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Harry Stuermer

TWO WAR YEARS IN CONSTANTINOPLE

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[page 258] TWO WAR YEARS

CHAPTER X

The outlook for the future—The consequences of trusting Germany—The Entente's death sentence on Turkey—The social necessity for this deliverance— Anatolia, the new Turkey after the war—Forecasts about the Turkish race—The Turkish element in the lost territory—Russia and Constantinople; international guarantees—Germany, at peace, benefits too—Farewell to the German "World-politicians" —German interests in a victorious and in an amputated Turkey—The German-Turkish treaty—A paradise on earth—The Russian commercial impetus —The new Armenia—Western Anatolia, the old Greek centre of civilisation—Great Arabia and Syria—The reconciliation of Germany.

We have come to the end of our sketches. The question before us now is: What will become of Turkey ? The Entente has pronounced formal sentence of death on the Empire of the Sultan, and neither the slowly fading military power of Turkey, nor the help of Germany, who is herself already virtually conquered, will be able to arrest her fate.

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On the high frost-bound uplands of Armenia the Russians hold a strategic position from which it is impossible to dislodge them, and which will probably very soon extend to the Gulf of Alexandretta. In Mesopotamia, after that enormously important political event, the Fall of Baghdad, the union was effected between the British troops and the Russians, advancing steadily from Persia. The Suez Canal is now no longer threatened, and the British troops have been removed from there for a counter-offensive in Southern Palestine, and probably, when the psychological moment arrives, an offensive against Syria, now so sadly shattered politically. It is quite within the bounds of possibility, too, that during this war a big new Front may be formed in Western Anatolia, already completely broken up by the Pan-Hellenic Irredenta, and the Turks will be hard put to it to find troops to meet the new offensive. Arabia is finally and absolutely lost, and England, by establishing an Arabian Caliphate, has already won the war against Turkey. Meantime, on the far battlefields of Galicia and the Balkans, whole Ottoman divisions are pouring out their life-

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blood, fighting for that elusive German victory that never comes any nearer, while in every nook and corner of their own land there is a terrible lack of troops. Enver Pasha, at length grown anxious, has attempted to recall them, but in vain.

That is a short résumé of the military situation. This is how the Turkey of Enver and Talaat is atoning for the trust she has placed in Germany.

To a German journalist who went out two years ago to a great Turkey, striving for a "Greater Turkey," it does indeed seem a bitter irony of fate to see his sphere of labour thus reduced to nothingness. The fall of Turkey is the greatest blow that could have been dealt to German "world-politics"; it is a disappointment that will have the gravest consequences. But from the standpoint of culture, human civilisation, ethics, the liberty of the peoples and justice, historical progress, the economic development of wide tracts of land of the greatest importance from their geographical position, it is one of the most brilliant results of the war, and one to be hailed with unmixed joy. When I look back on how wonderfully things

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have shaped in the last two and a half years I am bound to admit that I am happy things have turned out as they have. If perchance any Turk who knows me happens to read these lines, I beg him not to think that my ideas are saturated with hatred of Turkey. On the contrary, I love the country and the Turkish race with those many attractive qualities that rightly appealed to a poet like Loti.

I have asked myself thousands of times what would be the best political solution of the problem, how to help this people—and the other races inhabiting their country—to true and lasting happiness. From my many journeys in tropical lands, I have grown accustomed to the sight of autochthonous civilisations and semi-civilised peoples, and am as interested in them as in the most perfectly civilised nations of Europe. I have therefore, I think, been able to set aside entirely in my own mind the territorial interests of the West in the development of the Near East, and give my whole attention to Turkey's own good and Turkey's own needs. But even then I have been obliged to subscribe to the sentence of death passed on the Turkey of the Young Turks and the sovereignty of the

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Ottoman Empire. It is with the fullest consciousness of what I am doing that I agree to the only seemingly cruel amputation of this State. It is merely the outer shell covering a number of peoples who suffer cruelly under an unjust system, chief among them the brave Turkish people who have been led by a criminal Government to take the last step on the road to ruin. The point of view I have adopted does not in any way detract from my personal sympathies, and I still have hopes that the many personal friendships I made in Constantinople will not be broken by the hard words I have been obliged to utter in the cause of truth, in the interests of outraged civilisation, and in the interests of a happier future for the Ottoman people themselves.

The amputation of Turkey is a stern social necessity. Someone has said: "The greatest enemy of Turkey is the Turk." I have too much love for the Turkish people, too much sympathy for them, to adopt this pessimistic attitude without great inward opposition; but unfortunately it is only too true. We have seen how the Turkey of Enver and Talaat has reacted sharply against the Western-minded,

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liberal era of the 1876 and 1908 constitutions, and has turned again to Asia and her newly discovered ideal, Turanism. To the Turks of to-day, European culture and civilisation are at best but a technical means; they are no longer an end in themselves. Their dream is no longer Western Europe, but a nationally awakened and strengthened Asiatentum.

In face of this intellectual development, how can we hope that in the new Turkey there will be a radical alteration of what, in the whole course of Ottoman history, has always been the one characteristic, unchangeable, momentous fact, of what has always shattered the most honest efforts at reform, and always will shatter every attempt at improvement within a sovereign Turkey—I refer to the relationship of the Turk to the "Rajah" (the "herd"), the Christian subjects of the Padishah. The Ottoman, the Mohammedan conqueror, lives by the "herd" he has found in the land he has conquered; the "herd" are the "unbelievers," and rooted deep in the mind of this sovereign people, who have never quite lost their nomadic instincts, is the conviction that they have the right to live by the sweat of the brow of their Chris-

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tian subjects and on the fruits of their labour. That we Europeans think this unjust the Turk will never be able to grasp.

A Wali of Erzerum once said: "The Turkish Government and the Armenian people stand in the relationship of man and wife, and any third persons who feel sympathy for the wife and anger at the wife-beating husband will do better not to meddle in this domestic strife." This quotation has become famous, for it exactly characterises the relationship of the Turk to the "Rajah," not to the Armenians. In this phrase alone there lies, quite apart from all the crimes committed by the present Turkish Government, a sufficient moral and political foundation for the sentence of death passed on the sovereignty of the present Turkish State. For so long as the Turks cling to Islam, from which springs that opposition between Moslem rulers and "Giaur" subjects so detrimental to all social progress, it is Europe's sacred duty not to give Turkey sovereignty over any territory with a strong Christian element. That is why Turkey must at all costs be confined to Inner Anatolia; that is why complete amputation is necessary; and why the

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outlying districts of Turkey, the Straits, the Anatolian coast, the whole of Armenia must be rescued and, part of it at any rate, placed under formal European protection.

Even in Inner Anatolia, which will probably still be left to the Ottomans after the war, the strongest European influence must be brought to bear—which will probably not be difficult in view of Turkey's financial bankruptcy; European customs and civilisation must be introduced; in a word, Europe must exercise sufficient control to be in a position to prevent the numerous non-Turks resident even in Anatolia from being exposed to the old system of exploiting the "Rajah." Discerning Turks themselves have admitted that it would be best for Europe to put the whole of Turkey for a generation under curatorship and general European supervision.

I, personally, should not be satisfied with this system for the districts occupied more by non-Turks than by Turks; but, on the other hand, I should not go so far in the case of Inner Anatolia. I trust that strong European influence will make it possible to make Inner Anatolia a sovereign territory. I have pinned

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my faith on the Ottoman race being given another and final opportunity on her own ground of showing how she will develop now after the wonderful intellectual improvement that has taken place during the war. I hope at the same time that even in a sovereign Turkish Inner Anatolia Europe will have enough say to prevent any out-growths of the "Rajah principle."

The Turks must not be deprived of the opportunity to bring their new-found abilities, which even we must praise, to bear on the production of a new, modern, but thoroughly Turkish civilisation of their own on their own ground. Anatolia, beautiful and capable of development, is, even if we confine it to those interior parts chiefly inhabited by Ottomans, still quite a big enough field for the production of such a civilisation; it is quite big enough too for the terribly reduced numbers now belonging to the Osmanic race.

The amputation and limitation of Turkey, even if they do not succeed in altering the real Turkish point of view—and this, so far as the relationship to the Christians is concerned, is the same, from the Pasha down to the poorest

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Anatolian peasant—will at least have a tremendously beneficial effect. The possibilities in the Turkish race will come to flower. "The worst patriots," I once dared to say in one of my articles in spite of the censorship, "are not those who look for the future of the nation in concentrated cultural work in the Turkish nucleus-land of Anatolia, instead of gaping over the Caucasus and down into the sands of the African desert in their search for a 'Greater Turkey.' " And in connection with the series of lectures I have already mentioned about Anatolian hygiene and social politics, I said, with quite unmistakable meaning: "Turkey will have a wonderful opportunity on her own original ground, in the nucleus-land of the Ottomans, of proving her capability and showing that she has become a really modern, civilised State."

My earnest wish is that all the Turks' high intellectual abilities, brought to the front by this war, may be concentrated on this beautiful and repaying task. Intensive labour and the concentration of all forces on positive work in the direction of civilisation will have to take the place of corrupt rule, boundless neglect,

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waste, the strangulation of all progressive movements, political illusions, the unquenchable desire for conquest and oppression. This is what we pray for for Anatolia, the real New Turkey after the war. In other districts, also, now fully under European control, the pure Turkish element will flourish much more exceedingly than ever before under the beneficent protection of modern, civilised Governments. Frankly, the dream of Turkish Power has vanished. But new life springs out of ruin and decay; the history of mankind is a continual change.

Russia, too, after war, will no longer be what she seemed to terrified Turkish eyes and jealous German eyes dazzled by "world-politics": a colossal creature, stretching forth enormous suckers to swallow up her smaller neighbours; a country ruled by a dull, unthinking despotism.

From the standpoint of universal civilisation it is to be hoped that the solution of the problem of the Near East will be to transform the Straits between the Black Sea and Aegea, together with the city of Constantinople, uniquely situated as it is, into a com-

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pletely international stretch with open harbours. Then we need no longer oppose Russian aspirations. If England, the stronghold of Free Trade and of all principles of freedom of intercourse, and France, the land of culture, interested in Turkey to the extent of millions, were content to leave Russia a free hand in the Straits; if Roumania, shut in in the Black Sea, did not fear for her trade, but was willing to become an ally of Russia in full knowledge of the Entente agreement about the Straits, it is of course sufficiently evident what guarantee with regard to international freedom modern Russia will have to give after the war, and even the Germans have nothing to fear. Of course the German anti-European "Antwerp-Baghdad" dream will be shattered. But once Germany is at peace, she will probably find that even the Russian solution of the Straits question benefits her not a little. The final realisation of Russia's efforts, justifiable both historically and geographically, to reach the Mediterranean at this one eminently suitable spot, will certainly contribute in an extraordinary degree to remove the unbearable politi-

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cal pressure from Europe and ensure peace for the world.

Just a few parting words to the German "World-politicians." Very often, as I have said, I heard during my stay in Constantinople expressions of anxiety on the part of Germans that all German interests, even purely commercial ones, would be gravely endangered in the victorious New Turkey, which would spring to life again with renewed jingoistic passions and renewed efforts at emancipation. And more than once—all honour to the feelings of justice and the sound common sense of those who dared to utter such opinions—I was told by Germans, in the middle of the war, and with no attempt at concealment, that they fully agreed it was an absolute necessity for Russia to have the control of the only outlet for her enormous trade to the Mediterranean, and that commercially at any rate the fight for Constantinople and the Straits was a fight for a just cause.

Now, let us take these two points of view together. From the purely German standpoint, which is better?—a victorious and self-governing Turkey imbued with jingoism and

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the desire for emancipation, practically closed to us, even commercially, or an amputated Turkey, compelled to appeal for European help and European capital to recover from her state of complete exhaustion; a Turkey freed from those Young Turkish jingoists who, in spite of all their fine phrases and the German help they had to accept for all their inward distaste of it, hate us from the very depths of their heart; a Turkey which, even if Russia, —as a last resort!—is allowed to become mistress of the Dardanelles with huge international guarantees, would, in the Anatolia that is left to her, capable of development as it is, and rich in national wealth, offer a very considerable field of activity for German enterprise? The short-sighted Pan-Germans, who are now fighting for the victory of anti-foreign neo-Pan-Turkism against the modern, civilised States of the Entente, who had no wish at all that Germany should not fare as well as the rest in the wide domains of Asiatic Turkey, can perhaps answer my question. They should have asked themselves this, and foreseen the consequences before they yielded

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weakly to Turkish caprices and themselves stirred up the Turks against Europe.

As things stand now, however, the German Government has thought fit, in her blind belief in ultimate victory, to enter on a formal treaty, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, at a point in the war when no reasonable being even in Germany could possibly still believe that a German victory would suffice to protect Turkey after she has been solemnly condemned by the Entente for her long list of crimes. Germany has thus given a negative answer to the question passed from mouth to mouth in the international district of Pera almost right from Turkey's entry into the war: "Will Germany, if necessary, sacrifice Constantinople and the Dardanelles, if she can thus secure peace with Russia?" She had already given the answer "No" before the absurd illusions of a possible separate peace with Russia at this price were finally and utterly dispelled by the speech of the Russian Minister Trepoff, and the purposeful and cruelly clear refusal of Germany's offer of peace. These events and the increasing excitement about the war in Constantinople and

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elsewhere were not required to show that in the Near East as well the fight must be fought "to the bitter end."

Never, however—and that is German World-politics, and the ethics of the World-politician—have I ever heard a single one of those Germans, who thought it an impossibility to sacrifice their ally Turkey in order to gain the desired peace, put forward as an argument for his opinion the shame of a broken promise, but only the consideration that German activity in the lands of Islam, and particularly in the valuable Near East, would be over and done with for ever. I wonder if those who have decided, with the phantom of a German-Turkish victory ever before them, to go on with the struggle on the side of Turkey even after she had committed such abominable crimes, and to drench Europe still further with the blood of all the civilised nations of the world, ever have any qualms as to how much of their once brilliant possibilities of commercial activity in Turkey, now so lightly staked, would still exist were Turkey victorious.

Luckily for mankind, history has decided

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otherwise. After the war, the huge and flourishing trade of Southern Russia will be carried down to the then open seaports between Europe and Asia; the wealth of Odessa and the Pontus ports, enormously increased and free to develop, will be concentrated on the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, and the whole hitherto neglected city of Constantinople, from Pera and Galata to Stamboul and Scutari and Haidar-Pasha, will become an earthly paradise of pulsing life, well-being, and comfort. The luxury and elegance of the Crimea will move southwards to these shores of unique natural beauty and mild climate which form the bridge between two continents and between two seas. Anyone who returns after a decade of peaceful labour, when the Old World has recovered from its wounds, to the Bosporus and the shores of the Sea of Marmora, which he knew before the war, under Turkish regime, will be astonished at the marvellous changes which will then have been wrought in that favoured corner of the earth.

Never, even after another hundred years of Turkish rule, would that unique coast ever have become what it can be and what it must

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be—one of the very greatest centres of international intercourse and the Riviera of the East, not only in beauty of landscape, but in luxury and wealth. The greatest stress in this connection is to be laid on the lively Russian impetus that will spring from a modernised Russia, untrammelled by restrictions in the Straits. Convinced as I am that Russia after the war will no longer be the Russia of to-day, so feared by Germany, the Balkan States, and Turkey, I am prepared to give this impetus full play, as being the best possible means for the further development of Constantinople.

In Asia Minor, from Brussa to the slopes of the Taurus and the foot of the Armenian mountains, there will extend a modern Turkey which has finally come to rest, to concentration, to peaceful labour, after centuries of conflict, despotic extortion, the suicidal policy of military adventurers, and superficial attempts at expansion coupled with neglect of the most important internal duties. The inhabitants of these lands will soon have forgotten that "Greater Turkey" has collapsed. They will be really happy at last, these people whose

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idea of happiness hitherto had been a veneer of material well-being obtained by toadying, while the great bulk of the Empire pined in dirt, ignorance, and poverty, consumed by an outworn militarism, oppressed by a decaying administration. Then, but not till then, the world will see what the Turkish people is capable of. Then there will be no need for pessimism about this kindly and honourable race. Then we can become honest "Pro-Turks" again.

In Western Asia Minor, Europe will not forget that the whole shore, where once stood Troy, Ephesus, and Milet, is an out-and-out Hellenic centre of civilisation. Quite independently of all political feelings towards present-day Greece, this historical fact must be taken into consideration in the final ruling. It is to be hoped that the Greek people will not have to atone for ever for the faults of their non-Greek king who has forgotten that it is his sacred duty to be a Greek and nothing but a Greek, and who has betrayed the honour and the future of the nation.

The Armenian mountain-land, laid waste by war, and emptied of men by Talaat's passion

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for persecution, will obtain autonomy from her conqueror, Russia, and will perhaps be linked up with all the other parts of the east, inhabited by the last remnants of the Armenian people. Armenia, with its central position and divided into three among Turkey, Russia, and Persia, may from its geographical position, its unfortunate history, and the endless sufferings it has been called upon to bear, be called the Poland of Further Asia. Delivered from the Turkish system, freed from all antagonistic Turko-Russian military principles of obstruction, linked up by railways to the west as well as the already well-developed region of Transcaucasia, with a big through trade from the Black Sea via Trapezunt to Persia and Mesopotamia, it will once more offer an excellent field of activity to the high intellectual and commercial abilities of its people, now, alas! scattered to the four winds of heaven. But they will return to their old home, bringing with them European ideas, European technique, and the most modern methods from America.

If men are lacking, they can be obtained from the near Caucasus with its narrow, over-

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filled valleys, inhabited by a most superior race of men, who have always had strong emigrating instincts. Even this most unfortunate country in the whole world, which the Turks of the Old Regime and of the New have systematically mutilated and at last bequeathed to Russia with practically not a man left, is going to have its spring-time.

In the south, Great Arabia and Syria will have autonomy under the protection of England and France with their skilful Islam policy ; they will have the benefit of the approved methods of progressive work in Egypt, the Soudan, and India as well as the Atlas lands; they will be exposed to the influences and incitements of the rest of civilised Europe; they will probably be enriched with capital from America, where thousands of Arab and Syrian, as well as Armenian, refugees have found a home; they will provide the first opportunity in history of showing how the Arab race accommodates itself to modern civilisation on its own ground and with its own sovereign administration. The final deliverance of the Arabs from the oppressive and harmful supremacy of the Turks, now happily accomplished by the war,

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was one of the most urgent demands for a race that can look back on centuries of brilliant civilisation. The civilised world will watch with the keenest interest the self-development of the Arabian lands.

Even Germany, once she is at peace, will have no need to grumble at these arrangements, however diametrically opposed they may be to the now sadly shattered plans of the Pan-German and Expansion politicians. Germany will not lose the countless millions she has invested in Turkey. She will have her full and sufficient share in the European work and commercial activity that will soon revive again in the Near East. The Baghdad railway of "Rohrbach & Company" will never be built, it is true; but the Baghdad Railway with a loyal international marking off of the different zones of interest, the Baghdad Railway, as a huge artery of peaceful intercourse linking up the whole of Asia Minor and bringing peace and commercial prosperity, will all the more surely rise from its ruins. And when once the German Weltpolitik with its jealousy, its tactless, sword-rattling interference in the time-honoured vital interests of other States,

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its political intrigues disguised in commercial dress, is safely dead and buried, there will be nothing whatever to hinder Germany from making use of this railway and carrying her purely commercial energy and the products of her peaceful labour to the shores of the Persian Gulf and receiving in return the rich fruits of her cultural activity on the soil of Asia Minor.

Acknowledgements:

Source: Stuermer, Harry. Two War Years in Constantinople. USA: George H. Doran Company, 1917.
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Lina Kamalyan

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