Massacres of Abdul-Hamid.
From 1894 to 1896, the systematic massacres were organized by Abdul-Hamid in order to punish Armenians for their aspiration for freedom. The Sultan considered the Armenian population as an eternal excuse for Europeans and for Russians to interfere. The government instigated assaults on the Armenian villages that quickly spread to all regions of Western Armenia. Despite the armed resistance in some places, particularly Zeytun, over 200 thousand of Armenians were killed as a result of these bloody pogroms. Historians named Abdul-Hamid "Red Sultan".
Young Turks and massacres in Adana.
Meanwhile, the new opposition Party of the Young Turks rose in the Ottoman Empire. Propagating the attractive slogans of "fraternity and common homeland", the leaders of Young Turks inspired many short-sighted Armenians, who believed in the reality of an "autonomous Western Armenia". As the Young Turks struggled against the Red Sultan, Armenian parties and leaders assisted them and supported financially.
After the so-called Young Turk Revolution of 1908, the Sultan's authority was reduced to the point that he became a sheer symbolic figure. Although an attempt to a counterrevolution was made, the Young Turks managed to retain the real power. Abdul-Hamid, forced to abdicate in 1909 was removed to solitary confinement. He was replaced by Mehmet V, who was only a puppet of the Young Turks. Then, the leaders of the Young Turks founded a new powerful party called Ittihad ve Terakki (Turkish for "Union and Progress").
The victory of the Young Turks marked the immediate end to the Armenian illusions. In 1909, a series of bloody rampages took place in Adana, Cilicia, where the Turkish mobs were supported by the Turkish army. The sporadic pogroms took place in different cities. Some 35,000 Armenians were killed as a result of these massacres. In despite of the promises and oaths to "establish order", the threat of the physical extermination of the Armenian nation was imminent.
In 1912, the Balkan wars began. Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece formed a coalition against the Ottoman Empire. The coalition gained a number of important victories and the Turks sued for peace. An Armenian hero Andranik (later known as General Andranik) fought for the Bulgarians forming an Armenian volunteer unit.
The Armenians at death's door.
The First Balkan war marked serious territorial losses for the Ottoman Empire, but during the Second War in the next year the Turks regained the large territories as a result of a discord between the Balkan States. In 1913, a coup d'état within the Union and Progress committee brought an extreme nationalist triumvirate headed by Enver, Talaat and Gemal to the absolute power in the Ottoman Empire. The racist doctrines of Pan-Turkism, Turkish national exclusiveness and Turkish homogeneous state were preached by party's ideologists, such as Zia, Dr.Nazim and Dr.Shakir. Armenians were openly termed as superfluous and dangerous elements inside the Ottoman Empire. In many places, the Armenian bankers were accused of "looting the country" just like the Armenian intelligentsia was blamed of undermining the state foundations.
The Armenian nation entered the gloomiest period of its history.
The Turkish Plan.
It is generally accepted that the Armenian Genocide started on April 24, 1915. The Armenians commemorate this date because on April 24, 1915 more than 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested and then murdered in Constantinople. However, the Turkish plan of uprooting the Armenians from their ancestral homeland was masterminded far beforehand. The outbreak of the WWI in 1914 gave the Young Turks the perfect opportunity to solve the Armenian Question.
At first Dr. Nazim, the Young Turks ideologist, traveled throughout the vilayets (provinces) of the Ottoman Empire calling for the boycott of the Armenian businesses. Then Enver-Pasha, the idol of the Turkish revolution issued the order to form special battalions. Later, these units of violent criminals and Kurdish irregulars attacked, looted and burned thousands of Armenian shops in Dyarbekir. At the same time, Talaat-Pasha, one of the triumvirs and the most influential figure in the Turkish cabinet, ordered to carry out the disarmament of the Armenian villages. Since the Moslem Turkey was involved in war against the Christian countries, the Christian Armenians were considered "unreliable" and sympathizing to their coreligionists. The weapons collected from the Armenians were distributed in neighboring Turkish villages.
Disarmed, arrested and executed.
The Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed, put in labor battalions, and then killed. Meanwhile, the legitimated bands of chete (Kurdish irregulars, criminal hirelings) began systematic raids on the defenseless Armenian villages to rape women and ransack houses.
In all major cities, the Armenian businesses were looted under the convenient pretext of "war contributions". In October 1914, mass arrests and killings of Armenians were reported in Erzerum and Zeytun. In November, as Russia had declared war on Turkey, the jihad (holy war against non-believers) was proclaimed and publicly read in all the vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. Together with the mass execution of the Armenian soldiers in the army, a number of notable Armenian community leaders, including religious were slain in different cities. In the provinces, the Armenian bakers were publicly charged for poisoning the bread of the Turkish Army.
Hypocricy of Turkish leaders.
In March, 1915 a special decision to exterminate all Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire was already issued by the Ittihad committee. Meanwhile, a severe censorship was established, and all foreign postal offices in Turkey were closed. Even the neutral US Ambassador was unable to read uncensored dispatches from his own government. In Constantinople, where a large number of Europeans, including foreign ambassadors were present, the Turkish leaders made hypocritical speeches. Enver-Pasha congratulated the brave Armenian soldiers for their admirable service on the Caucasus front, while Talaat-Pasha met with the Armenian leaders shortly before their mass arrests to declare they had nothing to fear.
In April, 1915 the regular Turkish troops began the non-stop attacks on the city of Van. The Armenians under the leadership of Aram Manukian organized a heroic defense. They decided to rise up arms after they were informed that more than 30 thousand of Armenians in surrounding villages had been killed in three days. The desperate defense of Van lasted 36 days with 55 thousand of Armenians being killed. The survivors were rescued by the units of the Armenian volunteers serving in the Russian army on the Caucasus front. Later, a handful of unarmed Armenians desperately defended themselves in Shabin-Karahisar, the native village of General Andranik. Another heroic example was the defense of Musa-Dagh in Cilicia, described by Austrian author Franz Werfel.
After the events that the Turks had termed as "revolution of Van", the Armenians were declared "internal enemies" of the Ottoman Empire. In Constantinople, many of the most eminent Armenians, including intellectuals, political and religious leaders were arrested and murdered. Among them were Grikor Zohrab and Vartkes Serengulian, members of the Ottoman Parliament and generally known as friends of Talaat-Pasha. At the same time, the mass killings took place in Bitlis, Mush and Dyarbekir. The special instructions for the detailed procedure of deportations were sent to all Governors of the vilayets throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians would be told they must be deported or relocated, and then marched off to the Syrian deserts between Jerablus, Mosul and Deir el-Zor. Only a small part of them would reach the final point. Many died of starvation, but most of them were killed on the march in extremely barbaric fashion. An American missionary testified to see, while traveling from Malatia to Sivas, a countless number of disfigured corpses all along both sides of the road for 9 hours running. Tens of thousands of dead bodies were thrown to the Euphrates River. In Trebizond, thousands of Armenians were sunk out at the sea...
In July 1915, there were virtually no Armenians remaining in Van, Bitlis, Dyarbekir, Sivas, Erzerum and Trebizond. Only a part of the orphan boys were converted to Islam and adopted by the Turkish families. Soon thereafter, Talat-Pasha told the German Ambassador that the Armenian Question had been finally solved. The depopulation of the Western Armenia was successfully completed.
In 1916, the deportations and the massacres continued with unremitting cruelty. The numerous instructions went to exterminate the remnants of the Armenian orphans. The survivors were subject to Islamization. But the most of the deportees who later reached the Syrian deserts were murdered or died from hunger or sicknesses.
In October 1916, the German Ambassador Wilhelm Radowitz reported to Berlin that out of the two and a half millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire alive were left only 300 000. The rest were killed or deported; some were lucky enough to escape eastward to the Caucasus or somewhere else. The ambassador mentioned "the two and a half millions" in accordance with the falsified results of the census taken in the Ottoman Empire in 1887, under the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. The actual number of Armenians was deliberately reduced, at least 3 times.
End of Young Turks.
The governments of all European countries, and the United States condemned the Genocide of Armenians. Henry Morgenthau, the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote: " ...the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915. "
The Ittihad Cabinet resigned in October 1918. The triumvirs and other leaders of the Young Turks fled the country. They later were convicted by different courts-martial. Enver, Talat, Gemal and Nazim were sentenced to death by default. Kemal Bey, responsible for Yozgat massacres, was publicly hanged. Rashid Bey, governor of Dyarbekir, committed suicide. Other culprits of massacres were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment. Some of them were later released; others fled to join the army of Mustafa Kemal. However, the Genocide of Armenians was never officially recognized and condemned by the Turkish government. Even now, the Turkish authorities continue to deny the fact of the Genocide.
Talat-Pasha, one of main designers of the Genocide, was assassinated in 1921 in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian.
Enver-Pasha also fell from an Armenian in 1922 in a battle in Tajikistan.
Gemal-Pasha was assassinated in 1922 in Tiflis by an Armenian Tzagikian.
Gemal Azmi, former governor of Trabzon and Beahaddin Shakir, one of the Genocide's propagandists were both assassinated in 1922 in Berlin.
Collapse of Transcaucasian Federation.
The triumph of Bolsheviks in 1917 put an end to the Russian Empire. In winter 1918, the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem leaders of Transcaucasia united to convene the Transcaucasian Federation, which proclaimed the secession of Transcaucasia from Russia.
The Turks, rapturous over the Russian Revolution, took it almost as a miracle produced by Allah. With the decline of the Russian military power, the Caucasus front collapsed, and the decaying Turkish power survived. To prevent the further destruction of the new Bolshevik State, Vladimir Lenin was forced to conclude the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The treaty had drastic consequences for the Armenians. The Turkish forces reoccupied the lands of the Western Armenia, earlier liberated by Russians.
In late May 1918, under the threat of a new Turkish offensive on the Caucasus, the Transcaucasian Federation collapsed after only 3 months of existence. In fact, the Federation was a still-born creature from the very beginning. Insuperable divergences existed between the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem deputations. The Georgians were oriented to Germany, and the Moslems to Turkey, whereas the Armenians, though loyal to the Entente, were supported by nobody.
On May 26 the independence of Georgia was declared. At the same time, the Moslems proclaimed a "Musavat Republic of Azerbaijan". This new Turkish state, created in the historical lands of the eastern Armenia, immediately and shamelessly laid claims on the Armenian territories in Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan.
The independence of Armenia proclaimed.
Left alone, Armenians faced the total annihilation as the 100 thousandth Turkish army crossed the pre-war Russian frontier, annexed the city of Kars and approached the Armenian capital of Yerevan. After having depopulated the Western Armenia, the Turkish military were now about to destroy the rest of Armenia and achieve their goal of eliminating the Armenian nation.
The Armenians raised an army of 40,000 men, including soldiers, officers, volunteers and mass levies. At first the Dashnak leaders wanted to evacuate the population and to surrender Yerevan, but the Military Council headed by the Colonel Pirumian finally decided to do battle.
The two armies met on May 28, 1918 near Sardarapat. The battle was crowned with an outstanding Armenian victory. Some 30 thousand of Turkish soldiers were killed; the Turks were flung out. Vahib-Pasha, the defeated Turkish commander, termed the Armenian soldiers as "the best fighters in the world". The Armenians also held defenses at Karaklis and at Abaran.
On the same day of May 28, 1918 Armenia was proclaimed an independent republic. However, the embryo state was devastated, with a dislocated economy, dozens of thousands of refugees and the population starving. The danger of a new Turkish aggression was still imminent. Also, the country was soon involved in a territorial conflict with Georgia. Moreover, the situation in Karabakh was especially dangerous as the new Azerbaijani state made a series of ultimatums to the Armenian population.
In September, 1918 the Turkish troops invaded Baku and joined the Turkish-Azeri mobs in massacring some 30, 000 Armenians. Dozens of surrounding Armenian villages were destroyed.
The Wilsonian borders.
Meanwhile, the European powers found themselves unable to solve the Armenian Question. The unification of the Caucasian Armenia with the Turkish Armenia proclaimed by the Armenian government in 1919 turned out Utopian. After Armenia was officially recognized by the governments of Allies and by the United States, the US President Woodrow Wilson was invited to determine the borders of the Armenian State. According to Wilson's map, a new Armenia would include most of its historically belonging lands. The project would never come true.
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