2514) Historical Development of the Armenian Question

"East Question"
As known, when the Christian Western world had decided to start an uprising among the Christian elements against the Ottoman Empire, which was the leader of the Islam world, it had mentioned this issue under the title of “East Question “

So, the West had a significant problem at the East, which was to ruin the Ottoman Empire by describing it as a “ill man”, and share its soils.

The minorities inhabiting in the Empire, would be used on a large scale in order to accomplish this plan. As a matter of fact, various Christian elements living . . .
at the West of the Empire, would gain their independence in a short time. The Armenians, who use to live dispersedly, and the ones who inhabit in the Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia in particular, would not be able to be successful despite their terrorist activities, which has continued for 35 years, and would lead to many tragedies at the present day. Consequently, “East Question” turned into the “Armenian Question”.

The intention and scope of this assessment would be to brief the historical development of the tragedy and to study the terror dimension, which has been adopted as an solution by the Armenians.

During the Ottoman period, the Armenians, who were called as “loyal nation”, have always had a special place among many of the nations and people, who had lived inside the borders of the Empire.

Until the end of the 19th century, the Armenians lived in peace and prosperity in Turkey, and when they were given a right to become officials in the government, they had very significant positions at the public administration.

The 29 Ottoman Armenians took office in the Ottoman administration as generals, 22 as ministers, 33 as deputies, 7 as ambassadors, 11 as Consul General, 11 university assistants and 44 as high ranking officials, who had employed themselves generally in trade, money changing activities and as jewelers besides art. The most significant and key positions like Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade were occupied by the Armenian ministers. For instance; Gabriel Nuradunghiyan was our Minster of Foreign Affairs during the Balkan War.

The Armenians, who benefited from every right that was given to Muslims, could maintain their families and as a result secured the prosperity of their families due to the privileges like not being obliged to do military service. Consequently, it can easily be observed that comparing to the Armenians living in the Tsarist Russia of the period; the Ottoman Armenians were living in a great peace and prosperity, where they enjoyed religion, language, education freedom.

These circumstances, which continued until the middle of the 19th century, had started to change slowly particularly since the Reforms Period and after the Ottoman- Russian War during 1877-1878, which is known as ’93 Russian War in our history, it started to reach at increasingly dangerous dimensions seemingly with the nationalist movements, but in fact, with the incitements of the imperialist powers.

Why did this happen? Why all of a sudden a trouble called the Armenian question appeared at the Ottoman Empire? Did the question appear unexpectedly and all of a sudden? Or was it an expected event, which was put into practice in time, as a part of a great master plan? Who were behind it? Now let’s examine it more closely.

The imperialist powers, who wished to ruin the Ottoman Empire from the inside by using the minority groups, exploited Armenians in the direction of their interests and became a creator of a East question. The game, which was played formerly at the Balkans successfully, was put on the scene in the Eastern Anatolia this time, and the geopolitical position of the region brought England and the Tsarist Russia face to face this time at this scene.

The main foreign policy of the Tsarist Russia, which was followed since Petro the First, was to reach at the hot seas, in other words to the Mediterranean. The Russia, which pursuits an expansionist policy, considered reaching at the Mediterranean as a national goal and directed all its foreign policy accounts to this goal. The Ottoman Empire was the greatest obstacle in front of Russia’s goal. And that is the reason why, the Ottoman Empire had to fight against Russia mostly during the history. Because, the Russians were committed strictly to the political will of Petro the First.

When Petro was only a price, who had not accessed to throne, he went to the Netherlands; he worked at the ships as a worker and perceived the importance of colonization after seeing oversees countries. Perceiving the importance of reaching at the seas for expanding Russia, which was a small territorial country around Moscow those days, Pedro had taken two significant decisions by laying a foundation to the foreign policy of Russia, which would be applied for 200 hundred years: 1. Russia do not have any harbor. However, it should reach at the seas. It would reach at the Arctic Sea at the North. Then, it has to fight against Sweden, which possesses these lands. It is not possible for it to live the other way around. So, it fights against Sweden and it beats S,arlken in 1706 in Paltova and establishes its first harbor, Petrograd and reaches at the Arctic Sea. 2. It should seize the Iskenderun harbor by reaching to the Mediterranean via Black Sea. As matter of fact, the dominant power in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean is the Ottoman Empire. Then, it will inevitably fight against the Ottoman Empire. It ventures but loses the Prut War in 1711, and hardly saves its live.

Despite this defeat, Russia would not give up its major goal. Especially, when an opportunity arouse in the next years for obstructing the India way of England, which is her greatest rival, by reaching at Indian Ocean easily via Red Sea, Russia would consider the Ottoman Empire as the greatest obstacle in its living area. Then its major policy would be to reach at the Aegean Sea, if it would not be possible to pass from the Straits, and to reach at the Basra Gulf via Caucasus and getting to the Indian Ocean. And if that way is closed, then the main actors in their major foreign policy, would be the minorities living under the structure of the Ottoman Empire. Russia, which acts as a guardian of Orthodox world, would use the minority weapon successfully.

The Ottoman-Russian War in 1977 is the product of these goals, and although Russia won the war, it has become a grave for the Russian aspirations on the Balkans. Bulgarian Princedom, which was established with the support of the Russians, had turned against the Russians; even Serbia, which obtained its independence with the Russian weapons, had started to approach towards Austria. So, it was impossible for the Russians to reach at the Mediterranean via the Balkans. Under these circumstances, there was only one option left. Was it possible to reach at the Iskenderun harbor via Caspian Gulf or Cilicia by means of Armenians? Accordingly, this was how the embryo of the Armenian question was created.

The major architects of the question are France, and the USA, which had involved in the issue due to their interests, and the rivalry among the imperialist Russia – England, as will be seen briefly. They are playing the same role at the present since they have a debt they have to pay to Armenians. The ones, who direct the Armenians, who are the people of these lands to a blind alley, are the ones, who explain this question only with the 1915 “compulsory relocation” and they suffer guilty conscience.

1915 incidents are the peak of an iceberg that is called the Armenian question. However, the roots of the question go back to very deep. The incidents do not have any connection with the Union and Progress Party and its administrators in this sense. The ones, who accuse the administrators of the Union and Progress Party as the criminals of the genocide, which is also supported by some Turkish intellectuals, and the ones who support this opinion, are the ones, who do not see or who do not wish to see the things that occurred prior 1915, which means that the history is looked at with cross-eyes and this move would not lead us to facts. For instance; If we do not mention Nerses the Armenian Patriarch Varjabedyan, who was a citizen of the Ottoman and who had demanded support for founding an independent Armenia by visiting Grand Duke Nikola, the commander of the Russian armies and uncle of the Tsar, who has came until Istanbul/ Yes,ilköy (Ayastefanos), and turned a blind eye to the afore-mentioned visit, then, of course, we won’t and cannot be able to see the seeds that are planted and the problems that has produced consequences. Nonetheless, the Union and Progress Party, which would be established 21 years later, in 1899, did not even exist in those days. Also Enver Pasha did not exist in those days. Enver Pasha was not born yet, but the Armenian question was on the agenda of the world.

In fact, even the H?nchak Party, which was established as a revolutionary party and which clearly declared in its manifesto that to reach at its goal, which is to establish an independent Armenia on the Anatolian lands, its method would be terror and it will fight till the end for its goal, was established in Geneva in 1887, Talat Pasha was 13 years old teenager and Cemal Pasha was only 15 years old teenager, who probably knew nothing about the forthcoming dangers. It is definite that the Armenian question existed and was threatening the integrity of the government seriously when the Union and Progress Party was not yet established, and when some of the ones, who would later become the administrators of the Party, were not born yet, and some of the administrators were only children. As a matter of fact, even if the relocation in 1915 did not happen, the Ottoman Empire would have to take a similar decision, since the Armenians were forcing the Ottoman Empire to take oppressive precautions. The uprisings, which continued for 35 years and which shed blood in Anatolia, are the evidence of this, and actually, the above mentioned incidents are the historical facts and cannot be opposed by anyone.

However, the ones, who were ruling the government, were naturally in an attempt to ensure the integrity and the safety of the country, despite the foreign intervention, which was unnatural.

So the Armenians were encouraged and exploited by the Russians with the dream of establishing an independent Armenia, but, in fact, they were used as a jumping board. Realizing the game, England, attempted to take contra-precautions with being aware of the danger, which Russia would cause by reaching at the Mediterranean and an extremely vital point for the India way. And in this context, England has resorted to the Ottoman Empire with the proposal for protecting Cyprus, which is strategically very important for the India way, mutually against Russia. The Ottoman Empire, which had just got out of the war, was obliged to accept the proposal, and so England set out to Cyprus in1878. In response England, cancelled the Ayastefanos Agreement, which the Ottoman Empire signed with Russia, and carried the issue to the Berlin Congress and England-Russia rivalry on the Ottoman lands reached at a different dimension.

Nourishing a policy towards the land integrity of the Ottoman Empire with its foreign policy that was pursuit for about 100 years, England had perceived that the end of the Ottoman Empire had come and there was nothing much to do to keep it alive. Under these circumstances, to prevent Russians reaching at the South, buffer states had to be established. So, an Armenia, which would include Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia, should be established and this would be in support of England, so Armenia would owe its independence to England, not Russia. Russia advocated the idea of establishing an independent Armenian state at the Eastern Anatolian lands, not at her lands.

Revolting against the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians had upraised at the various parts of Anatolia numerous times particularly during 1878-1914, they attempted great massacres and fought against the legal security forces, who were sent to prevent them, and reflected every precaution that were taken to stop them as “Turks are massacring us” to the World. The governments of Palmerston, Salisbury, Disraeli, who were Turks’ friends, were left in the past and Gladstone faced the Ottoman Empire with a brand-new policy. Briefly, the two countries raced each other for establishing ”an independent Armenia”, but in fact Russia did not support an independent Armenia since the Armenians would use this master card against Russians in Iranian Armenia.

The Salvation War spoiled all the dreams of the Armenians.
Grand Duke Nikola, the Russian commander of the invasion, had said to Armenian Patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan: “… No one would found you a homeland. And do not also demand this from us, we cannot do it. If you wish to found an independent state, revolt; start uprisings. We can support you with necessary finance and arms supply. When the governmental powers attack you, we will outcry to the World as ‘The Muslims are massacring the Christians’.”

They continuously misled the world via the Hinchak and Tashnak parties that were founded in 1887 and 1890 and their supporters. Whenever a riot was to be suppressed they took the support of the foreign powers and so they could revolt over and over again with every occasion they found. The loyal nation of the past turned into the most significant trouble of the Ottoman Empire. These circumstances continued during the World War I and just when they supposed that they had found the state they have been dreaming of with the support and leadership of all the imperialist powers, this time the Salvation War had ruined all the dreams of the Armenians.

Armenian Patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan had taken the following advice and promise from Grand Duke Nikola, the Russian commander of the invasion: “No one would establish you a homeland. And do not also demand this from us, we cannot do it. If you wish to found an independent state, revolt; start uprisings. We can support you with necessary finance and arms supply. When the governmental powers attack you, we will outcry to the World as ‘The Muslims are massacring the Christians’.” The patriarch, who had listened to this advice would convey these speech to the English Ambassador and say: “…If Europe needs to see a blood shed for to be interested in our independence issue, then you can be sure that we will turn Anatolia into a fire place in the near future.” Ambassador Elliot would convey this message exactly to London. So, whatever the Ottoman Empire would do the forthcoming days was dark and the Armenians were entering to a road, whose end is shady. While these preparations were continuing neither an unionist government nor a “compulsory” relocation decision existed.

Although there is 25 (twenty-five) years more for the compulsory decision but they was a bloodshed and Armenians, who were committing murder were left unpunished since foreign intervention with capitulations were put into circuit and these incidents were judged by consulate courts and mostly subject were released. Just like “the Ottoman Bank Raid” that had continued for days and caused hundreds of people to get injured. And like the assassination incident of the Sultan Abdulhamit. Both incidents had occurred in front of the world and the subjects of the incidents left the country without a restraint. The Ottoman government had been patient with all of these incidents and had not taken a relocation decision.

Since 1880, it was perceived from the reports of the English consulates at the Eastern Anatolia that the Armenians at the region were rapidly getting organized and armed. All the English archives are full of documents, which would confirm us, and these documents are open to researchers. (See F.O. 424/107, No.194, Affix 1; F.O.424/107, No.185 and 212)

Meanwhile, social associations were being established. The first of these was Benevolent Union, which was established in Istanbul in 1860. Its goal was to develop Cilicia. Its members Hasip S,is,manyan and Migirdiç Besiktas,yan were said to have taken part at the Zeytun incidents. (See Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement, page 71)

During 1870 and 1880 associations titled “Araratli” in Van “Okulsevenler” (School Fonders) in Mus, and “Nationalist Women” in Eastern Erzurum. Later they had joined and founded “Armenian United Association”.

Besides these social associations, revolutionist organizations were also being founded. “Black Cross” which was founded in Bursa in 1878, was one of these. It was similar to the Klu Klux Klan organization in the USA. It got famous in a short time by killing the Armenians, who did not support the Armenian cause. They were leaving their signatures by carving a black cross sign on the forehead of its victims. The slogan it was using was “…if you wish to be rescued, kill your neighbor”. And they were massacring the Armenians, who did not obey this order.

The Association of “Homeland Defenders” (Pashtpan Haireniats) were founded in Anatolia in 1881. The goal of this association was to arm the Armenians.

The first organization that was founded as a revolutionist party was “Armenekan”. Its founder, Portakalyan, who was a teacher at the same time, was famous for bringing up a revolutionist generation. He had gone France in 1885, when he was expelled from Van, published Armenia newspaper and started spreading out the slogan “You cannot win without shedding blood.”

Setting out from “Armenia” newspaper, Portakalyan’s nine students founded Armenakan Party in 1885. (See Kâmuran Gürün , Armenian Folder, page 129). This news paper was prohibited in Turkey in 1885 and in 1886 it was prohibited in Russia in 1886.

The goal of the Armenakan Party was to lead the Armenians to seize the right for self-determination via revolution. This point was indicated at the party program. Only Armenians was accepted to the party. Preparing people for the armed struggle, distributing weapons, and cooperating with the other revolutionary organizations were among the goals of the party and it was only 1885. In other words, the preparations were made 20 years before the World War I.

Of Course, revolutionist Hinchak Party was among the ones, which attracted attentions. This party was founded in Geneva in 1887. It was founded by well-off students, who were educating in Paris.
A group from the readers of Portakalyan`s Armenia had found the party.

The program of the party, which was founded by the Armenians, was horrifying.

None of the party founders were Ottoman citizens and had never been in Turkey. Despite all these, they had become enemies without seeing Turkey. The goals of the party program that they had issued, was horrible. According to this program:

1. The current order should be changed by a revolution, and a social order, which would be based on economic realities and social justice, should replace the present order.

2. The first and the closest goal of the party should be securing the political and national independence of Turkish Armenia.

3. The methods for reaching at the goals that will be realized with revolutions in Turkey will be propaganda activities, incitements, organizations and movements of the workers and villagers.

4. A central committee will be formed at the party. Two basic revolution groups that will be composed of workers and villagers will be founded. Also, apart from these, guerrilla gangs will be formed.

5. The most suitable time for realizing the revolution would be the time when Turkey would enter into the war.

6. Syrians, Kurds should be won at the struggle against the Turks.

7. After Turkish Armenia gains its independence, the revolution would be spread towards Russian and Iranian Armenia and a federative Armenia would be founded.

Consequently, the Armenians, who were having the above-mentioned dreams, had prepared an anarchy atmosphere within the country with the efforts of ones, who incite them on this way. As a result, a ruthless struggle started among the ones, who wished to split the country and the ones who oppose this wish. Nevertheless, there still was no collective deportation decision taken by the government regarding the Armenians. Despite all these incidents, the governments attempted to calm the incidents. Hinchak Party was going to undertake Kumkapi Incident, Sasun Incident, Babiâli Incident and Zeytun Uprising.

As can be seen, starting from 1887, the Armenians would attempt to enter into every kind of incitement incidents all over Anatolia. The state would only watch the incidents and do nothing about them for a long period of time. Nevertheless, the taxes, which were regarded as heavy for years, would be though as heavy. Pretexts could easily found by the ones who attempt to find them and they could do everything that would be in accordance with the party program.

Armenian Revolutionist Tashnak Party (Dasnaksutyun) was founded in Tbilisi in 1890. It was composed of relatively non-socialist and nationalist youngsters. It means “Federation” in Armenian language. Hinchak organization had also participated in this group. Nevertheless, this companion did not last long. In 1891, Hinchak party had ceased its relationship with the Federation claiming that the Federation is too slow. The program of the Tashnak party was issued in 1892. According to the program the following would be realized:

-Founding gangs,
-Increasing revolutionary activities of people by using every way.
-Using every kind of opportunity for arming people,
-Forming revolutionary committees and organizing close cooperation among them.
-Encouraging fights and intimidating government officials, traitors, informers and robbers,
-Looting and ruining governmental institutions.

While this party did not mention about separation or independence, it demanded reforms. Tashnaks, who appeared as a terrorist organization had undertook the Ottoman Bank Raid, Sasun Uprising in 1904 and Yildiz Assassination.

As a result, the uprising period had started. The following were the incidents:

Homeland Defenders Incident (8.12.1882), Conflict with Armenekan Gangs (May 1889), Musa Bey Incident (Agust 1889), Erzurum Uprising (20 June 1890), Kumkapi Meeting (15 July 1890), Merzifon, Yozgat, Kayseri Incidents (1892-1893), Sasun Uprising I (Agust 1894), Zeytun (Süleymanli) Uprising (1-6 September 1895), Divrigi (Sivas) Uprising (29 September 1895), Babiâli Incident (30 September 1895), Trabzon Uprising (2 October 1895), Eg(in (Mamüratül Aziz) Uprising (6 October 1895), Develi (Kayseri) Uprising (7 October 1895), Akhisar (Izmit) Uprising (9 October 1895).

Source: Cumhuriyet Daily Newspaper- Orhan Çekiç 26-29 April 2008