religion, Syrian history, Western Colonisation

Ashshams Part 3: The Armenian Revolutionary Movements

Another Massacre, Turks, Kurds, Decline of the Turkish Empire, Russia and British Colonialism

Yet Another Treaty, The Ottoman Empire Under Protection

Later in 1878 the Prussian statesman Otto Van Bismarck brokered the Treaty of Berlin, though Bismarck, renowned for laying the foundations for a unified Germany, played only a diplomatic role in the struggle to control the Ottoman Empire. In regard to the Armenians, the Berlin Treaty was a simple revision of the Stefano Treaty, under Article 61, the Ottomans were required to afford the the Armenians protection against the Kurds and the Circassians, two of the nomadic tribes in the region. The Armenian peasant farmers often conflicted with the Kurdish bedouin to whom they were required to pay protection money, see Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity: A History, 17892007 by Carter V Findley.

Under the treaty though, all the cultural minorities in the region fell under the protection of the European powers. The western European powers were to oversee any reforms, arguably making the entire Ottoman empire a protectorate. The Sultan opposed any plan that threatened to erode his empire further and his refusal put relations with Britain on a shaky footing. In 1887 Russia almost reached Istanbul and the British government was determined that the Ottomans shouldn’t cede it any territory and got involved militarily.

The plight of the Armenians was left, for a time, in the hands of the ambassador, a man named Layard, who, acting on his own initiative, was more intent on persuading the Sultan to make financial reforms. Eventually the Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury, better known as William Cecil, instructed Layard on suggested reforms for the eastern provinces, which constitute Anatolia. This included Diyarbakir (today a Kurdish stronghold, where support for the Israelis is rife).

The Armenian Revolutionary Movements and Another Massacre

By now though, some Armenians had developed a revolutionary consciousness and sought independence rather than protection. They were well aware, that the European powers including Britain had supported the Bulgarian rebellion. They were spurred on by their Russian counterparts and there emerged two revolutionary organisations, the Hnchaks and the Dashnaks. Jeremy Salt provides a comprehensive account of the happenings in his book  Imperialism, Evangelism and the Ottoman Armenians, 1878-1896.

No-one will ever know how many Armenians were prepared to settle for for a quiet life in Anatolia but revolutionary groups can be persuasive. In 1895, the Hnchaks called a protest in Istanbul and violent struggle occurred between their militias and the Ottoman authorities. This was followed by similar violent protests in the Anatolian provinces, which culminated in a ”three day blood bath”, see Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence Against the Armenians, 1789-2009 by Fatima Muge Gochek.

Though Muslims lost their lives there is no doubt the Armenians came off worse and, as they were Christian, the situation caused outrage in Europe. The whole episode was no doubt worsened by the fact that the Sultan had recruited mainly Kurdish militias not only to police and secure Anatolia but also to engage them politically. As is true of the Turkish state today, the Ottomans had their work cut out to ”subdue” the Kurds.

Mr Findley describes how in the following year, the Dashnaks, who were based in the Russian occupied  Caucuses, took revenge by conducting a bombing campaign in Istanbul. He asserts the perpetrators were allowed to leave Turkey, which meant the Turkish Armenians were not only left to face reprisals but with a weakened political resolve. Many though still sought autonomy and this culminated in the separation of Armenia, from the Soviet Union in 1991, however the fact it was recognised as independent by the west, indicates that it entered another lion’s den.

There is no doubt the Armenians were a useful tool in the power struggle between Russia and the Ottomans and by the turn of the century  many Armenians were reported to have dispersed into the Russian occupied neighbouring territories of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Muslims in the region came under attack by the Armenian revolutionaries and in 1905 and 1906, cities were sacked and many lives were lost. This was a complex situation and not for this entry but for more detailed explanations, see,

By 1915

By 1915 Europe and the remainder of the world was embroiled in what was to be, for the west, the last war of its kind, in that it wasn’t high tech. It was a war where millions fought and were slaughtered for territorial gains. The Ottoman empire was dissolved and the nationalist movement took over. The Armenians were said to have supported it at first but bridges had been crossed.

A revolutionary consciousness was entrenched in many of their number and the East of Turkey borders on the Caucues. As such  political intrigue continued throughout the empire and conspiracy was rife. This was due to the precarious position of the Turkish nationalist movement, which continued until Kemal Ataturk came to power in 1923. In 1915 the deportations and massacre of the Armenians occurred.

The early days of Turkish nationalism are well documented so I’ll end there but of course there are still Armenians living in Turkey and despite all the upheaval with Muslims, many remain in Syria and Lebanon. I don’t use the word genocide as it seems to pertain to one-off massacres or events. I believe that war constitutes genocide, when it is for power, rescources to support the monopoly game by killing those who may not want to play it western style, like Syria, Libya and Iraq.


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