1350) Faith Dimension Of Turk-Armenian Relations

Asst. Prof.İsa YÜCEER*


In the history, Anatolia hosted different cultures, civilizations and religions and provided peaceful coexistence for various ideas, philosphical thoughts, diverse understandings and opposing parties. Following the period of Jesus, Christianity spread throughout the region, Persian culture also created influence due to geographical closeness of Iran, few number of Jews existed in different locations and upon arrival of Islam, Muslims that settled in the region conveyed Islam and Islam became the dominant religion of the region.

Christians maintained their survival, with higher extent of members of Armenian Churches and lower extent of others. Although there existed different structures as habitants who voluntarily adopted Islam and recent settlers, all of them lived under ruling of Muslims and in the shadow of Islam.

In terms of proportion, number of Muslims followed a continuously increasing pattern. This resulted due to not only new births but also adoption of Islam by the members of other religions, particularly Christians. These people shared the same environment, established peaceful relations and lived in peace until the last century. In the process of weakening Otoman Empire and hostile ambitions of other enemy nations, external factors took advantage of religious differences; trained Christian Armenians under organizations serving their own interests and disorder was triggered in the environment where different religions coexist in peace. Depressing nature of the conditions can easily be seen when religios aspect and ideal axis of the issue is taken into consideration.

The fact that the art of living together in peace is at the core of Muslim understanding was proven in the past. Islam is a religion which achieved to establish peaceful relations with the members of other religions since its emergence. Muslims easily shared the same environment with the members of other religions. Islam paid a separate attention and importance toward Christians and Jews called as Holy-Book Believers, considered those people different from others and accepted them close to itself. An important part of examples for Muslim and Christian people who share the same physical environment were experienced with Armenians. Differences were welcome with tolerance and mutual respect prevailed.

The striking point here is the fact that Christians were safeguarded under the environment where dominance belonged to Muslims. Brutality and intolerance of Christians from different sects against each other is a long known fact. On the other hand, Muslims gave them tolerance, ensure them to protect and sustain their lives, properties, chastity, religion and beliefs, cultures and traditions and assured their survival. It will not be easy to reach a healthy judgment about the future without recognizing this rooted past.

1-Contents of Muslim-Christian Relations

At the time of emergence of Islam, Christianity was the most widespread religion between people of this region. Many nations had adopted Christianity. In the process of diffusion of Islam, initially in Mecca, Medina and Arabian Peninsula and then in Iran and Byzantium, most of the relations were established with Christians. Believers of these two religions treat each other moderately and Islam approaches Christianity in a temperate manner. Number of people quitted Christianity and adopted Islam are in majority. Those are the people that preferred Islam in their own will and account.

One of the most important qualities of Islam can be seen in consideration of preference of religion as a conscientous matter. Those quitted their religion and adopted Islam was treated just like all Muslims and applied the same rules Islam prescribed for Muslims. Those not adopted Islam ve remained loyal to their religions were classified according to their religions. For instance, the term Holy Book Believers1 has been used as a Notion special to Christians and Jews. Certain provisions were specified for those within the classification of believers of a Holy Book and religions with a Holy Book and Muslims are requested to comply with the law of such religions’ believers.

In the history, Armenians remained under rule of Roman Empire, Sassanids and then Byzantium. These regions were gone under authority of Muslims after VII. Century. In the early periods following emergence of Islam, the region was conquered by Muslims.1 “Huzeyfe b. Yeman marched together with Iraqi people to conquer Armenia and Azerbaijan.”2 Muslims conquered Azerbaijan and its periphery during the period of Hz. Ömer (22/643).3 Places until Tbilisi were captured under the command of Suraka b. Amr in the period of Hz. Osman, Abdurrahman b. Rabia and his younger brother Suleyman ruled in the region and Habib b. Mesleme struggled against Armenian rebels upon the order of Hz. Osman. Extensive activities were held during the period of Hz. Osman.1 Muslim Sovereignty in Armenia and Azerbaijan sustained during Omavi period.2 During the next period, people of the region lived in fractions of Christians and Muslims.3 Sovereignty in Azerbaijan and Armenia continued during the first era of Abbasids.4 It is conveyed that disorders arose in the region and then suppressed militarily during the period of Harun Reşit. During uprising initiated by Babek el-Hürremi in the period of Mu’tasım, Hürremi was supported by Armenians.1

Muslims ruled the region during the periods of Rachid Caliphs, Omavis and Abbasids. Upon arrival of Turks in the region in Xth century, relations between two parties started. In this way, two nations with different languages and religions found themselves in necessity to live together. When compared to the past, it is a proven fact in historical sources that Armenians faced persecution and violence of Byzantines although both were believers of the same religion. It is determined in general context that there were no stable conditions in the region.

During the periods Armenians lived together with Turks, stability was achieved despite differences in the same environment and a huge difference existed when compared to Byzantine period. It is seen in Armenian-Turk relations after the Battle of Malazgirt on August 26, 1071 that Turks showed kindness toward their counterparties, mutual kindness prevailed, wellbeing and prosperity were assured. Armenians performed their religious rituals without any obstruction, remained loyal to their traditions and maintained their social lives as they wished. Turks and Armenians established favourable relations and solidarity existed between parties. Enemy of Turks was not Armenians, but Byzantines. Battles were against Byzantines and Armenians preferred to remain loyal to Seljuks and Ottomans, not Byzantines. It is possible to define this relation as brotherhood and friendship.

Regarding relations with Ottomans, after making the city Bursa the center of its state, Othman Ghazi (1324) paid close attention to Armenian spiritual leaders, Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror set a high value on those leaders, saved Greek Patriarch and also founded Armenian Patriarch (1461) and ensured regular functioning of religious affairs of Armenian community through Armenian Patriarch. Armenians in the places conquered were tied to the Patriarch in İstanbul and thereby, religious freedom was also offered in addition to economic and cultural freedom.

When malevolent parties started to implemented their plots, distinguishing between good and bad, sincere and malevolent was not easy. People bewildered in the environment of dissension performed unexpected acts.1 in such an environment, people found themselves in a well-defined plan and remained obliged to make a preference. Regarding organized activities, militants trained in a planned way achieved to convince people by the use of persuasion method, gave promises and made use of people unable to see the future.1

2-Farklı İnanç Mensuplarının İlişkilerinde Yöntem

Turk-Armenian relations should not be hushed up but should be assessed from many different aspects. The objective is to find the truth and ensure prevalence of justice. Malices commited by some parties which were under protection of Ottoman and revolted during Ottoman-Russia Battles may not be ignored. In these times, sufferings of Muslim world and losses of Muslims should not be underrated. If Muslims and Non-Muslims became hostile against each other during this process, the reason was not Muslims but those acted against them in a hostile manner.

It is evident that rebels caused Ottoman to lose the World War I. Christian Greeks and Armenians were in a continuous conflict. Armenians were under pressure of Greeks. Particularly, Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror ensured Armenians to have a separate patriarch, worship in their own sanctuaries and survive their language. Armenians also did not perform military service, trained in their own occupation, achieved great facilities, all these were provided them by Muslims and Muslims put them in high offices in the state administration. There were those wished to manipulate Christians according to their own interests and make us of their existence; Russians and western powers achieved influence on Armenians and Greeks, respectively.3

Noone can accuse Muslims with the claim of oppressing certain minorities in the public.3 although impartial historians did not consider the status and position of non-Muslim citizens in Ottoman public negative, malevolent parties raised bogus claims without reflecting the truth.4 “They did not completely mix with Turks and not accepted Islam. They remained loyal to their religion and nationality.”4 Although such opinions were put forward regarding Armenians, it is known that there were dense populations of Armenians that adopted Islam and lived in the society without any problem. It is not proper to impute all the people due to disruptive activities and negativenesses performed by malevolent people during the period of anarchy.4 As a different quality of Armenians, they were known as loyal public within Ottoman citizens. This held true until the last period.

3-Plans of Christians under the Guise of Belief

3.1-Negative Muslim-Christian (Armenian) Relations in Eastern Anatolia in the Last Century

Gangs of Tashnak and Hinchak which pioneered Russia in 1914 and killing the people of Muslim villages and destruction of their properties were the reflection of belief.1 Muslims may not treat anyone prejudiced. In the past, non-Muslims exhibited good relations with existing sovereign power. In addition, Armenians are the Christians which lived together with Muslims for the longest period of times and which are closely similar to Muslims from the point of their traditions. Difference of belief is a reflection of being from different religions. This difference was considered natural. This did not mean that one should be in opposition to the other.

3.2-Role of Religion in Support of Russia to Armenians

Continuance of problems in the East until the revolution in Russia and change in the conditions following the revolution are the indicator of existence of external factors in domestic problems of Ottoman.8 It is long known that Christians in Anatolia are supported to dominate this religion in the region.8 During that period, religious factors played a prominent role in realization of Christian ambitions.9 It was revealed that those who acted under direction of agency used efforts not acceptable both in law and in religion.10 A consensus exists regarding connection of Armenian problem with Russian political ambition to expand in Asia and gain access to warm seas.12 In addition to Russia’s ambition to achieve Slav unity, their attempts to support Christians in Anatolia and manipulate them in their own interest were also revealed.13 After 1917, Russia concentrated on its domestic affairs and therefore, departed from the East.14

Besides these developments, protection of Orthodox is a project continued ceaselessly. Western powers and Russia preferred to intervene Ottoman under the guise of protecting Catholics and Orthodoxy, respectively. They followed the way to spread their policy through the use of being from the same religious sect and make their influence prevail by the use of this religious alliance. They continuously used these relations as a tool for achieving their goals and obtained privileges in favour of Orthodox.1

Goals of the Russians were to gain access to warm seas, capture Istanbul from Muslims, restore it as a center of Christians and render the Orthodoxy dominant in the region. For the realization of this goal, disintegration of Ottoman unity and their expansion toward south were necessary. For this purpose, they found parties that would help them and made use of these parties in line with their interest.

3.3-Hıristiyanlarca Kutsal Mekânların Himayesi ve Ele Geçirilmesi Planları

Muslims do not damage sacred values of the members of other religions. This idea involves personalities, spaces, values and all sacred things. Therefore, values of others were particularly protected in places where Muslims sovereign. By every means, Russia continued its attempts to gain access to sacred places and spread its influence on Orthodox fractions in Ottoman.10 Interventions and attempts of Russia continued ceaselessly10, the matter of Sacred Places were always remained on the agenda. “In order to intervene domestic affairs of Ottoman, Christians put the issue of Sacred Places on the agenda and continued its attempts to establish Western sovereignty on these places”10

3.4-Malevolent Backstage of Seemingly Guardianship Attitudes

Problems with Russia were experienced during weakening period of Ottoman and Russia took advantage of existing Christian potential while attempting to spread throughout the region.2 The problem of insurrection was not related to a single fraction, even in Muslim people, there were those who left Ottoman and acted together with Christians.2 It is known that Russia applied pressure on Ottoman for Armenian issue by obtaining support of other powers.2

Problem of East constitute the core of weakening process of Ottoman, acceleration of national activities of Christian citizens and intervention of external powers. Position of Ottoman in Armenian problem was shaped upon external intervention. Ottoman State was known with tolerance for and respect for law of Armenian fractions inside. Ottoman never intervened their affairs since they were Ottoman citizens with religious freedom.” “The matter of improvement in the conditions of Armenian people were always a tool for pressure on Ottoman.”16 “Armenians exagerated their claimed sufferings.” How a solution could Ottoman State produce for those who made hidden agreements with Ottoman enemies, treated Muslim people as enemy, decided on foundation of an independent Christian state and accepted external support to strike Ottoman! The author justfully asks the question “was it reasonable for Ottoman State to remain passive against these developments?”17

In every means, Russia confirmed its position of protectionist of domestic Christian fractions and such idea of protection were maintained ceaselessly. Furthermore, Russia thought that religion may be a tool to realize the plan to gain access to the south, thereby warm seas and provocation of different fractions and Christians inside Ottoman were accepted as a mean for success.18 Domestic Christian groups implemented racist and cultural operations under the thought of national spirit. Christians were intended by these religious groups and external interventions and warnings under the guise of protecting their law never ended.19 his process continued until Communist revolution in Russia (1917/1336).20 Altough this intervention was initiated under the name of reform/improvement, the result was to be independence. Since these developments were under guidance of Russia, results were to be in favour of it.

One of the fundamental problems of the problem of East was the issue of Sacred Places. Jerusalem takes part in the foundation of this problem, the sacred church of Christians located in Beyt-i Lahm. Here is seen as the most important place regarding birth of Jesus. In reality, Ottoman paid maximum attention to these places and protection of membersof different religions. On one hand Greek Catholics and on the other hand Armenian Orthodox and Russia and also Western powers put pressure on Ottoman by raising void assertions.2

Every matter was associated with faith and they expressed their roles of protecting those from their own religious denomination. We do not think that those people proposed such argument since they were pious. Undoubtly, piousness is between God and man. However religion was used as a tool, they concealed their interests and intention to exploit territories they planned to occupy in the future and proposed religion as a reason. Unstability in Ottomans and provocation of domestic Christians against government had served their interests.

In consequence, they captured what they could invade in Ottoman and made use of all fractions inside.14 Historical sources agree on the fact that Russia spread its influence and repeated by every means its support for Christian fractions.15 During planning invasion of Ottoman, not only used its power but also found domestic and foreign alliances.16 Independence of internal Christians was the great plan.17 Another repeated claim was “to improve status of Christians, particularly Armenians”.16 In this way, domestic Christians found external guardian and this guarding power intervened domestic affair of Ottoman under the guise of protecting Christians.14

3.5-Activities Threatening Life Security:

The most prominent one of the contrary activities of Armenians was the incident of assassination organized against Sultan Abdulhamit II in 1905. Within the nation, oppositions of the Sultan also confirmed this. They implemented encouragement activities for insurrection in order to realize acts of independence. “Russia would absorb them just after they achieved their independence”.3 Since Armenians attributed their suffering to the members of Union and Progress Party, they killed Talat Pasha and many others.4

3.6-Colonial Plans: All these attempts were in conflict with the protection of Ottoman unity.17 the problem has also been connected to reform activities in Ottoman Empire.18 This is, basically, related to the idea of Muslim unity (camiatu’l-Islamiyye). Armenian activities had the nature of serving the Russia’s ambition to invade Ottoman lands.18 their objective is to provocate domestic Christians against the State and get them under their own guardianship.18 they aimed to establish Orthodox unity under its own patronage. It did not matter whether these were in the lands of Ottoman, Hungary or Poland. Their evident activities were to trigger disturbance in Ottoman lands through these fractions and provocate others to fight against Ottoman. Disturbances in Ottoman lands would provide advantage and they would achieve an opportunity to reach their goals. They considered Ottoman as an obstacle to realize their ambitious projects for the future. In this matter, agreement with the purpose of “sharing Ottoman lands were implemented with Western countries.”17 Local revolts, encouragement for insurrection and supporting attempt for independency were ceaselessly maintained.17 Domestic fractions continued their activities with external support.

While treating people under its sovereignty cruelly, Russia followed a policy to trigger problems in Ottoman under the guise of defending Orthodox rights and protecting the rights of their religion friends. Whole project aimed to put an end to Ottoman they called “unwell man”.35 Meanwhile, West achieved to protect the crusade spirit with a great degree.36 In order to protect this spirit, West manipulated and segregated Muslims. In order to achieve this plan, views of those parties opposing existing Ottoman governance were continuously put on the agenda and favorable acts were ignored.37 Suffering of Ottoman in the east also negatively affected other places, Muslims in other regions remained unguarded and fell into the hands of colonialism.38 Despite all developments, Muslims must know their responsibility and may not do injustice due to firm order of their religion.39

French revolution made use of fractions within Ottoman, particularly Orthodox Church executives.2 All developments supported racist opinions.3 It is the reality that reflections of independency attempts after French revolution should be identified with its real aspects.4

3.7-Activities under the guise of Religious Service

1-Training and Education Activities: It is known that they made provocations in their schools against Muslim Ottomans. In this way, Turks were seen as enemy of many parties and common interests were taken into consideration. Provocations were the fundamental problem here. In consequence, although non-Muslims do not need any external guardiance, they were used as a tool for many plots and propaganda under the guise of guardianship, relations impaired and conflicting environment emerged due to provocations of imperial Powers.16 School and college activities and attampts to achieve such goals were lon known.16 Muslims were subject to law regarding coexisting non-Muslims. They were liable to respect this laws.16 undoubtfully, as every governance aims, what Ottoman governance tried to achieve was stability. Ottoman governance had to suppress all kinds of disruptive activities in order to maintain stability.16

2- Missionary Activities: Reflections of missionary activities were remarkable.5 It was known that such activities ensured Christians bring up as foreign language-speaking people with high qualities through missionary schools.6

4-Religion Factor in Armenian Problem

4.1- Environment for Members from Different Religion: Within the members of other religions, a lot of religious statements about Christians and Jewish was included in the Koran and relations were clarified. Above all, the parties believe the same god in the core. Islam required Muslims to believe all Holy Books as an essential principle of faith in Islam1. Regarding Prophets, the basic principle that they were man and prophet of God applies.

When we assess the matter from the view of Koran, Koran ordered that Holy books and prophets must be believed without making any distinction between them and sacred values were emphasized. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a title of a sura19 in Koran and her family is the title of sura Al-i İmran/İmran Family which is the second longest sura of Kuran. Sacrificial of Hz. Musa (Moses) is the title of longest sura of Koran. Anecdotes of Hz Musa (Moses) and Hz İsa (Jesus) are largely included in Koran and such anecdotes are conveyed with most exemplary cases and most accurate information is offered. Bible19, Jesus, Mary, Disciples21, Moses, Torah are frequently repeated and importantly emphasized words.

When formed religious denominations with different approaches, Christians experienced enormous controversies within themselves and discrepancies were occurred not only in denomination level but also included the social life. Christians were experienced friendliness, familiarity and humanitarian treatment from Muslims which were not displayed by any other Christian denominations.

Byzantine governance placed a significant emphasize on religious differences between its own coreligionists, and there were news that they acted cruelly toward Armenians which were from a different religious sect, Gregorian. On the other hand, Muslims made establishing humane relations with different coexisting fractions their core principle and did not take religious differences as a reason of conflict. Their full security was ensured in return for an insignificant tax payment, they were required to assure domestic security while Muslims were servicing at front of various battles. In this way, they improved their financial status in the peaceful environment Muslims secured and took advantage of this only for their interests. Beside advantages acquired by the public, Ottoman also endued high offices to Armenians.49

Many examples exist regarding a blissful living of Muslims and Christians together. For instance; it was verified that in 1090, Armenian Patriarch Basile obtained a charter which allowed churches, monasteries and priests to be included in tax exemption. In death of Melikşah, Christians also mourned together with Muslims.8 It is a reality that religious tolerance was maintained for centuries. It was clearly stated that they can perform their rituals from marriage to burial in accordance with church procedures. Greeks, Armenians and Jews are included in this.9

4.2-Comparison of Armenian Revolt with Others

For Armenians, the conditions were different from those of Arabs. For their organization, Christians constituted the majority. These were pushed to revolt through provocations. It seems that ensuring people from other races to establish their own national states lies under the foundation of such activities. Since these activities were to be implemented against existing, although weakened, Ottoman governance, organization must be maintained in all attempts of insurrection, people must be provocated for revolt, all kinds of guns, ammunition and supply must be provided and, above all, people must be persuaded by external support.25 Since all activities were implemented depending on external support, domestic fractions of insurrection must remain loyal and serve to those parties which provided them necessary support.

The essential point here is the fact that religion was used as a tool and people were convinced by manipulating religion. When XIX. century arrived, religion were derailed in many places from its original meaning of kindness and sincere worships surrounding whole inner world of human with its relationship with God. Religion was finally used as a tool for insurrection after intense efforts to provocate people. This nation was, may be, unaware of the fact thet it was manipulated.

Maybe they were not aware of the great plot to provocate citizens of this state for insurrection and push them to kill innocent people in accordanc with the plans of disintegrating Ottoman. Apart from other fractions, were Armenian people happy with these developments? It would not be easy to assert their happiness. Our opinion is that those who made use of religion for their ambitions did wrong. In our opinion, religion, belief, religious sects and temples are the places, tools and a part of worship for God. These were used by colonists and they succeeded to achieve their goals. For the coming periods, religion and belief should not be a tool of malevolent people. This shall only be achieved by awakening of believers.

Fair researches that study the matter impartially and with contemporary approach share the same opinion that religion should remain in its original sacred place and not become a tool for any interest. When religion is included in ambitions of independence and dissension, existing trust for that religion and member of that religion disappear. Noone has the right to damage religious beliefs. If there were those from Arabs and Armenians that wished to depart from Ottoman, this can be achieved without manipulating the religion, damaging beliefs and impairing trust for pious people.

5-Process of Impairment in Relations

It was an inevitable expectation that the trend of Nationalism triggered with French revolution would reflect to Ottoman. Since Armenians at every offices in the governance were happy with their status, they were not expected any problem. However, external interventions and provocations would always be taken into consideration. Ignoring these probabilities would mean missing the actual dimensions of the problems. Appealing offers proposed to Armenians from external powers would encourage malevolent individuals within Armenians and their activities especially with Russia would not remain limited to commercial activities but also would involve different areas.

The mistake of Muslims arose from the fact that they supposed everyone is benign just like them; and this supposition created great problems. It is a natural right of Armenians to form community and association and implement social party activities. Since such organizations were not controlled closely, orientation in such structures toward disruptive activities were somewhat allowed. The two nations coexisted on the same lands, heavily influenced each other whereas, Muslims consulted well-educated Armenian doctors for treatment began to feel their health increasingly deranged. More and more, trust in people trained or supported and sheltered by the state due to their poor survival status were began to be broken, and increasing number of bad news from many places started to supersede pleasant memories of the past. In addition, impairment in trust for top level individuals awarded by plumes of state produced destructive consequences.

The most painful was that Orthodoxes who were protected throughout the Ottoman history in the level of both Patriarch and churches established hidden relations with those not from Ottoman. The main theme we wish to suggest in the statement is this point. Efforts of Muslims to repair churches and maintain survival of another religion maybe seen only in Muslim people.

Undoubtly, temples have an important place in the mind of the human. Moslems respect those places no matter what religion they belong. They think that humans worship with their sincere feelings, they are advised by priests and they become a good man according to advices they listened. They appraise as accredited person who engages in praying in his church. They call with important respect expressions like “Priest Lord”. In spite of these good wills, priests, members of parliament and gang leader worked together against to Moslems, they performed “Ritual and Spiritual” feasts for Crusaders.1

Although they were looked down by Russia in the past, they admit themselves that they were protected by Ottoman especially for their religion and belief.4 Killing during displacement of Armenians totally consist of lies and propoganda.4 It was also determined that great majority of soldiers of occupying forces consisted of Armenians.4

The period of alliance and unity between Greeks and Armenians who were in conflict in the past corresponds to 1919’s.72 in this way, different sections of the same religion managed to reach solidarity and cooperation. It was confirmed that Muslims were opened fire from overlooking parts of churches.72 in this way, shrines were become a center of such disruptive activities. On the other hand, there were also others who did not hesitate to disclose that they had no problem with Turkish and Muslim people.72 in such a way, some groups could easily masked themselves. Evidences of mass murder and assaults against Muslims and acting together with occupying powers are obvious.72 Therefore; demonstrations of seemingly good relations are not plausible.

Non-Muslims used in peace their freedom, security of property, right of education, language, economic welfare, cultural and religional freedom. Security was assured and in this respect Armenians were offered privileged status among Christians. The essential point here is that no problem was mentioned for non-Muslims during powerful periods of Ottoman, whereas external powers manipulated those fractions in line with their political and economic interests during weakening periods of Ottoman.

In attempts to establish an independent state, Armenian Patriarch and its associated units played an intermediary role in fulfillment of great powers’ interests. The problem is, in fact, the problem of imperialism. Religious leaders of Christian fractions and the churches in Otoman pioneered disruptive activities. Although Armenians had not any religious problem under the secured environment in Ottoman lands, they preferred to follow plotters. Although they had much comfortable conditions with respect to Muslims, in 1878’s, Armenians achieved to make reforms and put Armenian problem in international treaties. The internal problems and matters of the State within the framework of its own rights of sovereignty were made subject to external intervention. Ottoman treated Christian citizens equally and did not intervene religional belief differences between them. Since its emergence, Armenian problem was implemented under patronage of external powers and behavior of external powers in political attemps, reform demands and Armenian activities were in line with their domestic supporters. The problem is tried to be exacerbated in order to weaken both Ottoman and Republic of Turkey.

Poisonous words and articles of some western politicians such as Albert de Moun and Deniz Coclin who hate Islam due to their conservatism in Catholics and provocations of protestant bishops and priests caused the world become hostile against Ottomans. It was always Armenian proparaganda that prepared and spread this thought.13 this is the reality of what was experienced.

“The partiarch who included in peace treaty signed in Ayastefanos some cluses in favor of Armenian nation was Nerses Varyabedyan.” Clauses similar to those in Berlin treaty were included with the attempts of patriarch committee. Seeming reforms aimed at ensuring peace and security of Armenians.58 They transmited their requests through envoys of Western countries. Special requests were raised for provinces where Armenians lived. What was claimed was the suffering of and hostility against Armenians and Christian fellows must intervene to recover the circumstances.59 all developments were taken advantage of against Muslim people. Western powers claimed that their religious fellows in Ottoman suffered cruelty and advocated Armenian fractions by every means. Moreover, Armenian governors were assigned to Eastern provinces. Before the reform, autonomous governance and annexation to Russia were discussed. They achieved to present themselves as injured and suffering party. On the other hand Ottoman has not the power to reject demands in favour of non-Muslims. These rights meant violation of the rights of Muslim people. Russia began occupation plans for the East. In this ambition, Russia would use Armenians. It is a fact that Patriarch and Bishop were always involved in such plans.60

Pious people were highly influenced by impressive speeches and decided to act. Another issue that attracts attention was that patriarch and his committee visited the countries which signed peace treaty with Ottoman and attempted to include in those treaties additional clauses on their behalf and always put these clauses on the agenda. Although negotiations were being held between political committes, Armenian Patriarch sent its elected committee members to these negotiations and tried to put pressure on other countries. No one emphasized that religious representatives should not intervene such negotiations. Moreover, envoys from western countries and Russia advocated such committees and their plans went well. When they found the opportunity to tell their points on the level of countries, persuasion of people became easier. External support was not only political but also included many issues such as armation support.

Offering large opportunities to the patriarch at the establishment phase maybe caused them to consider themselves as duly authorized to do anything. Maybe it was not reminded that the patriarch could not take part in political activities, he took religious responsibility from the content of Sultan’s edict. When compared to Chief Religious Official of Muslim, Patriarch took part in diverse and multi-dimensional political activities and organization was implemented by his and his followers’ attempts.

Armament of Armenians and the fact they stored their guns in various places is known. We see those under a picture: “20 hand grenades, capsules and bomb components unburied in Samsun Armenian Church (The label “to Samsun Armenians Episcopacy” is attached on a large chest and entered into the church by assistance of Armenian bishop).” In another picture seen “guns, fuse bombs and highly destructive boms in Armenian School of Clergy in Ermeşe District in Izmit”. At a moment armed clashes intensified, a soldier came for discusion after a banner “Cease Fire, Correspondence” posted on church was opened fire.” “Militants that agreed and swore to plot conspire were revealed.” Organization was implemented by episcopacy.61

“Moreover, some items in churches and monasteries were offered to sale and related income was spent for organization”.14 the motive of religion and belief was the prominent factor. “Photos on memorial stamps issued by Armenians existed notables such as soldiers, authors, prelate, etc.”15 It was revealed in official documents that they carved crenels in churches and established fronts on overlooking hills of cities.”16 Activities and leading role of bishops were identified.17

Priests played a significant role beginning from the emergence of Armenian problem. “Grudge was instilled in Armenian churches and schools of clergy. Plans were drawn up by prelates. Not religiuos training but mainly disruptive committee activities were revealed in the places which seem like a place of worship from outside.”66 It was revealed that hostility against Turks was instilled the school of clergy in Jerusalem.67 Although full content of activities implemented under the guise of religion is not known here, evidences verify inspiration of Great Armenia and the activities on the way to realize this idea. Therefore, such people would disseminate their ideas in the places they visited. Thousands of evidences exist regarding cruelty against Muslim people.68 these are the examples of massacre, murder, rape and damage to property. The period when rites performed in churches prayed for the health of the sultan and ensured amnesty for Armenians in return for their loyalty remained in 1908’s.69 although charity association established in association with church seemed a charitable structure, it was revealed that its members involved in hidden insurrection.70

Activities implemented in churches were beyond spiritual will of religious assembly. Religious affairs were intervened externally. Some of patriarches took place in the acts of independence and it was revealed that Greek patriarch also supported this organization. Improvement of status of Armenians in the East under the guardianship of Russia and obeyance to the will of Ottoman Christians were the suggestion. These were the developments violating independency of a country.14

Now, the Patriarch involved in all developments. Requested donation and aid for Armenians. Such requests were raised under the purpose of improving conditions of Christians. What they meant by improvement was revealed afterwards.19 Apart from historical and political dimension of the matter, when religious dimension is taken into consideration it is seen that belief was used as a fundamental material in Armenian Problem. They persisted their inclination to continue irresponsible and unhumane assaults.19 they claimed their activities as a reflection of people’s will. They made use of what was suitable for their belief, and imperialist ambitions of the Soviet on Turkish lands revealed in the course of time.19

With support of their own prelates, they massacred people, and they were provided not only spiritual but also financial support and their meetings were implemented in the form of rites under organizations of church.14 Members of groups gathered around religious representatives and church leaders played vital role in continuation of these formations.15

6-Comparison of Religious Structures

Patriarch and churches survived since Muslims and Christians share the same environment. Non-Muslim people were trained through these organizations. Non-Muslims were offered all facilities for their own training.

It was seen that, non-Muslim fractions which obeyed throughout the period Ottoman governance was robust suddenly took advantage of weakening of Muslim people and the State. The problem here is that although all type of peaceful environment and comfort were offered by Muslims to non-Muslims in the conquered places, they did not get pleased and engaged in attempts for independency and for this purpose they used religion and belief of people as a tool. They put patriarch at the centre of these ideas.

Indeed, they acted freely inside patriarch and its associated organizations. None kept worship and sermons in churches and activities of preachers under control. We have no information on this issue. It is not easy to know how fiery preachers influenced the people. Because these are generally verbal conversations. No written statement exists. The basic principle that a member of religion should not hurt the other from a different religion was obeyed by Muslims. The origin of their tolerance lies in this understanding. However, the same sensitivity cannot be seen from the point of Armenians. It is possible to give such examples from the past. Beglerbeg of Diyarbakır and Muslim Judge of Amid were sent the following statement by the governance of İstanbul:

“Several number of non-Muslim gathered in Van, did not answered the question for the reason of such gathering, some of them altered some churches under the guise of repair and also constructed new ones, Van beglerbeg sent a letter stating they might revolt if immediate was not taken, however some of them visited İstanbul and had disagreements with beglerbeg, they ensured issue of a decision for the settlement of this agreement, they stated that the purpose of gatherings was to discuss on such decision, they did not act in violation to state rules, not constructed new churches, and repaired only some of churches, these two claims should be investigated and accuracy of them should be identified”46. The State investigated the incidents upon doubtful acts and hesitations of beglerbeg of Van. The problem here was the fact that they performed such hidden acts during 1565’s which early periods were.

Muslims are patient, tough, self-confident and pious people against plots of their counterparties. They were the people never despaired, remained loyal to their own traditions and obey their governors. They contented with insufficient and protected each other closely. For non-Muslims, loyalty to religion and obeying the instructions of the church required insurrection. However, loyalty to religion brought together the obeyance to Ottoman for Muslims. In this respect, two individuals going to mosque and church were receiving totally different inculcation.

For a long period of time, disruptive activities of non-Muslims did not produce expected results against Muslims with robust morality. It is a matter of curiosity how a generation was brought up in churches and schools under the governance of Patriarch. What young priests assigned office in various settlement areas following graduation inculcated to people were revealed in the course of time. In order to make a place sacred for themselves, it was sufficient to say “we believe Saint Paul sometimes come down earth”35. Apart from establishing monastery and opening schools, it is more important what priests trained in these places inculcated to the people.

Curriculum in schools and madrasahs (religious schools) and subjects tought by teachers and hodjas in these schools are beyond our knowledge. For the part of Muslims, these issues are evident with all details. Inculcations, predictions and ideals disclosed by Partiarchs produced results in the course of time. As can be expected, Patriarch acted for the sake of Orthodox Christianity. The problem here is related to excitations made by abusing religious beliefs in order to put an end to Ottoman rule. During Ottoman period, non-Muslims lived much more comfortably and gladly with respect to former periods. Despite this, some groups inside them aimed to weaken and destroy Ottoman.

Activities were aiming self-destruction of the State, external enemies were supported and all these were done under the guise of religious unity. These were the activities against all values of Muslims. We cannot understand what lies under the minds of others. However, Russia made use of religious ties with domestic non-Muslims in order to achieve its goal of gaining access to the South. Promises for mutual aid were realized in the course of time. The cooperation between these parties were always against Muslims.36

Meanwhile, such observation also exists. Armenians lived remarkably adaptive under Ottoman governance until second half of the 19th century.24 French lived negative experiences with their Armenian allies after invasion of Anteb (February 9, 1921) and obviously sought for Turkish friendship.”25

Plans of Armenians and Russia to invade Eastern Anatolia together played an important role in what happened to Ottomans during their last period. The same plot was repeated and Russia and Armenians together invaded some part of Azerbaijan. What changes is only history. The scenario is always the same. Political plots and plans for exploitation should stop before purity of religion. Otherwise, impairment in the trust for religion would be a great loss for humanity. Religion was protected against dinginess and maintained as a valuable asset during Ottoman period. These qualities of religion must always be protected.


Our wish is the negotiation of the matters between the parties without any prejudice. In our opinion, hostilities arose subsequently, in fact, they were initiated. In the past, these parties lived long periods free from any hostility. Those times can be taken model for improvement of mutual relations. These two nations and members of two religions knew each other closely in the past. Ignoring problems is not a solution. Both parties can establish common environment for their own favour and sake. Difference in their belief and religion did not impede establishment of favourable relations in the past.

There may be historical events on which everybody may not reach agreement. People sharing the same geography must leave some issues to the assessment of historical experts. Some pointless and detrimental understandings may be replaced with actions to be beneficial for next generations. Exteremism has never produced benefit. However, there are many issues which reconcile different interests. These issues may be emphasized. Kindness, sincerity and goodwill provide opportunity to find solution for many problems. Anymore, noone has the right and time to see the other as enemy.

Christians should perceive and know Muslims accurately and act based on robust information. Differences need not to be given high attention when laying down well-thought plans for a beter future. Fundamental problem with Armenians is their mistrust for Muslims both in the past and today. Ensuring an ambience of mutual trust is the essential expectation. Both people and states need to trust each other. A sound future cannot be constructed with those that do not give impression of trustworthy. Environment to facilitate friendship can be found. However, lack of confidence shall persist unless people get rid of hostile thoughts. Religion and belief provide people the motive of trust.

* Yüzüncü Yıl Üniversitesi, İlahiyat Fakültesi Öğretim Üyesi, VAN.

Source: © Erciyes University 2006


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