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).
ARMENIAN CHURCH. No trustworthy account exists of the evangelization of Armenia, for the legend of King Abgar’s correspondence with Christ, even if it contained any historical truth, only relates to Edessa and Syriac Christianity. That the Armenians appropriated from the Syrians this, as well as the stories of Bartholomew and Thaddeus (the Syriac Addai), was merely an avowal on their part that Edessa was the centre from which the faith radiated over their land. In the 4th century and later the liturgy was still read in Syriac in parts of Armenia, and the New Testament, the history of Eusebius, the homilies of Aphraates, the works of St Ephraem and many other early books were translated from Syriac, from which tongue most of their ecclesiological terms were derived. The earliest notice of an organized church in Armenia is in Eusebius, H. E. vi. 46, to the effect that Dionysius of Alexandria c. 250 sent a letter to Meruzanes, bishop of the brethren in Armenia. There were many Christians in Melitene at the time of the Decian persecution in A.D. 250, and two bishops from Great Armenia were present at the council of Nice in 325. King Tiridates (c. A.D. 238–314) had already been baptized some time after 261 by Gregory the Illuminator. The latter was ordained priest and appointed catholicus or exarch of the church of Great Armenia by Leontius, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. This one fact is certain amidst the fables which soon obscured the history of this great missionary.
- According to some estimates the number killed was 50,000 or more.