03 June 2006

720) The Project of Establishing Great Armenia

For centuries communities of several race, language and religion have lived in peace within the Ottoman Empire. However, at the beginning of the 19th century and especially after the French revolution, changes in political and intellectual spheres occurred. This had been beneficial for the Christian World but caused the emergence of subversive activities outside Europe and especially in the Ottoman Empire. Up to then the Ottomans were dealing with the triviality of the Christian countries like Austria and Russia, now they began to fight with non-Muslim communities which were Ottoman citizens since 500 years.

The Ottoman officials believed that with some reforms in the society and in the state they could resist the pressure of the Europeans and prevent the development of nationalist aspirations of their non-muslim subjects. This has not been possible and the great powers with the excuse of protecting the Christians continued to interfere with the Empire’s internal affairs.

Due to her vast lands, rich natural resources and her strategic location, the Ottoman Empire has been considered as an important area to be colonized by the rapidly industrializing European countries. This led to an increased interest for the non-Muslims living in the Empire. As a result, with the exception of the Turkish population, all other communities of the Empire had been persuaded that the state has lost its legitimacy and its sovereignty had to be suppressed as soon as possible.

The Armenians who lived in all parts of the Ottoman Empire were mostly concentrated at eastern Anatolia but they were also in minority in that area. As to their economic conditions, contrary to the Muslims, Armenians were gradually getting richer.

After their conquest of a part of Caucasia in the 1st quarter of the 19th Century, Russian Empire’s interest for the Armenians grew. Russians thought that the Armenians could help them in their advance towards the Persian Gulf. Under those expectations Russians added to the peace treaty of Berlin an article which foresee reforms to be made in the eastern provinces where the Armenians were living.

Russian interest for the Armenians caused the vigilance of the British who started to send officers as consul to eastern Anatolia. Captain Clayton, vice-consul of Van, in a report written in 1897 says that the Armenians constitute 2/5 of the population of the region. According to Clayton if an independent Armenia is to be founded there this would help the Russians to advance southwards. On the other hand as there was not sufficient number of Armenians, the Turks of that area have to be send somewhere else and Armenians from other parts of the country should be brought to the region.

Moreover Clayton stressed that the Kurds should be encouraged to cooperate with the Armenians and converting them to Christianity would be very advantageous.

The idea of the Kurds supporting the Armenians does not only belong to the British. At that time, the Russian consul of Van General Mayewski, had also expressed similar ideas.

In world history there is no other state than the Ottoman Empire that its demolition has been planned for centuries.

Prof. Dr. Salim CÖHCE*
* Inonu University, Malatya -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 1, March -April - May 2001

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