|ATATÜRK VE AHMET RÜSTEM BEY|
THE WORLD WAR AND THE TURCO ARMENIAN QUESTION
AHMED RUSTEM BEY
Formerly Turkish Ambassador in Washington,1918
PERSONAL EXPLANATION OF THE AUTHOR
The son of a Pole, who having been harbored in Turkey after the Hungarian abortive Revolution of 1848, served this country as an officer and was the object of government favors till his death, I was infeoffed to the Turkish people as much out of thankfulness as because of their numerous, amiable qualities.
In writing this book intended to defend turkey against the Western public opinion concerning the Turco-Armenian question, I have only given way to my grateful feelings towards the country where I was born and which made me, in my turn, the object of her benevolence. These feelings expressed themselves by acts of indubitable loyalty and there is they reason why I fought twice in duel to maintain her honor and served her as a volunteer during the Turco-Greek War.
It is after having ended my career and assured a long time ago of the kind feelings of the Ottoman Government and of my Turkish fellowmen’s that I publish this work under my name. Thereby I mean to say that I am only obeying my love towards the country. As to the degree of conviction with which I put my pen to her service in this discussion, where the question is to prove that Turkey is not so guilty as report goes and in which passions are roused to the utmost is sufficiently fixed by my signing this defense in which I speak the plain truth to the Armenian committees and the Entente. The explanations I have just given were necessary, for, in the presence of the difficulty in which I flatter myself to have put the opposite side to answer to my defense of Turkey, they will seek to attack me personally. They will perhaps say that an Ottoman of Polish origin who undertakes the defense of the Turk against the Armenian can only be a mercenary. They will say also that, having become a Musulman, I am only a renegade whose defense of the Moslem against the Christian cannot be taken into consideration.
What else will they not say?
Buy theirs will always be unseasonable arguments! Supposing that I were the unworthy man they will try to make of me, what would that prove? Two and two are none the less four had this truth been affirmed by a cheat or a murderer. Arguments speak for themselves. These having been admitted to be valid in themselves, the personality of the speaker contributes in no way whatever in annulling or confirming them.
Two words more: I am not in the least prejudiced against the Armenian, on the contrary; I admire them as a people possessing numerous, good qualities. I have among them many acquaintances and a few friends. Saying again what I wrote in the sentence which ends my work, I will say that, as an Ottoman, I deeply deplore the scission that intrigue has provoked between them and the Turk with whom they were made to live in concord. It is for those who have perpetrated this crime against history whose course they have thus turned aside, that, having become themselves again, the Armenian ought to reserve their maledictions.
Treatment of the non-Moslem in the Ottoman Empire.
Though very embarrassed in her relations with her Christian subjects whose faithfulness has never been above suspicion, Turkey has earnestly employed herself for nearly a century, in assuring to the non-Moslem elements under her rule the same treatment and rights and to the Moslems.
This idea animates the whole legislation elaborated in the Empire since the “Tanzimat” (era of reforms inaugurated by the proclamation of the Gulhane Charter in 1839) and was for the most part realized, when Russia herself more than ever attacked to a system of Government where her non orthodox subjects were condemned to a marked state of inferiority towards their fellowmen belonging to the State religion, dared to break war against her in 1876, under the pretext of getting its application. If the undertaken task had not been entirely accomplished by that time the reason of it is in the fact that the disappearance of the Mussulman supremacy would have given ground to perpetual blows between the different Christian sects whose hatred for each other was boundless (1).
This is how the French diplomat, Mr. Engelhardt, expresses himself on the said matter in his book “La Turquie et le Tanzimat” (Turkey and the Tanzimat): However, whilst emphasizing the advantages of a common form of Government, the Divan was careful not to uphold complete assimilation as it would have jeopardized Moslem predominance, which, according to its view, formed the only barrier against anarchy. This precaution found its reason in a fact which was undeniable at that time and could even pass as an axiom: that Moslem rule is one that divides “rayas” the least.
Furthermore, another difficulty, which was not the least of the hindrances encountered by the Sublime Porte in the execution of its task, and which should be born in mind, resided in the attitude of Christians themselves regarding the repeal of certain inequities to which they were subject in special spheres, and their refusal to relinquish privileges they enjoyed in other cases. This is also observed by Mr. Engelhardt, in the above mentioned work, in which he states on the matter: “This experience (the assimilation of non-Moslems to Moslems with regards to military service) bears in itself an unexpected lesson: it shows that during its evolution from theory to practice, the reform would be opposed by the very parties who would be the first to benefit therefrom, a difficulty which tended consequently to aggravate the particular problem upon the solution of which the Powers had laid special stress.”
However, the said author makes a grievous historical mistake in assuming that all the Powers were anxious to appease or satisfy the Christian subjects of the Sublime Porte, by adopting measures which would place them on a footing of equality with its Moslem subjects. As a matter of fact, whilst posing as a zealous defender of their cause, Russia would have been greatly disappointed had Ottoman orthodoxies been deprived of their grievances against the Porte, because her policy regarding Turkey had been for centuries notoriously directed towards preparing the means of conquering Constantinople, by fostering among her neighbors a state of chronic weakness which would have made them incapable of offering any serious resistance to her objects. Therefore, she encouraged them underhandedly to lay forward such claims as would prevent an understanding between them and the Porte. On the other hand, England and France and contrived, during the period extending from 1840 to 1878, to uphold the Empire’s internal and external consolidation: yet, they directed thereafter their efforts the other way about. The Revolution of 1908 which had apparently disarmed them because Turkey was thereby striding in the path of liberalism of which they claimed to be the High Priests, led them nevertheless to increase their hostility when they discovered that the Patriots who had set fire to the Yildiz despotism were determined to complete their task by freeing the country from foreign tyranny, the latter being quite as oppressive as the other.
However, Turkey persevered in her task, and for the past thirty years all distinctions have disappeared between non-Moslems and Moslems, although they had survived during centuries in her national economy merely on the strength of prejudices common both to the East and the West. The assimilation of rayas to the Empire’s Moslem subjects became complete, and the former can no longer complain even of this humiliating denomination, because it has been purged from Ottoman legislation with all unfavorable distinctions attached thereto.
However, whilst transforming the laws which established equality for all in matters of general administration, Turkey allowed her non-Moslem subjects to preserve their organization in distinct communities, which enjoyed complete autonomy from the religious, educational and judicial points of view; in the latter respect, merely in matters of personal statute. Speaking about the advantages of this situation, which dates back, regarding Greeks and Armenians, to the very morrow of the conquest of Constantinople, Mr. Philipp Marshall Brown, Professor of International Law at the Princeton University, states as follows in his book “Foreigners in Turkey and Their Legal Standing”: “Whatever may have been the motives which guided Ottoman Turks in their policy towards their Christian subjects, it is sufficient to note that without the help of powerful armies or of big fleets, Christian and other subjects of the Sublime Porte obtained extensive immunities of jurisdiction which were similar to those granted later on to foreigners.”
On the same subject, Mr. Brown’s book contains another remarkable statement: “This policy (the Turks’ policy towards their non-Moslem subjects), was in perfect harmony with Moslem law and thereby refutes the universal reputation of intolerance which has been so unjustly cast upon Turks.” This is a proof of historical integrity which we are pleased to find in a Western book dealing with Turkey, and which honors he who vouchsafed it. Relations between Christians and Moslems would be much improved were the spirit of fairness and impartiality in which the American author has treated his subject extended to all Westerners who claim to know something about Turkey.
Thus liberated, on the one hand, of the distinctions which had encumbered them in judicial and administrative matters, and maintained, on the other, in their ancient privileges, which favored their national development and guaranteed their spiritual freedom, the non-Moslem populations under Turkish domination acquired a status which forms a unique example of liberalism in the treatment of conquered races. As a matter of fact, have Russia, France or England, who boast of their attitude towards subject races and who have increased their territories by conquest, the same as Turkey, ever shown such generosity in the principles of their imperialism? The answer to this question is written large in the restrictive laws to which have been subjected, until latterly, Poland, Kiva and Bokhara; Algiers, Tunis and Indo-China; Ireland and India; to mention merely the countries deprived of their independence to the benefit of other Powers.
In this respect, we wish to insist only on one point. Turkish annals contain the names of many Christians: Greeks, Syrians, Armenians, who have been raised to the highest governmental and administrative positions. Thousands have been entrusted with subordinate officers. Yet, on the other hand, it has never happened that a native of British, Russian or French possessions has ever reached the rank of State Minister, of Special Envoy or of Governor-General; the thing itself is absolutely inconceivable, considering the high barrier raised between conquerors and conquered in the said countries. This prejudice is even extended to subordinate positions in Central Administrations, which are open only to Europeans and Christians, the Jews being excepted; but the latter do not represent a distinctly subject race. Further, administrative disqualifications to which are condemned Asiatic and North African populations under European domination, of which, nevertheless they would be quite capable of assimilating the culture provided they were earnestly assisted thereto, are aggravated by a social ostracism which galls their innermost feelings, and which makes the situation existing in Turkey appear in a more favorable light, because there non-Moslems are allowed to mix with the dominating element on a footing of perfect and friendly equality.(2)
It cannot be denied that Christians in Turkey, as such, have been subject to persecutions in times of old.
But the said have never reached the extent of horror raised by “Inquisitions”, “St. Bartholomews” or “Pogroms”, of which Europe has been the theater. And there is this further things to be said. Excesses committed in Turkey in the name of Islam were the deeds of the crowd or of individuals acting in their own account under the influence of an overpowering fanaticism, truly frequent, but always accidental; the Sultans or the government have never been responsible therefore except in their inaction to prevent or their slowness to repress. In Western States, on the other hand, the unbridling of religious passions was connected with an established official system, the object of which, coolly and firmly adopted, was the forced conversion or extermination of Protestants or Catholics, according to whether either of them belonged to the State religions.
It should be added to the list of religious tragedies of which Europe has been the scene, the bloody prosecutions against the Jews in Spain and their mass eviction from the Peninsula, when conviction gained ground that the most cruel tortures would not induced them to renounce the faith of their ancestors. The irony of fate caused the unfortunate evicted Jews to find a refuge in Turkey, in the alleged intolerant turkey, where they have now for the past four centuries lived to bless the kindness of their masters. How should we qualify the state of mind in Western countries which dares to accuse Turkey of fanaticism, forgetting the religious crimes it ought to reproach to itself, the monstrous iniquities of the “Holy” Inquisition, a monument of horror which has never and never will be equaled? Hypocrisy or unconsciousness; enough of it! (3)
The fact should be insisted upon: it is clearly evident from the comparative history of Turkey and of Western Countries, that the populations she has annexed by force of arms have enjoyed under her domination a political, national, religious and social status far superior to that of the populations which have passed in the same way under the domination of Europe. She has only been inferior to those States as an Imperial Power, in her incapacity to grant them the benefits of a good administration. In this respect, Europe and America have certainly the right to criticize her, but even then, the alleged different treatment is a false accusation, because the Turkish people have suffered as much as the populations associated with it from the defects of the administration it has given its Empire.
It should also be observed, in this respect, that non-Moslems had at least if not more to complain about their own spiritual chiefs than about Turkish authorities. To cull another statement from the book of Mr. Engelhardt: “The fact is undoubted that from this period henceforth (the XVIIIth century), the provinces attached to the Patriarchate of Constantinople had as much to suffer from the oppression of their ecclesiastical authorities as from the Pachas’ exactions, and as they were more directly in contact with them, the burden of their own masters weighed the heaviest.”
Such is the status of non-Moslems generally throughout the Ottoman Empire, as can be gathered from a calm and impartial study of historical facts. We are pleased to believe that the straightforwardness and accuracy with which we have attempted the above description will be evident in the eyes of even the most prejudiced reader, and that this statement of facts will cause him to acknowledge that Turkey is being scandalously libeled when accused to treating her Christian subjects as outcasts.
Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
We can now take up the matter concerning the relations between Turks and Armenians which is the special object of this book.
There is no doubt that in certain provinces inhabited by Armenians much cause for complaint was
due to the presence in the neighborhood of many Kurds, a race possessing numerous qualities but primitive and troublesome. It should be added, however, that accusations launched against the latter in this respect have been most partial and greatly exaggerated. In a report under the heading of “Statistics of the Provinces of Bitlis and Van”, addressed to his Government by General Mayewsky, Russian General Counsul during six years, first at Erzeroum and later at Van, this question is set forth in its real light. Here are some of the remarks on this subject made by the said Russian high official and soldier, in the above mentioned report which was published secretly to a limited number of copies by the Military Press of St.Petersburg. he deals therein with the Turco-Armenian question; his sincerity and good faith are striking, except with regards to the rather unpleasant part played by his country in this respect and which he passes over in silence.
“Without any exception whatever, the statements of journalists alleging that the Kurds are striving to exterminate Armenians should be rejected altogether. Were they founded on fact, no individual belonging to another race would have been able to live among Kurds, and the various populations inhabiting in their midst would have been compelled to become their slaves or to emigrate in order to procure a piece of bread. Yet, neither of these cases has been the fact. On the contrary, all those who know the Eastern provinces will certify that Christian villages in the said regions are certainly more prosperous than those of the Kurds. And if the latter were naught else but thieves and ruffians, the Armenians’ state of prosperity, which lasted until 1895, would never have been possible. Therefore, until 1895, the distress of Armenians in Turkey was but a legend. Their condition was not worse than that of Armenians in other countries. . .
“. . . The incidents about which Armenian revolutionists made such loud complaints, for instance murders and plundering, were just as frequent if not more so in Caucasus (Russia). Regarding the theft of cattle, this matter is of the same character as the robberies committed in various parts of Russia. With regards to the protection of life and possessions, wherever the Government exercised its authority, the said were even better guaranteed that in the district of Elisabetpol (Russia). . .
“. . . Kurd chiefs which had long acquired the reputation of being highwaymen and plunderers have been known to protect needy Armenians, even in troublesome times. No better proof can be given that Armenians lived in perfect friendship with Kurds, although the former’s committees denounced the latter as brigands. . .
“. . . However, there is no gainsaying the fact that in 1895-96, the Kurds were greatly excited against Armenians. But this fact does not at all imply the existence of a fundamental animosity between both races. . .
“. . . In 1895, the Armenian committees had raised such a distrust between Kurds and Armenians that no reform whatever could possibly last in those localities. . .
“. . . Here, in Sassoun, Armenians and Kurds had lived together for centuries on most amicable terms. . . In 1893, a man called Damadian appeared on the scene. . . a year later another called Boyadjian took his place. . . and following upon their activities, several riots occurred in a short time between both elements. . . ”
These observations are all the more interesting consider the fact that they were made by a representative in Turkey of a Power fundamentally hostile to Ottoman domination, and which has particularly exploited the Armenian question against her. They prove that Armenians and Kurds had lived on friendly terms for centuries and that, after a certain date, the latter conceived some animosity against the former; further, that the said distrust never assumed the excessive proportions alleged in Western countries, and, on the other hand, that it was merely the result of a discord designedly fostered between both races by the committees.
It should be added that, on their side, the Armenians of the mountainous region of Zeitoun, who had lived in a state of semi-independence until 1895, and who even after that date still constituted a center of trouble and disorder, committed assaults on the life and the property of Moslems inhabiting the neighborhood, which were just as violent and frequent as those they complained of by the Kurds.(4)
The Sublime Porte contrived its best to remedy the condition of both races. If, owing to the lack of convenient means of communications, it did not succeed in establishing peace and order in the regions situated on the extreme borders of the Empire and isolated from the Capital; if, generally speaking, it was not able to reform its administration, the fault lies to a great extent on the paralyzing influence exercised by the Capitulations on is financial and administrative action. This means that Europe incurred a considerable share of responsibility in the sufferings particular to Armenians, and in those of the whole Ottoman population, owing to the fact that it obstinately adhered to those abusive agreements inasmuch as they restrained Turkey’s economic independence.
If Armenians were more to be pitied than the remainder of their non-Moslems countrymen on account to the incidents of Kurdish violences – and in this respect, as explained hereabove, the case applied merely to a small number thereof and was counter-balanced to a certain extent, in the Turco-Armenian question, by the position of Zeitoun Moslems – they found favor, on the other hand, with Turkish authorities owing to their aptitudes for commerce, finance and administration, and were called upon as agents and counselors to fulfill positions which enabled them to acquire an economic and political situation unknown to the other Christian elements of the Empire.(5)
Attitude of Armenians Up to the Time of the Last Turco-Russian War.
Right up to the middle of the XIXth century, Armenians have proved themselves worthy of the above mentioned treatment. Their loyal and correct attitude as subjects, their devotion as officials to the interests of the Empire had earned them the surname of Millet-i-Sadika (the faithful people). Afterwards, unfortunately, Russian propaganda which had been content hitherto to deal with the Empire’s Greek and Slavonic subjects, began to pervade them through the intermediary of the Etchmiadjin Catholicos (the Armenians’ supreme authority which had its seat in Russia itself). Russian Armenians, men of letters and intellectuals, were set at work to create an anti-Turkish movement among their Russian and Armenian brethren. Thus, the germ of disaffection was sown from without, and found a favorable ground in the minds of many Armenian ideologists who had brought back from foreign countries the revolutionary microbe of 1848, and of a certain number of priests somewhat inclined to politics on account of their class’ indleness.(6)
In this matter, intriguing Russia set in motion among the Armenian people a movement which gradually won it over completely and transformed the “faithful people” into the most hostile element of the State. In fairness to them, however, it should be stated that in order to undermine their loyalty and bring about this radical change in their attitude, the unbalanced and unscrupulous politicians who had taken charge of their destines had to work to this end during seventy years, with the help of Russia as well as of England and France, the latter having joined the former in its enterprises against the Ottoman Empire.
The most remarkable facts about this first phase of the question under review, reside, on the one part, in this that Armenians obeyed to solicitations from Russia where their race, really oppressed and of which many revolted members had sought refuge in hospitable Turkey, would have suffered a thousand new persecutions for the slightest attempt to shake off the Tsar’s direct authority; and, on the other hand, in this that the Porte persisted in its attitude of parental good will towards them, unwilling to see in demonstrations akin to rebellion which began to break out in Erzeroum and elsewhere anything else but accidental and passing manifestations of discontent without any connection whatever with politics.
Therefore, as in the past, it kept aloof from all supervision over the Armenian Patriarchate’s educational and religious administrations, even continuing to grant official support to the Community’s national institutions and to cover from its own revenue the patriarchal budget’s annual deficit.
Thus was the situation when the war broke out between Turkey and Russia in 1876, and when the fortune of arms brought Grand Duke Nicholas’ army at San Stefano.
Unmindful of the real and extensive religious and national franchises which they enjoyed within the limits of their ecclesiastically autonomous administration, and unwilling to consider the difficulties which hindered the Porte’s endeavors to remedy the defects of it’s administration, the Armenians availed themselves of the presence Turkey’s most deadly enemy at the gates of her capital, to demand that one of the conditions of peace should be their constitution into a territorially autonomous element. A further fact aggravated their request: it was officially and openly set forth by Patriarch Nerses Varzabedian, who sent a delegation to the Russian commander-in-chief with a memorial asking that “the provinces of Asia Minor inhabited by Armenians be declared independent, or that, at the least, they should pass under the control of Russia.”
Yet this Power was not anxious to uphold those demands, although her fallacious promises had led Ottoman Armenians to formulate them. Setting them aside rather bluntly, she merely caused a priviso to be inserted in the San Stefano treaty stipulating reforms in favor of the Sultan’s Armenian subjects. In that, she had no more idea of securing an improvement in their condition than she had of creating a contrast between the latter and the situation of Armenians inhabiting her own territory. Her object was merely to reserve a pretext for intervening in Turkey’s internal affairs, to replace that of which she had availed herself hitherto and whereby she played the part of protector of the Empire’s Slavonic populations; this latter position having found its consummation in the clauses of the San Stefano treaty which gave satisfaction to the claims of Bulgarians, Serbians and Montenegrans.
The Cyprus agreement, concluded between Great Britain and Turkey, and the treaty of Berlin which took the place of the San Stefano conventions, reproduced this stipulation at the official request of Armenians, in the first case, in respect to England alone, and in the second, in respect to Europe collectively.(7)
Therefore, Armenians appeared at that time on the political scene of the world as disloyal subjects of the Empire, a position which their situation in the State, although imperfect, did not really warrant.
It is necessary to examine this point carefully. Long before the principle of nationalities had been formulated in Europe, Turkey had already applied it on a very large scale in her territories, this outburst of liberalism having been most astonishing for its epoch (XVIth century). No doubt, the autonomy granted to non-Moslem elements under her domination was based on their ecclesiastical organization, and not according to the principle prevailing in Austria-Hungary, on territorial circumscriptions. Yet, with respect to Armenians, the latter would have been unpractical, even had Turkey thought fit to adopt it, because she had to consider her interests as a State, and because the said race was dispersed throughout the Empire, the Moslem element composing the population inhabiting the territories that had been formerly an Armenian kingdom, having acquired predominance much before the Turkish conquest. As a people deprived a their independence, the Porte’s Armenian subjects could not reasonably and legitimately claim any other right than that of being well governed, as it was materially impossible to guarantee their ethnical and cultural individuality under different conditions of existence than those granted them in the Ottoman Empire. The way was naturally open to them to seek a remedy to their grievances in an alliance with their Moslem countrymen who suffered as much as they did from the imperial administration’s defects, and among whom had arisen a movement against Throne absolutism, the only responsible element in the case.(8)
Instead of that, they formed a separate body as if they did not belong to the same fatherland or could create a State of their own, and rather than work with the founders of the Empire of whose goodwill they had received ample proofs, they first sought the support of the Empire’s secular enemy, although he strove to destroy the very existence of their own race, and later that of Europe, hypocritical and far from disinterested. Had they not thereby committed foul treason, mixed with ungratefulness towards the Empire’s dominating element, and an unretrievable political mistake, from the point of view of their own interests as a national collectivity? Fate willed that, far from retracing their footsteps, they plunged headlong in their error, even after the Revolution of 1908, although the latter by abolishing the Hamidian rule had thereby done away with the only excuse they could invoke.
Attitude of Armenians After the Russian-Turkish War.
Deceived in their expectations by the Berlin Congress, which granted them merely an installment on their claims, and allowing themselves to be carried away by the example set by Greeks and Bulgarians, whose position was essentially different from that of Armenians and had made it possible to create an independent Greece and an autonomous Bulgaria, Armenian politicians soon engaged into a clearly revolutionary movement, by which they contrived to wrest from Europe in an indirect manner what they had not been able to obtain directly from her. Constituted into numerous committees, the most active of which were known by the names of Hintchak and Dachnak (9), they contrived to give their activity a violent form, by means of a campaign directed against turkey in foreign lands, and of a continuous series of attacks in the interior of the country. England, France and America were deluged by libels on the Ottoman Empire, by appeals to anti-Moslem prejudice, which alone the most perfidious form of malice could suggest. Armed rebellion broke out in the Empire on the slightest pretext; murders, rapes and plunderings were systematically carried out against Moslems. Thereby, the committees expected that reprisals would bring about the intervention of Europe. And that, in due course, the latter would tend to satisfy their political aspirations.
This design underlined all the committees’ ultimate endeavors, and on the other hand, they succeeded in making the occidental public believe their version that in the Turkish drama unfolding itself, Armenians were the victims of Moslems. Undoubtedly, occidental fanaticism was only too willing to accept this monstrous perversion of truth, and to make it the basis of another crusade. Furthermore, the Armenian question was calculated to create sooner or later an opportunity for Governments hostile to Turkey to fish in troubled waters.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that by its long-standing equanimity towards the propaganda of committees, and its spasmodic and most often clumsy interference, the Sublime Porte has greatly contributed itself to perpetuate a legend which finally succeeded in raising Europe and America against the Ottoman Empire, and in causing England, France and Russia to take common action against it. The fact is obvious: Turkey proved herself powerless to obtain justice before the tribunal of public opinion; the result of carelessness, of inexperience or of ill-conceived parsimony. She allowed herself to be convicted even in matters where right was clearly on her side.
The strenuous resolution of the committees, especially of the Dachnak, was such that in their subversive endeavors they did not scruple to murder members of their own race in easy circumstances who refused financial contributions, or who dared to disapprove of their ways, whether they judged things in a saner manner or whether they felt a certain amount of gratefulness towards the Turks.(10) The terrorism soon extended to the country side.(11) Furthermore, the comitadjis began to kill their brethren at random, under circumstance which would help to father the guilt for those crimes onto the shoulders of their much enduring Moslem countrymen. In this way they managed to involve in the movement the members of their race who had hitherto remained refractory to persuasion or intimidation.
Massacres of 1895-1896.
In spite of all, the Moslem population made no attempt to parry. Deprived of all protection in foreign countries where interest was only extended to the Empire’s Christian subjects, the Hamidian rule had reduced it to a state of insensibility almost akin to stupor. The answer came from another quarter. Exasperated by the committees’ boldness which cut his despotic vanity to the quick and wishing to put an end to their dealings in one fell swoop, Abdul Hamid determined to react against their provocations, which merely tended to shed Armenian blood, in such a way as to terrify them and show them that whatever happened in this respect, Europe, being disunited, would but interfere platonically. On the other hand, Russia perceived in this plan a means to further the policy of denationalization and extermination she pursued against the Armenian race in her own territories, and to discredit Turkey; she therefore, incited Armenians to greater violence, and encouraged the Yildiz Recluse to strike as hard as he could. (12) Such is the explanation of the 1895-1896 massacres.
The responsibility for this tragedy may be shared between the committees supported by England and France, Russia, whose double-dealing has been described hereabove, and Abdul Hamid. The Turkish people had nothing to do therewith, either in fact or intention. Their true feelings were expressed in Constantinople and the provinces where hundreds of Moslems at the peril of their lives saved many peaceful Armenians attacked by Yildiz myrmidons, and gave them a refuge, thus incurring the tyrant’s wrath. At any rate, western countries were fair towards Turkey and exonerated her from blame. Reprobation was cast on Abdul Hamid, who became known thereafter as the “Red Sultan”, as well as on the committees, a surprising demonstration of clear-sightedness in the fathering of responsibility for Turkish affairs, which, unfortunately, did not recur again during the prolonged Turkish-Armenian drama.
The result of the committee’s endeavors proved that Turkish soil had been sodden with Armenian blood, and that, as foreseen by Abdul Hamid, Europe merely protested in indignant tones; further, the desperadoes who formed those associations became the object of the Armenian people’s vituperations, the latter having been sacrificed by them to the wrath of Yildiz without any benefit to the race accuring therefrom. They renounced for the time being to their system of assaults against Moslems and rebellion against the imperial authorities. Thereafter, they concentrated their activity on the person of Abdul Hamid, resumed their strenuous campaign against him in foreign countries, and even fomented plots against his life, one of which almost succeeded. This was the famous bomb outrage at Yildiz, to which the Sultan escaped as if by miracle.
On their part, the Young Turk committees thinking that the change of plan in Armenian committees would give rise to a possible understanding between them, made overtures to the latter with a view to common action against Hamidian rule. The exorbitant claims set forth by the Armenian committees put an end to their negotiations. Things then dragged on until the Revolution of 1908, the success of which was exclusively the work of the Union and Progress committee.
In their enthusiasm following upon the breakdown of the Yildiz despotism, Turks and Armenians threw themselves in the arms of each other. This fraternization is proof that the former made a distinction between the committees and the Armenian people, the latter having remained faithful to the Empire, and the Armenians on their side, showed that they did not cast on the dominating race the responsibility for the Armenian blood so unjustly shed during the blind repression carried out in 1895 and 1896. (13)
Attitude of Armenians After the Revolution of 1908.
The historical date of July 23, 1908, marks the end of the second and the beginning of the third phase of the Turkish-Armenian question.
Naturally enough, the Union and Progress party assumed power in constitutional Turkey, the latter having acquired this character thanks to their efforts. The task which this group representing the fundamental element of the Empire has set itself to carry out was most legitimate. It consisted in reestablishing the country’s independence towards Europe, and in uniting all the races inhabiting Ottoman territory into a group filled with only one national conception: that of the preservation of Turkey as a reformed and progressive State. It is obvious that Union and Progress would succeed easier in this arduous task, if it found support among one of the Empire’s Christian elements. Therefore, they expected to obtain this support from Armenians.
There is a great affinity between the latter and the Turks, both being of Asiatic origin, intellect and customs. They have lived for centuries closely bound to one another in excellent terms of citizenship. No doubt, foreign intrigues had raised trouble in those relations, by giving rise among the former to a movement against the latter’s domination. But, as explained hereabove, although very violent, this movement was merely the work of a small minority composed of adventurers, of dreamers and fanatics. The majority of enlightened Armenians were deeply conscious of the artificial and politically immoral character of the committees’ seceding action;’ the commercial and industrial classes clearly saw that this movement threatened their material interests, and the mass of the working people, which had succeeded in attaining a prosperous condition in spite of the imperial administration’s failings, were also opposed to separation.
Would it be possible in this respect to disarm the said minority? This would have been indispensable, as it comprised the whole Armenian organization, and its propaganda constituted a great danger, although it had not hitherto been over successful. Besides its scabby sheeps, it included many disinterested parties whom it would be worth while to enlighten and win over, by proving to them that the major interests of the Armenian race cold find no better ground for development than in the Ottoman Empire, now that the constitution had created new guarantees, and considering also that former prerogatives had been safeguarded therein right until then. Separation, on the contrary, would not form a bulwark against the Russian menace, and as a matter of fact, the only real grievance of Armenians, that concerning the defects of imperial administration, would tend to disappear owing precisely to the radical change brought about in the political situation of the country.
All those considerations were set forth by Union and Progress to the Dachnak, the most honorably recruited of all Armenian committees, the one whose organization was the soundest, and which consequently offered the most chances of fruitful support in a task the object of which tended to consolidate the Empire internally, by subordinating the particular interests of the races inhabiting the land to those of their common fatherland. According to this program, they would each preserve their personal value, being merely reduced to a common denominator: Ottomanism. Armenians could easily accept this conception, as they had no sacrifice to make in this respect, their superior interests being identical with the Turks’.
There was in that appeal a most extensive basis for an understanding.
The Dachnakists answered thereto. An alliance was concluded between their group and the Union and Progress, in which the latter gave proof of their broadness of mind. For instance, they agreed that Armenians should have a number of seats in Parliament great than their numerical importance warranted. They also allowed their revolutionary committees, at the head of which figured the Dachnak itself, to survive the breakdown of Hamidian rule and to maintain their foreign ramifications, a thing particularly to be born in mind. They even went further. Forcing the interpretation given to the amnesty law covering political crimes and misdemeanors, they authorized the return to Turkey not only of Ottoman Armenians who had been most compromised under the former rule, including those who had committed horrible common law felonies, but also of revolutionary Armenians from Russia, who had exerted the most baneful influence on their local brethren, by inciting them to follow the path of propaganda by the deed.
Unfortunately, Union and Progress were sincere whereas the Dachnak were full of duplicity. Secretly clinging to their counterfeit ideal of autonomy, they had resolved to attain their ends, by availing themselves of the facilities allowed by the new Government. Almost on the morrow of their agreement with Union and Progress, they threw off their mask and started their campaign. Carried away by the wine of liberty, all the other Armenian organizations followed suit. This was more particularly the case with the Hintchak, which had been mortified by the fact that Union and Progress had preferred to deal with the Dachnak, it assuming thereafter an attitude as extreme as that of its rival. (14) Thus with great gusto, Dachnakists and Hintchakists, the educational and ecclesiastical authorities of the community and of numerous new associations, created for soi-disant benevolent and cultural objects, started a campaign purported to generalize the Armenian revolutionary movement. This action took the form of political dissoluteness, one of the most striking phenomenon of the new order of things.
Think of it: abusing of the freedom acquired by the country and which was added to the franchises they already enjoyed as an autonomous community, forming a real State within the State (15); thinking further that the concessions made by Union and Progress were due to weakness instead of considering them as the effects of too much confidence and perhaps of momentary elation, Dachnakists and Hintchakists, priests and school masters, writers and artists, undertook a frenzied propaganda the boldness of which was on par only with the tolerance shown by the new imperial authorities. The Press, the church, the theater, the school were used openly and impudently for the purpose of obtaining the support of the masses. Not a newspaper article, a sermon, a dramatic performance, or a conference out of ten, but the subject of which was independent Armenian, which it was the sacred duty of the race to re-establish by wresting the cocalled Armenian provinces from the domination of the “barbarous and sanguinary Turk”. When recalling that period to mind, one doubts whether it was not a dream. The only mistake of the Young Turk Government towards Armenians was to encourage their proceedings by its benevolent attitude. When it awoke from its strange heedlessness, at the eve to the present war, it attempted to react, but it was already too late. The action of Armenian leaders had succeeded in uniting the greatest majority of the people into a
compact group, which had resolved to avail itself of the first favorable opportunity to create an autonomous Armenia I the provinces of Eastern Anatolia which they obstinately claimed as their own, in spite of the facts laid down by statistics and history. In this, Armenians were supported by Russia, England and France, which had formally entered into a common policy of hostility towards the Empire after the Revolution of 1908.
The Adana Conflict.
The counter-Revolution of 12th April, 1909, seemed to provide the committees with the opportunity they required, although it broke out before their propaganda had produced the desired effect. Availing themselves of the temporary absence of Government, and thinking the Empire’s last hour had struck in the terrible crisis it was passing through, they resolved to provoke a conflict between Moslems and Armenians in the city of Adana, and its neighborhood. To this end, they set to work to incite both elements one against another. Wild sermons were delivered in churches (16); theater halls rung with revolutionary songs; they city walls were covered with posters full of gross insults and threats towards the dominating element; the houses of Moslems were marked with a cross, purported to mean the coming of Christian triumph; assaults against Moslems caused blood to run freely in the countryside; finally, arms were distributed to Armenians with which they daily performed military exercise.
The committees expected that, in the conflict which they knew would result from those proceedings, Armenians would be the more numerous party and able, with the help of a formidable armament, to resist long enough to allow foreign troops to arrive on the scene, the port of Mersine, connected with Adana by a railroad, being suggested to the Powers as the landing place for their forces (17). This practical demonstration of European sympathy would be the signal for a general rising in Eastern Anatolia, an upheaval which added to the crisis occurring in the European territories of the Empire would hasten the latter’s downfall. And an autonomous Armenia, if not an independent State, would thus arise from the ruins.
The result showed how the committees had miscalculated their plans.
Whether the explosion occurred after an Armenian or Moslem outrage in the city of Adana itself, is immaterial. The fact is that the event had been prepared by the committees. In this respect, evidence is provided in the report addressed to his Government by Major Doughty-Wily, who was at the time British Counsul-General in Adana. In this document, the Counsul states that the tragic events of Cilicia were due to the provoking attitude of Armenians, and he even blames the local authorities for not having interfered manu militari – these are the words he uses – to prevent the incident they openly intended to create. (18) Surely, this witness could hardly be recused as unworthy. He lays the whole truth bare, and breaks down the opinion only too readily accepted in Western Countries on the faith of Armenian evidence, naturally inclined to distort facts, and of declarations made by foreign residents whose judgment was somewhat thwarted by a biased feeling of Christian solidarity, that the tragedy of Adana had been the result of a Moslem conspiracy.
In this case, the Moslem population reacted against Armenian provocations. The Turks had awakened from the stupor into which they had been plunged by thirty-three years of despotic rule. If they gave vent to their wrath and committed excesses here and there, it should be stated in exoneration of their attitude, that Armenians had chosen a way to reach their goal which passed over the dead body of Turkey, and that in the hope of hastening her death, which they prematurely expected, they did not hesitate to strike her in the back. To put it in other words, the Turks are human beings and are not different from other people when their national sentiments are roused. Quite so. It is unfortunate that they committed deplorable assaults. More often than not, they struck down non-combatants on the side of armed men, innocents with guilty parties, and took up with a vengeance the challenge that had been flung at them. All that is quite true. Btu to use excesses committed in the wrath of natural passion, and which never reached the character of a general massacre (19), in order to cast special aspersions on Turkey, such as Western opinion immediately did, is an act of consummate injustice which is unfortunately only too frequently resorted to when the Ottoman Empire in on the saddle. Let Western opinion think a while about their own “jacqueries”, their “communes”, their “pogroms”; let them think about the abominations of the French Revolution where two parties of the same race fought each other, before they deal with the conflict between Turks and Armenians, aggravated by their diversity of origin, and before they cast aspersions on Turkey on the mere pretext of the Adana reaction. Let them suspend judgment, because History could abash them, especially when they accuse the Turks of religious intolerance!
We have seen that Union and Progress wished to associated Armenians to its policy of Imperial revival. Therefore, the bloody incidents of Adana were a matter of grave concern for the Porte. A reactionary movement had broken out in the capital, divesting her of all authority; and the consequence was that she could not interfere efficiently enough to stop the bloodshed. However, a few days later, when restored to power, Union and Progress gave the measure of its civic courage and of the value it attached to its reputation and to its alliance with the Dachnak, by sending on the spot a commission of inquiry. The latter’s conclusions were unfavorable to several Moslems who had set the example of the killing; they were hung. Yet many Armenians just as guilty as the former were not prosecuted. This was going a long way on the road of sacrifices, because, by acting in this manner, Union and Progress not only compromised its popularity among the Empire’s Moslems, who were indignant at its leniency, but also seemed to render justice to the Adana Armenians. In their anxiety to appear just in the eyes of Western countries and of the Empire’s Christian subjects, they had showed themselves unjust towards the Turkish element. However, this attitude can be understood from a group representing constitutional Turkey newly born to existence: they did all they could rather than perpetuate the legend according to which the Porte always cast right and law aside in her dealing with her Christian subjects.
Extension of the Committees’ Program.
The system of isolated assaults and of partial risings has completely failed. Therefore, without positively renouncing to those minor operations which tended to keep its agents in practice, the Dachnak undertook the task of converting the Armenian people to the idea of a general insurrection, whereby, with the help of Russia, who was no doubt quite willing to assist, an autonomy would be obtained by the force of arms. Thereafter, it contrived with its usual energy to enlist all Armenians able to bear arms, to give them military instruction and discipline, and to establish stores of war material, so that the smallest Armenian villages should have arms at its disposal.
It should be observed that even at such an advanced period of the committees’ activities, the mass of Armenians, with the exception of those inhabiting cities, merely desired to live in peace with the
authorities, because their administration, although imperfect, was kindly and had enabled them to acquire a condition of ease and even of prosperity. Persuasion, therefore, did not produce any more effect than in the past, and the Dachnak, consequently, resorted again to terrorism. Further means were added to those already described, which need to be specified herein. The leaders themselves went from village to village presenting to their inhabitants a list of demands. In the first place, they were requested to register in the books of the committees and pay the numerous taxes levied by the latter, such as the “committee tax”, the “school tax”, the “arm tax”, the “watch tax”, etc. next, they had to acquire, cash down, numerous arms the distribution of which was effected on the spot. Any attempt to oppose these demands was met by a series of penalties, beginning with eviction from the village, interdiction to marry, to inherit or to vote, and ending with drubbing and death. It was more especially by means of penalties forfeiting civil and religious rights that the committee reached its purpose, because the ecclesiastical authorities had resigned their powers into its hands. How could the unfortunate Armenian people resist such tyrannical proceedings? Any recourse to the political authorities was considered by the Committee as one of the foulest crimes against the “nation” and incurred a death penalty. Thus, Armenians were entirely at the mercy of the Dachnak, and even the most refractory or hostile were compelled by their enlistment in the organization or by some criminal act committed sooner or later by order of their chiefs, the new recruits, although unwillingly,
became fanatic opponents of the State and imbued with the same ardent spirit as their leaders.
Considering further that the Hintchak was also working energetically to the same end, it will not surprise any one to know that when the Great War broke out, almost the whole Armenian population was leagued against the Empire. As evidence of this statement, we mention the fact that in the vilayet of Bitlis alone, the Dachnak organization had a membership of over 170,000 men.(20)
The second part of the Dachnak’s new program, that is to say the creation of military instructed bands, had been facilitated by the law passed before the Balkanic War, and which extended the military service obligation to non-Moslems as well as to Moslems.
The third part of the plan, the purchase of arms on a sufficient scale for a general insurrection, was favored by the geographical and administrative conditions of the country, and by the Capitulations which granted full custom franchises to foreign consulates. Turkey is a country with a disseminated population; it is rather mountainous, with extensive seashore development. The State machinery could not work with sufficient efficiency, owing to lack of revenue, and the administration being unable to employ the necessary personnel, had great difficulties in repressing many unlawful enterprises, one of which was contraband. Owing to this situation, and also to the help given by Russian, French and British consulates, who abused of their franchises in order to carry on an active contraband to the benefit of the committees –an example of indecency and unscrupulousness among many which Turkey cold lay at the charge of the Powers’ official representatives residing there until the present war – an astounding quantity of war material, rifles, revolvers, bombs, dynamite, etc., was stored in many places by the committee. (21) The cities of Cesaree, Erzeroum, Van, Bitlis, Gueverek, Trebizond and Samsoun, in Eastern Anatolia; those of Adana, Marache, Aintab and Alep, in Cilicia; finally, Brussa, Ismidt and Ada-Bazar nearer to the Capital, and the latter itself, were selected as centers of distribution.
Among the places where imported or manufactured weapons had been concealed, should be mentioned more particularly all Armenian churches, monasteries and cemeteries, in which the authorities could not effect searches without raising an outcry: the Patriarch in such cases would shriek the word “profanation”, and Western opinion would immediately accuse Turkey of religious persecution. It will be fathered thereby how difficult it was for the Porte to check the movement. It was only after the outbreak of the present war, when it recovered its independence by an act of energy which had been too much delayed, that the Government could oppose the activity of its police and of other authorities to that of the committees. It was only then that it was able to gain an accurate knowledge of the extension acquired by the said activity. There was only one way of dealing with the matter: to strike and strike hard.
The fact is obvious that the Armenian, Macedonian and Albanese questions arose merely through intrigues from without, and that the tyranny exercised by the Great Powers over Turkey fostered, and stirred and perpetuated them. To hinder administrative reforms which the Porte was striving to introduce in the country; to avail themselves of the rising discontent caused by the delay thus created among Christian populations of the Empire, in order to incite them to rebellion and secession; to abuse of the Capitulations in order to paralyze the repressive or preventive action of the authorities; to carry on all kinds of disloyal maneuvers and afterwards to denounce the Turkish people as incapable of Government; such in a few lines was the iniquitous and ferociously selfish policy followed by nearly the whole of Europe towards Turkey. No doubt, the Sublime Porte had many wrongs to atone for, but her main faults in the past were due to her fear of domineering Europe, and to her weakness towards the Empire’s Christian elements, which she allowed to abuse of privileges that had been granted them in such a liberal manner, in order to cultivate the hatred of her domination and open if not boastful treason.
Nominally independent, Turkey was deprived of the right to exercise her authority on her own territory, to such an extent that she could not even charge a business tax on foreigners, or determine custom dues according to the needs of the country; she could not build a railroad, a port or even a pier if it did not suit one of the Great Powers that she did so. Such restrictions in her freedom of action were the main cause of the economic stagnation into which the country had fallen; she could not freely arrest, imprison or pass judgment on any foreign criminal, which gave rise to the most scandalous abuse and to frequent denials of justice; she could not even apply the Imperial laws to her own subjects, which was the reason of many serious internal disorders. She could not use any of her own rights, much less those which are the basis of national independence and progress. All she could do was to live and bow down her head under the insults of her oppressors.
With respect to her apathetic attitude regarding the working of the national institutions of Christian communities, and to the effects of her listlessness on the latter’s conduct, we refer again to General Mayewsky’s report, whose observations on the matter are most enlightening: “The responsibility for the outbreaks occurring now and again in the East has always been shouldered on the Turks, partly also on the Ottoman Government. . . However, the fact of the matter is that those rebellions were not due to any act of oppression committed by the Turks, but resulted from the too liberal attitude of the Porte in questions of religion and nationality. . . ”
“The Turks have never interfered in those matters, which they entirely left to the populations under their domination. Christian schools and churches have never been subject to any sort of control.
This system of Government gave rise to an excessive development of religious and national feeling among non-Moslem communities.”
“The idea of fomenting disturbances at any cost, with a view to provoke an intervention of Europe, is never absent in the minds of Christians in Turkey. And it is quite natural that it should be so: the example set by the liberation of Greek, Roumanians, Serbs and Bulgarians being a proof of the method’s effectiveness. . . ”
Many details could be added to General Mayewsky’s description: for instance, the Porte tolerated the teaching of history and geography in community schools exclusively from the point of view of their national aspirations, the comments of teachers being merely a development of nationalist claims. She allowed Greek national establishments to substitute the King of Greece’s portrait to that of the Sultan; Bulgarian schools to use the features of the Tsar; Armenian institutions to display pictures showing Hayasdan (Armenia) heroes. She never protested against the omission of the Sultan’s name in public prayers, nor even against the insertion in the later of other rulers’ names, according to the respective aspirations of the various communities. In a few words, she looked on calmly, undisturbed by the progress of the rebellious spirit which was rising in non-Moslem communities thanks to the franchises that had been so generously granted them.
Had she recovered thirty years sooner the independence she so foolishly alienated, and shown greater determination towards Europe; had she treated the nationalities under her domination with the necessary firmness, and maintained them under her rule as long as possible, Turkey would be today, perhaps somewhat dismembered, but at any rate reformed and prosperous. To say that the Turkish people are incapable of Government, considering that for centuries their first institutions were perfectly adapted to the needs of the vast and heterogeneous Empire it had created, is a statement that history clearly refutes. If they did not alter those institutions according to the progress of civilization, with due regards to the awakening of the conquered races which they had been generous enough not to assimilate, this was owing to the fact that they have been the victim of a conspiracy against their own development. At the beginning of her career, Turkey had shown remarkable powers of Government, and will do so again in the future, when she has reconquered her national rights. She is not a country fallen into decay. She is merely and organism that has been stopped in its growth before reaching the age of maturity. The extraordinary vitality of which she has given proof in all the crisis she has gone through, and especially during the present conflagration into which she was led on the morrow of two other disastrous wars, is sufficient evidence that in spite of appearances she possesses fundamental source of strength, and may hereafter continue to live and rise. No better proof could be given in this respect than the remarkable judicial, administrative and social reforms she has introduced in her national economy during the past three years, that is to say since she has recovered her external independence and her internal authority.
Thanks to this transformation in her conditions of existence, the progress accomplished during the past three years of terrible warfare has been greater and more radical than all the development acquired during hundred years of submissiveness to Europe, and of weakness towards the Empire’s disloyal elements.
The main fact of the situation should be born in mind: this people has faced the needs of the war, and displayed in this tremendous task a spirit of heroism and sacrifice of which no other nation has ever given higher proof. Therefore it would be a sin to linger on the scandals that have occurred in the treatment of certain administrative problems which arose through the war, and to lay stress on certain manifestations of disorder and confusion, in order to conclude that the Turkish people is rotten to the core, incapable of revival, and doomed. The fact should be considered that the upheaval to which the national structure has been subject necessarily caused many superficially decayed parts to fall to atoms; that the nation has not had material time in which to eliminate from its constitution the poison carefully inoculated therein by Abdul Hamid, and that the chapter opened by the Revolution of 1908 is not closed; which means that the present period is one of transition, of settlement. Consequently, the mistakes made by Turkey in the course of the present war are not worse than those that have been observed in other belligerent States; they are mere transient incidents arising from accidental causes which will disappear when peace is re-established. They cannot give any cause for glee, such as expressed by the enemies of Turkey, nor of concern as discussed by superficial observers in the country itself.
Attitude of the Dachnak During the Balkanic War.
The unfavorable course of the Balkanic War seemingly gave the Dachnak an unexpected opportunity to carry out its designs.
Besides the means they were already using to enlist the support of the mass of Armenian peasants, the committees found therein a reason to hope that Russia could be induced to occupy Eastern Anatolia and distribute Moslem lands among them.(22) This prospect was eagerly welcomed and acted almost as magic, land hunger, a characteristic of agriculturists in general, not being lacking among Armenian peasants. This was a master stroke on the part of the Dachnak, and those who had not yet giving it their support flocked to its banner. Thereafter, it could be said that almost the whole of Armenia had enlisted, and thrown in their lot with the Dachnak or the Hintchak.
The Dachnak then resumed its operations, resorting to its former methods of action: the provocation of strife in cities where incidents of the kind would naturally create a greater stir than in the countryside. This plan failed, thanks to the self-restraint of Moslems. (23)
However, had it succeeded, Russia would not have contented the Dachnak’s expectations. No that this Power was at all opposed to the idea of occupying Eastern Anatolia, because it had no doubt concluded a secret agreement with the Armenians to that effect. She had even threatened Turkey that she would take this step, should the Moslem population rise against Armenians. But the Bulgarian victories, which she had been far from expecting, had imperiled the Ottoman capital in which she wanted to be the first to enter some day in order never to leave it, and deterred her from pursuing this plan. Therefore, Russian troops did not cross the boarder.
Disappointed in this respect, the Dachnak resolved to avail itself of the situation in Rumelia, where Turkey was struggling against invasion. Thus, Andrinople, Rodosto, Malgara, Kechan and other places became the scene of nameless atrocities perpetrated by Armenians on Moslems, under the leadership of the famous brigand-patriot Antranik. Many of the outrages then attributed to Bulgarians were committed by these dastardly bands. Furthermore, Armenians also acted in the service of the enemy as spies and guides.
Opposition Raised by Armenian Committees Against the Empire’s Ottomanization.
Meanwhile, the Armenian parliamentary group, consisting of Dachnakist, Hintchakist and other elements, joined issue with the Greek party in order to hinder the efforts of Union and Progress tending to reconstruct the Empire on a really Ottoman basis. For instance, they opposed the Porte’s legitimate desire to create a national sentiment which would be common to all the races inhabiting the Ottoman Empire, but which would not affect in the slightest their cultural or ethnical individuality.
On this matter, we borrow the following from Mr. Brown (loc. cit): “The question of military service, and others relating to the right of suffrage, the alleged right of national representation, etc., revealed the extraordinary pretensions of Greek and Armenian Patriarchs, as well as of other religious leaders, regarding their capacity to represent their ‘nations’ as political entities. One of the main difficulties of Turkey’s new constitutional Government resided in the reluctance of the various communities, especially the Greek nation, to subordinate their own national sentiments to the higher and broader claims of Ottoman nationality.”
In a footnote, the most impartial Mr. Brown adds the following remark: “The Young Turks committed perhaps an unretrievable mistake in treating the various religious communities as if they constituted distinct nations, and in failing to establish their representation on a strictly Ottoman basis. In the correspondence exchanged between the Grand Vizir and the Greek Patriarch, the former seemed to deal with the Ambassador of an independent nation.”
Union and Progress had sought to create an Ottoman fatherland wherein all elements would be united in a common love, without having to renounce the peculiarities of their distinct origin, and for that reason, the Dachnakists severed their alliance with the above party. That is the great crime committed by the liberators of Turkey against the Armenian nation! That is the reason why three years later the Hintchakists proclaimed dramatically that they would resume their freedom of action, reserving their right to defend their existence by such means as would be convenient (24), and why they claimed that in spite of its promises, Union and Progress had proceeded to suppress the Armenians’ national privileges without which their race would be condemned to disappear.
Mr. Brown’s book is there, together with a hundred other proofs, which convict Dachnakists and Hintchakists of flagrant imposture in this matter, as in twenty others. Yet, they succeeded to hoodwink Western opinion, the latter being but too readily eager to accept without the slightest discussion all that appeared as unfavorable to Turkey. It would have been too much disappointed had it been undeceived.
The Committees’ Opposition Against the Plan of Administrative
Reforms Prepared by the Porte with Respect to Eastern Anatolia Provinces.
Although Union and Progress met with overt or concealed hostility at every step, in its relations with Armenian Committees, it resolved, however, after the disasters of the Balkanic War, to disarm them at any price. This explains the concessions made to them as well as to other communities, and which Mr. Brown rightly calls “unretrievable mistakes.” This explains also why the Porte decided on a plan of administrative reforms to be carried out in Eastern Anatolian Provinces, and resolved to entrust their execution to officials borrowed from England.
Impartial foreigners who were in contact with private and official circles in Turkey, at the time when the Porte decided to settle the Armenian question once for all by going the whole length of concessions compatible with State integrity, will readily admit the sincerity and warmth of sentiment which prompted the enlightened section of the Turkish people to give its assent to this policy. Yet, this goodwill was to no purpose.
After having promised to grant the Porte’s earnest request to allow a certain number of her colonial officials to enter the latter’s service with a view to control administrative machinery in the above mentioned provinces, England backed out of her word. Proud Albion had the sorry courage to withdraw her promise, on the ground of Russia’s opposition; the fact being that she had secretly admitted the latter’s claim on Eastern Anatolia as a part of her sphere of influence in Turkey.
On their side, Armenians became all the more unmanageable, inasmuch as they perceived that the execution of the Government’s plans would mean the death-blow to their political aspirations. They disdainfully rejected the Porte’s proposals, although they would have ensured peace and prosperity in Eastern Anatolia, under the guidance of a reformed administration. They next organized a movement against its adoption, and suggested in its stead a plan drafted by the Great Powers, which favored their national claims, and which would be carried out under their collective supervision. Proceeding in the same way as in 1877, they appointed a delegation which visited the capitals of Central and Western Europe, under the leadership of Boghos Nubar Pacha, a rich Egyptian Armenian. They requested the Catholicos to represent their claims before the Russian government. Finally, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, chief of the Ottoman community, agreed to fulfill the same office before the Ambassadors in Constantinople. Treading in the footsteps of his predecessor in office, Patriarch Varzabedian, whom we have shown hereabove in criminal conference with Grand Duke Nicholas at San Stefano, he officially opened negotiations, under the indignant eyes of the Porte, with the Russian Ambassador at the Sultan’s Court.
Exhausted and discredited by the Balkanic War, Turkey was unable to avoid this further interference in her internal affairs. After negotiations lasting seven months she was compelled to accept the principle of the Power’s project, and the conditions they had laid down for its application. Among the latter, the harshest consisted in an obligation to select from a list of Europeans drafted by the intervening powers, two foreign inspectors-general who would be placed at the head of administration in Eastern Anatolia.
Thus, what was meant as a voluntary action on the part of the Sublime Porte and had been
conceived in a perfectly sincere spirit, was transformed into an international obligation further restricting Turkey’s independence.
Constitutional Turkey owed this to Armenians that she had suffered a humiliation similar to those which had occurred during the Hamidian rule, and that she had to put up in Eastern Anatolia, with a situation which would apparently remedy administrative grievances, but which, as a matter of fact, would serve as a transition stage towards the final occupation of the country by Russia. Such was the real object of England, of France and of Russia, now the Entente, when they admitted Armenian claims as valid, although they knew them to be fictitious, and extended their patronage over them. They had little concern with Armenian welfare. What mattered most for them, speaking in the vernacular, was to make a bargain on the back of Turkey just as they had done so previously on that of Persia, just as they were ready to do so at the expense of any other country able to resist, provided it was non-Christian and outside of Europe.
We can now give more extensive details o the Armenian question, from the demographic and historic standpoints.
According to foreign census, effected in 1897, the number of Armenians is in excess of that of Moslems only in 9 cazas (counties) out of the 159 which constitute the nine Ottoman provinces included in the territory alleged to have been at a certain epoch the kingdom of Armenia. Out of a total population of 6,000,000, there was at that time only 1,000,000 Armenians, as against 4,500,000 Moslems (in round numbers), that is to say that the former were in the proportion of 1 to 4 ½ to the latter, and from 1 to 6, in relation to the whole population.(25)
It should be observed that the Porte never carried out a colonization policy in Armenia with a view to benefit her domination. The spasmodic endeavors she attempted regarding the settlement of Circassians in that part of the Empire were directed against Russia, and were not worthy of the name. The numerical inferiority of Armenians in those regions was already marked at the time of the Turkish conquest (1514), and has constantly increased ever since. It resulted, on the one hand, from Persian and Arab pressure which caused, on several occasions, an exodus of the native populations towards the north and the west; and, on the other hand, from the slow infiltration of Persian, Arab, Seldjouk, Turkish and Byzantine elements. In more recent times, the transplantation of about 100,000 Armenians by Abas Schah, after his victorious campaign against Turkey (1643), and the voluntary emigration of a considerable number of them to Russia, after the treaty of Turkmen-Tchai (1828), contributed to give the Moslem element the important majority which it wields at present in “Armenia.”
Such is the position of Armenians, from the geographical and statistical points of view.
Historically, their political aspirations are just as much devoid of real basis.
A historical title is valid only in the case of a domination in fact, and as a complement to ethnogeographical claims. In order to prove the existence of Armenian domination in Eastern Anatolia, it is necessary to trace events back to antiquity. Armenian nationality existed as a political organism in the IIIrd century before Christ; it then consisted of two independent States: Armenia Major and Armenia Minor. The celebrated Tigrane (famous only because he was a friend of Lucullus), ruled the former State when it came into conflict with Rome; he was defeated and had to submit to the latter’s suzerainty.
Thereafter, both States became a battlefield between the West and the East, then represented by the Roman Empire and by Persia, respectively, and they finally agreed to share between themselves the government of the said territory. Several more or less independent Armenian States existed later on, ruled by more or less national dynasties, but they were of slight importance in extent, and short-lived, with the exception perhaps of the Armenia Minor, reconstructed in the XIIth century A.D. and which resisted ruing two hundred years against all attacks. When Selim II conquered the territory, Armenian domination had been extinct for the past two centuries, and replaced by that of Arabs, Persians, Seldjouks and Byzantines.
It will be seen from the above that the Armenian claims to govern Eastern Anatolia are null and void, either from the point of view of numerical superiority in the country or from the historical standpoint. Yet, in order to gain their point, there are few alterations in statistics and in history to which Armenians have not resorted to.
They have succeeded to a certain extent in France and the United States, where geography and history are not held in great repute; and the idea prevails that the Turks in Eastern Anatolia, which is always called Armenia, are a mere handful of intruders exerting barbarous domination over millions of Armenians dispossessed of their native land.
However, the Entente Governments cannot plead ignorance. As a matter of fact, the French Government publicly stated in 1901 that Armenian claims had no foundation; this was at a time when it had been won over by the subterraneous diplomacy of Abdul Hamid, and when Russian policy had assumed an anti-Armenian character. Answering a question in Parliament, Mr. Gabriel Hanotaux, then Minster of Foreign Affairs, and surnamed on this account Hanotaux Pacha, declared that France had found it necessary to shelve the Armenian question, French and British consular reports having established the obvious numerical inferiority of Armenians in Eastern Anatolia.
Thereby, it will be seen that the Entente, of which France is one of the members, is merely imposing on public opinion when it seeks to give Armenian aspirations the sympathetic appearances of a national cause. The fact cannot be repeated often enough: there are Armenians, but there is no Armenia, and there cannot be except in flagrant violation of historical right and of the principle of nationalities, in the name of which the restoration of an Armenian state is impudently demanded.
A further aggravation of the Entente’s attitude in the Armenian question lies in the fact, as hereabove explained, that the object of this colossal hoax is not in the least to give satisfaction to the Armenians’ spurious claims, but to advance Russia’s territorial ambitions. An Armenia created to the benefit of a small Armenian minority, and at the expense of a great Moslem majority, would inevitably become a center of chronic disturbances, thus providing a pretext for a neighboring Empire to occupy the new State, under the pretense of restoring peace and order, and, as a matter of fact, to settle therein for all times. Have not similar pretenses been used as pretext by England to occupy Egypt, and by France, to enter Tunisia? Decidedly, those three Powers appear to be as thick as thieves, although dressed in the garments of honest tradesmen.
If a positive proof of our contention is needed, it may be found in the fact that after the Balkanic War, the Entente had divided the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence; Eastern Anatolia being the ground precisely allotted to Russia. And England then backed out of her promise to provide Turkey with officials who were to undertake the administration of those territories, owing to the Tsar’s opposition, which she had to acknowledge as legitimate.
Nevertheless, let us admit for the sake of argument, that in that case the said political Trinity was sincerely and earnestly carrying out its duty of protector of small nationalities – a part in which hitherto it had merely acted with consummate hypocrisy where would have been the justice of “saving” Armenians by sacrificing the Turks?
The machinery imagined by the Great Powers for the administration of Eastern Anatolia was already at work when the great war broke out. The conspiracy directed against he Porte had failed. But the last blow had been dealt at the Porte’s forbearance. Having endeavored by all possible means at her disposal to conciliate her Armenian subjects, she now considered them, and could not reasonably be expected to view them otherwise, as an element on which negotiations with foreign powers had conferred a character of irreducible hostility, and which had become, thereby, a grand danger for Turkey. To persevere in her tolerance towards such an element, would have been a crime against the fatherland.
After the Outbreak of the European War.
Fourth and Last Phase of the Turkish-Armenian Question.
Hostilities having broken out between both groups into which Europe had split itself, the Turkish- Armenian question henceforth entered into its fourth and last phase.
We have hereabove described the tragic and dangerous disposition of mind in which Turks and Armenians looked upon each other on the eve of the great event; the latter were more determined than ever to succeed in their subversive enterprise, even by using the most abominable means; the former were just as firmly resolved to defend their land against Armenian machinations.
The outbreak of war electrified the Armenian committees, which, as already stated, had put an end to their own quarrels and united against Turkey. Could they ever expect a better opportunity to realize their hopes? According to their point of view, Turkey would be inevitably drawn into the conflict on the side of Germany, and exposed thereby to the direct blows of Russia, whose territory bordered the provinces inhabited by their race. They could therefore rely on the latter’s assistance in such circumstances as seemed to promise a sure success, considering that Turkey’s means of defense in those regions were limited; for instance, military fortifications and road were lacking, whereas, on the contrary, Russia had long ago transformed the Caucasus into a formidable base of operations. Further, the enlistment of nearly all the Armenians in the cause of territorial autonomy, and the completion of her preparations with a view to a decisive action, constituted two other favorable factors in Russia’s plans.
Anticipating the Entente’s victory, Armenians broke out into wild demonstrations in her favor. This meant that they had indirectly applauded at the defeat of Turkey, considering that they expected her to join in the war by the side of Germany. Worse still, Ottoman Armenians in France and the United States gave active support to Turkey’s adversaries, sending considerable bodies of volunteers to France and Russia. This was an act of disobedience to the laws of Ottoman citizenship, and its meaning was aggravated by the statements published in their foreign press. Armenians would do all in their power to help the Entente, as its victory would mean the downfall of Turkey.
Attitude of Armenians During General Mobilization.
Armenian attitude during general mobilization far exceeded the worst fears entertained by the Ottoman Government. Half of them avoided the summons. Some crossed the frontier – this was the case with those inhabiting the provinces bordering on Russia. Others fled from their residence, concealing themselves here and there, and awaited a favorable opportunity to rise in arms against the State. Of the other half, a great number were led off to barracks under escort, involuntarily submitting to military law. Others who presented themselves voluntarily were simply playing a part with a view to deceive the Government, ant to obtain possession of the improved weapons provided by the State for its defense, which they intended to use against the latter and the Moslem population.
All the defaulters joined the Russian army or the terrorist bands which had never ceased to infest the country since the beginning of the Armenian campaign. The effects of this rising of the Armenian
revolutionary element were soon evident: bold attacks on isolated detachments of the Ottoman army, the almost daily interception of military convoys, the destruction of military stores, continual assaults on Moslems who were voluntarily going to the recruiting stations; in a few words, they carried out a
systematic action against Turkey’s military preparations. On the other hand, they renewed with even
greater fury than heretofore their outrages on the life and property of Moslems.
The Armenians’ attitude more than justified the necessity of dealing with them collectively with the utmost rigor. They had added to their former crimes, their refusal to bear arms in defense of the
country, their conspiracy to desert wholesale, and their voluntary enlistment in the Entente’s armies.
The Minister of War retaliated by disarming all Armenians who had joined the colors, drafting them into labor battalions which had been created to remedy the deplorable state of roadways in the
country, and especially in the regions under discussion. Truly they had to endure, on this account, more privations than would have been the case had they been maintained in combatant ranks; the latter were better cared for than non-combatants, the military authorities being compelled to make a distinction between both classes owing to the difficulties encountered in supplying the needs of the army. But Armenians had only themselves to blame for this change in their situation.
Nevertheless, the committees did not hesitate to represent this natural measure of defense against
them as an instance of the discriminating treatment to which Armenians had been subjected at all times in the Empire, and which, in those circumstances, had finally driven them to shun their duties as citizens in sheer disgust.
This is a sample of the way in which they have always misrepresented the truth regarding their relations with the Porte. Their cleverness, their promptitude in discussion whereby they can turn the most compromising facts into arguments in their favor, have always been their most effective weapons against Ottoman rule, and those qualities form a striking contrast with the slowness and clumsiness of Turkey when defending herself against their libels. Truly, they have not procured them a material victory, but they have largely contributed towards the moral success of their cause before Western public opinion.
Armenian Action After Turkey Joined in the War.
We have hereabove described the criminal form assumed by Armenian activity in the short time that elapsed between the outbreak of the war and Turkey’s participation in the conflict. However, the
conspiracy they had planned against the Ottoman State only unfolded itself in its lurid extent after the latter event. Here is a description of their plan: Pursuant to secret instructions the committees had sent even to the smallest Armenian hamlets, all valid men were to form bands under the leadership of deserters from the imperial army, their numbers, ranks and duties having been previously drafted out; next they were to destroy and kill throughout Turkish and Kurd villages, and this not only to terrorize the Moslem population, but with a view to cause Turkish soldiers to leave the army and rush to the help of their families. Then, in order to complete the disorganization of Turkey’s military forces, they were to attack military convoys, to lay ambushes for isolated detachments to fall into, an to act as spies for the enemy on the point of crossing the border. Having thus prepared the ground in front of Russian armies, they were to join the latter, acting as scouts, occupying positions in the rear and cutting off the retreat of Turkish troops.
The Armenians carried out this task with demoniac frenzy. Hundreds of Moslem villages fell victims to their fury. At the battle of Sari-Kamish, they fought by the side of Russian troops. . . The city of Van, where local Armenians had taken arms to oppose military service, was captured by the Russians with the help of Armenian volunteers; its fall had been preceded by devastations and massacres in the neighborhood, and was followed by similar horrors within its precincts. In Pounar, Guevach, Tchatac, they indulged in the same outrages. At the outset of hostilities, the practically defenseless city of Bayazid was captured by an important detachment of Russian and Ottoman Armenian volunteers. The same as at Van, armed rebellion broke out in Zeitoun, Haizan and Koms, with the accompaniment of all kinds of assaults. All along the Black Sea and Mediterranean coast, they acted as spies in the service of the Entente, and resorted at the same time to similar acts of terrorism as in Eastern Anatolia.
Further details would prove wearisome. The reader may form an accurate idea of the extent to which Armenians helped the Russian army (26) and perpetrated outrages on the Moslem countrymen, from the perusal of the documents annexed to the present book.
Proof positive will be found therein of the Armenian population’s share in the worst crimes ever committed by a group of citizens against another, and against the State of which bother were members.
Warning to Armenians at the Outset of the War.
On of the first acts of the Minister of War, Enver Pacha, after the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Turkey, was to give the Armenian Patriarch a solemn warning that any attempt at insurrection, or any aggression against Moslems by his community at such a serious time for the Empire, would expose Armenians to the most terrible consequences. He explained to him, in a clear and unmistakable manner, that the Ottoman Government had to defend the country against three powerful enemies, and would, therefore, deal rigorously, on its own account, with the slightest outbreak; however, it if could make a distinction between innocent and guilty parties, yet it would not be able to preserve the Armenian population against the just but blind fury of the Moslem crowd, which was four times and half more numerous. He stated that if he, himself, the Minister of War, had sufficient troops at his disposal, the absence of means of communication would prevent him from interfering in time, and, under such circumstances, any provocation would not only be a crime, but sheer madness.
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Halil Bey, sent a similar warning to Armenian representatives. They remained undaunted. Deeply convinced of the Entente’ prompt victory, especially in her operations against Turkey, and heightened in their determination by the prospect that the latter had set before their eyes of an independent Armenia. Armenians launched with enthusiasm in the above described campaign. The inevitable happened.
The Government’s Defensive Measures.
Relapsing into tolerance, the Porte bore with patience the months that followed, its attitude, it will be readily admitted in this case, going the full length of forbearance. At last, it realized that the country’s salvation needed prompt and decisive measures. Setting aside all hesitation, the Government dissolved the committees and arrested the leaders. Searches were carried out in the Armenians’ public establishments as well as in their private residences, with the result that hundreds of them were convicted of revolutionary designs and deeds. The guilty were sentenced to such penalties as are the common practice in all countries where the notion of State security is prevalent. Suspected parties were imprisoned preventively, and the whole Armenian population subjected to severe restrictions regarding their freedom to travel. All these measures proceeded from the natural and elementary course of things. Further, the Porte resorted at the same time to a heroic remedy: the transfer to the interior of the country of the Armenian population inhabiting province bordering on Russia, and regions where an enemy landing was possible.
The outcry raised by this measure in Western countries was quite in conformity with its inveterate attitude towards Turkey. What Barbarousness? Such was the cry heard everywhere, especially in England, how inhuman! Turks were decidedly unworthy of being counted among civilized nations! Let the infamous, murderous horde be sent back to Asia! And many other wrathful expressions in the true Gladstonian style.
No doubt, in normal times, the transplantation of the whole population of a country would meet with the utmost reprobation. But is should be considered that Turkey was fighting for her life, and that Armenians had just then seized the opportunity to strike her a death-blow in the back, after having systematically attacked her rule during the past seventy years.
Could she allow rebellion, allied with invasion, to continue to use its bases of operations, either in cities or in the countryside, when it extended it almost all Armenian homes? Was it possible for her to sacrifice the supreme interest of the State, its preservation, for the sake of humanity, at a time when, owing to the effects of war, all the laws of humanity were generally accepted as being in suspense? She would have been more than human had she done so. Salus regnis prima lex esto.
This point should be insisted upon. The triumph of either of the groups engaged in the present war can only entail for the beaten party, with the exception of Turkey, a loss of territory and prestige; that is all. On the other hand, defeat would bring about Turkey’s downfall. The Entente has clearly warned her to this effect. Having all to lose, if the fortune of arms is against her, she is of all belligerent countries the only one that is not free to spare any means in the pursuit of victory.
Sufferings of Armenians.
Deported Armenians undoubtedly suffered in several instances through the unconcern, the brutality and violence of soldiers and constables commissioned to escort them to their new homes. But even in official capacity, a man is yet a human being. The thought of the crimes recently committed by Armenians, in many cases under their very eyes, and perhaps against one of their friends or relatives, were constantly before the minds of those soldiers and constables; is it impossible to excuse them for having allowed resentment to stifle the voice of duty? On the other hand, many instances could be stated of those primitive men sacrificing themselves to protect their charge against the attacks of brigands.
Regarding the detachments from the imperial army, several of which have committed excesses here and there, was their conduct so essentially contrary to human nature, and in contrast with that of Western troops? Considering that they were maddened by the action of Armenians, whose cooperation with Russians had decided the fate of more than one battle in favor of the latter! Could it be expected that they would not avenge the misdeeds of the whole Armenian population on fractions of this race, which were perhaps not in actual criminal activity, but which they had reasons to believe guilty of past crimes or ready to commit and felony at the first favorable opportunity? Are they no precedents to “blood lust” at the thought of the savage attacks perpetrated against soldiers’ homes, of the ruins, of the mutilated bodies? Can it be wondered that here and there, soldiers from those detachments should have lost their senses to the extent of carrying out on their adversaries the cruel methods the latter had practiced on themselves? Can the atrocities committed by Wellington’s troops in Spain be recalled? Can we speak of the American Indian Wars, and of the struggle against Filippinos? (27)
As much could be said about the subordinate officials of the Ottoman administration; some of them assumed the duty of avenging their race, their chiefs being unable to thwart their designs owing to their multifarious occupations resulting from the war.
Furthermore, there is little to doubt that the Moslem rabble lost all restraint in certain circumstances. But, as in the case of the troop and the constabulary, an outrage paid for another, and a massacre retaliated for another. Armenians had acted as demons. Was it expected that the Turks would act as angels? All foreigners who know Turkey, and who express impartial opinions on the matter, are unanimous in stating that the Turkish peasant is the most enduring and peaceful being existing in the world.
But there is a limit to his patience. When exasperated, he is just as terrible as any virile individual whose wrath is slow to break out. Yet, he is not so ferocious or cruel as the French, the Italian or the Portuguese, for instance, who exceed all bounds at the first provocation. At any rate, he is less inhuman in his anger than his Christian neighbors, the Armenian, of which we have described the barbarous methods, the Greek and the Bulgarian, whose atrocities during the Balkanic Wars were described in the Carnegie Commission’s report. (28) The Government was unable to interfere effectively. The exasperation raised in the army and the people by the Armenians’ attitude was such that its appeals to reason and moderation remained a dead letter.
Professional Turcophobes, such as Bryce, Buxton, and others, claim that 800,000 Armenians perished as victims of Turkish “savageness” during the ebb and flow of the Ottoman Army in Eastern Anatolia, and their transfer from one locality to another. This is false, both in the figure itself, and in the explanation given.
The precise number of Armenians who were killed in the upheaval that shook Eastern Anatolia at the outset of hostilities can only be established after the war. But it may be asserted even now that the
figure of 800,000 advanced by Armenians and confidently accepted by their Western patrons is a gross exaggeration. Whatever may be the real number, it may be taken for granted that it is very much inferior to that of Moslems who perished at the same time, if to the number of those massacred by Armenians and their Russian allies are added the tens of thousands Turkish soldiers fallen on the battlefield, and who would have been spared, if the former had not assisted the others in their military successes.
Regarding the causes of the said loss of Armenian lives, they were mostly due to hunger, exhaustion and epidemics, the latter having played havoc in the Armenian population during its transfer and after (29). The authorities cannot be made responsible for those circumstances. The Armenian revolutionary movement had taken such a form and had extended to such a point that the transfer to the interior of the whole Armenian population had become an absolute military necessity. On the other hand, in those regions that are naturally poor and were soon exhausted by the State of war, the Government was powerless to prevent the mowing down by death of transplanted Armenians. It should be considered that it could hardly feed its own soldiers, to whom it had naturally to give the preference, and whom it could not even protect against the ills that decimated them as much as the civilian population. This means that, in the matter of the transfer, the Armenian population fell victim in the first place to the baneful policy of committees, who had caused the Government to take this step, and on the other hand, to the fate that willed this measure to become the source of inevitable sufferings during its application.
The situation thus created by the committees’ folly and under the stress of circumstances was evidently a great misfortune for the Armenian population. We are the first to deplore it, but we bear in mind the fact that, next to the Armenian fatality, there occurred simultaneously a Turkish tragedy, at all points similar to the former. Western opinion has grieved over the Armenian misfortune. Thousands of Moslems, as ourselves, have shared the grief of Europe and America, even forgetting the relation existing between both tragedies. But why should Western opinion remain indifferent at the sad plight of our brethren? Is a Turkish life worth less than an Armenian, because the former is a Moslem and the latter a Christian? Should there be two weights and two measures, even in matters of mercy?
1) This is an example out of a hundred concerning that mutual hostility: Orthodox against Catholics and Orthodox between themselves were constantly engaged in bloody fights even within the precincts of the Holy Sepulchre Church. Lastly, the Ottoman Government was compelled to have a company of soldiers standing in that temple – the holiest in Christedom – to prevent the scandalous scenes that profaned it.
2) In the United States of America, which boast of their liberal and Christian sentiments, the advertisements of many hotels contain the following mention: “No Jews admitted”. İn the southern states, the distinction made between whites and blacks is such that the former do not tolerate the presence of colored people, not eve in streetcars, or in their churches. Schools and churches for both races are absolutely distinct, owing to the despise expressed by the whites for the blacks.
In British India, Englishmen will only frequent the members of ruling families. And this, on condition that the latter have received an English educatioin. Natives, even those of the highest classes, are not allowed to travel firstclass on railways, pursuant to a custom whereby those seats are reserved for Englishmen. Many instances have occured of aged Hindoos, in high posigions, being summariy ejected from first-class compartments where they had taken seats because unable to find room in second-class carriages, by young Englishmen of no position at all. The comtempt of British soldiers towards natives in their daily intercourse with them often assumes a most inhuman form. Their brutality sometimes reaches the point of murder, the only punishment therefore being their return to England. That is how Great Britian acts in a country which has produced one of the finest civilizations in the world!
3) This criticism specially applies to France, England and the United States of America, because in their judgments on other European countries, and on the East as distinct from the West, they pretend to be indignantly severe, whereas they should also consider their own failings and those of the Indo-Aryan race as opposed to others. Germany and Austria-Hungary, in this respect, have always held honorably aloof from the above mentioned countries, by not pretending to moral superiority, and by acknowledging that all nations are alike in this regard. We are please to make this statement about the two Powers allied to Turkey, because the latter is particularly grateful to them inasmuch as they have never taken part in the hypocritical campaigns directed against her.
4) See the book “Zeitoun” by Minas Tcheraz, with a foreword by G. Clemenceau, wherein the author, himself an Armenian, glorifies as the expression of patriotism all the acts of devestation, plunder and murder committed by the Zeitoun highwaymen on their Moslem countrymen.
5) “The grievances stating that the condition of Armenians in Turkey was untenable would hardly concern the inhabitants of cities, because the latter have at all times enjoyed full freedom and have been favored in all respects. Furthermore, the peasant class was even in a better situation than the peasants of Russia, owing to their knowledge of agricultural work and of irrigation.”
6) “With respec to the Armenian clergy, its endeavors in religious instruction are meaningless, but on the other hand, Armenian priests have contributed greatly to cultivate national ideals. Within their mysterious convents, the teaching of hatred towards the Turks took the place of religious devotions. Schools and seminaries played a great part in the work undertaken by religious chiefs.” (General Mayewsky)
7) Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were percectly unconcerned with Armenian grievances, which they knew to be fictitious, and which, on the other hand, they had no interest to exploit. If they took part in several of the measures edicted in their favor either by England, by France or by Russia, it was merely pro forma and as a matter of regard towards the European Concert. France found in the artificially created Aremenian question an opportunity somewhat belated to play the part of “protector of oppressed nations,” but she reamined for a long tme a mere oratorical exponent of the matter, at least officialy. On the other hand, England took up the question at the beginnign with a view to substitute her intervetnion to that of Russia, merely for the sake of counterbalancing the latter’s influence in the Near East, but she soon started to make the best of her position to the direct benefit of her anti-Turkish policy. Mr. Cambon, French Ambassador in Constantinople, in a report to his Government dated 1894, thus described the part she played, on part with Russian intrigues: “Armenians found a better hearing in London than in Paris. The Gladstone Cabinet attracted all discontented parties, grouped them and disciplined them. He promised them his support. Thereafter, the propaganda office was established in London, being inspired therefrom. The question was to casue two ideas to penetrate deeply into the masses of the population: the national idea, and that of freedm. The committees undertook to spread them abroad.” (Yellow Book, 1893-1897)
8) The Young Turks movement dates back to the last years of the Abdul-Aziz reign, the latter’s extravagances having ruined the country, and the ruler’s condescending attitude towards Russia constituting a danger for Turkey’s political existence.
9) The Dachnak was first called the Drochak. Its organ has retained the former name (see on the organization of said committee and the form assumed by its action, annexes No. 3, 4, and 5).
10) Thus, the priest Hampre, lawyers Hatchik and Sehoub, Apik Oundijian, a tradesman, and a well-to-do Armenian, Dicran Karageuzian were assassinated in broad daylight in Constantinople. Many Armenians who had held aloof or had opposed the committees appeals were treated in a like manner in the provinces as well as in America, where there are rich Armenian colonies. (See in this respect the reports of Mr. Cambon, French Ambassador in Constantinople, dated 27th March and 3rd June, 1894. (Yellow Book, years 1893-1897)
11) See herein annex No. 4 (Report by the Russian Consul at Bitlis).
12) The attitude of Russia towards the Armenian race has been one of duplicity and contradiction. She persecuted Armenians inhabiting her own territories whilst pretending to protect those inhabiting Turkey. Her double-dealing became obvious after the Russian-Turkish war, as stated above. This tortous policy continued until 1907. Thereafter, having granted a more liberal treatment to her own Armenians, Russia’s Armenian policy crystalized into a real although interested support given to the Ottoman section of the race.
13) In fact, nearly all the leaders in the events which gave rise to this bloody repression managed to escape, thanks to the protection of Russia and France. Innocent lives paid for the penalties they had incurred.
14) A violent hostility had sprung up between both organizations almost from the first day of their inception, each aspiring to predominate in the minds of their countrymen. The question of money played a great part therein. They concluded an agreement only after the Balkanic War.
15) The maintenance in the Empire of the organization of non-Moslem elements into distinct bodies enjoying special privileges, even after the establishment of the Constitution, was an anomaly explained by the fact that their suppression would have raised general protest ont only in the country but also in Western Europe. Union and Progress did not feel powerful enogh to touch those institutions, although they warped the working of the new Constitution.
16) An eloquent detail: a priest named Fanlian caused gunpowder to be burnt in censers during a divien service he conducted at the time.
17) As a matter of fact, foreign med-of-war anchored in the Mersine roadstead. But no landing took place, the tragedy having ended when they arrived on the scene.
18) Two copies of this report handed by Major Doughty-Wily himself to one of the members of the Commission of Inquiry sent ot Adana by the Sublime Porte, found their way into the hands of Turkish authorities. One copy, a page of which had been torn out by an Armenian, as it was most compromising for his people, perished in the fire that gutted Tcheragan Palace. The other copy, handed over to replace the former one, disappeared in a manner as yet unknown. So far as we know, this document has not been published by the British Government, although they were only too willing to publish in their Blue Books on the Armenian question all reports from their agents that were unfavorable to Turkey. Why has not this report been published?
19) There is an essential difference between the events of 1895-1896 and the Adana tragedy. The reaction of Abdul Hamid was perpetrated in cold blood on defenseless Armenians, which were struck down uphazard. That of Cilician Moslems was an immediate and direct retort to the provocation of well-armed Armenians. In the first case, there was a massacre. In the latter, there was a fight, a battle between two elements. The excesses committed were the same in both camps.
20) See annex No. 3, series I (Report by the Russian Consul at Bitlis).
21) See annex No. 3, series I (Report of the Russian Counsul in Bitlis).
22) See annex No. 5, series I (Report by the Russian Counsul at Bitlis).
23) See annex No. 3, series I.
24) The honorable author errs in making this distinction. Armenians were more accomodating than Greeks only in the matter of military service. The reason why is obvious: they saw in the accomplishment of this duty a means to form the instructed officers necessary for their revolutionary bands.
25) The said provinces are those of Erzeroum, Bitlis, Van, Kharpout, Diarbekir, Alep, Adana, Trebizonde. As a matter of fact, the territory covered by the said provinces was never at any time united under Armenian domination (See British Encyclopedia, article Armenia).
26) If the attitude of Armenians during military operations on the Eastern front is taken into consideration, it will be admitted that the Ottoman army, rather small and badly equipped, had great difficulty in resisting the Russian invasion, inasmuch as the enemy from without had been assisted by an enemy from within, most dangerous owing to the number of its means, its determination and knowledge of the country.
27) There are no atrocities or acts of brigandage that the troops of Wellington did not commit in Spain whenever they met with any resistance in cities. In the first Indian Wars, American soldiers amsued themselves by throwing to one another babies captured from the enemy and catching them on the point of their bayonets. In the Philippines, they resorted to torture in order to elicit information from the natives concerning the movements of Aguinaldo. One form of this torture was the famous “water cure.”
28) “The Turks are the best element, not only in the Moslem population, but also among all the peoples of Asia Minor. Most of the vices attributed to the Turks by the Russian and European press are not in his character. If the truth must be told, it will be admitted that in the East, it is not the Moslems who are barbarous, but the Chrisitans.” (General Mayewsky)
29) The Moslem population fleeing before the Russian invasion suffered even greater losses, owing to the same causes. From all points of view, the Moslem drama is just as sad as the Armenian tragedy.
-The Turkish Reaction Was Not More Violent or Cruel
-Than It Would Have Been in Any Other Country.
-Masses of Evidence Against the Armenians.
"The Armenian people has cruelly suffered, but not more than the Turk."
CİHAN HARBİ VE TÜRK ERMENİ MESELESİ
"İhtirasların ve duyguların son derece ağır bastığı bu meselede, iddia edildiği gibi Türkiye'nin ve Türk halkının suçlu olmadığını isbat etmeyi amaçlayan bu tartışmada kalemimi ne kadar samimi ve inançlı olarak kullandığım konusunda sadece bu savunmanın altına imzamı koymuş olmam bile bana göre yeterli bir ağırlık ve ciddiyet ifade eder, çünkü burada Ermeni komiteleri ve İtilaf devletleriyle ilgili çok acı gerçekleri gözler önüne seriyorum. Bu eseri bitirirken yazdığım son sözü burada bir kere daha tekrar ederek diyorum ki, bir Osmanlı olarak Türklerle Ermeniler arasındaki bu ayrılıktan büyük bir üzüntü duyuyorum. Halbuki kader onların bir arada ve birlikte yaşamalarını istemişti. Tarihe karşı bu cinayeti işleyenler ve böylece tarihin akışını değiştirenler kendilerine gelmeli ve Ermeniler lanetlerini onlara yöneltmeli ve saklamalıdır. "
Ahmed Rüstem Bey
Ahmet Rüstem Bey (1862-1935)
Amerika'da Ermeni propagandasını göğüsleyebilmek için Washington Büyükelçiliği görevini ve diplomatik kariyerini feda edebilmiş olan Ahmet Rüstem Bey, de Bilinski adında Polonyalı bir asker babanın oğludur. Babası, 1848'de patlak veren Avusturya'ya karşı Macar ihtilâline katılmış, bu hareket başarısızlıkla sonuçlanınca 1854'de Türkiye'ye sığınmış, Türk hizmetine girmiş, Müslüman olup Sadeddin Nihad Paşa adını almış, asker ve diplomat olarak devletimize uzun yıllar hizmet etmiş; 1880-1885 yıllarında Osmanlı Komiseri olarak Sofya'da görev yapmış, Bulgaristan Türklerinin haklarını ve vakıf mallarını korumak için canla başla çalışmış olan bir kimseydi.
Ahmet Rüstem Bey, 1862'de babasının görevle bulunduğu Midilli'de doğmuş ve 1935'te Avrupa'da ölmüş olan bir Osmanlı diplomatıdır. Kendisi Müslümandır, ama adı bazı kaynaklarda Alfred de Bilinski olarak da geçer. 1882'de Sofya Komiserliğinde, babasının yanında, Fransızca kâtibi olarak diplomasi mesleğine başladı, Hariciye kadrosunda çeşitli görevlerde bulundu, bu arada iki defa Washington'da maslahatgüzar olarak görev yaptı. Balkan Savaşı öncesinde, 1911-1912 yıllarında, Karadağ'ın başkenti Çetine'de Büyükelçilik yaptı. Balkan Savaşına er olarak katıldı. 1914'te Washington Büyükelçiliğine atandı. Bu görevinden olaylı bir şekilde ayrıldıktan sonra diplomasi mesleğinden da ayrıldı ve yayın yoluyla Türkiye'ye hizmetlerini sürdürdü. Birinci Dünya Savaşı içinde ve Mütareke yıllarında çeşitli yabancı gazetelere Türkiye'yi savunan makaleler yazdı ve İsviçre'de Fransızca iki kitap yayınladı. 1919'da Anadolu'da başlayan Milli harekete ve Mustafa Kemal Paşa'nın yanında Sivas kongresine katıldı. Son Osmanlı Meclisine Ankara Milletvekili olarak seçildi, bu Meclis İngilizler tarafından dağılınca Ankara'ya geldi ve Birinci Büyük Millet Meclisine Ankara Mebusu olarak seçildi. 24 Mayıs 1920 tarihli Padişah iradesi ile Mustafa Kemal Paşa gıyaben idama mahkum edilmişti. O'nunla birlikte idama mahkum edilenler arasında Ahmet Rüstem Bey de vardı. 8 Eylül 1920'de Milletvekilliğinden istifa ederek Avrupa'ya gitti. Mustafa Kemal Paşa'nın talimatıyla kendisine hizmetlerinden dolayı 150 lira maaş bağladı. Rüstem Bey, ölünceye kadar bu aylıkla geçindi ve 73 yaşında hayata gözlerini kapadı.
Dürüst, çalışkan, sert ve alıngan yaratılışlı bir kimse olan, Türkçeden başka altı yabancı dil bilen Ahmet Rüstem Bey, Amerika'da, Avrupa'da ve Mısır'da çıkan gazetlere birçok makale yazmış ve iki kitap yayınlamıştır. La Guerre Mondiale et la Question Armenienne başlıklı ilk kitabı 1918 yılında Berne'de basılmıştı. Bu değerli eser, 83 yıl sonra, Cihan Harbi ve Türk-Ermeni Meselesi adıyla ve Cengiz Aydın'ın çevirisiyle dilimize kazandırılmıştır. Ahmet Rüstem Bey'in Lozan Barış Konferansı öncesinde, 1922'de, Cenevre'de yayınlamış olduğu Fransızca ikinci kitabı La Crise Proche-Orientale et la Question des Détroits de Constantinople (Yakın Doğu Krizi ve İstanbul Boğazları Sorunu) adını taşıyor ve henüz dilimize çevrilmemiştir.
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