752) On the Historical Origin of Armenian Troubles

The Ottoman Empire has lasted more than 6 centuries. The Armenians lived within the Empire ever since its establishment. The Armenian problem has shown itself only in the 19th century.

With the treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774, Russia has become the protector of the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire. In 1856, with the Paris treaty, not only Russia but Britain, France, Austria, Germany and Italy have also become the protectors of the Christians subject of the Empire, interfering continuously with its internal affairs.

During the reforms of the Ottoman Empire, in the years 1856-1876, the rights granted to the Christians favored them compared with the Muslims, which has unbalanced the Christian-Muslim relations. For example, while the Muslims were doing their military service for 5 years, the Christians were exempt from this. This has lead to the economic wealth of the Christians while the Muslims were getting poorer. However this has not satisfied the Armenians who had further demands.

The Turkish-Russian war in 1877-1878, has been an opportunity for the Armenians. Armenian gangs appeared at eastern Anatolia, helped the Russian army and in some places they attacked Muslim villages. As the Turks were defeated, the supposed neutral Armenians of Istanbul, began to get in touch with the Russian officials.

By the end of this war, the treaty of Ayastefanos which the Ottomans were obliged to sign for see reforms to be made at the provinces where the Armenians had settled. Moreover the Treaty required the protection of the Armenians from the Kurds and the Circassians. The aim of this provision was to protect the Armenians from the Muslims who suffered from their atrocities. The British reacted to the Ayastefanos treaty, which favored the Russians. In Berlin, a new treaty has been negotiated and concluded that has kept the rules concerning the Armenians and gave to the great powers the right to observe the reforms that are to be made.

After the Berlin treaty, new ideas have emerged such as the creation of an Armenian home and many discussions have started for its realization. On the other hand revolutionary Armenian parties such as the Hunchaks and Dashnaks were founded. Shortly after, the riots they provoked, has turned Anatolia into a bloodshed.

On the other hand, Britain had abandoned her policy of protecting the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire and adopted a new policy to support the states that would be established on Ottoman territory. Accordingly, Britain tried to draw the Armenians in eastern Anatolia by her side, by sending there consuls of military background.

Sultan Abdülhamit the 2nd continuously postponed the reforms that were to be made accordingly to the Berlin treaty, considering that this would result in the partition of Anatolia.

Retired Ambassador, Dr. Bilal N. ��M��R*
* Historian -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 1, March -April - May 2001


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