- 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 195]



Aggression of Peter the Great — Diminution and Renewal of French Influence — The Contest ove: the Holy Places — Victory of Russian Influence in Favor of the Greek Church — Russia’s Religious Propaganda Among the Greeks — Rise of Phil-Hellenism — Dismemberment Talked of — Effect of the French Revolution — The Russian Fleet in the Dardanelles — The English Fleet at Constantinople — Peace of Tilsit — Plan for Partition — Accession of Mahmud II.

From the Peace of Carlowitz the history of the Turkish Empire is involved with that of Europe to a degree hitherto unknown. The varied schemes of ambitious rulers, the influences of popular movements, were felt even across the Bosporus, and Turkey becoming no longer an Asiatic but a European power, found itself in a situation singularly incongruous. There was all the old Ottoman pride, which had its sharpest illustration in the custom of throwing European ambassadors into the prison at the Seven Towers whenever there was danger of hostilities, and there was also that recognition of commercial relations and need which militated so sharply against the former as to inevitably result in the decadence of the following centuries. The eighteenth century opened with considerable diminution of French influence and with marked aggression on the part of the Czar.

[page 196] WAR AND PEACE.

Unfortunately for Turkey the Porte knew little and cared less about the entrance of this last element, and paid little attention to the efforts made by Charles XII to stop the advance of Peter the Great. The battle of Pultowa had a strange result in the reception of the Swedish King by the Sultan and the combination of his efforts with those of French ambassadors to secure an alliance against Russia, which, however, would have failed, probably, had not the Russian fleet appeared. The embassy of the Czar to counteract their efforts appeared on a squadron which entered from the Black Sea and cast anchor before the windows of the Seraglio. The following years were a kaleidoscope of war and peace, treaty and aggression; now with Russia, now with Venice and Austria, resulting in the peace of Passarowitz, in which Peter pledged himself not to appropriate any part of Poland or to meddle with the government of its republic, but to make every effort to prevent the sovereignty and hereditary succession from being attached to its crown. A second article was the securing of freedom for Russians and Turks to travel and traffic in all safety in each empire. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem were to be subjected to no pecuniary exactions and Russian ecclesiastics throughout the East were to remain unmolested. Thus was taken the first step toward the dominating power of Russia in the Holy Land, which has since had so great an effect. The next step was the alliance between Austria and Russia to secure the ruin of Turkey notwithstanding the alliance with France. Again treaty was followed by war and war by treaty, until by the treaty of Belgrade the desert territory of Azof was to form the boundary between the two empires; commerce on the Black Sea was to be free, with the condition, however, that the

[page 197 - illustration]

General View of Constantinople

[caption] GENERAL VIEW OF CONSTANTINOPLE from the heights above Scutari on the Asiatic shore. Immediately in front is the harbor opening into the Golden Horn and the Bosporus on the right and into the Sea of Marmora on the left. The two prominent mosques in the city are, on the left hand Sultan Achmet, and on the right hand St. Sophia. On the extreme right is the fire tower. The point of the city is occupied by the gardens of the Seraglio.

[page 198 - illustration]

View of Adrianople, in European Turkey



Russians should only employ Turkish vessels. For this the credit must chiefly be given to the French ambassador Villeneuve, who restored the prestige which had fallen low under the successors of De Breves.

The Frenchman’s next victory was the developing of a treaty of friendship and commerce into a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, between the Porte and Sweden, for mutual support against the aggression of Russia. He also, in 1740, secured a formal treaty of friendship and commerce between France and the Porte, which has only been renewed once since, in 1802, and which still regulates the relations of France with the Ottoman Empire. In this the precedence previously accorded to the representatives of France was renewed and new privileges given to the French consuls, merchants and traders. A special rate of duty was extended to every kind of merchandise and French protege’s, as well as Frenchmen themselves, even when wearing Oriental dress, were granted free access to the States of the Sultan without payment of a tax. One effect of this general diplomatic intrigue was to give to Turkey the idea that its friendship was sought on account of its power, whereas as a matter of fact she had become weak and was liable to be overborne at any time by one power or the other. This influenced her to remain neutral during the war of the Austrian succession, and rendered her blind to the revelations of the French ambassador as to the encroachments of Russia. That government had spread its fortifications into every territory which had been declared neutral, by this means cutting off communication between the Turks and the Tartars of Southern Russia, as well as usurping a considerable territory. But all to no avail. The Ottoman preferred peace and paid little

[page 200] THE HOLY PLACES.

attention to the steps that were being taken against his power.

Frequent references have been made to the relation of the European governments, especially France and Russia, to the Holy Places in Jerusalem. That question became at this time a very important one, and a brief survey of the situation will be in place. The possession of these places was disputed between the Latins, the Greeks and the Armenians. The Moslem law recognized no one of them as having exclusive rights, but held that each communion might enter and observe its ceremonies. To one, however, there was accorded a certain primacy, involved in the keeping of the keys, repairing the edifices, maintaining them at their own cost, lighting them, and having general care for them. This privilege was accorded primarily by the Porte to the French ambassador, according to the firman given in 1564:

“ The keys of the doors of the said place (the grotto in which Jesus Christ was born) are in the hands of the Franks, and pass successively from one to the other of those among them who arrive at Jerusalem, and that, as well before as since the taking of that city by the Sultan Selim I, up to the present date, without having passed into other hands than theirs. It is they who open to those of the Mussulmans or of the Christians who dwell in, or who come to Jerusalem, and who desire to visit that place (the grotto). There is no record that they have ceased to possess the said keys, nor that any one has contested with them for their possession, and has dispossessed them of the keys. They are in constant and uninterrupted possession of them from the most remote times up to the day of the date of the present act. Consequently, the under-mentioned judge has confirmed the pos-


session of the keys of the said places in the hands of the Frank nation.”

Later, in 1620, another firman has the following:

“The Franks, ancient exclusive possessors of the Great Church of Bethlehem and the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin, have, of their full accord, granted to each of the other Christian communions sanctuaries in the Superior Church; but the inferior portion, the place wherein Jesus Christ was born (may salvation rest with him!) is the sanctuary of the Frankish monks; no other nation has any right therein, and it is forbidden to each and every nation to usurp hereafter the said place.... We order that no individual be permitted, Armenian or other, to say mass in the place where Jesus Christ was born, a place situate underneath the Church of Bethlehem, no more than in the cupola, which is called the tomb of Jesus Christ; neither in the interior of the tomb of the Holy Virgin; nor finally in the sanctuaries which, from the old time, belonged to the Frankish monks.”

In 1633 a still more explicit firman states:

. . . “ To-day the Frankish monks came to produce the titles which are in their hands. We have examined them, and have recognized that they were ancient and authentic papers. They prove that all the places above mentioned, as well as the possession of the three doors of the grotto of Bethlehem, and the keys of those doors, belonged exclusively to the Frankish monks since the conquest of Jerusalem by the Calif Omar, and that at the epoch at which Selim I made himself master of those Holy Places, that a large number of localities have remained, as before, in the hands of the same Frankish monks. We order that the Franks have, as anciently, the possession and enjoyment of the grotto situate


at Bethlehem, and known under the name of the Crib of Jesus Christ, upon which the Greeks have seized, as it is said, to the detriment of the Frankish monks, by fraud, and by producing false titles; that they have the possession and enjoyment of the keys of the three doors, north, south and west, of the said grotto, and of two small gardens which belong to it; that they may have again, and in the said manner which they have had from all time, the enjoyment and possession of the stone of unction, situate in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the vaults of Calvary, the seven arches situate below Saint Mary, the two cupolas, great and small, which cover over the tomb of Jesus Christ; that they may have, besides the enjoyment and possession, whether at Jerusalem of the tomb of St. Mary or monastery called Deir-al-Amoud, with its belongings and dependencies, or whether in the village of Nazareth, of the churches and monasteries; in a word, of all the places of which, up to the present day, they have had uncontested possession; that henceforth neither the Greeks nor the Armenians, nor any other Christian nation, trouble or disquiet them, or cause them to be troubled or disquieted;... that always, in the said places, and chiefly in Calvary, the Frankish monks may exercise their worship at their will and as in the past; that they may place therein, as before, candles and torches, without any one hindering them; that in the exercise of their worship, the prefect of the Frankish monks have, as in the past, precedence over all the monks of other nations, provided that they pay the tribute desired by ancient custom (about £800).”

Notwithstanding these, the Greeks succeeded in forcibly taking away the power from the Latins within a year after this last firman, but forty years later were obliged to yield.


Then followed a series of intrigues in which the Moslem Governors of Damascus and Jerusalem were bribed by one party or the other to favor them. This resulted in 1676 in giving to the Greeks the keys, carpets and lamps of the sanctuaries on condition of paying annually the rent of 1000 piasters for the income of the mosque of Sultan Ahmet in Constantinople. In 1690, however, this judgment was reversed, and in 1718, in the treaty of Belgrade, the only stipulation by Russia was that the Russians should have the right of making pilgrimages to Palestine without molestation or payment of ransom. The capitulations of 1740 solemnly confirmed the rights of France, and peace seemed established. But again, 17 years later, some Greek pilgrims pillaged the Catholic monastry at Jaffa, assailed the monks and the Catholics in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, broke the lamps and scattered the ornaments; and, then having purchased at a heavy price, various affidavits, proclaimed to the Turkish Government the interruption of their worship by the Latins. They found means of securing the favor of the Grand Vizier, and a Hatti Sherif followed, which drove the Latins from the Church of the Virgin, and from that at Bethlehem, and placed under the special care and protection of the Greeks the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and several other sanctuaries.

Russia’s next move was to start a religious propaganda in the Greek provinces of Turkey. Peter III had sent zealous emissaries among them, one of whom, a Greek of Thessaly, an artillery officer in the Russian service, traversed the shores of the Adriatic, Thessaly and the Morea; another, a monk, went through Servia and Croatia. He said to the Sultan’s subjects that neither Germany or Hungary could do anything for them; France was careless, Poland helpless; Russia alone cared for

[page 204] PHIL-HELLENISM.

them, and was willing to help them; she alone belonged to the orthodox church. Stirred by these harangues, the Christians of Albania, Servia and Montenegro arose, but too early for Russian movements, and the insurrection was of no avail. The emissary to the Morea found greater difficulty. A bishop promised to raise 100,000 Greeks at the approach of the Russians, but a mountain chief refused to be seduced by flattery or yield to the threats. He gloried in his chieftainship of a free people, and said to the Russian that he was still a slave; if Russia cared to come as an ally, he would take up arms on condition of the war being pushed until the Turks were driven out. A third emissary went among the Rumanian provinces, but the Moldo-Wallachians achieved nothing more by an insurrection than the pillaging of a few Turkish villages, and the only result of the three movements was to deprive the Christian merchants of their wealth, which was sent to Constantinople to insure their loyalty, and to raise a suspicion against all Christians on the part of the Porte. The intrigues of Russia, however, continued and there was over the whole empire a sense of uneasiness. The French ministers did their best to stir the Turks against Russia, but the ministry were either too weak or too lazy, and held off for a time. At last war was again declared, and the Empress Catherine despatched her fleet from the Baltic. The French ambassador called the Turks’ attention to this and received in reply the expression:

“ Tell us how ships can get from St. Petersburg to Constantinople?”

At the same time, 1769, Voltaire was trying to stir the spirit of Phil-Hellenism, in Germany and Russia. Already he urged the partition of Turkey and the restoration of the


Greeks to independence. Fleets were fitted out; England approved the project; the Morea arose, but there was no general plan. The Russians withdrew and the Morea was terribly devastated. Similar results followed renewed movements in the Danubian Principalities; but the Turkish fleet was defeated at Tchesmeh and the army on the Danube, and Russia appeared predominant. Then came the mediation of Austria, and England offered assistance, which, however, was refused by the Turks, partly under the influence of France, who was anxious to use the newly developing disturbances in America to help her in her opposition to England. There were leagues and counter-leagues from Austria and Russia, with bargains for Wallachia, Moldavia, Bosnia and Dalmatia, the Turkish Government developing its since famous principle of sowing discord among the European powers that thereby it might gain strength.

The next step of importance was the Congress of Bucharest, when the Czarina sent in her demands for freedom of navigation in the Black Sea, in the Archipelago for ships of war and merchant vessels, the right of protection of the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, and various other things, all of which, however, were indignantly rejected by the Turks, who went to war and gained marked success. This, however, was followed by the treaty of Kainardji, in 1774, when Russia received the protectorate over the Danubian Provinces, over the Christians of Turkey, and was henceforth to be the “ oracle of the diplomatic negotiations pursued by the Porte; the arbiter of peace or war, the soul of the most important affairs of the empire.” French influence received a mortal blow in gaining a rival in the protectorate of the Christians, who by having advantage of position, race and origin, could


be no longer baffled. England, too, had been made a tool of and her influence was at a low ebb.

The Russians followed up their advantage by intriguing anew in the Danubian Provinces, bu. came again in contact with Austria, whom the French king sought to stir up to extend her territory in proportion as Russia extended hers. Very little, however, was gained and Russia secured the sovereignty of the Crimea, fresh rights over the Black Sea, and seemed in the way to accomplish the project of a new Eastern Empire, which had already been set forth by Catherine. England meanwhile had her hands busy with America and paid little attention to Eastern affairs until her Western task was finished, when she again entered the lists, endeavoring to drive Turkey to war with Russia. In this she succeeded and again came talk of dismemberment. Russia’s advance along the Danube compelled England to act more positively in aid of Turkey, when the French Revolution broke out and turned every one’s attention, except that of Russia, away from Turkey. Then came the treaty of Jassy, in 1792, when the Danubian Principalities ceased to be recognized as Turkish Provinces.

The first result of the French Revolution was the war of the allied monarchs to restore the house of Bourbon, and in this as hitherto entered the question of Turkey. England as well as the rest sought to induce the Porte to break with France, and to this end endeavored to secure some concessions from Russia. The Porte, however, preserved its neutrality and continued to extend its protection to French commercial interests. Its increasing weakness, however, led Europe to believe that the empire was fast approaching dissolution. This also was the opinion of France, and Napoleon,


looking forward to taking a part in dismemberment, planned for the leading part to belong to himself. The French ambassador at Constantinople advised the renunciation of the alliance with the Porte and the appropriation of the provinces escaping from its rule. Accordingly, with this came the invasion of Egypt and the sudden disillusion on the part of the Turks of the value of the French alliance. England, Russia and Austria profited by this to arouse French opposition, and at last war was declared, the result of which was the ruin of French influence in the Levant and an alliance between the Porte and Russia, the admission of the Russian fleet into the Dardanelles and the treaty of Constantinople, by which the two powers mutually guaranteed each other’s possessions, including Egypt. To this Great Britain acceded.

In the peace of Amiens England desired to bind the Porte as a contracting party, but Napoleon persisted in a separate peace with Turkey, and sought to gain favor by evacuating Egypt and restoring the original situation. On the other hand, the capitulations of 1740 were renewed with new articles, recognizing the incontestable right of French vessels in the Black Sea. Napoleon’s ambition for Eastern conquest continued, and it was not long before the peace of Amiens was broken through the re-establishment of French relations with Turkey and the refusal of England to give up Malta and of Russia to give up the Ionian Islands, where they had placed a garrison. Then followed various concessions and accessions accompanied by considerable dread on the part of the Turks of the new French power, until the battle of Austerlitz made him appear a most desirable ally.

Meanwhile the Turkish Government had so thoroughly left Servia to the brigands and the Janissaries that in despair


they resolved to strike for independence, and called for the protection and support of Russia. Similarly Rumania thought to lean upon France for its independence, and the general result was a rupture of the peace and the occupation by Russia of Wallachia and Moldavia. Napoleon sent aid to the Porte and urged the fortification of the Straits. Then the English ambassador made strong demands, calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador, the concession of the Danubian Provinces to Russia, the giving up of the Turkish fleet to England, as well as of the forts and batteries of the Dardanelles, and threatened an expedition against Constantinople. Already the Russian fleet was at the island of Tenedos, when it was joined by the British admiral, who, taking advantage of a favorable wind and a feast of Bairam, forced the passage of the Dardanelles, burned the Turkish fleet near Gallipoli and anchored off the Princes’ Islands.
Sharp conditions were sent demanding the dismissal of the French ambassador, the renewal of alliance between England and Russia, free passage of the straits and the surrender of the Turkish navy. The Frenchman, however, did not lose courage. He pointed out that the wind was no longer favorable and that it would not be difficult to defend the city. Encouraging messages came from Napoleon, and meanwhile the English ambassador, thinking himself secure, occupied himself with negotiations instead of taking action. The result was that, notwithstanding summons after summons from the fleet, the Turkish defense was complete and the English ships had to withdraw through the Dardanelles. Then came the sudden deposition of Sultan Selim by a revolution of the Yamaks, which disgusted Napoleon and undoubtedly influenced him in arranging the peace of Tilsit,

[page 209] PARTITION.

which was concluded, to the complete abandonment of Turkey by France. It was stipulated that hostilities should cease between Turkey and Russia, after an armistice concluded in the presence of a French commissioner; but a secret article made still more apparent the policy of France, in which it was declared that in case the mediation of France was not accepted she would make common cause with Russia against the Ottoman Porte, withdraw all the Turkish provinces, in Europe, from its rule, with the exception of Constantinople and province of Rumelia. From correspondence it is gathered that the partition would have been as follows: France to have Bosnia, Albania, Epirus, all Greece, Thessaly and Macedonia; Austria to have Servia; Russia to have Wallachia, Moldavia, Bulgaria and Thrace, as far as the Maritza. The French mediation was accepted, but definite arrangements could not be secured. English intrigues interrupted, but before any definite result could be achieved another Sultan had been deposed and Mahmud II came to the throne.


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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