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Documents Concerning The Incidents in Talori


OTTOMAN ARCHIVES YILDIZ COLLECTION THE ARMENIAN QUESTION I -TALORI INCIDENTS
 

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The 1890’s were years in which the Ottoman Empire struggled with the separatism, anarchy, terror, and insurrection that had broken out in its Anatolian territories. Such separatism, anarchy, terror, and insurrection continued at regular intervals until the end of the eighteenth year of the 20th Century and from time to time turned into bloody conflict and played an important role in the collapse and disappearance of the Ottoman Empire.

The perpetrators of this separatism, anarchy, terror, and insurrection were communities of Armenians-a minority people which for centuries had lived in peace and affluence in the empire and to which the state referred as its “faithful subjects”. In no part of the empire did the Armenians constitute either a majority of the population nor did they possess cultural unity. They lived instead in units of habitation that were scattered and isolated from one another. Living under circumstances of mutual love, respect, and trust with the greater Turkish majority, the Armenians were indispensable elements of society’s economic life; in virtually every level of government administration they assumed duties and performed services.

By 1890, the formation of the secret Armenian committees was completed. Established outside the territories of the Ottoman Empire, these committees had the direct-or indirect- support of missionary and church organizations in Europe (principally Great Britain and Russia) and in the United States.

The common goal of these committees was to bring about the establishment of an independent Armenian state in the Anatolian territories of the Ottoman Empire and the principle methods they followed to achieved this involved the fostering of separatism, anarchy, terror, and insurrection.

The fourth section of the program of the Hunchak Committee, an organization founded in Switzerland in 1887 declares: The only way of achieving this short-term objective is by a revolutionary movement completely overthrowing the present form of administration in Turkish Armenia and encouraging the people to rebel against the Turkish government. The means of achieving such activities are cited as: 1. Propaganda; 2. Terror; 3. Organization of vigilante groups; 4. General revolutionary organization; 5. Organization of revolutionary squads. The sixth article declared: The outbreak of war between Turkey and any other country is the most opportune for the beginning of a general revolution.

The goals of the Dashnaksutiun Committee set up in 1890 were to gain political and economic freedoms for Turkish Armenia through insurrection and to achieve independence. Their first activities were to infiltrate marauding bands into Turkey; to arm southern and eastern Anatolia (the areas they referred to as “Turkish Armenia”); to instruct villagers in the use of arms; to establish bands of militia and train their leaders; to set up defense organizations; and after all these preliminaries, to bring the Kurds over the their side and cause a general insurrection.

The goal shared by the committees, by the Armenian church, and by many missionary organizations was the establishment of an Armenian state that would encompass the eastern and southeastern parts of the Ottoman Empire and that would possess commercial seaports, one on the gulf of Iskenderun in the south and the harbor of Trabzon in the north. The term “Armenia” however lacked any geographical or political meaning and was a name that was invented-beginning particularly with the beginning of the Crusades-by those who were in favor of driving the Turks from Anatolia and who made use of it as material for propaganda. The areas that it was declared to include extended from the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea. The term eventually entered the political literature after the war of 1877-78 and maintained an important place in the plans to partition the Anatolian territories of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

The model and methods of action that the Armenian committees and their partisans took as their example in order to achieve their aims centered around the circumstances that the Ottoman Empire found itself in Europe-particularly in the Balkans-where the revolutions and rebellions of Christian and Slavic communities secured the great support of European countries and of Russia, thus enabling them to become free and independent states. The same method might be applicable in Anatolia: Armenian communities living in the eastern and southeastern regions of Anatolia could achieve “an Armenian cultural unity and an awareness of freedom and independence”; under the pretext of reforms they could be equipped with more freedoms as well as with a greater voice and authority in government, whereby political and administrative hegemony could be established over the local Turkish majority; ultimately, independence could be achieved. The means of achieving exactly this were set up under the system provided for by the Treaty of Berlin that stipulated the making of reforms in the region. The Ottoman Empire assumed responsibility for such reforms and even undertook them. European states-foremost among them Great Britain-and Russia became in a sense the overseers and inspectors of the reforms that were to be made. What remained now was to force the empire to undertake reform activities that would serve Armenian aims and if the empire failed to initiate such reforms or else achieve them in line with Armenian expectations, then-just as happened in the Balkans-the attention of the countries of Europe could be drawn by means of campaigns, revolutions and insurrection and their intervention thus achieved for the desired purpose. This then was the underlying goal in all the Armenian separatism, anarchy, terror, and insurrection that broke out in the 1890’s.

It was obvious that no innovation or improvement undertaken by the Ottoman Empire would have satisfied the goals and expectations of this campaign. None of the many measures, legal arrangements, and efforts aimed at determining regional requirements initiated by the Ottoman government after the treaty were satisfactory either to Great Britain or to the Armenian committees and their partisans; but the conflict of British and Russian interests in the area led to serious complications.

In point of fact the existence of an independent Armenian state in eastern and southeastern Anatolia (along the lines envisaged by the Armenians) served the interests and expectations neither of Russia nor of the rest of Europe. Russia imagined that an Armenian state set up in this region would ultimately block its hopes and aims of reaching the Mediterranean; furthermore its existence would create numerous problems inasmuch as it would incite the Armenians in its own territories to revolt for independence. France was: absolutely opposed to any form of Armenian independence that would be guided by Britain. Britain was concerned that Armenian problems would lead to a further weakening of the Ottoman Empire and it was making its calculations as to how conditions for intervention might be created without delay, particularly in the regions that were close to its sources of petroleum. The Armenians on the other hand were acting blithely unaware of all this: they accepted as a matter of principle that Russia and Europe supported them and would continue to support them. In the 1890’s, they anticipated their greatest support as coming from Britain-or rather, from those who governed Britain at the time.

It was just these conflicts of interests and expectations regarding the territories and resources of the Ottoman Empire that gave direction to Armenian incidents and Armenian activities. The Armenian committees and their partisans alike were all individual pawns in a bigger game that was under way. The activities and incidents that were the consequence of this situation appeared in the form of Armenian anarchy, terror, separatism, and insurrection that began in the 1890’s and lasted until the Ottoman Empire entered the first world war-a conflict in which Armenians were in the position of being forces at war with the Ottoman state. Armenian units served as vanguards for the czarist armies aimed at eastern and southeastern Anatolia and from time to time took their side. The rear and supply lines of the Turkish armies who were on the defensive against Russian forces were threatened by the Armenians and interrupted by them. Small units that were sent as reinforcements were annihilated. Armenian units based in Syria in 1919 after the war served as advance guards for French incursions into Anatolia. Armenian regiments and battalions that had accompanied Russian forces into Anatolia subsequently attempted to fill time vacuum created in eastern Anatolia with the withdrawal of czarist Russian forces from that region. Ultimately through the national struggle undertaken by the Turkish nation to preserve and protect its national existence managed to establish, as a result of its encounters with Armenian military forces, an eastern border that would ensure the integrity of its homeland and thus the chain of activities and incidents that began with the Armenian separatism, anarchy terror, and insurrection of the 1890’s and was filed with feelings of revenge, hatred, rancor, and enmity towards Turks came to an end with the struggle in the battlefield. Or so it was thought in the 1920’s; for beginning in 1973, these feelings of revenge, hatred, rancor, and enmity towards Turks were now directed against the Republic of Turkey and its representatives overseas and they persisted for twelve years during which time, nearly a hundred Turks were killed and nearly three hundred wounded. Organizations that supposed they could gain the support of world public opinion by distorting historical events and facts and that they could make themselves respectable through terror and anarchy succeed only in earning the world’s disgust Nevertheless, the enmity towards Turks and the attempts to distort historical events still continue and they appear now in the form of an alleged “Armenian genocide”. This is a theme that has been embroidered upon for years. Many publications have explained that there never was-could never have been- an Armenian “genocide” and they have proven so; whereas not one shred of evidence proving the existence of genocide has been adduced. This has not brought propaganda to a halt. Archives have been opened and documents published. That has not satisfied them. Then the assertion was made the Ottoman archives were closed and that all the sources concerning Armenian matters were laid out there. This is the point that we have reached today.

With the present volume, the Foundation for the Establishment and Development of Historical Research and Documentation Centers embarks upon a new service. It has decided to publish documents in its possession that are also in the Ottoman archives. This volume, Documents concerning the Incidents in Talori, is the first of the series which as a whole will encompass fifteen volumes and whose documents will endeavor to set out in the view of world public opinion the rebuttal to many a distortion of historical fact.



The Incidents in Talori or The First Sasun Rebellion

Neither the rebellion taking place in Erzurum on 20 June 1890, nor the demonstrations at Kumkap? in 1890, nor the incidents taking place in Merzifon, Kayseri, or Yozgat in 1892-93 were successful in putting into operation the system of intervention set up under the Treaty of Berlin. The Ottoman government did not give in to political sallies and demands concerning reforms in Anatolia made by Britain in the 1880’s on the basis of that treaty the attention that was desired of them. Armenian committees regarded the events taking place and the attempts at insurrection as being insufficient: the attention required of Europe had not been attracted and the incidents remained localized. Unless a real example of rebellion and fighting could be adduced, all the years of the effort of propaganda and agitation among Armenians would turn out to be for naught; similarly it would be impossible to activate the system of intervention by turning the reforms the Ottoman government had assumed responsibility for into a matter of international concern.

These considerations led to the necessity of a new outbreak of incidents; but this time, they had to occur in a place where Armenians were relatively numerous and could act in concert. The place also had to have such a geographical location that it would be considered vital by the Ottoman Empire and at the same time attract the interest of the countries of Europe. The place also needed to be suitable for mass armed action by Armenians, and it should cause a considerable loss of time for the Ottoman forces that would be dispatched. At the same time, violent acts committed against the local Muslim population should force them to resist in return and thus give the incidents the appearance of a massacre of Armenians by Muslims.

For this purpose, Talori and its vicinity, located in the county of Sasun in the province of Siirt was chosen.

The Talori region consists of Talori itself and of the villages attached to it. It is known as an extremely mountainous and inaccessible area southeast of Mu? between the counties of Sasun and Gençin Kulp. (See Document Number 15/29.)

This region, whose population was nearly entirely Armenian, was selected as a geographical base for acts of anarchy, terrorism, and separatism. Propaganda activity beginning in the 1890’s prepared the local populace for insurrection.

The “Incidents in Talori” have been referred to and published by authors studying the Armenian question and problems under the names of the “Sasun Rebellions” and the “First Sasun Rebellion”. The reason for this was the fact that from the standpoint of its administration the center of habitation and environs of Talori were part of Sasun; furthermore, from the standpoint of geography, it displayed and was a continuation of all the topographical features of the Sasun area. Armenian authors and experts on the subject in particular considered “Sasun” the center of Armenian insurrection and revolution and thus referred to all the incidents taking place here under that heading.

In actual fact the Armenian insurrection of 1894 took place in Talori, in the villages bound to it, and in the Talori region. “Mount Anduk” (Andok) in the vicinity became the mustering ground for Armenian insurrectionists, bands, and terrorists. This is an intractable, inaccessible region of great heights and meanly approaching it-much less undertaking military operations in it-was possible only with great difficulty. In the documents presented in this volume, all the Talori and Talori region rebellions are referred to by such names as “Armenian activities” and “Armenian separatism”.

As an examination of the documents will show, the Talori incidents bear all the characteristics of a planned, organized rebellion with its own chain of command. One could even say that the Talori incidents are one of the most important of the Armenian insurrections bearing these attributes. With the exception of a few of the villages in the region, virtually all of the inhabitants of the local Armenian villages participated in the insurrection as did bands coming from elsewhere and specially-trained terrorists and foreign propagandists clandestinely brought into the region from abroad. A band of insurrectionists amounting to three thousand in number annihilated all the Turkish villages in its path or that it came across. People were murdered by means of the most horrible tortures. The grossest assaults were made upon the beliefs and sacred values held by the Muslim populace. The state and its forces were totally disregarded. After a preparatory stage lasting about four years, the incidents that broke out in May 1894 turned into a state of utter terror and anarchy that persisted locally until August and after the beginning of that month, they began spreading in various directions from the Talori region. Skirmishes with the first military unit sent to the region finally broke out on 21 August 1894 and the rebels mobilized themselves on Mount Anduk. Military forces could be amassed but with difficulty and were unable to move set out for the region until 25 August. Operations began on 27 August and came to a close in a very short time. (Military operations ceased on 3 September.) The leader of the rebels and his cohorts where captured on 9 September and the region was purged of all rebels, bands, and terrorists by the seventeenth of that month. Activities after this concentrated on measures needing to be taken to prevent further outbreaks of Armenian separatism in the region, particularly in the triangle delimited by Mu?, Bitlis, and Van.

The Ottoman government-particularly Sultan Abdülhamid II- attached great importance to the incidents taking place at Talon. The orders of the sultan refer to it as an important insurrection threatening the existence of the state and as such reveal all the particulars of the period as well as its sense of centralized administration. One could say that the military action was directed by the sultan’s orders and that it was through this approach that it was possible to put down the rebellion in so short a time.

Abdülhamid II has the following to say regarding his appraisal of the “Incidents in Talori”: It is the decree of his majesty this sultan that for these insurgents to have reached three thousand in number, for their numbers not to have been previously investigated, and for them to have been discovered after they had reached three thousand are the consequence of great negligence and heedlessness; that situations similar to this could have taken place elsewhere only in deserts outside a state’s control; that this subject should have in fact been regarded as a matter of state concern; that with the outbreak of such incidents as these as a consequence of negligence and heedlessness great opportunity and occasion would have been given- God forbid-for intervention on the part of foreigners and for anarchistic and terrorist acts on the part of certain separatists, as happened in the case of the Otluköy and Bosna-Hersek incidents that took place before the war in Rumelia and whose consequences are known to the chief of general staff...

The details of the Talon incidents are given in a report dated 16 September 1894 (Volume 15/Document Number 29) by Field Marshall Zeki Pasha, commander of the Fourth Army.

The Talori insurrection was also important from the standpoint of its consequences. With the Talori incidents, efforts were begun to put into operation (particularly by Great Britain) the system of intervention set up by the Treaty of Berlin. Under the leadership-indeed pressure-of Britain, France and Russia also began taking action concerning these events. Representatives of all three countries engaged in inspections and investigations in the region and took part in committees of inquiry. Thus the “Anatolian reforms” gained currency and the door was opened for disagreements and disputes that were to last for years. The incidents in Talori were also of great importance in raising the question of the Armenians to an international level. The exaggerated and distorted information in the reports that the consuls of foreign countries submitted to their embassies and to their home offices as well as the news reports that the European press disseminated to its readership turned the Armenians into a subject that all of Europe concerned itself with.

Developments concerned with the end of the Talori incidents will be included in the later volumes of this series as well.

The events at Talori also revealed the problems that the Ottoman Empire had with matters such as government and local administration. The concordance-on lack of it-on the subject of the Armenians between the attitudes and views of the sultan on the one hand and on the other the opinions and behavior of his grand viziers and other officials became even more evident with the outbreak of these incidents and the appearance of their consequences. Documents concerned with this will also appear in later volumes.

To summarize, the Talori incidents assumed a place in history as the most important problem faced by the Ottoman state with regard to the Armenians and as a question threatening the existence of that state. Unless it is realized at the very least that the facts surrounding the Talori incidents are the beginning, there is no possibility at all of discovering the truth on the subject of the Armenians. 



Documents concerning the Incidents in Talori

In the group of documents divided into forty separate volumes in the Foundation’s archives under the heading of “Y?ld?z Collection-the Armenian Question”, the documents concerning the “Incidents in Talori” makeup the fourteen and fifteenth volumes. These documents consist of bound photographs of the originals of official military correspondence in the office of chief of general staff R?za Pasha that was presented to Sultan Abdülhamid II in October 1894.

At the beginning of the documents is a table to which is appended the following statement (dated 28 October 1894):

Upon the verbal instructions received from his majesty the sultan, copies were made, for submission to the exalted presence, from military records of all the correspondence with the office of the field marshall from the beginning of the Talori incidents to their conclusion, of the information submitted to the exalted presence, and of the commands of his majesty the sultan directly concerned with the Talori incidents or issued in response to queries made for approval and being written down below are submitted together with their tables of contents.

The documents that the Foundation will be publishing under the title of “Y?ld?z Collection-The Armenian Question” on the subjects of Armenian incidents and activities and the measures taken and policies pursued in response to them in a sense are a private archive that Abdülhamid II had made entirely for himself out of copies taken from a variety of official sources. The originals of all these documents are to be found in the “Y?ld?z Collection” in the Ottoman archives and also in the classified documents of the officies with which they are concerned.

These documents will be published in order of date. There are forty documents in Volume 14 and forty-five in Volume 15. They have been prepared for publication together with their transcriptions into the modern alphabet, renderings into modern Turkish, and translations into English with all their features fully preserved.

A study of Documents concerning the Incidents in Talori will clarify for the reader many subjects on which there has been falsification, one of these being the matter of the Hamidiye regiments.

As a rule Abdülhamid did not want units of the militia or the so-called Hamidiye regiments deployed in the events in Talori. He permitted one cavalry unit of the Hamidiye regiment to serve in the region, this arising from an urgent, last-minute exigency. Nevertheless, heedful of a number of rumors concerning these regiments, he specified the regiment’s duties and the rules they must follow when performing those duties and he explicitly ordered that they were tube employed more to keep the peace than to engage in military action. (Documents Volume 15/19, 27, 28, 41, 42, etc.)

Another matter that will attract the reader’s interest is the nature of government in this period. Everything was dependent upon the sultan’s orders. The movement of two companies of soldiers, a cannon, and a military detachment from one place to another by the military commander required the orders of the sultan.

At the beginning, the Talori incidents were dealt with by the state as a simple matter of peace-keeping and the reason was that the information coming in from local authorities presented it within a very narrow framework; so narrow in fact that the written request made by the governor of Bitlis to the interior ministry asking that a military unit be placed at the orders of each of the district heads was turned down. Indeed Abdülhamid II himself decided to deploy military units only at the very last moment in the face of events and his principal reason in this was his concern that doing so would bring the populace-Armenian minority communities though they may have been-into direct confrontation with military forces.

To summarize, Documents concerning the Incidents in Talori reveals the dimensions of the threats and dangers faced by the Ottoman Empire in the 1890’s, the administrative order, the correct analyses of Abdülhamid II regarding these events, and his insistent opinions concerning the defense of the state.

These explicit and authentic documents concerning the Armenian incidents possess the conclusiveness and power to enlighten all public opinion.

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- OTTOMAN ARCHIVES YILDIZ COLLECTION THE ARMENIAN QUESTION I -TALORI INCIDENTS
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