- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

James Bryce


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[page 654] YESTERDAY A FIEF.


The telegraphic agencies gave us the day before yesterday a summary of a lecture given in Vienna by the German deputy Traub, on his return from a journey to Turkey. After having paid tribute to the military qualities of the Turkish soldiers whom he had occasion to know closely during his stay on the Peninsula of Gallipoli, the eminent lecturer expressed the following opinion : " Turkey must not be considered by Europeans as a country to be exploited." Mr. Traub added that he was opposed to all missionary activities in the Turkish Empire.

These words are of the highest value to us, because in pronouncing them the Honourable German deputy expressed and recognised the profound change which has taken place in our country during these last years. In stating that foreigners must no longer consider Turkey as a vast field of exploitation, Mr. Traub has shown how the present situation of the Ottoman Empire differs from that of yesterday. At the same time he pointed out the necessity of abandoning the old ideas which had taken root with most Europeans as regards our country.

Turkey has always been considered by foreigners as a country where one could and should enrich himself by every possible means and without any charge or risk. For them it was a vast and magnificent fief which was to be exploited as a feudal lord managed his estate. Make as much money as possible, that was the motto of those who came to our country and who, actuated solely by the grasping desire for lucre, had no scruples or were untouched by the least noble or elevated considerations.

Whatever this conception may have been, and however reprehensible the conduct was of those to whom we refer, it would be unjust to consider them solely the result of the temperament of the Europeans living in Turkey. The regime of the Capitulations, odious for us, but full of delights for them, had contributed powerfully to form in our guests the strange ideas of which they were possessed. While the Sultan's own subjects had to submit to all kinds of charges and taxes, the foreigners residing in this Empire were not only entirely exempted, but also enjoyed privileges as numerous as they were important. This strange distinction justified the privileged ones in considering the others as creatures whose sole duty was to suffer everything and to assure the happiness of those to whom they had offered their hospitality.

The Hamidian administration also tended to support the point of view of the foreigners by encouraging them and permitting them all sorts of liberties.


[page 655] "TO-DAY OUR COUNTRY."

The Sovereign, his ministers, and all officers of the administration had only one sure object in view, to assure for themselves a brilliant and easy fife, without any anxiety. This confession alone profoundly wounds our national self-respect. We do not hesitate, out of respect for the truth, to call the old regime, which only yesterday was still in force, the shameless exploitation of the Turkish People. As regards the latter, it bore everything, it was incapable of reacting, because it had not yet become self-conscious.

On the eve of the proclamation of the Constitution, Turkey resembled rather closely Peru or Mexico, which, having been conquered by Pizarro and Cortes, respectively, were for many centuries under an administration totally devoid of all scruples.

This situation did not change immediately after the 23rd July, 1908 ; a new regime had been introduced in Turkey, but a new spirit had not yet entered the mind of the Turkish People. It required the great shocks of the Balkan War to revolutionise profoundly our souls and to give us self-consciousness. The day when under the influence of anxiety and suffering the Turkish People asked themselves : " What am I ? What have I done ? What shall I do ? "—that day was the real beginning of the new era for our country.

We need not dwell here at length on the changes which for nearly four years have taken place in all departments in Turkey. It is not our intention to write the history of the evolution of the soul of the Turkish People, and of the progress it has made. What we wish to speak of is the new situation which it has created for the foreigners.

The Turkish People, while it saw its own individuality develop, became conscious of its rights. It suddenly became evident to it that it was the only master in its own house and that nobody should exploit it or displace it in any field. The foreigners were in its eyes nothing but guests, who were entitled to its respect, but whose duty it was to become worthy of the hospitality they were enjoying.

The abolition of the Capitulations was the first manifestation of this new spirit we have just mentioned. Henceforth foreign subjects had to submit to the same burdens as the natives.

The suppression of the schools founded and directed by ecclesiastic missions or by individuals belonging to enemy nations, a measure which followed the abolition of the capitulary regime, was no less important. Thanks to their schools foreigners were able to exercise great moral influence over the young men of the country and they were virtually in charge of the spiritual and intellectual guidance of our country. By closing them the Government has put an end to a situation as humiliating as it was


[page 656] " Yesterday a Fief, To-day our Country."

dangerous, a situation which, unfortunately, had already lasted too long. Other measures of a political and economic nature were taken to complete a work which might be called the taking possession of the country by its own sons, who had too long been deprived of their rights.

Thanks to this awakening, a little late but still in time, and thanks especially to this activity, Turkey has to-day become a " Fatherland," like Sweden, Spain, or Switzerland. Our country is no longer an estate or fief for anybody ; it is the country of a people which has just been recalled to fife, and which aspires, in its independence and liberty, to happiness and glory.

It is to this happy change that Mr. Traub referred in his lecture. The German deputy was one of the first to proclaim that henceforth the Turkish People will be the only masters in their own house and that nobody may any longer think of exploiting it or in any way tread their rights under foot. We are particularly pleased that an eminent representative of the noble nation which is our friend and ally speaks in this manner.




We have been here three days. Some of us are going to be sent to Erivan ; the rest of us are starting in two days for Van.

The enthusiasm here is very great. There are already 20,000 volunteers at the front, and they are trying to increase the number to 30,000. Each district we occupy is placed under Armenian administration, and an Armenian post is running from Igdir to Van. The Russian Government is showing great goodwill towards the Armenians and doing everything in its power for the liberation of Turkish Armenia.

When we disembarked at Archangel the Government gave us every possible assistance. It even undertook the transport of our baggage, and gave us free passes, second class, to Petrograd.

At Petrograd we received an equally hearty welcome, and the Governor of the city presented each of us with a medal in token of his sympathy. The Armenian colony put us up in the best hotels, entertained us at the best restaurants, and could not make enough of us. This lasted for five days, and then we continued our journey, again at the Government's expense, to Tiflis.

Everywhere on the way the population received us with cheers and offerings of flowers. Just as we were leaving Archangel, a young Russian lady came with flowers and offered one to each of us. I also saw a quite poor man who was so moved by the speech in Russian that one of our comrades had made, that he came and put his tobacco into the pipe of a comrade standing next to me, and kept nothing for himself but a bare half-pipeful. A third, an old man, was so moved by the speech that he began to cry and nearly made off, but a little while after I saw him standing in front of the carriage window and, with a shaking hand, holding out a hard-boiled egg to our comrade the chemist Roupen Stepanian. Probably it was his one meal for the day.

And so at every step we found ourselves in the midst of affecting scenes. At Petrograd Railway Station the crowd was enormous. There was an Armenian lady there who offered each of us a rose. There were boys and young men who wept because they could not come with us. At Rostov a young Russian joined our ranks. He was caught more than once by his parents at the stations further down the line, but he always succeeded in escaping them and rejoining us. We have christened him Stepan.

When we arrived at Tiflis, we marched singing to the offices of the Centra] Armenian Bureau, with our flag unfurled in front



of us and the people marched on either side of us in such a crowd that the trams were forced to stop running.

That is enough for to-day. My next letter shall be written from Armenia itself.

Please say nothing to my sister about this resolution that I have taken I hope, of course, that she would know how to sacrifice her affection for her brother to her love for the nation and for liberty. I should curse any of my relations who lamented irresolution ; they would have committed treason against the nation There are five of us brothers ; was it not imperative that at least one of us should devote himself to the cause of our national emancipation ? Let us keep up our courage, realise the urgency of the moment and do our duty




Our fellow countrymen, the Armenians, who form one of the racial elements of the Ottoman Empire, having taken up, as a result of foreign instigation for many years past, with a lot of false ideas of a nature to disturb the public order ; and because of the fact that they brought about bloody happenings and have attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state, and the safety and interests of their fellow countrymen, as well as of themselves ; and, moreover, as they have now dared to join themselves to the enemy of their existence† and to the enemies now at war with our state—our Government is compelled to adopt extraordinary measures and sacrifices, both for the preservation of the order and security of the country and for the welfare and the continuation of the existence of the Armenian community. Therefore, as a measure to be applied until the conclusion of the war, the Armenians have to be sent away to places which have been prepared in the interior vilayets ; and a literal obedience to the following orders, in a categorical manner, is accordingly enjoined on all Ottomans :

First.—All Armenians, with the exception of the sick, are obliged to leave within five days from the date of this proclamation, by villages or quarters, and under the escort of the gendarmerie.

Second.—Though they are free to carry with them on their journey the articles of their movable property which they desire, they are forbidden to sell their lands and their extra effects, or to leave the latter here and there with other people, because their exile is only temporary and their landed property, and the effects they will be unable to take with them, will be taken care of under the supervision of the Government, and stored in closed and protected buildings. Anyone who sells or attempts to take care of his movable effects or landed property in a manner contrary to this order, shall be sent before the Court Martial. They are free to sell to the Government only the articles which may answer the needs of the Army.

Third.—Contains a promise of safe conduct.

* Miss Egan writes that she managed to bring this document out of Turkey by copying it on the margins of the inner pages of a book, which she pretended to be reading when the Turkish officials searched her at the frontier. The book was examined, but the marginal pencilling passed undetected.
† i.e., Russia.


[page 660] VERSION OF MISS E. F. EGAN.

Fourth.—A threat against anyone attempting to molest them on the way.

Fifth.—Since the Armenians are obliged to submit to this decision of the Government, if some of them attempt to use arms against the soldiers or gendarmes, arms shall be employed against them and they shall be taken, dead or alive. In like manner those who, in opposition to the Government's decision, refrain from leaving or seek to hide themselves—if they are sheltered or given food and assistance, the persons who thus shelter or aid them shall be sent before the Court Martial for execution.


[page 661]

Statistical analysis of   the  racial  elements in the Ottoman vilayets of Erzeroum, Van, Bitlis, Mamouret-ul-aziz, Diyarbekir, and Sivas

[page 662]


Geographical Districts. Schools. Boy Pupils. Girl Pupils. Teachers.
Sairt 3 163 84 11
Amasia-Marsovan 9 1,524 814 54
Shabin Kara-Hissar 27 2,040 105 42
Erzeroum 27 1,956 1,178 85
Kighi 27 1,336 367 43
Baïbourt 9 645 199 32
Diyarbekir 4 690 324 27
Harpout 27 2,058 496 58
Eghin 4 541 215 22
Tchemesh-Getzak 12 456 272 15
Arabkir 18 713 223 25
Tcharsandjak 12 617 189 18
Etesia 8 1,091 571 26
Gurin 12 736 78 20
Darandé 2 260 70 5
Divrig 10 757 100 20
Sivas 46 4,072 549 73
Bitlis 12 571 63 20
Erzindjan 22 1,389 475 63
Kamakh 13 646 28 16
Bayazid 6 338 54 13
Moush 23 1,034 284 35
Van 21 1,323 554 59
Lim and Gedoutz 3 203 56 6
Akhtamar 32 1,106 132 36
Derdjan 12 485 10 12
Isbir-Kiskim 3 80 3
Passin 7 315 7
Khnyss 8 352 15 12
Dikranakerd 2 180 5
Palou 8 505 50 15
Malatia 9 872 230 19
  438 29,054 7,785 897
Aïntab 9 898 708 58
Antioch 10 440 47 10
Aleppo 2 438 249 18
Hadjin 4 508 69 12
Zeïtoun 10 605 85 15
Sis and the Neighbourhood 7 476 165 19
Adana 25 1,947 808 69
Marash 23 1,361 378 44
  90 6,673 2,509 245

* Reprinted from " La Question Arménienne à la Lumière des Documents," par " Marcel Léart " (Paris, 1913). These statistics appear to be the most recent available, but it mint be noted that they are fourteen years out of date, and that the figured mu3t have risen considerably by April, 1915.

[Annexe E.]

[page 663 ] Statistical Schedule of Armenian Schools—continued.

Geographical Districts. Schools. Boy Pupils. Girl Pupils. Teachers.
Adrianople 6 314 251 22
Rodosto 9 1,017 856 48
Ismid 38 5,404 3,103 212
Biledjik 10 1,120 143 21
Kutahia 5 825 349 23
Smyrna 27 1,640 1,295 109
Angora 7 895 395 29
Kaisaria 42 3,795 1,140 125
Samsoun 27 1,361 344 59
Trebizond 47 2,184 718 85
Baghdad 2 68 46 11
Yozgad 12 1,197 557 43
Broussa 16 1,345 733 54
Balikesri-Panderma 8 700 634 35
Tokat 11 1,408 558 50
Kastamouni 3 110 50 2
Konia 3 213 137 12
Armasha 2 190 110 6
  275 23,786 11,419 946
GRAND TOTAL 803 59,513 21,713 2,088





1. The Extent of the Catastrophe.

The most extensive and most difficult work carried on by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief lies within the borders of the Turkish Empire. Here, in January, 1915, the Armenians numbered between sixteen hundred thousand and two million. Precise statistics do not exist. The estimates of the Turkish Government are usually considered to be too low and those of the Armenian Patriarchate sometimes too high, suggesting a tendency in the one case to minimize and in the other to exaggerate the size and consequent importance of the Armenian population.

Twelve months later, in January, 1916, from one-third to one-half of the Armenians in Turkey had fallen victims of deportation, disease, starvation or massacre.

As we note from a letter of Dr. Wilson's, dated Erivan, Russian Caucasus, 4th February, 1916, there were then 182,800 Armenian refugees in the Caucasus and 12,100 in the districts of Turkey at that time conquered by the Russians. The subsequent extensions of the Russian conquests towards the west and south have brought to light numbers of Armenians who were in hiding. At the end of 1915, there were also 9,000 Armenian refugees in Salmas, Persia.

All these statistics are subject to fluctuation, due to the removal of the refugees from one region to another and also to the varying dates on which the enumerations or estimates were made. Bearing these critical considerations in mind we may tabulate the best figures as follows :—

Aleppo, Damascus, Zor 486,000  
Refugees in other parts of Turkey 300,000  
Russian Caucasus 182,800  
Armenians in districts of Turkey conquered by Russia 12,100  
Armenians in Salmas, Persia 9,000  

If we may add to these numbers the undeported Armenian populations in Constantinople and Smyrna, perhaps 150,000 in all, we can perhaps estimate the total number of survivors at under 1,150,000. If we accept the estimate that the Armenian population of Turkey at the beginning of 1915 was between 1,600,000 and 2,000,000, we should compute the number of deaths at between 450,000 and 850,000. We shall probably be safe in saying that the Armenian dead number at least 600,000.

Six hundred thousand men, women and children died within a year. There was recently held in New York City a Preparedness



Parade, which marched up Fifth Avenue twenty abreast and took about thirteen hours to pass a given point. From 10 a.m. till well into the evening, this great army of over 125,000 continued to tramp up the street. If the Armenian men, women and children who died in Turkey within a twelvemonth should rise again and march in solemn procession to beg the assistance of the American people for their surviving brothers, the procession would not be 125,000, but 600,000, four times as long. Marching twenty abreast it would take two days and two nights to pass Great Reviewing Stand.

The mortality was higher in some regions than in others. From certain Armenian villages in the neighbourhood of Harpout, whose population was about two thousand, only 15.2 per cent, reached the goal of their deportation. Even if we make generous allowance for the number of men from these villages who may be still alive in the Army, and for the women and children who may have saved their lives by becoming Moslems, the mortality is unspeakably high. From other regions perhaps 25 per cent, have reached their goal, after marching hundreds of miles across the mountains down into the hot plains. From those portions of Asia Minor which are so situated that the Railway could assist in the deportation, the percentage of loss of life was far smaller, though here insufficient food and insanitary concentration camps have swollen the tolls of death. Especially from the cities on or near the coast of Cilicia, namely, Mersina, Tarsus and Adana, the deportation did not involve great loss of life. The Armenian inhabitants of Constantinople and of Smyrna, who really live in those cities and had not recently moved thither from the country, have not been deported.

Consequently the total number of surviving Armenians in Turkey is greater than our Committee had feared. The fact that there are more survivors than we at first believed obliges us to enlarge our relief work till it becomes adequate to the crisis.

2. The Needs of the Survivors.

Mr. W. W. Peet, Business Agent and Treasurer of the four Turkish Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions with headquarters at Constantinople, has sent information, received by the State Department on the 17th March, to the effect that there are at least eight hundred thousand refugees in Turkey who need help. One-half or more of these are reported by the American Consul at Aleppo to be in the districts of Damascus, Zor and Aleppo.

The general direction of deportation has been to force the exiles to go by train or on foot to the neighbourhood of Aleppo, whence they have been distributed in two directions. One of these is the region served by the Hidjaz Railway, built a few years ago to meet the needs of the Moslem pilgrims to Mecca.


YY 2


The station of Ma'an, near the ruins of the ancient city of Petra, the point beyond which the Hidjaz Railway has always declined to transport Christians, is the southernmost point where Armenian exiles are to be found.

The other territory to which large numbers of exiles have been deported is the region of Der-el-Zor on the Euphrates, six days' journey east-south-east of Aleppo. The Armenians have had to walk thither from Aleppo, though some of them struck across by a more direct route from the Armenian cities on the north.

(Here follow, in the original, Documents 139 (d) and 14 of this volume.)

Fortunately, the American Consul at Aleppo, Mr. Jackson, has the co-operation of the German Consul, Mr. Roessler in the work of relief.

Certain members of the American Committee have for months felt great anxiety as to the condition of the nearly 500,000 exiles distributed to the region east and south of Aleppo. Details as to their condition have been hard to secure. Now we know what we had suspected before—that many exiles have only grass to eat and that hundreds are dying daily of starvation.

3. The Way for Relief is Now Open.

In 1915, the Turkish Government declined to give cordial co-operation in the work of relieving the necessities of the Armenians. The authorities at Constantinople did not wish to have the Armenians helped by foreigners, because they thought it might encourage some of them in treasonable hopes. Constantinople therefore favoured having the relief money distributed through Turkish officials.

According to the New York Times of the 19th October, 1915, the Turkish Government informed the State Department at Washington that the American Red Cross would not be permitted to send surgeons and nurses to the aid of the Armenians in the Turkish Empire. The Turks barred not merely American Red Cross surgeons, nurses and relief agents, but also all other neutral foreigners.

Early in 1916 some obstacles have fallen. On the 23rd March, 1916, Mr. Phillips, the American Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople, sent, on behalf of the Constantinople Chapter of the Red Cross, the following significant cablegram to the Secretary of State :—

" Turkish Government now welcomes help, and through Minister of Interior authorizes American Red Cross, co-operating with Red Crescent, to conduct relief work for civilians of all races.



Great suffering throughout country, particularly at Constantinople and suburbs along the shores of Marmora, at Adrianople, Broussa and Smyrna. In these regions five hundred thousand, not comprising Armenian refugees, need help for bread. Hundreds dying of starvation. No relief in sight. Sugar and petroleum oil at famine prices. Typhus is spreading, high mortality. For immediate relief ten thousand pounds sterling estimated required for Constantinople Chapter administration before 1st May to procure foodstuffs. For more permanent relief, suggest importation supplies by sea from Roumania and America. Neutrality guaranteed by American Red Cross to Entente Powers. Distribution controlled by Constantinople Chapter through agencies, soup kitchens and dispensary. Some can pay cost price and industrial work proposed for others."

In answer to this appeal, certain friends of our Committee raised £12,000 sterling and transmitted it to Constantinople, to be distributed by the Turkish Red Crescent for sufferers in Turkey, regardless of religious barriers.*

* The Ottoman Government appears to have placed new difficulties in the way of this relief, before it could be brought into practical operation. —EDITOR.


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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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