1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Armenia
ARMENIA (old Persian Armina, Armenian Hayasdan, or Hayq), the popular modern name of a district south of the Caucasus and Black Sea, which formed part of the ancient Armenian kingdom. The name, which first occurs in the cuneiform inscriptions of Darius Hystaspis, supplanted the earlier Urardhu, or Ararat, but its origin is unknown. In its widest extent Armenia stretched from 37° to 49° E. long., and from 37½° to 41½° N. lat.; but this area was never, or only for a brief period, united under one king. Armenia is now divided between Persia, Russia and Turkey, and the three boundaries have a common point on Little Ararat.
Geographically, Armenia is a continuation westward of the great Iranian plateau. On the north it descends abruptly to the Black Sea; on the south it breaks down in rugged terraces to the lowlands of Mesopotamia; and on the east and west it sinks more gradually to the lower plateaus of Persia and Asia Minor. Above the general level of the plateau, 6000 ft., rise bare ranges of mountains, which run from north-east to south-west at an altitude of 8000-12,000 ft., and culminate in Ararat, 17,000 ft. Between the ranges are broad elevated valleys, through which the rivers of the plateau flow before entering the rugged gorges that convey their waters to lower levels. Geologically, Armenia consists of archaic rocks upon which, towards the north, are superimposed Palaeozoic, and towards the south later sedimentary rocks. The last have been pierced by volcanic outbursts that extend southward to Lake Van. Amongst the higher mountains are the two Ararats; Ala-geuz Dagh, north of the Aras; Bingeul Dagh, south of Erzerum; and the peaks near Lake Van. The rivers are the Euphrates, Tigris, Aras, Churuk Su (Chorokh) and Kelkit Irmak, all rising on the plateau. The more important lakes are Van, 5100 ft., about twice the size of the Lake of Geneva, and Urmia, 4000 ft., both salt; Gokcha or Sevan, 5870 ft., discharging into the Aras; and Chaldir, into the Kars Chai. The aspect of the plateau is dreary and monotonous. The valleys are wide expanses of arable land, and the hills are for the most part grass-covered and treeless. But the gorges of the Euphrates and Tigris, and their tributaries, cannot be surpassed in wildness and grandeur. The climate is varied. In the higher districts the winter is long and the cold severe; whilst the summer is short, dry and hot. In Erzerum the temperature ranges from −22° to 84° F., and snow sometimes falls in June. In the valley of the Aras, and in the western and southern districts, the climate is more moderate. Most of the towns lie high, from 4000 to 6000 ft. The villages are usually built on gentle slopes, in which the houses are partially excavated as a protection against the severity of the weather. Many of the early towns were on or near the Araxes, and amongst their ruins are the remains of churches which throw light on the history of Christian architecture in the East. Armenia is rich in mineral wealth, and there are many hot and cold mineral springs. The vegetation varies according to the locality. Cereals and hardy fruits grow on the higher ground, whilst rice is cultivated in the hot, well-watered valley of the Araxes. The summer is so hot that the vine grows at much higher altitudes than it does in western Europe, and the cotton tree and all southern fruit trees are cultivated in the deeper valleys. On the fine pasture lands which now support the flocks of the Kurds, the horses and mules, so celebrated in ancient times, were reared. Trout are found in the rivers, and a small herring in Lake Van. The country abounds in romantic scenery; that of the district of Ararat especially has been celebrated by patriotic historians like Moses of Chorene and Lazarus of Pharb.
Population.—Accurate statistics cannot be obtained; but it is estimated that in the nine vilayets, which include Turkish Armenia, there are 925,000 Gregorian, Roman Catholic and Protestant Armenians, 645,000 other Christians, 100,000 Jews, Gypsies, &c., and 4,460,000 Moslems. The Armenians, taking the most favourable estimate, are in a majority in nine kazas or sub-districts only (seven near Van, and two near Mush) out of 159. In Russian Armenia there are 960,000 Armenians, and in Persian Armenia 130,000. According to an estimate made by General Zelenyi for the Caucasus Geographical Society (Zapiski, vol. xviii., Tiflis, 1896, with map), the population of the nine Turkish vilayets, Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Kharput (Mamuret-el-Aziz). Diarbekr, Sivas, Aleppo, Adana and Trebizond, was 6,000,000 (Armenians, 913,875, or 15%; other Christians, 632,875, or 11%; and Moslems, 4,453,250, or 74%). In the first five vilayets which contain most of the Armenians, the population was 2,642,000 (Armenians, 633,250, or 24%; other Christians, 179,875, or 7%; and Moslems, 1,828,875, or 69%); and in the seven Armenian kazas the population was 282,375 (Armenians, 184,875, or 65%; other Christians, 1000, or 0.3%; and Moslems, 96,500, or 34.7%). In 1897 there were 970,656 Armenians in Russia, of whom 827,634 were in the provinces of Erivan, Elisavetpol and Tiflis.
The total number of Armenians is estimated at 2,900,000 (in Turkey, 1,500,000; Russia, 1,000,000; Persia, 150,000; Europe, America and East Indies, 250,000).
History.—The history of Armenia has been largely influenced by its physical features. The isolation of the valleys, especially in winter, encouraged a tendency to separation, which invariably showed itself when the central power was weak. The rugged mountains have always been the home of hardy mountaineers impatient of control, and the sanctuary to which the lowlanders fled for safety in times of invasion. The country stands as an open doorway between the East and the West. Through its long valleys run the roads that connect the Iranian plateau with the fertile lands and protected harbours of Asia Minor, and for its possession nations have contended from the remotest past.
The original inhabitants of Armenia are unknown, but, about the middle of the 9th century B.C., the mass of the people belonged to that great family of tribes which seems to have been spread over western Asia and to have had a common Ethnology. non-Aryan language. Mixed with these proto-Armenians, there was an important Semitic element of Assyrian and Hebrew origin. In the 7th century B.C., between 640 and 600, the country was conquered by an Aryan people, who imposed their language, and possibly their name, upon the vanquished, and formed a military aristocracy that was constantly recruited from Persia and Parthia. Politically the two races soon amalgamated, but, except in the towns, there was apparently little intermarriage, for the peasants in certain districts closely resemble the proto-Armenians, as depicted on their monuments. After the Arab and Seljuk invasions, there was a large emigration of Aryan and Semitic Armenians to Constantinople and Cilicia; and all that remained of the aristocracy was swept away by the Mongols and Tatars. This perhaps explains the diversity of type and characteristics amongst the modern Armenians. In the recesses of Mount Taurus the peasants are tall, handsome, though somewhat sharp-featured, agile and brave. In Armenia and Asia Minor they are robust, thick-set and coarse-featured, with straight black hair and large hooked noses. They are good cultivators of the soil, but are poor, superstitious, ignorant and unambitious, and they live in semi-subterranean houses as their ancestors did 800 years B.C. The townsmen, especially in the large towns, have more regular features—often of the Persian type. They are skilled artisans, bankers and merchants, and are remarkable for their industry, their quick intelligence, their aptitude for business, and for that enterprising spirit which led their ancestors, in Roman times, to trade with Scythia, China and India. The upper classes are polished and well educated, and many have occupied high positions in the public service in Turkey, Russia, Persia and Egypt. The Armenians are essentially an Oriental people, possessing, like the Jews, whom they resemble in their exclusiveness and widespread dispersion, a remarkable tenacity of race and faculty of adaptation to circumstances. They are frugal, sober, industrious and intelligent, and their sturdiness of character has enabled them to preserve their nationality and religion under the sorest trials. They are strongly attached to old manners and customs, but have also a real desire for progress which is full of promise. On the other hand they are greedy of gain, quarrelsome in small matters, self-seeking and wanting in stability; and they are gifted with a tendency to exaggeration and a love of intrigue which has had an unfortunate influence on their history. They are deeply separated by religious differences, and their mutual jealousies, their inordinate vanity their versatility and their cosmopolitan character must always be an obstacle to the realization of the dreams of the nationalists. The want of courage and self-reliance, the deficiency in truth and honesty sometimes noticed in connexion with them, are doubtless due to long servitude under an unsympathetic government.
The early history of Armenia, more or less mythical, is partly based on traditions of the Biainian kings (see Ararat), and is interwoven with the Bible narrative, of which a knowledge was possibly obtained from captive Jews settled Ancient kingdom. in the country by Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs. The legendary kings are but faint echoes of the kings of Biainas; the story of Semiramis and Ara is but another form of the myth of Venus and Adonis; and tradition has clothed Tigranes, the reputed friend of Cyrus, with the transient glory of the opponent of Lucullus. The fall of the Biainian kingdom, perhaps overthrown by Cyaxares, was apparently soon followed by an immigration of Aryan (Medo-Persian) races, including the progenitors of the Armenians. But they spread slowly, for the “Ten Thousand,” when crossing the plateau to Trebizond, 401–400 B.C., met no Armenians after leaving the villages four days’ march beyond the Teleboas, now Kara Su. Under the Medes and Persians Armenia was a satrapy governed by a member of the reigning family; and after the battle of Arbela, 331 B.C., it was ruled by Persian governors appointed by Alexander and his successors. Ardvates, 317–284 B.C., freed himself from Seleucid control; and after the defeat of Antiochus the Great by the Romans, 190 B.C., Artaxias (Ardashes), and Zadriades, the governors of Armenia Major and Armenia Minor, became independent kings, with the concurrence of Rome. (See Tigranes.) Artaxias established his capital at Artaxata on the Araxes, and his most celebrated successor was Tigranes (Dikran), 94–56 B.C., the son-in-law of Mithradates VI., the Great. Tigranes founded a new capital, Tigranocerta, in northern Mesopotamia, which he modelled on Nineveh and Babylon, and peopled with Greek and other captives. Here, and at Antioch, he played the part of “great king” in Asia until his refusal to surrender his father-in-law involved him in war with Rome. Defeated, 69 B.C.}, by Lucullus beneath the walls of his capital, he surrendered his conquests to Pompey, 66 B.C., who had driven Mithradates across the Phasis, and was permitted to hold Armenia as a vassal state of Rome.
The campaigns of Lucullus and Pompey brought Rome into delicate relations with Parthia. Armenia, although politically dependent upon Rome, was connected with Parthia by geographical position, a common language and faith, Under
Empire. intermarriage and similarity of arms and dress. It had never been Hellenized, as the provinces of Asia Minor had been; the Roman provincial system was never applied to it; and the policy of Rome towards it was never consistent. The country became the field upon which the East and West contended for mastery, and the struggle ended for a time in the partition of Armenia, A.D. 387, between Rome and Persia. The Roman portion was soon added to the Diocesis Pontica. The Persian portion, Pers-Armenia, remained a vassal state under an Arsacid prince until 428. It was afterwards governed by Persian and Armenian noblemen selected by the “great king,” and entitled marzbans. Before the partition, Tiridates, converted by St Gregory, “the Illuminator,” had established Christianity as the religion of the state, and set an example followed later by Constantine. After the partition, the invention of the Armenian alphabet, and the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, 410, drew the Armenians together, and the discontinuance of Greek in the Holy Offices relaxed the ecclesiastical dependence on Constantinople, which ceased entirely when the Patriarch, 491, refused to accept the decrees of the council of Chalcedon. The rule of the marzbans was marked by relentless persecution of the Christians, forced conversions to Magism, frequent insurrections and the rise to importance of the great families founded by men of Assyrian, Parthian, Persian, Syrian and Jewish origin, and in some cases of royal blood, who had been governors of districts, or holders of fiefs under the Arsacids. Amongst the marzbans were Jewish Bagratids and Persian Mamegonians; and one of the latter family, Vartan, made himself independent (571–578), with Byzantine aid. In 632 the victories of Heraclius restored Armenia to the Byzantines; but the war that followed the Arab invasion, 636, left the country in the hands of the caliphs, who set over it Arab and Armenian governors (ostikans). One of the governors, the Bagratid Ashod I., was crowned king of Armenia by the caliph Motamid, 885, and founded a dynasty which ended with Kagig II. in 1079. A little later the Ardzrunian Kagig, governor of Vaspuragan or Van, was crowned king of that province by the caliph Moktadir, 908, and his descendants ruled at Van and Sivas until 1080. The Bagratids founded dynasties at Kars, 962–1080, and in Georgia, which they held until its absorption, 1801, by Russia. From 984 to 1085 the country from Diarbekr to Melasgerd was ruled under the suzerainty first of Arabs then of Byzantines and Seljuks, by the Mervanid dynasty of Kurds, called princes of Abahuni (Ἀπαχουνῆς). The Arab invasion drove many Armenian noblemen to Constantinople, where they intermarried with the old Roman families or became soldiers of fortune. Artavasdes, an Arsacid, usurped the Byzantine throne for two years; Leo V., an Ardzrunian, and John Zimisces, became emperors; whilst Manuel, the Mamegonian, and others were amongst the best generals of the empire. In 991, and again in 1021, Basil II. invaded Armenia, and in the latter year Senekherim, king of Vaspuragan, exchanged his kingdom for Sivas and its territory, where he settled down with many Armenian emigrants. Basil’s policy was to make the great Armenian fortresses, garrisoned by imperial troops, the first line of defence on his eastern frontier; but it failed in the hands of his feeble successors, who thought more of converting heretical Armenia than of defending its frontier. The king of Ani, Kagig II., was compelled to exchange his kingdom for estates in Cappadocia. The country was raided by Seljuks and harried by Byzantine soldiers, and the miseries of the people were regarded as gain to the Orthodox church. After the defeat and capture of Romanus IV. by Alp Arslan, 1071, Armenia formed part of the Seljuk empire until it split up, 1157, into petty states, ruled by Arabs, Kurds and Seljuks, who were in turn swept away by the Mongol invasion, 1235. For more than three centuries after the appearance of the Seljuks, Armenia was traversed by a long Medieval Partition. succession of nomad tribes whose one aim was to secure good pasturage for their flocks on their way to the richer lands of Asia Minor. The cultivators were driven from the plains, agriculture was destroyed, and the country was seriously impoverished when its ruin was completed by the ravages and wholesale butcheries of Timur. Many Armenians fled to the mountains, where they embraced Islam, and intermarried with the Kurds, or purchased security by paying blackmail to Kurdish chiefs. Others migrated to Cappadocia or to Cilicia, where the Bagratid Rhupen had founded, 1080, a small principality which, gradually extending its limits, became the kingdom of Lesser Armenia. This Christian kingdom in the midst of Moslem states, hostile to the Byzantines, giving valuable support to the leaders of the crusades, and trading with the great commercial cities of Italy, had a stormy existence of about 300 years. Internal disorders, due to attempts by the later Lusignan kings to make their subjects conform to the Roman Church, facilitated its conquest by Egypt, 1375. The memory of Kiligia (Cilicia) is enshrined in a popular song, and at Zeitun, in the recesses of Mount Taurus, a small Armenian community has hitherto maintained almost complete independence. After the death of Timur, Armenia formed part of the territories of the Turkoman dynasties of Ak- and Kara-Kuyunli, and under their milder rule the seat of the Catholicus, which, during the Seljuk invasion, had been moved first to Sivas, and then to Lesser Armenia, was re-established, 1441, at Echmiadzin.
In 1514, the Persian campaign of Selim I. gave Armenia to the Osmanli Turks, and its reorganization was entrusted to Idris, the historian, who was a Kurd of Bitlis. Idris found the rich arable lands almost deserted, and the mountains Under Turkey. bristling with the castles of independent chieftains, of Kurd, Arab and Armenian descent, between whom there were long-standing feuds. He compelled the Kurds to settle on the vacant lands, and divided the country into small sanjaks which in the plains were governed by Turkish officials, and in the mountains by local chiefs. This policy gave rest to the country, but favoured the growth of Kurd influence and power, which by 1534 had spread westwards to Angora. Armenia was invaded by the Persians in 1575, and again in 1604, when Shah Abbas transplanted many thousand Armenians from Julfa to his new capital Isfahan. In 1639, the province of Erivan, which included Echmiadzin, was assigned by treaty to Persia, and it remained in her hands until it passed to Russia, 1828, under the treaty of Turkman-chai. The Turko-Russian War of 1828–29, which advanced the Russian frontier to the Arpa Chai, was followed by a large emigration of Armenians from Turkish to Russian territory, and a smaller exodus took place after the war of 1877–78, which gave Batum, Ardahan and Kars to Russia. In 1834 the independent power of the Kurds in Armenia was greatly curtailed; and risings under Bedr Khan Bey in 1843, and Sheik Obeidullah in 1880, were firmly suppressed.
After the capture of Constantinople, 1453, Mahommed II. organized his non-Moslem subjects in communities, or millets, under ecclesiastical chiefs to whom he gave absolute authority in civil and religious matters, and in criminal Gregorian Armenians. offences that did not come under the Moslem religious law. Under this system the Armenian bishop of Brusa, who was appointed patriarch of Constantinople by the sultan, became the civil, and practically the ecclesiastical head of his community (Ermeni millet), and a recognized officer of the imperial government with the rank of vizier. He was assisted by a council of bishops and clergy, and was represented in each province by a bishop. This imperium in imperio secured to the Armenians a recognized position before the law, the free enjoyment of their religion, the possession of their churches and monasteries, and the right to educate their children and manage their municipal affairs. It also encouraged the growth of a community life, which eventually gave birth to an intense longing for national life. On the other hand it degraded the priesthood. The priests became political leaders rather than spiritual guides, and sought promotion by bribery and intrigue. Education was neglected and discouraged, servility and treachery were developed, and in less than a century the people had become depraved and degraded to an almost incredible extent. After the issue, 1839, of the hatt-i-sheríf of Gül-khaneh, the tradesmen and artisans of the capital freed themselves from clerical control. Under regulations, approved by the sultan in 1862, the patriarch remained the official representative of the community, but all real power passed into the hands of clerical and lay councils elected by a representative assembly of 140 members. The “community,” which excluded Roman Catholics and Protestants, was soon called the “nation,” “domestic” became “national” affairs, and the “representative” the “national” assembly.
The connexion of “Lesser Armenia” with the Western powers led to the formation, 1335, of an Armenian fraternity, “the Unionists,” which adopted the dogmas of the Roman church, and at the council of Florence, 1439, was Roman Catholics. entitled the “United Armenian Church.” Under the millet system the unionists were frequently persecuted by the patriarchs, but this ended in 1830, when, at the intervention of France, they were made a community (Katoluk millet), with their own ecclesiastical head. The Roman Catholics, through the works issued by the Mechitharists at Venice, have greatly promoted the progress of education and the development of Armenian literature. They are most numerous at Constantinople, Angora and Smyrna.
The Protestant movement, initiated at Constantinople by American missionaries in 1831, was opposed by the patriarchs and Russia. In 1846 the patriarch anathematized all Armenians with Protestant sympathies, and this led Protestants. to the formation of the “Evangelical Church of the Armenians,” which was made, after much opposition from France and Russia, a community (Protestant millet), at the instance of the British ambassador. The missionaries afterwards founded colleges on the Bosporus, at Kharput, Marsivan and Aintab, to supply the needs of higher university education, and they opened good schools for both sexes at all their stations. Everywhere they supplied the people with pure, wholesome literature, and represented progress and religious liberty.
When Abd-ul-Hamid came to the throne of Turkey in 1876, the condition of the Armenians was better than it had ever been under the Osmanlis; but with the close of the war of 1877–78 came the “Armenian Question.” By the treaty of San Modern Armenian question. Stefano, Turkey engaged to Russia to carry out reforms “in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Kurds and Circassians.” By the treaty of Berlin, 13th of July 1878, a like engagement to the six signatory powers was substituted for that to Russia. By the Cyprus convention, 4th of June 1878, the sultan promised Great Britain to introduce necessary reforms “for the protection of the Christians and other subjects of the Porte” in the Turkish territories in Asia. The Berlin treaty encouraged the Armenians to look to the powers, and not to Russia for protection; and the convention, which did not mention the Armenians, was regarded as placing them under the special protection of Great Britain. This impression was strengthened by the action of England at Berlin in insisting that Russia should evacuate the occupied territory before reforms were introduced, and so removing the only security for their introduction. The presentation of identic and collective notes to the Porte by the powers, in 1880, produced no result, and in 1882 it was apparent that Turkey would only yield to compulsion. In 1881 a circular note from the British ministry to the five powers was evasively answered, and in 1883 Prince Bismarck intimated to the British government that Germany cared nothing about Armenian reforms and that the matter had better be allowed to drop. Russia had changed her policy towards the Armenians, and the other powers were indifferent. The so-called “Concert of Europe” was at an end, but British ministries continued to call the attention of the sultan to his obligations under the treaty of Berlin.
Russia began to interest herself in the Armenians when she acquired Georgia in 1801; but it was not until 1828–1829 that any appreciable number of them became her subjects. She found them necessary to the development of her Russian policy. new territories, and allowed them much freedom. They were permitted, within certain limits, to develop their national life; many became wealthy, and many rose to high positions in the military and civil service of the state. After the war of 1877–78 the Russian consuls in Turkey encouraged the formation of patriotic committees in Armenia, and a project was formed to create a separate state, under the supremacy of Russia, which was to include Russian, Persian and Turkish Armenia. The project was favoured by Loris-Melikov, then all-powerful in Russia, but in 1881 Alexander II. was assassinated, and shortly afterwards a strongly anti-Armenian policy was adopted. The schools were closed, the use of the Armenian language was discouraged, and attempts were made to Russify the Armenians and bring them within the pale of the Russian Church. All hope of practical self-government under Russian protection now ceased, and the Armenians of Tiflis turned their attention to Turkish Armenia. They had seen the success of the Slav committees in treating disturbances in the Balkans, and became the moving spirit in the attempts to produce similar troubles in Armenia. Russia made no real effort to check the action of her Armenian subjects, and after 1884 she steadily opposed any active interference by Great Britain in favour of the Turkish Armenians. When Echmiadzin passed to Russia, in 1828, the Catholicus began to claim spiritual jurisdiction over the whole Armenian Church, and the submission of the patriarch of Constantinople was obtained by Russia when she helped the sultan against Mehemet Ali. Subsequently Russia secured the submission of the independent catholicus of Sis, and thus acquired a power of interference in Armenian affairs in all parts of the world. During 1900 Russia showed renewed interest in Turkish Armenia by securing the right to construct all railways in it, and in the Armenians by pressing the Porte to restore order and introduce reforms.
The Berlin treaty was a disappointment to the Gregorian Armenians, who had hoped that Armenia and Cilicia would have been formed into an autonomous province administered by Christians. But the formation of such a province was impossible. The Gregorians were scattered over the empire, and, except in a few small districts, were nowhere in a majority. Nor were they bound together by any community of thought or sentiment. The Turkish-speaking Armenians of the south could scarcely converse with the Armenian-speaking people of the north; and the ignorant mountaineers of the east had nothing in common, Revolutionary movement. except religion, with the highly educated townsmen of Constantinople and Smyrna. After the change in Russian policy and the failure of the powers to secure reforms, the advanced party amongst the Armenians, some of whom had been educated in Europe and been deeply affected by the free thought and Nihilistic tendencies of the day, determined to secure their object by the production of disturbances such as those that had given birth to Bulgaria. Societies were formed at Tiflis and in several European capitals for the circulation of pamphlets and newspapers, and secret societies, such as the Huntchagist, were instituted for more revolutionary methods. An active propaganda was carried on in Turkish Armenia by emissaries, who tried to introduce arms and explosives, and represented the ordinary incidents of Turkish misrule to Europe as serious atrocities. The revolutionary movement was joined by some of the younger men, who formed local committees on the Nihilist plan, but it was strongly opposed by the Armenian clergy and the American missionaries, who saw the impossibility of success; and its irreligious tendency and the self-seeking ambition of its leaders made it unacceptable to the mass of the people. Exasperated at their failure, the emissaries organized attacks on individuals, wrote threatening letters, and at last posted revolutionary placards, 5th of January 1893, at Yuzgat, and on the walls of the American College at Marsivan. In the last case the object of the Huntchagists was to compromise the missionaries, and in this they succeeded. The Americans were accused of issuing the placards; two Armenian professors were imprisoned; and the girls’ school was burned down. Outbreaks, easily suppressed, followed at Kaisaríeh and other places.
One of the revolutionary dreams was to make the ancient Daron the centre of a new Armenia. But the movement met with no encouragement, either amongst the prosperous peasants on the rich plain of Mush or in the mountain villages of Sasun. In the summer of 1893, an emissary was captured near Mush, and the governor, hoping to secure others, ordered the Kurdish Irregular Horse to raid the mountain district. The Armenians drove off the Kurds, and, when attacked in the spring of 1894, again held their own. The vali now called up regular troops from Erzingan; and the sultan issued a firman calling upon all loyal subjects to aid in suppressing the revolt. A massacre of a most brutal character, in which Turkish soldiers took part, followed; and aroused deep indignation in Europe. In November 1894 a Turkish commission of inquiry was sent to Armenia, and was accompanied by the consular delegates of Great Britain, France and Russia, who elicited the fact that there had been no attempt at revolt to justify the action of the authorities. Throughout 1894 the state of the country bordered upon anarchy, and during the winter of 1894–1895 the British government, with lukewarm support from France and Russia, pressed for administrative reforms in the vilayets of Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Sivas, Memuret-el-Aziz (Kharput) and Diarbekr. The Porte made counter-proposals, and officials concerned in the Sasun massacres were decorated and rewarded. On the 11th of May 1895 the three powers presented to the sultan a complicated scheme of reforms which was more calculated to increase than to lessen the difficulties connected with the government of Armenia; but it was the only one to which Russia would agree. The sultan delayed his answer. Great Britain was in favour of coercion, but Russia, when sounded, replied that she “would certainly not join in any coercive measures” and she was supported by France. At this moment, 21st of June 1895, Lord Rosebery’s cabinet resigned, and when Lord Salisbury’s government resumed the negotiations in August, the sultan appealed to France and Russia against England. During the negotiations the secret societies had not been inactive. Disturbances occurred at Tarsus; Armenians who did not espouse the “national” cause were murdered; the life of the patriarch was threatened; and a report was circulated that the British ambassador wished some Armenians killed to give him an excuse for bringing the fleet to Constantinople. On the 1st of October 1895 a number of Armenians, some armed, went in procession with a petition to the Porte and were ordered by the police to disperse. Shots were fired, and a riot occurred in which many Armenian and some Moslem lives were lost. The British ambassador now pressed the scheme of reforms upon the sultan, who accepted it on the 17th of October. Meanwhile there had been a massacre at Trebizond (October 8), in which armed men from Constantinople took part, and it had become evident that no united action on the part of the powers was to be feared. The sultan refused to publish the scheme of reforms, and massacre followed massacre in Armenia in quick succession until the 1st of January 1896. Nothing was done. Russia refused to agree to any measure of coercion, and declared (December 19) that she would take no action except such as was needed for the protection of foreigners. Great Britain was not prepared to act alone. In the summer of 1896 (June 14–22) there were massacres at Van, Egin, and Niksar; and on the 26th of August the Imperial Ottoman Bank at Constantinople was seized by revolutionists as a demonstration against the Christian powers who had left the Armenians to their fate. The project was known to the Porte, and the rabble, previously armed and instructed, were at once turned loose in the streets. Two days’ massacre followed, during which from 6000 to 7000 Gregorian Armenians perished.
The massacres were apparently organized and carried out in accordance with a well-considered plan. They occurred, except in six places, in the vilayets to which the scheme of reforms was to apply. At Trebizond they took place The massacres. just before the sultan accepted that scheme, and after his acceptance of it they spread rapidly. They were confined to Gregorian and Protestant Armenians. The Roman Catholics were protected by France, the Greek Christians by Russia. The massacre of Syrians, Jacobites and Chaldees at Urfa and elsewhere formed no part of the original plan. Orders were given to protect foreigners, and in some cases guards were placed over their houses. The damage to the American buildings at Kharput was due to direct disobedience of orders. The attacks on the bazars were made without warning, during business hours, when the men were in their shops and the women in their houses. Explicit promises were given, in some instances, that there would be no danger to those who opened their shops, but they were deliberately broken. Nearly all those who, from their wealth, education and influence, would have had a share in the government under the scheme of reforms, were killed and their families ruined by the destruction of their property. Where any attempt at defence was made the slaughter was greatest. The only successful resistance was at Zeitun, where the people received honourable terms after three months’ fighting. In some towns the troops and police took an active part in the massacres. At Kharput artillery was used. In some the slaughter commenced and ended by bugle-call, and in a few instances the Armenians were disarmed beforehand. Wherever a superior official or army officer intervened the massacre at once ceased, and wherever a governor stood firm there was no disturbance. The actual perpetrators of the massacres were the local Moslems, aided by Lazis, Kurds and Circassians. A large majority of the Moslems disapproved of the massacres, and many Armenians were saved by Moslem friends. But the lower orders were excited by reports that the Armenians, supported by the European powers, were plotting the overthrow of the sultan; and their cupidity was aroused by the prospect of wiping out their heavy debts to Armenian pedlars and merchants. No one was punished for the massacres, and many of those implicated in them were rewarded. In some districts, especially in the Kharput vilayet, the cry of “Islam or death” was raised. Gregorian priests and Protestant pastors were tortured, but preferred death to apostasy. Men and women were killed in prison and in churches in cold blood. Churches, monasteries, schools and houses were plundered and destroyed. In some places there was evidence of the previous activity of secret societies, in others none. The number of those who perished, excluding Constantinople, was 20,000 to 25,000. Many were forced to embrace Islam, and numbers were reduced to poverty. The destruction of property was enormous, the hardest-working and best tax-paying element in the country was destroyed, or impoverished, and where the breadwinners were killed the women and children were left destitute. Efforts by Great Britain and the United States to alleviate the distress were opposed by the authorities, but met with some success. After the massacres the number of students in the American schools and colleges increased, and many Gregorian Armenians became Roman Catholics in order to obtain the protection of France.
The Armenian revolutionary societies continued their propaganda down to the granting of the Turkish constitution in 1908; and meanwhile further massacres occurred here and there, notably at Mush (1904) and Van (1908).
- The Armenians and Kurds have lived together from the earliest times. The adoption of Islam by the latter, and by many Armenians, divided the people sharply into Christian and Moslem, and placed the Christian in a position of inferiority. But the relations between the two sects were not unfriendly previously to the Russian campaigns in Persia and Turkey. After 1829 the relations became less friendly; and later, when the Armenians attracted the sympathies of the European powers after the war of 1877–78, they became bitterly hostile.
- According to some estimates the number killed was 50,000 or more.