Nationalism Spreads From the Church to Secular Organizations Armenakan, Hunchaks and Dashnaktsutiun: Revolutionary Parties; Terror as Method The first political party of the Armenian minority to attain any significance was the "Armenakan" Party. Founded in Van in the autumn of 1885, the party was organized along European lines and had its own publication. The mastermind behind this thoroughly revolutionary organization was the son of a tremendously wealthy banker from Constantinople. His name was Mekertich Portukalian. After running into many difficulties with schools that he had established in Van, he emigrated to Marseilles, and from then on he directed his party from there. He also published a periodical in Marseilles, called "Armenia". His objective was to rouse enthusiasm for an Armenian state among the Armenians who were scattered across Europe.
The response came in the form of an "Armenian Patriotic Society", which raised money and bought arms and munitions. Their aim was to "win for the Armenians the right to rule over themselves, through revolution." The members of the Armenakan in Van and the surrounding area were equipped with the most modern weapons and trained in the art of guerilla warfare and in "preparing the people for a general movement" with due consideration given to the support "of friendly great powers". Soon, the Armenakan had revolutionary cells in Trabzon and Constantinople, as well as cadres in Russia, Persia, and the United States.
According to the pro-Armenian historian Christopher Walker, the "enlightenment developed by Portukalian" was soon lost in the "sterile brutality" of the Armenian terrorist scene. In 1887, Armenians in Geneva founded the first Armenian party emphasizing Marxist principles. Their symbol was the bell ("hnshak" = bell).
The Hunchaks drew their membership almost entirely from Russian Armenians, who gave the Theater curtain from an Armenian school in eastern Anatolia showing the revolutionary Hunchaks, Habete Tavekelian and Kalust Andrassian. Terrorists such as these prepared the ambitious, carefully planned "rebellion of Van", which was supposed to arouse world opinion once again against the "atrocities of the Turks".
Money was needed for this purpose, lots of money, and the abbot of the monastery of Aghtamar in LakeVan was expected to contribute his share. He refused to pay tribute to the terrorists because he felt that the Armenians had a good life within the Ottoman Empire.
Consequently, he and his secretary were murdered. The terrorists quartered their bodies and threw them into the lake. Abbot Boghos' successor willingly paid the sum demanded. One year later, in June of 1896, the revolt of Van erupted. It was a bloody preview of the tragedy of 1915, when the terrorists wiped out the entire population of the Islamic part of town.
party the militant-revolutionary spirit that comes from the Caucasus (the young Dzhugashvili, commonly known as Stalin, also came from this world.) The party organ was called Hunchak, and in 1890 the group adopted the name "Hunchakian Revolutionary Party", or "Hun chaks" for short. Their leader was the fanatical revolutionary Avetis Nazarbekian. He was reportedly "dark, slender, very handsome in an oriental style, and played the violin excellently".
He also saw "revolutionary terror" as the natural consequence of rejecting "capitalist" legislation. Finally, the "Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries", the "Hai Hegapokhakanneri Dashnaktsutiun", appeared as a result of the need for an umbrella organization for all the little terrorist groups and revolutionary cells. The goal of the organization was (and is) to win Armenian independence by means of a people's war.
The Dashnaks changed their name to "Hai Hegapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun" - "Armenian Revolutionary Federation". This name is still used by the Dashnaks today. In the nineteenth century, some Protestant-Armenian pastors had fought bitterly with the Gregorian priests over who the best nationalist shepherds were. Now, two political groups, the Dashnaks and the Hunchaks were competing for the favor of the Armenians in the same way. The Hunchaks stressed their socialist convictions where as the Dasknaks put more emphasis on their nationalist views. Together, they produce exactly the same fanatically distorted, national-socialist world view as other organizations with the same ideological persuasions.
The Dashnaks in particular used brutal terrorism again and again as a political means to accomplish their ends. They have been responsible for numerous attacks, including some very recent ones.
Their activities are financed largely by means of intimidation and extortion. One of the ugliest attacks of the Dashnak organization was the assassination attempt on Sultan Abdülhamid II. The Armenian politician K. Papazian, author of the book “Patriotism Perverted” (Boston, 1934), writes that "the attempt on the life of Abdülhamid in 1905 constitutes the last episode of the revolutionary attempts of the A. R. Federation" to achieve political goals by means of assassinations. Since the attempt failed, its consequences were merely unpleasant. The bombs went off too soon because the Sultan spent too much time talking to the Sheik ul Islam after his visit to the Y›ld›z Mosque. The Sultan's pardon of the assailants was futile. The trouble-makers just turned to plotting flashy uprisings in order to attract European attention.
July 21, 1905: The "Y›ld›z attempt" on the life of Sultan Abdülhamid II.
The banner of the Dashnaks with the two legends "Revolutionary Committee of the Armenian Dashnaksutiun" and "Freedom or Death". Heavily armed Dashnaks are seen coming from Ararat, and the bomb exploding in the foreground symbolizes the "work" of the revolutionary groups of the Ottoman Empire. This picture was published in Geneva in 1909.
On September 30, 1895, the Hunchak Party organized a spectacular demonstration in the immediate vicinity of the Sublime Porte (Bab-i Ali). The Revolutionary Hunchak Party had planned something special, and it worked just as they had planned.
The Hunchaks sent letters in advance to all the embassies in Istanbul, announcing their "peaceful demonstration" and at the same time denouncing any acts of violence as the work of the police and military. Everyone involved knew, however, that an especially radical wing of the party was planning well calculated riots. Many demonstrators appeared heavily armed in order to make September 30 a "memorable" day. Around noon, two thousand people had already gathered in the Kumkapi district, near the Armenian Patriarchate. Extravagant demands could be heard, and finally one of the ringleaders of the Sasun uprising shouted "Liberty or Death!" into the crowd. With that, the demonstrators started moving in the direction of Bab Ali. A police officer was killed along the way.
That brought about what the organizers had wanted all along: It provoked the soldiers and police to use violence. For three days, the rioting held the capital in suspense. On October 3, even "Murad" (Hampartsum Boyadjian - another professional agitator from the Sasun revolt) suffered a slight injury.
The Sultan personally asked the patriarch to intercede and restore order, but to no avail. The Hunchak party bigwigs wanted chaos. The expected retaliation from the Muslim population finally came, and as is always the case in such situations, it mainly struck innocent people who had nothing to do with the trouble-makers. This was, however, part of the plan, just as it was in Sasun and Zeitun. On October 10, the last of the Armenians left their churches, where they had sought sanctuary. Any who wished to do so could place themselves under the personal protection of the Russian ambassador.
Ambassador Nelidov knew who needed his help, considering that arms had been found on hundreds of demonstrators.
In the wake of the Bab- Ali demonstration, a new The Bab- Ali Demonstration, the Hunchaks, and the Kusaktsakan Armenian riots in Istanbul, 1896: The tumult always followed the same basic pattern. First, an attack was carried out somewhere in the city. It might be at the Ottoman Bank, in front of the Sultan's palace, or near the seat of the patriarch. Where feasible, European correspondents would be invited to these attacks. The troublemakers were almost always let off, partly due to foreign pres sure and partly because the Sublime Porte hoped that its show of forgiveness would have a calming effect. That is why the same ringleaders kept turning up at one attack after another. This occasionally angered the people so much that the revolutionaries got their wish:
Armenian riots with dead or wounded making news around the world once again.
A "self-portrait" of the Hunchaks, the Marxist revolutionary organization, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of their founding.
Around the central symbol of the bell, we see a commemorative rainbow of especially bloody riots, all incited by Hunchaks or their spiritual fathers.
An illustration from the book Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities, published in the United States in 1896. Caption: "Slaughter of Armenians in Sasun. This is a true picture of the slaughter of innocent people which was inflicted on the innocent Armenians by the bloody Kurds and enraged soldiers. The carnage ended in the massacre of 50,000 people or more. Hundreds of thousands were left without food or shelter after the plundering and burning".
Gang leader Kavafian, one of the troublemakers at Sasun. He is seen here as a Russian officer, which he had been all along - even when he was making trouble in Sasun. The Armenian revolts in the latter part of the nineteenth century and in the years leading up to the First World War often made international headlines.
The ringleaders and agitators behind these revolts were of course professional revolutionaries. When the First World War broke out, they promptly turned up again as the commanders of Armenian volunteer units or terrorist groups. They still had the same goal in mind: the destruction of the Turks.
word was coined: kusaktsakan. A kusaktsakan was an especially faithful follower of the Hunchaks, one who never asked why the party issued an order, but simply obeyed. In Russia, this type of person was later given the name "apparatchik".
The events of Sasun are truly illustrations for a picture book. It is not, however, the bloodthirstiness of the Kurds and the "enraged soldiers" that is illustrated by those events, but rather the technique of stirring up trouble with just one purpose in mind: to force one's political opponents to take actions that will bring one's minority group into the headlines of the international press as a "victim of persecution". The fact that many innocent people truly did lose their lives in the unrest did not bother the ringleaders one bit. They belonged, by the way, to the party of the Hunchaks.
In many handbooks of Armenian history, one can read the names of the "heroes" who incited the population of Sasun to revolt. These names are Mihran Damadian and Hampartsum Boyadjian. Both had previous experience in trouble-making, having organized the revolt of Kumkap (April, 1890). Mihran Damadian had plotted anti-Turkish demonstrations in Athens after fleeing from Constantinople. Boyadjian had come to Sasun from the Caucasus, disguised as a sheik and carrying lots of money. Purchasing arms was thus no problem for him.
Just how "unarmed" the rebels were becomes clear when we learn that the Kurds needed twelve days of ferocious battle to capture a single position from the Armenians. The Times of November 17, 1894 published an article from the pen of a certain G. Hagopian, writing from Fulham, concerning the events of Sasun. Even Christopher Walker, in his work Armenia - The Survival of a Nation, speaks of "rather imprecise details" when referring to this letter. But what did that matter? The world press seized upon Hagopian's account and the entire world was outraged by the suppression of revolts which in fact were already taking on the characteristics of civil war. They were supposed to be "unarmed" revolts. It was also at this time that the world public became accustomed to the totally meaningless casualty figures appearing in captions (e. g., "50,000 dead or more"). The readers accepted these absurd figures just as uncritically
A postlude to the spectacular raid on the Ottoman Bank: The "Leipziger Illustrierte" reported not only on the exposition of weapons and explosives confiscated from Armenian terrorists, but also on the prompt closing of the exposition following the intervention of the foreign embassies. This also set a terrorist example that is still valid today.
The main door of the Ottoman Bank in Bankalar Street, Istanbul. Scene of the raid of August 26, 1896. The raid on the Ottoman Bank still serves as a classic model of terror and extortion for terrorists around the world: taking of hostages; demanding publication of a "manifesto"; demanding (and receiving!) "safe pas sage" with the help of foreign powers.
as modern readers accept the accounts of two and a half million Armenian dead in World War I. To ask about the Islamic victims was already uninteresting at the time of the publication of Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities.
ONE OF THE CLIMAXES OF ARMENIAN TERROR: THE RAID ON THE OTTOMAN BANK
The main door of the imposing facade of the "Osmanl Bankas" in Bankalar Caddesi, Istanbul-fiiflhane is still among the most important private banks in Turkey. In the nineteenth century, it was the leading financial institution in the Ottoman Empire. It played an especially important role in the construction of the rail roads and industries of the time.
On August 26, 1896, Armenian terrorists raided the Ottoman Bank, taking hostages in the process. This was the sad culmination of a year which had already seen more than its share of violence. This time, the operation was masterminded by the Armenian Dashnak Party. They saw this spectacular raid as a chance to catch up with their competition, the Armenian Hunchak Party, which was responsible for almost all the other acts of terrorism in 1896.
The raid was executed by three Armenians from the Caucasus (which was already in Russian hands at that time). Their ringleader, Karakin Pasdermadjian, would later be elected delegate to the National Assembly from Erzurum (1908) and lead a group of Armenian volunteers fighting for the Russian side against the Ottomans in World War I. On August 26, the terrorists forced their way into the bank, threw bombs, barricaded themselves in with sacks full of silver coins, and fired wildly in all directions. They took hostages and insisted that their list of demands be published and met. This operation served as a model for all terrorists to come, and the style of this type of terrorist raid has remained largely unchanged. The demands:
– The appointment of a European high commissioner for the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.
– The subordination of the militia and the police to a European officer.
– Judicial reform consistent with the European system.
– Absolute freedom of the press and of religion.
– An overhaul of the taxation system.
– The annulment of tax debts.
– A general amnesty.
– The formation of a European commission to supervise the implementation of the above demands.
After the standard negotiations that are always held in cases of hostage taking and death threats, the General Director of the Ottoman Bank, Sir Edgar Vincent, entered the besieged building along with the head dragoman of the Imperial Russian Embassy, Maximoff. Their negotiations ended with a guarantee that the terrorists could leave the country safely. This also set a precedent which is still valid today. The seventeen insurgents probably expected the entire British and French fleets to turn up at Istanbul and give them a festive welcome. While this did not happen, it was nonetheless aboard the sumptuous private yacht of Sir Edgar Vincent himself that the gang made its get-away. They later boarded the French warship La Gironde, which brought them safely to Marseilles. From there, they were free to continue planning and carrying out terrorist attacks. The raid had only partially fulfilled its purpose. The expected riots had not materialized. These riots were needed by the terrorists, because along with the dead and wounded they would bring a flood of contributions for the "Armenian Cause".
Other terrorist units therefore helped out by arranging a number of bomb explosions in Galata on August 30.
This time things worked out better, since it was now possible to dream up tales of "4000-6000 Armenians killed in the rioting". Not the least bit of evidence could be found to support these figures in the secret report of the British Embassy (F. O. 424/188, Nos. 149 and 169). But what difference did that make?
A model had been created for all future terrorist raids, complete with hostage-taking, forced publication of a list of demands, and permission for the terrorists to leave the country - plus all the P. R. that accompanies an action of this type.
In 1980 (!), the Briton Christopher Walker wrote in his book Armenia - The Survival of a Nation the following passage concerning the raid on the Ottoman Bank, "Those Dashnaks who escaped were the lucky ones. They were put on board the French steamer Gironde and set sail for France. Their fellow Armenians were left behind to expiate-many times over-the 'crime' of terrorizing a terrorist society."
The Armenians' Last Chance - Blown by the Dashnaks
In 1914, a Dashnaktsutiun Party Congress was held here. The Dashnaks regarded Erzurum as the capital of a future "Greater Armenia". The outbreak of the First World War represents a decisive turning point in the history of the Armenian people. It was on the eve of the Ottoman Empire's entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers (which did not come until the beginning of November) that the revolutionary Dashnaktsutiun held its congress in Erzurum. There are widely differing accounts of the events of the congress, especially concerning the attitude of the delegates towards the Ottoman State.
Hovhannes Kachaznuni, who was later to become prime minister of the independent Armenian Republic, did, however, present a statement concerning this matter to the Bucharest Congress of the Dashnaktsutiun in July, 1923:
"At the beginning of the Fall of 1914 when Turkey had not yet entered the war but had already been making preparations, Armenian revolutionary bands began to be formed in Transcaucasia (i. e., in Czarist Russia, editor's note), with great enthusiasm and, especially, with much uproar.
Contrary to the decision taken during their gen eral meeting at Erzurum only a few weeks before, the A. R. F. (Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaksutyun) had active participation in the formation of the bands and their future military action against Turkey ..." After commenting briefly on the (for Hovhannes Kachaz nuni) distressing fact that the A. R. F. of Transcaucasia had never stuck to its decisions, the former prime minister of the Republic of Armenia continued:
"It would be useless to argue today whether our bands of volunteers should have entered the field or not. Historical events have their irrefutable logic. In the Fall of 1914 Armenian volunteer bands organized themselves and fought against the Turks because they could not refrain themselves from fighting.
This was an inevitable result of psychology on which the Armenian people had nourished itself during an entire generation: that mentality should have found its expression and did so ... If the formation of bands was wrong, the root of that error must be sought much further and more deeply . . . The Winter
The Koran school "with the two minarets" is a symbol of Erzurum. "Ars er Rum - Land of the Romans" - was the name given to the town by the Arab geographer Ibn Battuta. It was first attacked by the Seljuks in 1049.
In the year 632, the Byzantines held a synod here, in the course of which the defeated Armenian principalities were ordered to accept Greek Orthodoxy. Under the name "Karen", Erzurum belonged to the Bagratid Empire, which was tributary to the Caliphs. The Turks established themselves in Erzurum following their victory at Mantzikert (1071).
A Seljuk double eagle on the medrese in Erzurum. The old Seljuk cities of Sivas, Erzurum, and Konya, with their rich symbolism, became centers of Turkish resistance to the partitioning of Anatolia.
This picture appeared in the Armenian-American journal "Azk" on March 2, 1915. That means it was taken at least three months before the Ottoman government's relocation order, which was issued in the wake of constant armed uprisings behind the front.
The photo shows Hunchaks who fought against the Ottomans on the Caucasian front. For the most part, these were deserters who stood out for their cruelty against the civilian population. Armenian uprising behind the Ottoman front, February-March, 1915. Among the faces in this photo is that of Papkene (standing, far left), who had already helped organize the raid on the Ottoman Bank, in 1896.
of 1914 and the Spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for all the Armenians in the Caucasus, including, of course, the Dashnagtzoutiun. We had no doubt the war would end with the complete victory of the Allies; Turkey would be de feated and dismembered, and its Armenian population would at last be liberated.
We had embraced Russia wholeheartedly without any compunction. Without any positive basis of fact we believed that the Tzarist government would grant us a more or less broad self-government in the Caucasus and in the Armenian vilayets liberated from Turkey as a reward for our loyalty, our efforts and assistance." No one from the inner ranks ever told the truth to the Armenians in such a dry, matter-of-fact, uncompromising fashion as their own prime minister of the Armenian Republic, Hovhannes Kachaznuni. When he says, "We had implanted our own desires into the minds of others," he knows what he is talking about. As they have almost always done with their politics, the Russians let the whole truth be known in 1914 concerning their intentions towards the Armenians (in the same way as Lenin openly pronounced his intentions towards the "capitalist world"; it is just that hardly anyone in the West has ever believed him). It was enough just to read the appeal issued by the Czar, and even that did not have to be read very closely, considering how blatantly it destroyed all Armenian illusions: -"Armenians! From East to West, all the peoples of Greater Russia have answered my call respectfully. - Armenians!
The hour has come to free yourselves from the tyranny that has ruled over you for five hundred years - this tyranny that has massacred, and continues to massacre, so many of you. The Russians gladly remember their glorious Armenian compatriots.
The Lazaroffs and the Melikoffs and others have fought on the side of their Slavic brothers for the glory of the Fatherland. Their loyalty is our guarantee of your loyalty as well. We are certain that you will all fulfill your duty and contribute everything to the victory of our forces and of our just cause. Armenians! You will be united with your brothers under the regime of the Czars and finally experience the blessings of freedom and justice!" What did this appeal contain, aside from the assertion that the Armenians would be united under the regime of the Czars (assuming a Russian victory)? No trace of a promise of independence.
Not even a hint at autonomy or autonomous self-government. Nevertheless: The Armenians delivered themselves up to the Russian slaughter. They willingly let themselves be sacrificed on the chessboard of Russian superpower politics.
And they apparently still have not learned their lesson, since Armenian terrorism is, willingly or unwillingly, still offering its services today to Russian superpower politics. "We had created a dense atmosphere of illusion in our minds. We had implanted our own desires into the minds of others; we had lost our sense of reality and were carried away with our dreams. From mouth to mouth, from ear to ear passed mysterious words purported to have been spoken in the palace of the Viceroy; attention was called to some kind of a letter by Vorontzov-Dashkov to the Catholicos as an important document in our hands to use in the presentation of our rights and claims - a cleverly composed letter with very indefinite sentences and generalities which might be interpreted in any manner, according to one's desire. We overestimated the ability of the Armenian people, its political and military power, and overestimated the extent and importance of the services our people rendered to the Russians. And by overestimating our very modest worth and merit was where we naturally exaggerated our hopes and expectations.
The deportations and mass exiles and massacres which took place during the Summer and Autumn of 1915 were mortal blows to the Armenian Cause.
Half of historical Armenia - the same half where the foundations of our independence would be laid according to traditions inherited from the early eighties and as the result of the course adopted by European diplomacy - that half was denu-
Front page of the Armenian newspaper “Huchak” with the Hunchak appeal to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire, summer 1914.
Appeal issued by the Hunchaks at the beginning of the First World War
The Hunchak Social Democrat Committee . . ., which has been working since over a quarter of a century in a bloody path to obtain the liberation of the Armenians in Turkey, now descends, driven by the power of actual political events, from the Taurus Mountains and the borders of Armenia down to the battle-field, blowing the trumpet of strife and revolution, to drown in blood the Ottoman tyranny.
In this gigantic struggle where existence of nations is at stake, the Hunchak Committee as well as the entire Armenian nation will join their forces, moral and material, and waving the sword of revolution in their hands, will enter into this world war. As comrades of arms of the Triple Entente and particularly of Russia they will cooperate with the Allies, making full use of all political and revolutionary means they possess for the final victory in Armenia, Cilicia, Caucasus, and Azerbaijan . . . Well then, foward Comrades . . . Foward to work.
crush down the death, death which threatens Armenia,
so that it lives and it lives forever . . .
Head offices of the Social
Democrat Hunchak Committee.
ded of Armenians; the Armenian provinces of Turkey were without Armenians. The Turks knew what they were doing and have no reason to regret today. It was the most decisive method of extirpating the Armenian Question from Turkey. Again, it would be useless to ask today to what extent the participation of volunteers in the war was a contributory cause of the Armenian calamity . . .
The proof is, however - and this is essential - that the struggle began decades ago against the Turkish government brought about the deportation or extermination of the Armenian people in Turkey and the desolation of Turkish Armenia. This was the terrible fact!" A short while later, the former Prime Minister of the Armenian Republic comes to his conclusion: "By an extraordinary mental aberration, we, a political party, were forgetting that our Cause was an incidental and trivial phase for the Russians (in their fight against the Ottomans and their drive to the Mediterranean, editor's note), so trivial that if necessary, they would trample on our corpses without a moment's hesitation . . . When the Russians were advancing we used to say from the depths of our subconscious minds that they were com ing to save us; and when they were withdrawing we said they are retreating so that they allow us to be massacred .. .
In both cases we misunderstood the consequence and the purpose and intention ..."
It was a tragic but telling coincidence that April 24 was the day the Ottoman Minister of the Interior gave the order to arrest the party functionaries, known revolutionaries, and agitators in Istanbul. (There was not yet any talk about a relocation order.) On that very same day, the governor of Van sent the following telegram:
UNTIL NOW APPROXIMATELY 4000 INSURGENT ARMENIANS HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THE REGION FROM THE VICINITY. THE REBELS ARE ENGAGED IN HIGHWAY ROBBERY, ATTACK THE NEIGHBORING VILLAGES AND BURN THEM. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREVENT THIS. NOW MANY WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE LEFT HOMELESS. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE NOR SUITABLE TO RELOCATE THEM IN TRIBAL VILLAGES IN THE VICINITY.
WOULD IT BE CONVENIENT TO BEGIN SENDING THEM TO THE WESTERN PROVINCES?
Truly an absurd telegram. The governor of Van wanted to move the Muslim women and children to the safety of the West. No one was yet thinking of relocating Armenians, only Muslims.
On May 8, the Armenian rebels began a general assault in the vicinity of Van. All the surrounding Muslim villages went up in flames. The Ottoman governor, Cevdet Pasha, now ordered a withdrawal. On May 17, the Ottoman troops abandoned Van. On the same day, the incoming Armenians set fire to the Muslim part of town and established total Armenian control.
A few days later, the Russian vanguard arrived in Van. It was made up of Armenian units. Several days after that regular Russian troops followed. The new Armenian ruler of Van, Aram, presented the Russi
Spring, 1915. Armenian irregulars, provided with artillery by the Russians, open a second front behind Ottoman lines in order to facilitate the Russian conquest of Van. A group from the 8th company of an Armenian Hunchak regiment, which fought alongside the Russians against the Ottomans on the Caucasian front.
These troops were said to have been organized by the Armenian committees in America and Europe, although that may have just been propaganda invented for fund-raising purposes.
The opening of a second front in Van, behind Ottoman lines, gave a decisive advantage to the Russians. The "struggle for Van" thus became a favorite theme for the Allies, who supported the Armenian rebellion as much as possible. In the hinterland, this support was provided through the missionaries, who put their good services at the disposal of the Armenians. On a broader scale, arms shipments and money were provided. The ambitious Armenian uprising in the Vilayet of Van led to the capture of the provincial capital by the insurgents. At the same time, the Allies were threatening the capital of the Ottoman Empire with massive attacks on the Dardanelles. The instructions to move the Armenians out of the endangered areas were not given until after the Armenian uprising in Van.
an commander, General Nikolayev, with the keys to the city. Two days later, Nikolayev confirmed the Armenian provisional government in office, with Aram as governor. The point of this Russian show of generosity was clear. It was intended to give the Armenians an appetite for similar self-government in the wake of similar rebellions. The specter lasted only six weeks; then the Ottomans advanced and reconquered Van. They moved into an empty town. The Muslims had been killed, and the entire Armenian population, along with the American missionaries, had fled north with the Russians to the safety of Transcaucasia.
The Relocation Decision: Its Causes and Consequences Armenians the world over remember April 24 as the day on which "the genocide of the Armenians began". This memory should be reconsidered for a number of reasons. The day of remembrance, April 24, intentionally confuses cause and effect. The Ottoman minister of the interior, Talat Pasha, did indeed send a telegram on the 24th of April, 1915 ordering the arrest of the insurgents. There was still no talk, however, of a relocation, since it was still not seen as necessary.
The coded telegram went to the governors of the provinces affected by Armenian subversion and read as follows:
"Once again, especially at a time when the state is engaged in war, the most recent rebellions which have occurred in Zeitun, Bitlis, Sivas and Van have demonstrated the continuing attempts of the Armenian committees to obtain, through their revolutionary and political organizations, an independent administration for themselves in Ottoman territory. These rebellions and the decision of the Dashnak Committee, after the outbreak of war,
The former Armenian deputy of Erzurum, Karekin Pastirmadjian. As a revolutionary, he went by the nom de guerre "Armen Garo No. 1". He is seen here with the group leaders Tero and Hecho. They are participating in one of the frequent "benedictions", after which another group of innocent young idealists would be sent into the line of fire.
The "Armenskaya Isvestiya" shows us children of distinguished Armenian families who were being sent into battle for a lost cause. "We were forgetting that our Cause was an incidental and trivial phase for the Russians . . ." That is what the man who was to become Armenian prime minister would later say in looking back on this period.
The mighty rock of Van with its fortress, which dates back to Urartian times. Beneath the citadelle are the ruins of the former Islamic part of Van, which was totally leveled during the Armenian uprising. 30.000 Muslims died here in a period of just a few days. A "Hiroshima" of terrorism: Only the foundation walls of the Islamic district of Van survived - and a few remains of once proud, mighty mosques.
The Armenian uprising of Van began in February, 1915 and reached its first climax in April. The rebels set fire to the old Islamic city on May 17, the same day on which the small Ottoman garrison was forced to withdraw from the town. It was not until July 22, 1915 that the Ottomans were able to retake Van. In the meantime, the entire Islamic population of Van, which had not been able to escape in time, was liquidated by the Armenian terrorists.
On April 7, 1918, Van was back once again in Ottoman hands. The Turkish part of town lay in ruins. At the foot of the mighty castle-rock of Van, there was nothing left but a pile of rubble - an enduring reminder of the horror of violence and terrorism. The arrests ordered on April 24 began the following day in Istanbul. In the provinces they began somewhat later in some cases.
immediately to incite the Armenians in Russia against us, and to have the Armenians in the Ottoman state rebel with all their force when the Ottoman army was at its weakest, are all acts of treason which would affect the life and future of the country.
It has been demonstrated once again that the activities of these committees, whose headquarters are in foreign countries, and who maintain, even in their names, their revolutionary attributes, are determined to gain autonomy by using every possible pretext and means against the Government. This has been established by the bombs which were found in Kayseri, Sivas and other regions, also by the actions of the Armenian committee leaders who have participated in the Russian attack on the country, by forming volunteer regiments comprised of Ottoman Armenians in the Russian army, and through their publications and operations aimed at threatening the Ottoman army from the rear.
Naturally, as the Ottoman Government will never condone the continuation of such operations and attempts, which constitute a matter of life and death for itself, nor will it legalize the existence of these committees which are the source of malice, it has felt the necessity to promptly close down all such political organizations. You are therefore ordered to close down immediately all branches, within your province, of the Hinchak, Dashnak, and similar committees; to confiscate the files and documents found in their branch headquarters, and en sure that they are neither lost nor destroyed; to immediately arrest all the leaders and prominent members of the committees, together with such other Armenians as are known by the Government to be dangerous; further, to gather up those Armenians whose presence in one area is considered to be inappropriate, and to transfer them to other parts of the province or “sanjak”, so as not to give them the opportunity to engage in harmful acts; to begin the process of searching for hidden weapons; and to maintain all contacts with the (military) commanders in order to be prepared to meet any possible counter-actions. As it has been determined in a meeting with the Acting Commander-in-Chief that all individuals arrested on the basis of files and documents which come into our possession in the course of the proper execution of these orders are to be turned over to the military courts, the above-mentioned steps are to be implemented immediately. We are to be informed subsequently as to the number of people arrested, and with regard to the implementation of these orders. For Bitlis, Erzurum, Sivas, Adana, Marafl and Aleppo: as this operation is only intended to affect the operation of the committees, you are strongly ordered not to implement it in such a manner as will cause mutual killings on the part of the Muslim and Armenian elements of the population. 11. April 1331 (24. April 1915). The Minister of the Interior."
These arrests only affected the ringleaders of the Dashnaktsutiun and the Hunchaks, along with a few well known agitators. The order had absolutely nothing to do with a general relocation.
The government's order to move the Armenians as a group out of the endangered areas (Istanbul and Izmir were not affected since they were considered "safe" and "under control") did not come until months later. It was brought on by the horrifying assault of Armenian terrorists and irregulars on the city of Van. This event represented a shocking climax of Armenian terrorism. The rebels conquered Van, declared an "Armenian Republic of Van", and completely destroyed the Muslim part of the city. Some 30.000 Muslims lost their lives in the violence.
Once again, the idea of moving the Armenian population (and not just the terrorist ringleaders) out of the endangered areas did not arise until after the catastrophe of Van. The government troops were forced by the rebels to leave Van on May 17, 1915. At this time, Van was behind Russian lines, which were moving deeper and deeper into eastern Anatolia. The spearhead of the Russian-Czarist assault troops was made up of Armenian volunteers, who distinguished themselves with their particularly brutal treatment of the Muslim population of eastern Anatolia. In the meantime, the true dimensions of the catastrophe of Van became known in Istanbul. It was at this point that the idea arose of relocating the Armenian population of Anatolia as a whole. Until this time, there had only been arrests of ringleaders and known terrorists on a local level - nothing more.
The concept of a relocation came up when the acting commander of the army, who had learned his lesson from the horrid outcome of the Van revolt, suggested responding to steps taken by the Russians (which appear to have been discussed with the Armenians!) with similar measures from the Ottoman side. This suggestion was made in a secret communique of the Minister of the Interior (No. 2049):
“The Armenians around the periphery of Lake Van, and in other regions which are known to the Governor of Van, are engaged in continuous preparations for revolution and rebellion. I am of the opinion that this population should be removed from this area, and that this nest of rebellion be broken up. According to information provided by the Commander of the Third Army, the Russians, on April the 7th (April the 20th), began expelling their Muslim population, by pushing them, without their belongings, across our borders. It is necessary, in response to this (Russian) action, and in order to reach the goals that I have outlined abo-
A Turkish memorial to the Islamic victims of the Armenian upris ing of the spring of 1915. The bodies of 5000 Muslims lie beneath the monument in a gully that opens into Lake Van. The Muslims were rounded up on this spot and massacred.
One of the countless Islamic buildings of Van destroyed during the Armenian uprising. Whereas demands for the restoration of Armenian buildings in eastern Anatolia are made again and again (and rightly so), the world public has thus far shown no concern whatsoever for the equally endangered Islamic monuments of the region, such as this Ottoman mosque. This lack of concern for Muslim buildings is not unlike the prevalent attitude towards the Muslim victims of the Armenian uprisings – a subject which has yet to be raised outside of Turkey, even though the loss of life on the Islamic side was tremendous.
ve, either to expel the Armenians in question to Russia, or to relocate them and their families in other regions of Anatolia. I request that the most suitable of these alternatives be chosen and implemented. If there is no objection, I would prefer to expel the creators of these centres of rebellion and their families outside our borders, and to replace them with the Muslim refugees pushed across our borders. 19. April 1331 (2. May 1915).”
The importance of this document lies in the fact that it clearly states what the Supreme Military Commander's motive was. The Russians had sent the entire Muslim population of the Caucasus region to eastern Anatolia, leaving them with nothing but the shirts on their backs. At the same time, the Armenians in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire (particularly in Van) had seized total power, killed the Muslims, and proclaimed their "Armenian Republic of Van". Under these circumstances, the decision to relocate the Armenians of Anatolia - those living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire - is understandable. They were to be moved "to areas considered safer", areas not so exposed to the grasp of the Russians and the Allied powers of Europe.
A few weeks later, on May 19, 1331 (June 1, 1915), the Ottoman government published the following decree in the Takvim-i Vakaya (the Ottoman official gazette):
Article 1. In time of war, the Army, Army Corps, and Divisional Commanders, their Deputies, and the Independent Commanders, are authorized and compelled to crush in the most severe way, and to eradicate all signs of aggression and resistance by military force, should they encounter any opposition, armed resistance and aggression by the population, to operations and measures relating to orders issued by the Government for the defence of the country and the maintenance of order.
Article 2. The Army, Army Corps, and Divisional Commanders are authorized to transfer and relocate the populations of villages and towns, either individually or collectively, in response to military needs, or in response to any signs of treachery or betrayal.
Article 3. This provisional law will come into effect when it is published. It is undoubtedly true that many innocent people lost their property, their health, and even their lives in the relocation of 1915 -many Armenians and even more Muslims. To try to place blame for a wartime tragedy such as this is truly senseless, but in light of the almost universal assumption that everything was the fault of the "Terrible Turks", something must be said about the passive behavior of the overwhelming majority of Ottoman Armenians at the time. Above all else, they just wanted peace, and they remained silent because they did not want a confrontation with the terrorists. For decades, they tolerated the presence of a small number of fanatics among them who held absurd, impracticable, and completely unjust ambitions for independence (unjust because the Armenians did not have a majority anywhere in the Ottoman Empire).
The extremists became more and more powerful; they terrorized Muslims and Armenians; and eventually, after the beginning of the First World War, they were openly waging civil war.
In the turmoil of the war, with the Ottoman Empire forced to fight for its very existence, there remained no other choice but to carry out the relocation. The events that followed the end of the war - when the Allies penetrated into Anatolia and the Greeks advanced almost as far as Ankara - prove just how wisely those responsible for the relocation had acted.
If the "silent majority" of Ottoman Armenians had objected to the insane plans of the extremists and the "romantic" visions of the missionaries, many Armenians and even more Muslims would have been spared tremendous suffering. As it was, however, many had to pay for the offenses of a minority. Often - far too often - it is the success of the rational, level-headed majority in prevailing over the irrational minority of agitators, fanatics, and romantics which determines whether or not disaster will befall a nation. No nation that has let itself be seduced or silenced by a minority has ever been spared.
The National Socialists in Professor Justin McCarthy of the University of Louisville on the results of his research:
"There has been quite a bit of misinformation that has been told about Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Specifically about the number of Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire and what happened to the Armenians. On this map here, we have an area that is historically called Armenia - whether or not there were very many Armenians living there or whether Armenians ruled it at any one time. In this area, which stretches from the Russian border all the way down to the Mediterranean, there were - at the time of the end of the Ottoman Empire around the year 1912 or 1915 - six provinces, called vilayets. In these provinces, there were many Armenians, but in none of these provinces was more than a third of the population Armenian, and in most cases it was quite a bit less than a third. In fact, if at the beginning of the First World War you took the entire Armenian population of the world and you put it all in this area that has been called Armenia, the Muslim population would still have outnumbered the Armenians. Of course they were not there, and that meant that the Muslims outnumbered the
Professor Justin McCarthy has devoted a great deal of his work to studying the population statistics of the Ottoman Empire. He is the author of the book Muslims and Minorities – The Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire, in which he proves scientifically that the Armenian minority in the Ottoman Empire did not have a majority in any vilayet – not even in the city of Van itself, where they were most strongly represented. Muslims and Minorities was published by New York University Press in 1983.
Graphic representation of the Anatolian provinces showing the population breakdown in 1912. From: Muslims and Minorities -The Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire. New York University Press, 1983.
Armenians by approximately 6:1.
Now at the beginning of the First World War, the Ottomans decided that they would move a number of Armenians who they believed to be a threat from the areas in which they lived to other areas in the South. Many more Armenians than were ever moved in any forced migration, however, fled with the Russian armies to the north, and in the World War you have a period of tremendous death.
There was cholera, typhus ... in fact, there were three years in which no crops were on the ground. And so the people who lived in the area simply starved to death - if they did not die of disease and if they did not die of outright murder. By outright murder, I mean the murder that came when the Russian army invaded this territory. They came right down to the city of Van, which was being held by the Armenian revolutionaries against their own government. When the Russian armies came in, many groups of Russians and large numbers of Armenian irregulars massacred large numbers of Muslims.
There was back and forth fighting that went on for the next three years and quite a bit of killing of Armenians by Muslims and Muslims by Armenians. When each of the armies retreated, their own people, the people who identified with them and were tied to them, left with them. So when the Russians retreated, the Armenians retreated with them. When the Muslim, Ottoman armies retreated, the Muslims - Turks especially - left with them. Through the whole of Anatolia, in the whole region which extends from the Aegean and the Mediterranean all the way up to the Black Sea and the Caucasus, you had approximately 600.000 dead Armenians. In the same region, you had 2.5 million dead Muslims, most of them Turks.
Even in just this area (Armenia), you had more than a million dead Muslims - Turks - well, some
The 36-centimetre guns of HMS Canopus fire on the Ottoman fortifications on the Dardanelles to soften up the Turks for assault, together with their German allies and the Austro-Hungarian artillery.
The battleship BOUVET was part of the squadron contributed by the French to the Dardanelles She had a face-hardened amour above the waterline, making her one of the most powerful protected warships of her era. On March 18, 1915 the ship sustained eight hits from Turkish artillery. At Erin Keui Bay BOUVET struck a mine and sank within two minutes, taking over 600 crews with her. Despite the loss of the Bouvet, the first such loss of the day, the British remained unaware of the minefield, thinking the explosion has been caused by a shell or torpedo. Subsequently two British battleships, the OCEAN and IRRESISTIBLE, were sunk and the MS INFLEXIBLE as well as the SUFFREN and GAULOIS were damaged at the same minefileld.
Nevertheless the invasion of the Dardanelles by infantry started April 24.
were other peoples, but the majority were Turks, which meant that in this area called Armenia there were hundreds of thousands more dead Muslims than there were Armenians. Now, this area has been portrayed as an area in which Armenians were slaughtered. To a certain extent that is true, but to be historically accurate, we also have to call it an area where Muslims were slaughtered - in fact, many more Muslims. And we have to view this time period around World War I, before and a little bit after World War I, as a period of great inhumanity - of massacres, of deaths that touched all people - not simply Armenians, not simply Turks. Unless it is viewed as a human problem instead of a sectarian problem - instead of a problem of just the Armenians - we will never understand what really went on at the time."
Precisely at this time in the early months of 1915 the Armenians were busy instigating innumerable uprisings in the Turkish hinterland, not only in Van and the eastern hinterland but also in the immediate vicinity of the Dardanelles: armed uprisings in Yalova, Bursa, Izmit, and Adapazar were intended to assist the troops of the Entente to make their landings by preventing the Ottomans from sending reinforcements. This dramatic phase saw the Greeks and Armenians of Istanbul in a state of "high excitement": they were fully expecting the imminent triumphal entry of the British and French and their allies into the Ottoman capital.
It was only at the very last possible moment, on April 24, 1915, that the Turks arrested a total of precisely 235 Armenian ringleaders who had already planned a coup and prepared for a transfer of power in Istanbul.
The Armenian myth of victimhood stands or falls on two legs: the date
April 24, 1915, and Franz Werfel's literary masterpiece,
"The Forty Days of Musa Dagh".
But these legs are not healthy ones - they are artificial limbs.
It is a striking fact that neither in Turkish literature on the subject - nor, naturally enough, in Armenian literature – is there a thorough account of what happened on "April 23, 1915". From the point of view of Yerevan or Boston this is quite logical, as neither the Republic of Hayastan nor the diaspora Armenians have any interest in the real facts being made known - on the contrary, on both sides of the Atlantic, the practice is to maintain a specious picture of "genocide" by celebrating an anniversary, and thus giving an appearance of historical relevance to the events in question. After all, the priority is to perpetuate a memorable and easily grasped myth from which not only the Armenians of the motherland but also Armenian minorities all over the world can nourish their aggressive raison d'être.
Artificial limb No. 1: April 23, 1915
But what exactly did happen on April 23 and 24, 1915? And why? There is no questioning the fact that in those dramatic hours, 235 leading personalities from the Armenian community in Istanbul were arrested and taken to the centre of the land, mostly to Çankr and Ayvas, north of Ankara, where they
Excerpt from the Hamburger Abendblatt,
22 April 2005.
The Turks wanted to exterminate them Genocide: Even 90 years after the planned extermination of the Armenians, fear and suppression of the facts dominate Ankara's dealings on the matter.
by Thomas Frankenfeld and Stefan Fuhr Hamburg/Frankfurt am Main - "Who ever gives a thought to the extermination of the Armenians today?" The small mustached man who tossed out this sarcastic question on August 22, 1939 for the benefit of an assembly of highranking Wehrmacht officers and commanders of SS special units was sure that he would be proved right. He was convinced that just as the extermination of the Armenians had long been forgotten, in decades to come nobody would give a thought to the genocide perpetrated on the Jews by the Nazis.
April 24, 1915, saw the beginning of the genocide: the execution of the entire Armenian leadership cadre – 2.350 men - in Constantinople. In the months that followed, almost all the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey were forcibly taken to concentration camps by Turkish gendarmes and soldiers in units specially created for the purpose. (See: http://www.abendblatt.de/daten/2006/10/13/624031.html)
Map of Constantinople. The Armenian quarters are marked around KUMKAPI.
then presented no immediate danger. Many commentators in our own day, including a pair of journalists writing in the Hamburger Abendblatt, have no scruples about multiplying the number arrested by 10 and writing 2,350 - what's in a 0? -instead of 235, or simply fantasizing about "thousands", as another writer did in the Neue Zürcher Nachrichten. Sheer manipulation.
It is clear that in the prevailing circumstances the Ottoman authorities could not have organized a wave of arrests over a wide area in the capital Constantinople, let alone actually have carried it out. The planning took at least ten days and the fact that most able-bodied men were on active service on one of the many fronts of war meant that the Ottoman authorities had to act with the greatest caution if the Armenians they were to arrest were only to be the militant leaders who in previous years had repeatedly been the perpetrators of evil deeds.
The Armenian residential and administrative areas centred on Kumkap on the shore of the Sea of Marmara, where even today the Gregorian Patriarchate is to be found. The wealthy Armenians lived, as did the Greeks, mainly in the new quarter known as Pera. The historic city of Constantinople was thus situated between the teeth of a pair of pincers consisting of dissident inhabitants who in April 1915 were waiting for their hour to come.
In the early months of 1915 the Ottoman authorities were confronted with the problem that Constantinople was threatened on two sides, by the French and British fleets lying in wait before the Dardanelles on one hand, and from the Eastern front on the other. After the collapse of the winter offensive under Enver Pasha and the annihilation of the 3rd Army, which had under his command failed to advance towards Russia over the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia was left almost entirely without any means of defending itself against Russian attack. Only a few regiments of the 95.000-strong 3rd Army had survived; almost 75.000 men had been lost. It was clear to all concerned that the losses had been incurred not only because the troops had been poorly armed and equipped but also because they were massively betrayed by the Armenian inhabitants of the region, who put their hopes -vainly, as it turned out - in the Russians. The letter of thanks which Enver sent on ahead in February to the Gregorian Bishop of Konya only proves that the commander clearly recognized the importance of the Armenian forces.
In March 1915 a carefully prepared uprising broke out in Zeitun which was intended to break open the sparingly manned Ottoman front from behind. The motivation behind this attack was the Armenians' strategically well conceived plan to conquer the zone around Alexandrette (Iskenderun) in south-eastern Anatolia, where the Ottomans only had a limited troop presence, and thus to cut the Empire into two parts. A few months later, in July 1915, this offensive was indeed carried out with French support on Musa Dagh, but failed as a result of the resistance of the defending forces.
The goal of the Armenians - who were undeterred by the fact that they were nowhere in the majority -was the establishment of an independent State. And the Russian authorities in St. Petersburg - neither Tsar Nicholas nor the "red Tsars" who followed him ever dreamt of granting the Armenians independence - were attracted by the imminent possibility of an attack on Constantinople and a breakthrough to the "warm seas". All this was to be made possible by the Armenian uprisings in the east and southeast of the Empire, and the advance of the united French and British forces over the Dardanelles to Constantinople-Istanbul, the latter to be assisted in a special way by Armenian bands in and around the capital. The model was to have been Van.
The advance of the British-French fleet before the Dardanelles (Çanakkale), and their attempt to break through to Constantinople (Istanbul) in conjunction with the same kind of Armenian uprising in the capital as had been carried out successfully in Van.
End Of Par IV