- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

James Bryce


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[page 301]


The Vilayet of Sivas lies immediately to the west of the Vilayet of Erzeroum. It includes the upper basins of two rivers—the Kizil Irmaki (Halys), on the banks of which the City of Sivas itself is situated, and the Yeshil Irmak, further towards the north-west and nearer the Black Sea coast.

The province is less mountainous and much richer than its eastern neighbours. Agriculture is flourishing, the nomad shepherd is comparatively rare, and there are a number of populous towns, with the beginnings of local manufactures.

The peasant population is predominantly Turkish, interspersed with important Greek enclaves, which have held their own from the first Seljuk invasions to the present day ; but there are also a number of Armenian villages, and the Armenians constitute—or constituted before June, 1915—about half the population of the towns. The rising trade and industry was almost entirely the product of these Armenians' initiative, and they themselves had risen with it in education and civilisation, till in all essentials they were on a level with the corresponding commercial and professional classes in Western Europe.

This peaceful, progressive community was entirely uprooted by the Deportation Decree. The villages were cleared in June ; the City of Sivas suffered its first deportation on the 5th July.

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To begin with the all-important fact, which may have reached you by now, the Armenians of the interior are being deported in the direction of Mosul. At the time we left Sivas, two-thirds of them had gone from the city, including all our Protestants, our teachers and pupils, and all our side of the city. Those left were the orphan girls and teachers and a few boarding girls, three nurses and two orderlies in the hospital, D. Effendi and his family and a few women servants. According to my best knowledge and opinion, with the exception of Armenian soldiers and prisoners (all of whose families have been sent) and a very few exceptions in the case of people who, for various reasons, were necessary to the Government, all Armenians are gone from Sivas. According to what I consider good authority, I believe it to be true that the entire Armenian population from Erzeroum to (and including) Gemerek, near Kaisaria, and from Samsoun to (and including) Harpout has been deported. There is also a movement in the central field which had not become general yet when I left, but will doubtless become so later. More than 100,000 Greeks from the Marmora and Mediterranean coast have been deported.

We heard many rumours of massacres, but I have no evidence on the subject. To my knowledge, no general massacres have occurred in the Sivas Vilayet. Not a few men have been killed in one way and another.

This general movement against Armenians began months ago in arrests for alleged revolutionary activity and in searches for guns and bombs. In Sivas the winter passed rather quietly, and it was late spring before much was done. About two months ago a general endeavour was made to imprison all leading Armenians, and within a week more than 1,000 were arrested. I estimate the whole number of Sivas men in prison to be between 1,500 and 2,000. The only person taken from our circle was H. Effendi, who was taken by name the first day—not, we think, as from us, but as a resident in the city. Strict orders were given not to molest us or our people, though all our efforts to do anything for H. Effendi failed. Up to the time of our departure from Sivas these men had been in prison a month. They were well, and as comfortable as could be expected in a Turkish prison ; but no examinations had been held, no charges made, and no one knew what was to be done. The Vali assured me again and again that they would be released and sent with their families ; but this was not done for at least ten days after the deportation was begun, and I have no confidence that it will be done at all. We could not believe that this outrage would really take place, but when, on Monday, hundreds of families were loaded on to ox-cart» and sent off, and our Protestant people were told that they were



to start on Wednesday, Miss Graffam said she was going to try to go with them, and in this she succeeded. She bought a spring wagon, a common wagon, eight ox-carts and six donkeys, so that our pupils and teachers went by their own conveyance. The Government furnished on an average an ox-cart to a family, but how far they went that way and how soon they were obliged to walk we do not know.

The advice of the Vali was that the orphans should remain for the present, and we have no idea what they will do to them in the end. This was one of our motives in getting to Constantinople. I represented to our friends there the fear we had that, after all the others were gone, these girls might be forcibly taken from us and put into Turkish families. I talked with Mr. N. about the possibility of bringing them all out of the country. Mr. Morgenthau promised to have strict orders sent to Sivas for their protection. I presume you will hear from Mr. N. on the subject, if his letter gets through. At the time we left Sivas the orphanage circle (female) was complete with the exception of Miss O., who went with the Protestants. I think they deemed it wise to keep as few teachers as necessary. Miss P. and Miss Q. expect to go with them if they go, and take care of them if they remain. We understand that, since we left, the orphans have been moved up to the college building with the ladies ; probably the old building is vacant, and very likely sealed by the Government to ensure its safety. The Y.'s are probably sleeping in our house and going to the city for hospital work in the daytime.

The only men besides Dr. Y. are G., our kavass, D. Effendi and two or three orderlies in the hospital, of whom you will remember only our old teacher, Z. Effendi, of Divrig. All the Protestants except R. the Greek and his family, most of the boarders (boys and girls) and all our teachers excepting H. Effendi, who was in prison, and K., who is with us, went on the road together on Wednesday afternoon, the 7th July. Six or eight of the larger boys ran away a day or two before, and we got no word from them. S. Effendi and T. Effendi went with their families, and the others—U., V., W. and X.—went the same day.

After we had seen thousands of people start out, and especially after ours had actually gone, we came to the conclusion that if anything could be done to stop this terrible crime, which impresses us as ten times worse than any massacre, it would be done in Constantinople. Our work in Sivas seemed to be terminated, at least for the present, and our furlough was due ; so it was decided that Dr. Y., because of his knowledge of Turkish and his medical work, should remain, and that the rest of us should go. We had been getting neither letters nor telegrams for some time, and I did not believe that those we sent arrived. In Constantinople we found that the whole plan of deportation originated from the Central Government, and that no pressure from the Embassies had been able to effect anything. Mr. N.



felt that the most we could do now was to work for raising relief funds for the Armenians, and, in view of the uncertainty of travel from Constantinople to the border, he was anxious for us to get out of the country as soon as possible. So we started at once on receiving our passports.

We believe there is imminent danger of many of these people (whom we estimate for the Sivas, Erzeroum and Harpout Vilayets to be 600,000) starving to death on the road. They took food for a few days, but did not dare take much money with them, as, if they did so, it is doubtful whether they would be allowed to keep it. From Mr. N. we understood that the Rockefeller Foundation people are in Geneva or Berne, and we hope that everything possible will be done to make them recommend relief appropriations at once. Mr. N. and our Ambassador promised to do what they could, and gave me some hope that some relief funds might be sent to Harpout at once. It is questionable whether relief work will even be allowed, but it ought to be undertaken if possible. We shall do all we can in the United States, with the aid of the American Missions Board. ....

I started out from Sivas with several hundred addresses of people to whom we promised to give word about their friends. Then there was my own list of some 700 names of my constituency that I brought, but we were obliged to leave them all in Constantinople. It was impossible to carry out of Turkey a single address or a scrap of writing of any kind. I bought an empty account book, and started a new travelling expense account after crossing the border.

We met on the road near Talas the people of two villages journeying on foot with less than a donkey to a family, no food or bedding, hardly any men, and many of the women barefooted and carrying children. A case in Sivas worthy of notice was that of T. Effendi's sister. Her husband had worked in our hospital as a soldier nurse for many months. She contracted typhus, and was brought to our hospital. Her mother, a woman of sixty to seventy, got up from a sick-bed to go and take care of their seven children, the oldest of whom was about twelve. A few days before the deportation, the husband was imprisoned and exiled without examination or fault. When the quarter in which they lived went off, the mother got out of bed in the hospital and was put on an ox-cart to go with her children.




When we were ready to leave Sivas, the Government gave forty-five ox-carts for the Protestant townspeople and eighty horses, but none at all for our pupils and teachers ; so we bought ten ox-carts, two horse arabas, and five or six donkeys, and started out. In the company were all our teachers in the college, about twenty boys from the college and about thirty of the girls'-school. It was as a special favour to the Sivas people, who had not done anything revolutionary, that the Vali allowed the men who were not yet in prison to go with their families.

The first night we were so tired that we just ate a piece of bread and slept on the ground wherever we could find a place to spread a yorgan (blanket). It was after dark when we stopped, anyway. We were so near Sivas that the gendarmes protected us, and no special harm was done ; but the second night we began to see what was before us. The gendarmes would go ahead and have long conversations with the villagers, and then stand back and let them rob and trouble the people until we all began to scream, and then they would come and drive them away. Y organs and rugs, and all such things, disappeared by the dozen, and donkeys were sure to be lost. Many had brought cows : but from the first day those were carried off, one by one, until not a single one remained.

We got accustomed to being robbed, but the third day a new fear took possession of us, and that was that the men were to be separated from us at Kangal. We passed there at noon and, apart from fear, nothing special happened. Our teacher from Mandjaluk was there, with his mother and sisters. They had left the village with the rest of the women and children, and when they saw that the men were being taken off to be killed the teacher fled to another village, four hours away, where he was found by the police and brought safely with his family to Kangal, because the tchaoush who had taken them from Mandjaluk wanted his sister. I found them confined in one room. I went to the Kaimakam and got an order for them all to come with us.

At Kangal some Armenians had become Mohammedans, and had not left the village, but the others were all gone. The night before we had spent at Kazi Mahara, which was empty. They said that a valley near there was full of corpses. At Kangal we also began to see exiles from Tokat. The sight was one to strike horror to any heart ; they were a company of old women, who had been robbed of absolutely everything. At Tokat the Government had first imprisoned the men, and from the prison had

* Date unspecified.


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taken them on the road. The preacher's wife was in the company, and told us the story. After the men had gone, they arrested the old women and the older brides, perhaps about thirty or thirty-five years old. There were very few young women or children. All the younger women and children were left in Tokat. Badvelli Avedis has seven children ; one was with our schoolgirls and the other six remained in Tokat, without father or mother to look after them. For three days these Tokat people had been without food, and after that had lived on the Sivas company, who had not yet lost much.

When we looked at them we could not imagine that even the Sprinkling of men that were with us would be allowed to remain. We did not long remain in doubt ; the next day we heard that a special kaimakam had come to Hassan Tchelebi to separate the men, and it was with terror in our hearts that we passed through that village about noon. But we encamped and ate our supper in peace, and even began to think that perhaps it was not so, when the Mudir came round with gendarmes and began to collect the men, saying that the Kaimakam wanted to write their names and that they would be back soon.

The night passed, and only one man came back to tell the story of how every man was compelled to give up all his money, and all were taken to prison. The next morning they collected the men who had escaped the night before and extorted forty-five liras from our company, on the promise that they would give us gendarmes to protect us. One " company " is supposed to be from 1,000 to 3,000 persons. Ours was perhaps 2,000, and the greatest number of gendarmes would be five or six. In addition to these they sewed a red rag on the arm of a Kurdish villager and gave him a gun, and he had the right to rob and bully us all he pleased.

Broken-hearted, the women continued their journey. Our boys were not touched, and two of our teachers being small escaped, and will be a great help as long as they can stay with the company. The Mudir said that the men had gone back to Sivas ; the villagers whom we saw all declared that all those men were killed at once. The question of what becomes of the men who are taken out of the prisons and of those who are taken from the convoy is a profound mystery. I have talked with many Turks, and I cannot make up my mind what to believe.

As soon as the men left us, the Turkish drivers began to rob the women, saying : " You are all going to be thrown into the Tokma Su, so you might as well give your things to us, and then we will stay by you and try to protect you." Every Turkish woman that we met said the same thing. The worst were the gendarmes, who really did more or less bad things. One of our schoolgirls was carried off by the Kurds twice, but her companions made so much fuss that she was brought back. I was on the run all the time from one end of the company to the other. These


[page 307] MISS GRAFF AM.

robbing, murdering Kurds are certainly the best-looking men I have seen in this country. They steal your goods, but not everything. They do not take your bread or your stick.

As we approached the bridge over the Tokma Su, it was certainly a fearful sight. As far as the eye could see over the plain was this slow-moving line of ox-carts. For hours there was not a drop of water on the road, and the sun poured down its very hottest. As we went on we began to see the dead from yesterday's company, and the weak began to fall by the way. The Kurds working in the fields made attacks continually, and we were half-distracted. I piled as many as I could on our wagons, and our pupils, both boys and girls, worked like heroes. One girl took a baby from its dead mother and carried it until evening. Another carried a dying woman until she died. We bought water from the Kurds, not minding the beating that the boys were sure to get with it. I counted forty-nine deaths, but there must have been many more. One naked body of a woman was covered with bruises. I saw the Kurds robbing the bodies of those not yet entirely dead. I walked, or, rather, ran, back and forth until we could see the bridge.

The hills on each side were white with Kurds, who were throwing stones on the Armenians, who were slowly wending their way to the bridge. I ran ahead and stood on the bridge in the midst of a crowd of Kurds, until I was used up. I did not see anyone thrown into the water, but they said, and I believe it, that a certain Elmas, who has done handwork for me for years, was thrown over the bridge by a Kurd. Our Badvelli's wife was riding on a horse with a baby in her arms, and a Kurd took hold of her to throw her over, when another Kurd said : " She has a baby in her arms," and they let her go. After crossing the bridge, we found all the Sivas people who had left before us waiting by the river, as well as companies from Samsoun, Amasia and other places.

The police for the first time began to interfere with me here, and it was evident that something was decided about me. The next morning after we arrived at this bridge, they wanted me to go to Malatia ; but I insisted that I had permission to stay with the Armenians. During the day, however, they said that the Mutessarif had ordered me to come to Malatia, and that the others were going to Kiakhta. Soon after we heard that they were going to Ourfa, there to build villages and cities, &c.

In Malatia I went at once to the commandant, a captain who they say has made a fortune out of these exiles. I told him how I had gone to Erzeroum last winter, and how we pitied these women and children and wished to help them, and finally he sent me to the Mutessarif. The latter is a Kurd, apparently anxious to do the right thing ; but he has been sick most of the time since he came, and the " beys " here have had things more or less their own way, and certainly horrors have been committed.



I suggested that they should telegraph to Sivas and understand that I had permission to go with these exiles all the way, and the answer is said to have come from Sivas that I am not to go beyond here.

My friends here are very glad to have me with them, for they have a very difficult problem on their hands and are nearly crazy with the horrors they have been through here. The Mutessarif and other officials here and at Sivas have read me orders from Constantinople again and again to the effect that the lives of these exiles are to be protected, and from their actions I should judge that they must have received such orders ; but they certainly have murdered a great many in every city. Here there were great trenches dug by the soldiers for drilling purposes. Now these trenches are all filled up, and our friends saw carts going back from the city by night. A man I know told me that when he was out to inspect some work he was having done, he saw a dead body which had evidently been pulled out of one of these trenches, probably by dogs. He gave word to the Government, with the result that his two servants, who were with him, were sent for by under-officers, saying that the Pasha wanted them, and they were murdered. The Beledia Reis here says that every male over ten years old is being murdered, that not one is to live, and no woman over fifteen." The truth seems to be somewhere between these two extremes.

My greatest object in going with these exiles was to help them to get started there. Many have relatives in all sorts of places, to whom I could write ; and I could, in my own estimation, be a channel by which aid "could get to them. I am not criticising the Government. Most of the higher officials are at their wit's end to stop these abuses and carry out the orders which they have received ; but this is a flood, and it carries everything before it.

I have tried to write only what I have seen and know to be true. The reports and possibilities are very many, but the exact truth that we know, at best, calls for our most earnest prayer and effort. God has come very near to many during these days.




You may be surprised to get a letter from me from America, and I am surprised myself that I am really here. It is seven years and our time for a furlough ; but as there was no one to leave the College with, and the children were small, we decided to wait a year or two. But when they deported the Armenians and left us without work and without friends, we decided to come home and get our vacation and be ready to go wherever we could after the war.

You will want to know about Sivas and about your family in particular. In general, the Sivas Armenians are gone, but there were a few exceptions when we came away—the Swiss Orphanage, the Sanasarian School, the people in prison (1,500 of the best men), and the Armenians in the army who were employed in making roads, building houses, tailoring, shoe-making, &c, for the army. Then there are Dr. A. and Dr. B., the C.'s, a few tent-makers and people who were necessary to the Turks, a few nurses in our hospital, and D., our druggist.

The others were all deported on ox-carts on the 5th July and the succeeding ten days. In general, there was one ox-cart to a family, and they could take whatever they wished to on that. The Vali allowed the Protestants all to go on the same day, although they were scattered all over the city, and the others were sent by quarters. Our teachers and boarding pupils went with the Protestants.

E. and her children went with the Protestants too. I bought a cow for her, and gave it to her and another woman who could take care of it. I thought that F. must have milk. I did not get down in time to see them off, but Miss Graffam went with them to help what she could.

The morning after they started out, we sent G. on horseback to see how they were. They had spent one night without any accident, although they had not slept much.

All our teachers went except H., who was in prison. We do not know why they imprisoned him, but we think some enemy of the family must have told some Mes about them, because they imprisoned his brother, too, and J. We tried every way to get him out, but it was of no use.

Have you heard that he is engaged to K., a girl who has been in our family a great deal ? She was a teacher in the girls'-school, studied one year in Smyrna, and then taught one year more. She usually spends the summer in our family, and was to do the same this year. When the Armenians were deported, the Vali allowed us to keep three girls as servants, and, as she was to be with us, we kept her with two others who were already with us, and we brought the three to America with us, saving these three from the general deportation.



Since coming to America and hearing about what happened in other places» it seems that the deportation from Sivas was very humane, but at best it was awful. I cannot describe the sadness of haying all our friends taken away from us in one day and not knowing where they were going or whether we should see them again. The College was full of boys, teachers, carpenters, servants, &c. The L.'s, &c, were camping. In a single day they went, and only our family was left, with G. We were not afraid ; we did not care what happened.

Now we do not know what has become of them, or what has become of the prisoners or the soldiers.




When the majority of the Armenian people were exiled from Sivas, I was in Talas, but when I heard what had happened I started back at once, thinking of course that my relations would also be sent away, and wishing to accompany them. It was with great difficulty that I obtained permission from the officials in Kaisaria to go back ; they claimed that the road was very dangerous, and that it would be impossible for a woman alone to travel over it. Finally, the head official of the Military Transport, who was living in Sivas and had taken possession of Dr. AB.'s house there, telegraphed to Kaisaria that I might travel under the protection of the Menzel, and I started with two officers who were in a wagon behind me and who warned me that I must keep close to them, as the road was very dangerous. The road until we reached Sharkishla, two days' journey from Kaisaria, was very quiet, and we met almost no one. At Sharkishla the plain was black with exiles from different parts of Anatolia ; they had been waiting there for about a week and new recruits were coming in every day. At that time they did not seem very unhappy. The weather was beautiful, the plain was covered with trees, and many of the wealthy people had tents and wagons, while there were a great many boys and men in the party.

Later, when they reached Malatia, or even before, the men were separated from them, their wagons and goods were taken from them, and they were only allowed to take what they could carry on their backs over the narrow mountain pass through which they went. I know this because Miss Graffam met these same people later on, while she was on the road with the Sivas people. I was not very near them, but I could see them from the han window. The handji, an Armenian, told me he was sure they were all to be killed, and the officers told me the next day that they had visited them at night, and that the men were to be killed ; they said they were sorry for the women and children, but one of them added : " This is what happens to people that want a kingdom of their own."

I had a few unpleasant experiences on the road, but I will not stop to tell them. I found my relations safe, and the Vah had told them they might stay—I believe because of the influence of some powerful Turkish friends they have in Constantinople, who had telegraphed to the Vali to save Dr. AB. and his wife. The prisons at that time were filled with our Sivas men—several thousand ; these men we visited every day, taking food to some of them and trying to cheer up the others. Their wives and children had gone with the exiles, and it was pretty hard work to be brave when they did not know their fate, but it was surprising how



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really brave they were. Some of the gaolers were very brutal men, and would be as disagreeable as possible to us, but others were polite and willing to let us see the prisoners, even allowing selected ones to come into the yard and talk with us. About a month later these men were taken out in batches of a hundred at night ; they were told that they were to be taken to the railway near Angora to work on it ; the rich men were allowed to hire wagons from Turks, at a big price, to travel in. They were all taken very early in the morning, several hours before daylight, and they were seen, those on foot, to go over the mountain into the valley, where we are pretty sure they were killed, as the soldiers returned with clothes, and the wagons always came back three or four hours later filled with clothes. The soldiers, moreover, described how many of the men met their fate, some bravely, some otherwise, and we think they spoke the truth, for they told of men we knew intimately, and who would have been apt to do and say just what they said they did, in the face of death. It was hard to see so many of our fine young men go off in this way, and many of them had no idea they were going to their death. Some of them took money with them, thinking they might meet their wives and children. When they heard that Miss Graffam was returning, they were so anxious to see her and hear of their families. Most of them were gone when she got back, but she was allowed to go into the prison and tell those that were left something about the journey she had made. They were thankful to hear that their wives and children were still alive, as they had heard they had all been massacred a few days' distance from Sivas. Miss Graffam said that although they were robbed on the road and almost everything they had was taken from them, still the girls and women were not outraged or treated badly as far as Malatia. After that, we heard from boys that had escaped from the party and come back to Sivas that many of the girls were carried off by the Kurds a few days after Miss Graffam left them.

After all our Sivas men had been taken from the prisons, other men kept coming in from other cities and towns like Angora and Yozgad. They were kept in prison for a few days and then taken out as our men had been. We were not permitted to see these men. Many of them when they reached Sivas were in carriages. We heard that they, too, were killed in the mountains, and that Sivas was being called the " Great Slaughter House." The last of our young men that remained in prison were three young doctors. One of them, Dr. AC, had been educated by Mrs. AD. ; he had been brought up in the Orphanage at X., and was a splendid young man, full of enthusiasm for his work, which was in the military hospital. Another of the three was the son of a wealthy Divrig family, who had been educated in Germany and had many strong German friends among the high German officials in Constantinople, who either would not or could not do anything to save him. They were executed while



I was in Constantinople. I had taken with me letters to a high German official from Dr. AE., asking him to save them ; and later Miss Graffam telegraphed to me that they were in great danger, and begged me to do all I could to save them—to go to the Germans. I did so, but was told they had gone to Enver Pasha before, and that he would do nothing for them.

About thirty or forty families in Sivas, all of them wealthy, had become Moslems, having the promise that, if they did so, their lives and property would be safe. A few weeks later, all of them, with the exception of two or three merchants, were told they had to go, and, as soon as they left, their property was confiscated by the Government. The Vali's family doctor, an Armenian, was told that he was to stay, and he asked if that meant he was to become a Moslem. The Vali said : " No, I am tired of these people becoming Moslems."

At two different times our orphanage children were ordered out ; both times Dr. Y. went to the Vali and begged that they might stay, telling him how small many of them were, only three or four years old, and how they would certainly die on the road, for at that time even ox-carts could not be found. He seemed to be touched and said they might. There seemed always to be friction between the police and the Vali ; he would give permission for them to stay and the police would come and say they were to go ; several of the police officers came to the older girls and teachers, and asked them to become their wives and stay, saying that they would be carried off on the road anyway, and that they might as well accept them and remain. Many hundreds of little girls were being brought back to Sivas before I left ; some were being placed in Moslem families and some in empty houses. We were not allowed to see them. Many of the Turkish officers had seized one or two of these little girls and were planning to take them on to Constantinople with them. Some of our orphanage teachers were able to interview some of the older girls that were brought back from Kara-Hissar (one of the places where the Armenians tried to defend themselves). These girls tell horrible tales of what they saw there. A great many of these girls were being married to Turks ; the Turks were saying they were not forcing them ; they wanted them to become their wives willingly. A number of women and children who had been in hiding were also beginning to come out of hiding when I left, and the Missionaries were taking them into the orphanage and the hospital, trying to save them.

Several Armenian soldiers from the Samsoun region had also fled to the hospital for protection ; they had started with their regiments from Samsoun, and the Armenians, who numbered a thousand or more, had been attacked by the guards and the majority killed or left for dead. The men that came to Dr. Y. had been among those left for dead ; one of them had a horrible wound across the back of his neck, where he had been cut


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by an axe ; they usually used axes, saying they did not want to waste powder and shot on them. Some others came from a lonely barracks on the Marsovan road, where they and their comrades, all Armenians (soldiers), had been shut up for three days without food or water. Finally a young Turkish officer heard the noise as he passed, and came and let them out. These men said that they were put in this building towards evening. They were tied together by threes and called out in succession. Those that went out never returned, and they found that they were being butchered with axes. One of the men succeeded in untying the cord that he and his two companions were tied with ; they closed and barricaded the door, and when the soldiers, who were only a few in number (Turkish), found that they could not get in, they fastened it on the outside so that the Armenians should not get out. They were afraid, indeed, to go out even after the Turkish soldiers had left, until this officer appeared and sent them on to Sivas ; he said that the men that did these things would be punished, but they were not. We believed that they were allowed to do pretty much as they pleased with the Armenians, and so, when they happened to be brutal, they did this kind of thing, with the result that many of the Armenians that had gone through it had become nervous wrecks. Dr. Y. had seen and talked with a number of these men, and I also saw those who had fled to the hospital.

In Tokat the girls, small and large, were left in the houses alone. The daughter of the Badvelli there managed to send a letter to her uncle, who was a nurse in our hospital (a soldier), saying that she and her four little sisters were in the house alone and had nothing to live on, and that the city was full of girls in the same condition ; up till that time, which was a month after their parents had left them, they had not been injured by the Turks. A Turk brought the letter.

On the 1st October, when I left Sivas to go up to Constantinople, I had some difficulty in getting permission to start, as the Vali was away. I had to wait until he returned. He said he would see that I got as far as Talas safely, and he told me which places to stop at ; but because of some trouble with the driver, I was unable to stop at the hans he told me to stop at, and the first night the han was filled with Armenians who were being deported from X., both men and women. They were wealthy people who had become Moslems. My driver told me that they had not become true Moslems and for that reason were being sent away. The soldiers with them were very evil-looking men. I noticed that they had many beautiful rugs and carpets in their wagons. In the next room there were some Turks who were talking of the killing of the Armenians ; however, nothing happened to them that night. The second night I had to stop at a han which had been very prosperous a few months before, but was now half wrecked and deserted. It was dark and we could not go on,



and we found that the son and brother of the former handji had become Moslems, and that the Government had allowed them to take charge of the han on condition that they turned over all the money they made to the Government. These two men were in the most pitiable condition from fear, and they both told me horrible tales of how the men of Gemerek had been killed ; this han was outside the town of Gemerek. They said they had hidden in the mountains for three weeks until driven out by starvation, and then had given themselves up to the Government and become Moslems, but they added : " We are only Moslems with our mouths, but Christians in our hearts." Still, they were very fearful, and not at all sure that they would not be killed later. In the village of Gemerek, they said, most of the girls had been forced into marriage with the Turks, and many of the old women had been killed and the rest deported. I had seen them on my way to Sivas going out, so I knew this to be true. The next night I heard two hodjas talking, under my window, of a terrible massacre of the Armenians that had just taken place in the mountains ; they seemed to be very sorry about it and spoke of it with horror ; they did not know, of course, that I was listening. When I reached Talas, the people had almost all gone from there and from Kaisaria. The Kaisaria Protestants, or at least a number of Protestant families, were sent out to Talas and given houses there, while the Talas Protestants were sent to neighbouring villages ; but their condition was much better than that of any of the Armenian people in our Sivas region. The Girls'-School was filled with girls from Kaisaria, most of them the daughters of wealthy Gregorian and Catholic families. The Kaisaria people had been allowed to leave their daughters behind. While I was there, a woman and two men arrived from one of the Kaisaria out-stations and told of the terrible massacre of the whole village. First the little boys up to ten were taken outside the village and killed. There were only a few men in the village, so the women dressed as men and held the village against the Kurds and Turks for three weeks, keeping them off with stones ; they had fled to the hills. These people said that the Turks used to call to them to come down and become Moslems and their lives would be spared ; this they refused to do. Later, the village Turks were reinforced by the soldiers from Kaisaria, who shot them down, only these three people escaping. They had been weeks reaching Talas, having to hide by day and travel very slowly at night for fear of being caught. This village had many of our Protestant people, and among those killed was the mother of one of the teachers and the wife of another. We heard that all the villages in that region were treated in this way, instead of being deported. While in Talas I had a telegram from Sivas asking me to wait for a professor of the Sanasarian College, who was coming from Sivas with his wife and little boy. The Vali had given them permission to go on to Constantinople ; he had



been educated in Vienna and his wife in this country ; they were very fine people. I waited several days and they did not come. I found that they had left Sivas as they planned and disappeared between Sivas and Talas—they have never been heard from. I know a number of people that disappeared in just this way on that road, after the Vali had given them permission to travel and the promise of a safe escort.

The rest of the way from Kaisaria to the railway I went under the protection of the Military Transportation Company. I passed through many deserted towns, but saw no dead bodies on the road, only one between Sivas and Talas. On the railway we passed truck-load after truck-load of Armenians—exiles being sent into the interior. All were in cattle-trucks, huddled together like animals. We met these trucks every day ; often they were shunted on the siding. All along the Konia plain were tens of thousands of people ; some had tents, many of them had nothing. The weather at that time was warm, so they were not suffering specially from the cold. Later, while in Constantinople, we heard that these people on the Konia plain were being sent into the interior and not allowed to take any food with them, so that they would die quickly.

On the train, in the compartment with me, was the wife of the Mutessarif of Erzindjan. She had several Armenian girls with her—one of them in the compartment with us to wait on her children. She was kind to this child, who was only about nine years old, but she treated her like a little slave. She told another Turkish woman that her parents had been sent away and she had taken her from the streets. The Armenians in Constantinople had not been deported, only the men who were suspected of revolutionary tendencies, but there is great suffering among them for lack of food, and they need work. Professor ---------told me, the week before I left, that the Turks in Constantinople were saying : " The Armenians from Constantinople must go," and that great pressure was being brought to bear upon them by the Turks to become Moslems and stay. We had a number of Armenian young women employed in the Red Cross work, and they all showed a most beautiful Christian spirit, were always kind and gentle to the soldiers, and never showed in any way that they felt any bitterness toward them. Several of them had come from the interior and had relatives that had been deported ; one of them was from Trebizond, where there had been that terrible massacre of children, and her little baby of seven months was, she fears, among them. This young woman went into exile with her husband, and lost everything and everyone in Trebizond. She was a most beautiful Christian, and was loved and respected by the people that worked with her.




In December, 1914, Murad was peacefully at work in his native village of Govdoun. Then he was apprised of the troubles brewing in the city of Sivas, the capital of the Vilayet. He hastened there to find the Armenians panic-stricken. All the Armenians of military age, as well as all the prominent Armenian business men, had been imprisoned on the pretext that the bread supplied to the Turkish soldiers was poisoned by the Armenian bakers. The Armenian physicians in the city went to the military commander and protested against this outrage, offering to prove that the accusation was false. As the military commander was not on good terms with the Vali, he ordered some of the bread to be brought, and the physicians ate it before him without any bad results. Then he ordered the prisoners to be released. However, matters grew steadily worse, persecution increased, and spread finally to the surrounding villages.

Murad, with a group of brave Armenians, resisted the outrages of the Turkish Government for several months until he was obliged to take refuge in the mountains. In March, 1915, Turkish soldiers were sent to capture Murad and his band, but they were defeated and repulsed. The Armenians fought their way slowly over the mountains in a continual guerilla warfare. The Government became so exasperated that it placed a price on Murad's head.

Murad was stricken with typhus as a result of the privations and hardships the band endured, and his comrades had to carry him from snow-clad mountain to mountain, and from cave to cave, in order to save him from capture. At Mount Sachar Murad and his comrades were surrounded by three hundred Turkish cavalrymen, but they succeeded in escaping to an Armenian village in Khantzart. The peasants nursed Murad, and said : " Remain here, and we will die by hundreds to protect you." Murad did not wish to expose them to danger. When he heard that the Turkish cavalry were approaching, he requested his comrades to remove him to the mountains.

In the milder weather of May, Murad began to recover. A company of Turkish cavalrymen renewed the search for the little band of Armenian warriors. Murad and his seven men opened fire upon the Turks, wounding several of them. The Turks beat a hasty retreat, but returned soon with reinforcements. These also were put to flight by the Armenians. Murad then withdrew from the mountain and travelled for some days through the woods and valleys.


[page 318] SIVAS.

Because of the extraordinary prowess of the Armenians, it was rumoured that Murad had a thousand men with him. The Vali of Sivas determined to capture him at any cost. At a place called Telouk-Khaina a hundred Turkish infantry advanced upon Murad's army of eight, but Murad decided to save his ammunition, and retreated. Near Tedjir a Turkish regiment with seven guns advanced to give battle to the supposed Armenian army, but the Armenians again used discretion. Murad's men had armed themselves well at the beginning, and replenished their stock of ammunition constantly from the soldiers whom they killed. They frequently found on the slain Kurds and Turks jewelry and other ornaments that had belonged to Armenian women, and Murad still has in his possession some of these jewels.

After numerous victorious encounters and skirmishes with the Turks, Murad turned toward Samsoun, in the autumn of 1915. His band had been increased by seven Armenians and three Greeks. Having reached the village of Tchamulan, not far from Samsoun, they were welcomed by a prominent Greek named Constantine. The Turks had burned and destroyed all the boats owned by Constantine, who was also subjected to other persecutions. Defying the Turks, he harboured the eighteen rebels in his house, and defended them. One day three hundred Turkish soldiers surrounded the Greek's house and opened fire. The besieged band so successfully defended itself that the enemy could not approach the house. Every new attack was repulsed successfully, and many of the Turks were killed. In the evening the siege was raised and the enemy withdrew. Murad and his comrades, together with Constantine and his family, evacuated their stronghold and proceeded toward Samsoun.

The party finally reached the woods of Hodjadagh, near the Black Sea. There they remained in hiding, and sent scouts to reconnoitre the country and find a way of escape. Having replenished their stock of food and ammunition, the brave warriors hastened one night to the sea coast. They found there a Turkish sailing vessel at anchor, and captured it with its Turkish crew of five. They loaded the vessel with their supplies and set sail, taking with them the Turkish crew to man the boat.

After eight days and nights on the Black Sea, their water supply was exhausted and they were compelled to make bread with sea-water. Meanwhile they suffered terribly from thirst. The vessel passed Samsoun and Kerasond, and approached Riza. While they were still about three or four hours' distance from the Russian coast, two Turkish motor-boats were seen pursuing. The Turks had learned of Murad's escape and had dispatched a force to capture him at sea. The Turks opened fire on the rebels. The Armenian sharpshooters replied effectively. The motor-boats turned back after many of the soldiers had been



killed. In Murad's party brave Yegho was killed, and one of the Greeks wounded.

A heavy storm arose, and the superstitious Turkish sailors begged that the body of Yegho might be thrown into the sea, because they feared that the boat would be wrecked if the corpse remained on board. The vessel finally reached Batoum, and the party landed safely on Russian soil. Murad buried Yegho and then went to Tiflis, where he joined the other Armenian Volunteers.


[page 320] SIVAS.


Once more the curtain drawn over the heinous details of Armenian massacres in Asia Minor is raised by that well-known fighter, Murad of Sivas, the Armenian leader of the province. Starting from Sharkishla, some twenty miles south-west of Sivas, with a small force, he opened his way to Divrig, lying about sixty miles south-east of Sivas ; and after a great number of encounters with regular Turkish troops, he eventually entrenched himself on the heights of Yaldiz Dagh, north-east of Sivas, where, surrounded by large numbers of the enemy, he kept up desperate fighting for eight days. Most of his comrades were killed in this unequal combat. He himself, however, succeeded in breaking through the Turkish lines and emerged on the coast, somewhere near Samsoun. Here he forced some Turkish boatmen to set sail in the direction of Batoum. On the voyage, his boat was chased by Turkish motor launches and fired on, and in this encounter one of his comrades was lolled by a bullet. He has just reached here to throw more light upon the horrors which have been committed in the Vilayet of Sivas and in parts of Harpout and Western Dersim.

For about twenty years Murad (a brother-in-arms of Andranik, the organiser of the present volunteer regiments) has been in the front ranks of the Armenian movement as a leading fighter, and the circumstances of his struggle since last March, and the story of his adventurous escape to Russia when all was over, would fill volumes. He has come to tell the outside world the news that, of 160,000 Armenians inhabiting the province of Sivas, there remain now, or, rather, remained a month ago, when he left, some 10,000, who have either been spared as useful artisans toiling in the labour battalions and the prisons, or were old people left in their homes. The remaining 150,000 souls have either been massacred outright or deported to the area bounded by the right bank of the Euphrates and Northern Mesopotamia.

The story which Murad gave me reveals once more the thorough organisation of these massacres by an overmastering hand, and the ruthless processes by which the details were carried out. Anybody listening to Murad, who had been cut off from the rest of the world for eight months, would at once have thought it to be the story of the massacres at Bitlis or one of the other places, there is such a striking resemblance of detail in the work of destruction.

The persecutions began with the outbreak of the Turkish war. The Armenians of Sivas did all they could to help the Red Crescent work of the Turkish army, either by personal service or contributions. Notwithstanding all these efforts, the Armenian element in particular was unscrupulously robbed under the cloak of military requisitions. In the meantime, the Turks



of Sivas did not conceal their intention of settling old scores with the Armenians, who had applied to Europe for reforms.

The storm broke over the question of Armenian deserters from the Turkish army and the disarming of civilian Armenians. The Divisional Commander of Sivas had ordered that able-bodied men above thirty-three years of age and liable to service should get a permit from the military authorities for temporary exemption from entering the field ; whereas Muamer Pasha, the Vali of Sivas, looked upon such a step as a sign of Armenian disloyalty. During December and January most Armenian soldiers in the Turkish service were either disarmed and sent to the labour battalions, or were imprisoned as ' suspicious ' characters. The treatment they received in the army was of a most unenviable kind. A Holy War had been proclaimed by the Caliph, and the fate of the Infidels was in the Moslems' hands. To mention an instance : on an unfounded charge of desertion six Armenians were hanged in Gurin, three of them being brothers, who were absolutely innocent.

For disarming the Armenians, the Turks employed the most fiendish methods. The order for delivering up all arms in the possession of civilians was nominally universal, but in fact it was directed against the Armenians. In Khourakhon, a village near Sivas, one man (Harutune) was actually shod like a horse, one (Muggerdich) was castrated, and another (Puzant) was done to death by putting a red-hot iron crown on his head. Under threats of such tortures many Armenians were compelled to buy arms and give them up to the authorities. The tragi-comical part of the whole business was that the Turkish officiais entrusted with the mission of collecting arms were themselves selling them to Armenians at a good profit*. The object of these infamous proceedings seems to have been the wish of the Turkish Government to place the Armenians in the category of rebels, and accuse them of having hidden arms in spite of official warnings.

Then, again, with a view to striking terror among the Armenians, four or five of the leading men in every town or village were mysteriously shot, while most of the Government officials of Armenian nationality were dismissed without any reason. Nishan Effendi, the sub-governor of Kotchesur† (Province of Sivas), a man of good record, was peremptorily dismissed from his post with many others.

Towards the end of January last (1915), Odabashian Vartabed (the Armenian bishop-elect of Sivas) was proceeding to his post from Angora, when he was attacked on the way and killed in his carriage. It has now been proved beyond doubt that the plot was hatched with the cognisance of Muamer Pasha, the Governor, as among the murderers were Mahil Effendi of Zara, his aide-decamp, Tcherkess Kior Kassim, his chief hangman, and two others.

* See Docs. 68, 94, and 122. [82]
† Kotch Hissar.

[page 322] SIVAS.

During the course of February, Armenian soldiers on active service and Armenian bakers were accused by the authorities of having poisoned the soldiers' bread and food. The subsequent medical inquiry instituted by Turkish and Greek doctors easily proved the baselessness of so gross a charge.

The billeting of Turkish soldiers upon Armenians throughout the province, and their uninterrupted movement from one front to the other*, Sivas being on the main road between Angora and Erzeroum, caused indescribable suffering to the defenceless population. Like famished wolves, the Turkish soldiers ate up everything they saw, and took everything they could lay hands on. In Ketcheurd, an Armenian village east of Sivas, the women were horribly outraged by the soldiers, six of the best-looking of them being so atrociously treated that they succumbed before the very eyes of their tormentors ; and this is only a typical example.

Another incident of a quite impersonal character greatly embittered the relations between the Armenians and the Turks. About 1,700 Russian prisoners of war, captured by the Turks in February, were brought to Sivas in a deplorable condition. The Russian soldiers of Moslem origin had already been released at Erzeroum, most of the Armenians had been killed, and the Russians were stripped of their clothing. On their way to Sivas they were grossly insulted, spat on by every Moslem passer-by, and whipped by their escort into quicker march. Half their number reached Sivas almost naked, covered with filthy rags, their feet swollen and in some cases with their sheepskin coats glued to their sore bodies. In face of such an outrageous treatment of these Russian prisoners, the Armenians of Sivas provided them with medical help and various comforts. This trivial manifestation of humane feeling displayed by the Armenians, however, caused great resentment among the Moslems. In spite of all such efforts, only some sixty Russians survived out of the contingent of 1,700 prisoners. The Turks picked quarrels with the Armenians when the latter tried to bury the Russian dead.

In the last days of March, Murad and other Armenian leaders were asked by the Vali of Sivas to attend a meeting for the deliberation of some important questions. Murad had, however, been privately informed by some Turkish friends that there was a plot against him and his comrades, so he very naturally failed to comply with the Vali's request. The consequence of this was that the relatives of these men were subjected to shameful treatment at the hands of the Turks. Nevertheless, the Armenians throughout Sivas, Erzindjan, Harpout,

* As the Russian fleet had blockaded the Black Sea ports and transport by water was difficult, the Turks appear to have been using the Anatolian Railway to Angora, the terminus of the line, for their communications, proceeding thence to Erzeroum through Sivas by horse and camel.—[Note by the interviewer.]



Tchemesh-Getzak and the other districts thought it wise to endure these persecutions, so as not to give any grounds for harsher measures. Fresh contingents of troops were sent to each village in April to collect an imaginary number of arms, and such arms were provided for the authorities in the manner already described. Courts-martial were set up in many places and people were summarily tried and sentenced. Hovhannes Poladian, Vahan Vartanian, Murad of Khourakhon and twelve other leaders were shot. Men belonging to the Dashnaktzoutioun and the Huntchak parties were subjected to 110 strokes each. These terrorising methods were carried out in thorough earnest in Oulash, Sharkishla, Kotchan, Gemerek, Gurin, Derenda, Divrig, and other districts.

More dreadful days for the Armenians began in June. On the assumption that every Armenian soldier was a deserter, and that his people at home had secreted numberless arms, the Turks never relaxed their policy of squeezing out of the Armenians every piastre they could get by employing the most brutal means. Towards the end of June and the beginning of July, massacres on a far vaster scale were carried out in various parts of the area referred to. The methods pursued in these massacres were precisely the same as everywhere else in Armenia. The men were separated from their women, and the latter driven in a south-easterly direction. The able-bodied men were first imprisoned and then massacred in small batches under bloodcurdling circumstances. For the space of two weeks, Murad thinks, 5,000 Armenians were daily disposed of in the various districts of the province. At Maltepe, a village an hour's ride east of Sivas, some twenty Armenian officials in the Government service were hacked to pieces with pointed and spiked hatchets. At Duzasar, another Armenian village near Sivas, 32 Armenians were done to death in the same manner.

At Habesh, near Zara, east of Sivas, 3,800 Armenians of the neighbourhood were poleaxed, stoned or bayoneted in a fiendish manner. In Khorsan, the headman of the village, named Nigoghos, was hanged upside down on the Boghaz bridge near the village. At Gotni, another village with 120 Armenian families, Turkish bashi-bazouks, mostly released convicts organised into " Chetti " bands, gloried in the achievement of having killed every male above twelve and outraged every woman above the same age.

At Herag, a village near Sivas, the men were killed, the young women carried away and about 600 children detained by the Vali, perhaps to be converted to Islam. The women of Malatia were stripped naked and driven out from their homes, amid the gibes and jeers of the Moslem rabble ; many young women actually went mad, others resorted to hideously painful means to put an end to their lives. At Niksar, north of Sivas, most of the young women were distributed among the Turks, and the remainder were deported to the south.


[page 324] SIVAS.

During his wanderings Murad happened to see that only 300 children and old people were left in the town of Tchar-Shamba, near the coast, where there was a large, prosperous colony before. The young people of both sexes had been either killed, abducted or deported from their homes ; no child above ten years of age remained among the survivors.

In the territory extending from Amasia, north-west of Sivas, to Erzindjan and Harpout, the Armenian element has been reduced to the same condition. In certain centres like Arabkir, Tchemesh-Getzak, etc., some families escaped persecution by adopting Islam.

About 15,000 Armenians of Erzindjan and the surrounding district were for the most part drowned in the Euphrates near the Kamakh gorge ; the Armenians of Baibourt are also reported to have suffered the same fate in the river Kara-Su, a tributary of the Euphrates. With the exception of some thirty Armenian families at Samsoun, all Persian subjects, and a few other families spared here and there, Murad states that all along the Black Sea coast the industrious Armenian element has been uprooted from its homes and its property distributed among local or immigrant Moslems.

In the town of Sivas itself, which comprised some 25,000 Armenians, many of the important inhabitants have either been killed or deported to the deserts. There remain now some 120 Armenian families in the town, consisting mainly of children and elderly folk.

Amid this general scene of unopposed slaughter and destruction, however, there are brave deeds to record and stories of death faced heroically by both men and women.

The Armenians of Duzasar, Gavra, Khorsan, Khantzod, &c, all places in the Province of Sivas, made every possible sacrifice with a view to preventing an inter-racial outbreak in the early stages of the war ; but when they were convinced that the attitude of passive resistance they had adopted did not avail in any way, they took up arms, and, supported by their compatriots of Gurin, Gemerek, Divrig, Ketch-Magara, Mandjaluk and other places, fought for days against the Moslem soldiers and bands and repaid the enemy in their own coin.

The Armenians of Shabin Kara-Hissar and Amasia, exasperated at the unaccountable savagery of the Turks, took to reprisals. They burnt down the Moslem quarters and the Government Buildings in their respective towns and temporarily drove the Turks from them. Later, however, they were overwhelmed by large Turkish forces, and died fighting to the last.

Sirpouhi and Santukht, two young women of Ketcheurd, a village east of Sivas, who were being led off to the harem by Turks, threw themselves into the river Halys, and were drowned with their infants in their arms. Mdlle. Sirpouhi, the nineteen-



year-old daughter of Garabed Tufenkjian of Herag, a graduate of the American College of Marsovan, was offered the choice of saving herself by embracing Islam and marrying a Turk. Sirpouhi retorted that it was an outrage to murder her father and then make her a proposal of marriage. She would have nothing to do with a godless and a murderous people ; whereupon she, and seventeen other Armenian girls who had refused conversion, were shamefully ill-treated and afterwards killed near Tchamli-Bel gorge.

The rich Shahinian family of Sivas, father, sons and one daughter, the fourteen-year-old Khanum, escaped the authorities, who wanted to capture them, and fought for four hours at the entrance of a narrow mountain pass against considerable odds. They were all killed, however, when they ran short of their cartridges.

I could prolong the story of these acts of desperate bravery on the one side and of murderous frenzy on the other. The grim reality of these horrible crimes was forcibly brought home to me when, in the course of my interview with Murad, some girls and young men, Armenians of Sivas, who were anxious to hear something of the dear ones they had left before the war, came to see Murad. They inquired about their relatives and friends, and Murad told them how and when they had been killed or deported. The percentage of murders, at any rate in the cases inquired into on this occasion, was much higher than that of the deportations. One of the girls present, on being told that everyone she had inquired about had been killed, was terribly overcome ; yet she succeeded in suppressing her strong emotion, and nerved herself to take a solemn oath of remembrance, which was shared by all present.


[page 326]

 Contents   Cover   Map    Title page   Insert    Contents (as in the book)
Correspondence   Preface   Letters    Memorandum
Chapter I   II   III    IV    V   VI    VII   VIII   IX   X   XI    XII   XIII   XIV
Summary   Annexe   Index of place   Message


Source: Viscount Bryce The Treatment of Armenians.London, 1916
Scanned by: Irina Minasyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan
Corrections: Anna Vrtanesyan, Lina Kamalyan

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