09 October 2007

2042) To Sup With a Long Spoon

An essay by Nick

Mountains of paper and rivers of ink have been consumed in writings that cover the decline and final days of the Ottoman Empire. This material varies from the bigoted and hysterical to sober and measured with regular detours through frequently irrelevant cul-de-sacs or analyses based on modern concepts of sociology and psychology or, quite simply, the magic of hindsight. Around the nucleus of serious study the predominant emphasis seems to be based on “blame,” “restitution” or the propagandistic justification of contemporary actions or views that would otherwise not be tolerated — one does not need to go past the fact that during the break up of Yugoslavia the Serbs referred to Bosnian Muslims as “Turks” and during the war over Karabagh the Armenians referred to Azeris in the same way, to realize the potency of manipulated history as a weapon today.

The bulk of materials covering this subject appear to be western in origin — mainly European and North American. This should not be surprising since it was the western European powers (and Russia) who were players in the decline of Ottoman power. The tone of writing has been fundamentally influenced by the existence of Diaspora communities from Ottoman lands and the strategic/ cultural goals of western powers. Consequently the history of the region has been covered piecemeal and is skewed to cover the perception of victim hood in many modern communities — the more frustrated the national aspirations, the more skewed the perception of the past and the more ideological the debate over historical events. While it is true that every nationality has its national myths and shared memories of pivotal events (both factual and mythological), in the case of Armenians the national psyche is particularly intense, particularly skewed and obsessed by a failure of national expectations that were inflamed beyond the possibility of realisation and consequently never . . fulfilled. What went wrong?

Certainly the relationship between the Ottoman state and its minorities was generally good in the early days and between the Ottomans and Armenians particularly good; the Armenians were referred to as the Loyal Nation. As Mesrob Krikorian, once prelate of the Armenian church in Austria, said “There are hundreds of books on the Armenian Question and massacres but they emphasise one side of the story to the obscuring [of] the other side and, accordingly, one can hardly imagine after reading this type of literature that Ottoman-Armenian co-operation even existed or that the Armenians had rendered a considerable service to Ottoman public life.” [1] Indeed, Armenians themselves did very well out of the relationship, many of them enjoying great patronage and commercial success within the Ottoman system and, after the establishment of an Armenian community constitution in 1862, high prominence at all levels of national and local government. However it is at this point that the relationship begins to fray.

The Ottoman state was a pre-national, religiously based community of different ethnic or religious groups. Once a nationalistic, western concept of identity, epitomised by the introduction of a constitution enters the equation, old systems of certainty and balance become incapable of meeting expectations of various communities — or to be more accurate, their leaders’ expectations. The symptoms first become apparent with the Greek revolt of the 1820s, western involvement in that revolt, and the establishment of an independent Greek state (guaranteed by foreign powers) that had expansionist aims and a large population of “Greeks” in the Ottoman heartland.

Moreover, the expectations of the new state were fuelled by western perceptions of what it meant to be “Greek” and what the relevance of “Hellenism” to the yet “unredeemed” Orthodox Christian population of the Empire might be. Orthodox Christians in Anatolia would have identified themselves as such — Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Empire — they had a “pre-ethnic” idea of whom and what they were. They may have called themselves Romioi and in many instances would not even have spoken Greek. They would never have identified themselves as Ellines (or Hellenes) “unless some schoolteacher, filled with nationalist ideas by the University of Athens, taught them to do so.” [2] The same can be said of the Bulgarians and the Armenians, although the vector for their particular brand of nationalism was different; the agent here was Russian strategic and religious imperialism rather than cultural idealism as in the case of western infatuation with Greece and Hellenism. The pattern of reportage for this unravelling of the ethnic patchwork that was the Ottoman Empire also becomes apparent at this point as does the cycle of atrocity.

Most historians of the Greek war for independence played down the extent of atrocities inflicted on Muslims (many of whom were, in fact, ethnically Greek) or sought to justify them but the ideology around the Greek “revolution”, according to one of the earlier and most reliable historians of the Greek war for independence, George Finlay, “inculcated the necessity of exterminating every Mussulman, because the Turkish population in Greece was small and could not be renewed…….The slaughter of men, women, and children was therefore declared to be a necessary measure of wise policy, and popular songs spoke of the Turks as a race which ought to 'disappear from the face of the earth.' and a prominent Orthodox priest said that the Greeks were right not to leave a 'living foot of the Peloponnesian Othomans.'”[3].This was a sentiment reiterated famously by Gladstone in his “Bulgarian Horrors” pamphlet a generation later where he described the Turks as “the one great anti-human specimen of humanity.” It is interesting that this sentiment was endorsed and quoted by the American fundamentalist George Horton [4] in 1926 just after the carnage left by the failed Greek invasion of Anatolia; he was seemingly unaware that Gladstone’s polemic was originally published in 1876 and just before Finlay published his definitive history of the Greek revolt which described the massacres of Moreote Muslims — an event of far greater scope, intent and savagery than the inflated reports of the “Bulgarian Horrors.” I am sure the irony would have escaped him.

This typical view was exploited during WW I by propagandists such as the historian Arnold Toynbee in Turkey—A Past & a Future published in 1917: “Turkey, which claims the present in Western Asia, is nothing but an overthrow of the past and an obstruction to the future.”[5] It is interesting to note that when Toynbee wrote about his experiences in Asia Minor after WWI and during the Greek invasion his sentiments and tone are entirely different. He has suffered considerable approbation from Greek and Armenian polemicists as a result. He acknowledges atrocities committed by all sides but does not issue comparative judgements in favour of any one side — the tone is measured and scholarly and most importantly, based on research informed by personal observation. [6] Personal observation is important in 1867 when the British Consul in Janina wrote a report on the treatment of Christians in Epirus (barely a generation after the Morean holocaust and just before the so-called “Bulgarian Horrors”); while he observes an economic and administrative sclerosis, in the all important area of what we call today “human rights,” his experience contradicts “what is commonly said of the wanton cruelty of Mussulmans towards their Christian fellow subjects.” In fact he commends them as employers over many Christians and complains that the Christians “are adepts in the art of complaint”; he observes that the conduct of the military is “orderly” and that “one rarely hears of offence or injury to a Christian committed by a soldier.” He does however make an important observation — “as regards Christians, it is certain that the desire of progress and western civilisation is spreading among them. With the diffusion of education, new ideas are gaining ground and new aspirations are growing up. But how to give effect to these ideas and aspirations, there is difficulty.” [7]

This then, is the nub of the matter; declining Ottoman power and the interference in Ottoman affairs of western concepts of national identity and the ambitions of neighbouring powers to gain territory. Principle among these players was Imperial Russia which had designs on Ottoman and Persian territory as well as the British Empire in India. There has been an almost symbiotic relationship between the Russian imperialism in the Caucusus and Armenian nationalism; this has been a successful relationship from the Russian point of view, less so from the Armenian perspective. Armenians always seemed to think that they would be able to control the agenda of their relationships with their respective patrons, particularly Russia, but there is an English saying that says — if you sup with the devil, then sup with a long spoon. Something the Armenians were never able to manage. Grand designs always came with a high price.

The mid 19th century is the time when observers think the relationship began to break down in the Ottoman Empire, but the roots go back considerably further. In the latter half of the 18th century, Catherine the Great’s principle adviser on Caucasian affairs was the Armenian Joseph Argutinskii-Dolgorukov (Hovsep Arghut’ean). Catherine used him to print and disseminate her manifesto announcing her 1796 campaign to the people of the Caucusus and northern Iran. He argued for the establishment for an Armenian homeland under a Russian protectorate and argued for the acquisition of land for the Armenian homeland of all the khanates north of the Aras River including those with few Christian inhabitants. [8] This was a demographic precedent that has confounded and haunted Armenian aspirations ever since! The fundamental riddle of Armenian national aspirations has always been one of trying to establish an ethnically defined state where one is in a minority; there have been districts where Armenian concentrations made them a local majority, but not in size enough to make a viable national entity either politically or geographically. The obvious solution to this, as Argutinskii-Dolgorukov realised, could only be solved by aggressive demographic changes — well before the break down of the Armenian-Ottoman relationship in the mid-1800s and well before the relocation orders of 1915 were ever conceived. This policy of demographic terrorism became an integral part of Russian colonial policy in the Caucusus from then on and Armenians were beneficiaries and co-architects as well as co-executors of that policy. Ultimately, they were to be its victims as well.

As an example, the obvious place to start with is the area that now largely makes up the Republic of Armenia — or the Khanate of Erevan. Russia acquired this province, after a lengthy and aggressive softening up process, from the Persian Empire in October, 1827. The region was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire by the Treaty of Torkmanchay on 18th of February, 1828 and the following month Erevan, Nakhichevan and part of Ordubad were established as the Armianskiaa Oblast — Armenian Province. [9] It is interesting to note that a part of the softening up process, in manner to be repeated in the Ottoman Empire, was a combination of terror and interference in the administration of the religious affairs of the region’s Christian community — as one of the policy architects of Russia’s expansion in the region, Argutinskii-Dolgorukov, was made, at the insistence of Russia, Catholicos of Etchmiadzin in 1799! [10]

At the time of the Russian conquest of this “Armenian” region the Khanate of Erivan had an Armenian population that represented slightly less than 20% of the total. [11] Only in the Etchmiadzin area (the Armenian ecclesiastical centre) may there have been an Armenian majority [12] This began to change as Muslims left for Ottoman or Persian territory and Armenians came in from Persia — in the first Russian survey it was noted that there were some 300 abandoned villages in the province. [13]. In spite of these demographic changes which accelerated after the Russo-Turkish wars of 1854-1856 and 1877-1878, it was not until the end of the century that the Armenian population achieved a slight majority and the city of Erevan maintained a Muslim majority into the 20th century.[14] None of this was surprising. When, for example, Russia took the Khanate of Ganjeh and incorporated it into Georgia in 1804, the slaughter of Muslims was considerable; Ganjeh was renamed as Elizavetpol — “not only was Ganjeh eliminated as a political entity, there was a wholesale assault on the khanate’s social and cultural life. It became a crime punishable by a fine of one ruble even to refer to the place as Ganjeh rather than Elizavetpol.” [15] Ganjeh’s fate made a major impression on Caucasian Muslims who believed that the Russians would do the same to them — when Zavashilin tried to force the submission of the Khan of Baku in 1805, there was a major exodus of terrified Muslims, while in Qarabagh there were widely believed rumours that the Russians planned a campaign of extermination — this was an area where Armenians had a “tradition” of urging Russian intervention.[16] Much is made of the accusation against Turks that they forced Armenians to convert to Islam. But there is evidence that along with demographic terrorism, the Russians used forced conversion as a demographic tool. In a letter of 11th August 1822, General Ermelov (to General Mudatov) refers to a report — an administrative matter it would seem — where a man called Melik Zurab has “once again reverted to Islam. You state that….he should be punished by bastinado. I suggest that he be handed to the courts for a punishment he deserves.” [17]

Argutinskii-Dolgorukov’s original vision, not unexpectedly, encompassed grand things; he envisioned a sovereign state that was tributary to Russia and that would be tied to Russia through religious, military and ruling dynastic obligations; he demanded that Armenia have access to the Caspian Sea thus encompassing a vast area. This “treaty” was published in 1779 and 200,000 copies were distributed among Armenian notables both religious and secular. Needless to say, what he drew up as a treaty was never ratified as Russia never recognised this embryonic “state.” [18]

The comparisons with later Armenian demands for a Greater Armenia encompassing all of eastern Turkey including ports on the Black Sea and Mediterranean under a mandate from America are eerily similar. In 1918 the “Armenians plotted out their new country to run from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and to cover some 400,000 square miles. They demanded that the Allies should eject all Moslems from this area. They issued delightful booklets over the signatures of M. Aharonian and Bogos Nubar giving tables of their virtues and ending with the delightful qualification for ruling by the Armenian race 'which in addition is remarkably prolific.'”[19] Clearly then ethnic cleansing and demographic terrorism has always been, from the beginning, the prerequisite of Armenian nationalism.

Cossacks: the Russians' shock troops.

Ultimately, the Treaty of Torkmanchay established the Armenian Province as a secure southern boundary and the Caspian Sea as, effectively, a Russian Lake that allowed for the uninterrupted pacification of the Caucasian interior— the mountain regions; this was done in a campaign that lasted another two generations and was a campaign of unrivalled ferocity that resulted in the virtual extinction of a number of Caucasian peoples. The Russian projects in the Caucusus and the Balkans produced major demographic changes. While populations have always moved from place to place for economic or climactic reasons, these politically and ideologically motivated migrations produced suffering of a new order. The survivors flooded into a shrinking Ottoman Empire; it is estimated that between1783 and 1914 some 5 to 7 million refugees (about 3.8 million from Russia or Russia’s newly acquired territories) arrived in Turkey. For some, it was a double exile — about 200,000 Crimean Tartars fled to the Danube region and then once again on to Turkey. [20] This does not include those who were killed before they could leave or those who expired en route and it does not include the deaths and migrations resulting from World War I or the conflicts immediately following. McCarthy estimates that between 1821 and 1922 just over five million Muslims had become refugees and roughly five million died or were killed. [21]

Economic migrations are often accompanied by privation but they are motivated by a desire for improvement and a search for opportunity. The political and genocidal expulsions perpetrated by the Russians and their protégés had no such goals; the goal was simple theft. The pattern was: “extermination, artificial administrative boundaries for breaking resistance, forced labour, depopulation of cultivable lands and an influx of Russians into the region.” [22] This was to be a Christian enterprise only. Christians were settled in vacated or cleared areas. If native Russians were in short supply, other groups such as Georgians, Cossacks and Armenians filled the gap. From the beginning the policy was simply genocidal in its scope and impact. For example, from Yermelov’s time (from 1816) a systematic campaign “of felling trees, destroying forests that gave cover to guerrillas, raising settlements, burning food supplies and killing all inhabitants who allegedly sheltered 'insurgents'…..Villages were surrounded and, on orders from Yermelov, all the inhabitants slaughtered. Captive girls were sold as slaves or distributed for the 'entertainment' of officers.” [23] Between 1804 and 1828 alone Russia effectively created a “Christian” buffer zone in the newly conquered and colonised region of the Russian- Persian-Ottoman borderlands resettling over a million Armenians. [24] At times, reliable replacements for removed populations were insufficient and some Muslims were enslaved or simply held back as forced labour. In the north Caucusus, Cossacks and Armenian traders made a lucrative business in organised slave markets until the practice was outlawed in 1804; because of a lack of peasants, Cossacks continued captive and hostage taking to augment the labour pool.

Cossacks were feared for good reason. "A group of decorated Russian Cossacks and Caucasians. The staff and commissioned officers are wearing the medal (Cross with swords) for participation in the Caucasian campaign during 1859-1864." (Thanks to George.)

The family of Tevfik Esenc[h]
(1904 -1992) was exiled to the
Ottoman Empire; with his death,
the Ubykh language may be
considered extinct.

Some Cossacks also went “bounty” hunting for Circassians, hunting them “like game,” killing them and trading their bodies back to their families for money. [25] The Russians learned from the earlier experiences and during the Circassian and Abkhaz expulsions kept many able bodied males back — thousands were forced to remain while their families were expelled and left to take their chances in a process that resulted in a mortality of about a third of those setting out; Palgrave noted that “it is very painful to witness the extinction, as such, of a nation whose only crime was not being Russian.” Where the region had once been predominantly Muslim, the Russian census of 1897 showed the Christians outnumbered Muslims by more than ten to one.[26] While the Circassian and Abkhaz survivors have retained some sense of themselves and their history, others have not been so fortunate. “Of all the littoral tribes, the saddest fate befell the Ubykh, relatives of the Shapsug, whose record of military resistance to the Russians was one of the most impressive. The entire Ubykh people have left their ancestral lands without a trace, but about ninety years were necessary to remove them completely from the face of the earth. Forty years ago, a Norwegian scholar found only sixteen people in Turkey who still spoke the language. If genocide is to be measured not only by the perpetrators stated goals but by results as well, then there is little doubt that the Ubykh deserve a place of honour in any Holocaust museum.” [27]

Abkhazians were forced to migrate en masse to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th
century, as a result of Russian aggression. The above is a watercolor by Gagarin, 1840.

Shamyl was the leader of Daghestan, until
defeated by the Russians.

The other part of the vision was simply messianic. Dostoevsky: “Constantinople must be ours, annexed by us, Russians, from the Turks and remain ours for ever. It must belong only to us…Because what is this Eastern Question? The Eastern Question, in its essence implies the settlement of the fate of Orthodoxy.” [28] As the Russians had used the religious angle to assist their penetration of the Trans Caucusus area by putting place men into the ecclesiastic structure at Etchmiadzin, so they tried to do the same by manipulating the western Armenian’s religious sentiment. In a letter to Prince Orlov (companion and adviser to the Tsar) from Prince Bariatinskii (14th June 1857) it was stated that following the death of the Patriarch Catholicos of All Armenians, Nerses, it was imperative to ensure the selection of “a person who is worthy of the high position, is devoted to the interests of Russia, is acceptable to the wishes of the Armenian nation, and has influence over all Armenians, especially those in Turkey.” The letter goes on to express concern about a new dynamic in this equation — “Catholic and Protestant missionaries who are against our belief and our interests, swiftly made conversions among Armenians in Turkey. In order to stop foreign agents from curtailing our influence in the East, we need the help of [the] Armenian Church and that of the patriarch-catholicos of the entire nation of Haik. The situation thus warrants that the new catholicos be from among the religious hierarchy of Turkey, someone who through his influence would divert the Turkish Armenians towards Etchmiadzin….we have to be fully prepared for the upcoming election by communicating with the Turkish Armenians, especially those in Constantinople.” [29]

There was always a clash of interests between Russia’s ideological and religious fervour for Constantinople and the ambitions of Greeks and Bulgarians for the same objective and the need for Britain to contain Russia to protect its Empire in the east. The missionaries, however, added a new and unpredictable component to the mix; a highly bigoted and fundamentalist brand of Christianity. We now have the dichotomy of an incendiary religious component to Armenian nationalism that is split between traditional elements (themselves split between The Porte and the Tsar) and the missionary ideal on one side and on the other side the secular anarchistic and terrorist revolutionary committees. Revolutionary committees lied, cheated and extorted money from Armenians*; they terrorised those among their compatriots who were not deemed to sufficiently supportive, duped poor people into buying guns, created trouble, committed atrocities and then cut and run leaving others to pay the price. For example, in 1910 a terrorist named Murad of Sepastia toured Sasun telling people to sell their tools and belongings to buy guns. He armed all the militia groups in the cities and villages with new firearms sold (and this is the nice touch) “at cost” to the peasants. His biographer goes on to say in an aggrieved tone that Murad preferred, for the time being at least, to stay in the villages because “he did not trust the friendliness nor invitations from the sycophantic Turks who concealed their darker side.” [30]

*Like many Armenian terrorists, this particular Murad (there are a number of Murads) began his career in murder, extortion and robbery — according to his biography (opus cited, pp. 16 and 26): he participated in the interrogation and torture of a suspected Armenian informer (and former friend) on church premises in Istanbul (the man was later found dead), and later on he notes that “the wealthy Armenians finally had to open their coffers for the liberation cause; otherwise this would have been done by force. This was one of the most difficult and grave tasks of the ARF, to bring the Armenian wealthy class to its senses and make it see its duty to the nation.” With no small sense of irony, Murad’s biographer concludes that Murad “with his diplomacy enticed large sums from them.”

Very often, “outside” and supposedly neutral interests strayed across boundaries; missionaries and foreign consuls were manipulated by the committees or simply duped by them. In 1893 an American consular official went to Merrzifon and reported that Armenians were manufacturing bombs and were storing large quantities of rifles and ammunition. Harrie B. Newberry, the official in question, had “indisputable proof” of their activities and intentions — it is a moot point that he was able to make contact with these terrorists and that they should be so free with their plans. [31] Abraham Hartunian, a Protestant pastor, freely admits that just before the war broke out in 1914 and in the aftermath of the deaths of three hundred Turkish soldiers at the hands of Armenian insurgents, that he was in terror of a visit from Turkish soldiers — not because they mistreated him or were discourteous even — quite the opposite in fact, but because he was afraid of being searched; his library contained seditious and revolutionary material (which would certainly compromise his position as a man of god) and records of dynamite he had supplied to named Armenians for “road building” in Zeytun. The individuals named (the Cholakian family) in the paperwork were those responsible for the killing of the three hundred Turkish soldiers. In his own words: “Could a more 'justifiable' cause be found for my destruction?” What indeed? [32] Hartunian and his family survived to emigrate after the war and it may be understandable that he was a bitter and disappointed man, but his casual observation that, for example, the Cholakian brothers were in Fundejak and “had spread the story of Zeytun. Influenced by the presence of this group, and already hopeless and powerless, the Armenians of the surroundings had fled to Fundejak and determined to rebel. Having disposed of about sixty Turks living in the village ,they were ready to fight for their lives,” is quite extraordinary and highly revealing. [33]

It is hardly surprising that after the “disposal” of their neighbours this would have been exactly what they would have had to have done! As it transpired, these rebels and the Armenians of the district were besieged by government troops. Hartunian, as a man of god, was asked to mediate their surrender. He negotiated with the rebels unsuccessfully; the rebels said that they would rather fight and die than be driven to the deserts “by the lash of the merciless Turk.” The rebels wanted Hartunian and the other two negotiators to stay with them but they declined saying that such action would put their families in danger. In the face of overwhelming odds the Cholakian “mountaineers were overthrowing the Turkish soldiers, scorning fear and death.” In the end, continued resistance was impossible and the people were forced to surrender — the men were shot and the women and children were deported to “unknown slaughterhouses.” And the Cholakian brothers — what of them? “The Cholakian brothers and their Braves made a last defence, then broke through the Turkish cordon and escaped.” Thus the Cholakian brothers lived to scorn death another day. This seems to be the pattern; it was a policy of these revolutionary committees from quite early on to provoke atrocities, escape and then claim the protection of the west and demand intervention; as explained to the American missionary Cyrus Hamlin, the revolutionaries would watch for “their opportunities to kill Turks and Kurds, set fire to their villages and make their escape into the mountains. The enraged Muslims will then rise and fall upon the defenceless Armenians and slaughter them…” [35] Missionaries often compromised themselves through bias and sometime active support. The U.S. charge d’affaires said in 1889 that “I have been for some time feared that in Erzeroom and in that vicinity these agents or some of them allowed their sympathies to draw them beyond proper limits.” [36] When the protégés of these missionaries and foreign educators were caught involved in sedition or outright rebellion and arrested, these acts were portrayed as Ottoman oppression, even when there was incontrovertible proof. Terrorists and their sympathisers often used their status as “foreign nationals,” using papers given them by their foreign employers to protect themselves from justice. Armenians abroad raised money for weapons, oblivious, it might seem, to the risks for the people, Christian and Muslim, who lived in Ottoman Turkey. Vivid descriptions of massacres always excited interest and often passionate response. In 1906, the Tashnag central committee of the United States spent $9,600 for weapons and $2523 to train Armenians in guerrilla activity. Prussic acid, dynamite cotton and shells, which were unavailable in Ottoman Turkey, were purchased in the U.S. and shipped to Turkey, disguised as lamp wicks and machine parts. Naturalised Armenian Americans used their diplomatic protection when in Turkey, and employed that protection to carry out terrorist attacks. [37] As one Armenian American agitator put it; “Positive and negative means are needed to bring about diplomatic intervention. Those means are fire and sword…We must lose, if necessary, one half of the nation for the sake of saving the other half.” [38]

When violence did break out, stories of massacre abounded and ridiculous casualty figures flooded the foreign press to satisfy the western public’s thirst for sensational tales of the “unspeakable Turk.” When investigation was possible the truth demonstrated the falsity of these sensationalist reports. The 1893 rebellion in Sasun is instructive in terms of reporting and casualty estimates because it was thoroughly investigated afterwards by a team of foreign consuls. Reports in the western media ran into thousands of dead Armenians but on sober investigation it was established that 265 Armenians had died; few reports bother with the Muslim casualties. [39] An exception to this was the follow up to the Zeytun “massacre” (1895/6) where hundreds of soldiers captured by the Armenians were simply butchered with hatchets, knives and pickaxes. The British consul visited the site six weeks later, in February 1896, and, despite attempts to clean up the scene by throwing the corpses into the river, found bodies down stream scattered on rocks and along the banks; when he examined them he found an array of appalling injuries including some with heads cleaved by axes, others with amputated arms and legs, others covered with stab or bullet wounds on every conceivable parts of their bodies and many tied together at the ankles or wrists. [40] Over 600 soldiers were butchered in this atrocious manner. Reports like this, that obviously reported the norm rather than the exception and put into context the kind of frequently made and somewhat cryptic observations made by Armenians and their apologists such as Hartunian’s remark (above) concerning the “disposal” of sixty innocent Turks who had the misfortune merely to share living space with Armenians.

The 1890s was a decade dogged by growing violence, insurrection, overt foreign partisanship and interference in the Ottoman government. The events described are typical, but it would be instructive to look at the aggregation of unrest in one particular year; 1895. Below is a list of the more significant incidents:

29 September Divrighi (Sivas)
2 October Trabzon
6 October Eghin (Elaziz)
7 October Develi (Kayseri)
9 October Akhisar (Izmit)
21 October Erzinjan (Erzurum)
25 October Gumushane (Trabzon)
26 October Bayburt (Erzerum)
27 October Marash (Aleppo)
24 October Zeytun (ended January 1896)
30 October Erzerum
2 November Diyarbekir
2 November Sivrek (Diyarbekir)
4 November Malata (Elaziz)
7 November Harput (Elaziz)
9 November Arapkir (Elaziz)
15 November Sivas
15 November Merzifon (Sivas)
16 November Antep (Aleppo)
18 November Marash (Aleppo)
22 November Mush (Bitlis)
3 December Kayseri (Ankara)
3 December Yuzgat (Ankara)

These incidents ranged from relatively small — an aggrieved Armenian shooting and killing some people in a market or an Armenian barber simply slitting a Muslim customer’s throat, to attempted assassination of government officials with significant attacks on religious institutions that would have particularly inflamed Muslim tempers. The attack on 25th October in Bitlis was on a mosque as Muslims were engaged in Friday prayers — it is possible, and reports seemed to indicate this — that a Protestant missionary was the instigator of this atrocity.

The incident in Diyarbekir on 2nd November also involved attacks on a Mosque at Friday prayers and arson which destroyed mosques and a medreze as well as shops. The most serious of these events was clearly the insurrection in Zeytun which was reported in western papers as a massacre of Armenians. However, according to Aghasi, the Armenian leader, the Turks lost 20,000 men while the Armenians lost 125 men, of whom 65 were killed after surrendering; this was the rebellion mentioned above where over 600 Turkish solders were captured, disarmed and butchered. If we allow for some Armenian bragging in terms of the casualties inflicted, this can not constitute a massacre of Armenians and it should be noted that the principle Armenian instigators were allowed to leave under the protection of foreign diplomatic missions in spite of their quite appalling crimes. Damage to Armenian property was made good with the help of American missionaries; Muslims fended for themselves [41]

It does not take a great deal of perspicacity to see a pattern of events for the latter part of 1895 both in terms of timing and geography and to suspect organisation and planning, or to see that the kinds of terrorist acts involved were calculated to incite retaliation — especially attacks on religious institutions. These events must have been of some consequence if an attack on a mosque by Armenians made it into a French language newspaper at all – (Figure 1).

Figure 1: from Le Petit Journal, 24th November 1895 (Holdwater: the Journal's article may be read here.)

One can forgive the Ottoman government a certain degree of paranoia under circumstances like these. Foreign governments and pressure groups expected almost miraculous “improvements” and reforms from the Sultan, but it is hard to see what he could do to pacify Armenian demands other than through the use of force — which would have been just another example of Ottoman oppression. It was as if he was expected to successfully herd cats — an impossibility. The demands made on him by foreign powers through the capitulations, financial indebtedness and the excessive demands of Armenian leaders made survival of the Ottoman Empire an impossibility; the Turks were not stupid, this much was plain to see. Moreover, successive wars fought to resist the territorial ambitions of neighbours and the truncation of the Balkan territories drained the country economically, ensuring that any reforms fell short of western expectations. In addition to this, the “ecumenical” structure of Islamic societies, and the Ottoman system in particular, was doomed even before the advent of western styled nationalism which finished the process off. The process began with the expulsion of the Ummayids of Cordoba and the Jews from Spain in the face of a Christian Europe striving for religious homogeneity. [42] All of these events set the stage for the next and most fateful phase in the evolution of the Armenian question.

The Armenian approach to all of this is somewhat confusing, often having the attributes and substance of a mirage. In broad general terms, they seem to speak of a phased genocide that begins in about 1890 and ends in 1923 but that is preceded by hundreds of years when Armenians lived under the Ottoman “yoke.” These phases roughly speaking are the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s, the Young Turk phase which starts around 1908 and finishes around 1918, then the last phase, perpetrated by republican forces under Ataturk. The phases and arguments often overlap or conflict with one another and are frequently peppered with racist observations. The casualty figures are anyone’s guess — the Armenians themselves produce numbers that conflict and often go from the sublime to the ridiculous — as high as three million. What has been covered so far is merely the preamble to the meat of the issue; the deportation orders of 1915/ genocide. What has been established is an irreparable break down of relations between Muslims and Armenians — not so much at an official level, because Armenians continued to enjoy the patronage of the government in high positions in spite of everything — but on the ground. In central and southern Turkey missionary meddling and outside interference had severely corroded any credibility between communities and bigotry was much in evidence. In the east, large numbers of Russian and Ottoman Armenians were agitating and terrorising Muslims and waiting for the Russians to invade. The long awaited hope for an Armenia that began with the fantasy of Argutinskii-Dolgorukov in 1796 seemed to be on the horizon. Anatolia was a tinderbox with many bitter and resentful people; it was in effect the last refuge of Muslims who had been expelled from their homes and were looking at the possibility, indeed likelihood, of the same thing happening again — only this time there was nowhere else to go. Eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea littoral had many people who in living memory had experienced appalling ethnic cleansing at the hands of Christians. In Western Anatolia the same was true with survivors from the Bulgarian wars and the subsequent Balkan wars flooding in after 1876, and again in great numbers in 1912-1914; they were resentful, frightened and destitute. They had found a refuge that was about to be lost. One thing typifies the break down of the Ottoman Armenian relationship — the demands the Armenians were making were always beyond what was possible for the Turks to grant — after all the Armenians were not the only ones living in Anatolia.*

*As an interesting aside, Armenians are very keen to compare the Armenian genocide with the Jewish holocaust by arguing that Hitler learned from and copied the Turks and their “annihilation” of the Armenians. A far more accurate comparison is one between the Sudeten Germans and the Armenians. Instruction given to Heinlein, the Sudeten German leader, by Hitler in March 1938 was that he should make demands of the Czech government that were unacceptable and impossible to fulfill. The Sudeten Germans were solidly pro Nazi and participated in the Nazi occupation and oppression almost to a man during the period of the Bohemia and Moravia Nazi “Protectorate.” In essence, we have a seditious, disloyal but pampered minority that colludes with an enemy, assists an occupation and commits atrocities in the process. [46] After the war they were expelled by what became known as the Benes decree – some three million or so Germans were forced out. Recently, they too have started to agitate for restitution and an acknowledgement of their experience as genocide. This is a model that fits the Armenian record far better than the fallacious Turkish-Nazi connection put forward by many Armenians such as Prof. Dadrian in numerous books and articles.

Typically, the Armenian approach to this and many other questions, is demonstrated by Dadrian who says that it ”is against this backdrop that one has to examine and evaluate the Ittihadist policy of resettling the survivors of these calamitous expulsions and dislocations in various Armenian inhabited regions……the settlement of Muslim refugees in the Christian sections of Anatolia was carefully prepared and promoted.” [43] Dadrian goes on to discuss the “artful redistricting” of Armenia and resettling of the “hundreds of thousands of muhacirs, the Muslim migrants and refugees from the Russian Caucusus” and the Balkans which was calculated to interrupt the “contiguity of Armenian population clusters.” [44] One has to remember that if we constrain our calculations to the time span back from 1914 that encompassed a sensible period of living memory, we can assume that roughly, just over two million people were literally dumped on Anatolia and Eastern Thrace — the period being from 1858-1914. Where, exactly would these people be settled? Dadrian has no suggestions. He merely talks about the “incremental assaults against provincial Armenian populations” and that many of the gendarmerie personnel involved in attacks on Armenians before and during the deportations were from the Balkans. [45]

The Turks are often accused of destroying the ethnic make up of Anatolia; of course, this is untrue. The destruction of the ethnic balance in Anatolia is a direct consequence of the destruction of the ethnic balance in the Balkans, the Crimea and the Caucusus and Transcaucus regions and in that process Muslims of many ethnic origins were the primary victims. In the end any pretence of an Ottoman Empire that contained any significant autonomous Christian minority was effectively destroyed by the Balkan wars. [47] In fact, it is probably not overstating the case to say that the Ottoman Empire was destroyed because of its pre-national multiethnic essence in an age where national, ethnic or religious homogeneity was regarded as the goal. If the Ottoman colonial model had mirrored, say, the Spanish colonial model then there would have been no ethnic or religious minorities — all would have been Ottoman and Muslim regardless of what the final face of the empire might have been. As it was the Turks, or more precisely the Ottomans, who were left to pick up the pieces and try to salvage something from the mess and vitally, to take the blame. The Turks today are simply guilty by association because they were the last ones left standing. And who exactly are the “Turks” of today? Simply put, “Turks” today are an amalgam of Turks, Kurds, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Circassians, Abkhaz, Shapsug, Jews, Uzbeks and even Armenians, among many others because their identity today owes more to a modern national ethic rather than an ethnic definition. But Dadrian still points out that the Kemalist regime (and thus modern Turkey) is not “free” from the burden of association since it “would have encountered serious obstacles at its very inception had the Armenians not been eliminated.” [48] A curious piece of logic if ever there was one!

And yet, despite protestations that Armenian revolts were not a serious threat to Turkey in the war, Armenians themselves continue to demonstrate otherwise. Dadrian himself acknowledges that in the Zeytun area alone, during the 1800s, “some sixteen major wars and twenty five minor wars were waged against government” regular and irregular forces or local tribes. [49] Indeed, the mountaineers of Zeytun were in revolt again in August 1914 before, but clearly in anticipation of, Ottoman participation in the war. [50] Undoubtedly, they were a problem.

I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov, (1837-1916)

A brief flirtation between the Armenian revolutionaries and the Young Turks aside — an alliance that clearly had no future — the run up to war in 1914 could only be characterised as business as usual. Before the war began, Armenian religious leaders were expressing loyalty to the Tsar and expressing the hope that Russia would occupy Armenia. In a letter from the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin to Vorontsov- Dashkov (Russian viceroy in the Caucusus) in August 1914, again before Turkey is in the war, the Catholicos states that on “behalf of my people in Russia and on my own behalf, I would like to express in great humility the deep loyalty of the Russian Armenians as well as the sincere devotion of the Turkish Armenians to your lordship and to his majesty.” [51] Although Vorontsov-Dashkov advises caution the lines are clearly drawn. A short while later when the tsar visited Tiflis, the Catholicos in an address to the Tsar said “the salvation of the Turkish Armenians can only be achieved with the establishment of an independent Armenia under Russia’s strong protection.” To which the tsar replied that the Armenians could expect an “exceedingly bright future.” [52] A source much quoted by both Armenians and Turks for this initial phase of the war is Rafael de Nogales who served as an artillery officer in the Ottoman army. While he exonerates himself (and the Ottoman army) of any involvement in wrong doing he is quite clear where it starts; Garo Pastermadjian, who was a deputy for Erzerum in the Ottoman parliament defected, as soon as war was declared, to the Russians taking with him the entire Armenian contingent of the Ottoman third army. If this was not enough, he then returned with them and, to use Nogales’ words, proceeded with “burning hamlets and mercilessly putting to the knife all the peaceful Mussleman villagers that fell into their hands.” He goes on to say that the “altogether unjustifiable desertion of the Armenian troops, united with the outrages they committed afterwards, on their return, in the sectors of Bash-Kaleh, Serai, and Beyazit did not fail to alarm the Turks and rouse their fear lest the rest of the Armenian population in the frontier provinces of Van and Erzerum revolt likewise, and attack them with the sword. And this is indeed precisely what happened…” [53] In the first four months of 1915 there are numerous reports of raids conducted by Armenian irregulars on gendarmerie posts, defensive positions and on lines of communication. All of this was clearly a prelude to bigger things. By April 30,000 Armenians had been armed — 15,000 going to Russia, 15,000 remaining behind Turkish lines [54].

(Holdwater: the 30,000 Armenians referred to in the last sentence regarded only those from the province of Sivas, and not from the entirety of the Ottoman Empire. The original document may be read here. In total, there may have been some 100,000 Ottoman-Armenian men who actively turned against their Ottoman nation.)

These were clearly desperate times and national survival for Turkey was not a notional issue — it was very real. In early summer 1915 Talaat, commenting on a communication he had received from the governor of Erzerum said “I have received telegrams from Tahsin and they have ruined my nerves. I have been unable to sleep all night. It’s more than one can stand, but if I had not done it to them they would have done it to us. In fact, they had already started. It’s a struggle for national survival” [55] In March 1915 the rebellion in Van was in full swing with Armenian irregulars attacking and massacring Muslims in the villages and towns around the city of Van; 4.000 or so insurgents were infiltrated into Van and by 14th of April the city was in their hands, but besieged by the Ottoman army (in which Nogales was serving). The Armenians completely destroyed the Muslim quarter of the city. [56] Fighting was vicious and Nogales even reports that the Armenian defenders shot and killed many Armenian women and children who were escorted in a column by the Turks to the town — this was done, Nogales assumed to conserve their food supplies. [57] When the Ottoman army was forced to withdraw by the approaching Russians the Armenians, according to Nogales, “scattered over the countryside, sacking far and wide, and assassinating every Mussulman, old man, woman, or child they came upon; establishing a precedent hitherto unknown even among Kurds.”[58] After the war a new city was constructed a few miles away and the old city reverted to farm land interspersed by the few ruins that were left. (See Fig 2; Van before, and Fig 3 Van today)

Figure 1: Van 1914

Figure 2: Van today—area from 1914 picture reversed

It was not until a full six weeks after the fall of Van that the orders to deport Armenians was issued — 26th of May, 1915

Gevorg Chavush

Propaganda continues to be a major factor and the assessment of events continues to be very one sided. Armenians continue to see their insurgents in terms of armies of “revenge” rather than the agents of one side in a sectarian conflict. Individual acts of assassination are frequently topics of bragging; Andranik’s biography describes a typical event in 1905 where a man called Gevorg Chavush with fifty fedayeen assassinated in full daylight “Turkish and Kurdish leaders who had perpetrated atrocities on defenceless Armenian villagers… in the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep, the fearless Gevorg would knock on the door of a Kurdish chieftain….Forcing a display of courtesy the trembling chieftain would open the door. Escorted by his aides, Gevorg would walk in confidently…..Although the dauntless warrior would not stay long nor accept any offer of food or coffee, he would often leave his host’s house stained with blood.” [59] Clearly there is something that is not right here. Anybody who can collect fifty armed men, walk into someone else’s part of town or village, enter their home with impunity and kill them is the one who is holding the whip hand and is hardly a victim. This sort of bravado is both typical and yet, very revealing. These stories reveal epic battles where the Armenians are outnumbered but yet are still able to inflict large numbers of casualties on the Turks and flee with few casualties themselves, expecting good treatment afterwards!

Battles and skirmishes like this are described in the run up to the war in 1914 but once the real business of warfare gets under way the references are more oblique, presumably because the numbers involved become more serious. After a series of successes and failures, the capture, loss and recapture of Van, Andranik finds himself, in February 1916, before Bitlis. The city falls to the “Russo- Armenian” forces under Nazerberkian with a detachment under Andranik. As the attack is conducted in darkness, many Turkish soldiers are captured in a state of undress. However, Andranik’s soldiers were “ruthless to the defeated enemy.” [60] All of a sudden there is a certain coyness in describing events but let us not be fooled. Given the precedents that history has shown we know what the word “ruthless” means in this context; it means what it has always meant — murder — and it meant business as usual.

Mustafa Kemal was posted to this region in April 1916 and found an area that was devastated. The Turks retook Bitlis and in his diary it can be seen:

7 November: Immediately after crossing Batman bridge, we saw a man lying on the road. He appeared dead from hunger. Another two, between the bridge and our bivouac. It seems they are refugees…After the bridge, two horses that have just died (men and horses are dying of hunger).

9 November: Saw many refugees on the road going back to Bitlis. They are all hungry and wretched. A child, aged four or five years, abandoned by its parents and left to die…

16 November: I inspected the hospitals in Bitlis and found them clean…The chief doctor reports that when the houses allocated to the hospital were cleaned they found the heads of ten or fifteen Muslim women. I went on to visit the mosque called Serefiye. It’s full of dead animals and rubbish. A ruin.

23 November: Told the ADC that Bitlis reminds me of the ruins of Pompeii. [61]

The sheer size of the problem and the level of unrest and disruption was a clear indication that the Armenians represented a major obstacle for the Ottoman military planners — but there was a conundrum too. Armenian artisans and farmers were an important part of the economy and were therefore an important part of the potential Ottoman war effort. However, sifting the wheat from the chaff in times of a national crisis as severe as this one was impossible and the decision to remove Armenians from the war regions and adjacent areas was made. The Turks had suffered a crushing reversal at Sarikamish — from an army of about 140,000 men about 12,400 remained as effectives and the city of Erzerum threatened: the temperature was a staggering -40c. [62]

Figure 4: Russian army in the snow.

In February 1915, the allies landed at Gallipoli directly threatening Constantinople, the Ottoman capital. Then followed a general Armenian uprising in the east that had been coordinated with Russians; Van fell in April. By July 1915, Boghos Nubar, one of the principle Armenian leaders, was able to write to the British High Command in Egypt proposing a combined operation in Anatolia. The plan proposed naval landings along the southern Turkish coast and a link up with a “formidable” force of insurgents which numbered 25,000 in Cilicia and a further 15,000 from adjacent areas — a total of 40,000 men. He does not refer to this as a force to be raised with the promise of an invasion; this is force already in operation behind Turkish lines and in the Turkish heartland. [63] It does not include those operating in conjunction with the Russians on the eastern front. By any measure this is a significant force; it is a force that would rely (voluntary or forced) on support and supply from the local Armenian population. It would be inconceivable that a force like this would not be a major threat. One way to deal with it would be to remove its source of supply — the British did this successfully with ethnic Chinese during the Malayan Emergency in the 1940s and 1950s. This Cilician region continued to be a major area of Turko-Armenian conflict after the war with the French, then occupying the province, unable to contain the problem either.

The choice for the Ottoman government, once the decision to remove Armenians from zones of potential or actual conflict, was limited to either deportation across battle lines to Russian held territory or dispersal into other parts of the empire. It was the latter of the two which was chosen and in hindsight this was clearly a bad choice. Removing Armenians away from the conflict zone involved dispersing them among (Muslim) refugees in other parts of the empire. [64] In spite of the plan to manage this temporary population movement in an orderly fashion, the government did not really have the resources to manage the operation and it quickly degenerated into chaos in many areas — especially those areas where government control was less in evidence and areas that were affected by war operations or the influx of earlier refugees and the newly destitute refugees of this war. Turkey had still not fully absorbed the millions of refugees that had descended on it over the previous fifty years or so, and many of them were very recent; this was an environment that was primed for disaster. All movements of population involved considerable risk — general travel, movement of troops — but particularly these convoys of Armenians. Possibly up to 600,000 Armenians died in this period; murdered, ambushed, neglected and hungry as they were passed from district to district down an “ambulatory pipeline that resembled a decaying daisy chain.” [65]

In an interesting account, Harold Armstrong describes coming upon this deportation route as a prisoner of war. His descriptions confirm the impression of an “ambulatory pipeline” not just for Armenians (of whom he saw many) but also of Turkish troops travelling to the front; they marched on the “go as you please” system in which rations were issued at a central point to each man and who was then ordered down the road to his destination. Initially the men would stick together but as the journey progressed they would start to string out into, large groups, then smaller parties, and then into small groups or single men “limping along.” Many of these soldiers were killed and looted by Arabs along the way “so that we passed many corpses of Turkish soldiers on the route. They lay by the roadside with their throats cut, left to rot like carrion…” [66] In many respects Armenians, in this forced migration, suffered and died from the same range of tribulations as did the Muslim population both civilian and military: war, revenge, theft, famine, disease, neglect, chaos and a complete break down of authority. Armenians were, like Muslims, both perpetrators and victims — and like some Ottoman officials and tribal groups, the so called representatives of Armenian liberty, the insurgents, were evil and predatory.

The Armenian claims to be victims of genocide are the product of a number of factors. An important part is the fact that a century or more of unchallenged inflammatory indoctrination and rhetoric has fixed this event in the Armenian psyche; it seems to inform and justify almost everything they do. The paucity of hard evidence, the fabrication of evidence, the invention of statistics, the pursuit of fallacious argument, intimidation and even terrorism have all become acceptable because Armenians know that genocide was committed. Since they know the genocide was a fact, then any tactic is permissible, despite the lack of evidence and the invention of evidence, to convince the outside world which, for the most part, does not really care. The fact that Muslims died in huge numbers is both irrelevant as a primary event or the fault of the Turks and therefore irrelevant as a secondary event. Armenians did nothing to precipitate the disaster. But let’s look at the simple evidence of bricks and mortar, to give a flavour of how things went, as reported by Niles and Sutherland who toured the east of Anatolia after the war to conduct a report for the U.S. government. They came with the usual western prejudices and took some time to credit what they actually saw. The numbers need little comment.

Destruction in the Cities of Van and Bitlis.
      Before Wars August 1919
Van   Muslim 3,400 3
    Armenian 3,100 1,170
Bitlis   Muslim 6,500
    Armenian 1,500 1,000
Fig: 5 67]   Villages in Van Vilayeti and Beyazit Sangagi Before
And After the War and Armenian Occupation
      VAN     BEYAZIT
    Before War August, 1919 Before War August, 1919
Muslim   1,373 350*   448 243
Armenian   112 200**   33 33
Mixed   187        
Total   1,672 550   481 276

* Repaired with materials from other villages.
** Both Armenian and mixed villages.
Fig: 6 [67]

It is difficult to enumerate accurately what the mortality was among Muslims and Armenian since in the case of Muslims, Muslims moved away from home districts to neighbouring districts while many Armenians left altogether and were then counted in other countries. However the ripple effect of population loss can be discerned. The areas with the highest Armenian population were also the areas with the highest loss of Muslim population:

Muslim Population Loss 1912-1922

Van …………………62%
Bitlis …………………42%
Erzerum ………………….31&
Diyarbekir ………………….26%
Mamuretulaziz ………………16%
Sivas ……………….15%
Fig: 7 [68]

The loss for the Armenian population for Anatolia was just under 600,000, or roughly, a horrific 40% [69] Yet as horrific as this number is, it is in the same range of what the Muslims were experiencing despite the fact that Muslims were refugees on home territory while Armenians were refugees/ deportees in hostile territory — hostile because of the political situation created by rebellion and invasion. What kind of genocide is this?

If genocide had been the goal of the state, then the numbers would certainly have been higher — the opportunity was certainly there and in many cases the motive was there as well. The Germans, with whom the Turks are compared, managed to almost totally eradicate the Jewish population in what they saw as their ethnic heartland of Germany, Austria, western Poland and Bohemia/ Moravia. Yet significant numbers of Armenians survived and returned after the Turkish surrender in 1918. Indeed throughout the war, the significant Armenian populations of Istanbul and Smyrna were (with the exception of arrests of a small number of known agitators) unmolested and allowed to continue with their normal lives — something the Nazis would never have contemplated for Jews.

Armenians have formed successful communities in many countries, and this is much to their credit as hard working entrepreneurial people. But they have also discovered the benefits of victim hood and used that status for advancement. The status of “victims of persecution,” especially persecution at the hands of the heathen Turk, has certainly assisted in the establishment of cohesive, prosperous communities, especially in North America and francophone Europe. Surprisingly, this has also been true of Armenians in the Soviet Union. They did this by capitalising on their status as victims, an essential part of any national revolutionary identity. This was an interesting switch as they had always been a highly favoured minority under the Tsar — as they were under the Sultan and the Shah. But it was a switch they made very successfully — they were allowed liberties and privileges under the Soviet system that was denied to all other ethnic minorities. Yerevan had the only international airport of any non-Russian city and enjoyed considerable high- tech investment being the chosen home for Soviet version of Silicone Valley. [70] And this in spite of a major involvement by Armenians in the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union!

Dro, a much praised Armenian revolutionary leader, led a significant Armenian force under the Nazis and operated in the Crimea and Caucuses where some of the worse Nazi atrocities occurred; a somewhat disingenuous apologia for this can be read in Dro’s biography, Tempest Born, for those who care to bother. [71] Other national groups suffered mass deportation, exile and decimation for considerably less. In spite of Armenian success as a part of a larger but dissimilar polity, Armenians have struggled to succeed on their own. When enjoying the privilege of a favoured minority they have done well because their rhetoric has not had to actually sustain them — the nation of which they were a part did that. But once independence loomed, things became much more complex; victim hood and a sense that they were owed a great debt by someone else was no longer enough to keep the wheels on the chariot. In the past, the Armenians were very much like a fly on the wheels of a chariot saying to itself “look what dust I cause to arise.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, they had to drive the chariot themselves. The crisis faced by Armenia today came in the form of Karabagh. Old prejudices and failed aspirations became the driving force of the new nation. The result was a great success in terms of force of arms, but Armenia was exposed as a narrow-minded, introverted and bigoted community; forced demographic change reared its head again, and 200,000 Azeris had to leave their homes and 300,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan had to leave theirs. In order to subvert international law and bypass the issue of international recognition, Karabagh has had to resort to the fiction of independence, when it is actually now part of Armenia, and Armenia has had to rely on military support from Russia. Armenia’s access to the outside world has been severely limited by a Turkish and Azeri blockade ever since.

The newly independent Armenian leadership with Levon Ter Petrosian as president did try to look at the option of compromise. Ter Petrosian believed that Armenia missed an opportunity to reach a “formula for co-existence with Turkey between 1917 and 1922, or possibly even earlier. He said “To solve the question of Karabagh we have only one option, a compromise solution, which does not mean that one side is the victor and the other the loser……This is not a debate on losing Karabagh. Rather, it is on keeping Karabagh Armenian. Karabagh has been inhabited by Armenians for three thousand years, and so it must be for another three thousand years.” This was dangerous stuff to an audience for whom victory over the enemy was not sufficient; humiliation had to be evident as well. But he was finished when he went on to add:

“The path I have chosen will secure that prospect and the means to preserve it, to reach our desired goal. The path of the adventurers will lead to certain defeat. Already once, 'having turned Istanbul into [a] sea of blood,' we lost Western Armenia.” [72]

It was a simple admission of the fact that Armenia’s obsession with the chimera of a “Greater Armenia” had led to disaster. But under the malignant influence of Karabagh radicals and the persistent Diaspora fantasies of a greater Armenia, the real Armenia is reduced to a tiny rump and a caricature of what it could have been, its citizens leaving in droves once again to enjoy the broader comforts of a home in someone else’s land. It has become a metaphor for Armenia’s frustrated hopes.

1. Mesrob K. Krikorian, Armenians In The Service Of The Ottoman Empire 1860-1908, Routledge & Keenan Paul, London, Henley and Boston, 1977, pp. 2,3.

2. Bruce Clark, Twice A Stranger, How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey, Granta Books, London, 2007, p. 16

3. George Finlay, The History of The Greek Revolution, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1877 (reprint by Zeno Booksellers and Publishers, London, 1971), p.153.

4. George Horton, The Blight of Asia, reprinted by Sterndale Classics, London, 2003, p. 12.

5. A.J. Toynbee, Turkey: A Past And A Future, George H. Dorian Company, New York, 1917, p. 85

6. A.J. Toynbee, A Western Question of Greece and Turkey, Constable And Company Ltd, London, Bombay and Sydney, 1923, pp. 259-319

7. L.S. Stavrianos (ed), The Ottoman Empire, Was It the Sick Man of Europe?, Rinehart & Company Inc., New York, 1957, pp. 49-51

8. Muriel Atkin, Russia and Iran, 1780-1828, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1980, p. 29

9. George A. Bournoutian, The Khanate of Erevan Under Qajar Rule 1795-1828, Mazda Publishers, in association with Bibliotheca Persica, Costa Mesa, California and New York, 1992, pp. 12-26

10. Atkin, ibid, p. 29
11. Bournoutian, ibid, p. 59
12. Ibid, p. 60
13. Ibid, p. 38
14. Ibid, p. 61
15. Atkin, ibid, p. 84
16. Ibid, p. 86

17. 17) George A. Bournoutian, Russia and the Armenians of Transcaucasia,1797-1889: A Documentary Record, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California, 1980, p. 222

18. Esat Uras, The Armenians In History And The Armenian Question, Documentary Publications, Istanbul and Ankara,1988, pp. 1010-1015

19. Harold Armstrong, Turkey In Travail, John Lane The Bodley Head Limited, London, 1925, p. 223

20. Donald Quartert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p.115.

21. Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922, The Darwin Press, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey. p. 339

22. Kalpana Sahni, Crucifying the Orient; Russian Orientalism and the Colonization of Caucusus and Central Asia, White, Orchid Press, The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, Oslo. p. 80

23. Ibid, p. 41
24. Ibid, p. 98

25. Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini ed. Russia’s Orient, Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indians, USA. pp. 241-242

26. McCarthy, ibid, pp. 35-36

27. Yo’av Karny, Highlanders, A Journey to the Caucusus in Quest of Memory, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000, pp. 63-64

28. Sahni. Ibid, p. 78

29. Bournoutian, Russians and Armenians of Transcaucasia….. Ibid, pp. 412-414

30. Mikayel Verandian, Murad of Sepastia, Armenian Cultural Foundation, Arlington, Massachusetts, 2006. pp.95-96

31. Jeremy Salt, Imperialism Evangelism and the Ottoman Armenians 1878- 1896, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. London,1995, p.72

32. Abraham H. Hartunian, Neither To Laugh Nor To Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide. Armenian Heritage Press, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Cambridge, Mass, pp. 56-57

33. Ibid, p. 58
34. Ibid,pp.60-61
35. Salt, ibid, p. 63
36. Ibid, p. 64

37. Robert Mirak, Torn Between Two Lands: Armenians in America 1890 to World War I, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1983, pp. 244-247

38. Ibid, p. 209
39. Salt, ibid, pp.104-105
40. Ibid, pp. 105-106

41. Kamuran Gurun, The Armenian File: The Myth of Innocence Exposed, Butler and Tanner Ltd. Frome and London, England, pp. 147-153

42. Turgut Ozal, Turkey in Europe and Europe in Turkey, K. Rustem and Brother, Nicosia, North Cyprus, 1991, p. 212

43. Vahakn N. Dadrian, Warrant For Genocide, Key Elements of The Turko-Armenian Conflict, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (U.S.A.) and London (UK)2003, p. 145

44. Ibid, p. 168
45. Ibid, pp. 146-147

46. Radomir Luza, The Transfer of The Sudeten Germans: A Study of Czech German Relations 1933-1962, Routledge Kegan Paul Ltd. London. p. 115

47. Ozal, ibid, p. 250
48. Dadrian, Ibid, p. 126
49. Ibid, p. 78
50. McCarthy, Ibid, p 180
51. Uras, ibid, pp. 843-845
52. Ibid, pp. 846-848

53. Rafael de Nogales, Four Years Beneath The Crescent, 1926, Sterndale Classics (reprint) 2003, p. 45

54. Gurun, pp. 193-204

55. Andrew Mango, Ataturk, John Murray, Albemarle Street, London, 1999, p. 579 (n.24)

56. McCarthy, Ibid, pp. 188-191
57. Nogales, Ibid, pp. 84-85
58. Ibid, p. 95

59. Antranig Chalabian, General Andranik And The Armenian Revolutionary Movement, Published by Author, 1988, pp. 154-155

60. Chalabian, Ibid, pp 273-274
61. Mango, pp. 163-164

62. Edward J. Erickson, Ordered To Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, London, p. 39

63. Vatche Ghazarian (ed), Boghos Nubar’s Papers and the Armenian Question 1915-1918, Mayreni Publishing, Waltham, MA, U.S.A.. p. 203

64. Erickson, Ibid, p.101
65. Ibid, p. 104
66. Armstrong, Ibid, pp22-23
67. McCarthy, Ibid, pp. 226-227
68. Ibid, p. 229

69. Justin McCarthy, Muslims and Minorities: The Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire, New York University Press, New York and London,1983, pp. 129-130

70. Karny, Ibid, p. 388

71. Simon Vratsian, Tempest Born, Dro, Armenian Apostolic Church of America, 2000, pp. 114-117

72. Karny, Ibid, pp. 393-397

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