|Part of Armenian Genocide|
A photograph taken in November 1895 by W. L. Sachtleben of Armenians killed in Erzerum.
|Attack type||Deportation, mass murder, looting|
|Perpetrators||Ottoman Empire government|
|History of Armenia|
The Hamidian massacres (Armenian: Համիդյան ջարդեր), also referred to as the Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896 and Great Massacres, refer to the massacring of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (as well as Assyrians) in the mid-1890s, with estimates of the dead ranging from anywhere between 80,000 to 300,000, and at least 50,000 children made orphans as a result. The massacres are named after Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who, in his efforts to reinforce the territorial integrity of the embattled Ottoman Empire, reasserted Pan-Islamism as a state ideology. Abdul Hamid believed that the woes of the Ottoman Empire stemmed from "the endless persecutions and hostilities of the Christian world." He perceived the Ottoman Armenians to be an extension of foreign hostility, a means by which Europe could "get at our most vital places and tear out our very guts." Although the massacres were aimed mainly at the Armenians, they turned into indiscriminate anti-Christian pogroms in some cases, such as in Diyarbekir where some 25,000 Assyrians were killed (see also Assyrian Genocide).
The massacres began with incidents in the Ottoman interior in 1894, gained full force in the years 1894-96, and tapered off in 1897, as international condemnation brought pressure to bear on Abdul Hamid. Despite the fact that Ottomans had previously suppressed other revolts, the harshest measures were directed against the Armenian community. They observed no distinction between the nationalist dissidents and the Armenian population at large, and massacred them with brutal force. This occurred at a time when the telegraph could spread news around the world and the massacres were extensively covered in the media in Western Europe and the United States.
The origins of the hostility toward Armenians lay in the increasingly precarious position the Ottoman Empire found itself in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Ottoman loss of dominion over the Balkans and various Christian regions was ushered in by an era of European nationalism, and the insistence of self-determination by many territories that had long been held under Ottoman authority. The Armenians of the empire, who were long considered second-class citizens, had begun a movement in the mid-1860s and early 1870s to ask for civil reforms and receive better treatment from their government. When nationalism spread among the Armenians in Anatolia, with them demanding equal rights and pushing for autonomy, the Ottoman leadership believed that the empire's Islamic character and even its very existence were threatened.
The combination of Russian military success in Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878, the clear weakening of the Ottoman Empire in various spheres including financial (from 1873, the Ottoman Empire suffered greatly from the Panic of 1873), territorial (mentioned above), and the hope among some Armenians that one day all of the Armenian territory might be ruled by Russia, led to a new restiveness among Armenians living inside the Ottoman Empire. Starting around 1890, the Armenians began protesting to gain the protections promised them at the Treaty of Berlin. Unrest occurred in 1892 at Marsovan and in 1893 at Tokat. Armenians wanted civil reforms to be implemented in the Ottoman Empire and an end to the usurpation of land, "the looting and murder in Armenian towns by Kurds and Circassians, improprieties during tax collection, criminal behavior by government officials and the refusal to accept Christians as witnesses in trial." The Sultan, however, was not prepared to relinquish any power. Turkish historian and Abdul Hamid's biographer Osman Nuri observed, "The mere mention of the word 'reform' irritated him [Abdul Hamid], inciting his criminal instincts."
Another reason for the massacres was the incitement of Kurdish bandits to attack Armenians. The eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire were historically insecure; the Kurdish rebels sacked neighboring towns and villages with impunity. When the empire was either too weak and disorganized or reluctant to halt them, Sultan Abdul Hamid gave semi-official status to the Kurdish bandits. They were known as the Hamidiye Alaylari ("belonging to Hamid"). The formation of Armenian revolutionary groups, namely the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun; ARF) and Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (Hunchak), began roughly around the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1878 and intensified in the following years.
Disturbances in Sasun 
In 1894, the Sultan began to target the Armenian people in a precursor to the Hamidian massacres. This persecution strengthened nationalistic sentiment among Armenians. The first notable battle in the Armenian resistance took place in Sasun. Hunchak activists, such as Mihran Damadian, Hampartsoum Boyadjian, and Hrayr, encouraged resistance against double taxation and Ottoman persecution. The ARF armed the people of the region. The Armenians confronted the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars at Sasun, finally succumbing to superior numbers and to Turkish assurances of amnesty (which was never granted).
In response to the Sasun Resistance, the governor of Mush responded by inciting the local Muslims against the Armenians. Historian Lord Kinross writes that massacres of this kind were often achieved by gathering Muslims in a local mosque and claiming that the Armenians had the aim of "striking at Islam." Sultan Abdul Hamid sent the Ottoman army into the area and also armed groups of Kurdish irregulars. The violence spread and affected most of the Armenian towns in the Ottoman empire.
The Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia) forced Hamid to sign a new reform package designed to curtail the powers of the Hamidiye in October 1895 which, like the Berlin treaty, was never implemented. On October 1, 1895, two thousand Armenians assembled in Constantinople to petition for the implementation of the reforms, but Ottoman police units converged on the rally and violently broke it up. Soon, massacres of Armenians broke out in Constantinople and then engulfed the rest of the Armenian-populated provinces of Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Erzerum, Harput, Sivas, Trabzon and Van. Thousands were killed at the hands of their Muslim neighbors and government soldiers, and many more died during the cold winter of 1895–96. William Sachtleben, an American journalist who happened to be in Erzerum after the massacre there in 1895, recounted the grisly scene he came across in a lengthy letter to The Times:
What I myself saw this Friday afternoon [November 1] is forever engraven on my mind as the most horrible sight a man can see. I went with one of the cavasses [guards] of the English Legation, a soldier, my interpreter, and a photographer (Armenian) to the Gregorian [i.e., those who belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church] Cemetery ....Along the wall on the north, in a row 20 ft. wide and 150 ft. long, lay 321 dead bodies of the massacred Armenians. Many were fearfully mangled and mutilated. I saw one with his face completely smashed in with a blow of some heavy weapon after he was killed. I saw some with their own necks almost severed by a sword cut. One I saw whose whole chest had been skinned, his fore-arms were cut off, while the upper arm was skinned of flesh. I asked if the dogs had done this. "No, the Turks did it with their knives." A dozen bodies were half burned. All the corpses had been rifled of all their clothes except a cotton undergarment or two....To be killed in battle by brave men is one thing; to be butchered by cowardly armed soldiers in cold blood and utterly defenseless is another thing.
The French vice consul of Diyarbekir, Gustave Meyrier, recounted to Ambassador Paul Cambon stories of Armenian women and children being assaulted and killed and described the attackers "as cowardly as they were cruel. They refused to attack where people defended themselves and instead concentrated on defenseless districts." The worst atrocity took place in Urfa, where Ottoman troops burned the Armenian cathedral, in which 3,000 Armenians had taken refuge, and shot at anyone who tried to escape.
Abdul Hamid's private first secretary wrote in his memoirs about Abdul Hamid that he "decided to pursue a policy of severity and terror against the Armenians, and in order to succeed in this respect he elected the method of dealing them an economic blow... he ordered that they absolutely avoid negotiating or discussing anything with the Armenians and that they inflict upon them a decisive strike to settle scores."
The killings continued until 1897. In that last year, Sultan Hamid declared the Armenian Question closed. All the Armenian revolutionaries had either been killed or escaped to Russia. The Ottoman government closed Armenian societies and restricted Armenian political movements.
Some non-Armenian groups were also attacked during the massacres. The French diplomatic correspondence shows that the Hamidiye carried out massacres not only of Armenians but also of Assyrians living in Diyarbakir, Hasankeyef, Sivas and other parts of Anatolia. The Jewish community in Constantinople hid many Armenians in their homes during the riots and the local synagogue was therefore attacked by Muslims on Yom Kipur in September 1896.
Death toll 
It is impossible to ascertain how many Armenians were killed, although the figures cited by historians have ranged from 100,000 to 300,000. The German pastor Johannes Lepsius meticulously collected data on the destruction and, in his calculations, counted the deaths of 88,243 Armenians, the destitution of 546,000, the destruction of 2,493 villages, the residents of 456 of which were forcibly converted to Islam, and the desecration of 649 churches and monasteries, of which 328 were converted into mosques.
International reaction 
News of the Armenian massacres in the empire were widely reported in Europe and the United States and drew strong responses from foreign governments and humanitarian organizations alike.
The French ambassador described Turkey as "literally in flames," with "massacres everywhere" and all Christians being murdered "without distinction." A French vice consul declared that the Ottoman Empire was "gradually annihilating the Christian element" by "giving the Kurdish chieftains carte blanche to do whatever they please, to enrich themselves at the Christians' expense and to satisfy their men’s whims."
One headline in a September 1895 article by the New York Times ran "Armenian Holocaust," while the Catholic World declared, "Not all the perfume of Arabia can wash the hand of Turkey clean enough to be suffered any longer to hold the reins of power over one inch of Christian territory." The rest of the American press called for action to help the Armenians and to remove, "if not by political action than by resort to the knife... the fever spot of the Turkish Empire." King Leopold II of Belgium told British Prime Minister Salisbury that he was prepared to send his Congolese Force Publique to "invade and occupy" Armenia. The massacres were an important item on the agenda of President Grover Cleveland, and in his presidential platform for 1896, Republican candidate William McKinley listed the saving of the Armenians as one of his top priorities in foreign policy. Americans in the Ottoman Empire, such as George Washburn, the then president of the Constantinople-based Robert College, pressured their government to take concrete action. In December 1900 the USS Kentucky called at the port of Smyrna, where its captain, "Red Bill" Kirkland, delivered the following warning, somewhat softened by his translator, to its governor: "If these massacres continue I'll be swuzzled if I won't someday forget my orders... and find some pretext to hammer a few Turkish towns... I'd keel-haul every blithering mother's son of a Turk that wears hair." Americans on the mainland, such as Julia Ward Howe, David Josiah Brewer, and John D. Rockefeller, donated and raised large amounts of money and organized relief aid that was channeled to the Armenians via the newly-established American Red Cross. Other humanitarian groups and the Red Cross helped by sending aid to the remaining survivors who were dying of disease and hunger.
At the height of the massacres, in 1896, Abdul Hamid tried to limit the flow of information coming out of Turkey (Harper's Weekly was banned by Ottoman censors for its extensive coverage of the massacres) and counteract the negative press by enlisting the help of sympathetic Western activists and journalists. The Zionist leader Theodore Herzl responded ecstatically to Abdul Hamid's personal request to harness "Jewish power" in order to undermine the widespread sympathy felt for Armenians in Europe. Through his contacts, favorable impressions of the empire were published in a number of European newspapers and magazines, while Herzl himself attempted unsuccessfully to mediate between the Sultan and Armenian party activists in France, Britain, Austria and elsewhere. Herzl acknowledged that the arrangement with the Abdul Hamid was temporary and his services were in exchange for bringing about a more favorable Ottoman attitude toward Zionism. "Under no circumstances," he wrote, "are the Armenians to learn that we want to use them in order to erect a Jewish state."
Takeover of the Ottoman Bank 
Despite the great public sympathy that was felt for the Armenians in Europe, none of the European powers took concrete action to alleviate their plight. Frustrated with their indifference and failure to take action, Armenians from the ARF seized the European-managed Ottoman Bank on August 26, 1896 in order to bring the massacres to their full attention. Though their demands were rejected and new massacres broke out in Constantinople, the act was lauded by the European and American press, which vilified Hamid and painted him as the "great assassin" and "bloody Sultan." The Great Powers vowed to take action and enforce new reforms, although these never came into fruition due to conflicting political and economic interests.
Inaccurate reportage by the Ottoman government 
After George Hepworth, a preeminent journalist of the late nineteenth century, traveled through Ottoman Armenia in 1897, he wrote Through Armenia on Horseback, which discusses the causes and effects of the recent massacres. In one chapter Hepworth describes the disparity between the reality of the Massacre in Bitlis and the official reports that were sent to the Porte. After retelling the Turkish version of events, which places the blame solely on the Armenians of Bitlis, Hepworth writes:
…That is the account of the affair which was sent to Yildiz, and that story contains all that the Sultan has any means of knowing about it. It is a most remarkable story, and the discrepancies are as thick as leaves in Valambrosa. On the face of it, it cannot be true, and before a jury it would hardly have any weight as evidence. It is extremely important, however, because it is probably a fair representation of the occurrences of the last few years. That it is a misrepresentation, so much so that it can fairly be called fabrication, becomes clear when you look at it a second time... and yet it is from an official document which the future historian will read when he wishes to compile the facts concerning those massacres.
Some scholars, such as the Soviet historians Mkrtich G. Nersisyan, Ruben Sahakyan, and John Kirakosyan, and Yehuda Bauer subscribe to the view that the mass killings of 1894–96 were the first phase of the Armenian Genocide. Most scholars, however, limit this definition strictly to the years 1915–23.
See also 
- Yıldız Attempt
- Adana massacre
- Armenian Genocide
- List of massacres in Turkey
- List of conflicts in the Middle East
- Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, p. 154.
- Akçam, Taner (2006). A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. New York: Metropolitan Books, p. 42. ISBN 0-8050-7932-7.
- "The number of Armenian children under twelve years of age made orphans by the massacres of 1895 is estimated by the missionaries at 50.000": (December 18, 1896) "Fifty Thousand Orphans made So by the Turkish Massacres of Armenians." New York Times.
- Akçam. A Shameful Act, p. 44.
- Akçam. A Shameful Act, p. 43.
- Angold, Michael (2006), O’Mahony, Anthony, ed., Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 5, Eastern Christianity, Cambridge University Press, p. 512, ISBN 978-0521811132
- Cleveland, William L. (2000). A History of the Modern Middle East, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-8133-3489-6.
- Akçam. A Shameful Act, p. 36.
- Dadrian, Vahakn N (1995). The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Oxford: Berghahn Books, p. 163. ISBN 1-57181-666-6.
- See (Armenian) Azat S. Hambaryan (1981), "Հողային հարաբերությունները: Հարկերն ու պարհակները" [Land relations: Taxes and services] in Hay Zhoghovrdi Patmut'yun [History of the Armenian People], ed. Tsatur Aghayan et al. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, vol. 6, pp. 49-54.
- Astourian, Stepan (2011). "The Silence of the Land: Agrarian Relations, Ethnicity, and Power," in A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, eds. Ronald Grigor Suny, Fatma Müge Göçek, and Norman Naimark. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 58-61, 63-67.
- Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 44, 50–51. ISBN 0-06-055870-9.
- (Armenian) Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1996). Պատմութիւն Հայոց [History of Armenia] III. Athens: Council of National Education Publishing. pp. 42–44.
- Kinross, Patrick B (1977). The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. New York: Morrow, p. 559.
- Hovannisian, Richard G (1997). "The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire, 1876–1914" in The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century. Ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. New York: St. Martin's Press, p. 223. ISBN 0-312-10168-6.
- Balakian. The Burning Tigris, pp. 57–58.
- Quoted in Gia Aivazian (2003), "The W. L. Sachtleben Papers on Erzerum in the 1890s" in Armenian Karin/Erzerum, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. UCLA Armenian History and Culture Series: Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces, 4. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, pp. 246-47.
- Quoted in Claire Mouradian (2006), "Gustave Meyrier and the Turmoil in Diarbekir, 1894-1896," in Armenian Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. UCLA Armenian History and Culture Series: Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces, 6. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, p. 219.
- Kieser, Hans-Lucas. "Ottoman Urfa and its Missionary Witnesses" in Armenian Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa, p. 406.
- Jenkins, H. D. (October 1915). "Armenia and the Armenians". National Geographic. p. 348. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Dadrian. History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 161.
- De Courtois, Forgotten Genocide, pp. 137, 144, 145.
- Travis, Hannibal. "Native Christians Massacred: The Ottoman Genocide of the Assyrians During World War I." Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, vol. 1.3, 2006.
- (Hebrew) "בארצנן." Ha-Melitz. September 25, 1896, p. 2.
- On this issue in general, see Selim Deringil (April 2009), "'The Armenian Question Is Finally Closed': Mass Conversions of Armenians in Anatolia during the Hamidian Massacres of 1895–1897," Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, pp. 344-71.
- Hovannisian. "The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire," p. 224.
- (French) Cambon, Paul (1940). Tome Premier (1870–1908): L’établissement de la République – Le Protectorat Tunisien – La régence en Espagne – La Turquie d’Abd Ul Hamid, vol. 1 of Correspondance, 1870–1924. Paris: Grasset, p. 395.
- De Courtois, Sébastien (2004). The Forgotten Genocide: The Eastern Christians, the Last Arameans. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, pp. 106–10.
- De Courtois. Forgotten Genocide, p. 138.
- Oren, Michael B (2007). Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 293. ISBN 0-393-33030-3. 
- Hochschild, Adam (1999). King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Boston, MA: Mariner Books. pp. 167–68. ISBN 0-618-00190-5.
- For a study on the American response to the massacres, see Ralph Elliot Cook (1957), "The United States and the Armenian Question, 1894-1924," Unpublished Ph.D Dissertation, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
- Oren. Power, Faith, and Fantasy, p. 294.
- Oren. Power, Faith, and Fantasy, pp. 294–96.
- Anderson, Margaret Lavinia (March 2007). "'Down in Turkey, Far Away,': Human Rights, the Armenian Massacres, and Orientalism in Wilhelmine Germany," Journal of Modern History 79, pp. 87-90.
- Hovannisian. "The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire," pp. 224–26.
- Balakian. The Burning Tigris, pp. 35, 115.
- Hepworth, George H (1898). Through Armenia On Horseback. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. pp. 239–41.
- For a brief discussion on continuity, see Richard G. Hovannisian (2007), "The Armenian Genocide: Wartime Radicalization or Premeditated Continuum?" in The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and Ethical Legacies, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, pp. 9–11. ISBN 1-4128-0619-4.
Further reading 
- Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-055870-9.
- (French) Clemanceau, Georges. Les massacres d'Arménie: Témoingnages des victimes. Paris: Édition du Mercure de France, 1896.
- (French) France, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Documents diplomatiques: Affaires arméniennes. Projets de réformes dans l'empire Ottoman, 1893-1897. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1897.
- Campbell, George Douglas (8th Duke of Argyll). Our Responsibilities for Turkey: Facts and Memories of Forty Years. London: J. Murray, 1896.
- (German) Germany, Foreign Office. Die grosse Politik der europäischen Kabinette, 1871-1914, vol. X. Berlin: Deutsche veragsgesellschaft für politik und geschichte, 1922-1927.
- Great Britain, Foreign Office. Correspondence Relating to the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, 1892-1893, Sess., 1896, XCV (A and P) c. 8015, Turkey No. 3, 1896; Correspondence Relating..., 1894-1895, Sess., 1896, XCVI (A and P) c. 8108, Turkey No. 6, 1896; Correspondence Relating to the Armenian Question and Reports from Her Majesty's Consular Officers in Asiatic Turkey, Sess., 1896, XCV (A and P) c. 7927, Turkey No. 2, 1896.
- Harris, J. Rendel, Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1897.
- Lepsius, Johannes. Armenia and Europe: An Indictment. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1897.
- Melson, Robert. “A Theoretical Enquiry into the Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 24, no. 3 (1982), pp. 481–509.
- Nalbandian, Louise. The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties through the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.
- (Armenian) Nersisyan, Mkrtich G. "Զեյթունցիների 1895–1896 թթ. Ինքնապաշտպանական Հերոսամարտը" ("The Heroic Self-Defense of the People of Zeitun in 1895–96"). Patma-Banasirakan Handes. № 1–2 (143–44), 1996, pp. 7–16. With Russian abstract.
- Troshine, Yvan (January 1897). "A Bystander's Notes of a Massacre: The Slaughter of Armenians in Constantinople". Scribner's Magazine XXI (1): 48–67. Retrieved 2009-08-23.