- 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 259]



The Christians under Early Moslem Rule — Mohammed II — General Oppression — Protection by French Government — Russian Intrigue — Power of the Greek Church — Reforms under Mahmud II and Abd-ul-Medjid — The Hatti Humayoun — General Improvement Throughout the Empire.

Up to the time of the capture of Constantinople, the relations of the Moslem Sultans to the Christians were simply those of tyrants, who collected what they could and recognized no rights of any kind on the part of those who refused to accept Islam. The fact, however, that there was scarcely any organized government of any kind made matters worse, and soon after the establishment of the dynasty, even as for back as 1360, just after the death of Orchan, it is said that some Armenian refugees came to Edward III, at Reading, made complaint that the Mussulmans were trying to exterminate their people, and asked leave to live in England and collect subscriptions for their fellow-sufferers. The king granted the petition, took the Armenians under his protection, but only so long as the protected should do nothing injurious to his realm, and should “ bear themselves in true faith and honesty.” But it was not only the Armenians who suffered. On both sides of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles the


Greeks felt the pressure of Ottoman power, and the situation all through southeastern Europe was one of terror.

Among the greatest causes for suffering was the organization of the Janissaries. So long as Christian captives were constantly being taken, every fifth captive was claimed for the Sultan’s service. The most robust and handsome were trained for the regular military service, and formed the basis of the famous body of Janissaries. Later, when the extension of dominion put a stop to this source of supply, a tax was laid by which every fifth male child of the Christian population of the empire was converted by force and added to this company, until it has been estimated that in the course of three centuries not less than five million Christian children were sacrificed to this policy of the Sultans. The effect was twofold; it kept the Christian peoples in a constant state of subjection and terror, and it served as a heavy tax upon their actual strength by removing the most virile portion of the population.

With the conquest of Constantinople there was a measure of relief in the situation. Yet in one aspect it became even worse. Under the policy of Mohammed II, by which he sought to strengthen his capital, there was formed a group of Greeks associated with the Patriarchs, to whom was granted a special section of the city called then and still the Phanar or Fanar. These Fanariotes became notorious for their intrigues and unreliability. Their relations with the Ottomans seemed to develop the very worst elements of the Greek-character, and there commenced under them that style of life which has done more to degrade the Christians of the Levant than almost anything else. One illustration of this is seen in the fact of the very great number of Turkish officials of


Christian origin. Under Mohammed, of five grand viziers four were Christians — two Greeks and two Illyrians; under Suleiman the Magnificent, of nine grand viziers eight were of Christian origin. With such opportunities opened for advancement and wealth, the great surprise is, not that there were so many defections, but that there were so few. The recognition of the overpowering tyranny of the government, the realization that that tyranny could be averted only by catering to the passions or the cupidity of the ruling class, developed a servility and treachery that has been the bane of the Christian races of the Ottoman Empire. The same result was assisted by the peculiar ecclesiastical rule which was established. The worst features of the union of Church and State were manifest, and the priests became even more political leaders than spiritual guides.

The various revolutions noticed in the preceding chapters operated also to bind still more closely the chains of oppression upon the Christian populations. Were it possible to learn the detailed history of those centuries, undoubtedly instance after instance would be given of heroic defense and of loyalty to their faith on the part of every class and every church. On the other hand, the barbarism of the age had its effects upon the Christian chiefs, and both in Europe and in Asia, though especially in Europe, the Christians of Hungary, Moldavia, Bosnia and Dalmatia were allied to Turkish Pashas in ferocity.

The commencement of treaty relations between Turkey and the European powers was the first gleam of light that came to the Christian subjects of the Sultans. The simple fact that there were Christians recognized as having rights, in itself gave some encouragement, even to those who did


not share in the immediate benefits accorded to those connected with the Roman Catholic Church. The appearance of Catholic missions and convents in the various Turkish States, the protection of Roman Catholic Christians, especially in Syria, in their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, gave to all classes — Greeks, Armenians, and others — a degree of hope that the time might come when their load should be lightened. In the main, however, the interest of Europe was political rather than religious, and for the most part the Christians were so thoroughly left to themselves that almost their only hope lay in securing the friendship, by whatever means were available, of their Moslem rulers. When by chance there came a milder governor, especially in the European provinces, the subject Christians would be found willing to sustain the cause of the Turks, and in more than one instance the primates were found to have intrigued in favor of the Porte. The French Ambassador, De Breves, rendered noble service when, in Constantinople, he threw himself between the infuriated Janissaries and the churches of Galata, declaring that he would defend at the peril of his life the exercise of the Chris- tian religion; so also when he averted an initial massacre at Scio and preserved the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Christian faith. It was no vain boast he made when he claimed to have given liberty to from one thousand to twelve hundred men who had been made slaves at different times.

A picture of the condition of the Christians a century after the capture of Constantinople is given by a traveler, who describes them in 1571 as so depraved and degraded that they hardly dared look a Turk in the face; the only care of their listless existence being to raise enough for their maintenance and pay the kharadj and poll tax — all beyond


would be seized by the Turks. In Constantinople only was there any security, and here at the end of the sixteenth century it is said that there were not less than 100,000 of them, many of whom acquired wealth either by trade or farming the revenues. One such was reported to have the fate of whole provinces in his hands, and the splendor of his palace rivalled that of the Sultan.

It was perhaps in view of this condition that the French ambassador, De Breves, in presenting his defense of the Franco-Turkish alliance dwelt to a considerable extent on the advantage accruing to the Christian population from the French influence. He dwelt upon the number of monasteries permitted by the Sultan in Constantinople, colleges established by the Jesuits, the number of bishops in the different Turkish States and the honor coming to the French name by the securing of the protection of the Holy Places. But it was not only the Roman Catholics that he felt would be benefited. Reference was specially made to the Greek and Armenian Christians and to the Copts of Egypt, all of whom in their pressing necessities and terrible oppression were glad to have recourse to the powerful support of the French kings. In connection with this French influence commenced Jesuit intrigues, and the priests already conceived great projects for the re-establishment of Roman Catholicism in the East. The English ambassador denounced them as spies of Spain and alarmed the Turkish Government; so they were arrested and imprisoned. Their release was immediately secured, but the Ottoman Government did not hesitate to declare that it preferred to see ten ordinary priests rather than one Jesuit in Constantinople. So much did this prejudice increase that a few years later, notwithstanding the

[page 264] FANATICAL FURY.

utmost efforts of the French Ambassador, the Jesuits were banished from Constantinople for the period of twelve years. At about this same time, the early part of the seventeenth century, we find the Armenians developing considerable influence. They had spread throughout Asia Minor and had increased their colony in Jerusalem to such a degree that they had forced the Catholic monks from the Holy Places at Bethlehem and taken possession of them themselves, only in turn to be removed on appeal to the French Government. Perhaps on account partly of the aggressive action of some of the French ambassadors, at about the same time, free reins seem to have been given to the fanatical fury of the Ottomans against the Christians in different parts of the empire, and even in Constantinople itself the churches were closed and terror reigned everywhere. Sultan Ibrahim I gave way to such furious anger in consequence of some European successes, that he resolved to exterminate all the Christians in the empire. This, however, was limited, on the representation of the Moslem Mufti to Europeans only, and next, under the protest of his ministers, to the Roman Catholic priests. The order for these massacres was given, and for several days the Franks dwelling in Constantinople believed themselves doomed to certain death. It was, however, revoked after much diplomatic pressure.

The general effect of all this was to stir the Catholic world and arouse the religious zeal even in France for war against the infidels, and this had no slight influence upon the strange vicissitudes of Turco-European diplomacy, all of which accomplished practically little for the general welfare of the Christians. The war in Hungary resulted in the carrying of nearly 80,000 Christians into slavery and the general con-

[page 265] GREEK CHURCH.

dition was most deplorable. Occasionally there was a little relief when such men as the Kuprulis held sway and introduced certain modifications of the bitterness of Moslem rule for the benefit of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, but in the main fanaticism ruled and the Christian was looked upon in the typical Moslem style, as a mere slave who had no rights of any kind, simply duties.

With the peace of Carlowitz came into prominence the power of the Greek Church. Already there had been more or less of conflict, but now that assumed very great proportions. Not that there was much of Christianity in it. The belief professed by the people and even by the priests was probably the most superstitious form of the faith that had ever been set forth. The church, however, was led by men and women of great power, and their Christianity, even though largely destitute of moral power, was available for some mitigation of the sufferings of those at least whom they recognized as akin in Christian faith. As early as 1670 an English historian calls attention to fact that the Greeks throughout the empire turned to the Russian as their protector and claimed that according to all their prophecies, ancient and modern, he was destined to be the restorer of their church and their freedom. This feeling was industriously strengthened by Russian emissaries. The Czar issued a proclamation guaranteeing to the Moldo-Wallachians the exclusive exercise of the Greek religion. A bishop was seen at Jerusalem circulating a report that the Turks would be driven out of Europe by the Russian nation, and Peter evidently hoped for a revolt of all the adherents of the Greek religion. This mingling of politics with religion, however, accomplished very little for the general welfare of the

[page 266] A DOOR OF HOPE.

people. Indeed in some respects it seems to have made it worse. It roused the suspicions of the Turkish rulers, and wherever they were naturally under the influence of fanaticism it assisted rather than hindered the practice of outrageous oppression. Especially was this true in the interior provinces. Whatever of relief came was upon the borders. In Constantinople, Smyrna and in Syria there was some pretence of protection. But inland this disappeared entirely, and the description given in previous chapters of the general demoralization of the Turkish Empire emphasizes the terrible condition of the Christian population. That they retained their faith and even their national unity is a marvelous tribute to their character and to the genuineness — if ignorant and superstitious — of their religious belief.

Still there was growth and the treaty of Kainardji in 1774, as it opened a wide door for Russian usurpation, opened also a wide door of hope for the Christian population. The promise of the Porte to protect the Christian religion and its churches, although vague, really accomplished something, and even those who refused any association with the Greek Church reaped, perhaps to a slightly better degree, the benefits of their fellows. The most, however, that can be said is very little, and the general condition of the Christian population of the Turkish Empire at the close of the last century and the commencement of the reign of Mahmud was one of intense suffering.

About this time the Christians were distributed in the main as at present. The Greeks occupied the coast both of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, extending somewhat inland from Smyrna and Adana and occupying villages in Central Asia Minor; the Armenians in largest numbers in their


ancestral country, Erzrum, extended from the eastern end of the Black Sea south to the region of Van. They were also found in increasing numbers throughout Asia Minor and Northern Syria. The Syrians of Mesopotamia had fled to a considerable extent to the mountains where they led a sort of feudal life, scarcely to be distinguished from the Kurds surrounding them; those on the Mesopotamia plain, Syrians or Chaldeans, were constantly subject to the oppression of the Pashas; the Maronites of Syria occupied the Lebanon heights and the Copts were in the towns of the Nile valley. In European Turkey attention was mostly drawn to the Servians and Wallachians; the Bulgarians had as yet not attained any such national power as to bring them particularly into prominence.

The early part of the reign of Mahmud II accomplished very little for the Christians. Attention was directed more especially to the Greeks and their efforts for independence, and foreign nations were too absorbed in their international politics to pay much attention to the general condition of the Sultan’s Christian subjects. The Greek insurrection brought heavy loss upon their communities, and the massacre at Scio, which left scarce 900 out of 100,000, startled the whole Christian world and operated strongly to bring about the independence of Greece, just as, later, the Bulgarian massacres resulted in an independent Bulgaria. Mahmud’s ideas were tolerant. He realized the value to the state of the ability and shrewdness of his Christian subjects, as is shown by his calling numbers of Armenians to hold positions of influence in the government, and had he been free to act as he desired, undoubtedly their condition would have been very much ameliorated. As it was, it improved. One influence that worked

[page 268] GOLDEN ERA.

in this direction was the arrival of the American missionaries at Constantinople in 1831 and their subsequent rapid spread over the empire. The first effect indeed seemed unfortunate. The preaching of evangelical ideas aroused the bitterest hostility of the Armenian and Greek ecclesiastics, and appeared to increase the difficulties. This very fact, however, aroused attention, and the persecution of the Evangelicals called out the sympathies of Lord Stratford, who, though always holding an impartial position, never allowing himself to appear as the special defender of the missionaries, was able to bring to bear considerable influence in favor of religious liberty and thus improve the general condition of the people. The war with Mehemet Ali and his son, Ibrahim Pasha, was felt very severely by the interior Christian communities, and when Mahmud II died, in 1839, there seemed little hope of great improvement.

The reign of Abd-ul-Medjid, 1839-1861, was, at least, so far as the Christians were concerned, the golden era of the Ottoman Sultans. He inherited his father’s liberal ideas, and furthermore had the good sense to call to his aid some of the best statesmen that Turkey has known, men who cordially endorsed his schemes for the general improvement of the situation in the empire. Almost his first act was the promulgation of the Hatti Sherif of Gulhane, a charter of equal rights for all subjects of the Sultan. This was chiefly political in its scope, having regard to the relations between the subject and the government, and is noticed somewhat at length in the chapter on Reforms and Progress. It was noticeable chiefly, so far as the Christians were concerned, for its recognition of their right to the same protection and justice which was accorded to Moslems. The difficulty of carrying out any such

[page 269 - illustration]

Sultan Abdul Hamid II

[caption] SULTAN OF TURKEY. Sultan Abdul Hamid II is now fifty-four years old. Personally, he is a man with whom intercourse is extremely pleasant. His position has been a very difficult one, and he by identifying himself with the reactionary party has made himself responsible for the terrible outrages in his empire.

[page 270 - illustration]

Audience at the Palace

[caption] AUDIENCE AT THE PALACE. The Sultan and his Grand Vizier are giving audience to Sir Phillip Currie, and his secretary. The room is in the palace of Dolma Baghtche, one of the most beautiful and richly ornamented in the world. The attendant standing is an interpreter or palace official.

[page 271] HATTI HUMAYOUN.

scheme as this was made evident by the terrible massacres which occurred in Eastern Turkey, when the Nestorians and Jacobites suffered at the hands of Badir Khan Bey and his Turkish hordes (see chapter on the Nestorians). In general, however, there was’ peace, and on every hand the condition of the Christian population improved.

In 1853 appeared a firman recognizing the Protestant community and giving them all the rights belonging to any other Christian race. This was a great advance in the recognition of the principle of religious liberty, and paved the way for the next step.

In 1856 appeared the most notable proclamation ever issued by a Moslem ruler, the Hatti Humayoun. This was specially for the Christian races, and on account of its great importance as well as general interest, is given below in full.


“ Let it be done as herein set forth.*

“ To you, my Grand Vizier, Mohammed Emin Ali Pasha, decorated with my imperial order of the medjidieh of the first class, and with the order of personal merit; may God grant to you greatness and increase your power.

“ It has always been my most earnest desire to insure the happiness of all classes of the subjects whom Divine Providence has placed under- my imperial sceptre, and since my accession to the throne I have not ceased to direct all my efforts to the attainment of that end.

“ Thanks to the Almighty, these unceasing efforts have already been productive of numerous useful results. From day to day the happiness of the nation and the wealth of my dominions go on augmenting.

“ It being now my desire to renew and enlarge still more the new institutions ordained with a view of establishing a state of things conformable with the dignity of my empire and the position which it occupies among civilized nations, and the rights of my empire having, by the fidelity and

* These words, written by the Sultan’s own hand, constitute the decree a Hatti Humayoun.


praiseworthy efforts of all my subjects, and by the kind and friendly assistance of the great powers, my noble allies, received from abroad a confirmation which will be the commencement of a new era, it is my desire to augment its well-being and prosperity, to effect the happiness of all my subjects, who in my sight are all equal, and equally dear to me, and who are united to each other by the cordial ties of patriotism, and to insure the means of daily increasing the prosperity of my empire.

“I have therefore resolved upon, and I order the execution of the following measures:

“ The guarantees promised on our part by the Hatti Humayoun of Gul-hane (No. 188), and in conformity with the Tanzimat (scheme of reform), to all the subjects of my empire, without distinction of classes or of religion, for the security of their persons and property, and the preservation of their honor, are to-day confirmed and consolidated, and efficacious measures shall be taken in order that they may have their full, entire effect.

“All the privileges and spiritual immunities granted by my ancestors ab antiquo, and at subsequent dates, to all Christian communities or other non-Mussulman persuasions established in my empire, under my protection, shall be confirmed and maintained.

“ Every Christian or other non-Mussulman community shall be bound within a fixed period, and with the concurrence of a commission composed ad hoc of members of its own body, to proceed, with my high approbation and under the inspection of my Sublime Porte, to examine into its actual immunities and privileges, and to discuss and submit to my Sublime Porte the reforms required by the progress of civilization and of the age. The powers conceded to the Christian patriarchs and bishops by the Sultan Mohammed II, and by his successors, shall be made to harmonize with the new position which my generous and beneficent intentions insure to those communities.

“The principle of nominating the patriarchs for life, after the revision of the rule of election now in force, shall be exactly carried out, conformably to the tenor of their firmans of investiture.

“The patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, bishops and rabbins shall take an oath on their entrance into office, according to a form agreed upon in common by my Sublime Porte and the spiritual heads of the different religious communities. The ecclesiastical dues, of whatever sort or nature they be, shall be abolished and replaced by fixed revenues of the patriarchs and heads of communities, and by the allocations, of allowances and salaries

[page 273] FREE WORSHIP.

equitably proportioned to the importance, the rank, and the dignity of the different members of the clergy.

“ The property, real or personal, of the different Christian ecclesiastics shall remain intact; the temporal administration of the Christian or other non-Mussulman communities shall, however, be placed under the safeguard of an assembly to be chosen from among the members, both ecclesiastics and laymen, of the said communities.

“In the towns, small boroughs, and villages where the whole population is of the same religion, no obstacle shall be offered to the repair, according to their original plan, of buildings set apart for religious worship, for schools, for hospitals and for cemeteries.

“ The plans of these different buildings in case of their new erection, must, after having been approved by the patriarchs or heads of communities, be submitted to my Sublime Porte, which will approve of them by my imperial order, or make known its observations upon them within a certain time. Each sect, in localities where there are no other religious denominations, shall be free from every species of restraint as regards the public exercise of its religion.

“ In the towns, small boroughs, and villages where different sects are mingled together, each community inhabiting a distinct quarter, shall, by conforming to the above-mentioned ordinances, have equal power to repair and improve its churches, its hospitals, its schools, and its cemeteries. When there is question of their erection of new buildings, the necessary authority must be asked for, through the medium of the patriarchs and heads of communities from my Sublime Porte, which will pronounce a sovereign decision according that authority, except in the case of administrative obstacles.

“The intervention of the administrative authority in all measures of this nature will be entirely gratuitous. My Sublime Porte will take energetic measures to insure to each sect, whatever be the number of its adherents, entire freedom in the exercise of its religion. Every distinction or designation tending to make any class whatever of the subjects of my empire inferior to another class, on account of their religion, language, or race, shall be forever effaced from administrative protocol. The laws shall be put in force against the use of any injurious or offensive term, either among private individuals or on the part of the authorities.

“ As all forms of religion are and shall be freely professed in my dominions,


no subject of my empire shall be hindered in the exercise of the religion that he professes, nor shall he be in any way annoyed on this account. No one shall be compelled to change his religion.

“The nomination and choice of all functionaries and other employes of my empire being wholly dependent upon my sovereign will, all the subjects of my empire, without distinction of nationality, shall be admissible to public employments, and qualified to fill them according to their capacity and merit, and conformably with the rules to be generally applied.

“All the subjects of my empire, without distinction, shall be received into the civil and military schools of the government, if they otherwise satisfy the conditions as to age and examination which are specified in the organic regulations of the said schools. Moreover, every community is authorized to establish public schools of science, art, and industry. Only the method of instruction and the choice of professors in schools of this class shall be under the control of a mixed council of public instruction, the members of which shall be named by my sovereign command.

“All commercial, correctional, and criminal suits between Mussulmans and Christians, or other non-Mussulman subjects, or between Christian or other non-Mussulmans of different sects, shall be referred to mixed tribunals.

“The proceedings of these tribunals shall be public; the parties shall be confronted and shall produce their witnesses, whose testimony shall be received without distinction, upon an oath taken according to the religious law of each sect.

“Suits relating to civil affairs shall continue to be publicly tried, according to the laws and regulations, before the mixed provincial councils, in the presence of the governor and judge of the place.

“ Special civil proceedings, such as those relating to successions or others of that kind, between subjects of the same Christian or other non-Mussulman faith, may, at the request of the parties, be sent before the councils of the patriarchs or of the communities.

“ Penal, correctional, and commercial laws, and rules of procedure for the mixed tribunals, shall be drawn up as soon as possible and formed into a code. Translations of them shall be published in all the languages current in the empire.

“Proceedings shall be taken with as little delay as possible, for the reform of the penitentiary system as applied to houses of detention, punishment, or correction, and other establishments of like nature, so as


to reconcile the rights of humanity with those of justice. Corporal punishment shall not be administered, even in the prisons, except in conformity with the disciplinary regulations established by my Sublime Porte; and everything that resembles torture shall be entirely abolished.

“ Infractions of the law in this particular shall be severely repressed, and shall besides entail, as of right, the punishment, in comformity with the civil code, of the authorities who may order and of the agents who may commit them.

“The organization of the police in the capital, in the provincial towns and in the rural districts, shall be revised in such a manner as to give to all the peaceable subjects of my empire the strongest guarantees for the safety both of their persons and property.

“The equality of taxes entailing equality of burdens, as equality of duties entails that of rights, Christian subjects and those of other non-Mussulman sects, as it has been already decided, shall, as well as Mussulmans, be subject to the obligations of the law of recruitment.

“The principle of obtaining substitutes, or of purchasing, shall be admitted. A complete law shall be published, with as little delay as possible, respecting the admission into and service in the army of Christian and other non-Mussulman subjects.

“ Proceedings shall be taken for a reform in the constitution of the provincial and communal councils in order to insure fairness in the choice of the deputies of the Mussulman, Christian, and other communities, and freedom of voting in the councils.

“ My Sublime Porte will take into consideration the adoption of the most effectual means for ascertaining exactly and for controlling the result of the deliberations and of the decisions arrived at.

“As the laws regulating the purchase, sale, and disposal of real property are common to all the subjects of my empire, it shall be lawful for foreigners to possess landed property in my dominions, conforming themselves to the laws and police regulations, and bearing the same charges as the native inhabitants, and after arrangements have been come to with foreign powers.*

* On the 18th of January, 1867, a law was passed granting to foreigners the right to hold real property in the Ottoman Empire, and on the 28th of July, 1868, a protocol was signed between the British and Turkish Governments relative to the admission of British subjects to the right of holding real property in Turkey.


“The taxes are to be levied under the same denomination from all the subjects of my empire, without distinction of class or religion. The most prompt and energetic means for remedying the abuses in collecting the taxes, and especially the tithes, shall be considered.

“The system of direct collections shall gradually,and as soon as possible, be substituted for the plan of farming, in all the branches of the revenues of state. As long as the present system remains in force, all agents of the government and all members of the medjlis shall be forbidden, under the severest penalties, to become lessees of any farming contracts which are announced for public competition, or to have any beneficial interest in carrying them out. The local taxes shall, as far as possible, be so imposed as not to affect the sources of production or to hinder the progress of internal commerce.

“Works of public utility shall receive a suitable endowment, part of which shall be raised from private and special taxes levied in the provvinces, which shall have the benefit of the advantages arising from the establishment of ways of communication by land and sea.

“A special law having been already passed, which declares that the budget of the revenues and the expenditure of the state shall be drawn up and made known every year, the said law shall be most scrupulously observed. Proceedings shall be taken for revising the emoluments attached to each office.

“ The heads of each community and a delegate, designated by my Sublime Porte, shall be summoned to take part in the deliberations of the supreme council of justice on all occasions which might interest the generality of the subjects of my empire. They shall be summoned specially for this purpose by my Grand Vizier. The delegates shall hold office for one year; they shall be sworn on entering upon their duties. All the members of the council, at the ordinary and extraordinary meeting’s, shall freely give their opinions and their votes, and no one shall ever annoy them on this account.

“The laws against corruption, extortion or malversation shall apply, according to the legal forms, to all the subjects of my empire, whatever may be their class and the nature of their duties.

“ Steps shall be taken for the formation of banks and other similar institutions, so as to effect a reform in the monetary and financial system, as well as to create funds to be employed in augmenting the sources of the material wealth of my empire. Steps shall also be taken for the formation


of roads and canals to increase the facilities of communication and increase the sources of the wealth of the country.

“ Everything that can impede commerce or agriculture shall be abolished. To accomplish these objects, means shall be sought to profit by the science, the art, and the funds of Europe, and thus gradually to execute them.

“Such being my wishes and my commands, you, who are my Grand Vizier, will, according to custom, cause this imperial firman to be published in my capital and in all parts of my empire; and you will watch attentively and take all the necessary measures that all the orders which it contains be henceforth carried out with the most rigorous punctuality.

“10 DZEMAZIUL, 1272 (February 18, 1856).”*

During the remainder of the reign of Abd-ul-Medjid, and that of Abd-ul-Aziz(1861-1876), the condition of the Christians throughout the empire generally improved. Outbreaks were not wanting. There was the massacre of Maronites by the Druzes in 1860, and the intrigues of Russia resulted in the Bulgarian atrocities, which, in turn, resulted in the Russo-Turkish war and Bulgarian independence. For the most part, however, the situation was far better than it had been at any time. This, not merely in general prosperity, but in the relation between Christians and Moslems. Terms of reproach were heard less. There was greater freedom of worship and education, and it began to be possible for a Christian to secure some justice in the Turkish courts. Christians became numerous in administrative offices, and in the councils in the interior provinces. Taxation, while heavy, was less unevenly divided, and it became not unusual for a Christian to acquire property without attracting the notice of the Turkish authorities, and losing it all through the machinations of some jealous official. Appeals, also, were more frequently made to the higher courts,

* This document, as also the Hatti Sherif, has been taken from Van Dyck’s report on the Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire, published at Washington, D. C, 1881.


and local magnates learned that there was a power higher than their own which they must respect. In this, the presence of the American Missionaries assisted greatly. While not interfering in the administration of the government, they frequently protested to the local governors against manifest injustice and assisted in the forwarding of complaints to Constantinople. The Patriarchs found cordial support at the hands of the foreign ambassadors, and not infrequently Turks looked on with envy, saying to the Armenians, “When an official treats you unjustly, you have some redress. You can send to your bishop and he to the Patriarch, and he can get the great Ambassador from Europe to support his plea. The result is, you get justice. We have nobody to go to. The official is one of us. He will forward no petitions, and we must simply accept his decision, whatever it may be.”

This amelioration of their condition was assisted not a little by the political necessities of the times, and the fact that Abd-ul-Aziz was so absorbed with his plans for aggrandizement that he thought chiefly of using every means that came to his hand. He found the Christians very useful, and advanced them so that they became a great power in the land. Governors hesitated before they incurred their hostility, and they were able to do much for their fellow-subjects. This sort of prosperity, however, had its dangers. Intrigue increased on every hand, and the coming in contact with the new ideas of the West operated in some respects quite unfavorably (see chapter on the Armenians).

It must not be supposed, however, that there was no oppression. There was, and the suffering in many places was intense. It would have been impossible for even the most enlightened government to thoroughly carry out such radical


reforms as those of the Hatti Humayoun without great difficulty, and in Turkey this was greatly increased by the fact that they were bitterly opposed by the entire Moslem population. Turkish pashas, sheiks, beys, and aghas were not slow to see that their power was on the wane, and Turkish peasants realized that the Christians were outstripping them in many of the elements of prosperity. Officials thus used their power when they could, and Turkish citizens made their hostility manifest in the most unpleasant ways. The incursions of Kurds, Circassians, Lozes, and others were also frequent, and the suffering was intense in many places. Peace and prosperity had by no means come. Yet, on the whole, the situation of the Christians was far better when Abd-ul-Hamid II came to the throne in 1876, than it had been at any time since the establishment of the Ottoman dynasty.


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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