1175) Why did Ottoman Armenians & Muslims Become Enemies?

"Although most Armenians maintained a correct attitude vis-à-vis the Ottoman government, it can be asserted with some substantiation that the manifestations of loyalty were insincere, for the sympathy of most Armenians throughout the world was with the Entente, not with the Central Powers. By autumn 1914, several prominent Ottoman Armenians, including a former member of parliament, had slipped away to the Caucasus to collaborate with Russian military officials."

Richard Hovannisian, "Armenia on the Road to Independence," 1967, p. 42

So why did Ottoman-Armenians stop become disloyal, after being known for centuries as the "Loyal Millet," or Faithful Nation?

Deceptive Armenian propaganda would have us believe that Turks and other Muslims suddenly decided to start killing Armenians for sport in the late 1890s, and has concocted baseless theories for the 1915 period, such as "pan-Turanism" or "Muslims hate Christians" (without fully explaining why these reasons were absent in centuries past... and also without explaining why other minorities escaped the Armenians' fate of "deportation," the propagandists' synonym for "genocide").

Events do not suddenly exist, without reason, as though history takes place in a vacuum. In order to understand why something happened, it is necessary to delve into the sequence of events that transpired in the past.

Prof. Justin McCarthy, in his extremely scholarly book "Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922," instructs us on the genuine, historical backdrop... without bias, which is what makes him such a historian par excellence. (This book is a must-have for any truthful party interested in the "genocide" matter.)

The professor basically ties in the reason, also by examining the period that transpired before the "seventy years," with exactly what Jemal Pasha had written in his memoirs :

"As to the occurrences which took place during the deportations these must be ascribed to seventy years of accumulated hatred between Turks, Kurds, and Armenians. The responsibility must lie with Muscovite policy which made mortal enemies of three nations who for centuries had lived together in peace."

(Perhaps why at least one Armenian scholar from Armenia, Rafael Hambartsumian, gave Russia "equal genocidal guilt." It's the rare Armenian who goes even beyond, acknowledging that "The real enemy of the Armenians were the Russians, not the Turks"... as William Saroyan wrote, in "Antranik of Armenia.")

(pp. 25-29)

In studying the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, one becomes aware that they can and should be treated as one region, despite political boundaries. Throughout the 100-year period of this study, the histories and the peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia cannot be understood separately. Economically, socially, linguisti- cally, and religiously the connections among the peoples of the region remained strong well into the 1920s, perhaps beyond.

To understand the closeness of the histories of the peoples of the "Russian South" and "Ottoman East" one has only to consider them by religious groups, rather than by political borders. It is impossible to consider the Anatolian Armenians as if they were not intimately connected to the Armenians of Erivan. Too many migrants crossed from the Ottoman Empire to Russia, too many bishops from the jurisdiction of Istanbul to that of Echmiadzin and back, too many revolutionaries crossed and recrossed the borders for the Armenians to be accurately styled as Turkish Armenians and Russian Armenians in any but a political sense. The same was true of Muslims, especially the Turks and Kurds of the southern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. Although most Muslim migration was outmigration from the southern Caucasus to eastern Anatolia, there was considerable ongoing migration for purposes of trade, employment, and family. Muslim nomads crossed the political borders freely. New infusions of forced migrants brought news of the Caucasus to their fellow Muslims in the east.

Armenians under Russian and Ottoman rule obviously viewed each other as brothers, no matter their citizenship. The same was true of Muslims. It is doubtful if the concept of citizenship, as opposed to religious affiliation, had taken any great hold in either the Caucasus or eastern Anatolia before the 1920s. In the east, a Caucasian Muslim felt closer to an Anatolian Muslim than to a Caucasian Armenian, just as an eastern Anatolian Armenian affiliated himself with Armenians of the Caucasus, not Anatolian Muslims. For this reason, it is ridiculous to speak of a large group of loyal Muslim subjects of Russia in the Caucasus or loyal Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in eastern Anatolia. Both regions had Muslims and Armenians who were integrated into the political system and could be considered as loyal, even patriotic subjects. Most Armenians and Muslims, however, were peasants or nomads who knew no real affiliation above tribe or village, except their religious affiliation. Their primary loyalty to their own religious groups was proven again and again in the Caucasian and eastern Anatolian wars.

In time of war, the sympathies of Armenians and Muslims emerged openly. There was no doubt as to the loyalty of either group. Despite the fact that some Muslims fought on the side of the Russians, particularly in the Crimean War,[3] and many middle- class Armenians supported the Ottoman government, both Arme- nians and Muslims in the east generally assumed that their place was alongside their coreligionists. This was true in both the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. In the Caucasus, Muslims responded to Ottoman calls for rebellion against their Russian masters in time of war and fought as guerrillas and regular troops against their Russian masters, as stated by W. E. D. Allen:

[In World War I] In the Valleys of the Coruh and the Oltu-cay there were very mixed elements: Christians (Armenians) predominated in the towns of Artvin, Ardanuch, Ardahan and Oitu, while Muslims were in the majority in the countryside; these Muslims included Groups of Georgian origin, like the Laz and Acars, Turks, remnants of the old Tatar hordes, and Cherkesses who had settled, after 1864, on what was then the Turkish side of the border. Irrespective of their racial origins, all the Muslims proved more or less ready to help the Turks, particularly when they came as an invading army. Thus the Cherkesses of Upper Sarikamis stubbornly defended their stone saklyas by the side of the Turkish askers, and the needy inhabitants of the uplands provided scanty food to the divisions ofHafiz Hakki during their desperate march across the Allahuekber Mountains [in the ill-fated invasion ofthe^south- ern Caucasus].[4]
Justin McCarthy

Prof. Justin McCarthy (from "The Armenian Revolt")

Some Armenians began to act as adjuncts of Russian policy and the Russian army as early as the early 1700s, in the time of Peter the Great. The dependence of Armenians on Russia and their expectations of assistance from that quarter had begun to grow from the first incursions of the Russians into the Caucasus. As far back as the reign of Peter the Great, when they organized a military force to assist the Tsar's invasion of the region,[5] Caucasian Armenians had promised loyalty and support to the Russian tsars. During ihe 1700s and 1800s, Armenian secular and religious officials sup- ported the Russian invasion of the Muslim khanates in the Caucasus and the overthrow of their Muslim rulers. At the same time, Armenians first acted as spies for the Russians against their Muslim overlords, in this case the Persian Empire.[6] When the city of Derbend was under siege by the Russians in 1796, its Armenian residents sent the invaders information on the town's water supply, allowing the Russians to defeat the Khan of Derbend.[7] An Armenian Archbishop, Argutinskii-Dolgorukov, proclaimed publicly (1790s) his hope and belief that the Russians "would free the Armenians from Muslim rule."[8] Armenian subjects of the Persian and Ottoman empires, as well as Armenians living in the Russian Empire, fought on the side of the Russians against Persia and the Ottoman Empire in the 1827-29 wars and the Crimean War.[9]

For their part, Armenians in Ottoman Anatolia also first showed their loyalty to the Russian cause by acting as spies for the Russians. Armenians from Anatolia crossed the lines and reported on Ottoman troop movements in all the east Anatolian wars. Anatolian Armenians assisted invading Russian armies in 1827; many thousands followed the Russian army out of Anatolia when they left. During the Crimean War, Armenians brought intelligence out of besieged Kars to the Russians. Armenian guides from Ottoman Anatolia led the Russian invaders in 1877. The Armenians of the Eleskirt Valley welcomed the invading Russian armies in 1877 and, when the Russians retreated, left en masse with them.[10] In the First World War, as will be seen, the Armenians in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus were, as a group, allied to the Russians.

In Anatolia, the reliance of Armenian revolutionaries on the Russians began to be evident by mid-century in the revolution at Zeytun. When funds were needed to strengthen the defenses of Zeytun against the Ottomans in 1854, while the Ottomans fought the Russians in the Crimean War, Armenian rebels attempted to get financial assistance from the Russians.[11] In 1872, the Armenians of Van wrote as a "community" to the Russian Viceroy for the Caucasus asking for assistance against their own government. They asked to become Russian subjects and, more concretely, began to collect arms.[12] The connections of Ottoman Armenians with the Russian Empire carried on in the activities of the main Armenian revolutionary groups, especially the Dashnaks (Dashnaktsuthiun). Russian Armenia was a center for arms collection and revolutionary organization aimed at the Ottomans.[13] The activities of the revolutionaries were greatly facilitated by their relationship to the Armenian Church. As a body, the Church naturally crossed the Ottoman- Russian border, because its two centers were in Echmiadzin, in Russian Armenia, and in Istanbul; and clerics, bishops, and ideas freely crossed between the two ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Using the facilities of the Church, revolutionary clerics easily kept up communication between revolutionaries in the southern Caucasus and Anatolia and between the Russian government and the revolutionaries. The presence in the Armenian revolutionary movement of priests and bishops [14] brought together the two foci of Armenian identity—the Church and modern nationalism. It also gave religious blessing to secular nationalism and presented Armenian nationalism in a religious context easily understood by eastern Anatolian Armenian villagers. Moreover, church officials also gave practical assist- ance to the revolution. For example, the monastery of Derik, on the Persian side of the Ottoman-Persian border, was organized by its revolutionary abbot (Bagrat Vardapet Tavaklian, or "Akki") into an arsenal and infiltration point for Armenian revolutionaries acting in the Ottoman Empire.[15]

The continuity of eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus explains much about seemingly spontaneous violence that erupted in both regions. Traditional histories have treated each outburst of eastern Anatolian or Caucasian intercommunal violence as an isolated in- stance. Divorced of their historical and geographic context, the conflicts have only been explainable as outpourings of irrational feelings. Because Armenian attacks on Muslims have seldom been considered (only Muslim attacks on Armenians), it has been easy for commentators to portray the Muslims as savages who occasionally felt the need to kill Christians. In fact, Armenians attacked Muslims just as Muslims attacked Armenians, sometimes without apparent provocation or immediate justification. At times this was an outpouring of irrational hatred, but more usually it arose from an awareness on both sides of their history. Because of that history and because of knowledge of events in the Caucasus and Anatolia, Armenians and Muslims both knew that their fellows had been killing each other in great numbers. They knew that both sides had been forced to flee from the other or die, again in great numbers, and they knew that if intercommunal war came to them, they would suffer the same fate as their coreligionists, unless they defeated their enemies. This is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy—both sides killed because they knew the other side would kill them—and makes perfect sense within this context.

In sum, to understand the history of the enmity between Armenians and Muslims, one must view the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia as a whole, an entire region in which Armenians and Muslims fought for supremacy for 100 years.


In many ways, the enmity between Armenians and Muslims had at its base Russian expansion into the Caucasus.

(End of p. 29; From p. 40:)

The Russians had forcibly removed Muslim peoples in order to replace them with Christians. This policy cannot help but have impressed itself upon Muslims who were themselves in the path of future Russian expansion. They would soon see that the policy was ongoing. Ottoman Christian revolutionaries would also see that the Russian policy potentially worked in their favor. As will be seen in later chapters, this realization on the part of both Ottoman Muslims and Ottoman Christians became an important part of the bloody history of intercommunal warfare that was to come.

SUMMARY (p. 49)

In the nineteenth century, the equilibrium in the Caucasus and the Ottoman East was upset by Russian invasions and the forced exile of Caucasian Muslims. By the standards of the late twentieth century, this equilibrium was not satisfactory. Beset by external enemies and a poor economy, the Ottoman government was not capable of properly policing its own people. But the evil that replaced the traditional equilibrium was far worse. Whole peoples were forced from their homes into refugee camps, where they died in great numbers, and ultimately into regions where the inhabitants had no wish to receive them. Rather than aiding the situation, Russian attacks on the Ottomans contributed to further deterioration of civil order by removing the Ottoman Army, the one force that had, however deficiently, kept the peace. Perhaps the worst effect of the Russian invasions was the creation of a Muslim-Armenian polarity, a tradition of mutual distrust and animosity that was eventually to doom both groups.


2. On the geography of the Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia, see: W. E. D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, Cambridge, 1953; J. C. Dewdney, Turkey: An Introductory Geography, New York, 1971; W. B. Fisher, The Middle East, London, 1950, 1978; John F. Baddeley, The Rugged Flanks of the Caucasus, London, 1940; "Al-Kabk" in E.I.2, vol. IV, pp. 350-51 (D. N. MacKenzie).

3. Muslim irregular cavalry, including Kurds and mountaineers, served with the Russians in the east in the Crimean War. See Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 60, 67, 72, and 83.

4. Caucasian Battlefields, p. 293.

5. Muriel Ann Atkin, "The Khanates of the eastern Caucasus and the Origins of the First Russo-Iranian War," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1978, p. 7.

6. Atkin, pp. 25-27. Atkin also notes (pp. 199-200) other examples of Arme- nian clerical support for the Russsians in the early 1800s:

Armenians and Georgians, especially those who had relatives in Iran or did business there, continued to be valuable sources of information for Russian officials and so had an effect on Russia's political and tactical decisions. Daniel, the Russian-backed candidate for Catholicos of the Armenian Church (after Argutinskii-Dolgorukov's death), provided the Russians with information. [Tsar] Alexander specifically instructed Tsitsianov to seek out Catholicos Daniel and his followers for information and to rely on Daniel's advice. In 1808, Alexander rewarded Daniel with the Order of St. Anne, First Class, for his services in providing the Russians with information. Over the next few years, as Russia fought to extend its frontier to the Kur and the Aras, Armenians continued to send Russian officials messages encourag- ing them to conquer Muslim-ruled khanates and save the Armenians from Muslim oppression.

The Russians may have been the only Christian power upon whom the Armenians could depend, but Russian actions were completely self-serving and their concern for Christianity questionable. For example, see the development of early Russian policy and Russian conquest in the Caucasus in Atkin, particularly pp. 30 and 37.

7. Atkin, p. 139.

8. Atkin, p. 144. See also pp. 210, 219.

9. H. P. Pasdermadjian, Histoire de I'Armenie, Paris, 1971, pp. 307 and 309. Some Armenians themselves obviously felt that their support was decisive to the Russian conquests in the Caucasus. See G. Pasdermadjian, Why Armenia Should Be Free, Boston, 1918, p. 16.

10. See Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 148 and 149.
Not all the Armenians who went to Russia were happy there. British Consul Taylor in Erzurum reported that "several hundred families" of Armenians had returned to Erzurum Vilayeti from Russia (F.O. 195-799, no. 2, Taylor to Lyons, Erzurum, 19 May 1866). This was almost surely an exaggeration of the numbers of migrants. See also F.O. 195-1237, no. 2, Everett to Trotter, Erzerum, 4 November 1879 on later reverse migrations.

For an interesting story on Armenian villagers' attachment to Russia, see SS no. 54. Bilal N. Simsir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, Ankara, 1983, Volume I ( -1880).

11. Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development a/Armenian Political Parties through the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963, p. 68.

12. Nalbandian, pp. 81-82.

13. Nalbandian, pp. 173-76.

14. For example, Nalbandian interviewed one revolutionary bishop "the late Mushegh Seropian, former Armenian Archbishop of Cilicia, and one of the first members of the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party," Nalbandian, p. 208. See also Documents sur les Atrocites Armeno-Russes, pp. 22-24.
The significant place of American Protestant missionaries in the development of Armenian nationalism and Armenian expectations cannot be considered here, but those interested should consult Joseph L. Grabill, Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1971, especially pp. 46-53.

15. Nalbandian, p. 174.

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