- 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 130]



Fidelity of the Oriental Churches — The Apostle Andrew — Concessions by Mohammed II — Gennadios II — Suffering and Misery — Greek Revolution — Growth of National Spirit — Hellenes or Romaioi — Bulgarians in their Relation to the Greek Church.

TOO much honor cannot be paid to those Christians of the East, whatever their church connection, who have adhered unswervingly to their faith. The endurance of the Covenanters and Huguenots and Waldenses casts a halo, not only upon themselves, but upon the human family. It ennobles the race that any members of it were capable of such devotion. The sufferings of the Eastern Christians have been continuous, and may be traced back by a chain, wherein there are no missing links, to the day when their remote progenitors were first compelled to bow their necks under the foot of a Moslem conqueror.

Bondage, inferiority, contempt, are hard and demoralizing teachers. Rapacity, which renders labor fruitless, and insolent terrorism, which multiplies devices to make its victims cringe, are not favorable to the development of the higher, manlier traits, either in an individual or a community. Ignorant, superstitious, untrustworthy, the Eastern Christians too often are. Nevertheless, in view of the ceaseless, wearing ordeal which

[page 131] GREEK CHURCH.

they have undergone, their steadfastness and the many other virtues they do possess are all the more memorable and praiseworthy. Would we, children of the Pilgrim, of the Cavalier, of the Maryland Catholic and the Pennsylvania Quaker, have endured a like trial any better? Dare we assert that we should have borne it as well ?

In that group of churches the most venerable and the most pathetic figure of all is the Eastern Orthodox, or, as it is commonly called in foreign countries, Greek Church. According to a tradition, so attested as to seem authentic history, the Apostle Andrew preached Christianity upon the Bosporus within three years of the crucifixion. Weaving into the Sacred story “ the golden woof-thread of romance,” the Byzantine Christians loved to tell that the Bosporus reminded the Apostle of his native Galilee, and that the first company which met to hear him was made up of fishermen like himself. Here he remained two years and organized a church and consecrated Stachys, the “ beloved ” of St. Paul, first Bishop of Byzantium. When Constantine transformed Byzantium into Nova Roma, and made her, in place of the older Rome, capital of the world, Metrophanes I, twentieth in Episcopal line from Stachys, exchanged his humbler title of bishop for the more resounding appellation of Archbishop of Constantinople, or Ecumenical Patriarch.

The Sees of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, though reckoned Apostolic, seemed to the ordinary eye less exalted than the ecclesiastical thrones on the Bosporus and the Tiber. Between these two pre-eminent arose unchurchly rivalries and factional dissensions. Antagonism of East and West, more than subtle differences of creed, were to tear them asunder. Alternately separated and reunited, in 1053


the definite, final division came. Then was rent in twain what a Greek historian calls “ the hitherto seamless garment of the undivided church.” The cleavage line was as old as history and by a meridian of longitude accentuated the alienation. The Latins and the Teutons were in one party: the Greeks and almost all the Slavs in the other.

Around the Ecumenical Patriarch were grouped his Oriental brethren of the three Apostolic Sees. Second only to the Orthodox Byzantine Emperor in power and prominence, and by his spiritual functions even more exalted than his sovereign, the Patriarch was the most awe-inspiring personage in the state.

In 1453 the gradual overthrow of the empire was consummated by the fall of Constantinople under the resistless attack of Sultan Mohammed II. The childless, wifeless Constantine XIII was killed while leading the defense. The Patriarch Athanasios II, a faithful, feeble old man, disappeared and his after fate is a mystery. The former inhabitants of the city had either been slain in battle or reduced to slavery, or were endeavoring to save themselves by flight. The Sultan was not only a mighty warrior, but a sagacious statesman. He realized the necessity of reassuring the vanquished and calling back the fugitives and re-populating the deserted town, if his new capital was to be anything more than a soldier’s camp. So he endeavored to allay the terrors of the Greeks and to treat with the only national organization which remained. The empire had been destroyed, but the church still lived.

He ordered the few surviving bishops to at once choose a new patriarch with all old-time formalities and without change in the manner of election. The vacant post was as arduous

[page 133] SCHOLARIOS.

and dangerous as it was eminent. Doubtless there was no desire on the part of any of the prelates to be chosen. The suffrages fell upon the austere monk George, surnamed the Scholarios. The Sultan wished the same ceremonial of investiture should be observed as in happier days under the emperors.

When Scholarios was sought for, he could nowhere be found. Up to the conclusion of the siege he had been a familiar figure, always fiercely declaiming against the Roman Church and inspiring whoever heard him with his own unyielding fanaticism. Several months of constant search passed away, during which the church continued without a visible head. At last he was discovered on the farm of a wealthy Ottoman at Adrianople. Taken prisonor at the capture, he had been sold and sent there as a slave. Released and informed of his nomination, the change in his condition could have appeared to him only as a change in the form of his slavery. A tradition asserts that the Scholarios in his youth had been ambitious of church promotion and had always aspired to the primacy of the East. Now that it was thrust upon him by a sanguinary and suspicious conqueror, even his stout heart may well have shrunk from the obligation.

Proceeding to Constantinople, he was received with kindness and honor by the Sultan. The Cathedral Church of Sancta Sophia had closed its more than a thousand years of Christian history and been made a mosque. The church of the Holy Apostles, the Saint Denis of the capital, where the emperors from the time of Constantine the Great had found a mausoleum, was left in the possession of the Christians and had been selected as their chief sanctuary. There the


Scholarios was consecrated with solemn, imposing, but melancholy pomp as Patriarch Gennadios II.

After his enthronement he was entertained by Mohammed II at a magnificent banquet. The Sultan bestowed on him a richly jewelled sabre, promised him his protection and friendship and on his departure accompanied him to the outer door. Riding on one of the Sultan’s war-horses, wearing one of the Sultan’s robes, attended by the highest of the Sultan’s officers, he proceeded in state across the city to take possession of his ecclesiastical residence. To the few Greeks along the way, who cast furtive glances at their Patriarch and at his cortege, every detail of his attire and appearance must have emphasized the fact that the empire was no longer theirs and that their haughty church like themselves was fettered and enslaved.

Gennadios bore with him the still preserved berat or written promise of the sovereign, which guaranteed certain immunities and religious privileges to the Christians. It was therein declared (1) that no person should in any wise interfere with the ecclesiastical rule of the Patriarch and of his successors, (2) that the Patriarch and all the bishops should be exempt from tribute, (3) that the churches, not already converted into mosques, should be forever retained by the Christians in peace and safety, {4) that weddings, baptisms, funerals and all other Christian rites and ceremonies should be solemnized freely and without molestation, (5) that the Christians should observe Easter and all other religious festivals and fasts with perfect freedom and customary splendor. These promises have been often evaded or restricted, and sometimes enlarged. Still from that day to the present they have been as well kept as such promises usually are, when


made by a stronger to a weaker and when the weaker has no means of enforcing their observance.

The responsibilities and trials of his position were beyond the physical strength of Gennadios. Sympathetic and warmhearted despite his asceticism, the daily spectacle of the suffering and misery among his flock overtaxed his endurance. Utterly worn out, in 1459 he laid down the patriarchal staff and withdrew to a monastery in Servia, where he died during the following year.

Since then, in the space of 437 years the throne has been occupied by just 100 different patriarchs. The average duration of each incumbency has been a little over four years and has been almost invariably filled with labor and sorrow. The fate of the Patriarch Kyril Loukaris, whose name is more familiar in the West than that of almost any other Eastern prelate, differed little from that of others of his brethren. Slandered and an object of suspicion to the government, deposed by order of the Sultan and imprisoned in the fortress of Roumeli Hissar upon the Bosporus, then bowstrung and his remains cast into the strait, he trod the same path of ignominy and martyrdom as Parthenios II, Parthenios III, Paisios II and many another of the illustrious line.

The last to meet a violent death at the hand of the Moslems was the saintly Gregory III, in 1821. The Greek revolution had burst forth in Moldavia and the Peloponnesus. The Ottomans rose in a frenzy of rage and terror, furious for victims. The Patriarch and his clergy at Constantinople had opposed the insurrection and could in no way be accused of complicity with the Greek revolutionists. But the sanguinary Ottoman Government and populace were indifferent as to considerations of political innocence or guilt, and eager


only for blood. On Easter Sunday the Dragoman or Interpreter of the Porte came to the patriarchate and ordered the Holy Synod to assemble. Then he communicated the command of Sultan Mahmud II, that the See should be considered vacant and that they should at once name a new Patriarch. Meanwhile the aged Gregory was hung to a beam over the great gate in front of his residence and his shrinking successor, after induction into his office, was forced to pass in formal procession close to the still warm remains. The reverent Greeks now point to a black beam in the archway and in low, awed tones repeat the story of the tragedy.

It was the idea of Mohammed II that Gennadios should not only represent his coreligionists, but be responsible for their tranquillity and submission. After each race riot or disturbance, the Patriarch must exculpate not only the participants of disorder, but himself. Most perilous was the honor of induction into the patriarchal office to him who filled it. Nevertheless the system inaugurated by the conqueror was of ultimate advantage in almost every respect to the non-Moslem community.

Under Ottoman domination the centre of the Orthodox Eastern Church remained at the same strategic centre, where for centuries it had exercised a potent force. Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, were not acquired by the Ottoman Empire for more than half a century.

When the patriarchs of those cities, whose Sees had endured every vicissitude under Saracens, Kurds and Crusaders, became in their later turn subjects of the Sultan, they found that their patriarchal brother on the Bosporus was already acknowledged by the Greeks all through the Turkish dominions as not only their spiritual father, but as, next to the


Sultan, their civil head. The time-honored titles of their sacerdotal rank still existed. There were no changes in the hierarchy of the changeless-Church. Yet to the eye of the Moslem and practically to that of the Greek, there was henceforth but one Patriarch.

The official recognition of a non-Moslem authority as in a certain degree representative of a nation and intermediary with the Sultan, has exercised vast influence in determining the relations of the native Christians with the Porte. It was based upon religious grounds, but speedily extended to and included civil affairs. It was a natural sequence that the course pursued with the Greeks should be followed in dealing with other subject peoples. When, after the conquest of the Crimea, the Armenian residents at the capital increased, Bishop Horaghim was summoned from Brusa and installed Patriarch of the Armenians. In time a khakham bashi or Grand Rabbi was thus appointed for the Jews, a patriarch for the subject Roman Catholics and, no longer ago than 1850, a vekil or representative for the Protestants.

One result, which Mohammed II never dreamed of and would have deplored, was inevitable from this system. By it every person not a Moslem was bound in closer intimacy to the fellow-members of his own distressed community. Each was brought moreover into a closer identification of himself and his interests with his church. Through that church was to be obtained not only salvation in the future life, but whatever alleviation was possible in the present existence. The Ottomans have always sought to extirpate the spirit of nationality or of any common feeling among the conquered. They have welcomed every influence which would apparently foster divisions and produce antagonistic factions among those


whom they ruled. Thus they judged they could play party against party, interest against interest, and render each subservient and pliable to their own control. For a Mussulman to change his faith was, till within half a century, a crime punishable with death. But they rejoiced at and favored the labors of foreign missionaries among such of their subjects as were already Christians, thinking that thus there would be a multiplication of sects and a larger number of interests to set against each other.

Through the system inaugurated by the Conqueror, unwittingly in each community the instinct of solidarity was kept alive and developed. The intensity of a common sentiment among the proscribed was fanned to a hotter glow. Only during the last century have the rulers recognized their possible mistake.

The Constitution, craftily devised by the astute Midhat Pasha and promulgated in the name of Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II in 1876, was designed to accomplish two results, one foreign and one domestic. The former result was to be attained in blinding the eyes of Europe to the real internal condition of the empire. The latter result should be the gradual but entire sweeping away of a policy of internal administration which was intrenched in its duration of over four hundred years. The scheme, so shrewdly contrived and so elaborate in its provisions, utterly failed. Mussulmans and Christians alike contemned it. Only for a short time did the Sultan himself observe its conditions. It accomplished nothing beyond the creation of vexatious questions between the government and the Greeks. The latter perceived that their scanty privileges were involved. For a time they were almost delirious with excitement and ready to resist by every means


at their command the abrogation of the system. The diplomatic skill of the Sultan conjured the difficulty and the annoying issues were forgotten.

A hundred years ago the feeling of nationality — as we understand the word — was practically non-existent among the non-Moslems except the Greeks. With them it was always keenly alive, even when destitute of outward expression. But among the other peoples a stranger would have concluded that that sentiment, so mastering to-day, was extinct. Even forty years ago politics seemed restricted, not only by necessity, but by common consent and preference, to ecclesiastical questions.

In European Turkey and Asia Minor, almost every non-Moslem, if not an Armenian or a Jew, was an adherent of the Orthodox Greek Church and hence, whatever his blood and vernacular, was reckoned and denominated a Greek. Up to the Greek revolution, every, communicant of that church, whether Servian, Wallachian, Moldavian, Bulgarian, Bosnian or Orthodox Albanian, spoke of himself as such. Further examination would have revealed that these foster children of the church founded by Saint Andrew, these worshippers following the Byzantine ritual, recognized a broad distinction between themselves and the real Greeks. But a community of administrative and religious interests dwarfed so small considerations as those of language and race. Each readily accepted the label which circumstances had placed upon him.

The Hellenes or Romaioi, in whom the traditional pride and ambition through all their degrading servitude never slumbered, rejoiced in this state of things which was to their political advantage, and did their utmost to expand and intensify it.


With a lively appreciation of the past and an ardent anticipation of the future, they looked forward to the time when the Moslem domination should be swept away, and all the various tribes south of the Danube be readily absorbed in a resurrected Byzantine Empire.

It is a natural fact that the self-assertive sense of ignored nationality was first manifested in an ecclesiastical phase. The herald, for example, of the rousing of Bulgaria was the universal demand among that people that the bishops, sent to the region inhabited by them between the Danube and the Balkans, should be not Hellenes but Bulgarians. All should receive appointment and consecration as before from the Ecumenical Patriarch, but it was fitting that they should be of the same branch of the human family as the flocks to which they were sent. Every detail of creed and ceremonial was to remain unchanged. If the course hitherto pursued was followed, each new bishop on arrival in his diocese was regarded as an unwelcome foreigner. If the now longed for innovation was made, he would be hailed as one of their own kith and kin, from whose lips they would listen to their own tongue. The Patriarch and Holy Synod obstinately resisted the demand. If granted, it seemed to shatter every hope of an ultimately to-be-restored Greek dominion. Every argument, which ingenuity could suggest or which superstition and ignorance might heed, was devised to quiet the awakened aspiration. In the gospel there was neither Greek nor Jew; therefore it made no difference from what nationality a bishop was chosen; therefore it was appropriate that all the bishops should be Greeks!

In the peculiar medley of Eastern affairs, the final decision was to be rendered by no Christian organization, but by the


Mussulman Sultan. After months of delay it was announced and it was favorably to the Bulgarians. Forthwith the Bulgarians were anathematized by the Holy Synod, not for any error of doctrine or depravity of life, but on account of ecclesiastical insubordination. Lo, though Orthodox on every point, holding in all its minutiae the Orthodox creed, theirs is in the eyes of the Greeks a Schismatic Church. It is however in full communion and paternal fellowship with the Orthodox Church of Russia. The position of the Bulgarian Church is in other respects anomalous. Its spiritual head or exarch is confirmed by the Sultan and resides not in Bulgaria, but in Constantinople, where there are almost no Bulgarians, and near the palace of the Sultan.
Gradually during the century, territories have been lopped off from the Ottoman Empire and erected into sovereign states. Such are Greece, Rumania and Servia. Montenegro might be reckoned in the number, save that the heroic hand of mountaineers, which lives in her restricted limits, never acknowledged subjection. As political independence was achieved, there was a galling impropriety in the fact that a people, politically free, should bow to the ecclesiastical control of a religious organization over which the Sultan was master. So naturally and without shock have arisen churches autonomous, but revering the Ecumenical Patriarch as in rank and functions superior to any other prelate.

As the Ottoman Empire shrinks and outlying provinces drop away or are absorbed by neighboring states, the direct jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople is circumscribed in equal degree, but her indirect influence knows no diminution or change. Her long-bearded, black-robed clergy are the most imposing priestly body in the


world. An assembly of her bishops transports the stranger to the early Christian centuries with their hoary titles of Nice and Nicomedia and Chalkedon and Ephesus. Her formal worship is the most elaborate rendered in the name of Christianity. The devotion of her sons and daughters has grown the stronger in their common humiliation and distress. The active, tumultuous West may reproach her as unprogressive and inactive and lifeless. But her children glory in her and the Christian world may glory in her, as the Apostle of the Gentiles gloried in the Thessalonian Church, for the patience and the faith in all the persecutions and the tribulations which she endured.

[page 143-illustration]

The City of Brusa

[caption] THE CITY OF BRUSA Mount Olympus in the background. In the foreground is an old khan and just behind it the mosque in which are buried the two first Sultans of the present dynasty, Othman and Orchan This mosque is held in special reverence by the Turks.

[page 144-illustration]

Land Walls of Constantinople

[caption] LAND WALLS OF CONSTANTINOPLE They extend for about four miles from the Marmora to the Golden Horn, and are now to a considerable degree in a ruined condition. The gardens in the foreground occupy the ancient moat


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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