OF ARMENIAN HISTORY
UP TO AND INCLUDING
THE YEAR 1915.
I. THE EUROPEAN WAR AND ARMENIA.
The War has brought us into a new relation with Armenia and the Armenian people. We knew them before as the name of an ancient civilisation, a stubborn rearguard of Christendom in the East, a scene of mission work and massacres and international rivalry ; but only a few of us---missionaries, geographers, travellers and an occasional newspaper correspondent---were personally acquainted with the country and its inhabitants. To most people they remained a name, and when we read of their sufferings or traditions or achievements they made little more impression than the doings of the Hittites and Assyrians, who moved across the same Near Eastern amphitheatre several millenniums ago. We had no living contact, no natural relation, with Armenia in our personal or even in our political life.
Such a relation has suddenly been created between us by the War, and it is one of the strangest ironies of war that it fuses together and illuminates the very fabric it destroys. The civilisation in which we lived was like a labyrinth, so huge and intricate that none of the dwellers in it could altogether grasp its structure, while most of them were barely conscious that it had any structural design at all. But now that the War has caught it and it is all aflame, the unity and symmetry of the building are revealed to the common eye. As the glare lights it up from end to end, it stands out in its glory, in matchless outline and perspective ; for the first time (and possibly for the last) we see its parts simultaneously and in proper relation, and realise for one moment the marvel and mystery of this civilisation that is perishing---the subtle, immemorial, unrelaxing effort that raised it up and maintained it, and the impossibility of improvising any equivalent structure in its place. Then the fire masters its prey ; the various parts of the labyrinth fall in one by one, the light goes out of them, and nothing is left but smoke and ashes. This is the catastrophe that we are witnessing now, and we do not yet know whether it will be possible to repair it. But if the future is not so dark as it appears, and what has perished can in some measure be restored, our best guide and inspiration in the task will be that momentary, tragic, unique vision snatched out of the catastrophe itself.
The Armenians are not protagonists in the War ; they bear none of the guilt for its outbreak and can have little share in the responsibility of building up a better future. But they have been seared more cruelly than any of us by the flames, and, under this fiery ordeal, their individual character as a nation and their part in the community of the civilised world have been thrown into their true relief.
For the first time, England and the Armenians are genuinely in touch with one another. In this desperate struggle between freedom and reaction we are fighting on the same side, striving for the same end. Our lot in the struggle has not, indeed, been the same, for while England is able to act as well as to suffer, the Armenians have suffered with hardly the power to strike a blow. But this difference of external fortune only strengthens the inward moral bond; for we, who are strong, are fighting not merely for this or that political advantage, this or that territorial change, but for a principle. The Powers of the Entente have undertaken the championship of small nationalities that cannot champion themselves. We have solemnly acknowledged our obligation to fulfil our vow in the case of Belgium and Serbia, and now that the Armenians have been overtaken by a still worse fate than the Serbians and the Belgians, their cause, too, has been taken up into the general cause of the Allies. We cannot limit our field in doing battle for our ideal.
It is easier, of course, for the people of France, Great Britain and America to sympathise with Belgium than with a more unfamiliar nation in a distant zone of the War. It needs little imagination to realise acutely that the Belgians are "people like ourselves," suffering all that we should suffer if the same atrocities were committed upon us; and this realisation was made doubly easy by the speedy publication of minute, abundant, first-hand testimony. The Armenians have no such immediate access to our sympathies, and the initial unfamiliarity can only be overcome by a personal effort on the part of those who give ear to their case; but the evidence on which that case rests has been steadily accumulating, until now it is scarcely less complete or less authoritative than the evidence relating to Belgium. The object of the present volume has been to present the documents to English and American readers in as accurate and orderly a form as possible.
Armenia has not been without witness in her agony. Intense suffering means intense emotional experience, and this emotion has found relief in written records of the intolerable events which obsessed the witnesses' memories. Some of the writers are Armenians, a larger number are Americans and Europeans who were on the spot, and who were as poignantly affected as the victims themselves. There are a hundred and forty-nine of these documents, and many of them are of considerable length; but in their total effect they are something more than an exhaustive catalogue of the horrors they set out to describe. The flames of war illuminate the structure of the building as well as the destruction of it, and the testimony extorted under this fiery ordeal gives an extraordinarily vivid impression of Armenian life---the life of plain and mountain, town and village, intelligenzia and bourgeoisie and peasantry---at the moment when it was overwhelmed by the European catastrophe.
In Armenia, though not in Europe, the flames have almost burnt themselves out, and, for the moment, we can see nothing beyond smoke and ashes. Life will assuredly spring up again when the ashes are cleared away, for attempts to exterminate nations by atrocity, though certain of producing almost infinite human suffering, have seldom succeeded in their ulterior aim. But in whatever shape the new Armenia arises, it will be something utterly different from the old. The Armenians have been a very typical element in that group of humanity which Europeans call the "Near East," but which might equally well be called the "Near West" from the Indian or the Chinese point of view(189). There has been something pathological about the history of this Near Eastern World. It has had an undue share of political misfortunes, and had lain for centuries in a kind of spiritual paralysis between East and West-belonging to neither, partaking paradoxically of both, and wholly unable to rally itself decidedly to one or the other, when it was involved with Europe in the European War. The shock of that crowning catastrophe seems to have brought the spiritual neutrality of the Near East to a violent end, and however dubious the future of Europe may be, it is almost certain that it will be shared henceforth by all that lies between the walls of Vienna and the walls of Aleppo and Tabriz(190). This final gravitation towards Europe may be a benefit to the Near East or another chapter in its misfortunes---that depends on the condition in which Europe emerges from the War; but, in either case, it will be a new departure in its history. It has been drawn at last into a stronger orbit, and will travel on its own paralytic, paradoxical course no more. This gives a historical interest to any record of Near Eastern life in the last moments of the Ancient Régime, and these Armenian documents supply a record of a very intimate and characteristic kind. The Near East has never been more true to itself than in its lurid dissolution; past and present are fused together in the flare.
II. AN OUTLINE OF ARMENIAN HISTORY.
The documents in this volume tell their own story, and a reader might be ignorant of the places with which they deal and the points of history to which they refer, and yet learn from them more about human life in the Near East than from any study of text-books and atlases. At the same time a general acquaintance with the geographical setting and historical antecedents is clearly an assistance in understanding the full significance of the events recorded here. and as this information is not widely spread or very easily accessible, it has seemed well to publish an outline of it, for the reader's convenience, in the same volume as the documents themselves. As many as possible of the places referred to are marked on the map at the end of the book, while here, in this historical summary, a brief account may be given of who the Armenians are and where they live.
Like the English, the French and most other nations, the Armenians have developed a specific type of countenance, and yet it would not always be easy to tell them by sight, for they are as hybrid in their physical stock as every other European or Near Eastern people. There are marked differences of pigmentation, feature and build between the Armenians of the East, West and South, and between the mountaineers, plain-dwellers and people of the towns, and it would be rash to speculate when these various strains came in, or to lay it down that they were not all present already at the date at which we first begin to know something about the inhabitants of the country(191).
We hear of them first in the annals of Assyria, where the Armenian plateau appears as the land of Nairi---a no-man's-land, raided constantly but ineffectually by Assyrian armies from the lowlands of Mosul. But in the ninth century B.C. the petty cantons of Nairi coalesced into the Kingdom of Urartu(192), which fought Assyria on equal terms for more than two hundred years and has left a native record of its own. The Kings of Urartu made their dwelling on the citadel of Van(193). The face of the rock is covered with their inscriptions, which are also found as far afield as the neighbourhood of Malatia, Erzeroum and Alexandropol. They borrowed from Assyria the cuneiform script, and the earliest inscriptions at Van are written in the Assyrian language; but they quickly adapted the foreign script to their native tongue, which has been deciphered by English and German scholars, and is considered by them to be neither Semitic nor Indo-European, nor yet to have any discernible affinity with the still obscurer language of the Hittites further west. We can only assume that the people who spoke it were indigenous in the land. Probably they were of one blood with their neighbours in the direction of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, Saspeires(194) and Chalybes and others ; and if, as ethnology seems to show, an indigenous stock is practically ineradicable, these primitive peoples of the plateau are probably the chief ancestors, in the physical sense, of the present Armenian race(195).
The modern Armenian language, on the other hand, is not descended from the language of Urartu, but is an Indo-European tongue. There is a large non-Indo-European element in it---larger than in most known branches of the Indo-European family---and this has modified its syntax as well as its vocabulary. It has also borrowed freely and intimately from the Persian language in all its phases---a natural consequence of the political supremacy which Iran asserted over Armenia again and again, from the sixth century B.C. to the nineteenth century A.D. But when all these accretions have been analysed and discarded, the philologists pronounce the basis of modern Armenian to be a genuine Indo-European idiom---either a dialect of the Iranian branch or an independent variant, holding an intermediate, position between Iranian and Slavonic.
This language is a much more important factor in the national consciousness of the modern Armenians than their ultimate physical ancestry, but its origin is also more difficult to trace. Its Indo-European character proves that, at some date or other, it must have been introduced into the country from without(196), and the fact that a non-Indo-European language held the field under the Kings of Urartu suggests that it only established itself after the Kingdom of Urartu fell. But the earliest literary monuments of the modern tongue only date from the fifth century A.D., a thousand years later than the last inscription in the Urartian language, so that, as far as the linguistic evidence is concerned, the change may have occurred at any time within this period. One language, however, does not usually supplant another without considerable displacements of population, and the only historical event of this kind sufficient in scale to produce such a result seems to be the migration of the Cimmerians and Scythians in the seventh century B.C. These were nomadic tribes from the Russian steppes, who made their way round the eastern end of the Caucasus, burst through into the Moghan plains and the basin of Lake Urmia, and terrorised Western Asia for several generations, till they were broken by the power of the Medes and absorbed in the native population. It was they who made an end of the Kingdom of Urartu, and the language they brought with them was probably an Indo-European dialect answering to the basic element in modern Armenian. Probability thus points to these seventh century invaders as being the source of the present language, and perhaps also of the equally mysterious names of "Hai(k)" and "Haiasdan," by which the speakers of this language seem always to have called themselves and their country. But this is a conjecture, and nothing more(197), and we are left with the bare fact that Armenian(198) was the established language of the land by the fifth century A.D.
The Armenian language might easily have perished and left less record of its existence than the Urartian. It is a vigorous language enough, yet it would never have survived in virtue of its mere vitality. The native Anatolian dialects of Lydia and Cilicia, and the speech of the Cappadocians(199), the Armenians' immediate neighbours on the west, were extinguished one by one by the irresistible advance of Greek, and Armenian would assuredly have shared their fate if it had not become the canonical language of a national church before Greek had time to penetrate so far eastward. Armenia lay within the radius of Antioch and Edessa (Ourfa), two of the earliest and strongest centres of Christian propaganda. King Tiridates (Drdat) of Armenia was converted to Christianity some time during the latter half of the third century A.D.(200) and was the first ruler in the world to establish the Christian Faith as his State religion. Christianity in Armenia adopted a national garb from the first. In 410 A.D. the Bible was translated into the Armenian language, in a new native script specially invented for the purpose, and this achievement was followed by a great outburst of national literature during the course of the fifth century. These fifth century works are, as has been said, the earliest monuments of the Armenian language. Most of them, it is true, are simply rather painstaking translations of Greek and Syriac theology, and the bulk of the creative literature was theological too. But there was also a notable school of historical writers (Moses of Khorene is its most famous representative), and the really important result of the stimulus that Christianity brought was the permanent preservation of the language's existence and its development into a medium for a national literature of a varied kind.
Thus the conversion of Armenia to Christianity, which took place at a more or less ascertainable date, was an even more important factor in the evolution of Armenian nationality than the original introduction of the national language, and the Armenians have done well to make St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Cappadocian Missionary to whom the conversion was due, their supreme national hero(201). Henceforth, church and language mutually sustained each other, to the great enhancement of the vital power of both. They were, in fact, merely complementary aspects of the same national consciousness, and the national character of the church was further emphasised when it diverged in doctrine from the main body of Christendom---not by the formulation of any new or heretical dogma, but by omission to ratify the modifications of the primitive creed which were introduced by the (Ecumenical Councils of the fifth century A.D.(202)
This nationalisation of the church was the decisive process by which the Armenians became a nation, and it was also this that made them an integral part of the Near Eastern world. Christianity linked the country with the West as intimately as the cuneiform script of Urartu had linked it with the civilisation of Mesopotamia ; and the Near Eastern phenomenon consists essentially in the paradox that a series of populations on the borderland of Europe and Asia developed a national life that was thoroughly European in its religion and culture, without ever succeeding in extricating themselves politically from that continual round of despotism and anarchy which seems to be the political dispensation of genuinely Oriental countries.
No communities in the world have had a more troubled political history than these Near Eastern nationalities, and none have known how to preserve their church and their language so doggedly through the most appalling vicissitudes of conquest and oppression. In this regard the history of Armenia is profoundly characteristic of the Near East as a whole.
The strong, compact Kingdom of Urartu lies at the dawn of Armenian history like a golden age. It had only existed two centuries when it was shattered by the invaders from the Russian steppes, and the anarchy into which they plunged the country had to be cured by the imposition of a foreign rule. In 585 B.C. the nomads were cowed and the plateau annexed by Cyaxares, the Mede, and, after the Persians had taken over the Medes' inheritance, the great organiser Darius divided this portion of it into two governments or satrapies. One of these seems to have included the basins of Urmia and Van, and part of the valley of the Aras(203); the other corresponded approximately to the modern Vilayets of Bitlis, Mamouret-ul-Aziz and Diyarbekir, and covered the upper valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates(204). They were called respectively the satrapies of Eastern and Western Armenia, and this is the origin of the name by which the Haik and their Haiasdan are now almost universally known to their neighbours. The word "Armenia" (Armina) (205) first appears in Darius' inscriptions ; the Greeks adopted it from the Persian official usage, and from the Greeks it has spread to the rest of the world, including the Osmanli Turks(206)
Under the Persian Dynasty of the Achæmenids and their Macedonian successors, the two Armenian satrapies remained mere administrative divisions. Subject to the payment of tribute the satraps were practically independent and probably hereditary, but the rulers' autonomy did not enable their subjects to develop any distinctive national life. In religion and culture the country took on a strong Persian veneer ; and the situation was not essentially changed when, early in the second century B.C., the two reigning satraps revolted simultaneously from their overlord, the Seleucid King of Western Asia(207), and each founded a royal dynasty of their own. The decisive change was accomplished by Tigranes (Dikran) the Great (94 to 56 B.C.), a scion of the Eastern Dynasty, who welded the two principalities into one kingdom, and so created the first strong native sovereignty that the country had known since the fall of Urartu five centuries before.
If Gregory the Illuminator is the ecclesiastical hero of Armenia, King Tigranes is his political forerunner and counterpart. He was connected by marriage with Mithradates, the still more famous King of Pontic Cappadocia, who may be taken as the first exponent of the Near Eastern idea. Mithradates attempted to build an empire that should be at once cosmopolitan and national, Hellenic and Iranian, of the West and of the East, and Tigranes was profoundly influenced by his brilliant neighbour and ally. He set himself the parallel ambition of reconstructing round his own person the kingdom of the Seleucids, which had been shaken a century before by a rude encounter with Rome, weakened still further by the defection of Tigranes' own predecessors, and was now in the actual throes of dissolution. He laid himself out a new capital on the northern rim of the Mesopotamian steppe, somewhere near the site of Ibrahim Pasha's Viran Shehr, and peopled it with masses of exiles deported from the Greek cities he devastated in Syria and Cilicia. It was to be the Hellenistic world-centre for an Oriental King of Kings ; but all his dreams, like Mithradates', were shattered by the methodical progress of the Roman power. A Roman army ignominiously turned Tigranes out of Tigranokerta, and sent back his Greek exiles rejoicing to their homes. The new Armenian kingdom failed to establish its position as a great power, and had to accept the position of a buffer state between Rome on the west and the Parthian rulers of Iran. Nevertheless, Tigranes' work is of supreme political importance in Armenian history. He had consolidated the two satrapies of Darius into a united kingdom, powerful enough to preserve its unity and independence for nearly five hundred years. It was within this chrysalis that the interaction of religion and language produced the new germ of modern Armenian nationality; and when the chrysalis was rent at last, the nation emerged so strongly grown that it could brave the buffets of the outer world.
Before Tigranes, Armenia had belonged wholly to the East. Tigranes loosened these links and knit certain new links with the West. The period that followed was marked by a perpetual struggle between the Roman and Parthian Governments for political influence over the kingdom, which was really a battle over Armenia's soul. Was Armenia to be wrested away altogether from Oriental influences and rallied to the European world, or was it to sink back into being a spiritual and political appanage of Iran ? It seemed a clear issue, but it was not destined to be decided in either sense. Armenia was to be caught for two millenniums in the uncertain eddy of the Nearer East.
In this opposition of forces, the political balance inclined from the first in favour of the Oriental Power. The Parthians succeeded in replacing the descendants of Tigranes by a junior branch of their own Arsacid Dynasty; and when, in 387 A.D., the rivals agreed to settle the Armenian question by the drastic expedient of partition, the Sassanid kings of Persia (who had superseded the Parthians in the Empire of Iran) secured the lion's share of the spoils, while the Romans only received a strip of country on the western border which gave them Erzeroum and Diyarbekir for their frontier fortresses. In the cultural sphere, on the other hand, the West was constantly increasing its ascendancy. King Tiridates was an Arsacid, but he accepted Christianity as the religion of the State he ruled ; and when, less than a century after his death, his kingdom fell and the greater part of the country and the people came directly under Persian rule, the Persian propaganda failed to make any impression. No amount of preaching or persecution could persuade the Armenians to accept Zoroastrianism, which was the established religion of the Sassanian State. They clung to their national church in despite of their political annihilation, and showed thereby that their spiritual allegiance was given irrevocably to the West.
The partition of 387 A.D. produced as long a political interregnum in Armenian history as the fall of Urartu in the seventh century B.C. In the second quarter of the seventh century A.D., the mastery of Western Asia passed from the Persians to the Arabs, and the Armenian provinces changed masters with the rest. Persian governors appointed by the Sassanid King of Kings were superseded by Arab governors appointed by the Omayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, and the intolerance of Zoroastrianism was replaced by the far stronger and hardly less intolerant force of Islam. Then, in the ninth century, the political power of the Abbasid Caliphate at Baghdad began to decline, the outlying provinces were able to detach themselves, and three independent dynasties emerged on Armenian soil:
(a) The Bagratids founded a Christian principality in the north. Their capital was at Ani, in the upper basin of the Aras, and their rule in this district lasted nearly two centuries, from 885 to 1079 A.D.
(b) The Ardzrounids founded a similar Christian principality in the basin of Van. They reigned here from 908 to 1021 A.D.
(c) The Merwanids, a Kurdish dynasty, founded a Moslem principality in the upper basin of the Tigris. Their capital was at Diyarbekir, but their power extended northward over the mountains into the valley of the Mourad Su (Eastern Euphrates), which they controlled as far upwards as Melazkerd. They maintained themselves for a century, from 984 to 1085 A.D.
The imposing remains of churches and palaces at Ani and elsewhere have cast an undue glamour over the Bagratid House, which has been extended, again, to all the independent principalities of early medieval Armenia. In reality, this phase of Armenian history was hardly more happy than that which preceded it, and only appeared a Golden Age by comparison with the cataclysms that followed. From the national point of view it was almost as barren as the century of satrapial independence which preceded the reign of Tigranes, and in the politics of this period parochialism was never transcended. Bagratids and Ardzrounids were bitter rivals for the leadership of the nation, and did not scruple to call in Moslem allies against one another in their constant wars. The south-western part of the country remained under the rule of an alien Moslem dynasty, without any attempt being made to cast them out. Armenia had no second Tigranes in the Middle Ages, and the local renewals of political independence came and went without profit to the nation as a whole, which still depended for its unity upon the ecclesiastical tradition of the national Gregorian Church.
In the eleventh century A.D., a new power appeared in the East. The Arab Empire of the Caliphs had long been receiving an influx of Turks from Central Asia as slaves and professional soldiers, and the Turkish bodyguard had assumed control of politics at Baghdad. But this individual infiltration was now succeeded by the migration of whole tribes, and the tribes were organised into a political power by the clan of Seljuk. The new Turkish dynasty constituted itself the temporal representative of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the dominion of Mohammedan Asia was suddenly transferred from the devitalised Arabs to a vigorous barbaric horde of nomadic Turks.
These Turkish reinforcements brutalised and at the same time stimulated the Islamic world, and the result was a new impetus of conquest towards the borderlands. The brunt of this movement fell upon the unprepared and disunited Armenian principalities. In the first quarter of the eleventh century the Seljuks began their incursions on to the Armenian Plateau. The Armenian princes turned for protection to the East Roman Empire, accepted its suzerainty, or even surrendered their territory directly into its hands. But the Imperial Government brought little comfort to the Armenian people. Centred at Constantinople and cut off from the Latin West, it had lost its Roman universality and become transformed into a Greek national state, while the established Orthodox Church had developed the specifically Near Eastern character of a nationalist ecclesiastical organisation. The Armenians found that incorporation in the Empire exposed them to temporal and spiritual Hellenisation, without protecting them against the common enemy on the east. The Seljuk invasions increased in intensity, and culminated, in 1071 A.D., in the decisive battle of Melazkerd, in which the Imperial Army was destroyed and the Emperor Romanos II. taken prisoner on the field. Melazkerd placed the whole of Armenia at the Seljuk's mercy---and not only Armenia, but the Anatolian provinces of the Empire that lay between Armenia and Europe. The Seljuks carried Islam into the heart of the Near East.
The next four-and-a-half centuries were the most disastrous period in the whole political history of Armenia. It is true that a vestige of independence was preserved, for Roupen the Bagratid conducted a portion of his people south-westward into the mountains of Cilicia, where they were out of the main current of Turkish invasion, and founded a new principality which survived nearly three hundred years (1080-1375). There is a certain romance about this Kingdom of Lesser Armenia. It threw in its lot with the Crusaders, and gave the Armenian nation its first direct contact with modern Western Europe. But the mass of the race remained in Armenia proper, and during these centuries the Armenian tableland suffered almost ceaseless devastation.
The Seljuk migration was only the first wave in a prolonged outbreak of Central Asiatic disturbance, and the Seljuks were civilised in comparison with the tribes that followed on their heels. Early in the thirteenth century came Karluks and Kharizmians, fleeing across Western Asia before the advance of the Mongols ; and in 1235 came the first great raid of the Mongols themselves---savages who destroyed civilisation wherever they found it, and were impartial enemies of Christendom and Islam. All these waves of invasion took the same channel. They swept across the broad plateau of Persia, poured up the valleys of the Aras and the Tigris, burst in their full force upon the Armenian highlands and broke over them into Anatolia beyond. Armenia bore the brunt of them all, and the country was ravaged and the population reduced quite out of proportion to the sufferings of the neighbouring regions. The division of the Mongol conquests among the family of Djengis Khan established a Mongol dynasty in Western Asia which seated itself in Azerbaijan, accepted Islam and took over the tradition of the Seljuks, the Abbasids and the Sassanids. It was the old Asiatic Empire under a new name, but it had now incorporated Armenia and extended north-westwards to the Kizil Irmak (Halys). For the first time since Tigranes, the whole of Armenia was reabsorbed again in the East, and the situation grew still worse when the Empire of these "Ilkhans" fell to pieces and was succeeded in the fifteenth century by the petty lordship of Ak Koyunli, Kara Koyanli and other nomadic Turkish clans.
The progressive anarchy of four centuries was finally stilled by the rise of the Osmanli power. The seed of the Osmanlis was one of those Turkish clans which fled across Western Asia before the Mongols. They settled in the dominions of the Seljuk Sultans, who had established themselves at Konia, in Central Anatolia, and who allowed the refugees to carve out an obscure appanage on the marches of the Greek Empire, in the Asiatic hinterland of Constantinople. The son and successor of the founder was here converted from Paganism to Islam(208), towards the end of the thirteenth century A.D., and the name of Osman, which he adopted at his conversion, has been borne ever since by the subjects of his House.
The Osmanli State is the greatest and most characteristic Near Eastern Empire there has ever been. In its present decline it has become nothing but a blight to all the countries and peoples that remain under its sway ; but at the outset it manifested a faculty for strong government which satisfied the supreme need of the distracted Near Eastern world. This was the secret of its amazing power of assimilation, and this quality in turn increased its power of organisation, for it enabled the Osmanlis to monopolise all the vestiges of political genius that survived in the Near East. The original Turkish germ was quickly absorbed in the mass of Osmanlicised native Greeks(209). The first expansion of the State was westward, across the Dardanelles, and before the close of the fourteenth century the whole of South-Eastern Europe had become Osmanli territory, as far as the Danube and the Hungarian frontier. The seal was set on these European conquests when Sultan Mohammed II. entered Constantinople in 1453, and then the current of expansion veered towards the east. Mohammed himself absorbed the rival Turkish principalities in Anatolia, and annexed the Greek "Empire" of Trebizond. In the second decade of the sixteenth century, Sultan Selim I. followed this up with a sweeping series of campaigns, which carried him with hardly a pause from the Taurus barrier to the citadel of Cairo. Armenia was overrun in 1514 ; the petty Turkish chieftains were overthrown, the new Persian Empire was hurled back to the Caspian, and a frontier established between the Osmanli Sultans and the Shahs of Iran, which has endured, with a few fluctuations, until the present day.
In the sixteenth century the whole Near Eastern world, from the gates of Vienna(210) to the gates of Aleppo and Tabriz, found itself united under a single masterful Government, and once more Armenia was linked securely with the West. From 1514 onwards the great majority of the Armenian nation was subject to the Osmanli State. It is true that the province of Erivan (on the middle course of the Aras) was recovered by the Persians in the seventeenth century, and held by them till its cession to Russia in 1834. But, with this exception, the whole of Armenia remained under Osmanli rule until the Russians took Kars, in the war of 1878. These intervening centuries of union and pacification were, on the whole, beneficial to Armenia ; but with the year 1878 there began a new and sinister epoch in the relations between the Osmanli State and the Armenian nation.
III. DISPERSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE ARMENIAN NATION.
We have now traced the political vicissitudes of Armenia down to its incorporation in the Ottoman Empire, and are in a position to survey the effects of this troubled political history on the social life and the geographical extension of the Armenian people.
At the present day the Armenians are, next to the Jews, the most scattered nation in the world, but this phenomenon does not begin to appear until a comparatively late stage in their history. At the time of the Partition of 387 A.D. they were still confined to a compact territory between the Euphrates, Lake Urmia and the River Kur. It was the annexation of the western marches to the Roman Empire that gave the first impetus to Armenian migration towards the west. After 387 A.D. the Roman frontier garrisons were moved forward into the new Armenian provinces, and these troops were probably recruited in the main, according to the general Roman custom, from the local population. But in the middle of the seventh century the Roman frontiers were shorn away by the advance of the new Arab power; the garrisons beyond the Euphrates were withdrawn towards the north-west, and, after a century of darkness and turmoil, during which all the old landmarks were effaced, we find that the "Armeniac Army Corps District" has shifted from the banks of the Euphrates to the banks of the Halys (Kizil Irmak) and become approximately coincident with the modern Vilayet of Sivas. This transference of the troops must have meant in itself a considerable transference of Armenians, and it can be taken for granted that the retiring armies were accompanied by a certain portion of the civilian population. We can thus date back to the seventh century the beginning of those flourishing Armenian colonies in the towns of north-eastern Anatolia which suffered so terribly in the ordeal of 1915.
The mountain zone between the Roman fortress of Sivas (Sebasteia) on the Halys and the Arab posts along the Euphrates, from Malatia to Erzeroum, was now debatable territory between the Moslem and the Christian Empires, and in the eighth century it was held by an independent community of Armenian heretics called Paulikians. These Paulikians led an untamed, Ishmaelitish existence. They were excommunicated for their tenets by the Gregorian Armenian Church, as well as by the Orthodox Patriarch at Constantinople, and they raided impartially in the territories of the Roman Empire and the Arab Caliphate. The Emperors waged against them a war of extermination, and anticipated the present Ottoman policy by deporting them from their mountain fastnesses to the opposite ends of the Imperial territory. In 752 A.D. a number of them were settled in Thrace, to exercise their military prowess in holding the frontier against the Bulgars ; and, in 969 A.D., the Emperor John Tzimiskes (himself an Armenian) transplanted a further body of them to Philippopolis. It may be doubted whether there is any direct connexion between them and the present (Gregorian) Armenian colony in the latter city, but their numbers and influence must have been considerable, if one may judge by the vigorous spread of their tenets among the Bulgars and the Southern Slavs, and they are noteworthy as the forerunners of the Armenian Dispersion in Europe, as well as of the Protestant Reformation.(211)
Migrations on a larger scale were produced by the Turkish invasions of the eleventh century. In 1021 A.D., for instance, the Ardzrounian Dynasty of Van surrendered its home territory to the Roman Empire in exchange for a more sheltered principality at Sivas. It only reigned sixty years in exile before it was overwhelmed there also by the advance of the Turkish tide; but the present Armenian villages in the Sivas Vilayet are doubtless derived from these Ardzrounian refugees. In the very year, again, in which the sovereignty of the Ardzrounids was extinguished at Sivas, the Bagratids of Ani founded themselves a second kingdom in Cilicia. We have spoken of this kingdom already: it is represented to-day by a chain of Armenian mountain towns and villages which stretches all the way from the headwaters of the Silioun (Saros) and Djihoun (Pyramos) to the shores of the Gulf of Alexandretta.
The still more terrible invasions of the thirteenth century scattered the Armenians even further afield. The relations of Lesser Armenia with the Crusader Principalities opened for the Armenians a door into Western Europe. When the Roupenian Dynasty became extinct, it was succeeded by a branch of the French House of Lusignan summoned from Cyprus, and in 1335 there was the first secession from the national Gregorian Church to the Communion of Rome. These new adherents to the Papal allegiance spread far and wide over Latin Christendom. A strong colony of Armenian Catholics established itself at Lemberg, recently won by Polish conquest for the Catholic Church; and others settled at Venice, the European focus of the Levantine trade. In this Venetian settlement the tradition of Armenian culture was kept alive by the famous brotherhood of Mekhitarist Monks. They founded the first Armenian printing press here, in 1565, and maintained a constant issue of Armenian publications. Their greatest work was a magnificent thesaurus of the Armenian .language, which appeared in 1836.
This Roman Catholic connexion has been of very great importance in preserving the link between Armenia and the west, and since the beginning of the nineteenth century the bonds have been strengthened by a Protestant strand. The American Missions in Turkey were founded in 1831. Debarred by the Ottoman Government from entering into relations with the Moslem population, they devoted themselves to the Christian elements, and the Armenians availed themselves more eagerly than any other Near Eastern nationality(212) of the gifts which the Americans offered. Four generations of mission work have produced a strong Protestant Armenian community, but proselytism has not been the deliberate object of the missionaries. They have set themselves to revive and not to convert the national Armenian Church, and their schools and hospitals have been open to. all who would attend them, without distinction of creed. Their wide and well-planned educational activity has always been the distinctive feature of these American Missions in the Ottoman Empire. Besides the famous Robert College and the College for Women on the Bosphorus, they have established schools and other institutions in many of the chief provincial towns, with fine buildings and full staffs of well-trained American and Armenian teachers. Due acknowledgment must also be given to the educational work of the Swiss Protestants and of the Jesuits; but it can hardly compare with the work of the Americans in scale, and will scarcely play the same part in Armenian history. There is little need here to speak in praise of the American missionaries ; their character will shine out to anyone who reads the documents in this volume. Their religion inspires their life and their work, and their utter sincerity has given them an extraordinary influence over all with whom they come in contact.
The Ottoman Government has trusted and respected them, because they are the only foreign residents in Turkey who are entirely disinterested on political questions ; the Gregorian Church cooperates with them and feels no jealousy, and all sections of the Armenian nation love them, because they come to give and not to get, and their gifts are without guile (213). America is exercising an unobtrusive but incalculable influence over the Near East. In the nineteenth century the missionaries came to its rescue from America ; in the twentieth century the return movement has set in, and the Near Eastern people are migrating in thousands across the Atlantic. The Armenians are participating in this movement at least as actively as the Greeks, the Roumans, the Serbs, the Montenegrins and the Slovaks, and one can already prophesy with assurance that their two-fold contact with America is the beginning of a new chapter in Armenian history.
Meanwhile the subjection of Armenia proper to the Mongol Ilkhans for nearly two centuries, and subsequently to the Shahs of modern Persia for certain transitory periods, produced a lesser, but not unimportant, dispersion towards the east. In the seventeenth century the skilled and cultured Armenian population of Djoulfa, on the River Aras, was carried away captive to the Persian capital of Ispahan, where the exiles started a printing press and established a centre of Armenian civilisation. Ever since then the Armenian element has been a factor in the politics and the social development of Iran, and from this new centre they have spread over the Indian Peninsula hand in hand with the extension of British rule.
Thus the Armenian nation has been scattered, in the course of the centuries, from Calcutta to New York, and has shown remarkable vitality in adapting itself to every kind of alien environment(214). The reverse side of the picture is the uprooting of the nation from its native soil. The immigrant tribes from Central Asia did not make a permanent lodgment in the Armenian homelands. Some of them drifted back into Azerbaijan and the steppe country along the coast of the Caspian and the lower courses of the Aras and the Kur; others were carried on towards the north-west, along the ancient Royal Road, and imposed the Moslem faith and the Turkish language upon the population of Central Anatolia. The Armenian plateau, entrenched between Tigris, Euphrates and Aras, stood out like a rock, dividing these two Turkish eddies. Nevertheless, the perpetual shock of the Seljuk and the Mongol raids relaxed the hold of the Armenians on the plateau. The people of the land were decimated by these invasions, and when the invaders had passed on beyond or vanished away, the terrible gaps in the ranks of the sedentary population of Armenia proper were filled by nomadic Kurdish shepherds from the south-east, who drifted into Old Armenia from the mountain girdle of Iran, just as the Albanians drifted into the Kossovo Plain from their own less desirable highlands, after the population of Old Serbia had been similarly decimated by the constant passage of the Ottoman armies.
This Kurdish penetration of Armenia had begun already by the tenth century A.D. ; it was far advanced when the Osmanlis annexed the country in 1514, and it was confirmed by the policy of the Ottoman Government, which sought to secure its new territories by granting privileges to the Kurdish intruders and inviting their influx in greater numbers from their homelands in the sphere of influence of the rival Persian Empire. The juxtaposition of nomad and cultivator, dominant Moslem and subject Giaour, was henceforth an ever-present irritant in the social and political conditions of the land ; but it did not assume a fatal and sinister importance until after the year 1878, when it was fiendishly exploited by the Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid.
But before we examine the relations between the Armenian nation and the Ottoman Government, it will be well to survey the distribution of the Armenian element in the Ottoman Empire, as it had developed during the four centuries of Ottoman rule that elapsed between the campaign of Selim I. and the intervention of Turkey in the present European War. The survey shall be brief, for it has been anticipated, sometimes in greater detail, in the separate notes prefixed to the different groups of documents in the volume.
A traveller entering Turkey by the Oriental Railway from Central Europe would have begun to encounter Armenians at Philippopolis in Bulgaria, and then at Adrianople, the first Ottoman city across the frontier. Had he visited any of the lesser towns of Thrace, he would have found much of the local trade and business in Armenian hands, and when he arrived at Constantinople he would have become aware that the Armenians were one of the most important elements in the Ottoman Empire. He would have seen them as financiers, as export and import merchants, as organisers of wholesale stores ; and when he crossed the Bosphorus and explored the suburban districts on the Asiatic side, he might even have fancied that the Armenian population in the Empire was numerically equal to the Turkish. The coast of the Sea of Marmora was overlooked by flourishing Armenian villages; at Armasha, above Ismid, there was a large Theological Seminary of the Gregorian Church, and there were important Swiss and American institutions at Bardizag (Baghtehedjik) and Adapazar. At Adapazar alone the Armenian population numbered 25,000.
Beyond Adapazar, however, the Armenian element dwindled, and anyone who followed the Anatolian Railway across Asia Minor to the rail-head in the northern spurs of Taurus, would have felt that he was travelling through an essentially Turkish land.
There were colonies of Armenian artisans and shopkeepers and business men in important places on the line, like Afiun Kara Hissar or Konia : but there were an equal number of Greeks, and both in town and country the Turks outnumbered them all. But once Taurus was crossed, the Armenians came again to the fore. They were as much at, home in the Cilician plain and coastland as on the littoral of the Sea of Marmora and the Bosphorus. Adana, Tarsus and Mersina, with their Armenian churches and schools, had the same appearance of being Armenian cities as Adapazar or Ismid ; and if at this point the traveller had left the beaten track and worked his way up north-eastward into the Cilician highlands, he would have found himself for the first time in an almost exclusively Armenian country, and would have remarked a higher percentage of Armenians in the population than in any other district of Turkey till he came to Van. But this belt of Armenian villages, though thickly set, was quickly passed, and when you emerged on the south-eastern side of it and stepped out on to the rim of the Mesopotamian amphitheatre, you had reached one of the boundaries of the Armenian Dispersion There were Armenian outposts in the cities of the fringe---Marash, Aintab, Ourfa, Aleppo---but as soon as you plunged into the Mesopotamian steppe or the Syrian desert You were in the Arabic world, and had left Armenia behind(215).
The traveller would have seen more of the Armenians if he had turned off from the Anatolian Railway at Eski Shehr, a few hours' journey south of Adapazar, and taken the branch line eastward to Angora. At Angora the Armenians were again a conspicuous element, and the further east you went from Angora the more they increased in social and numerical importance. Beyond the Kizil Irmak (Halys), in the Sandjak of Kaisaria and the Vilayet of Sivas, they constituted the great majority of the urban middle class. The strongest centres of Armenian national life in Turkey were towns like Marsovan, Amasia, Zila, Tokat, Shabin Kara-Hissar or the City of Sivas itself, or such smaller places as Talas and Everek in the neighbourhood of Kaisaria. In all this region Turks and Armenians were about equally balanced, Turks in the country and Armenians in the town, and the proportions were the same in the riviera zone along the Black Sea coast---Samsoun and Kerasond and Trebizond---though here other racial elements were intermingled---Lazes and Greeks, and the advance guards of the Kurds.
Trebizond in ancient times was the last Greek colony towards the east, and it is always a place that beckons travellers forward, for it is the terminus of that ancient caravan route which stretches away across Persia into the far interior of the Asiatic continent. Anyone who started to follow this highway across the mountains, through Gumushkhané and Baibourt to Erzeroum, would have noticed little change in these first stages of his journey from what he had seen in the Vilayet of Sivas. There were the same Turkish countryside and the same Armenian towns, with, perhaps, an increasing Armenian element in the rural population, culminating in an actual preponderance of Armenian villages when you reached the plain of Erzeroum. With Erzeroum the second section of the caravan road begins ; it crosses from valley to valley among the headwaters of the Aras and the Eastern Euphrates (Mourad Su), and winds away eastward at the foot of Ararat in the direction of Bayazid and Tabriz. But here the explorer of Armenia must turn his face to the south, and, as he does so, his eyes are met by a rampart of mountains more forbidding than those he has traversed on his journey from the coast, which stretch across the horizon both east and west.
This mountain barrier bears many names. It is called the Bingöl Dagh where it faces Erzeroum; further westward it merges into the ill-famed Dersim; but the whole range has a common character. Its steeper slope is towards the north, and this slope is washed by the waters of the Aras and the Kara Su (Western Euphrates), which flow east and west in diametrically opposite directions, flanking the foot of the mountain wall with a deep and continuous moat.
Whoever crosses this moat and penetrates the mountains passes at once into a different world. The western part of Turkey, which we have been describing so far, is a more or less orderly, settled country---as orderly and settled, on the whole,. as any of the other Near Eastern countries that lie between the Euphrates and Vienna. The population is sedentary; it lives in agricultural villages and open country towns. But when you cross the Euphrates, you enter a land of insecurity and fear. The peasant and townsman live on sufferance; the mastery is with the nomad ; you are setting foot on the domain of the Kurd.
This insecurity was the chronic condition of Armenia proper, and it was not merely due to the unfortunate political experiences of the land. In its geographical configuration, as well as in its history, the Armenian plateau is a country of more accentuated characteristics and violent contrasts than the Anatolian Peninsula which adjoins it on the west. It contains vast stretches of rolling, treeless down, where the climate is too bleak and the soil too thin for cultivation ; and, again, there are sudden depressions where the soil is as rich and the climate as favourable as anywhere in the world. There are the deep ravines of rivers, like the Mourad Su, which carve their course haphazard across tableland and plain. There are volcanic cones, like the Sipan and the Nimroud Dagh, and lacustrine areas, like the basin of Lake Van. The geography of the country has partitioned it eternally between the shepherd and the cultivator---the comparatively dense and sedentary population of the plains and the scattered and wandering inhabitants of the highlands---between civilisation and development on the one hand and an arrested state of barbarism on the other. The Kurd and the Armenian are not merely different nationalities ; they are also antagonistic economic classes, and this antagonism existed in the country before ever the Kurdish encroachments began. Most of the nomadic tribes that frequent the Armenian plateau now pass for Kurds, but many of them are only nominally so. In the Dersim country, for instance, which coincides roughly with the peninsula formed by the Western and Eastern branches of the Euphrates (Kara. Su and Mourad Su), the Kurds are strongly diluted with the Zazas, whose language, as far as it has been investigated, bears at least as much resemblance to Armenian as to Kurdish, and whose primitive paganism, though it may have taken some colour from Christianity, is free to this day from the slightest veneer of Islam.(216) These Zazas represent an element which must have existed in the land from the beginning and have harassed the national rulers of Medieval and Ancient Armenia as much as it harasses the modern Armenian townsman and peasant or the local Ottoman authorities.
On the eve of the catastrophe of 1915, this region beyond the Euphrates was a treasure-house of mingled populations and diversified forms of social life. Its north-western bastion is the Dersim, a no-man's-land of winding valleys and tiny upland plains, backing northwards on to the great mountain retaining-wall, with its sheer fall to the Euphratean moat. In the Dersim innumerable little clans of Zazas and Kurds lived, and continue to live, their pastoral, brigand life, secluded from the arm of Ottoman authority. A traveller proceeding south from Erzeroum would give the Dersim a wide berth on his right and cross the peninsula at its neck, by the headwaters of the Aras and the plain of Khnyss . He would strike the course of the Mourad Su where it cuts successively through the fertile, level plains of Melazkerd, Boulanik and Moush, and here he would find himself again for a moment (or would have done so two years ago) in peaceful, almost civilised surroundings---populous country towns, with a girdle of agricultural villages and a peasantry even more uniformly Armenian than the population of the plain of Erzeroum. The plain of Moush is the meeting-place of all the routes that traverse the plateau. If you ascend from its south-eastern corner and mount the southern spurs of the Nimroud volcano, you suddenly find yourself on the edge of the extensive basin of Lake Van, and can follow a mountain road along its precipitous southern shore ; then you descend into the open valley of Hayotz-Tzor, cross a final ridge with the pleasant village of Artamid on its slopes, and arrive a few hours later in the city of Van itself.
Van, again, before April, 1915, was the populous, civilised capital of a province, with a picturesque citadel-rock overlooking the lake and open garden suburbs spreading east of it across the plain. The City of Van, with the surrounding lowlands that fringe the eastern and north-eastern shores of the lake, was more thoroughly Armenian than any part of the Ottoman Empire. In the Van Vilayet(217) alone the Armenians not merely outnumbered each other racial element singly, but were an absolute majority of the total population. These Armenians of Van played a leading and a valiant part in the events of 1915.
Yet Van, though a stronghold of Armenian nationality, was also the extremity, in this direction, of Armenian territory; south-east of Van the upper valley of the Zab and the basin of Lake Urmia were jointly inhabited by Christian Syrians and Moslem Kurds, until the Syrians, too, were involved in the Armenians' fate. To complete our survey, we have to retrace our steps round the northern shores of Lake Van till we arrive once more in the plain of Moush.
The plain of Moush is closed in on the south and south-west by another rampart of mountains, which forms the southern wall of the plateau and repeats with remarkable exactness the structure of that northern wall which the traveller encounters when he turns south from the plain of Erzeroum. This southern range, also, falls precipitously towards the north, first into the plain of Moush, and, further westward, into the waters of the Mourad Su, which wash it like a moat all the way to their junction with the Kara Su, below Harpout. And, like the northern range, again, the southern rampart unfolds itself to the south in a maze of high hills and tangled valleys, which only sink by degrees into the plains of Diyarbekir---a detached bay of the great Mesopotamian steppe. These southern highlands are known as the Sassoun ; they are a physiographical counterpart to the highlands of Dersim, and are likewise the harbour of semi-independent mountaineers. But whereas the Dersimlis are pagan Zazas or Moslem Kurds, and were at constant feud with their Armenian neighbours, the Sassounlis were themselves Armenians, and were in the closest intercourse with their kinsmen in the valley of the Mourad Su and in the plains of Moush and Boulanik.
Sassoun was one of the most interesting Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire. It was a federation of about forty mountain villages, which lived their own life in virtual independence of the Ottoman authorities at Bitlis or Diyarbekir, and held their own against the equally independent Kurdish tribes that ringed them round. They were prosperous shepherds and laborious cultivators of their mountain slopes---a perfect example of the cantonal phase of economic development, requiring nothing from outside and even manufacturing their own gunpowder. The Sassounli Armenians were in the same social stage as the Scottish Highlanders before 1745 ; the Armenians of Van, Sivas and Constantinople were people of the twentieth century, engaged in the same activities and living much the same life as the shopkeepers and business men of Vienna or London or New York.
Only an enterprising traveller would have struck up into Sassoun if he wished to make his way from Moush to Diyarbekir. The beaten track takes a longer course to the south-eastern corner of the plain, and then breasts the mountain wall to the south (where the branch-road turns eastward to Lake. Van). From Norshen, the last village of the plain, an easy pass leads over a saddle and brings the traveller unexpectedly to the important city of Bitlis, which lies under the shadow of the ridge, immediately south of the watershed. Bitlis is the capital of a vilayet, and before Djevdet Bey retreated upon it in June, 1915, there was a numerous Armenian element in its population. But Bitlis, again, was one of the limits of the Armenian dispersion. The waters which rise round the city flow southward to the Tigris, and the highroad winds down with them towards the plains, which are inhabited by a confused population of Jacobites(218) and Arabs, Turks and Kurds. If you had followed the Tigris upstream across the levels to Diyarbekir, you would have passed few Armenian villages on the road, even before June, 1915 ; and at Diyarbekir itself, a considerable city, there was only a weak Armenian colony---a feeble link in the chain of Armenian outposts on the fringe of the Mesopotamian steppe. But Diyarbekir is on the line of that Royal Road by which men have gone up from time immemorial from Baghdad and beyond to the coasts of the Bosphorus and the Egean. The highway runs on north-west across the flats, passes Arghana and Arghana Mines, climbs the southern escarpment of the Armenian plateau up the valley of the Arghana Su, skirts the Göldjik Lake on the watershed, and slopes down, still north-westwards, to Harpout, near the course of the Mourad Su. Many convoys of Armenian exiles traversed this road in the opposite direction during the summer months of 1915, on their way from their native plateau to the alien climate of the Arabian deserts. But our survey of the Armenians in Turkey is complete, and we can travel back in imagination from Harpout to Malatia, from Malatia to Sivas, and so on continually north-westward, till we return again to the point from which we started out.
This somewhat elaborate itinerary will have served its purpose if it has made clear the extraordinary vitality and versatility of the Armenian nation in the Ottoman Empire at the moment when its extermination was planned and attempted by the established Government of the country. The Government had been of little service to any of its subjects ; it had never initiated any social or economic developments on its own part, and had invariably made itself a clog upon the private enterprises of native or foreign individuals. Yet, under this pall of stagnation and repression, there were manifold stirrings of a new life. Wherever an opportunity presented itself, wherever the Government omitted to intervene, the Armenians were making indefatigable progress towards a better civilization. They were raising the pastoral and agricultural prosperity of their barren highlands and harassed plains; they were deepening and extending their education at the American schools ; they were laying the foundation of local industries in the Vilayet of Sivas ; they were building up Ottoman banking and shipping and finance at Trebizond and Adana and Constantinople. They were kindling the essential spark of energy in the Ottoman Empire, and anyone acquainted with Near Eastern history will inevitably compare their promise with the promise of the Greeks a century before. The apologists of the Ottoman Government will seize with eagerness upon this comparison. "The Greeks," they will say, "revolted as soon as they had fallen into this state of fermentation. The Young Turks did more prudently than Sultan Mahmoud in forestalling future trouble." But if we examine the relations between the Ottoman Government and the Armenian people we shall find that this argument recoils upon its authors' heads.
IV. THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE AND THE OTTOMAN GOVERNMENT.
When the Ottoman Government entered the European War in 1914 it had ruled Armenia for just four hundred years, and still had for its subjects a majority of the Armenian people. Anyone who inquires into the relations between the Government and the governed during this period of Near Eastern history will find the most contradictory opinions expressed. On the one hand he will be told that the Armenians, like the rest of the Christians in Turkey, were classed as "Rayah " (cattle) by the dominant race, and that this one word sums up their irremediable position ; that they were not treated as citizens because they were not even treated as men. On the other hand, he will hear that the Ottoman Empire has been more liberal to its subject nationalities than many states in Western Europe ; that the Armenians have been perfectly free to live their own life under a paternal government, and that the friction between the Government and its subjects has been due to the native perversity and instability of the Armenian character, or, worse still, to a revolutionary poison instilled by some common enemy from without. Both these extreme views are out of perspective, but each of them represents a part of the truth.
It is undoubtedly true (to take the Turkish case first) that the Armenians have derived certain benefits from the Ottoman dispensation. The caste division between Moslem and Rayah, for instance, may stamp the Ottoman "State Idea" as mediaeval and incapable of progress ; but this has injured the state as a whole more appreciably than the penalised section of it, for extreme penalisation works both ways. The Government ruled out the Christians so completely from the dominant Moslem commonwealth that it suffered and even encouraged them to form communities of their own. The "Rayah" became "Millets"---not yoke-oxen, but unshackled herds.
These Christian Millets were instituted by Sultan Mohammed II, after he had conquered Constantinople in 1453 and set himself to reorganise the Ottoman State as the conscious heir of the East Roman Empire. They are national corporations with written charters, often of an elaborate kind. Each of them is presided over by a Patriarch, who holds office at the discretion of the Government, but is elected by the community and is the recognised intermediary between the two, combining in his own person the headship of a voluntary "Rayah" association and the status of an Ottoman official. The special function thus assigned to the Patriarchates gives the Millets, as an institution, an ecclesiastical character(220) ; but in the Near East a church is merely the foremost aspect of a nationality, and the authority of the Patriarchates extends to the control of schools, and even to the administration of certain branches of civil law. The Millets, in fact, are practically autonomous bodies in all that concerns religion, culture and social life ; but it is a maimed autonomy, for it is jealously debarred from any political expression. The establishment of the Millets is a recognition, and a palliation, of the pathological anomaly of the Near East---the political disintegration of Near Eastern peoples and the tenacity with which they have clung, in spite of it, to their corporate spiritual life.
The organisation of the Millets was not a gain to all the Christian nations that had been subjected by the Ottoman power. Certain orthodox populations, like the Bulgars and the Serbs, actually lost an ecclesiastical autonomy which they had enjoyed before, and were merged in the Millet of the Greeks, under the Orthodox Patriarch at Constantinople. The Armenians, on the other hand, improved their position. As so-called schismatics, they had hitherto existed on sufferance under Orthodox and Catholic governments, but the Osmanlis viewed all varieties of Christian with an impartial eye. Mohammed II. summoned the Gregorian Bishop of the Armenian colony at Broussa, and raised him to the rank of an Armenian Patriarch at Constantinople. The Ottoman conquest thus left the Gregorian Armenians their religious individuality and put them on a legal equality with their neighbours of the Orthodox Faith, and the same privileges were extended in time to the Armenians in communion with other churches. The Gregorian Millet was chartered in 1462, the Millet of Armenian Catholics in 1830, and the Millet of Armenian Protestants in the 'forties of the nineteenth century, as a result of the foundation of the American Missions.
The Armenians of the Dispersion, therefore, profited, in that respect, by Ottoman rule, and even in the Armenian homeland the account stood, on the whole, in the Ottoman Government's favour. The Osmanlis are often blamed for having given the Kurds a footing in this region, as a political move in their struggle with Persia; but the Kurds were not, originally, such a scourge to the Armenians as the Seljuks, Mongols, or Kara Koyunli, who had harried the land before, or as the Persians themselves, whom the Osmanlis and the Kurds ejected from the country. The three centuries of Kurdish feudalism under Ottoman suzerainty that followed Sultan Selim's campaign of 1514 were a less unhappy period for the Armenians than the three centuries and more of anarchy that had preceded them. They were a time of torpor before recuperation, and it was the Ottoman Government again that, by a change in its Kurdish policy, enabled this recuperation to set in. In the early part of the nineteenth century a vigorous anti-feudal, centralising movement was initiated by Sultan Mahmoud, a reformer who has become notorious for his unsuccessful handling of the Greek and Serbian problems without receiving the proper credit for his successes further east. He turned his attention to the Kurdish chieftains in 1834, and by the middle of the century his efforts had practically broken their power. Petty feudalism was replaced by a bureaucracy centred in Constantinople. The new officialdom was not ideal; it had new vices of its own ; but it was impartial, by comparison, towards the two races whom it had to govern, for the class prejudice of the Moslem against the well-behaved Rayah was balanced by the exasperation of the professional administrator with the unconscionable Kurd. In any case, this remodelling of the Ottoman State in the early decades of the nineteenth century introduced a new epoch in the history of the Armenian people. Coinciding, as it did, with the establishment of the American Missions and the chartering of the Catholic and Protestant Millets, it opened to the Armenians opportunities of which they availed themselves to the full. An intellectual and economic renaissance of Armenian life began, parallel in many respects to the Greek renaissance a century before.
This comparison brings us back to the question: Was the Armenian revival of the nineteenth century an inevitable menace to the sovereignty and integrity of the Ottoman State ? Is the disastrous breach between Armenian and Turk, which has actually occurred, simply the fruit of wrong-headed Armenian ambitions ? That is the Turkish contention; but here the Turkish case breaks down, and we shall find the truth on the Armenian side.
The parallel with the Greek renaissance is misleading, if it implies a parallel with the Greek revolution. The Greek movement towards political separatism was, in a sense, the outcome of the general spiritual movement that preceded it; but it was hardly an essential consequence, and certainly not a fortunate one. The Greek War of Independence liberated one fraction of the Greek race at the price of exterminating most of the others and sacrificing the favoured position which the Greek element had previously enjoyed throughout the Ottoman Empire. It was not an encouraging precedent for the Armenians, and the objections to following it in their own case were more formidable still. As we have seen, no portion of Ottoman territory was exclusively inhabited by them, and they were nowhere even in an absolute majority, except in certain parts of the Province of Van, so that they had no natural rallying point for a national revolt, such as the Greeks had in the Islands and the Morea. They were scattered from one end to another of the Ottoman Empire; the whole Empire was their heritage, and it was a heritage that they must necessarily share with the Turks, who were in a numerical majority and held the reins of political power. The alternative to an Ottoman State was not an Armenian State, but a partition among the Powers, which would have ended the ambitions of Turk and Armenian alike. The Powers concerned were quite ready for a partition, if only they could agree upon a division of the spoils. This common inheritance of the Armenians and the Turks was potentially one of the richest countries in the Old World, and one of the few that had not yet been economically developed. Its native inhabitants, still scanty, backward and divided against themselves, were not yet capable of defending their title against spoilers from without ; they only maintained it at present by a fortuitous combination in the balance of power, which might change at any moment. The problem for the Armenians was not how to overthrow the Ottoman Empire but how to preserve it, and their interest in its preservation was even greater than that of their Turkish neighbours and co-heirs. Our geographical survey has shown that talent and temperament had brought most of the industry, commerce, finance and skilled intellectual work of Turkey into the Armenians' hands. The Greeks may still have competed with them on the Ægean fringe, and the Sephardi Jews in the Balkans, but they had the whole interior of the Empire to themselves, with no competition to fear from the agricultural Turks or the pastoral Kurds. And if the Empire were preserved by timely reforms from within, the position of the Armenians would become still more favourable, for they were the only native element capable of raising the Empire economically, intellectually and morally to a European standard, by which alone its existence could permanently be secured. The main effort must be theirs, and they would reap the richest reward.
Thus, from the Armenian point of view, a national entente with the Turks was an object of vital importance, to be pursued for its ultimate results in spite of present difficulties and drawbacks. About the middle of the nineteenth century there seemed every likelihood of its being attained. The labours of Sultan Mahmoud and the influence of Great Britain and France had begun to inoculate the Turkish ruling class with liberal ideas. An admirable "Law of Nationalities" was promulgated, and there was a project for a parliamentary constitution. It looked, to an optimist, as if the old mediaeval caste-division of Moslem and Rayah might die away and allow Armenian, Turk and Kurd to find their true relation to one another---not as irreconcilable sects or races, but as different social elements in the same community, whose mutual interest was to co-operate for a common end.
This was the logical policy for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire to pursue, and the logic of it was so clear that they have clung to it through difficulties and drawbacks sufficient to banish logic altogether ---" difficulties" which amounted to a bankruptcy of political sense in the Imperial Government, and "drawbacks" which culminated in official massacres of the Armenian population. There were two causes of this sinister turn of events: the external crisis through which the Empire passed in the years 1875-8, and the impression this crisis made upon Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid, who came to the throne in 1876, when it was entering upon its gravest phase.
In these years the Empire had been brought to the verge of ruin by the revolt of a subject Christian population, the Bosniak Serbs, which spread to the other subject races in the Balkan provinces, and by a momentary breakdown in the diplomatic mechanism of the European balance of power, which enabled Russia to throw her military force into the scales on the Balkan rebels' behalf. The ruin was arrested and partially repaired, when Turkey lay prostrate under Russia's heel, by a reassertion of the balance of power, which deprived Russia of most of her gains and half the Balkan Christians of their new-won liberties. Abd-ul-Hamid was clever enough to learn from these experiences, but not, unfortunately, to learn aright, and he devoted all his astuteness to carrying out a policy far more injurious to the Empire than the troubles it was meant to avert. He seems to have inferred from the war with Russia that Turkey was not and never would be strong enough to hold its own against a first-class power ; it was not her internal strength that had saved her, but the external readjustment of forces. Therefore, any attempt to strengthen the Empire from within, by reconciling its racial elements and developing its natural resources, was Utopian and irrelevant to the problem. The only object of importance was to insure against an attack by any single Power by keeping all the Great Powers in a state of jealous equilibrium. Now the breakdown of this equilibrium, in 1877, which had been so disastrous for Turkey, had been directly caused by an antecedent disturbance of equilibrium within the Empire itself. A subject Christian nationality had tried to break away violently from the Ottoman body-politic. Here was the root of the whole trouble, to Abd-ul-Hamid's mind, and the primary object of his policy must be to prevent such a thing from happening again. The subject nationalities of the Empire were not for him unrealised assets; they were potential destroyers of the State, more formidable even than the foreign Powers. Their potentialities must be neutralised, and the surest course, with them as with the Powers, was to play them off against one another. In fine, the policy of Abd-ul-Hamid was the exact antithesis of the instinctive Armenian policy which we have indicated above; it was not to strengthen the Empire by bringing the nationalities into harmony, but to weaken the nationalities, at whatever cost to the Empire, by setting them to cut each other's throats. Abd-ul-Hamid applied this policy for forty years. The Macedonians and the Armenians were his special victims, but only the Armenians concern us here.
It was inevitable that the Armenians should be singled out by Abd-ul-Hamid for repression. When Turkey sued for peace in 1878, the Russian troops were in occupation of the greater part of the Armenian plateau, and the Russian plenipotentiaries inserted an Article (No. 16) in the Treaty of San Stefano making the evacuation of these provinces conditional upon the previous introduction of reforms in their administration by the Ottoman Government. A concrete scheme for the reorganisation of the six vilayets in question(221) had already been drawn up by a delegation of their Armenian inhabitants. It provided for the creation of an Armenian Governor-General, empowered to appoint and remove the officials subordinate to him; a mixed gendarmerie of Armenians and the sedentary elements in the Moslem population, to the exclusion of the nomadic Kurds; a general assembly, consisting of Moslem and Christian deputies in equal numbers; and equal rights for every creed. The Ottoman Government had approved and even encouraged this project of provincial autonomy when it feared that the alternative was the cession of the provinces to Russia. As soon as it had made certain of the Russian evacuation, its approval turned to indifference; and when the European Congress met at Berlin to revise the San Stefano Treaty, the Ottoman emissaries exerted themselves to quash the project altogether. In this they were practically successful, for the Treaty drawn up at Berlin by the Congress merely engaged the Ottoman Government, in general terms(222), to introduce "ameliorations" in the " provinces inhabited by Armenians," without demanding any guarantee at all(223). The Russian troops were withdrawn and the ameliorations were a dead letter. The Ottoman Government was reminded of them, in 1880, by a collective Note from the six Powers. But it left the Note unanswered, and after the diplomatic démarches had dragged on for two years the question was shelved, on Bismarck's suggestion, because no Power except Great Britain would press it.
The seed of the "Armenian Reforms" had thus fallen upon stony ground, except in the mind of Abd-ul-Hamid, where it lodged and rankled till it bore the fruit of the "Armenian Massacres." The project had not really been a menace to Ottoman sovereignty and integrity. It was merely a proposal to apply in, six vilayets that elementary measure of "amelioration" which was urgently needed by the Empire as a whole, and without, which it could never begin to develop its internal strength. But, to Abd-ul-Hamid it was unforgivable, for to him every concession to a subject Christian nationality was suspect. He had seen the Bulgars given ecclesiastical autonomy by the Ottoman Government in 1870 and then raised by Russia, within eight years, into a semi-independent political principality. Armenian autonomy had been averted for the moment, but the parallel might still hold good, for Russia's influence over the Armenians had been increasing.
Russia had conquered the Armenian provinces of Persia in 1828(224), and this had brought within her frontier the Monastery of Etchmiadzin, in the Khanate of Erivan, which was the seat of the Katholikos of All the Armenians. The power of this Katholikos was at that time very much in abeyance. He was an ecclesiastical relic of, the ancient united Armenian Kingdom of Tigranes and Tiridates, which had been out of existence for fourteen hundred years. There was another Katholikos at Sis, a relic of the mediaeval kingdom of Cilicia, who did not acknowledge his supremacy, and he was thrown into the shade altogether by the Armenian Patriarch at Constantinople, who was the official head of the Armenian Millet in the Ottoman Empire---at that time an overwhelming majority of the Armenian people.
But Russian diplomacy succeeded in reviving the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin's authority. In the 'forties of the nineteenth century, when Russian influence at Constantinople was at its height and Russian protection seemed the only recourse for Turkey against the ambition of Mehemet Ali, the ecclesiastical supremacy of Etchmiadzin over Constantinople and Sis was definitely established, and the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, a resident in Russian territory, became once more the actual as well as the titular head of the whole Gregorian Church. Russia had thus acquired an influence over the Armenians as a nation, and individual Armenians were acquiring a reciprocal influence in Russia. They had risen to eminence, not only in commerce, but in the public service and in the army. They had distinguished themselves particularly in the war of 1877. Loris Melikov, Lazarev and Tergoukasev, three of, the most successful generals on the Russian side, were of Armenian nationality. Melikov had taken the fortress of Kars, and the Treaty of Berlin left his conquest in Russia's possession with a zone of territory that rounded off the districts ceded by Persia fifty years before. The Russian frontier was thus pushed forward on to the Armenian plateau, and now included an important Armenian population---important enough to make its mark on the general life of the Russian Empire(225) and to serve as a national rallying-point for the Armenians who still remained on the Ottoman side of the line.
Such considerations outweighed all others in Abd-ul-Hamid's mind. His Armenian subjects must be deprived of their formidable vitality, and he decided to crush them by resuscitating the Kurds. From 1878 onwards he encouraged their lawlessness, and in 1891 he deliberately undid the work of his predecessor, Mahmoud. The Kurdish chieftains were taken again into favour and decorated with Ottoman military rank; their tribes were enrolled as squadrons of territorial cavalry ; regimental badges and modern rifles were served out to them from the Government stores, and their retaining fee was a free hand to use their official status and their official weapons as they pleased against their Armenian neighbours. At the same time the latter were systematically disarmed ; the only retaliation open to them was the formation of secret revolutionary societies, and this fitted in entirely with Abd-ul-Hamid's plans, for it made a racial conflict inevitable. The disturbances began in 1893 with the posting up of revolutionary placards in Yozgad and Marsovan. This was soon followed by an open breach between Moslem and Christian in the. districts of Moush and Sassoun, and there was a rapid concentration of troops---some of them Turkish regulars, but most of them Hamidié Kurds. Sassoun was besieged for several months, and fell in 1894. The Sassounlis---men, women and children---were savagely massacred by the Turks and Kurds, and the attention of Great Britain was aroused. In the winter of 1894-5 Great Britain persuaded France and Russia to join her in reminding the Ottoman Government of its pledge to introduce provincial reforms, and in the spring they presented a concrete programme for the administration of the Six Vilayets. In its final form it was a perfunctory project, and the counter-project which the Ottoman Government announced its intention of applying in its stead was more illusory still. It was promulgated in 1895, but the first of a new series of organised massacres had already taken place a few days earlier, at Trebizond, and in the following months the slaughter was extended to one after another of the principal towns of the Empire. These atrocities were nearly all committed against peaceful, unarmed urban populations. The only place that resisted was Zeitoun, which held out. for six months against a Turkish army, and was finally amnestied by the mediation of the Powers. The anti-Armenian outbreaks were instigated and controlled by the Central Government, and were crowned, in August, 1896, by the great massacre at Constantinople, where for two days the Armenians, at the Government's bidding, were killed indiscriminately in the streets, until the death-roll amounted to many thousands. Then Abd-ul-Hamid held his hand. He had been feeling the pulse of public opinion, both abroad and at home, and he saw that he had gone far enough(226). In all more than 100,000 men, women and children had perished, and for the moment he had sufficiently crippled the Armenian element in his Empire.
Yet this Macchiavellian policy was ultimately as futile as it was wicked. In the period after the massacres the Armenian population in Turkey was certainly reduced, partly by the actual slaughter and partly by emigration abroad. But this only weakened the Empire without permanently paralysing the Armenian race. The emigrants struck new roots in the United States and in the Russian Caucasus, acquired new resources, enlisted new sympathies ; and Russia was the greatest gainer of all. The Armenians had little reason, at the time, to look towards Russia with special sympathy or hope. In Russia, as in Turkey, the war of 1877-8 had been followed by a political reaction, which was aggravated by the assassination of the Tsar, Alexander II., in 1881 ; and the Armenians, as an energetic, intellectual, progressive element in the Russian Empire, were classed by the police with the revolutionaries, and came under their heavy hand. Yet once an Armenian was on the Russian side of the frontier his life and property at least were safe. He could be sure of reaping the fruits of his labour, and had not to fear sudden death in the streets. During the quarter of a century that followed the Treaty of Berlin, the Armenian population of the Russian provinces increased remarkably in prosperity and numbers, and now, after the massacres, they were reinforced by a constant stream of Ottoman refugees. The centre of gravity of the Armenian race was shifting more and more from Ottoman to Russian territory. Russia has profited by the crimes of her neighbours. The Hamidian régime lasted from 1878 to 1908, and did all that any policy could do to widen the breach between the Ottoman State and the Armenian people. Yet the natural community of interest was so strong that even thirty years of repression did not make the Armenians despair of Ottoman regeneration.
Nothing is more significant than the conduct of the Armenians in 1908, when Abd-ul-Hamid was overthrown by the Young Turkish Revolution, and there was a momentary possibility that the Empire might be reformed and preserved by the initiative of the Turks themselves. At this crisis the real attitude of the different nationalities in the Empire was revealed. The Kurds put up a fight for Abd-ul-Hamid, because they rejoiced in the old dispensation. The Macedonians---Greek, Bulgar and Serb---who had been the Armenians' principal fellow-victims in the days of oppression, paid the Constitution lip-homage and secretly prepared to strike. They were irreconcilable irredentists, and saw in the reform of the Empire simply an obstacle to their secession from it. They took counsel with their kinsmen in the independent national States of Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, and, four years later, the Balkan League attacked Turkey and tore away her Macedonian provinces by force.
The Armenians, on the other hand, threw themselves wholeheartedly into the service of the new régime. As soon as the Ottoman Constitution was restored, the Armenian political parties abandoned their revolutionary programme in favour of parliamentary action, and co-operated in Parliament with the Young Turkish bloc so long as Young Turkish policy remained in any degree liberal or democratic. The terrible Adana massacres, which occurred less than a year after the Constitution had been proclaimed, might have damped the Armenians' enthusiasm (though at first the proof that the Young Turks were implicated in them was not so clear as it has since become). Yet they showed their loyalty in 1912, when the Turks were fighting for their existence. It was only under the new laws that the privilege and duty of military service had been extended to the Christian as well as the Moslem citizens of the Empire, and the disastrous Balkan Campaign was the first opportunity that Armenian soldiers were given of doing battle for their common heritage. But they bore themselves so well in this ordeal that they were publicly commended by their Turkish commanders. Thus, in war and peace, in the Army and in Parliament, the Armenians worked for the salvation of the Ottoman Commonwealth, from the accession of the Young Turks in 1908 till their intervention in the European War in 1914. It is impossible to reconcile with this fact the Turkish contention that in 1914 they suddenly reversed their policy and began treacherously to plot for the Ottoman Empire's destruction.
A Summary of Armenian History, con't
Table of Contents