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Harry Stuermer

TWO WAR YEARS IN CONSTANTINOPLE

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CHAPTER VII

Young Turkish nationalism—One-sided abolition of capitulations—Anti-foreign efforts at emancipation— Abolition of foreign languages—German simplicity —The Turkification of commercial life—Unmistakable intellectual improvement as a result of the war —Trade policy and customs tariff—National production—The founding of new businesses in Turkey—Germany supplanted—German starvation— Capitulations or full European control?—The colonisation and forcible Turkification of Anatolia— "The properties of people who have been dispatched elsewhere"—The "Mohadjirs"—Greek persecutions just before the Great War—The "discovery" of Anatolia, the nucleus of the Ottoman Empire—Turkey finds herself at last—Anatolian dirt and decay— The "Greater Turkey" and the purely Turkish Turkey—Cleavage or concentration?

From the Germans we now turn again to the Turks, to try to fathom tne exact mentality of the Young Turks during the great war, and to discover what were the intellectual sources for their various activities.

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To give a better idea of the whole position I will just preface my remarks by stating a few of the outstanding features of the present Young Turkish Government and their dependents. Their first and chief characteristic is hostility to foreigners, but this does not prevent them from making every possible use of their ally Germany, or from appropriating in every walk of life anything European, be it a matter of technical skill, government, civilisation, that they consider might be profitable. Secondly they are possessed of an unbounded store of jingoism, which has its origin in Pan-Turkism with its ruling idea of "Turanism." Pan-Turkism, which seems to be the governing passion of all the leading men of the day, finds expression in two directions. Outwardly it is a constant striving for a "Greater Turkey," a movement that for a large part in its essence, and certainly in its territorial aims, runs parallel with the "Holy War"; inwardly it is a fanatical desire for a general Turkification which finds outlet in political nationalistic measures, some of criminal barbarity, others partaking of the nature of modern reforms, beginning with the language regulations and "in-

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ternal colonisation" and ending in the Armenian persecutions.

It is worthy of note that of the two intellectual sources of the "Holy War," namely Turanism — which one might reverse and call an extended form of Old-Turkism — and Pan-Islamism, the men of the "Committee for Unity and Progress" have only made logical though unsuccessful use of the former, although theoretically speaking they recognise the value of the latter as well. While Turkish race-fanaticism, which finds practical outlet in Turanistic ideas, is still the intellectual backbone of official Turkey to-day and has to be broken by the present war, the Young Turkish Islam policy is already completely bankrupt and can therefore be studied here dispassionately in all its aspects. We propose to treat the matter in some detail.

All New-Turkish Nationalistic efforts at emancipation had as first principle the abolition of Capitulations. The whole Young Turkish period we have here under review is therefore to be dated from that day, shortly before Turkey's entry into the war, when that injunction was flung overboard which Europe

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had anxiously placed for the protection of the interests of Europeans on a State but too little civilised. It was Turkey herself that did this after having curtly refused the Entente offer to remove the Capitulations as a reward for Turkey's remaining neutral. Germany, who was equally interested in the existence or non-existence of Capitulations, never mentioned this painful subject to her ally for a very long time, and it was 1916 before she formally recognised the abolition of Capitulations, long after she had lost all hold on Turkey in that direction.

As early as summer 1915 there were clear outward indications in the streets of Constantinople of a smouldering Nationalism ready to break out at any moment. Turkey, under the leadership of Talaat Bey, pursued her course along the well-trodden paths, and the first sphere in which there was evidence of an attempt at forcible Turkification was the language. Somewhere toward the end of 1915 Talaat suddenly ordered the removal of all French and English inscriptions, shop signs, etc., even in the middle of European Pera. In tramcars and at stopping-places the French

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text was blocked out; boards with public police warnings in French were either removed altogether or replaced by unreadable Turkish scrawls; the street indications were simply abolished. The authorities apparently thought it preferable that the Levantine public should get into the wrong tramcar, should break their legs getting out, pick flowers in the parks and wander round helplessly in a maze of unnamed streets rather than that the spirit of forcible Turkification should make even the least sacrifice to comfort.

Of the thousand inhabitants of Pera, not ten can read Turkish; but under the pressure of the official order and for fear of brutal assault or some kind of underhand treatment in case of non-compliance, the inhabitants really surpassed themselves, and before one could turn, all the names over the shops had been painted over and replaced by wonderful Turkish characters that looked like decorative shields or something of the kind painted in the red and white of the national colours. If one had not noted the entrance to the shop and the look of the window very carefully, one might wander helplessly up and down the Grand Rue de

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Péra if one wanted to buy something in a particular shop.

But the German, as simple-minded as ever where political matters were concerned, was highly delighted in spite of the extraordinary difficulty of communal life. "Away with French and English," he would shout. "God punish England; hurrah, our Turkish brothers are helping us and favouring the extension of the German language!"

The answer to these pan-German expansion politicians and language fanatics, whose spiritual home was round the beer-tables of the "Teutonia," was provided by a second decree of Talaat's some weeks later when all German notices had to disappear. A few, who would not believe the order, held out obstinately, and the signs remained in German till they were either supplemented in 1916, on a very clear hint from Stamboul, by the obligatory Turkish language or later quite supplanted. It was not till some time after the German had disappeared—and this is worthy of note—that the Greek signs ceased to exist. Greek had been up to that time the most used tongue and

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was the commercial language of the Armenians.

Then came the famous language regulations, which even went so far—with a year of grace granted owing to the extraordinary difficulties of the Turkish script—as to decree that in the offices of all trade undertakings of any public interest whatsoever, such as banks, newspapers, transport agencies, etc., the Turkish language should be used exclusively for book-keeping and any written communication with customers. One can imagine the "Osmanic Lloyd" and the "German Bank" with Turkish book-keeping and Turkish letters written to an exclusively European clientèle! Old and trusty employees suddenly found themselves faced with the choice of learning the difficult Turkish script or being turned out in a year's time. The possibility—indeed, the necessity—of employing Turkish hands in European businesses suddenly came within the range of practical politics—and that was exactly what the Turkish Government wanted.

The arrangement had not yet come into operation when I left Constantinople, but it was hanging like the sword of Damocles over

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commercial undertakings that had hitherto been purely German. Optimists still hoped it never would come to this pass and would have welcomed any political-military blow that would put a damper on Turkey's arrogance. Others, believing firmly in a final Turkish victory, began to learn Turkish feverishly. Be that as it may, the new arrangements were hung up on the walls of all offices in the summer of 1916 and created confusion enough.

Many other measures for the systematic Turkification of commercial life and public intercourse followed hard on this first bold step, which I need scarcely mention here. And in spite of the ever-growing number of German officials in the different ministries, partly foisted on the Turkish Government by the German authorities, partly gladly accepted for the moment because the Turks had still much to learn from German organisation and could profit from employing Germans, in spite of the appointment of a number of German professors to the Turkish University of Stamboul (who, however, as a matter of fact, like the German Government officials, had to wear the fez and learn Turkish within a year, and be-

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sides roused most unfavourable and anti-German comment in the newspapers), it was soon perfectly evident to every unbiased witness that Germany would find no place in a victorious Turkey after the war if the "Committee for Union and Progress" did not need her. Some sort of light must surely have broken over the last blind optimism of the Germans in the course of the summer of 1916.

Hand in hand with the nationalistic attempt to coerce European businesses into using the Turkish language there went more practical attempts to turkify all the important branches of commerce by the founding of indigenous organisations and the introduction of reforms of more material content than those language decrees. These efforts, in spite of the enormous absorption of all intellectual capabilities and energies in war and the clash of arms, were expressed with a truly marvellous directness of aim, and, from the national standpoint, a truly commendable magnificence of conception.

This latter has indeed never been lacking as a progressive ethnic factor in Turkish politics. The Turks have a wonderful understanding,

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too, of the importance of social problems, or at least, as a sovereign people, they feel instinctively what in a social connection will further their sovereignty. The war with its enormous intellectual activity has certainly brought all the political and economic resources of the Turks—including the Young Turkish Government—to the highest possible stage of development, and we ought not to be surprised if we often find that measures, whether of a beneficent or injurious character, are not lacking in modern exactness, clever technicality, and thoroughness of conception. Without anticipating, I should just like to note here how this change appears to affect the war. No one can doubt that it will enormously intensify zeal in the fight for the existence of the Turkey of the future, freed from its jingoistic outgrowths, once more come to its senses and confined to its own proper sphere of activity, Anatolia, the core of the Empire. But, on the other hand, iron might and determined warfare against this misguided State are needed to root out false and harmful ideas.

If, after this slight digression, we glance for a moment at the practical measures for a com-

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plete Turkification of Turkey, the economic efforts at emancipation and the civic reforms carried through, we find first of all that the new Turkey, when she had thrown the Capitulations overboard, then proceeded to emancipate herself completely from European supervision in the realm of trade and commerce. A very considerable step in advance in the way of Turkish sovereignty and Turkish economic patriotism was the organisation and— since September 1916—execution of the neo-Turkish autonomic custom's tariff, which with one blow gives Turkish finances what the Government formerly managed to extract painfully from the Great Powers bit by bit, by fair means or foul, at intervals of many years, and which with its hard-and-fast scale of taxes—which there appears to be no inclination in political circles at the moment to modify by trade treaties!—means an exceedingly adequate protection of Turkey's national productions, without any reference whatever to the export interests of her allies, and is a very strong inducement to the renaissance of at any rate the most important national industries. The far-flung net of the "Djemiet" (whose

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acquaintance we have already made in another connection), that purely Turkish commercial undertaking with Talaat Bey at its head, regulating everything as it did, taking everything into its own hands, from the realising of the products of the Anatolian farmers (and incidentally bringing it about that their ally Germany had to pay heavily and always in cash, even although the Government itself owed millions, to Germany and got everything on credit from flour out of Roumania to paper for their journals) to the most difficult rationing of towns, forms a foundation for the nationalising of economic life of the very greatest importance.

The establishment of purely Turkish trade and transport companies, often with pensioned Ministers as directors and principal shareholders, and the new language regulations and other privileges will soon cut the ground away from under the feet of European concerns. Able assistance is given in this direction by the Tanin and the Hilal (the "Crescent"), the newly founded "Committee" paper in the French language (when it is a question of the official influencing of public opinion in Euro-

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pean and Levantine quarters, exceptions can be made even in language fanaticism!) in which a series of articles invariably appear at the founding of each new company praising the patriotic zeal of the founders.

Then again there are the increasingly thinly veiled efforts to establish a purely Turkish national banking system. Quite lately there has been a movement in favour of founding a Turkish National Bank with the object of supplanting the much-hated "Deutsche Bank" in spite of the credit it always gives, and that international and preponderatingly French institution, the "Banque Impériale Ottomane," which had already simply been sequestrated without more ado.

The Turks have decided, too, that the mines are to be nationalised, and Turkish companies have already been formed, without capital it is true, to work the mines after the war. The same applies to the railways—in spite of the fine German plans for the Baghdad Railway.

All these wonderful efforts at emancipation are perfectly justified from the patriotic point of view, and are so many blows dealt at Germany, who, quite apart from Rohrbach's Welt-

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politik, had at least hoped to find a lucrative field of privileged commercial activity in the country of her close and devoted allies the Turks. It is of supreme significance that while the war is still at its height, while the Empire of the Sultan is defending its very existence at the gates of the capital with German arms and German money, there is manifested with the most startling clearness the failure of German policy, the endangering of all these German "vital interests" in Turkey which according to Pan-German and Imperialistic views were one of the most important stakes to be won by wantonly letting loose this criminal war on Europe.

No doubt many a German was only too well aware of the fact that in this Turkey suddenly roused by the war all the ground had been lost that he had built on with such profit before, and many an anxious face did one see in German circles in Constantinople. I need not tarry here over the drastic comments I heard from so many German merchants on this subject. They show a most curious state of mind on the part of those who had formerly, in their quest for gain and nothing but gain, profited in

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true parasitical fashion from the financial benefits of the Capitulations and had seen nothing but the money side of this arrangement which was, after all, entered into for other purposes. It was no rare thing and no paradox to find a German company director say, as I heard one say: "If things went against Turkey to-day, I would willingly shoulder my gun, old man as I am."

No thinking man will expend too much grief over the ruthless abolition of the Capitulations, for they were unmoral and gave too much opportunity to parasites and rogues, while they were quite inadequate to protect the interests of civilisation. They may have sufficed in the time of Abdul-Hamid, who was easily frightened off and was always sensible and polite in his dealings with Europe. For the Turkey of Enver and Talaat quite other measures are needed. One must, according to one's political standpoint, either recognise and accept their nationalistic programme of emancipation or combat it forcibly by introducing full European control. And however willing one may be to let foreign nations develop in their own particular way and work out their own salva-

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tion, one's standpoint with regard to a State so behindhand, so fanatical, so misguided as Turkey can be but one: the introduction and continuation at all costs of whatever guarantees the best protection to European civilisation in this land of such importance culturally and historically.

Not only were Europeans, but the natives themselves, affected by the series of measures that one might class together under the heading of Turkish Internal Colonisation and the Nationalising of Anatolia. The programme of the Young Turks was not only a "Greater Turkey," but above all a purely Turkish Turkey; and if the former showed signs of failing because they had over-estimated their powers and their chances in the war or had employed wrong methods, there was nothing at all to hinder a sovereign Government from striving all the more ruthlessly to gain their second point.

The way this Turkification of Anatolia was carried on was certainly not lacking in thoroughness, like all their nationalistic efforts. The best means that lay to hand were the frightful Armenian persecutions which af-

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fected a wonderful clearance among the population. "The properties of persons who have been dispatched elsewhere" within the meaning of the Provisory Bill were either distributed free or sold for a mere song to anyone who applied to the Committee for them and proved themselves of the same political persuasion or of pure Turkish or preponderatingly Turkish nationality. The rent was often fixed as low as 30 piastres a month (about 5s. 8d.) for officials and retired military men. In the case of the latter, Enver Pasha thought this an excellent opportunity for getting rid, through the medium of a kindly invitation to settle in the Interior, of those who worried him by their dissatisfaction with his system and who might have prepared difficulties for him. This "settling" was carried out with the greatest zeal in the exceptionally flourishing and fruitful districts of Brussa. Smyrna-Aidin, Eskishehir, Adabazar, Angora, and Adana, where Armenians and Greeks had played such a great, and, to the Turks, unpopular part as pioneers of civilisation.

The semi-official articles in the Tanin were perfectly right in praising the local authorities

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who in contrast with their former indifference and ignorance "had now fully recognised the great national importance of internal colonisation and the settling of Mohadjirs (emigrants from the lost Turkish territory in Bosnia, Macedonia, Thrace, etc.) in the country." There is nothing to be said in favour of the stupid, unprogressive character of the Anatolian as contrasted with the strength, physical endurance, intelligence, and mobility of these emigrants. The latter had also, generally speaking, lived in more highly developed districts. The great drawback of the Mohadjirs, however, is their instability, their idleness and love of wandering, their frivolity, and their extraordinary fanaticism. As faithful Mohammedans following the standard of their Padishah and leaving the parts of the country that had fallen under Christian rule, they seemed to think they were justified in behaving like spoilt children towards the native population. They treated them with ruthless disregard, they were bumptious, and, if their new neighbours were Greek or Armenian, they inclined to use force, a proceeding which was always possible be cause the Government did not take away their

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firearms and were even known to have doled them out to stir up unrest. It has occurred more than once that Mohadjirs have crossed swords even with Turkish Anatolians living peacefully in their own villages. One can then easily imagine how much more the heretic giaurs ("Christian dogs," "unclean men") had to suffer at their hands.

I should like to say a word here about these Greek persecutions in Thrace and Western Anatolia that have become notorious throughout the whole of Europe. They took place just before the outbreak of war, and cost thousands of peaceful Greeks—men, women, and children—their lives, and reduced to ashes dozens of flourishing villages and towns. At the time of the murder of Sarajevo, I happened to be staying in the vilajet of Aidin, in Smyrna and the Hinterland, and saw with my own eyes such shameful deeds as must infuriate anyone against the Turkish Government that aids and abets such barbarity—from old women being driven along by a dozen Mohadjirs and dissipated soldiers to the smoking ruins of Phocæa.

Everyone at that time, at any rate in Smyr-

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na, expected the immediate outbreak of a new Græco-Turkish war, and perhaps the only thing that prevented it was the method of procrastination adopted by both sides, for both were waiting for the Dreadnoughts they had ordered, until finally these smaller clouds were swallowed up in the mighty thunder-cloud gathering on the European horizon. Only the extreme speed with which one dramatic event followed another, and my own mobilisation which precluded my writing anything of a political nature, prevented me on that occasion from giving my sinister impressions of Young Turkish jingoism and Mohadjir brutality. Even if I had been able to write what I thought it is extremely doubtful if it would ever have seen the light of day, for the German papers were but little inclined, as I had opportunity of discovering personally, to say anything unpleasant about the Young Turkish Government, whose help they were already reckoning on, and preferred rather to behave in a most un-neutral manner and keep absolutely silent about all the ill-treatment and abuse that had been meted out to Greece. But I remembered these scenes most opportunely

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later, and that visit of mine to Western Anatolia was certainly most useful in increasing my knowledge of Young Turkish methods of "internal colonisation."

But all the methods used are by no means forcible. Attempts are now being made—and this again is most significant for the spirit of the newest Young Turkish era—to gain a footing in the world of science as opposed to force, and so to be able to carry out their measures more systematically and give them the appearance of beneficent modern social reforms. So it comes about that the Turkish idea of penetrating and "cleaning-up" Anatolia finds practical expression on the one hand in exterminating and robbing the Christian population, while on the other it inclines to efforts which in time may work out to be a real blessing. The common principle underlying both is Nationalism.

Anatolia was suddenly "discovered." At long length the Young Turkish Government, roused intellectually and patriotically by the war and brought to their senses by the terrible loss of human life entailed, suddenly realised the enormous national importance of Anatolia,

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that hitherto much-neglected nucleus of the Ottoman Empire. Under the spiritual inspiration of Mehmed Emin, the national poet of Anatolian birth whose poems with their sympathy of outlook and noble simplicity of form make such a warm-hearted and successful appeal to the best kind of patriotism, men have begun since 1916, even in the circles of the arrogant "Stambul Effendi," to take an interest in the kaba türk (uncouth Turk), the Anatolian peasant, his needs and his standard of civilisation. The real, needy, primitive Turk of the Interior has suddenly become the general favourite.

A whole series of most remarkable lectures was delivered publicly in the Türk Odjaghi, under the auspices of the Committee, by doctors, social politicians, and political economists, and these were reported and discussed at great length in all the Turkish newspapers. Their subject was the incredible destitution in Anatolia, the devastation wrought by syphilis, malaria, and other terrible dirt diseases, abortions as a result of hopeless poverty, the lack of men as a result of constant military service

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in many wars, and they called for immediate and drastic reforms.

It is with the greatest pleasure that I acknowledge that this first late step on the way of improvement, this self-knowledge, which appeals to me more thoroughly than anything else I saw in Turkey, is probably really the beginning of a happier era for that beautiful land of Anatolia, so capable of development but so cruelly neglected. For one can no longer doubt that the Government has the real intention of carrying out actual reforms, for they must be only too well aware that the strengthening and healing of Anatolia, the nucleus of the Turkish race, is absolutely essential for any Turkish mastery, and is the very first necessity for the successful carrying out of more far-reaching national exertions. With truly modern realisation of the needs of the case, directly after Dr. Behaeddin Shakir Bey's first compelling lecture, different local government officials, especially the Vali of the Vilajet of Kastamuni, which was notorious for its syphilis epidemics, made unprecedented efforts to improve the terrible hygienic conditions then reigning. Let us hope that such ef-

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forts will bear fruit. But this will probably only be the case to any measurable extent later, after the war, when Turkey will find herself really confined to Anatolia, and will have time and strength for positive social work.

In the meantime I cannot get rid of the uneasy impression that this "discovery" of Anatolia and zealous Turkish social politics are no more than a cleverly worked excuse on the part of the Government for further measures of Turkification, and the cloven hoof is unfortunately only too apparent in all this seemingly noble effort on the part of the Committee. One hears and sees daily the methods that go hand in hand with this official pushing into the foreground of the great importance of the purely Turkish elements in Anatolia—Armenian persecutions, trickery, expropriations carried out against Greeks, the yielding up of flourishing districts to quarrelsome Mohadjirs. So long as the Turkish Government fancy themselves conquerors in the great war, so long as they pursue the shadow of a "Greater Turkey," so long as Turkey continues to dissipate her forces she will not accomplish much for

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Anatolia, in spite of her awakening and her real desire for reform.

Finally, in this discovery of Anatolia, in this desire to put an end to traditional destitution, this recognition of the real import of even the poorest, most primitive, dullest peasant peoples in the undeveloped Interior, so long as they are of Turkish race, in this sudden flood of learned eloquence over the needs and the true inner worth of these miserable neglected Turkish peasants, in this pressing demand for thorough reforms for the economic and social strengthening of this element—measures which with the present ruling spirit of jingoism in the Government threaten to be carried through only at the expense of the non-Turkish population of Anatolia—we see very clear proof that the neo-Turkish movement is a pure race movement, is nothing but Pan-Turkism both outwardly and inwardly, and has very little indeed to do with religious questions or with Islam. The idea of Islam, or rather Pan-Islamism, is a complete failure. This we shall try to show in the following chapter.

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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