In 1064 — that is, nineteen years after the capture of Ani by the Byzantines, Greater Armenia was conquered by Alp-Arslan, the Seljuk. With the captivity of King Leon de Lusignan in 1375, Cilician Armenia ceased to exist. From that date down to the Russian revolution in 1917, the Armenians lost all vestiges of a political life.1 For centuries past, especially in the Middle Ages, great numbers of Armenians have been compelled to take refuge in foreign countries.
The Arab type of conquest, though often accompanied by deeds of cruelty, was occasionally softened and tempered with some degree of tolerance, thanks to the restraining influence of the Byzantine power. The Emperors had never been so badly beaten by the successors of the Prophet as were the great kings of Persia. The tenets of the Koran too did not necessarily prescribe the extermination of "infidel" communities, so long as they continued to pay their capital taxes and made themselves useful in certain fields of occupation. As to slaves, whether captured or purchased, their status could not be questioned. Non-Moslem races were not, of course, eligible to military and political positions; they had to wear a special dress, to indicate their inferiority; their places of worship had to be of unpretentious appearance, with no bells, and to become now and then the scenes of sacrilegious deeds committed by non-Christian bands.
After the capture of Ani Turkish domination extended to the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, in the lands of the Kour and Arax Rivers. On the west the Seljuks advanced as far as Cappadocia in 1082, and that year the Ortokid Turks captured Jerusalem. Overcoming a sturdy resistance offered by the Armenians, Georgians, Imerethians and Mingrelians, the invaders occupied all the pasture lands, while their chieftains held sway in the towns. The forces dispatched by the Greek Emperors against them were inadequate, and served only to provoke reprisals.
Then came the Mongol incursions, spreading terror in Armenia and Transcaucasia. The Mongols left Central Asia in the middle of the 11th century. Advancing through the Siberian steppes and the Persian plateau, they subjected all the countries in their way. The vanquished tribes, mostly of Turkish blood and speaking the Jaghatay language, supplied the Mongol army with troops in such numbers that the original element gradually dwindled, and the chiefs alone of the Mongolian blood remained when their armies appeared in Transcaucasia. There even came a time when the Mongol language had disappeared, except in the courts of the Khans, and still later, the blood of the Mongol masters became mingled with that of their Tatar subjects, with whom they had no racial connection at all.
The exploits of Jinghiz Khan began in 1206. After subjugating the Turkoman tribes of the steppes, he destroyed the Kharizmian Moslem power in 1217, then expanded his rule over Khorassan, Persia, Iraq and northern India, almost all of which had once been parts of the Arab Empire. His generals, Soubada-Bahadour and Tchepah-Nouvian, pressed northward through Armenia and Georgia, to erect in 1223 the empire of the Kiptchaks, south of Russia, the home of former Turkish tribes of Comans and Petcheneks. Within less than twenty years from that date, Jinghiz Khan conquered also Moscow, Vladimir and Kiev, and advanced as far as Poland and Hungary, unchecked until he was beaten off in Illyria, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, by Frederick II, the German Emperor, in 1242.
A considerable part of Armenia was already under the Mongol p280 yoke, when Jelal-ed‑Din, the Sultan of Kharizm, who had been driven from his own home by the Mongols, invaded northern Armenia and Georgia. He was slain by the Tatars in 1231, and his troops, after being merged in the Tatar army, settled themselves in the valleys. The Georgians retired into the Caucasus Mountains, and the Armenians into the massifs of Gougark and Gok-Tchay. The succeeding Mongol chiefs — Mangou Khan, Arghoun Khan, Ghazan Khan and others — ruled over all the region until the arrival in 1387 of that other great conqueror, Timour-Leng or Tamerlane, founder of the second empire of the Tatars.
The name of Timour-Leng (Timour the "Lame"), or Tamerlane, synonymous with death and devastation, spread terror among the Armenians. The inhabitants of Van, having refused to surrender, were atrociously punished after the city had been taken by storm. Thousands of them were thrown from the ramparts of the citadel. The men of Sivas, having fought for their city, were all put to the sword, save for four thousand soldiers among them, who were buried alive in a plain which has since been called Sev hogher, "the Black Ground." Children were trampled under the hoofs of the conqueror's horses, while women, tied to the tails of vicious steeds, were dragged until they perished.
The death in 1406 of the author of these frightful horrors was joyfully hailed throughout the world. By that time he had conquered the whole of Central Asia, from the Great Wall of China to Moscow. He had subjugated India, from the Indus to the Ganges, had wrested Syria from the Memlouks of Egypt, and had captured Sultan Bayazid of Turkey at Angora in 1402. The statesmanship and administrative skill attributedº to him and his alleged patronage of science and art by no means counterbalanced his brutalities, such as the massacre of 100,000 prisoners, mostly Moslems, in the plain of Baghdad, or could make his death anything but a blessing to mankind.
Armenia now became the prey of Turkoman dynasts: first, those of the Kaya-Koyounlou (Black Sheep) tribe, and then the Ak-Koyounlou (White Sheep). Iskender, of the Black Sheep dynasty, assumed the title of Shah-Armen. His brother and successor, Jihan-Shah p281 dominated Azerbaijan, Van, Erivan and Georgia. It was during his rule that the seat of the supreme Katholikosate of the Armenian Church was transferred from Sis to Etchmiadzin (1441). The incumbent of the Cilician residence remained there, functioning as the Primate of that particular region. Jihangir, chief of the White Sheep line, who ruled over Mesopotamia and southwestern Armenia, had Diarbekir as his capital.
Muhammed II, the Fatih (Conqueror), Sultan of the Ottoman or Osmanli Turks, captured Constantinople by storm in 1453. He treated the Armenians with tolerance and kindness. He ordered the transfer into his new capital of a large colony of Armenians and their settlement in six specified quarters within the walls. These were Kara-Gumruk, Matla, Tcharshamba, Tekké, Keumur Odalar and Akhir Kapou. Under official designation, they were originally known by the collective name of Alti-Jemaat (the Six Communities). The Conqueror regarded the Armenians as a progressive and industrious element, upon whose loyalty he could fully count. He summoned to the capital Bishop Hovakim, the Prelate of the Armenians of Brussa, a former Turkish capital, and bestowed upon him the rank of Patrik (Patriarch), with all the honors and privileges accorded to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.
The rivalry existing between the two Turkoman tribes came to an end when Ouzoun-Hassan of the White Sheep took over the throne, proclaiming himself King of Persia, and obliterated the rule of the Black Sheep. His empire, stretching from the Oxus River to the Euphrates, included old Armenia and Georgia. This Ouzoun-Hassan, officially known as Mouzaffered‑Din (1468‑1478), was a follower of the Shiite sect of Islam, and wished to test his strength with Muhammed II, the conqueror of Byzantium, who belonged to the sect of the Sunni. He achieved his desire and more than he desired at the battle of Térjan in 1473, when Muhammed gave him a sound beating and put his Persian and Turkoman troops to flight.
Through this victory the Ottomans became for the first time masters of a part of Armenia, extending as far as Erzinjan. But this ill-fated country had yet to suffer many more devastations by rival foreign powers. Shah-Ismail I, founder of the Sefevi dynasty in p282 Persia, marched against the Turks forty years later, in 1514. Forced to retreat from Erzeroum, the Persian troops devastated the entire country by fire as they left it. The Turkish army, led by Sultan Selim I, gave battle to the Persians on the plains of Tchaldiran, northwest of Tabriz and defeated them. Shah-Ismail was wounded and fled, leaving his treasure and his harem to fall into the hands of the Sultan. Tabriz was taken and the Persian Kings' gorgeous throne carted off to Constantinople. Shortly after this, Sultan Selim I (1512‑1520) conquered Cilicia, Syria and Egypt, and sent Touman‑Bey, the last Memlouk Sultan, to the scaffold.
The struggle between the Turks and Persians was resumed by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, who sent an expedition against Tahmasp, successor of Shah-Ismail. The Turks captured Van and Tabriz, but Tahmasp did not admit defeat, and by a strong counter drive, recovered Tabriz and invaded the Turkish frontiers. Suleyman thereupon led a great army in person, to capture Baghdad and retake Tabriz.
After a brief respite, hostilities between these neighboring countries again broke out under new sovereigns, Shah-Abbas I of Persia (1585‑1628) and Sultan Mourad III of Turkey (1575‑1595). The former was compelled to withdraw, yielding to the Turk theº much-battered city of Tabriz, as well as Georgia and Persian Armenia (1585). Lala Mustapha, the Turkish general, carried away the boys and girls of Erevan, while his successor, Ferhad Pasha, erected in that city a fortress with the material brought from the ruins of churches, some of which he himself had destroyed. On various occasions during these troubles, the Armenians attempted to devise a plan for shaking off the foreign yoke; but nothing feasible developed in the secret conferences held by three successive patriarchs, Zacharia, Stphanosº and Michael.
The Persians, though they were an ancient race, the foremost in Oriental civilization, had adopted the Muhammedan religion. While they lived under the precepts of Zoroaster, they had developed some gentleness in manners and a sense of justice and tolerance which other warlike races and powers of Asia lacked. With the establishment of Ottoman government in Armenia, there grew up such a regime of intolerable exactions and severity that the leaders of the p283 country in desperation sent envoys to Shah-Abbas I, imploring him to reoccupy their land and put an end to their sufferings.
Shah-Abbas seized upon this excuse to attempt a revenge for the reverses inflicted upon Persia by the Turks. He promptly invaded Azerbaijan, took the province of Ararat and advanced towards the West. He was brought to a halt, however, when confronted by a powerful force under the general, Sinan Pasha, sent against him by the new Sultan of Turkey, Ahmed I (1603‑1617). Shah-Abbas, realizing his inferiority, had to give up Armenia, but not before he had burned and destroyed everything within reach, reducing the country to a waste and making it useless for the victorious Turks. At the same time, he ordered the Armenians to emigrate to Persia and settle there as colonists. The entire population of Eastern Armenia was thus deported, and those who were unwilling to quit their ancestral homes were forced to do so under the threat of whip and bludgeon, even of steel. Weary caravans did finally, after a long march, reach the banks of the Arax River, the crossing of which cost the lives of thousands. Those of the evacuees who could manage to evade their conquerors slipped away to the north, to seek refuge in Astrakhan, on the Volga River, to join eventually the preceding Armenian emigrants in Moldavia, Bukovina and Poland.
The main body of the deportees was, after a toilsome journey, herded through Azerbaijan and Kurdistan towards Ispahan, where Shah-Abbas established in 1605 an Armenian town, New Julfa, not far from his capital city. The King evinced a real sympathy towards the exiles, and as soon as they had settled in their new home, he proclaimed religious liberty within his realm. He himself occasionally attended the ceremonies of the Armenian Church, and did not tolerate any molestation of Christians by his Moslem subjects. Unfortunately, many of his successors failed to adhere to his wise policy, and under the influence of fanatical mollahs, mistreated the Armenians.
Meanwhile, war between the Persians and Osmanlis was being waged, with varying degrees of fortune. Finally, in 1620, the Turks were forced to cede eastern Armenia, including Etchmiadzin, to the Shah. The Sultan was deeply engrossed inº his campaigns designed to conquer all Europe. Shah-Abbas confided the government of his new acquisitions to Armenian chiefs entitled Meliks, who enjoyed a considerable degree of independence. However, the rulers who succeeded this monarch perpetrated such acts of extortion and oppression p284 as to prompt the Armenians to seek emancipation from the Moslem yoke.
In 1678 the Katholikos Jacob IV convened a dozen Armenian chiefs at Etchmiadzin and laid before them the suggestion of making an appeal to the Western powers for help in the liberation of Armenian provinces. In accordance with the decision of this conference, the Katholikos and several advisers set forth for Rome, where they hoped to secure the approval and sponsorship of their cause by the Pope. But the untimely death of the Katholikos at Constantinople, disheartened the other members of the delegation and prevented the execution of the project. Only one of the party, a young man of nineteen named Israel Ori, did not relinquish his mission. He went on to Vienna and thence to France, where he enlisted in the army of Louis XIV and was taken prisoner by the English. Upon his release, he went to Germany, where he gained the good will of Johannes Wilhelm, the prince of the Palatine, by promising him the crown of a liberated Armenia.
Ori returned home in 1699, intending to foment a revolution as the first step towards independence. Opposing the suggested union of the Armenian Church with that of Rome, the new Katholikos, Nahabet I (1696‑1705), as well as the Patriarch of the Aghouans, Simeon IV, remained aloof from the movement. The leading secular chiefs thereupon selected the Vartabed Minas Tigranian, superior of St. James (in Gandzasar) to repair to Rome in company with Ori, with a letter addressed to Pope Innocent XII (1691‑1700).
After paying homage to the Papal See, Minas and Ori proceeded to the Palatinate. Prince Johannes Wilhelm referred them to the German Emperor Leopold IV; but the latter, in turn, evaded responsibility by advising the delegates to appeal to Peter the Great of Russia. That dynamic sovereign became interested in the situation, and sent a mission to Armenia in 1700, though nothing came out of it. Disturbed by his failure to get quick action, Ori came back to Vienna, then went to Dusseldorf in Rhenish Prussia, and returned again to Russia in 1706. The Czar Peter now entrusted him with a mission to the court of the Shah; but the Persians, finally made aware of what had been going on in Armenia, merely quibbled and falsified to him in a polite way. Ori's death at Astrakhan in 1711 put an end to the activities of this clear-sighted soldier-diplomat.
In 1722 Peter the Great sent an expedition to Persia and captured Derbend, but he recalled his troops just as they were besieging the fort of Shamakhi and signed a treaty of peace with the Persians. In the following years, the Czar ceded to the Turks the territories of Georgia and Qara-bagh, meanwhile advising the Armenians of those regions to emigrate into Russian territory.
Finding themselves neglected by the Russians, the Meliks now assumed the initiative. Qara-bagh arose under the leadership of the Armenian, David-beg, who had already mastered a part of the mountains. David, made cautious by Turkish interference from the West, acknowledged loyalty to Shah-Tahmasp (1722‑1732), and was made Governor of Qara-bagh, now once more a Persian possession. On the death of David, friction arose over the patriotic leadership, of which the Turks took advantage to reclaim Qara-bagh. Mekhitar, the lieutenant of David, was assassinated by his rivals in 1730, and with his death the attempts of the Meliks to regain Armenian independence came to an end.
Taking notice that the Russian interest in the mountains of the Lower Caucasus had slackened somewhat, the Turks now resumed war against Persia. They took Erevan and Nakhjevan, and marched as far as Tabriz. After a decisive victory before Hamadan, they compelled Shah Tahmasp II to give up the provinces of Tiflis, Erevan and Shamakhi. Furious over this disastrous treaty, the Persian-Turkoman general Nadir dethroned Tahmaz II, replaced him with Abbas III, a boy, and took up arms against Turkey. A great battle fought on the banks of the Akhurian River (Arpa Tchai) ended with the triumph of the Persians and the surrender to them of the Transcaucasian provinces.
The way was now open for Nadir, the general, to occupy the throne of Persia by usurpation, which he did in 1736. In recognition of the services rendered by the Armenians during the war, Nadir reestablished the privileges accorded to them by Abbas I. But hostilities with the Turks had now broken out again. Nadir-Shah advanced as far as Kars in 1743, and after a retreat to Erevan, he won a victory over the Sultan's army. Armenia, always an objective and the theatre of these quarrels, had to suffer terribly; ruins were p286 heaped upon ruins, countrysides became deserted, and the inhabitants, exhausted by material and spiritual losses, began to depart in groups from their homeland, in a pitiful search for liberty under other skies. Nevertheless, the yearning for national independence still smoldered in the Armenian soul, despite all misfortunes. Appeals were made to Erekle II, King of Georgia (1737‑1797), for the formation of a Transcaucasian state, which would include Armenia. Still brighter hopes were focussed upon Russia, where the great Empress Katherine II had seized the throne in 1762.
War between Russia and Persia was declared in 1768. The Empress, then heartily in favor of the independence of Armenia, had proposed that the crown of the new kingdom be given to Grigori Alexandrovitch Potemkin, the Armenophile general. The Armenians, led by their chiefs and by the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, were preparing for a general uprising, when Ibrahim Khan, the Persian governor of the Transcaucasian districts, arrested the conspirators. The Katholikos of the Aghouans, Hovhannes X, died by poison in prison in 1768, and the others were kept in chains.
Dissension arose during those years between Ibrahim-Khan and the Persian Jevad-Khan, who was friendly towards the Armenians, and again eastern Armenia became a scene of bloodshed and devastation. In the meantime Persia, torn by civil war since the Ghajar-Turkomans' ascension to power, was on the brink of anarchy and ruin. Profiting by this state of affairs, the throne was seized in 1794 by the eunuch Agha Mohammed Khan, who invaded Qara-bagh two years later, captured Shousha and slaughtered many of its inhabitants, the majority of the victims being Armenians, because of their alliance with the local authorities.
The great power which had arisen in the North had been keenly observant of these developments. The Russian army swept southward in 1797 and pushed the Persian forces back across the Arax River, and annexed a large area of territory for the empire of the Czars. Qara-bagh did not obtain its independence, but was delivered for all timea from tyranny. By the treaty of Gulistan, signed later on, in 1813, the Shah of Persia renounced in favor of Russia, all claims on the Khanates of Qara-bagh, Gandzak, Shaki, Shirvan, Derbend and Baku, also of Daghistan, Talish, Georgia, Iméréthia, Gouria, Mingrelia and Apkhazia. This treaty was violated by Fath Ali Shah, p287 whose eldest son, the crown-prince Abbas-Mirza, after instigating the Muhammedans of Transcaucasia to revolt, undertook the invasion of the ceded area in 1826. The Russians retorted with a counter-attack, having the armed support of the Georgians and the Armenians, who were commanded by General Madatof, an Armenian, native of Qara-bagh. The Primate of the Armenians of Tiflis, Nerses of Ashtarak, later Katholikos, joined the movement at the head of a regiment. The army of Abbas was defeated and the city of Tabriz was occupied by the Russians. By the treaty of Turkmen-Tchai in 1828, Persia surrendered the Khanates of Erevan and Nakhjevan, their sole remaining possessions on the left bank of the Arax. Etchmiadzin, the spiritual capital of the Armenian people, was thus delivered from incursions, often humiliating and sacrilegious. However, the creation of an "Armenian autonomous province" under Russian suzerainty, which had been promised or hoped for, did not meet with the approval of the Viceroy of the Caucasus, General Paskevitch.
Peace with Persia was scarcely established when Russia felt it necessary to attack the Turks in the northwestern parts of Armenia. Under the Osmanlis, the yoke of subjugation had been heavy upon the Christians of western and southern Armenia. To the crushing exactions by Government officials were added theº atrocities of the Kurdish tribesmen. Security of life and property did not exist. The news of a Russian campaign was therefore joyfully hailed by the harassed people, and their courage was revived to the point of aiding the army of liberation. General Paskevitch captured a dozen important towns and cities in Armenia — Kars, Akhalkalak, Akhaltzikh, Bayazid, Diadin, Alashkert, Hassan-Kala, Erzerum, Khnous, Baiburt, etc. The Czarist armies, victorious also in European Turkey, were threatening Constantinople when Western powers, intent on maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, interceded. By the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829, Russia was persuaded to restore to Turkey all her new acquisitions in Asia with the exception of the districts of Anapa, Poti, Akhalkalak and Akhaltzikh.
The Armenians were bitterly disappointed, and fearing Turkish vengeance for their adherence to the Russian cause, ninety thousand of them emigrated towards Alexandropol and adjacent Russian territories. This was a pitiful exodus; half of them died from starvation and exposure on the way. The survivors found themselves confronted with another oppression. The Russian administration, heir p288 to the Byzantine policy of championship of the Orthodox Church, was not in sympathy with the faithful Armenian churchmen, who, being orthodox too, had clung to the autonomous existence of their own creed. Greek intolerance of bygone centuries seemed to have been transmitted in force to these Slavs of the East. Despite the periodical incitement of religious fanaticism by the Russian Orthodox clergy, the Armenians have always acknowledged their gratitude for the full security given to them within the Russian frontiers in those early days of the 19th century.
War between Russia and Turkey broke out again in 1877, and the Russian Army of the East advanced as far as Erzerum. Once again the Christian inhabitants of western and southern Armenia were subjected to horrors at the hands of Kurdish hordes, raids which were instigated or connived at by the Turkish government. The Treaty of San Stefano, a suburb of Constantinople, where Grand Duke Nicholas, the Generalissimo, had halted, ended this war. It gave to Russia the following localities in Caucasia and Armenia: Batoum, Ajara, Artvin, Olti, Ardahan, Kars, Ani and Kaghziman. Erzerum and Bayazid had to be evacuated by the Russians. The Armenian generals, Madatoff, Ter-Ghoukassoff and Alkhazoff, were disappointed in their fond hope of placing their fellow-countrymen under the protection of Muscovite rule.
Following the massacres of Greeks in Constantinople in 1821 and in Chios in 1822, Sultan Mahmoud II (1808‑1839) introduced some reforms in Turkey (Tanzimat — Reform Regulations). They proved to be ineffective. Soon after the Crimean War (1854‑56), when Turkey had been defended against Russia by the allied forces of England, France and Sardinia, Sultan Abdul-Mejid, realizing his nation's need for European goodwill and friendship, took a further step by promulgating the Hatti-Humayoun in 1856. The massacre of Christians in Lebanon and Syria in that year and the repeated attacks on the Armenian town of Zeytoun in 1860 and 1878 demonstrated that the Ottoman Government was unable, or rather unwilling, really to reform itself and recognize the right of equality between its Moslem and non-Moslem subjects.
The most provocative events occurred during the reign of Abdul-Aziz. p289 As a French traveler, Victor Langlois, described the settling of these episodes in 1863, "The Armenians of Zeytoun form a confederation, placed vis-à-vis the Turks in a situation analogous to that of the Montenegrins (now merged in Yugoslavia). Ensconced on a mountain difficult of access, they have always lived outside the Sultan's authority. They have never been conquered; they wished their independence to be recognized or respected by the Turkish Government."
That Government attempted many times to abolish the autonomy, but on every occasion it met such a stiff resistance that it eventually withdrew its forces. Under a modus vivendi existing in 1862, the people of Zeytoun, then numbering 13,000, enjoyed certain privileges in return for the payment of tribute. Peace was disturbed, however, by Aziz Pasha, Governor of Marash, who, under the pretext of settling a dispute between the Armenians and the Turkomans of the village of Alabash, marched against the mountaineers at the head of an army of 25,000 Bashibozouks (Irregulars). After having a scout group of 70 mountain men slain and two Armenian villages burned, he met the main force of Zeytoun and suffered a crushing defeat, leaving about 6,000 dead in the cliffs and defiles, and saving himself only by headlong flight.
In the hope of securing for themselves a lasting peace and the release from Marash prison of certain leaders who had been lured into custody by snares, the Zeytounites in 1867 sent two delegations, one to the Turkish Government at Constantinople, the other to the French Emperor, Napoléon III. The former group were to explain the causes of the tragic occurrence and ask for redress; the envoys to Paris were to solicit the intercession of the French Monarch in their behalf, in his traditional capacity of protector of Levantine Christians. A prominent priest, a member of the Armenian delegation to France,2 succeeded in stopping the Imperial carriage in a street in Paris by prostrating himself before it with a petition in his hand. Napoleon became interested in the matter and pleaded directly with Abdul Aziz, who was visiting France at the time and in fact, was a guest at the Tuileries. The result was that the punitive measures p290 planned for the liquidation of Zeytoun and its 13,000 inhabitants by an army of 150,000 troops were countermanded.
But in 1878, during the reign of Abdul-Hamid II, and in the year of the Berlin Congress, the Zeytounites were again driven to take up arms because of exorbitant taxes imposed upon them. yielding to the intervention of the British and French ambassadors, the Sublime Porte adopted a milder policy toward the mountaineers and decreed a general amnesty for the "political offenders." However, there was a fly in the ointment; these liberty-loving cliffmen had to agree to the construction of a Turkish barrack upon the heights of their town. But the garrison proved of no avail to the Porte, for just after the Armenian massacres of 1894‑1895, the Zeytounites rose up in arms again and fought off the Turkish army for four months, when the European powers once more intervened and made peaceful arrangements, through their consuls, who had visited the embattled spot.
The case of Zeytoun was but one symptom of the oppression and affliction prevalent throughout the Ottoman Empire. The emancipation of the Christian countries in European Turkey, such as Greece, Montenegro, Rumania, Bulgaria and Serbia, had been a warning to the Moslems against the creation of an Armenian state in Asiatic Turkey. The politicians of Stamboul had therefore been working towards the liquidation, by dispersal or otherwise, of the Armenian element from their soil. As one method, Kurdish tribes were instigated to swoop down from their mountain lairs whenever it suited their convenience and carry away from Armenian villages anything they could lay hands on, including young women. Deprived of bearing arms, these Christian populations of the plains could not defend themselves; but they were able at least to have their plight brought to the notice of their Church leaders in the capital of the Empire and of their fellow-nationals residing in Europe and America.
The Russo-Turkish war of 1877 offered an opportunity to the Armenians for official recognition of their cause. The Russian army of the Caucasus, commanded by General Louis Melikof, an Armenian, captured important cities in his ancestral land. When the Grand Duke Nicholas, at the head of the main army, reached Sanº Stefano, in the outskirts of Constantinople, he took as his headquarters the mansion of the Dadians, a prominent Armenian family. The Ottoman Government then faced a grave danger. It was ready p291 to make some concession in favor of the Armenians, if demanded by Russia, whom all the Christians of the East now looked upon as their saviour.3 Since the beginning of the 19th century, the Christians of Armenia had pinned their hope solely on the "Keri" (uncle) — i.e., Russia. The Russian Army was warned, however, not to advance further. The occupation of Constantinople could not be tolerated by Queen Victoria's government; the British fleet, still guarding the Eastern Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, was already at the gates of the Dardanelles.
The Porte was thus relieved and took courage; yet it had to subscribe to the Treaty of San Stefano on July 10th, 1878, Article 61 of which read;
"Inasmuch as the evacuation by the Russian troops of the territories they occupy in Armenia and which are to be restored to Turkey might give rise to conflicts and complications detrimental to the good relations of the two countries, the Sublime Porte engages to realize without further delay the ameliorations and the reforms demanded by local requirements in those provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Kurds and the Circassians."
The Treaty of San Stefano would of course serve Russian interests — that was to be expected. Nevertheless, those interests did conform to justice, humanity and to the aspirations of the Christians under the Turkish rule. But the Conservative government of Great Britain, supported by Germany and Austria-Hungary, looked upon the treaty as a step towards Russian supremacy in the East. The Congress of Berlin in 1878, under the influence of the all-powerful Bismarck, the German "Iron Chancellor," deprived Russia of the fruits of her victory. Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty reads as follows;—
"The Sublime Porte engages to realize without further delay, the ameliorations and the reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Kurds and the Circassians. The Sublime Porte will periodically render account of the measures taken with this intent to the Powers who will supervise them."
p292 The "joker" in the treaty is evident to the close observer. The Treaty of San Stefano would have permitted Russia to refuse to evacuate the Armenian territory occupied by it until the "reforms and ameliorations" were carried out; whereas the Berlin convention enforced Russian evacuation and entrusted Turkey with the duty of "reporting" periodically to the Great Powers as to the measures she had taken. Note also the replacement in the Berlin Treaty of the name of "Armenia" by the words, "provinces inhabited by the Armenians."
The Congress of Berlin was in session from June 13th to July 13th, 1878. But on June 4th, before the Congress opened its sessions, a secret agreement, known as the Cyprus accord, was entered into by Great Britain and Turkey. It provided that;—
"In the event of Batoum, Ardahan, and Kars, or any one of those places being retained by Russia, and if any attempt should be made at any time by Russia to seize any other portion of the territories of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, in Asia, as determined by the final peace treaty, England engages to join His Imperial Majesty in the defense of such territories by force of arms."
"In return His Imperial Majesty the Sultan promises England to introduce such reforms (to be defined at a subsequent date between the Powers) as may be necessary for an orderly administration and the protection of the Christian and other subjects of the Sublime Porte; and in order that England may be in a position to assure the necessary means for the execution of her engagement, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan consents besides, to assign to her the Island of Cyprus, to be by her occupied and administered."
As soon as the Armenian Church authorities, Archbishop Nerses Varjabedian, the Patriarch of Constantinople at their head, learned that it was proposed to revise the Treaty of San Stefano, a delegation was sent to Berlin to ask that Armenia be placed under a Christian Governor-General, that a Christian militia be created and that there be a reorganization of the finances, courts and constabulary of the country. The delegation was composed of Archbishop Mgrditch Khrimian, ex‑Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Khoren Narbey of Beshiktash (Constantinople), accompanied by two lay secretaries, Minas Tcheraz and Stepan Papazian.
1 After the death of Leon, the following kings of Cyprus assumed the title of "King of Armenia"; Jacques I (1393‑1398); Janus (1398‑1452); Jean II (1452‑1458); Charlotte and Louis de Savoie (1458‑1464); Jacques II (1464‑1473); Jacques III (1473‑1475); Catherine Cornaro (1475‑1489).
2 Said to be Grigor Abardian Vardapet, assisted by Karapet Shahnazarian Vardapet.
3 France, the traditional "protector" of the Levantine Christians, more particularly of the Roman Catholics, seemed to have relinquished this role after her defeat by Germany in 1871.
a for all time: as in Chapter 31, an unwarrantedly omniscient phrase. As it turns out, Nagorno-Karabakh is still being bitterly fought over in our own time, and depending on one's view, there have been periods of tyranny at one time or another within recent memory.
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See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 10 Jan 05