration of crimes than to persons implicated.’ The items of information given by the American Consuls did not consist of eye witness reports but were rumours.
As a last resort, the British Foreign Secretary submitted the names of those who were detained at Malta, and requested that a search be made for documentary evidence against them. The British Ambassador replied on 13 June: ‘I regret to inform Your Lordship that there was nothing there which could be used as evidence against the Turks who are being detained for trial at Malta.’
The truth of it is that the British did everything they could, but the matter was concluded and the Turks who were detained at Malta were exchanged with the British who were detained in Turkey.
The question of whether the British High Commissioner in Istanbul acted objectively or emotionally comes to mind. Of course, the Armenian and Greek branch of the High Commission was receiving its information from the Armenians and the Greeks. It might be expected that they would not take these items of information at face value without investigating them, but is seems that that is exactly what they did.
It also seems that the British High Commissioner in Istanbul had access to the Ottoman Archives. Dr Salahi Sonyel found document No. 9518 E. 5523 among the dossiers in File No. 371 during research that he undertook in the British Archives. This is the original text of a secret order made by Talat Pasha concerning the relocation of the Armenians. This text was enclosed in a letter dated 22 May 1923, written by Mr Nevile, the then High Commissioner. From this letter it appears that these documents were very probably obtained by the British intelligence service following the Mundros Agreement, that they remained from that time in their safes, and that recently they were sent to the High Commissioner. The last article of the order stated ‘... Because this order concerns the disbanding of the Committees, it is necessary that it be implemented in a way that would prevent the Armenian and Muslim elements from massacring each other.’
In his memorandum about this order, D. G. Osborne of the British Foreign Office says: ‘... the last article of the order states that one must refrain from measures which might cause massacre’ (371/4241/170751).
This subject reminds us of Aram Andonian’s book entitled Official Documents Relating to the Deportations and Massacres of Armenians, which was published in Paris in 1920. If the documents in this book were true, and if the Armenians had obtained them when General Allenby entered Aleppo, as is claimed, without any doubt the British would have been the first to hear about them, and to use them to convict those persons detained at Malta.
As we mention this book, it is useful and even necessary to clarify a few points. As a matter of fact, this book gives the photographs of ‘official documents’ which had apparently been obtained by an official named ‘Naim Bey’. These documents have almost become a primary source to turn to, in order to implant the belief that Prime Minister Talat Pasha gave written orders for the killing of the Armenians in Turkey.
In his book entitled The memoirs of Naim Bey, Turkish Official Documents relating to the Deportations and Massacres of Armenians, in French, Documents Officiels concernant les massacres armeniens. Aram Andonian presents Naim Bey as the chief secretary of the Deportations Committee in Aleppo. He goes on to say that Naim Bey ‘actually helped some Armenian families to escape, taking nothing in return, in spite of the fact that his finances were not in a very brilliant condition. He might have demanded anything he liked from those families who were rich... As he had an ardent Turkish consciousness, he was apprehensive of giving, through his revelations, the coup-de-grace to his race which would expiate all the crimes of which it had been guilty during the war, upon its defeat. More than my requests and insistence, it was the visit of Armenian women, who came by the dozen to tell me and to have me record the recollections of their sufferings and tortures, and which I communicated to him, which finally made Naim Bey talk.’ (Andonian, Documents officiels, pp. 13—15)
A letter written by Andonian on 26 July 1937 is included in a book entitled Justicier du genocide armenien, le proces de Tehlirian. Editions Diasporas, Collection Documents, published in 1981 by the Tasknak organization, Comite de Defense de la Cause Armenienne. This time, Andonian says this about Naim Bey in his letter:’... He was addicted to alcohol and gambling, and it was indeed these shortcomings of his which led him to treachery. The truth of the matter is that everything he gave us as documents, we bought from him in return for money.... Naim Bey is an entirely dissolute creature.’ (Justicier du genocide, pp. 234-7)
The Tashnak Committee claims in the book that the ‘documents were obtained after the fall of the Turkish administration when an Armenian delegation secured permission from the Turkish authorities to see the archives concerning the deportation of Armenians’ (Ibid, p. 213).
When we examine Justicier du genocide armenien, it appears that the underlying reason for the compilation of Andonian’s book was to help ensure the founding of an autonomous Armenia during the peace negotiations. Possibly the reason why the Tashnak organization mentions the Turkish authorities instead of Naim Bey is because it is clear that it does not support the Naim Bey legend. As a matter of fact, the Ottoman Empire had yearbooks in which all the government officials were included. Examination of these yearbooks has demonstrated that there was no official named Naim Bey in Aleppo during the years in question.
Moreover, it has been determined that the documents whose photocopies are included in Andonian’s book and whose originals are claimed to have been lost are all forged and concocted. The fact that the dates, numbers, code keys, and signatures used were forgeries was determined by examining the registration books of that period and the code keys which were preserved, and by comparing the actual signatures with those in the documents in question.
It may be that the person known as Naim Bey is the person who was paid to arrange the forged documents. These matters have been exposed in detail in a book published recently by the Türk Tarih Kurumu, entitled Ermenilerce Talat Pasa’ya atfedilen telegraflarin gerçek yüzü (The truth behind the telegrams attributed by the Armenians to Talat Pasha).
We shall mention two more points to conclude this subject.
First, the telegram sent by Ferit Pasha to the President of the Paris Peace Conference on 30 June 1919.135 In this telegram, Ferit Pasha requested the mediation of the victorious powers to ensure the return of war criminals in Germany, including Talat Pasha, Enver Pasha, and Jemal Pasha, in order that they should be tried. At one point the British thought of including an article in the Sevres Agreement which would make this possible, but it was not done. We have not been able to discover why.
The second point is even more interesting. The British High Commissioner in Istanbul, in a telegram dated 22 April 1920 sent to the British Foreign Office, stated that the Grand Vizier had suggested the arrest of certain individuals, and had implied that it would be preferable that the British themselves arrest these individuals.
Among those whose arrest had been suggested were the following:
Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Ali Fuat Pasha, Kazim Karabekir Pasha, Abdulkerim Pasha, Nihat Pasha, Hasan Riza Pasha, Ahmet Izzet Pasha, Ismail Fazil Pasha, Cafer Tayyar Pasha, Selahattin Adil Bey, Ismet Bey.
Bilal Simsir has done extensive research on those who were exiled to Malta, based on the British documents. Those who are interested may refer to his work.
6 The Sevres Treaty
The Mundros Truce Agreement was signed on 30 October 1918. The Sevres Treaty between Turkey and the Allies was signed by the Ottoman representatives on 10 August 1920.
The agreements made with Germany and Austria had been prepared and signed much earlier. One may wonder about this delay, as the destiny of the Ottoman Empire had already been determined during the war. One reason is the Turco—Greek war and the disputes which arose with the Arab world, and this is outside our topic of discussion. The other reason is the Armenians.
The problem created by the Armenians was not the question, what would happen to them, but what would happen to the lands relinquished to Russia by the agreements made during the war. The British attempted to give this region to the mandate of the United States of America, and thus create a buffer between Russia and the Arab world, but they were not successful.
Another problem was that although the USA, not having fought against Turkey, did not sign the peace agreement, she had a say in every subject when the agreement was being prepared.
As we know the attitude of France and Britain, let us now attempt to determine the attitude of the USA.
Before the USA entered the war, she had been informed of all the agreements made concerning the division and partition of the Empire. Colonel House, the special envoy of President Wilson, describes a meeting in 1915 with members of the British War Cabinet, including Prime Minister Asquith, Grey, Lloyd George, Balfour, and Lord Reading, in which peace terms were discussed: ‘We all cheerfully divided up Turkey, both in Asia and Europe. The discussion hung for a long while around the fate of Constantinople.’
The USA was not included in the partition agreements, and had never considered them as a document that was binding on her. However, she did not make any objection, and wanted to remain outside subjects concerning the European powers.
Without any doubt the USA was the country where anti-Ottoman views were most prevalent in that period. The information sent by the Protestant American missionaries in Turkey from the 1890s onward, and ‘the attitude of the press has poisoned public opinion in the United States with regard to the Turkish people to such an extent that a member of that race is seldom thought or spoken of in this country otherwise than as the “unspeakable”....Nor was the government itself impartial in its opinion and attitude concerning the present or the future of the Ottoman state.... When Woodrow Wilson was considering the appointment of ambassadors shortly after his election in 1912, Colonel House suggested Henry Morgenthau as Ambassador to Turkey; Wilson replied, ‘There ain’t going to be no Turkey,’ to which House rejoined, ‘Then let him go look for it.’
When the United States entered the war, diplomatic relations with Turkey were severed on 20 April 1917, but no declaration of war took place between the two countries. For this reason there was no question of the United States signing the agreement which was going to be prepared at the Paris Peace Conference.
When war was declared on Germany, the former Ambassador to Istanbul, Morgenthau, met with Lansing, the US Secretary of State, and convinced him, stating that Turkey had become tired of her German masters, and that she might reach a separate agreement with them. President Wilson too, found the idea suitable, and decided to send Morgenthau to Palestine, not to engage in negotiations, but to develop a view of the situation and on the pretext of investigating the condition of the Jews. Since this mission necessitated the cooperation of Jewish leaders, enquiries had been made to the British Government for the participation of Dr Chaim Weizmann in the mission. Because the subject of Palestine could only be resumed with the defeat of Turkey, Balfour charged Weizmann with the duty of persuading Morgenthau to abandon this project, and he had been successful.
When the Treaty of Versailles was being discussed at the Congress in 1919, Wilson stated that he had been informed of the secret agreements for the first time during the Conference. This was not true; he had been informed much earlier. As a matter of fact, when Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, came to Washington on 22 April 1917, they had discussed what their war aims would be without making an official discussion of it. Colonel House recorded in his diary: ‘Constantinople was our next point. We agreed that it should be internationalized. Crossing the Bosphorus we came to Anatolia. It is here that. the secret treaties between the Allies come in most prominently. They have agreed to give Russia the region of Armenia and the northern part of Turkey. The British take in Mesopotamia [and the region] which is contiguous to Egypt. France and Italy each have their spheres, embracing the balance of Anatolia up to the Straits. It is all bad and I told Balfour so. They are making it a breeding ground for future war.'
The United States also had their notorious 14 points which Wilson had personally announced on 8 January 1918 and which had been established as the basis for peace. The 12th point concerned Turkey, and stated: ‘The Turkish part of the present Ottoman Empire must be granted the right of secure sovereignty. The other nations which are now under Turkish rule must be granted the possibility of autonomous development, as well as a right to life which would leave no room for doubt. The Straits will be under an international guarantee, and must always be open to the free passage of ships of all states and for their commerce.’
Such was in summary the attitude of the United States as she took part in the Peace Conference.
We mentioned that Talat Pasha had made attempts for peace through the Spanish Embassy in Washington. Mr Lansing, the American Secretary of State, replied on 30 October that he would submit this request to the Allies. On the same day the Mundros Agreement was signed. The Peace Conference began in January 1919. We shall not consider it in detail, even as regards Turkey. We only want to mention briefly the parts concerning the Armenians.
The minutes of the Conference meetings concerning the Turkish Agreement was translated into Turkish by Osman Olcay. It is possible to follow the matters discussed in these meetings, to which the Ottoman Empire representatives had not been invited, from the minutes.
Another interesting source to be referred to, for the general climate of the Peace Conference, would be Lloyd George’s book. We shall make a few quotations from this book.
The Armenians took part in the Paris Peace Conference with two delegations. Aharonian presided over the delegation representing the Armenian Republic, and Bogos Nubar Pasha presided over the group called the National Delegation, which in a way represented all Armenians. These delegations gave a note to the Conference on 12 February, and requested that an independent Armenia be established, including the Caucasian Armenian Republic, Cilicia, and seven provinces; that it be given to the mandate of one of the powers; and that those who had taken part in the massacres should be punished.
The Conference listened to them on 26 February. They repeated their demands. In his book, Lloyd George states that the explanations made by Bogos Nubar Pasha were ‘fairy tales’, and that Aharonian was ‘as contradictory and confused as Bogos Pasha’.
The Conference was of the opinion that Armenia should be under the mandate of a great power. President Wilson seemed to be inclined to accept this mandate. It is useful to take a look at what Lloyd George wrote about the mandate of Armenia.
But when the question of a mandate over Armenia and the Straits was concerned, the President [Wilson] took a much more sympathetic view of that project. It was obvious that we could not agree to any settlement which would leave the remnant of the persecuted population of Armenia to the cruel mercies of the race which had massacred, outraged, and pillaged it for a generation and continued it through and right up to the end of the War. But Armenia, with its depopulated and dispirited remnants, could not stand alone against the Turks on the one hand, and the Bolsheviks on the other. It was essential therefore that we should find a mandatory Power which would undertake as a humane duty the protection of this harried Christian community in the mountains of Armenia.
It was obvious that neither France, Britain, nor Italy could undertake that task. They were already overburdened with the weight of the mandates they had accepted in Mesopotamia, Palestine, Anatolia, Syria, Africa, and the Southern Seas. So heavy were these burdens that Italy ultimately shrank from undertaking her share in Anatolia. Britain had disembarrassed herself of her task in Mesopotamia; France renounced the mandate for Cilicia in 1920.
Russia would have been the most fitting choice for a mandatory in Armenia and the Straits. Up to the Revolution her religious sympathies were engaged in a crusade for the protection of the Christian communities in Turkey. It was her military intervention that had emancipated the Christians of the Balkans and a portion of the Christians in the Armenian valleys. Had it not been for our sinister intervention, the great majority of the Armenians would have been placed, by the Treaty of San Stefano in 1978, under the protection of the Russian flag.
When the Sykes—Picot conversations were transferred to Petrograd, the fate of Armenia was one of the subjects of negotiation. It was there decided that the northern half of Armenia should be placed under Russian control, and the southern half under the French.
But the Russian Revolution, and the advent into power of a Government with different enthusiasms and with a totally different view of its aims and responsibilities, had put Russia out of the question as a mandatory even had she been prepared to accept the trust. The secret treaties, by which Constantinople and the Straits and half the province of Armenia were to be placed under the dominion of the Tsars, were promptly repudiated. The minds of the peasants, workers and bourgeoisie alike were concentrated not on reforms in Armenia, or the redress of Armenian wrongs, but on the overthrow of oppression and misgovernment in Russia itself and the reconstruction of a system which had been responsible for reducing the majority of the people of so rich a country to poverty, misery and slavery.
Neither Britain nor Italy was prepared to step into the shoes of Russia, and although France was ready and even eager at that time to secure dominion over the southern part of Armenia, she was by no means prepared to extend her control to the northern part of the province. French, British and Italians alike were driven to the conclusion that America alone was capable of discharging adequately the responsibilities of a mandatory. When the delegates of the Great Powers assembled at the Conference to examine the dificulties, it became clear that America was the only mandatory who would have been acceptable to all alike.
The idea of the annexation of Armenian by a foreign country vanished with the disappearance of Russia from the scene. Since the Sykes—Picot negotiations of 1916, the idea of self-determination had grown considerably in strength, and it now dominated the whole peace policy of the Alliance. The Armenians who, before and during the war, had been quite happy at the prospect of becoming a province in a Christian Empire, had set their minds now on restoring Armenia to its pristine glory as an independent country.
Lloyd George narrates in detail that President Wilson took up this idea seriously, but that on his return to the United States he was unable to persuade Congress to accept it. He goes on to write that the United States did not take part in the conference which was held in April 1920 in San Remo. At this conference the issue of Armenian borders was once again discussed, and it was extensively debated whether Ezurum should be given to the Armenians, despite the fact that its population was entirely Muslim, and whether this city which was under Turkish occupation could be taken by the Armenians. Some observations made by Berthelot, the French representative, and Lord Curzon during this conference are worthy of mention. For example, Berthelot stated that ‘The United States of America conceives a great Armenia. But this conception does not have a solid basis, and is not in accordance with reality. A more logical approach would be to take Russian Armenia, which had a population of 400—500,000. And this was being threatened from outside. But nevertheless it existed and formed the historical Armenia.’ Despite this statement, Berthelot at the same time thought it favourable that Erzurum be given to the Armenians. Curzon made the following observation: ‘From all points of view, Erzurum is at a dominating position, and to relinquish it to the Turks would make an independent Armenia impossible. A new Pan—Islamic or a Pan—Turanian movement could reappear. The London Conference, which has thought of this possibility, is of the opinion that a barrier, formed by a Christian community, between the Muslims of Turkey and those in the East is desirable for the continuation of world peace. And this barrier will be the new Armenian State.’
It is necessary to look for the reason as to why the United States did not accept the Armenian mandate, in the reports of the King—Crane Commission and the G. Harbord Commission.
The King—Crane Commission was conceived as an Allied commission formed by three states, primarily to examine the situation in Syria. The British at first accepted this offer, which was made by the United States. To begin with, the French had agreed to take part, but later they refused to do so. The British did not take part either, and thus the representatives of the USA were left alone.
The King—Crane Commission stated that it would be appropriate that some Turkish lands be given to Armenia, which would be founded by taking lands from Turkey and Russia, because of the misfortunes which had befallen this nation. It added that the region which would be taken from Turkey should not be too large, and that it would be impossible to suggest an Armenia extending from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The Commission emphasized that a powerful mandatory state was necessary.
The point which was emphasized in the report of General Harbord was the following:
Very alarming reports had been received from Transcaucasia for several months before its [the mission’s] departure from France, particularly as to organized attacks by the Turkish Army impending along the old international border between Turkey and Russia. The itinerary of the mission through Turkey was planned with those reports before it and with the intention of observing as to their truth and if possible to exert a restraining influence. We practically covered the frontier of Turkey from the Black Sea to Persia, and found nothing to justify the reports. The Turkish Army is not massed along the border; their organization is reduced to a skeleton; and the country shows an appalling lack of people, either military or civilian.
The mission believes that the power which takes a mandate for Armenia should also exercise a mandate for Anatolia, Roumelia, Constantinople, and Transcaucasia.
The United States did not accept the mandate for these reasons. Upon this President Wilson was asked to be the arbitrator in the issue of drawing Armenia’s borders. He accepted this task.
As a result of this, Articles 88 and 89, concerning the Armenians, were included in the Sevres Treatry, along with Article 230 which indirectly concerned the Armenians.
These Articles were:
Article 88. Turkey notifies, as the other states have, that she recognizes Armenia as an independent and free State.
Article 89. Like the other signatories, Turkey and Armenia have decided to submit the task of determining the borders between Turkey and Armenia in the provinces of Van, Erzurum, Trabzon, and Bitlis, to the President of the U.S.A., and to accept his decision on this issue, as well as all the other statutes he may offer concerning Armenia’s access to the sea, and the demilitarization of all the Ottomand Lands bordering on the said frontier.
Article 230. The Ottoman Government is responsible for surrendering the individuals, requested by the Allied Powers, who were responsible for the mass killings which occurred during the war in any area which was part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914.
The Istanbul Government tried to resist so as not to sign the Treaty and to change it. The powers gave the Babiali a deadline until 27 July at midnight to accept the agreement. The Agreement was then accepted and signed on 10 August.
What would have happened if it had not been accepted? In fact, the National Government in Ankara never accepted this Treaty, and Sevres was put away before it came into force. Nothing else would have happened if Istanbul, too, had not recognized it. The country, including Istanbul, was occupied anyway. The victorious powers would not be able to do anything more. If the Istanbul Government had refused to sign, nothing would have changed, but those who refused to sign would have been remembered later with approval. But there was no such person in Istanbul at that time.
- The Armenian File
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