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Edwin Munsell Bliss

TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN ATROCITIES


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[page 528]

CHAPTER XXVIII.

PARTITION OF TURKEY.

Factors in the Problem — Turkey and Europe — Topography of the Country — Distribution of Population — Countries Interested — Russia, England, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria — Desire for Territorial Aggrandizement — Mutual Jealousies — Possible Solution — Turkish Factor Often Overlooked — Great Difficulties to be Met.

THE subject of the partition of Turkey has been prominent before the countries of the world for fully a century. At repeated intervals the different journals, as well as the statesmen of this country and of Europe, have given considerable space to plans for such a partition. That partition has not, however, as yet taken place, and its possibility depends upon a large number of factors which are often overlooked. It is the purpose of this chapter to set forth the situation as it is, as clearly as may be, not with a view to making any prophecy of any kind — simply to furnish the basis for private judgment.

In any question of the partition of an empire, two factors are prominent: 1st. The country to be divided, and 2d. The people among whom it is to be divided. The first factor is the Turkish Empire; the second, the nations of Europe.

The Turkish Empire has already in the first chapters of this book been described in general. It is proposed here not to repeat those statements, l?ut to gather some of the facts

[page 529] TOPOGRAPHY.

and place them in their relation to this particular topic. The first factor again is a double one, (1) the country itself, and (2) its population.

Topographically the Turkish Empire may be divided into five sections: 1. European Turkey. 2. Asia Minor, extending from the Bosporus and the Aegean Sea east to a somewhat irregular line drawn from Samsun on the Black Sea south to Alexandretta. 3. Eastern Turkey, including the section between Asia Minor and Persia, and extending south along the borders of Persia and the Tigris as far as somewhat below Mosul. 4. Syria, including the section east of the Mediterranean as far as Aleppo on the north and the Hauran on the east; and 5. Mesopotamia. Arabia and Egypt practically do not enter in. Of these different sections, European Turkey is a very irregular country, including the eastern coast of the Adriatic, Macedonia and the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula to Constantinople. It is a very diversified section, with really no distinctive physical characteristics. Albania is mountainous, as is also Macedonia to a certain degree, but the mountains are by no means forbidding, and the different valleys furnish comparatively easy access in every direction. Topographically, European Turkey offers no particular difficulties to the progress of any conquering Powers, the Balkans being eliminated. As we cross into Asia, however, the situation is very different. Asia Minor consists chiefly of a series of high plateaus averaging about 4,000 feet above the level of the sea, separated from each other by rough rather than mountainous sections, but all separated from the coast, north, south and west, by mountain ranges of no very great height indeed, but extremely rugged and difficult of passage. Eastern Turkey is entirely mountainous,

[page 530] SYRIA AND MESOPOTAMIA.

with numerous valleys, some of them of considerable extent, so that they may fairly be called plateaus. Such are the plains of Erzrum and those that branch off from it into the east, the plain of Mush and the plain of Van. The mountains are, many of them, very severe, not merely of considerable height, but extremely difficult of passage.

Passing south, Syria is divided by the Lebanon range of mountains into the narrow coast-line occupied by the cities of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, etc., and the Hauran. North of this, however, is a somewhat extended plain or rolling country, whose. chief cities are Aleppo, Urfa and Aintab. On the north, where the Taurus Mountains form the division between Syria and Asia Minor, there are quite a number of cities, such as Marash, Albistan and others. Mesopotamia is pure plain, extending from the sharply defined range that borders the southern part of Asia Minor, and extends to a little degree into Eastern Turkey, clear to the Persian Gulf. Often this is looked upon as desert, but there is comparatively very little of real desert, and even the unoccupied land, with a little irrigation, becomes fertile. The Mesopotamian plain proper is as beautifully fertile as any section of the world.

Of these different sections the only two that are not separated from each other are Asia Minor and Eastern Turkey. The line between them is very vague. They are both separated very distinctly from Syria and Mesopotamia on the south, and Syria and Mesopotamia are practically set apart from each other by a wide extent of uninhabited land where there is little to be found except roaming tribes of Bedouin Arabs. These intervening ranges of mountains and tracts of uninhabited country are traversed by almost no roads. On the Black Sea border there are really but four roads that

[page 531] MOUNTAIN RANGES, ETC.

can be said to be available, penetrating into the interior: Trebizond to Erzrum; Samsun to Sivas and Harput; Kera-sun to Sivas, and Ineboli to Castamuni. Only one, that from Trebizond to Erzrum, can really be said to be a good road. That from Samsun to Sivas was at one time fairly good, but is now in much disrepair. Both pass over such sharp mountain ranges that they are very easily defended in case of attack, and a comparatively small force could hold them against a considerable invading army. The third road, from Ineboli to Castamuni, passes over less rugged mountains, but through a rough country, where defense is easy. On the west, the roads from Constantinople by way of Nicomedia to Angora and from Smyrna in two directions, on the north to Angora and on the south to Konieh, pass over a very rough country, easily defended. On the south, from the seaboard at Adana there is a very rough road to Cesarea;. also one extremely difficult of passage, certainly for armies, from Aleppo to Sivas and Harput. From Mosul and Mardin to Diarbekir and on to Harput there is a fairly good road, but that is also over a considerable mountain pass. East of these there are really no roads at all, and the passage from Eastern Turkey into Persia is confined to mountain paths.

Topographically thus, Asia Minor and Eastern Turkey are one country, separated from all the countries around and from access by sea, by mountain ranges of difficult passage.

Another thing that must be kept in mind is the general condition of the country. Normally Asiatic Turkey is extremely fertile, not merely the Mesopotamia plain already referred to, but the plateaus and valleys to the north produce the most wonderful crops. Under the administration of the past century, or the past centuries, however, this condition has

[page 532] KURDS, CIRCASSIANS, ETC.

diminished marvelously, so that there are wide sections of country practically deserted, with no cities, towns or villages, and not a sign of cultivation, and even where there is cultivation, that is carried on in as limited a degree as possible, because under the oppression of the Turkish Government there is no incentive to increased production. The most noticeable result of this condition, from the present standpoint, is that a foreign army would find comparatively little upon which to subsist. It would be compelled in great degree to carry its provisions with it, especially in the face of the opposition of the people.

The second element in the first factor is the population. The general characteristics of that population have already been stated and there needs to be no repetition. Here it is sufficient to indicate the general distribution. From Constantinople and the Aegean Sea through Asia Minor and through a certain part of Eastern Turkey, the Turkish population is in a considerable majority over all others. It occupies the great plains of Central Asia Minor in strong force. It is found not to so great an extent in the mountainous regions, but even there it is the predominant element, not merely by virtue of being the ruling class and identified with the government, but because of its force of character. In the extreme eastern part the Kurds are in the great majority, and they are to be found in considerable numbers through all the mountain sections as far west even as Adana on the south, and Samsun on the north. Through Western Asia Minor, in addition to the Turks, there are numbers of Circassians and the tribes known as Xeibecks, Avshars, etc. Armenians are found in very nearly equal numbers throughout the whole section, though there is not one section in which they predominate. They are

[page 533] MOSLEMS DOMINANT.

strong in the cities of Van, Erzrum, Harput, Sivas, Cesarea, Marsovan and the surrounding plains; also in the mountain sections of Bitlis, Mush, Zeitun and Hajin. The Greeks are found chiefly along the seaboard. All the way from Trebizond on the Black Sea to Constantinople, then south through Smyrna, Adalia to Adana, they are in large numbers, chiefly in the vicinity of Smyrna, but they form a considerable element in Central Asia Minor. Armenians are found to some extent all through Western Asia Minor. In no one section, however, are the Christians even in a numerical majority over the Moslems, and when account is taken of their general condition, the fact that they have no arms, have not been allowed to have arms during all these centuries, have had no training in organization, and have had their mutual jealousies and hostilities constantly developed by the peculiar system of government, and by their ecclesiastical differences, it will be readily seen that it is impossible to expect of them any organized resistance to Moslem government, or any effective assistance to an invading army.

Passing south into Syria and Mesopotamia, very much the same condition of things is seen. There are numerous Armenians in Northern Syria, Marash, Aintab and Urfa. In Aleppo and Syria proper, the Syrians, Jacobites and Maronites are the ruling Christian sects, and in Mesopotamia the Jacobites, Chaldeans and Nestorians. The Moslems, however, are everywhere the dominant class. Along the eastern bank of the Tigris to a considerable distance below Mosul, the Kurds are powerful, not merely by numbers, but in character, being of a higher grade than their fellows to the north. Between them and the Syrian coast, the whole coun-

[page 534] RUSSIA’S CLAIMS.

try is dominated by the Arabs, all thoroughly, even where they are not intensely, Moslem.

We come now to consider the second general factor in the question of partition, the different countries which may be supposed to be interested in taking their share. These countries are Russia, France, Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, England and Germany, named in the order of their apparent interest in the acquisition of territory.

Russia’s idea has been made sufficiently clear in the preceding pages of this book. It may be briefly stated as follows: She needs free passage for her merchant marine into the -Mediterranean, in order to the best development of her provinces, and also for her navy, in order that it may be kept in good condition. At the best her egress through the Baltic is uncertain, the harbors being closed by ice through a considerable part of the winter, and the entrance to the Baltic is too easily defended by other nations for her to be confident of securing an always open passage. That is the immediate necessity. Beyond that there is the great Russian idea of an empire that shall eclipse all previous achievements of Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, French and English. The future of the Slavic race is to her bound up in her political supremacy, and ever since the time of Peter the Great, she has pressed toward that point with unwavering fidelity, not always with uniform energy, frequently allowing lapses, yet always with this ultimate idea in mind. For that the entire Turkish Empire is essential to her. She claims herself, the successor of the Byzantine Empire through the marriage of the daughter of the last Byzantine Emperor to Ivan III, and she looks upon every inch of territory held by that empire as legitimately hers, and proposes to claim it in

[page 535] FRANCE AND AUSTRIA.

due time. More than that, as the defender of the Orthodox Greek Church, she claims the primacy in the Holy Places and has put forth every effort to secure her recognition there. With Russia thus, there is pratically no such thing as partition possible. She means to have the whole. She may indeed waive a portion of it for the time, feeling herself unequal to accomplishing her entire purpose, but the whole she claims, and the whole she is determined to have at some time in the future.

France has no very great designs upon Ottoman territory. Undoubtedly Napoleon had dreams of an Eastern Empire, but it may be questioned whether his dreams have come down to the present Republic. Still, France stands to-day as the patron of the Roman Catholic Church and holds hereditary primacy in the Holy Places in Palestine. More than that, the Roman Catholic Church has extended its influence throughout Mesopotamia in a great degree, and French commercial interests, increasing in the far East, have not been blind to the opportunities furnished, first, by the Suez Canal; second, by the waterways of Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. Her prompt action in 1860 secured for her troops the occupancy of Syria and a general diplomatic precedence in Damascus and Beirut. That she has never waived, but has rather increased by numerous means. For Constantinople itself, it is probable she cares comparatively little, but she does assert her claim to Syria and her interest at least in Mesopotamia.

Austria comes next, as the Power most closely interested in a share as residuary legatee of the Sultan’s domain. The Austrian Empire Is curiously heterogeneous in its character, embracing as it does Germans, Czechs, Magyars, and the

[page 536] OTHER EUROPEAN POWERS.

mountaineers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has the same need that Russia has, an outlet to the sea. At present she holds only Trieste and Fiume, but has for some time looked with longing eyes upon the rich valley of the Vardar, with its outlet at Salonica, which she considers a legitimate addition to Bosnia. Whavever others may gain, it is generally conceded that Austria would look for this at least.

Next to Austria comes Greece. Her ambitions are well known and her desires perfectly natural. She wishes Epirus and Thessaly, and it is generally conceded that, in any division, a portion at least of those sections should belong to her.

On the other hand, Bulgaria longs for Macedonia, and Bulgaria and Greece together would scarcely look with approval upon a slice of Austrian territory right between them. Bulgaria has already added Eastern Rumelia, and the Uskup region and the upper valley of the Vardar would almost inevitably fall to her unless Austria should come down and claim the whole.

Italy’s interest lies less in the Sultan’s domain than in Austria. She has long felt aggrieved by the loss of Trieste, and were Austria to enlarge her borders south along the Adriatic coast and across to the Aegean at Salonica, Italy might claim that her ancient port should be restored to her.
England is ordinarily placed among the first of those interested in the division of the Sultan’s domains. It is evident, however, that her interests are not for the acquisition of territory, certainly beyond the Island of Cyprus, which she now holds. Whether her occupation of Egypt will be permanent or not, is a mooted question. There is an increasing feeling in England that if only there can be some international guarantee for the inviolability of the Suez Canal,

[page 537] QUESTION OF PARTITION.

it is far better for England to withdraw her troops, and to content herself with developing other possessions more thoroughly and entirely her own. As a positive factor then with regard to the absorption of territory, England does not stand in the front rank of those who look with eager eyes upon the distribution of the spoils.

Germany comes last, because she really, so far as it appears, has no desire whatever for territorial aggrandizement in that region, and is mentioned merely because of her presence as a factor in the general question.

The question of partition, however, is not by any means merely one of special aggrandizement of the different empires. Even deeper interests are involved in the mutual jealousies of the Powers, and the influence that they seek to exert in preventive form, are in some respects the most potent. While England, for instance, cares little or nothing for territorial enlargement at the expense of the Sultan, she does care very much that Russia should not overpower the Suez Canal. While Germany has no designs upon Macedonia or Asia Minor, it is to her of great importance that her nearest neighbor should not practically surround her, by extending his domains even through to the Atlantic. Italy cares nothing about the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, but she does care about protecting her own borders against the incursions of a powerful fleet exercised and trained in the Black Sea as an inland lake. Greece may have no great desire beyond Thessaly and Epirus, but she has no ambition to be swallowed up by the great Power of the north. Bulgaria has fought too earnestly for independence to be willing to lose all the ground gained during these past years. France will scarcely be willing to see her traditional influence in

[page 538] PARTITION OF TURKEY.

Jerusalem entirely set aside. How are these various ambitions to be gratified, and these jealousies to be avoided ? That, so far as the European Powers are concerned, is the problem in* volved in the partition of Turkey.

Various solutions have been offered. The most plausible is one outlined in a prominent English journal toward the close of 1895, which is substantially as follows. Commencing with European Turkey: Bulgaria to have the remainder of the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula up to within a few miles of Constantinople; Austria to have the valley of the Vardar, with the port of Salonica, and probably the Adriatic shore, nearly to the Ionian Islands, Greece taking the remainder; Constantinople, with the Bosporus, the littoral of the Sea of Marmora, and the Dardanelles, to be made a Free State, with some sort of guarantee by the European Powers, not unlike that by which Belgium secures her independence. In Asia: Russia to be given full possession of Eastern Turkey, including the cities of Trebizond, Erzrum, Harput, Van, Bitlis. Diarbekir and Mardin, and, if she desires, the entire Mesopotamia plain to Mosul, Bagdad and Bassorah, thus securing an outlet to the Persian Gulf; France to have Syria, including the coast cities of Sidon, Beirut, Tripoli and Alexandretta, and Damascus, Aleppo, Aintab and Urfa; Jerusalem and the immediately surrounding country to be made independent, under international protection, much as Constantinople; England to be allowed Cyprus and Egypt, the Suez Canal being under international guaranties; Greece to have Crete, Rhodes and the other islands of the Archipelago, and Austria to yield to Italy Trieste. Three sections remain, Arabia, Tripoli in Africa and Asia Minor. The first would be left to itself, and Tripoli might be divided between Italy and

[page 539] A DIFFICULT PROBLEM.

France; as to Asia Minor, there is more of doubt. Until the time of the recent massacres, there was a very general feeling that this might be left to the Sultan, with his capital at Brusa, where his line began its reign, or at Konieh (Iconium), the capital of the first Turkish (Seljuk) dynasty. Since the massacres, there has arisen a popular demand that the rule of the Sultans should cease, and two propositions have appeared: one that France should add Asia Minor to Syria, the other that Russia should be allowed to extend her borders west to the Aegean Sea and the vicinity of Constantinople,
In this and in all similar plans, there is an element that is practically left out of sight, and that is the first factor mentioned above, Turkey itself, the country and its people. There seems to be a general impression that about all that the European Powers have to do is to arrange among themselves, and then carry out any plan that they may see fit. The difficulty of doing this will, however, be apparent. To begin with, there is the country itself, difficult of access from the outside, with such topographical characteristics as would render it easy to carry on a guerilla warfare for a long time, necessitating a large army of occupation, and so generally destitute that the troops would require a considerable commissariat. There is also the population. There are at least 6,000,000 Turks, and those who have read the chapter on the Turks will readily see that they are by no means to be overlooked. They are not at all the effete race they are sometimes described, but in the interior provinces are sturdy, powerful men, of great physical endurance, simple habits, and able to live where foreign troops would scarcely find sustenance. Personally they are brave, as the Russians who

[page 540] ABSOLUTE SUBJECTION IMPOSSIBLE.

met them at Plevna and Shipka can testify; they have no fear of death; indeed, under the influence of their priests, they would throw themselves into the defense of their country with a vigor and a recklessness that would tax the best troops of Europe. The Turkish army may be, probably, is dis-. organized, yet the material for a powerful army is ready at hand and needs only circumstances to call it into being, and make it an engine of destructiveness whose power it would be difficult to estimate. Account must also be taken of the other Moslem tribes. The Kurds are, it is true, cowardly and easily subdued in regular combat. They are, however, at home in the mountains and it would require a pretty strong occupying force to keep them in absolute subjection. Two and a half to three millions of such men are an element which an occupying army can scarcely ignore. There are, too, the Circassians and Lazes, far bolder and braver than the Kurds, cherishing bitter resentment for their expulsion from the Caucasus, and eager to take vengeance on any Christian | within reach; the Xeibecks, Yoruks and Avshars, of Western Asia Minor, who will not readily yield their opportunities for plunder; the Druzes, of Syria; the Bedouins of the desert and the milder, but by no means cowardly, Arabs of Mesopotamia. To suppose that the entire Moslem world of Asiatic Turkey would quietly stand by and see the European Powers appor-tion among themselves the domains that have belonged to the house of Osman for six centuries, is scarcely within the bounds of reason. It must be remembered too that the Christians could offer little resistance to the Moslems or be of great help to the invaders. A few, perhaps, like the Armenians of Zeitun, or the Nestorians of Tiari, might hold their own in their mountain fortresses for a time, but even

[page 541] EUROPE UNDERSTANDS.

then they would accomplish little. Were the word to go from the minarets of the Mosques, from Constantinople to Bagdad, that the Cross was threatening to destroy the Crescent, there would commence a slaughter not unlike the one Kingsley describes in “ Hypatia,” when the Goths entrapped the Alexandrines and piled the corpses in the center, keeping time to the weird notes of their leader’s flute. In time, the succoring troops might come but they would find the land one vast charnel house, with bones and tresses of hair alone left to tell the story of the races that for the centuries have kept true to their Christian faith.

It is easy, in well carpeted and luxuriously furnished drawing-rooms and newspaper offices in Europe and America, to demand the destruction of the Turkish Government, to lay down plans for the apportionment of the empire, and then to deride statesmen as cowardly because they hesitate to carry out those plans. The Cabinets of London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin understand the situation perfectly, and they, far better than newspaper correspondents and chance travelers, know the real meaning of the term, “ Partition of Turkey.” They know that it means war, if not among themselves, at least with a race that has never yet tamely submitted to the conqueror, and war in a country difficult of access, and easily defended. War means heavy expense, and the treasuries of Europe are by no means full. Already the cry of the Socialists of Germany, the Nihilists of Russia, the overburdened farmers of Italy and the peasants of Austria, is loud against increased taxation, and partition means taxation. The object of this chapter will have been secured if it is made clear what partition of the Turkish Empire involves.

 


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

Acknowledgements:

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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