THE REFUGEES IN THE CAUCASUS.
For two months---June and July, 1915---the Armenians of Van enjoyed an autonomous national government under Russian protection. But in the last days of July the Ottoman armies on this front received strong reinforcements, and were able once more to take the offensive. The Russian troops began to fall back from Van on the 30th July, and practically the entire Armenian population of the Vilayet accompanied them in their retirement.
The retreat was unexpected. The refugees had few conveyances and hardly any provisions ; and, though their rear was protected against the descents of the Kurds by the heroic fighting of the Cossacks and the Armenian Volunteers, the suffering and mortality, during their flight over almost trackless mountains, was appalling.
At Etchmiadzin and Erivan, across the Russian frontier, the Armenian refugees were joined by the stream of Nestorian fugitives from Urmia, and the total number of Christian exiles in the Caucasus rose to over a hundred and eighty thousand.
The Turks only retained their hold on Van for a few weeks, but that was sufficient for their purpose. They did what they had done at Bitlis, Moush and Sassoun; and when the Russians returned, they found that all the inhabitants who had stayed behind had been massacred, and all the towns and villages burnt to the ground, including Van itself.
As soon as security had been re-established, the refugees began to return, slowly, to build up their ruined homes. But the majority of them still remained in the Caucasus, where they had arrived in utter destitution. The Caucasian Armenians rose magnificently to the occasion. The brunt of the relief work fell upon them, and their organisation was m admirable as their generosity. They were subsequently reinforced by aid from London, Boston, and, above all, from Moscow ; but the magnitude of the task was overwhelming, and the need continued to be very great.
46. THE FLIGHT TO THE CAUCASUS : DESPATCHES TO THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "HORIZON" OF TIFLIS, FROM MR. SAMPSON AROUTIOUNIAN, PRESIDENT OF THE ARMENIAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF TIFLIS, WHO WENT IN PERSON TO MEET THE REFUGEES.
(a) Despatch dated Etchmiadzin, 12th August, 1915.
The road from Igdir to Etchmiadzin (about 30 kilometres) is choked with groups of sick and destitute refugees. They have now waited there several days exposed to the full heat of the sun, although they have passes authorising them to proceed to Etchmiadzin. There is urgent need for a special body of workers to organise and forward these refugees.
(b) Despatch dated Etchmiadzin, 13th August, 1915.
Between the Turkish frontier and Igdir (the first Russian village), the whole countryside is filled to overflowing with refugees. Further on, between Igdir and Etchmiadzin, all the gardens and vineyards are full of them. At Igdir, the first arrival depot, a mass of 20,000 has accumulated, and another of 45,000 at Etchmiadzin ; from these two centres they are being distributed in groups to other districts. At Etchmiadzin a hospital has been installed, as well as baths and a hospice for the orphans. Between Igdir and the Turkish frontier there are patrols of horsemen searching for the children, the sick and other stragglers, and seeing to the removal of the corpses. About fifty orphans arrive every day at Igdir ; part of them are kept there, the others are sent on to Etchmiadzin.
The refugees from Van and the surrounding country have traversed the whole distance on foot. The majority of them are sick and starving, having been able to take nothing with them at the moment of departure. In the course of their journey they have not been attacked except at Bergri-Kala, where a band of Kurds cut the defenceless column and headed off about 20,000 people at the rear end of it, whose fate we do not know. As a result of famine and fatigue, a large number of the refugees have been more or less severely attacked by various epidemics, especially by dysentery.
The stream flows without ceasing, and it is impossible to estimate the numbers with any exactitude. At Igdir, with the assistance of Aram, ex-Governor of the province of Van, and other representatives of the refugees, we fixed them approximately at the following figures :
Van district, 203,000; Melashkerd, 60,000, not including those who reached here at an earlier date. The average mortality amounts to 15 deaths a day at Igdir, and 40 at Etchmiadzin.
The care of all these refugees falls upon the Armenian organisations, principally upon the Committee of Fraternal Assistance at Etchmiadzin and the National Committee. The relief available is utterly inadequate to such boundless misery. The refugees need food, medical aid and clothing, especially linen and boots.
There is a dearth of travelling kitchens, tents and carts. To stamp out the contagious diseases, it is indispensable to instal medical stations in all the villages.
(c) Despatch dated Etchmiadzin, 13th August, 1915.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are arriving at Etchmiadzin from Turkish Armenia. There seems no end to these solid columns moving forward in a cloud of dust. The majority are women and children, barefoot, exhausted and starving. Their accounts of the atrocities committed by the Turks and Kurds reveal indescribable horrors. The panic which set these poor people in flight came upon them absolutely unawares; parents lost their children, and children their parents. A great number of these lost children, without food and worn out as they were, were unable to keep up and died on the road. Others have been, picked up by rescue parties, and there are now at Igdir and Etchmiadzin about 500 of these little motherless creatures. We make an urgent appeal to all Armenian ladies to come to the aid of these abandoned little ones.
(d) Despatch dated Erivan, 21st August, 1915.
The stream of refugees still flows, but with a slacker current. At the present moment more than 35,000 of them have accumulated at Etchmiadzin, and 20,000 at Erivan. In spite of all the zeal displayed by the Relief Committee of Etchmiadzin, under the presidency of the Prelate Bagrad, and by the National Committees of Tiflis and Moscow, with their numerous affiliated Committees, the situation is extraordinarily harrowing. There is an absolute shortage of bread, hot food and medical assistance. The majority of the refugees are ill. At Etchmiadzin and Erivan several hospitals have been installed, which are providing for about 1,500 sick people ; yet there are still great numbers of the seriously sick lying out under walls, in open courtyards, or even in the streets. They are suffering terribly from dysentery. The mortality is enormous ; the day before yesterday they buried 103 people at Etchmiadzin, and yesterday 80.
At the Etchmiadzin Secondary School, 3,500 children who have lost their parents are huddled together. They sleep on the floor. Yesterday evening I visited the building ; in the big hall I counted 110 babies lying on the floor absolutely naked; some of them were sleeping, others were crying. The effect was so harrowing that one could not restrain one's tears. The sight was too terrible for me to stand, and I fled from this hell. But in the courtyard an equally painful scene awaited me. Under the walls and in the corners there were refugees lying everywhere. One heard the cries of the sick ; here and there one saw corpses. In front of the monastery gate I found the lifeless bodies of three children. The women of Vaharshapat and other places are sewing clothes and preparing bedding material, but such aid is quite insufficient. Professor Kishkin, the representative of the "Homo-Russe Society," has just arrived from Moscow to inspect the condition of the refugees and organise all the relief available. He told us that beyond Erivan a supply station has been established at Arkhta(63), where the refugees are receiving dry bread, and still there is not enough of that to go round. Wherever the refugees stop, there is sickness, but no medical aid. Professor Kislikin gave the necessary orders for the immediate installation of properly-equipped medical stations between Etchmiadzin and Aghstafa, and has written to the Central Committee at Moscow for doctors, travelling kitchens, clothing, linen, etc.
47. THE FLIGHT TO THE CAUCASUS : DESPATCH FROM THE SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "AREV" OF BAKOU.
The immense procession, sinking under its agony and fatigue, forces itself along and moves forward without respite. The head of the column came to a standstill some time ago at Igdir ; reduced to utter despair, it is fluctuating aimlessly hither and thither. No pen can describe what this tragic procession has endured, or what experiences. it has lived through, on its interminable road. The least detail of them makes the human heart quail, and draws an unquenchable stream of bitter tears from one's eyes. In the act of writing this, my pen trembles in my hand, and I inscribe these lines with my tears.
Each fraction of the long procession has its individual history, its especial pangs. It is impossible to describe or record them all. Here is a mother with her six little children, one on her back, the second clasped to her breast ; the third falls down on the road, and cries and wails because it cannot drag itself further. The three others begin to wail in sympathy, and the poor mother stands stock still, tearless, like a statue, utterly powerless to help.
Here is the road again and a broken cart on it, the sole hope of a large family. The sick mother has been laid upon it, as well as the children and the provisions. The father, an elderly man, gazes in despair at the cart he must abandon. In that moment he lived through a whole tragedy. But, come what may, they must always move forward.
And here is another mother, quite young and clad in rags. She wraps her dead baby in a shawl, puts it down out of the traffic, hugs it for the last time, and goes on her way without looking behind her.
Another scene---a mother once more with little children. She was carrying two of them in her arms ; the third was clinging to her skirts, weeping and crying to be taken up in her arms like the rest. Tears were pouring in streams from the young mother's eyes. She made a sudden movement, shook off the child who was hanging to her skirts, left it on the road and walked off quickly, so as not to see its agony or hear its wailing. From behind rose the cry: "Who has lost her baby?" The cry reached the mother's ears, but she stopped her ears and hurried on.
Here is a whole group of women with white hair, bent double, all of them, and marching in silence and with bowed heads. Where are they going ? They do not know. They are going wherever the vast procession carries them.
Oh! these mothers, the mothers of Armenia---are there anywhere in the world other mothers who have borne the indescribable sufferings which have fallen upon them ?
And so one scene succeeds another, each more fearful than the last. Often one closes one's eyes to shut them out. The fact that one is powerless in the face of such suffering prostrates one's spirit. The procession moves forward at a surprising pace, under the imperious goad of terror. In the rear the Kurds had swarmed down from the mountains and opened fire on the column of refugees. Strung to the fullest stretch of anguish and terror the procession pushes forward across the lofty mountains and the deep valleys, devoured by thirst under a burning sun. There are many in that company who curse the day of their birth.
Now, exhausted by privation and broken by fatigue, the procession halts at Igdir, floods the streets, fills every corner, and mounts up along the river bank and into the open fields.
48. MEMORANDUM ON THE CONDITION OF ARMENIAN REFUGEES IN THE CAUCASUS AND ORPHANS AT VAN: COMPILED IN THE BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE FROM INFORMATION, DATED 9th DECEMBER, 1915, WHICH WAS FURNISHED BY MR. STEVENS, BRITISH CONSUL AT BATOUM.
In order to secure reliability in the application of funds collected in the United Kingdom to the immediate and actual relief of Armenian refugees who have sought shelter in the Caucasus, it is generally agreed that remittances should be sent to the "Armenian Central Relief Committee for Victims of the War" at Tiflis. The President of the Committee is Mr. Sampson Aroutiounian, and the Treasurer Mr. G. M. Zurinov. A Special Refugee Committee is working under the Êgis of this body, and is stated to have representatives on the spot attending to the immediate needs of the refugees. Apart from this, the Central Committee has Branch Committees in all those principal towns of Transcaucasia where the Armenian element predominates. They are all engaged in collecting for relief work.
It is a task of the greatest difficulty, in existing circumstances, without visiting the localities where refugees are now concentrated and investigating matters on the spot, to obtain an absolutely correct description of the extent of the alleged distress amongst refugees within the Armenian refugee pale. That distress is acute---indeed, very acute---is, however, universally admitted. No two opinions differ on this point : suffering everywhere, the outlook dark and the need for relief work, and above all pecuniary aid, urgent.
Attention is also called to the urgent necessity for winter dwellings, fuel, and warm clothing, and to the inadequate stall of competent doctors, nurses and assistants to deal with the exceptional amount of illness which exists among the refugees; and, in general, to the insufficiency of medicines, medical accessories, equipment, disinfectants, and every other kind of commodity required for securing a minimum degree of comfort for the refugees.
Sums of Rs. 250,000 (£25,000), Rs. 10,000 (£1,000), and Rs. 700 (£70) have just been remitted to Bakou, Elizavetpol, and Igdir, respectively, for the maintenance of the refugee lazarettos at those places.
Rs. 25,000 (£2,500)---a donation by a rich Armenian gentleman named Mantashev---have recently been spent by the Mayor of Tiflis in procuring warm bedding, as for instance mattresses, quilts, and pillow cases, which have been sent to Igdir, Delijan, Novo-Bayazid and Elizavetpol for the use of refugees.
With the available funds at the disposal of the various organisations in this country, which are not relatively proportionate to the heavy expenditure called forth by the urgent requirements of the refugees from Asia Minor, relief work obviously cannot be undertaken by them in the needed degree, owing to the very considerable numbers of fugitives who are finding their way to the Caucasus from many parts of the Empire, and whose claims on the moneys belonging to the Societies are as urgent as those of the Armenian refugees.
The unsatisfactory character of the conditions obtaining in regard to the question of relieving the refugees has been recognised by the various Armenian Refugee Committees in the Caucasus, and an Extraordinary Meeting of the Bakou Branch was convened quite recently. At this meeting it was decided to endeavour to improve relief work within as short a period as possible, and several modifications in the existing system have, it appears, been recommended. It is reported that the principal feature of the changes that are to take place is the issue of rations, which in future are to be partly in kind and partly in the form of a cash allowance---the latter at the rate of 20 copecks (about 4d.) per adult and 15 copecks (about 3d.) per child per diem. A further cash allowance of two roubles per adult per month is to be issued for rental.
Mr. Papadjanov, Member of. the Imperial Duma for the Armenian constituencies, who is on a special visit to the Caucasus for the purpose of gaining a close knowledge of conditions on the spot, was present at the above meeting and has been furnished with full details in regard to the situation and the working of the several Relief Committees. He has since visited the Viceroy and is reported to have proceeded to the districts situated within the refugee pale. After this visit, he will better be able to form an opinion as to the needs of the refugees ; and, before he returns to Petrograd, in all probability, a conference of delegates of all the Armenian Refugee Committees in the Caucasus will be held at Tiflis for the final discussion of the urgency of the situation.
The funds at the disposal of the Tiflis Central Committee are apparently exhausted, and Rs. 2,000 (£200) have recently been advanced by the Tiflis Municipality to meet the immediate requirements of the refugees. The Provincial Governor has been requested by the Mayor to give his support to the negotiations which are in progress for a grant of £1,000 by the State, until further funds can be raised for the more urgent needs of the refugees.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the Katholikos has received 120 bales of warm clothing from America, and Mr. Hatisov, Mayor of Tiflis, another 11 bales of the same kind of wearing apparel from London, for distribution among the refugees.
A large quantity of warm clothing, a portion of which has recently been sent from Moscow to the Caucasus and another lot prepared by the Ladies' Committee of the Central Refugee Committee, has been quite recently forwarded to Djoulfa, Diliman and Van for the refugees. Warm clothing for the use of fugitives has also been sent, by the Central Committee, to Aghstafa and Alexandropol.
From Van it is announced in the "Kavkazskoyé Slovo that only about 1,600 Armenians remain there, but that many refugees are returning from the Caucasus. About 4,000 fugitives are in the country adjacent to Van. Great difficulty is being experienced in procuring bread and meat, and all other commodities required for domestic purposes are unobtainable. Everything has to be brought from Khoi over very bad roads, the journey occupying five to six days. Motor traffic on the roads is impossible. In view of the deplorable conditions obtaining in the town, the establishment of a hospital at Van is strongly disadvised ; in fact, a measure of the kind is stated to be outside the bounds of possibility. In view of the anti-sanitary condition at Van, sickness of every kind is prevalent among the orphans of massacred Armenians, large numbers of whom have now accumulated at Van and in its district. The children are fatherless and motherless. They are in a terrible condition. Most of them are starving, and have become so emaciated that they look more like skeletons than human beings. All buildings at Van have been destroyed by fire. No places of refuge exist for the infants. The Field Lazaretto of a Russian regiment has taken some of these orphans under its care and protection, and they seek warmth and shelter under the overcoats of the Russian soldiers.
From subsequent reports which have been received, it appears that the numbers of refugees from Turkish Asia Minor and the Urmia district who have taken refuge in the Caucasus* are approximately as follows:---
(a) In the Government of Elizavetpol :---2,788 men, 4,031 women and 3,853 children of both sexes, or a total of 10,672 souls, of whom only 154 are in the town of the same name, the other refugees having found accommodation in the villages of the province.
(b) For the Government of Erivan the approximate figures are:---In the town 17,000. at Alexandropol 7,000, and in the villages of the province 76,000 refugees, or a total of 100,000.
(c) Besides the above, 29,000 Nestorian Christians and Armenians have taken refuge at Russian Djoulfa. They are reported to be natives of Salmas and the adjoining districts.
The total number of Armenian and Nestorian refugees in the Caucasus is therefore about 140,000 men, women and children. The above figures are, of course, only approximate and subject to correction.
As regards the refugees at Djoulfa, it was decided at a recent meeting, at which there was present the Nestorian Patriarch Mar Shimun, to open a central hospital for 50 beds at Diliman, another for 25 beds at Haftevan, and dispensaries in the neighbourhood of this latter village.
A sum of £5,000 had been sent to these refugees by the Viceroy of the Caucasus, and was calculated to suffice till the 18th December. A further sum of £10,000 a month is required to keep the refugees supplied with food, while other needs included £8,500 for the supply of beds and warm clothing, and £1,500 for the equipment and maintenance of the hospitals and dispensaries at Diliman and Haftevan. It is feared, however, that the above estimates for pressing needs at Djoulfa will have to be largely increased in the event of a further influx of refugees from Bashkala, an eventuality which is considered probable.
49. MEMORANDUM ON THE CONDITION OF ARMENIAN REFUGEES IN THE CAUCASUS: COMPILED IN THE BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE FROM INFORMATION, DATED 29th DECEMBER, 1915, WHICH WAS FURNISHED BY MR. STEVENS, BRITISH CONSUL AT BATOUM.
Although the considerable sums that have recently been finding their way to Russia are being applied to the relief of Armenian refugees in the Caucasus, and the numerous consignments of clothing placed by various organisations at the disposal of the .Relief Committees are being served out to them, the need of the refugees for further urgent help is reported to be still very great.
Prince Argoudinsky-Dolgoroukov, the Acting Representative of the Caucasian Section of the Urban Union, after having visited the refugee camps at Bambak and Delijan, furnishes the following report on his tour of inspection:---
Four thousand refugees are concentrated in the 26 villages which he visited in the districts named above, the more wealthy villages housing a greater number of fugitives than the less important ones. He found that, as a rule, two refugees are quartered in each house. In the whole of this district, excepting at Karakeliss, the refugees are everywhere gratuitously lodged. The same rations are issued to the refugees in all the villages ; they consist of one-and-a-half pounds of flour and a cash allowance of five copecks (one penny) per diem per person. Children under two years old receive no rations or money allowance; they are, however, very few in number. Most of the children coming under this denomination have died from hunger, cold and the other fearful sufferings to which the refugees have been subjected since last summer.
At Karakeliss all dwellings are in satisfactory condition. In some of the villages fuel---mainly wood procured in the neighbouring forests---is served out to the refugees. In this district the latter possess about 1,000 head of cattle.
The exceedingly well organised Relief Committee of the Karakeliss Brotherhood is very attentive to the needs of the refugees. Their registration has been admirably arranged by this Committee. Full particulars of the refugees, and the relief received, are entered in the register book kept by the Committee. The latter has two representatives who periodically visit the refugee villages, attend to the issue of rations, and inquire into the urgent needs of the refugees and their other requirements. The Committee further endeavours to find work for the refugees.
The Committee has recently prepared two hundred stoves and a quantity of warm clothing for the refugees. They are daily furnished with boiling water and sugar. An unsatisfactory feature of relief work at Karakeliss is the difficulty experienced in receiving flour and money from Alexandropol. At times it takes twenty days to obtain them. Owing to the short cereal crop of 1915 in the district, no local flour is procurable; consequently the refugees frequently remain in a practically starving condition. The Prince Argoudinsky was surprised to find that no means had yet been devised by which the transport of flour and the transmission of money over so short a distance could be accelerated.
The Urban Union maintains a fairly well organised and equipped hospital for fifty beds at Karakeliss. This establishment, however, lacks an operating room, a mortuary and a disinfecting camera.
An orphanage managed by the Petrograd Armenian Committee has also been opened at Karakeliss. It accommodates 170 beds. The premises are good---well kept and clean. The children belonging to the orphanage are taught at the Church School at Karakeliss. They are all well dressed, but do not get sufficient food. This affects their outward appearance, and the orphans are consequently pale and somewhat emaciated. Prince Argoudinsky was informed that at times some of the children would wake up at night and search for remnants of bread left about during the day.
The Tairov Asylum for Orphans, maintained at the personal expense of Mrs. U. M. Tairov, impressed the Prince very favourably. The Orphanage is equipped for 25 orphans belonging to soldiers, and for 25 fatherless and motherless refugees. The children are well accommodated with plenty of room, in a fine and spacious building. They are made to work. They tidy up and clean the rooms, wash their own linen, wash up crockery, pans and utensils, lay the tables, assist in cooking and perform all other domestic work. They are taught to read and write, and also various trades'. The children sing in Armenian and Russian to the accompaniment of a piano. They are well dressed and shod. Their robust and healthy appearance testifies to good conditions of life, and also points to the fact that Mrs. Tairov and the whole of the personnel of the establishment put a good deal of energy into their work, and are much concerned in the welfare of the children.
The conditions obtaining in the district of Kazakh are not so satisfactory as they are at Karakeliss. The need for methodical organisation in supervising relief work and introducing a defined plan of action is everywhere noticeable.
About 4,500 refugees are concentrated in this locality, viz. :---3,145 Armenians, 805 Nestorians and 550 Armenian orphans. The latter are accommodated in the Orphanage of Delijan.
Up to the 23rd November last, the above refugees were receiving a cash allowance of 10 copecks (2d.) per person per diem. On that date, however, this cash allowance was increased to 15 copecks (3d.) a day. Until the 20th November the Urban Union maintained feeding stations at the more important refugee centres, but, to the great disappointment of the refugees, these stations were then closed, and victualling was taken over by the police authorities and the village committees, which continue to perform these duties. The refugees here receive relief at the rate of 1 lb. 32 zol. (about one English lb.) of flour, and a cash allowance of 7 copecks (1 1/4d.) per diem per person. Fuel is not distributed to all the refugees. Some of the latter have had warm clothing, supplied by the Armenian Benevolent Society, served out to them; others have been furnished with iron stoves.
No special committee which could take over the management of relief work exists in this district. The Delijan Committee partly performs the duties which would devolve on such a body. No properly organised system of administering relief is provided. Very few individual refugees are unwilling to find employment. The invariable excuse put forward for refusing work is the absence of proper clothing for taking on open air work; also, that no food is procurable where work is offering, in consequence of which the refugees have to starve. Up to the 2nd December, the refugees were supplied with tea and sugar by the Urban Union. For some unknown reason, this allowance has recently been discontinued.
Hospital arrangements are good in this district. The hospital is maintained out of funds supplied by the Urban Union.
The ground floor of a wing of an unoccupied barrack building has been adapted to accommodate refugees. The building, although spacious, is gloomy and dark, and is exceedingly badly ventilated. The upper floor is temporarily occupied by 123 orphans, who are cared for by the Armenian Central Committee. The children go about barefoot.
At Delijan four asylums for children exist. Prince Argoudinsky was only able to visit one of these establishments. The one inspected by him is managed by Princess Toumanov, and is maintained out of funds furnished by the Armenian Benevolent Society. After their dinners, the children go to school. They look strong and healthy, and their appearance shows care and kind treatment in every respect. According to information obtained by Prince Argoudinsky, the other three asylums at Delijan are likewise well managed and kept.
The relief extended to the refugees at Delijan is only of a primitive nature; the same remark cannot, however, be applied to the unsatisfactory conditions; obtaining in this connection in the district of Kazakh. Here the question of housing the refugees is one of the most painful features of the relief work undertaken. In a large number of villages in this district, the refugees are mostly accommodated in derelict sheds and shops---dark, unheated and overcrowded. For some unaccountable reason warm clothing has not been issued to them. They do not receive their rations of flour and cash allowances with regularity, and no Central Organisation to inquire into their immediate and urgent needs exists on the spot.
The Bakou Refugee Committee has just forwarded several further consignments of 10,000 quilts, 12,000 mattresses and sacks, 12,000 pillow cases, 600 jackets, 3,000 shirts, 3,000 pairs of drawers; and the Tiflis Committee, 400 quilts, 4,000 mattresses, 4,000 pillow cases, 200 jackets, 1,000 shirts and 1,000 pairs of drawers, to the Governors of Elizavetpol and Erivan, to be served out to the refugees. The latter Committee has also sent several bales of clothing to Persia and to Turkish Asia Minor for the refugees, but according to the newspapers a large proportion of the fugitives are still in utmost poverty---destitute, to a very great extent, of the absolute necessities of existence.
Seventy-six railway truck loads of flour, of which 53 were for the needs of the Armenian Refugees in the Government of Erivan and 23 for the use of those in the Government of Elizavetpol, left Gulevich in the Northern Caucasus a few days ago. These trucks, under ordinary conditions, should already have reached their respective destinations.
Owing to anticipated heavy snow drifts at the Akhta Pass (Kars-Karakeliss direction), the Zemstvo Union gave orders a few days ago that all its refugee victualling and provisioning stations should be moved to Igdir.
According to information obtained by Mr. Sarebey, the Dragoman of the Vice-Consulate at Van, from the Armenian Bishop of Erivan and from various other data he has been able to procure on the spot, the number of Armenian refugees in the Caucasus is 173,038, of whom 105,000 are from the Province of Van; 48,000 from the districts of Alashkerd, Bayazid and Passin; and 20,038 from Moush, Boulanik, &c., &c.
They are housed as follows
Government of Erivan:
|Town of Erivan||18,820|
|Villages in the neighbourhood of Erivan||14,680|
|Market town of Vaharshapat||5,360|
|Villages of the district of same name||22,730|
|Town of Nahichevan||271|
|District of Nahichevan||468|
|Town of Alexandropol||8,450|
|Villages in the neighbourhood of Alexandropol||14,121|
|Town of Novo-Bayazid||1,164|
|Villages of Novo-Bayazid district||10,336|
Government of Elizavetpol:
|Town of Elizavetpol||12,000|
|Villages, district of Elizavetpol||5,000|
|District of Karabagh||1,000|
Province of Kars:--
|Town of Kars and adjacent villages||26,000|
Government of Tiflis:
|City of Tiflis||5,000|
|Villages of the district of Tiflis||3,000|
|Northern Caucasus (probably the Armenian town of Nahichevan-on-Don)||12,000|
The number of refugees in the Caucasus from Khoi and Salmas is small, about 1,000. They are housed principally at Nahichevan and a few at Erivan.
The foregoing figures differ from those obtained from an official source, which put the number of refugees in the Caucasus, in round figures, at 140,000. The data now procured by Sarebey, who is on the spot, originating as they do from Armenian sources and being in greater detail, are likely to be more correct than the information then furnished.
Reports received through the newspapers from Colonel Termen state that the situation at Van has recently improved. It would appear that 6,000 refugees have returned to the town, which has been subdivided into four police districts. Strict measures to prevent further pillage and destruction of property have been introduced at Van. Ordinary necessaries of life are procurable, although only in very small quantities. Some threshing machines and four or five flour mills have resumed work in the district, with the result that several bakeries have reopened.
All persons, organisations and other bodies in the Caucasus and elsewhere that have Armenian orphans from Van and its district in their care, have been requested to furnish particulars to the Governor of Van in regard to the names, ages, parentage and native places of the orphans in their charge. Also, where possible, information is asked for as to any property their deceased parents may have possessed, in order to enable the authorities to institute a search for, and appoint guardians to protect, such property.
The spread of disease has been stayed. The town has assumed a cleaner and more orderly appearance. In some streets the restoration of buildings has been commenced. Ten or twelve shops and stores have resumed trade.
The Armenian newspaper Horizon states that the news from Salmas is very unsatisfactory. Bishop Nerses' urgent appeal for warm clothing has hitherto remained unheeded. Only a small quantity of clothing forwarded by the Tabriz Women's Committee has reached him, but the articles sent are like a drop in the ocean. The cold is excessive.
50. REPORT ON THE ACTIVITY OF ARMENIAN REFUGEE RELIEF ORGANISATIONS IN THE CAUCASUS AND TURKISH ARMENIA; ENCLOSED IN A DESPATCH (NO. 1), DATED BATOUM, 3rd JANUARY, 1916, FROM MR. CONSUL STEVENS TO THE BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE.
The Armenian organisations in the Caucasus which have been so active in relieving Christian refugees since the first arrival of the latter in this country in the early days of July last, still continue their good work.
The number of victims of the war who took refuge in the Caucasus from Turkish Armenia and Persia, in roughly estimated figures, is 150,000. The influx of refugees, however, continued for some time after July. There is, therefore, good reason to believe that the number of refugees who crossed the Russian border was in excess of the figures quoted above.
The refugees for the most part settled in the Government of Erivan, and principally at and about the town of Etchmiadzin. Housing accommodation for such large numbers could not here be provided, and the refugees, in the circumstances, had to be accommodated without cover in yards and open spaces, in the neighbourhood of the Monastery of Etchmiadzin.
Daily telegrams from Etchmiadzin to the Principal Relief Committee at Tiflis depicted a truly painful situation, and reported that from 350 to 400 deaths were daily taking place, owing to the destitute and starving conditions that prevailed amongst the refugees.
At this time relief work was in the hands partly of the "Chief Caucasian Committee for Succouring Victims of the War," and partly in those of the Red Cross Society. Shortly after, several other public bodies joined in relief work.
The combined efforts of these various organisations had little effect in improving the situation. The funds at their respective disposals were small, and quite out of proportion to the enormous numbers of the refugees, whose ranks kept on swelling, especially after the heavy fighting that took place last summer on the Caucasian front.
Meanwhile the insanitary condition of the refugees, in view of the very hot weather, was daily becoming more and more appalling. Dysentery, spotted fever, typhoid, measles, diphtheria, and subsequently cholera, all of which were assuming epidemic form, were thinning the numbers of the refugees at a very rapid rate ; and yet, despite this alarming situation, the funds necessary to cope successfully with the deplorable conditions were not forthcoming.
Finally, the Caucasian Section of the All Russia Urban Union after a hurried investigation of matters, prepared a rough estimate of the money needed for the immediate relief of the refugees, and a grant of Rs. 1,103,250 (£110,325 about) was asked for by the Section from its Principal Organisation. This money was shortly afterwards remitted to the Caucasus, and the urgent needs of the hordes of refugees were then and there met. The temporary measures of relief adopted gave the Caucasian organisations a short time to think matters over, and to decide on further action in connection with relief work.
Accordingly, steps were taken to bring the pressing needs of the refugees before the public, and, in response to appeals made throughout the Caucasus, in Russia and abroad, moneys were collected privately ; the Russian Government contributed important sums, and latterly funds have been flowing in from the United Kingdom and America. With these moneys relief work is being extended on a wider scale, and the requirements of the refugees are being more closely attended to ; but the needs of the fugitives are still very great, and more and more moneys are required.
The necessity for substantial additional sums is, to a great extent, due to a new series of tasks the Urban Union has taken upon itself to carry out, together with the heavy responsibilities it has had to accept in connection with refugee relief work outside the confines of the Caucasus.
A comparatively large number of refugees have latterly been returning to their homes, and the Djoulfa-Van and Igdir-Van roads have had to be placed under the immediate supervision of the Caucasian Section of the Urban Union. A number of kitchen and housing stations have had to be opened at various points on these two routes, which the Union will have to maintain at its .own expense for a considerable period, in view of the increasing tendency among the refugees to return home, in reliance upon the restoration of security in their own country.
The organisation of the kitchen and housing stations in the Djoulfa-Van direction is reported to be proceeding apace under the guidance of the Representative of the Caucasian Committee of the Urban Union, and the work is being carried out in complete harmony with, and according to the directions and indications of, the military authorities.
The Urban Union has also undertaken to equip and open a hospital for 200 beds for refugees at Van, which it will also maintain at its own expense.
The duties of the Urban Union do not end here, for it has been called upon by the Viceregal authority to perform many other functions connected with refugee relief work ; the difficulties they present have to be faced with as much energy and resource as all the other duties taken over by this body.
The following is a list of the medical and kitchen stations which have been opened by the Union and are at present serving the needs of the refugees in the areas mentioned above :--
1. At points at which the refugees originally settled.
(a) At Etchmiadzin---A hospital consisting of several buildings belonging to the Monastery and to its Academy, which have been temporarily adapted to accommodate 570 beds for patients of both sexes and for children.
A cholera ward, No. 6, in which, owing to the disappearance of the disease, no cases are at present under treatment. The vacant beds of this ward (70) are now being used for cases of spotted fever.
A flying medical column (consisting of a medical officer, his assistant and several competent attendants) has been provisionally formed to attend to those sick refugees who are within the limits of Monastery territory.
Three miles distant from the Monastery, on the road to the railway station of Etchmiadzin, a medical quarantine station has been established. At this point healthy refugees are subjected to a quarantine of four to five days, before they are allowed to proceed to the station for the purpose of entraining en route to the Government of Elizavetpol. On their journey, the refugees are accompanied by a medical officer and two professional assistants.
(b) At Igdir.---A hospital, in temporarily occupied buildings, accommodating 100 beds ; and, three and a half miles from this point, at a village named Plour, a hospital for 50 beds.
(c) At Erivan---A hospital, in private houses provisionally rented, which provides 200 beds. A quarantine station of a temporary type has also been opened in connection with this hospital. Two assistant medical officers are placed in charge of the latter establishment, and they accompany refugees by rail to their places of settlement in the Government of Elizavetpol.
(d) At Alexandropol---A hospital, in premises rented temporarily, accommodating 200 beds to which an isolation section has been added.
Within the limits of the district of Elizavetpol several stations have been established with assistant medical officers in charge.
2. Along the refugees' line of advance.
(a) Nijni-Akhti.---A hospital for 50 beds.
Assistant medical officers' stations at Elenovka and Tchibouhli.
(b) Delijan.---A hospital for 50 beds.
3. In places where refugees have more or less settled.
(a) Novo-Bayazid (Erivan).---A hospital for 50 beds.
(b) Annenfeld.---A hospital for 80 beds.
(c) Kedabek.---A hospital for 50 beds.
The total number of beds provided-including the 70 belonging to the cholera ward at Etchmiadzin---is 1,450.
NOTE : Funds furnished by the Urban Union are at present being employed for adapting a building-ceded to the Military by the Katholikos---to the needs of the refugees.
1. On the railway lines used by refugees.
At the quarantine station near Etchmiadzin and at the stations of Aghtalia and Annenfeld.
2. On the metalled roads (chaussées) used by refugees.
At Parakar, Erivan, Novo-Nikolaievka, Ailar, Suhoi Fontan, Nijni-Alehti, Elenovka, Tchibouhli, Delijan, Tarsa-Tchai, Karavansarai and Uzuntal.
Bread and hot food are served out to the refugees at these stations. The refugees are quartered during their stay at these points in sheds rented for the purpose which are properly roofed.
A separate kitchen station has been opened at Djoulfa out of funds---Rs. 10,000 (£1,000)---placed by the Urban Union at the disposal of Bishop Nerses, for the use of Nestorian refugees.
With a view to improving the insanitary conditions obtaining in the refugee settlements, and also the hygiene of the refugees:
1. Three disinfecting stations have been opened.
The first of these is now operating at Etchmiadzin. The station undertakes to disinfect cemeteries, refuse-dumping grounds, hospitals (in the event of infectious disease), and premises of every other type, and to operate the disinfecting camera.
The officials of the station perform their duties under the guidance of a sanitary medical officer.
The second station is at Igdir, and the third at Erivan.
The duties of the latter two stations are identical with those of the first-named station, and each is worked by a similar personnel.
2. Detachment for erecting. buildings.
This detachment has to attend to the building of bath and wash (laundry) houses of a provisional type in the refugee settlements. It consists of a chief, two assistants, an instructor, two stove-building masons (petchniks), two fitters, a tin smith, and two rough carpenters.
The detachment has erected a bath-house (Turkish) and laundry at Annenfeld, a similar bath-house at Tchibouhli, and a Turkish bath and laundry at Kedabek.
New work of the same description is in immediate prospect for the detachment at Delijan, Elenovka, Nijni-Akliti, Igdir, Etchmiadzin and its neighbourhood, and at Alexandropol. The detachment has also been ordered to take in hand work connected with the erection of a series of steam-formaline disinfecting cameras. A camera of this type is in course of construction at Erivan.
3. Under-garments and warm clothing have been served out in various places to the refugees. Wearing apparel, as stated above, was purchased at a cost of Rs. 66,000 (£6,600), out of moneys contributed by a number of organisations and individuals ; and warm clothing costing Rs. 11,996 (£1,200), assigned by the Principal Committee of the Urban Union, has also recently been distributed to the refugees.
Apart from the more or less completed organisation of relief work described above, necessity has compelled the Urban Union to take over relief work in Persian territory, and a hospital for 110 beds is under equipment at Salmas.
Further duties connected with the relief of the refugees will shortly be taken over by the Urban Union, when it is proposed to open small hospitals and dispensaries in all refugee settlements.
It is estimated that between 11,000 and 12,000 refugees have returned to the valley of Alashkerd and to the Vilayet of Van, and that from 2,000 to 3,000 refugees belonging to the middle classes have settled in the Governments of Tiflis and Bakou.
The cost to the Union of feeding the refugees is estimated at between 18 and 19 copecks (4d.) per head per day.
The following are the rations issued to the refugees
|Bread, 108 lbs.||Rs. 7.20|
|Meat, 20 lbs.||3.00|
|Rice, 10 Ibs.||1.20||| Rs. 18.08|
|Potatoes, onions, salt, pepper||0.60||| per 100 refugees|
|Fuel (wood, peat or coal)||1.70||| per diem,|
|Tea, 1/8 lb||0.9.5||| or 18.08 copecks|
|Sugar, 4 1/2 Ibs.||.73||| per head.|
|Rental for accommodation||1.00|
The Government ration is 11 Ibs. per person per day, or an allowance in cash, in lieu of rations, at the rate of 15 copecks a day or Rs. 4.50 per month. The Government method of sending provisions to points of distribution is, however, very erratic. Owing to the lack of railway facilities and to delays in remitting moneys by the Principal Committee, the refugees dependent on relief from this source have frequently to go without their bread for days and at times for weeks.
The following is a list of other organisations engaged in relief work in this country :--
The Etchmiadzin Brotherhood
The Tiflis Armenian Central Committee;
The Moscow Armenian Red Cross Committee;
The Russian Red Cross Society; and
The Communes of the various villages in which the refugees have settled.
The Etchmiadzin Brotherhood, under the chairmanship of the Katholikos, maintains branches of its organisation at Igdir, Erivan, Alexandropol, Kars, Nahichevan, Novo-Bayazid, and Karakeliss. Relief work was undertaken by the Brotherhood in March, 1915. Since that date, apart from the large quantities of clothing, medicines and other comforts served out to the refugees, a medical detachment has been organised at Igdir, and, in all, the Brotherhood has spent Rs. 900,000 (£90,000) in relief work. This, in the main, has been obtained by voluntary contribution from persons of Armenian nationality all over the world, but especially in the Russian Empire (at Petrograd, Moscow, Kharkov, &c.). The Brotherhood serves out with punctual regularity flour rations, money allowances, and clothing to the refugees. It has all along maintained kitchens at Igdir, Etchmiadzin, and Alexandropol, as well as hospitals in various places ; has organised a proper system of medical aid ; and has opened refugee orphanages, schools and workshops for the children. In short, the organisation is thorough, and this is one of the most important relief societies engaged in work in the Armenian refugee pale.
The Tiflis Armenian Central Committee has also been carrying out relief work for nearly ten months. This body maintains its own hospitals and kitchens, and hitherto has expended Rs. 200,000 (£20,000) in connection with the relief of Armenian refugees settled in the Government of Erivan. The necessary funds are raised by voluntary contributions collected from members belonging to Armenian society in the Caucasus.
The Moscow Armenian Committee of the Red Cross.---The relief work of this organisation is confined to the Government of Erivan. The Committee commenced operations in April last, when four medical and kitchen stations (viz. at Etchmiadzin and at the villages of Markar, Ashtarak, and Arzap) were opened. A staff consisting of a medical officer, two assistants, and several competent attendants and nurses, besides several sanitary officers and other employees, is appointed to each of these stations. The organisation affords relief when and as urgent occasion requires. This Committee has spent Rs. 300,000 (£30,000), all of which has been contributed by the Armenian colony at Moscow. An orphanage is maintained by the Committee at Ashtar, together with a school and workshop. The organisation likewise keeps a flour store and stocks of other provisions at the last-mentioned place. Refugees are fed by the Society at Markar and at eight other villages situate in the valley of Alashkerd. The above remarks apply only to the more important duties that devolve on the Committee, but it also attends to the needs of the refugees in many other ways. A hospital at Arzap is also maintained by the Committee.
In August, 1915, The All Russia Red Cross Society entered the field of refugee work by opening a medical observation point at Igdir. The staff here consists of a superintendent, a medical officer, two assistants, and 19 sanitary officers. In September last, alone, this body served out 18,598 dinners and 16,775 portions of tea, and rendered medical aid to 4,652 refugees. In October, 1915, the Red Cross Society daily fed from 850 to 900 refugees in the district of Igdir. The stations of this Society are well organised, the staffs strictly disciplined, and their work is effected with neatness and punctuality. The Society maintains a dispensary and victualling store at Igdir. The estimated cost of the dinners and tea served out to the refugees by the Society is between 17 and 18 copecks (3d.) a day per head.
The Village Communes.---The peasants of each of the villages in which refugees have been settled have undertaken to accommodate them, gratuitously, in their houses. In these the refugees find warm shelter, and are not infrequently fed as well out of the slender resources at the disposal of their hosts. Whilst seemingly unimportant, the relief extended to the refugees by the peasantry is of the greatest value. An accurate idea of this benevolence can only be formed when all the good deeds of the peasantry are taken into consideration. Undoubtedly, this aid relieves the contributory public from responsibilities amounting to several hundreds of thousands of roubles. In other words, the charitable disposition of the by no means affluent peasant effects an enormous saving of money, which under other conditions would have to be provided by the various organisations.
On the recommendation of Prince A. M. Argoudinsky-Dolgoroukov, who has recently been on a tour of inspection through the refugee districts, it has been decided to improve the work of relief by adopting the following measures :--
1. That the present accommodation at the hospital at Annenfeld be increased by an additional 30 beds. That the bath-houses in course of construction at Barsoun and Kedabek be forthwith completed, and a bath-house built at Tchardahli.
2. That a medical officer, two assistant doctors and two nurses, as well as another assistant medical officer and three nurses for the 30 additional beds, be immediately appointed to the hospital at Annenfeld. That all equipment required for the additional 30 beds at this hospital, and the necessary undergarments and clothing for outgoing patients, be at once supplied.
3. That should a further evacuation of refugees from Erivan to the Government of Elizavetpol be ordered by the authorities, additional warm and roofed-in buildings should be rented at Annenfeld and Evlakh, and be furnished with some comfort for the refugees, even if only of a very primitive nature.
4. That kitchens for refugees on the move be opened at Annenfeld, Evlakh, and Elizavetpol.
5. That small hospitals be opened at the village of Tchaikent in the district of Elizavetpol, and one each in the districts of Djevanshir and Shousha.
6. That movable sanitary detachments and kitchens be organised in the refugees' districts of settlement.
7. That permanent dispensing stations be established in the colony of Annenfeld and at the railway station of Evlakh.
8. That the question of the restrictions in force at Elizavetpol and on the road leading through Annenfeld regarding the passage of refugees, be at once brought before the notice, of the competent authorities.
9. That the cash allowance to refugees in the Government of Elizavetpol be brought up to 15 copecks per day per head.
10. That the authorities whom it may concern be requested, when settling refugees on new lands, to take into consideration the previous conditions of life of such refugees, and allot to those coming from highland districts identical localities in this country, and vice versa in regard to refugees who have been inhabitants of lowland districts. Further, that in defining the number of refugees to be temporarily domiciled in villages, the degree of prosperity or poverty of the villages be taken into consideration.
11. That warm clothing, blankets, bast-shoe leather, iron stoves, kerosene and (if possible) tea, sugar and soap, if only in small quantities, be immediately served out to the refugees.
12. That the question of the supply of fuel to the refugees be brought to the notice of the forestry authorities of the Caucasus.
13. That the question of the supply of flour to the refugees through the Central Organ, and of the accumulation of stocks of the same commodity in villages or groups of villages for the winter, be forthwith decided.
14. That local administrative offices be requested to give the Committee timely notice of the dates and hours of dispatch of trains conveying refugees.
15. That the Caucasian Principal Committee be requested to entrust the Urban Union with the task of feeding refugees on the spot. Should this prove impossible, to ask that steps be taken to introduce modifications in the present system of distributing food.
16. That a representative of the Committee be appointed to each of the localities where refugees have been settled, in order that these representatives may communicate to the Committee when there is urgent need of relief in any given locality.
51. REFUGEES IN THE CAUCASUS : LETTER DATED ERIVAN, 29th DECEMBER, 1915, FROM REV. S. G. WILSON TO DR. SAMUEL T. DUTTON, SECRETARY OF THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
We have just returned from a tour of some of the Armenian villages where refugees are living, and are ready to report on their condition from personal observation. In this district or Governorship of Erivan there are 105,000 Armenian refugees, besides Nestorians and Yezidis. Of these, 18,000 are in the town of Erivan ; of these, again, many are scattered in the homes of the people and others gathered in large buildings, orphanages, etc. We visited the barracks where 420 were living. Room after room was full---in some rooms 40, in some half the number. The lucky ones were those that had a plank platform or board floor on which to sleep and sit. Many of them were in the kitchens and store-rooms on the bare ground. Most of them had insufficient bedding, and many of them scarcely any. Some were lying four under one coverlet, head to feet. One man told us how he sat and shivered in the night till his teeth chattered. Another man stayed in bed during the daytime because he had no clothes. One room contained, among others, two Protestant families from Van ; the fathers had both died lately of disease, the mother of one group was lying sick. Seven or eight was the number of each household, lying in rags on hay and with scarcely enough cover for two people. The atmosphere of the rooms was foul in the extreme. These people were from the city of Van and had lived comfortably.
The condition in the villages is even worse. At Somaghar, 15 miles from here, we were taken about by the elder of the Protestant Church. Sad indeed were the sights that we saw. Some, too, were comforting in a measure. This good man had taken into his household, already of sufficient size, two women refugees, who were clothed cleanly and neatly and fed as his own. Many of the Armenian villagers have taken in and cared for the destitute refugees. Others have given them the use of their spare rooms, bake-houses, stables and barns. Fortunate are those who are in the bake-houses, for the heat in bread baking is a free gift to them, albeit mixed with smoke. Fortunate, too, those who have stables, for they have steam-heat from the oxen and buffaloes ; for those in the other store-rooms and out-houses have no stoves or fires. These uplands of Armenia have a severe winter. The ground is now covered with snow. Ararat, with its two grand peaks, is always in sight, and but a few miles away. Cold winds from the Caucasus range blow over the plain. The sight of these multitudes with neither clothing for day nor bedding for night is a great draft on our sympathies, and this is intensified by their pitiful stories. We entered one bake-house. One young man appeared among 15 women and children. They had been a prosperous patriarchal family of 36 persons---father, three sons and their wives and children. Of these, 21 were killed, including all the men except this young fellow, who threw himself into the arms of a Kurd and was saved in some freak of mercy. This was a Protestant family from a village called Perkhous. We saw families of 13 and 16---mothers, daughters, brides and children ---with no man among them. We asked: "Where are your men ? "---" They were all killed;" or, "Out of 70 men but one escaped;" or, "We were 100 men in the village, but only 20 escaped ;" or, "There were 450 households in our village, but 20 or 30 men alone escaped."---"Were the women taken away ?"---"Yes, our pretty girls were carried off."-"How many ?"---"Four out of nine; we too were stripped naked." As to the rest of their sufferings and outrage, they were silent.
We addressed the one surviving man and asked: "How are you here ?" He replied: "I was off as a soldier in the Turkish army. I heard of the massacres, and by bye-ways through the mountains I returned to find our village destroyed. I escaped to Russia and found them here." Another woman, from Ardjish, near Van, said: "All our men were collected from the bazaars and taken before the Government. After dark, we heard the shots which killed them. We fled in the night."
In the village of Kourpalou, with 300 houses, there are 900 refugees. Of these, 300 are from the first exodus of January to April, 1915, and 600 from the second in July and August. The first were able to bring with them some of their property; many of the men came safely. The second was the terrible flight after the massacres ; of these, 40,000 are said to have died of disease after reaching Russian territory. The condition of the later refugees is most heart-rending. Let me give a few glances at conditions in Kourpalou. A woman surrounded by seven or eight persons, with scarcely beds for all, and rags as their clothes, said: "I escaped by throwing myself in the mud, a dead child lying over my head. There were 50 in our household. Nine women and. boys were taken captive by the Kurds. In a stable the oxen and buffaloes were crowding up close ; at their side a flock of sheep was huddled; the air was stifling. Three families of 18 persons were crowded at one end, in a space so small that it seemed impossible for them to lie down. Some had improvised a couch in the manger. A hammock for a baby was stretched above on two posts. Of these 18, a blind youth was the only man. In the bake-house were 27 persons, one youth, one very old man. Six men of their household had been taken as soldiers, the rest. were massacred. Of the 600 refugees of the second exodus who are in this village, about 30 are men. Some are escaped soldiers who were in the army when the atrocities occurred. One had dragged himself out from under a mass of dead bodies.
Nor did all the women escape death. Women were wantonly slain; those with child ripped up with swords; the breasts of others cut off. Some threw themselves and their children into the streams and over the precipices to escape outrage. One woman lately arrived who was captured some years ago by a Kurd. She had escaped now, after killing the Kurd, and brought her two children with her.
Mouandjik.---Also many refugees. As in all other places, great lack of clothing and especially of bedding. Twenty-two persons in one room, two of them men. Mostly sleeping on the ground, with bedding enough for one-fifth of their number. In another room 10 persons, no men, 15 of this connection killed, girls carried away, one boy saved by hiding under skirt of mother; clothes in tatters, bedding lacking.
Veri Ailaulou.---This village of 70 houses is sheltering 370 refugees, in wretched condition. Three families of 22 persons are in one bake-house, one side of which is filled with dried manure. Their village in Turkey had 70 men, one escaped alive; 4 girls and 3 brides carried off. Another hut contains 4 women and some children, the remnant of a family of 24. All the men of their village were killed. They are living in a wretched condition. Bread and water have been the chief food of these refugees for months past.
We are doing what we can to relieve this distress, supplementing the work of local and Government committees. Ready-made clothing in any large quantity is not to be found, nor blankets. Comforters we have purchased in small quantities. We are organising some sewing circles and will contract for clothing in Tiflis, where we succeeded in buying about 7,000 garments. They are hard to find, and transport is difficult when they are ready, as the army has the first right to the trucks.
I have not time to tell you of our reception by the Grand Duke Nicolas and his good wishes for the success and progress of our relief work, nor of our visit to the Katholikos at Etchmiadzin and his warm thanks for the sympathy and help of the American people for his people in their distress. We were entertained by him over-night. Governors, Bishops and Press have all bidden us God-speed.
Warm clothing and bedding will save many from sickness and death. The pitiable condition of these wretched people should appeal strongly to our American people in their comfortable homes and in the enjoyment of ten thousand blessings.
After organising relief committees here in several places, one or both of us will return to Tiflis for supplies of clothing and bedding.
52. REPATRIATION OF REFUGEES: LETTER, DATED ERIVAN (?), MARCH, 1916, FROM THE REV. S. O. WILSON ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Events have moved rapidly since I sent my appeal of the 18th February. In the intervening month the Russian army has made splendid progress and driven the Turks back many miles beyond Erzeroum and Van. The capture of Bitlis, Moush and Mamahatoun (Derdjan) has given assurance to the Government, to the Armenians and to us all. The return of the refugees to the Van province has been officially authorized. Men are hastening back even while the snow is on the ground. The 12,000 already there will soon be 20,000 and 30,000. Reports say : "Men are going in large numbers."---"Every day caravans of those returning to the fatherland enter," via Igdir. Most of these have returned from the Erivan province to Van. Others, of whom 500 are women, have settled in Alashkerd. Fifty-three hundred have gone back from Russian Passin to the Turkish province of the same name. The Governor of Kars reports that from Olti and that region refugees are returning to the districts of Erzeroum, and that many of them are women and children. In Bashkala there are nearly 3,000 refugees, said to be in great wretchedness and in need of daily sustenance.
Besides these, numbers are coming forth from their places of concealment, or from the houses of certain friendly Kurds, or from their captivity in Moslem harems. These are indeed but hundreds compared with the thousands who have been massacred or driven into the wildernesses. But it is a gratification to hear that from Sassoun 160 men came forth; that in Khnyss there have appeared more than a thousand new refugees ; that in Riza on the Black Sea more than 200 Armenian children were discovered after the taking of the town by the Russians ; that in Bitlis men, women and children have come forth in large numbers (2,800) ; that in Moush nearly 3,000 souls have been freed. Erzeroum seems to have been dealt with most savagely. Less than 200 Armenians out of 20,000 in the city itself escaped death or deportation, that is, exile. Of these, thirty were saved in the house of Mr. Stapleton. The Armenians report that when the Moslems came and demanded that these girls should be delivered over to them, Mr. Stapleton replied: "You must kill me before you can touch them." Recent reports say that in the villages round Erzeroum Armenian women and children are appearing, singly and in groups, and are in the greatest need. Whose heart is not moved with pity for and desire to preserve these remnants who have escaped from the greatest destruction! Our opportunity is a wonderful one---to save the remnant, to aid in the restoration, to prepare for the return of the 200,000 fugitives now in Persia and the Caucasus.
Our call to help is both general and specific. A specific and unusual call has reached us from the Russian Governor of Van, Mr. Alfred Teremin.
Now we have telegraphed to the Governor that we are coming, as we telegraph to the American Committee of our entrance upon the new work. Fortunately we have a considerable balance on hand, and we are going in the faith that America will support us generously. Large funds will be necessary, to put roofs over the heads of the people, to supply seed-corn, ploughs, oxen, carts, etc. ; to set at work carpenters, blacksmiths and other artisans ; to help the most needy till harvest time. We shall buy the necessary things here or in Persia or from the Kurds, and will do our part in assisting the returning exiles to cultivate their fields, so that harvest may be abundant. Fortunately the time of spring sowing in the highlands of Armenia does not close till June, so we have yet time. A letter from Van says : "The important thing is that material help should be received quickly. If delayed, it will lose half its value. It is necessary to hasten. Every day is precious."
VI. The Vilayet of Erzeroum
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