- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris


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DEAR FRIENDS, — So many things have happened since I last wrote that I hardly know what to tell first, but perhaps a brief journal account is best. In the afternoon of Saturday, March 28, we went up the Bosphorus with Judge Tarring to Bebek, the place of his country residence, and also the landing-stage for Robert College, which is on the height above, in a magnificent situation. The steam up the Bosphorus was most interesting; one palace which we passed was the one in which poor Abdul Aziz, the Sultan’s uncle, committed suicide, and the next to it had just been done up to receive Prince Ferdinand, Mr. Tarring said a fortnight ago it was a wretched tumbledown place, but numbers of workmen had been put on, and now it was quite gay. A little further up still was the palace to which the Khedive comes when he visits Constantinople. Bebek is nearly half-way up the Bosphorus, and close by the great towers built by Mohammed II. before taking Constantinople. They are very picturesque now. Close by also is the spot where Darius crossed on his bridge of boats.

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A number of English and American friends met us to tea at our friends’ hospitable home, principally those connected with the college, and the president and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Washburn, and Dr. Long and his daughter and others came to dinner. Mrs. Washburn has a sister, a Mrs. Lea, who is a missionary at Marash, and she told us some awful accounts of sufferings. They are feeding thousands there daily, at the rate of 2½d. a week each. This only gives bread, and sickness of various kinds prevails. These ladies told me that they had been hard at work all the winter making garments, that Armenian merchants had given their committee about £1000 worth of material (first and last), and that they themselves had sent over 3000 garments, yet this is nothing to what is needed. At Erzeroum the clothing has been pretty well distributed, but only very imperfectly elsewhere.

On Sunday we came into the city with the Tarrings, and while they went to the one evangelical English place of worship in the city, we went to the Friends’ meeting and mission, in which we were deeply interested. All present, except the mission staff, ourselves, and one Turk, were Armenians; and both E. and I, in our words to them, which Dr. D. interpreted, dwelt on the present situation, and endeavoured to encourage them with ourselves to an unwavering trust in God through all.

Then came lunch, and then a mission meeting, when we both spoke again, but this time simply to tell the story in few words of the Saviour’s love for sinners. We then shook hands with every one present, and some of

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the dear people were very loving. The indefatigable mission party now turned their attention to the Sunday-school, while we left and steamed up the Bosphorus once more, as R. had promised to address the college in the evening.

This audience was a very different one to the morning one. About two hundred students, besides professors and wives and friends, were present, and a very mixed audience; they were ecclesiastically Armenians, Catholics, Greek Church, and Jews, besides Protestants. R. spoke on the direct communication of God to the soul of man by the Spirit, and told some of his own early experience — a thing I never heard him do in public before — but I think it was the right thing for boys like these, who are too much brought up to separate religious doctrine from personal conduct. We slept at Dr. Washburn’s house that night, and returned to the city in the morning with Judge Tarring.

That afternoon (Monday) we visited M. Izmirlian, the Armenian Patriarch, and Dr. and Mrs. D. accompanied us, Dr. D. interpreting. We had a card from Dr. Baro-nian, of Manchester, to introduce us, and the Patriarch said he had also received a letter from him about our visit.

He is a noble old man, but extremely sad-looking — indeed, “ sad ” is too mild a word, “ broken-hearted” would be better. We were quite alone with him in his private room, and the ecclesiastic who brought in coffee immediately retired. He spoke very warmly and gratefully of the efforts of English people, “ Friends ” and others, to relieve his suffering nation, but with intense surprise and

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indignation at the lack of action on the part of the Christian nations politically. He said that so systematic a persecution, which was not a mere wave of fanaticism, was unparalleled in history. Monsters like Nero, he said, have flooded the world with blood, and then disappeared; “ but our suffering has no respite, no end ! ” He gave us his blessing as we rose to go, and we also said that we prayed God to keep and sustain and bless him in his most arduous position.

He impressed us greatly, and Lady Currie told me later in the day that she looked upon him as a holy man, or as if he were almost an apostle. The Sultan has not only threatened but tried to buy him by offers of the greatest favours, but he can neither be bribed nor intimidated; and yet, if he thought it would be for his people’s good, no personal love of power would for a moment weigh with him to prevent him resigning.1 They say that an unprincipled Armenian has just been offered £10,000 to bring about his downfall.

After our visit to the Patriarch we went to afternoon tea with Mr. and Mrs. _____ , Mr._____ being the correspondent of the Daily _____ . There we heard much about the condition of the European press, and of the immense number of papers in the Sultan’s pay. There is a gentleman in Constantinople (whose name we heard) who has taken an enormous sum to contradict the facts sent to the English papers from the interior by Mr. _____ and others. This man is ostracised by all English people here, and so

1 His resignation has since been forced, and the good Patriarch is in exile at Jerusalem. — J. R. H.

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pays some penalty for his Judas-like action. The Sultan, it is said, spends untold sums in bribes, and not less than £40,000 a month in paying spies as well.

After our visit to the _____’s we crossed the Bosphorus, and went to the ancient village of Ghalcedon (where an early Church Council, which condemned the Monophysite doctrine, was held A.D. 451), where Mr. and Mrs. Whittall and their family reside in a lovely home commanding a perfectly exquisite view of Constantinople, with St. Sophia rising above the buildings of the Seraglio, and mosques and minarets standing out against the eastern sky in perfectly distinct beauty, while every prosaic detail is too distant to interfere.

Mr. W. is chairman of the Belief Committee in Constantinople, which is mixed in nationality, Americans and English working together under him in perfect harmony. He had just read a budget of letters by the same post from different parts of the interior, which he said he should send on direct to the Duke of Westminster’s Committee. I do hope some of the particulars will be published. One hundred thousand people at least are being kept alive now through their efforts. Three thousand pounds has just gone to Ourfa, but the needs are unspeakable. The wicked Turks have cut up the Armenian vineyards by the roots at Marash, &c, and taken all their agricultural implements, as well as all their household utensils, from the people, not leaving a spade or a kettle ; and all that is being done now is just to try and keep the absolutely helpless from dying, ordinary poverty not being assisted, and every kind of disease is

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rife. Camp fever, from lack of food, &c. &c, and from contact with every kind of pollution, is present, and in Marash both missionaries and doctors (two out of four) are themselves down with it. Mr. W. and his wife urge us to go there if we possibly can; it is I think about eight days from Ourfa.

We left Chalcedon (the modern name of which is Yadi Keui) yesterday morning, after a very stormy night, and drove to Scutari, where the crossing was feasible. Yesterday afternoon I had a very interesting visit with Lady Currie for about an hour.

Mr. Terrill has, you know, returned to America. The Sultan, either before he left or just after, sent orders to Bitlis for the American missionaries to leave, which caused a panic here; but short measures were taken with him by the American Charg d’Affaires and Sir Philip, and now the Porte says it was all a mistake, and they may remain.

Our passports to the interior have been issued by the English Consulate and are now waiting to be signed by the Turkish authority — we, and every one here, quite hope that it will soon come all right. If any difficulty is made, Sir P. Currie told R. to let him know at once.

Last night our dear friends here invited a very interesting company to meet us. Several Armenians were of the number, one a Protestant pastor named Kapriolian — who is called here “the Armenian Spurgeon” — who told us that the troubles have drawn the Old Armenian Church and themselves into the closest sympathy, and that the Bishop of Scutari (the “Catholicos”) said to

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him recently, “We have misunderstood you in the past, but now we are brothers and can never again be separated ;” this in itself is great gain. Mr. and Mrs. Greene were here, and Mr. Cobb, the head of the British Post Office. Mr. Greene is head of all the Presbyterian Missions in Asia Minor, and father of the author of that book on Armenia which has been so much read in England; Miss Armitage of the Sailors’ Rest, Mrs. White, matron of the English Hospital, and the minister of the English Church previously referred to, and many others, were present. At the close of the evening R. read the 91st Psalm, and then said that our faith in God would not fail us at this time if we all of us gave ourselves continually to be His instruments, or as R. put it, “lesser providences,” for the help of the Armenians. Only those people who did nothing should despair. Then we had an open time of prayer, and several took part very earnestly.

I have now brought our movements up to date, and as Dr. Long of Robert College is coming here directly to take us to see the Museum I will say good-bye. — Yours affectionately,


P.S. — The weather is cold now again and wet, and we are glad of warm clothing.

P.S. — 4.30 P.M. The matter of our permit for travel has now gone up to the Grand Vizier, and they say they hope to give us not only the ordinary teskereh, but a special one which will insure us particular attention wherever we go! The special Providences which have led up

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to this have been most remarkable, and especially this afternoon. We shall now see about a dragoman and other things. Dr. Long went with R to the Sublime Porte, and afterwards took us over the Museum, which is wonderful.

[As the interview with the Armenian Patriarch Izmirlian recorded in the foregoing letter was of special interest, I subjoin more extended memoranda of the conversation. — J. R. H.

The interview was a very painful one; the Patriarch showed great agony of mind for his people, and opened his heart freely to his visitors. He expressed deep gratitude for English sympathy and charitable aid sent to his starving and suffering folk, and prayed that a higher and spiritual blessing might be poured out upon the Armenian people by thus coming into contact with Christian England. Pointing to letters on his desk, he continued, “ The terrible tales of torture and massacre which I receive are too heartrending,” adding, with great animation, “the whole Armenian nation is steeped in blood. It is impossible to grasp the fact that six great Christian Powers of Europe could look at these terrible massacres with folded arms. It is my firm belief that God, at any rate, will hold the stronger Christian nations responsible for the defenceless Christians butchered in cold blood.” Surely England, who forty years ago could find allies to save the Turk, and who later on could tear up the San Stefano Treaty, could, if she would, intervene to rescue an ancient Christian nation, which had clung to its faith for fifteen centuries, though surrounded by foes, and for whose safety England had expressly stipulated. There was no parallel in history for such systematic and continuous persecution. — by robbery, torture, imprisonment, exile, and murder — of men, women, and children, going on for years. “ There have been Neros who appeared and flooded the world with blood like big waves, and then disappeared ; but our suffering has no respite, no end.” Asked if he approved of the idea of emigration for the Armenians, the Patriarch replied, “ Yes, if it could be done nationally, not if it is to break us up. We have stood so long, and suffered so much together, that we will stand together to the end, whether that end be a free Armenia, or a common home in some other country, or extermination.” After being assured of the strong feeling in England

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that something must be done, the Patriarch said it was his belief that God would make the nations feel their great responsibility, and that they, and England especially, would of themselves demand a final settlement. He felt comforted by so much sympathy shown and so much practical help rendered by the English, and said at parting, with solemnity, “ I wish to convey my heartfelt thanks to those who have shown such deep interest and great activity in sending help to the helpless. . . . After all, we are all brothers and sisters united in Christ Jesus, and it has seemed good in God’s sight that while the Armenians are passing through such terrible sufferings, I should be in the position of a shepherd of this branch of the Christian Church.”]


Table of contents
The cover and pages 1-4 | Preface | Table of contents (as in the book)
Turkish Armenia with Route of J.R. & H.B. Harris (a map)
Letter I | Letter II | Letter III | Letter IV | Letter V | Letter VI | Letter VII | Letter VIII
Letter IX | Letter X | Letter XI | Letter XII | Letter XIII | Letter XIV | Letter XV
Letter XVI | Letter XVII | Letter XVIII | Letter XIX | Letter XX | Letter XXI | Letter XXII
Letter XXIII | Letter XXIV | Letter XXV | Letter XXVI | Letter XXVII | Letter XXVIII
Memorandum: Notes of Information from J. R. H. | Letter XXIX | Letter XXX
Letter XXXI | Letter XXXII | Letter XXXIII | Letter XXXIV | Letter XXXV
Letter XXXVI | Letter XXXVII


Source: J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co., Limited, 1897
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

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