So-called Armenian Genocide

Excerpts from the book:A Myth of Terror
Armenian Extremism:Its Causes and Its Historical Context
An Illustrated Expose by Eric Feigl

Great-Power Politics and the Armenian Question

The Mongols were, in their day, the great power. In 1236, they laid waste to Ani, and in 1379 they invaded eastern Anatolia once again under Timurlenk. The plight of the Armenian population was so desperate that the Catholicosate had to be moved to Echmiadzin. Sis, in southern Anatolia was the last Armenian stronghold. It was conquered by the Mamluks in 1375.

After that date, the religious and cultural activities of the Armenians continued to be of significance, but as far as power or territory were concerned, they were out of the historical picture.

To understand how an Armenian Question could nevertheless become a factor in great-power politics, we must consider the expansionist aspirations of Czarist Russia and the chess moves connected with those aspirations. The Armenians were merely a pawn in an ugly chess game, and the Russians, whether in Moscow or St. Petersburg, often found it useful to sacrifice that pawn.

The speed and determination with which Russia won Persian and Turkish territory is breathtaking. They conquered the southern part of central Asia, northern Persia, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and eventually won access to the Balkans. A quick look at these events makes the importance of an Armenian Question clear, especially if we remember what Russia's primary goal has always been: the conquest of the Dardanelles.

1774 was the prelude to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Karlowitz, sixty-five years earlier, had already been bad enough for the Turks, but now in the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, the Ottoman Empire lost so much of its prestige that only the Austrians and the Russians were left with any say in the Balkans, In the East, it was the Russians all alone.

Eastern Anatolia had been Ottoman since 1515. Sultan Murad III. had conquered Georgia in 1578. The Turks' only rivals in the East had been the Persians. In 1639, the ottomans signed the Treaty of Kasr-i Sirin with the Safavids, and in spite of the wars that followed, the Turkish-Iranian border still follows the line determined in 1639.

All the Turkish-Persian wars affected Armenian territory, but "Armenian" is to be understood here as referring to the historical province. It has nothing to do with any official authority of the Haik people, who lived together with other peoples and tribes in eastern Anatolia and the surrounding area. At the time of the Treaty of Kasr-i Sirin, 1639, the Crimea was Ottoman as was Georgia and the entire coastline of the Black Sea. The Black Sea was a Turkish Ottoman inland sea.

Erivan had belonged to the Persians since 1639. It was an almost exclusively Islamic city.

Russia's first step toward the Caucasus came in 1556 with the conquest of Astrakhan.

Transcaucasia nominally belonged to the Persians, but Azerbaijan was under de facto Ottoman control. Armenians -or more accurately, Haik - were only mentioned once during this period. That was when Shah Abbas moved the Armenians from Erivan and Julfa into the interior of Persia in 1603-1604.

Mehmed the Conqueror had founded tile Patriarchate of Istanbul in 1461. All the Armenians and Monophysites of the Empire were subject to the patriarchs of Istanbul. The Catholicosates of Sis and Echmiadzin, which was at that time Persian, had absolutely no power in the Ottoman Empire.

The Russians became involved in the Turkish-Persian war of 1723-1727 and sent troops to the Caspian Sea. The Khanate of Kuba, north of Baku, fell under Russian influence.

In 1768, a Russian-Turkish war broke out in tile wake of the events in Poland. The Ottoman army was defeated and the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca was signed in 1774. The Russians now advanced into the Caucasus for the first time. They made it as far as Kutaisi and Ahiska by way of Poti. In other words, they were almost to the present-day border between Turkey and the Soviet Union.

The Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca also gave Kabartay in Transcaucasia (on the east slope of Mount Elbrus) to the Russians, but more important than any territorial gains, it granted to the Russians a certain say in protecting the rights of the Christians of the Ottoman Empire. From this point on, Russia was constantly striving to expand its territory at the expense of the Turks and Ottomans. This was almost always done under the pretense of protecting Christians.

1783 Russia concluded a defense treaty with the Christian princes of Georgia, thus winning a great deal of control over ancient "Iberia".

1787 Empress Catherine II. of Russia met with Emperor Joseph II. of Austria in Kherson, on the Crimean peninsula, just sixty kilometers from Yalta. From May 14 until June 13, they discussed how they would divide up the Ottoman Empire. The leaders agreed to the "Greek Scheme", which envisaged the formation of a Greek Orthodox state to be called "Dacia".

It was to encompass Bessarabia, Moldavia, and Walachia. This would secure the Russian lands west of the Dnieper as well as Austrian influence in the Balkans. In case of the fall of Constantinople, a new Byzantium was to be established. A short time later, the Ottomans declared war on the Russians, and there was once again fighting in the Caucasus. No more territory changed hands, however.

1796 The Russians took advantage of Persian attempts to win back lost territory as an excuse for marching into Kuba, Baku, Derbent, Shirvan, and Karabagh.

1801 The Russians annexed Georgia.

1812 Following the Peace of Bucharest, the Russians gained control of the Rion Basin, west of Souram in the Caucasus.

1813 Following the Peace of Butistan, the Russians occupied the Persian territories on the Caspian Sea (roughly in accordance with the present-day Russian-Iranian border). When Shah Abbas Mirzan tried to win back his lost territory, he was defeated once again, this time disastrously.

1828 In the Treaty of Turkmenchai, the Persians were forced to cede the Khanates of Erivan and Nakhichevan (today an autonomous S.S.R., just to the southeast of Ararat) to the Russians. The borders laid down at that time are still valid today. This was the first war in which Armenian volunteers took part in large numbers, as they did later in 1914-22. The Haik of the Erivan region were now under Russian rather than Iranian control. This had very grave consequences, since the Russians had already seen how they could exploit the Armenians as useful tools. Echmiadzin, the seat of an Armenian Orthodox Catholicos, also fell under Russian control in 1828.

In the wake of the Treaty of Turkmenchai and the dismal war with the Greeks, British, and French in the West, the Russians were able to advance as far as Erzurum.

1829 In the Treaty of Edirne, the Russians obtained the Black-Sea strongholds of Poti and Anapa, as well as Ahiska, Ahilkalek, and Akchur, thus establishing the present-day Russian-Turkish border. The Caucasus now belonged entirely to the Russians.

This peace treaty granted the Haik and the Moslems the right to choose between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. More than 100.000 Armenians left the areas beyond Erzurum at that time and moved to the region that is now the Soviet Republic of Armenia. Likewise, the majority of Moslems left the Caucasus and settled in Anatolia. Until this time, Erivan had been inhabited almost exclusively by Moslems.

After the Treaty of Turkmenchai (1828, Turkmenchai is located in northern Persia, on Lake Urmia), the Czar founded an Armenia out of the former Khanates of Erivan and Nakhichevan. He made all inhabitants of the region Russian citizens, and declared himself "King of Armenia". He also had the title "King of Poland".

1849 The Caucasus region was divided into two parts, but in 1854 this division was revoked because of constant riots as the Moslems simply could not accept the rule of the Georgian and Armenian Christians in these large regions.

Prince Vorontsov, who was in charge of reorganizing this region, broke it up into a large number of small political provinces. The Armenians lived mainly in the province of Tiflis, but they soon in large numbers to the Erivan region as well.

1854 was also the year of tile Crimean War, which broke out because the Ottomans refused to recognize a general Russian protectorate of the Christians of tile Ottoman Empire.

The goal of the Russians was to bring about the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They wanted to let tile "sick man on the Bosphorus" die and seize power themselves.

1854 Kars fell to the Russians after a heroic defense.

1856 The "Protocol of Vienna" brought an end to the Crimean War. 'The Peace of Paris, in the same year, was a genuine success for the Ottoman Empire. Kars was given back to them, and the odious "protectorate" over the Orthodox Christians of Turkey was abolished. (This protectorate could almost be seen as an anticipation of the later Brezhnev Doctrine.)

England, in particular, had refused to accept the plans for dividing up tile Ottoman Empire because they saw their own interests endangered, just twenty years later, Russia would try once again to bring the Ottoman Empire to its knees.

1863 A "Reglement de la nation armenienne" was published. This did not alter the status of the Armenians within the Ottoman Empire in any way. Its purpose was to restrict the rights of tile patriarch, in accordance with the wishes of tile representatives of the. Armenian minority. The creation of the Catholic and Protestant millets had already curbed tile power of the patriarch, Now the political representatives of tile Armenians were getting into the act as well, and everyone was fighting with everyone else to gain the upper hand within tile Armenian Millet. The effect was obviously detrimental to the Armenians and only profitable for the radicals.

Sensible Armenians recognized even then that it could only have disastrous consequences for their people if the old plans to set up a Greek Orthodox Byzantium under Russian protectorate were realized. These plans had not been forgotten since the Crimean conference between Joseph II. and Catherine II. If carried out, they would certainly have led to renewed attempts from the Greek (or Russian) Orthodox Church to bring the Armenians entirely under their control.

Russian rule in the Caucasus had already demonstrated quite clearly that the Czar had never dreamed of granting special rights to the Armenians and certainly had no thought of granting them their independence as some had hoped. That would only have led the other nations under Russian control to have similar thoughts of independence. The fact is that until 1870 the Armenians were of almost no significance on the international political scene. The calamity that was to come crept up slowly, almost unnoticed.

1876 A conference of ambassadors in Istanbul simply refused outright to accept a demarche from the Armenian patriarch. The only ones who had ever shown any interest in the Armenians were the Russians, who sometimes found the Armenian minority useful for their territorial expansion in the East.

Occasionally, they even used the Armenians as henchmen to spread fear and panic among the Moslems without getting their owh hands dirty. (A good example is the conquest of Erzurum in 1839 where the Armenians were responsible for a massacre of Moslems.)

1877 With the Balkans already given away, it became clearer and clearer that the Russians wanted to advance along the Erzurum-Alexandretta (today Iskenderun) axis toward the Mediterranean.

Now the Armenians started to take on real importance for the Russians. They were expected to serve as a Fifth Column. At this point, the Russians no longer restricted themselves to exploiting the Armenian clergy. They started using the Armenian revolutionary cadres more and more.

At the same time, the English developed an interest in the Armenians. They came up with the idea of an Armenian buffer state, which could serve as a check on the great powers in the event of a collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

1877 April 24 saw the beginning of a new war with Russia. It was the shortest of all the wars, but also the most devastating for the Ottomans. "The catastrophe of twelve-ninety-three", (that was the year according to the Ottoman calendar) is still proverbial for the Turks of today. From the start, the Russians had the advantage on the eastern front. Kars fell on November 18. The Russians were under the command of the Armenian general Loris Melikof. While Erzurum stood firm against all the Russian attacks, the Turks suffered a disastrous defeat near Plevne on the Balkan front.

The Armistice of Edirne was concluded on January 31. The fate of the Ottoman Empire appeared to be sealed. Nothing could stop the Russians from marching right on to Constantinople.

The Armenians now established contact with the Russians in Edirne. At the beginning of the war, they had stood solidly behind their Ottoman fatherland. Now, after the catastrophe of Plevne, the entire Armenian camp swung over to the Russian side. The first contacts took place in Edirne. Whether and in what way the patriarch and the catholicos were involved in this scenario is a subject of debate. In any case, the result of these interventions was that the Russians interceded expressly on behalf of the Armenians in the peace dictate of San Stefano. The wording of the passage was, however, left entirely non-commital since the Russians clearly had no intention of granting independence to their own Armenians.

Article 16 of the Treaty of San Stefano (Yesilkoy) states: " ... la Sublime Porte s'engage a realiser sans plus de retard les amelioration et les reformes exigees par les besoins locaux dans les provinces habitees par les Armeniens et a garantir leur securite contre les Kurdes et les Circassiens."

This totally empty clause does nothing more than demand that the Ottomans provide for the security of the Armenians against Kurdish and Circassian attacks. It was nevertheless a turning point. The Armenians had now for the first time been mentioned in an international treaty, even if it was in fact a dictate. The Armenians appreciated it, regardless of its insignificance (and the Russians had good reason for making it so insignificant).

Only too soon did it become clear that the "peace treaty" of San Stefano was of a very provisional nature. Both England and Austria rejected it. Eventually the parties agreed to Bismarck's suggestion that a conference be held in Berlin to deal with the Ottoman Question.

The representatives of the great powers met in Berlin from June 13 to July 13, 1878. Aside from the two chancellors, Gorchakov and Bismarck, those present in the new German capital included Count Andrassy of Austria-Hungary, Lord Beaconsfield of Great Britain, Waddington of France, Corti of Italy, and Karatheodori and Mehmed Ali of the Ottoman Empire. The only purpose of the Congress was to remove those conditions from the dictate of San Stefano which were too oppressive for the Ottomans. And that is just what was done.

The strong Armenian delegation, under the leadership of Prelate Khrimian - a former Armenian patriarch - had traveled to Berlin in vain. It was already common knowledge that the Armenians did not constitute a majority anywhere in Anatolia. it was only in Van itself that they even made up a third of the population. No one wanted to grant autonomy to such a minority. On what grounds could such an action be justified?

On the 8th of July, 1878, the Congress replaced Article 16 of San Stefano with "Article 61", which for the most part corresponded to the original. Article 62 also dealt with religious freedom, but nowhere was there any talk of autonomy. The Armenian millet was simply not large enough for that.

The nineteenth century had become a century of the triumph of the nation states - but also of the democratic majority. Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Romania all became independent, but in every case the nation constituted a solid majority.

In the case of the Armenians, the situation was totally different. It may have been true that an Armenian king had once ruled over an Armenian kingdom in the vast territories that the Armenians were claiming, but that had been almost two thousand years earlier under totally different circumstances. The nineteenth century called for majorities, and it was the Moslems who had the majorities - throughout Anatolia.

There were certain Armenian circles that simply could not come to terms with these facts. Groups of revolutionaries, intellectuals, and clergymen, egged ,on primarily by the Russians but also to some extent by the missionaries, turned to ever more daring and adventurous means in order to attract attention and eventually gain power over the majority.

cartton:Puch Julj 22,1876
Trapped by bloodhounds:Sultan Murad V is shown here trying to deal with the rebellious European provinces of the Ottoman Empire: Bosnia;Herzegovina;Montenegro; and Serbia. These nations all had the distinct advantage of having solid, self-contained national minorities on their territory. (The Armenians, on the other hand, did not even come close to having a well-defined area of settlement anywhere in the Ottoman Empire in which they were majority.) The Czar of Russia, Austria's Emperor Franz Joseph, Emperor Wilhelm I, King George I of Greece and Italy's King Humbert all look on with interest, while Germanys Bismarck and England's Beaconfield are ready to jump in to the fray. The Armenian patriarch, Nerses II Vartabedian, declared to the British ambassador at the time, "that if, in order to secure the sympathy of the European powers, it was necessary to rise in insurrection, there would be no difficulty in getting up such a movement" (Letter of the British ambassador, Henry Elliot, to his foreign minister in London;F.O. 424/46 p. 205-206;December 7, 1876). Cartoon:PUNCH, July 22, 1876

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