- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Edwin Munsell Bliss


Note from the administration of the page numbering is preserved, so the book can be used for quoting. Also we did our best to keep the layout as close to the original as possible.

[page 35 - illustration]

Kurdish Encampment

[caption] A KURDISH ENCAMPMENT. The black tents are those of Kurdish tribes who spend the winter in the mountain villages and come down for the spring and summer to feed their flocks on the plains. They are spoken of in the Bible as the “tents of Kedar”

[page 36 - illustration]

Turkish Peasant Family

[caption] TURKISH PEASANT FAMILY, from the interior of Western Asia Minor. The family consists of the mother in the foreground, the son and his wife and their two children, son and daughter. An excellent illustration of the average Turkish peasantry of the somewhat better class, as found in the villages of Asia Minor.

[page 37]



Accurate Statements as to Population Impossible—No Census—Best Available Estimates—Distribution—Most of the Races Described in Other Chapters—Jews and Foreigners—General Characteristics—The Languages—How Distributed—Peculiarities of the Turkish—Number Spoken in the Seaboard Cities.

Any accurate statement as to the population of the Turkish Empire it is impossible to make. There have been various attempts at a census, but they have amounted to little or nothing, as is illustrated by the fact that in every case the number of males far exceeds, sometimes by 20 per cent, the number of females. The official returns likewise are almost valueless. They are based chiefly upon tax returns and these are notoriously inaccurate. The taxes are collected by the farming system and based upon the returns from the heads of the different communities. There is thus on the one hand a strong temptation on the part of the communities to underestimate the number of taxpayers, and on the other hand a tendency on the part of the collectors to misstate, in order to give as much leeway as possible for filling their own pockets. Accordingly about the only basis for an estimate that can in any degree be relied upon is furnished by the statements of persons who have lived or traveled extensively throughout the empire, are acquainted with the manner of life of the people and have opportunities


for accurate information from the heads of the communities. On this basis a general estimate of the population for the entire empire, including tributary states, is about 30,000,000, divided as follows:

Europe . . . . . . . 4,000,000
Asia . . . . . . . 16,000,000
Africa, Tripoli . . . . . . . 1,000,000
Total . . . . . . . 21,000,000
Europe . . . . . . . 3,000,000
Africa, Egypt . . . . . . . 6,800,000
The Mediterranean . . . . . . . 40,000
Total . . . . . . . 9,840,000
Grand Total . . . . . . . 30,840,000

Leaving out of account the tributary states as practically outside of our purpose, we give here a brief general survey of the distribution of this population, reserving more definite and particular statement for the account of each race.

In European Turkey are Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks. The Albanians are found on the borders of the Adriatic; the Greeks on the northern border of Greece, along the shore of the Aegean and somewhat up the valley of the Vardar; the Bulgarians occupy the northern part of that valley and the mountains up to the very border of Bulgaria; the Turks are principally found in the vicinity of Adrianople and Constantinople; there are also Armenians in Adrianople. and along the coast of the Marmora. The Greeks are the most numerous; next to them probably come the Albanians and then the Bulgarians. Of Turks proper there are very


few. For years there has been a constant emigration from European Turkey into Asiatic Turkey, many recognizing that the time was at hand when the Ottoman rule in Europe must end. The Albanians are Moslems. There is, also, in the mountains on the borders of Eastern Rumelia, a considerable population, Bulgarian by race and Moslem by religion, called Pomaks.

Passing over into Asia, so far as the population is concerned, the country may be divided into three sections: Asia Minor and Eastern Turkey, Syria and Mesopotamia. In the first of these there are Turks, Kurds and a number of minor Moslem tribes, Circassians, Lazes, Xeibecks, Avshars, Turcomans, etc. The Christian population is almost entire Armenian and Greek. The Turks are principally in Central and Western Asia Minor; the Kurds are in Eastern Turkey, though extending somewhat along the mountain ranges; the Circassians are found scattered through Central and Western Asia Minor; the Lazes are on the borders of the Caucasus; the Xeibecks and others are tribes occupying the mountains inland from Smyrna; Armenians are found over the whole of the territory, in almost equal proportions; the Greeks chiefly along the coast of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and in the western part of Asia Minor, though in Central Asia Minor there are a number of Greek villages. In Syria the population—something over 2,000,000—is about equally divided between Moslems and Christians. The Moslems are in the main of the orthodox Sunni sect, but there are a number of Metawileh, and the Druzes and Bedouin Arabs are numerous. There are also about 250,000 Nusairiyeh. The Christians are chiefly orthodox Greeks and Maronites; there are some Armenians, Jacobites

[page 40] JEWS.

and others. The Druzes and Bedouin Arabs are found chiefly in the Hauran east of the Lebanon ranges. In Mesopotamia, the population is chiefly Moslem and Arab, though there are a number of Yezidis in the region of Mosul. The Christian races are found in the mountains between the Tigris and the Persian border, and include Jacobites, Nes-torians and Chaldeans; Armenians are also scattered throughout the whole region.

Jews are found in large numbers in Constantinople, Smyrna and Salonica, and in smaller communities all over the land wherever there is trade. They are very largely Spanish in their origin, having fled to the Levant at the time of the persecution by Ferdinand and Isabella. They include the wealthiest and the poorest of their class. Many of the bankers are Jews, and their hold upon the finances of the country is very strong. They also control certain branches of trade, are very largely money-changers, and to a degree artisans. They occupy certain definite quarters in the different cities, which have the appearance familiarly associated with the Ghetto of Venice. They have the same general characteristics as their fellows in other lands, are shrewd, keen bargainers, but frequently find more than their match in the Christians. They are looked down upon and despised by Turks and Christians alike except when their wealth makes them the arbiters of the financial fortunes of the empire and of individuals. Many of the wealthier class are men of high character, universally respected for their ability and holding a favored position in society. As to their numbers it is difficult to give any figures. In Constantinople there may be 75,000, and in the empire, aside from Palestine, perhaps 150,000 to 200,000.

[page 41] FOREIGNERS.

Almost all foreign countries are represented in Turkey. Those that furnish the largest number are probably Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Austria, England and Russia. Italians are numerous in the cities on the seaboard, in connection with shipping interests. The French are merchants, bankers, and to a degree professional men, as also are the Germans. Austrian subjects are not to a great degree pure Austrians, but Hungarians, Bosnians, etc., interested in trade. The English colony has been at times a very large one. During the reign of Abd-ul-Aziz, English mechanics were brought into the country in large numbers, and the various departments of the navy, army and public works were managed almost entirely by them. At the present time their number has greatly diminished. They are still employed to a degree by the government as engineers, but their places are being taken by others. There are a number of English mercantile houses, but the Germans have outstripped them in the conduct of trade with the interior, and the community is not as strong as it used to be. There is a large number of families of these various nationalities connected with the diplomatic circles, and Pera Society, as it is termed, is very largely composed of them, together with the bankers and the wealthiest merchants.

The Americans resident in Turkey are almost entirely American missionaries. They number in all not far from 300 adults, and are found in all the chief cities of the empire, their headquarters being in Constantinople and Beirut. Fuller statements as to their location will be found in the chapter on missions. There are other Americans, some merchants, a few professional men, chiefly physicians, and a few interested in one or another form of concession from the Turkish

[page 42] LEVANTINES.

Government. The missionaries, however, form by far the bulk of the American community.

Mention should also be made of a class peculiar to Turkey, known as Levantines. These are generally descendants of foreigners, English, French, or others who have settled in the seaboard cities, married women of the country and, while retaining their political connections with the country from which they originally came, have become thoroughly Orientalized in many respects, in their manners, customs and ideas. They are, as a rule, very capable, having all the shrewdness of the East, and are apt to be equally devoid of moral principle. In fact the term Levantine has become in great degree a term of reproach, indicating a general lack of moral fiber. Many of them, however, are persons of high character and considerable influence.

Each of these different races has its own particular and distinctive characteristics, to be noted in connection with the specific description of each race. There are, however, certain general statements to be made which come in place here. The first thing to be noted is the marked unity, or perhaps better, similarity between the different races. Notwithstanding diversity of origin and language, it is by no means easy for the uninitiated to draw the lines of distinction. This is due partly to the fact of the general mingling of the races, partly to the fact that dress and general habits of life are regulated more by climate and physical conditions, than by any arbitrary rule of government or society. In the first place there is comparatively little pure blood except among the Christians. In certain sections, notably the region of Asia Minor, formerly occupied by the Seljuk domain, the Turks are exceptionally pure-blooded, but on the seaboard


there is a large admixture of blood of other races. The introduction of Georgian, Circassian and even Armenian and Greek women into the harems of the Turkish nobles has had a perceptible effect. So also the general fact that the Turk is the dominant race has made large numbers of others of entirely distinct racial origin ambitious to take the name of Turk. Thus in Eastern Turkey, especially in the cities of Erzrum, Bitlis, Van and Diarbekir, there is comparatively little of pure Turkish blood, the great majority of those passing under that name being of Kurdish origin. The same thing is found elsewhere in Northern Syria, and to a degree in European Turkey. It must also be remembered that large numbers of Moslems called by various racial names are originally of Christian blood. In the early conquest of the land many villages and even communities accepted Islam under the pressure of the sword and because of weak faith in their own religion, due chiefly to the ignorance enforced by ecclesiastics. Thus in the mountains of Southern and Eastern Turkey there are whole communities known now as Kurdish which were originally of the same blood and the same characteristics as their neighbors now called Jacobites. Again in European Turkey there is comparatively little difference between the Moslem Albanian and the Greek Mountaineer of the same section. The Moslem Pomak of the Rhodope Mountains on the southern borders of Eastern Rumelia can with difficulty be distinguished from the Bulgarians, where they are engaged in similar pursuits and occupy similar territory. In Syria and Mesopotamia it is scarcely possible to draw racial distinctions. The line between Moslem and Christian in Aleppo, Mosul, Bagdad or Beirut is practically imperceptible except as occasional difference of dress or bearing is ob-


served. As we have said, almost the only peoples who have kept their nationality clearly distinct are the Armenians, Greeks, and there may be added the Bulgarians. Yet as was inevitable, these have been to a considerable degree affected; so that while the population of the Turkish Empire is thoroughly heterogeneous, there is to the chance traveler comparatively little distinction to be made between the men of the different races. Among the women the different conception of womanhood makes a very marked distinction, and on the street certainly even the most casual observer finds little difficulty in distinguishing between Moslem and Christian.

One general characteristic of the populations of the Turkish Empire is that they are easily governed. This does not mean that they are lacking in bravery, but the effect of the centuries has been to impress upon them the necessity of submission to whatever law is dominant in the empire. The Kurds are in the main thorough cowards. With the exception of those in the South they are always amenable to a strong hand and a very slight show of real force on the part of any government is sufficient to secure their obedience. Travelers are usually able to control them even in the wildest sections. It has been repeatedly said that a very small body of European troops with mountain artillery could pass from one end of Turkey to the other, even in times of general anarchy, and meet with very little opposition. This as a general statement is true. At the same time, organized resistance on the part of the Turkish Government with its regular army, would present an opposition which the strongest of European armies might hestitate to meet. Among the Christians there has been no organization against the Turkish Government, with the exception of two small sections. The mountain

[page 45] LANGUAGES.

Nestorians are practically independent on the Persian border; nominally they pay a certain tribute; sometimes they pay, sometimes they do not. The Armenians of Zeitun have been from time immemorial practically independent. About 20 years ago they submitted to the Turkish rule on certain conditions, which were accepted by the Turkish Government. Their recent revolt and the persistency with which they held out against the Turkish troops manifest the character of the people. Undoubtedly they were assisted in great degree by the topography of the country, but that was by no means the strongest feature of their resistance. Aside from these two sections the Christians have been the prey of the Turkish Government and have never organized in opposition to it. The reasons for this will be apparent in the chapters relating to the general history of the empire and the condition of the Christians.

The languages of Turkey are Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Syriac and Bulgarian. The Turkish is the official language of the entire empire and is used to a greater or less extent everywhere except in the remote villages of Kurdistan, Mesopotamia and Syria and throughout Arabia. Arabic is spoken everywhere south of the Taurus Mountains, with the exception of a few cities in the vicinity of Aintab and Marash. Kurdish is used in the mountains of Eastern Turkey and to a limited extent in the mountainous sections of Asia Minor. Armenian is spoken over the entire empire wherever there are Armenians. Greek is used along the borders of the Black Sea, the Archipelago and the Mediterranean and to a very limited degree inland. Syriac is used among the Nestorians and Jacobites, chiefly the former, in the mountains of Eastern Turkey. The use of Bulgarian is confined to


Bulgaria, Eastern Rumelia and Macedonia. Constantinople itself is a babel, all the different Oriental and many of the European languages being found there in everyday use.

Turkish is spoken by the Turks and Circassians and the various Moslem tribes, also to a considerable degree by the Kurds, Armenians and Greeks and by government officials everywhere. Certain sections of the Armenians, especially those in Central Asia Minor, from Sivas west to Angora and Cesarea, and those south of the Taurus in the vicinity of Marash and Aintab, have in years past used Turkish almost entirely, preserving their ancestral language only in the church services. The same is true of the Greeks in Central Asia Minor. Arabic is used by Moslems and Christians alike in the sections where it is the vernacular. Kurdish is spoken both by Moslems and Christians. Bulgarian is used solely by Bulgarians. All of these languages vary somewhat in their characteristics, according to the section where they are used and the class of people by which they are spoken. Thus the Arabic of the plains and of Egypt is much milder in its form than that found in the mountains. The same thing is true of the Turkish and the Armenian of Bitlis, and the people of that section are almost unintelligible to those farther west. The Greek of the Turkish Empire is also quite different in many respects from that of Greece proper.

The Arabic and Greek languages are so well known as not to need any particular description. They are essentially the same as they always have been and are well known in literature. The Arabic is one of the richest of all the Oriental languages in its literature. The character is difficult to learn and the construction is so involved that comparatively few foreigners become masters of it. It is said of Dr. Van

[page 47] TURKISH.

Dyck, the eminent missionary at Beirut, that he could speak Arabic so well as to deceive even the Arabs themselves, and on one occasion it is reported that this very facility in the use of the languages operated to create a prejudice that really at one time endangered his life, because they could not understand how any man who could speak Arabic as well as that could be a foreigner and claim the protection which he demanded.

The Turkish language is peculiar in many respects. Originally a Tartar dialect, it has many of the characteristics of the Saxon. It is terse and strong in its form of expression, and to a considerable degree monosyllabic. The Turks, however, passing through Persia, came very much under the influence of that language and felt the softening influences of it. The Persian, as spoken by the Persians, is smooth and flowing, liquid as any of the Pacific Island languages, and even more so than the Italian. The way in which an educated Persian uses his own language is unsurpassed for delicacy of expression or sound. Passing from Persia and accepting the Koran, the Turks came under the influence of the Arabic language, and the Turkish of to-day is the result of the commingling of the three elements. As a consequence it is an exceedingly rich language. As it is ordinarily spoken it is not at all difficult to learn, but to use it in literature correctly and with the appropriate adaptation of the forms derived from the Arabic and Persian, requires an amount of study and skill such as comparatively few have been able to bring to it. The character used is the Arabic, which, however, is not entirely adapted to the simpler Tartar forms, and as a result there is more or less of reduplication of letters. While the lettering of the three languages, Turkish, Arabic, and Persian, is the same,

[page 48] ARMENIAN.

each language has its own distinct form, so that a book printed in the type favored by the Turks will not be acceptable either to the Persians or the Arabs, and the same is true of the others. The tendency of education with Turkish, as with Arabic, is to soften the gutterals, of which there are several harsh ones, and Turkish as spoken in Constantinople by the educated is a smooth and flowing language.

The Armenian is naturally a harsh language, the strong gutterals, aspirates and sibilants affecting it materially. Here too is noticed the marked effect of education, and the Armenian spoken in the western part of Asia Minor is very mild compared with that along the mountains and even on the eastern plains. The Armenians of the Caucasus and Northern Persia use a form of Armenian which is somewhat distinct from that used by those in Turkey. The basis of all is the ancient Armenian, which has a very simple and direct construction, not unlike the English. A sentence in the old Armenian version of the Scriptures reads word for word almost the same as the corresponding sentence in the English version. The modern language as used by the Armenians of Turkey has been to a considerable degree affected by contact with Turkish and has degenerated in that respect. For some years there has been a tendency to revert to the more ancient form, and the teachers in the Armenian schools everywhere have exerted all the influence possible in that line. The result is manifest in their literature. The version of the Bible prepared by Elias Riggs, D. D., of the American Board, represents the best of what is known as modern Armenian of a quarter of a century ago. But of late years there has been felt the necessity of a revision to accord more closely to the type of the ancient language. This tendency is in the line of sim-


plicity. On the other hand, among the Greeks, while there is an increasing desire for the ancient Greek, which is quite distinct from the modern, an increasing familiarity with it does not appear to be as much of an approach to the ancient construction in the ordinary conversation as is the case in the Armenian.

The Bulgarian language is not unlike the Russian, both in its character and general construction, and belongs to the general Slav family.
The Kurdish language is entirely unique, though some Kurdish scholars have claimed that it was parallel to the old Persian. It is a rough language, and yet has certain musical qualities, and its poetry and songs are like those of so many mountain sections, exceedingly full of sentiment. Even the wildest of the men seem to come under its influence most powerfully.

In Constantinople and along the seaboard foreign languages are used to a considerable degree. The diplomatic language is French almost entirely. There is a considerable amount of Italian used in the seaports, and not a little German. The State papers for communication between the ambassadors in the Sublime Porte are entirely in French, though decrees of the government, of course, are written in Turkish. This mingling of languages has necessitated the employment of interpreters, and a large number of people, not merely connected with the embassies, but in various departments of business, are employed to transfer from one language to another such documents as may be necessary. The use of English is widely extended. The study of English in the different schools of the American missionaries and also in other schools has operated very largely to increase the use,


and English commerce has extended to a marked degree. This latter, however, has yielded in some respects to German, so that the German language is known and spoken more and more. As a rule, Armenians in the cities all speak Armenian and Turkish. Armenian merchants almost invariably add to this French, and in not a few instances Greek. In fact no one can do business successfully in the seaports without the knowledge of Turkish, French and Greek. Smyrna is almost entirely a Greek city, and even the Armenians use the language to a great degree. The Greeks, however, seldom, if ever, learn Armenian.

In traveling, a knowledge of Turkish will carry one with ease over the whole empire, except in Syria and Mesopotamia and a few sections of Kurdistan. Even there, however, some one may usually be found who has enough knowledge of the Turkish for ordinary use. On the seaboard, Greek will be of advantage, but is by no means necessary. All large business houses have some one who can converse in any one of the languages of the country or of Europe. One effect of this is that accurate use of any one language is hindered. At a dinner table in Constantinople it will frequently be the case that the conversation will turn from one language to another, and Turkish, French, Greek, German, Italian or English may be used. When such a condition exists there will be a general conversational use of all, but accurate scholarly use of any one is rare. In the schools, Turkish, French and English are the most generally taught, instruction in the other languages being chiefly confined to those who use them as their own vernacular.


Table of Contents | The Cover, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright Notice, etc.
Introduction | Preface | Turkey in Asia (map) | Table of Contents (as in the book)
List of Illustrations | 1. The Turkish Empire | 2. Population and Languages | 3. Religions
4. The Turks | 5. The Kurds | 6. The Armenians | 7. The Greeks | 8. Other Oriental Churches
9. Rise and Decline of Ottoman Power | 10. Turkey and Europe | 11. Russia and Turkey
12. Mahmud II | 13. Reform and Progress | 14. Treaties of Paris and Berlin
15. Condition of the Christians | 16. The Turkish Government | 17. Protestant Missions in Turkey
18. The Armenian Question | 19. General Situation in 1894 | 20. The Sassun Massacre
21. Politics and Massacre at Constantinople | 22. Massacres at Trebizond and Erzrum
23. Massacres in Harput District | 24. Aintab, Marash and Urfa | 25. Character of the Massacres
26. Religious Persecution | 27. Relief Work | 28. Partition of Turkey | 29. America and Turkey
30. General Survey | Alphabetical Index


Source: Bliss, Rev. Edwin Munsell . Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities. Edgewood Publishing Company , 1896
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

See also:

J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris, Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia
Helen Davenport Gibbons, The Red Rugs of Tarsus
Maj. General James G. Harbord Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia

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