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Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (or Ottoman Armenians) were an ethnic people who belonged to either the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church or the Armenian Protestant Church. They were part of the Armenian Millet until the 19th century.


An "Armenian bey", the executive authority on Armenian reaya. The bey was part of civil administration.

The Ottomans introduced and developed several unique traits into the traditions of Islam. Islamic culture did not enact a separation among religious and secular matters. But the Ottomans visualized an idea that two separate "establishments" shared state power. Historians often label the Ottoman sociopolitical construct the "Ottoman System", as a system characterized by militarism and State power, sharing the responsibility of both governing a nation's citizens and its religious establishments. The Ottomans left civic control to the civic institutions. It should be noted though that he term "Ottoman System," however, conveys a sense of structural rigidity that probably was nonexistent throughout the Ottoman period. At first, the Sultan was the highest power in the land and had control over almost everything. The state organization began to take a more definite shape in the first half of the sixteenth century under Suleyman I, also known as "Lawgiver."

The Armenian population's integration was partially due to the nonexistent structural rigidity throughout the initial period. Armenian people, related to the issues of their own internal affairs were administered by the civil administration. Townspeople, villagers and farmers formed a class called the reaya, including Armenian reaya. Civil and judicial administration was carried out under a separate parallel system of small municipal or rural units called kazas. The civil system was considered a check the military system since beys, who represented executive authority on reaya, could not carry out punishment without a sentence from the religious leader of the person. Also, Sultan was beyond the mentioned control. Ecumenical Patriarchate was the leader of the Armenian People. This whole structure was named Armenian case Armenian Millet.

During the Byzantine period, the Armenian Church was not allowed to operate in Constantinople, because the Greek Orthodox Church regarded the Armenian Church as heretical. With the establishment of Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Armenians become religious leaders, and bureaucrats under Ottoman Empire, more influential than just their own community. The idea that two separate "establishments" shared state power gave people a chance to occupy important positions, administrative, the religious-legal, and the social-economic.

The Role of Armenians in the Ottoman Economy[edit]

Certain elite Armenian families in the Ottoman Empire gained the trust of the Sultans and were able to achieve important positions in the Ottoman government and the Ottoman economy. Even though their numbers were small compared to the whole Ottoman Armenian population, this caused some resentment between Ottoman nationalists.The life of the rest of the common Armenians was a very difficult existence because they were treated as second class citizens. Those elite Armenian families that did achieve great success was individuals such as Abraham Pasha who became Ottoman minister of State. Another Armenian by the name of Kapriel Noradounguian became secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Ottoman Empire. The Dadian family controlled the entire munitions industry in the Ottoman Empire.Calouste Gulbenkian became one of the main advisor of the National Bank of Turkey and the Turkish Petroleum Corporation which later became the Iraqi Oil Corporation. Historian A.Tchamkerten writes"Armenian achievements in the Empire was not only in trade, however. They were involved in almost all economic sectors and held the highest levels of responsibility. In the 19th century, various Armenian families became the Sultan's goldsmiths, Sultan's architects and took over the currency reserves and the reserves of gold and silver, including customs duty. Sixteen of the eighteen most important bankers in the Ottoman Empire were Armenian".(Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian:The man and his work. Lisbon:Gulbenkian Foundation Press.2010)

OTTOMAN EMPIRE Banknotes, 20 Kurush ND(1852).jpg

Patriarchate of Constantinople[edit]

Costumes of the Ottoman Empire extending to Muslims, Christians, Jewish communities, clergy, tradesmen, state and military officials were strictly regulated during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent.

After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the patriarchate came to care more directly for all the Orthodox living in the Ottoman Empire. Hovagim I was at the time the Metropolitan of Bursa. In 1461, Hovagim I was brought to Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II and established as the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople which the office was created solely with a political purpose. Sultan Mehmed II wanted Armenian-Greek separation. Constantinople become the real center of their ecclesiastical and national life. The Armenian patriarch and not the Catholicos of Etschmiadzin, was their most important national dignitary, as part of Mehmed's wish. In the Sultan's capital, lived the largest Armenian community in the world; and his civil-ecclesiastical authority made the Sultan practically the most powerful official among the Armenians at large. Before the Ottoman conquest in 1453 there were probably no Armenian churches in Constantinople. Since 1453, 55 new Armenian churches were built in Istanbul, some are from the 16th-century.[1]

Until the promulgation of the Hatt-i Sherif of 1839, the patriarch and his clients, within limits, possessed penal authority over Armenian people. At the capital the patriarch had his own jail, and maintained a small police force. His authority over his clergy being absolute, he could imprison or exile them at will; and while he was compelled to secure the consent of the Sultan to imprison or exile laymen of his community, the necessary firman was very easily obtained. The patriarchal system of government, in placing civil powers in the hands of high ecclesiastics, was an outcome of the fact that the Sultan made no distinction between church and community, and often lent the weight of its authority to maintain the integrity of the church.

The spiritual condition of the Armenian church until "national awakening" was based on superstition, ceremonialism, and priestcraft. The veneration of anointed crosses, of pictures and relics of saints, the giving of alms, the observance of penances, fasts, and vigils, and the going on pilgrimages to Etschmiadzin and Jerusalem, to most Armenians constituted the sum and substance of religion. Preaching in the Armenian church was very uncommon. The parish priests never preached. Most of the preaching was done by vartabeds sent out from Etschmiadzin, Jerusalem, and other monastic centers, with whom it was partly a matter of reciting the virtues of relics and recounting the legends of saints, and largely a matter of appealing for contributions. The Bible was not generally read. The copies of Bible were not easily accessible.

Armenian village life[edit]

A hand drawn illustration of Kars in 1917 by an Armenian. The citadel can be seen on the right. Note the two large domed Armenian Churches in the middle and lower section of the picture.

At the villages, including those of which the population was chiefly Muslim, the Armenian quarters were settled in groups between other parts of the population. Comparatively, Armenians lived in well-built and prosperous places. The houses are arranged one above the other, so that the flat roof of one house is the front yard of the one above. For safety the houses are huddled together. Armenian houses were admirably adopted to the extremes of temperature of Western Armenian Highlands (Eastern Anatolia). In summer the thick walls and earth-cowered roofs keep the rooms cool. The nature and agricultural traditions of Armenians stayed the same as same characteristics explained can also be found in Xenophon who described many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality.[2] He relates that the people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians.[3]

There is always a village master (Bey or elderly); for entertaining the town house was part of his prerogative, and his house is the best in each village. It is not uncommon to have the three priests for here thirty-five families. Most of the Armenians like to travel on horseback to a neighboring villages, sometimes for religious ceremonies (like Van festival), sometimes to fetch a bride, accompanying her, with musical instruments and clapping of hands, to their own village. It was prohibited to ride horse or to have the weapon for Armenians as giavour, so it was illegal.

Ottoman Armenia 1453 to 1829[edit]

Armenian woman.

Armenians preserved their culture, history, and language through the course of time, largely thanks to their distinct religious identity among the neighboring Turks and Kurds. Like the Greek Orthodox and Jewish minorities of the Ottoman Empire, they constituted a distinct millet, led by the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. Under this system, Christians and Jews were considered religious minorities/second-class citizens; they were subjected to elevated taxation, but in return they were granted autonomy within their own religious communities and were exempted from military service. Growing religious and political influence from neighboring communities necessitated implementation of security measures that often required a longer waiting period for minorities to seek legal recourse in the courts.[4] Under the Ottoman rule, Armenians formed three distinct millets: Armenian Orthodox Gregorians, Armenian Catholics, and Armenian Protestants (which was formed in the 19th century).[5]

After many centuries of Turkish rule in Anatolia (at first the Seljuks, then the rule of a variety of Anatolian beyliks and finally the Ottomans), the centres with a high concentration of Armenians lost their geographic continuity (parts of Van, Bitlis, and Kharput vilayets). Over the centuries, tribes of Turks and Kurds settled into Anatolia and the historic Armenian land, which was left severely depopulated by the a slew of devastating events such as the Byzantine-Persian Wars, Byzantine-Arab Wars, Turkish Invasions, Mongol Invasions and finally the bloody campaigns of Tamerlane.[6] Owing to these events the composition of the population had undergone, ever since the second half of the medieval period, a transformation so profound that the Armenians constituted, over the whole extent of their ancient homeland, no more than a quarter of the total inhabitants.[7][8][9] Despite this they kept and defended factual autonomy in certain isolated areas like Sassoun, Shatakh, and parts of Dersim[citation needed]. An Armenian stronghold and a symbol of factual Armenian autonomy, Zeitoun (Ulnia) was located between the Six Vilayets and Cilicia, which also had a strong Armenian presence ever since the creation of the Principality (and then Kingdom) of Lesser Armenia. However, the destruction of the Kingdom by Ramadanid tribe and the subsequent rule of Muslim powers such as the Dulkadirids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans led to an ever increasing numbers of Muslims in the region until finally the genocide removed the remaining vestiges of Armenians.

There were also significant communities in parts of Trebizond and Ankara vilayets bordering Six vilayets (like in Kayseri). After the Ottoman conquests many Armenians also settled in Western Anatolia, in large and prosperous Ottoman cities like Istanbul and Izmir.

Western Armenia, 1829–1918[edit]

Armenian & Turkish Retailers.

The remaining Ottoman Armenia, comprised of the Six vilayets (Erzurum, Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Kharput, and Sivas[10]) up to World War I, under Ottoman rule, was also referred to as Western Armenia.

Armenians during 19th century[edit]

Calouste Gulbenkian, internationally known businessman and philanthropist born in 1869 at Üsküdar

Beside the learned professions with the schools opened throughout the Ottoman Empire, the chief occupations were trade and commerce, various industries, and agriculture. The peasants, for the most part, were agriculturists. In the empire Armenians were raised to higher occupations, like Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was a businessman and philanthropist. He played a major role in making the petroleum reserves of the Middle East available to Western development. The Armenian Press and literature during this period established institutions that were critical; this attitude has been invaluable in reforming abuses and introducing improvements of Armenian people in their communities. Thus their critical instinct is positive, rather than negative. Armenians organised themselves for different objects; witness their numerous societies, clubs, political parties, and other associations. Hovsep Pushman was a painter who become very famous in the Empire. During this period Armenians would establish a church, a school, a library, and a newspaper. Sargis Mubayeajian was a prolific and multifarious Armenian writer educated in Constantinople. Many of his works are still scattered in Armenian periodicals.

Many Armenians, who have emigrated to foreign countries become prosperous there, return to their native land because the love of the Mother Country is so intense in them. Alex Manoogian who become a philanthropist and active member of Armenian General Benevolent Union was from Ottoman lands (modern Izmir), Arthur Edmund Carewe born Trebizond become an Actor in the silent film era.

Armenians occupied important posts within the Ottoman Empire, Artin Dadyan Pasha served as minister of foreign affairs of Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1901 is one of the examples that Armenian citizens served the Ottoman Empire in 19th century.

Eastern Question[edit]

The Eastern Question (normally dated to 1774), in European history used in referring the diplomatic and political problems posed by the decay of the Ottoman Empire, during the 18th century, including instability in the territories ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The position of educated and privileged Christians within the Ottoman Empire improved in the 17th and 18th centuries. Empire increasingly recognized the missing skills which the larger Ottoman population lacked, as the empire became more settled, and began to feel its increasing backwardness relative to the European powers, European powers on the other side, engaged in a power struggle to safeguard their military, strategic and commercial interests in the Empire, this gave the motivation to the powers to help people in need. The rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire, direct result of enlightenment of Christian millets through education, was the dominant theme, though Armenians, for the most part, remained passive during these years, earning them the title of millet-i sadıka or the "loyal millet."[11]

The Eastern Question gained another dimension by the late 1820s, Greek Enlightenment and Greek War of Independence already developed the conditions to establish the Greece, along with several countries of the Balkans, frustrated with conditions, had, often with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule. The Great Power Imperial Russia stood to benefit from the decline of the Ottoman Empire; on the other hand, Austria and the United Kingdom deemed the preservation of Empire to be in their best interests. The position of France changed several times over the centuries. Armenian involvement into international view would had to wait until Armenian national awakening, which the Armenian Question as used in European history, became common place between diplomatic circles and in the popular press after the Congress of Berlin (1878). The Armenian national ideology developed long after the Greek movement, however the factors contributing to the emergence of Armenian nationalism made the movement far more similar to that of the Greeks than those of other ethnic groups.[12]

Reform implementation, 1860s–1880s[edit]

The three major European powers, Great Britain, France and Russia (known as the Great Powers), took issue with the Empire's treatment of its Christian minorities and increasingly pressured the Ottoman government (also known as the Sublime Porte) to extend equal rights to all its citizens.

Beginning in 1839, the Ottoman government implemented the Tanzimat reforms to improve the situation of minorities, although these would prove largely ineffective. In 1856, the Hatt-ı Hümayun promised equality for all Ottoman citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and confession, widening the scope of the 1839 Hatt-ı Şerif of Gülhane. The reformist period peaked with the Constitution, called the Kanûn-ı Esâsî (meaning "Basic Law" in Ottoman Turkish), written by members of the Young Ottomans, which was promulgated on 23 November 1876. It established freedom of belief and equality of all citizens before the law. "Firman of the Reforms" gave immense privileges to the Armenians, which formed a "governance in governance" to eliminate the aristocratic dominance of the Armenian nobles by development of the political strata in the society.[13]

Armenian National Constitution, 1863[edit]

In 1863, the Armenian National Constitution (Ottoman Turkish:"Nizâmnâme-i Millet-i Ermeniyân") was Ottoman Empire approved. It was a form of the "Code of Regulations" composed of 150 articles drafted by the "Armenian intelligentsia", which defined the powers of Patriarch (position in Ottoman Millet) and newly formed "Armenian National Assembly".[14] Mikrtich, issued a decree, permitting women to have equal votes with men and asking them to take part in all elections.

Armenian National Assembly had wide ranging functions. That Muslim officials (Turks, Kurds, Arabs) did not used to employed to collect taxes in Armenian villages, but the taxes in all the Armenian villages collected by Armenian tax-gatherers appointed by the Armenian National Assembly. Armenians allowed to establish their own courts of justice for the purpose of administering justice and conducting litigation between Armenian and Armenian, and for deciding all questions relating to marriage, divorce, estate, inheritance, etc., appertaining to themselves. Also Armenians allowed the right to establish their own prisons for the incarceration of offending Armenians, and in no case should an Armenian be imprisoned in an Ottoman prison.

The Armenian National Assembly also had the power to elect the Armenian Governor by a local Armenian legislative council. The councils later will be part of elections during second constitutional era. Local Armenian legislative councils were composed of six Armenians elected by the Armenian National Assembly.

Education and social work[edit]

Beginning in 1863, education has been offered to the whole people, and so far as funds permit is absolutely free for all. All Armenian education is under the direction of lay committees. During this period in Russian Armenia the association of the schools with the Church is rather closer, but the same principal obtains. This became a problem for Russian administration, which was peaked during 1897, Tsar Nicholas appointed the Armenophobic Grigory Sergeyevich Golitsin as governor of Transcaucasia, and Armenian schools, cultural associations, newspapers and libraries were closed.

The Armenian charitable works, hospitals, and provident institutions we were organized along the explained perspective. The Armenians, besides paying taxes to the State, have voluntarily imposed extra burdens on themselves to support such philanthropic agencies. The taxes to the State did not have direct return to Armenians in such cases.

The education and philanthropic agencies made the Armenians most educated and rich section of the Ottoman population.

Armenian Question, 1877[edit]

The Armenian Question, as used in European history, became common place between diplomatic circles and in the popular press after the Congress of Berlin (1878); that in like Eastern Question (normally dated to 1774), refers to powers of Europe's involvement to the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire beginning with the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. However in specific terms, the Armenian question refers to the protection and the freedoms of Armenians from their neighboring communities.[15] The "Armenian question" explains the forty years of Armenian-Ottoman history in the context of English, German, Russian politics between 1877–1914.

Armenians in Eastern Anatolia,1896

National awakening, 1880s[edit]

The national liberation movement of the Balkan peoples (see: national awakenings in Balkans) and the immediate involvement of the European powers in the Eastern question had a powerful affect on the hitherto suppressed national movement between the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire – on the development of a national liberation ideology.[16] The Armenian national liberation movement was the Armenian national effort to free the historic Armenian homeland of eastern Asia Minor and Transcaucasus from Russian and Ottoman domination and re-establish the independent Armenian state. Those Armenians who did not support national liberation aspirations or who were neutral were called chezoks.

Sultan Abdul Hamid, 1876 – 1909[edit]

1896, Armenian-populated regions.
The Ottoman Armenians (yellow) in 1910, since Baldamus, Alfred; Koch, Julius; Schwabe, Ernst: "Historisches schulatlas", ed. Putzger, Leipzig 1910, p.28.

Abdülhamid II was the 34th sultan and he oversaw a period of decline in the power and extent of the Empire, ruling from 31 August 1876 until he was deposed on 27 April 1909. Abdülhamid II was the last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power.

Bashkaleh Resistance, 1889[edit]

The Bashkaleh Resistance was the bloody encounter between the Armenakans and the Ottoman Empire on May 1889. It is named as Bashkaleh Resistance as Bashkaleh was a border town of Van Province, Ottoman Empire. The event was important as it was reflected on main Armenian newspapers as the recovered documents on the Armenakans showed an extensive plot for a national movement.[17] Ottoman officials believed that the men were members of a large revolutionary apparatus and the discussion was reflected on newspapers, (Eastern Express, Oriental Advertiser, Saadet, and Tarik) and the responses were on the Armenian papers. In some Armenian circles, this event was considered as a martyrdom and brought other armed conflicts.[18] The Bashkaleh Resistance was on the Persian border, which the Armenakans were in communication with Armenians in the Persian Empire. The Gugunian Expedition, which followed within the couple months, was an attempt by a small group of Armenian nationalists from the Russian Armenia to launch an armed expedition across the border into the Ottoman Empire in 1890 in support of local Armenians.

Kum Kapu demonstration, 1890[edit]

The Kum Kapu demonstration occurred at the Armenian quarter of Kum Kapu, the seat of the Armenian Patriarch, was spared through the prompt action of the commandant, Hassan Aga.[19] On 27 July 1890, Harutiun Djangulian, Mihran Damadian and Hambartsum Boyajian interrupted the Armenian mass to read a manifesto and denounce the indifference of the Armenian patriarch and Armenian National Assembly. Harutiun Djangulian (member from Van) tried to assassinate the Patriarch of Istanbul. The goal was to persuade the Armenian clerics to bring their policies into alignment with the national politics. They soon forced the patriarch to join the procession heading to the Yildiz Palace to demand implementation of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. It is significant that this massacre, in which 6000 Armenians are said to have perished, was not the result of a general rising of the Muslim population.[19] The Softas took no part in it, and many Armenians found refuge in the Muslim sections of the city.[19]

Bloody Years, 1894–1896[edit]

The first notable battle in the Armenian resistance movement took place in Sassoun, where nationalist ideals were proliferated by Hunchak activists, such as Mihran Damadian, Hampartsoum Boyadjian, and Hrayr. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation also played a significant role in arming the people of the region. The Armenians of Sassoun confronted the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars at Sassoun, succumbing to superior numbers.[20] This was followed by Zeitun Rebellion (1895–1896), which between the years 1891 and 1895, Hunchak activists toured various regions of Cilicia and Zeitun to encourage resistance, and established new branches of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party.

In 1896 Ottoman Bank Takeover took place, by an Armenian group armed with pistols, grenades, dynamite and hand-held bombs. The seizure of the bank lasted for fourteen hours, resulting in the deaths of ten of the Armenian men and Turkish soldiers. Turkish reaction to takeover saw further massacres and pogroms of the several thousand Armenians living in Constantinople and also Hamid threatening to level the entire building itself. However, intervention on part of the European diplomats in the city managed to persuade the men to give, assigning safe passage to the survivors to France. Despite the level of violence the incident had wrought, the takeover was reported positively in the European press, praising the men for their courage and the objectives they attempted to accomplish.[21] The years between 1894–1896 ended, with estimates of the dead ranging from 80,000 to 300,000.[22] The massacres are named for Abdul Hamid II, whose efforts to reinforce the territorial integrity of the embattled Ottoman Empire.

Sasun Uprising, 1904[edit]

Ottoman Officials responsible from Sasun Uprising, who were previously defeated in the First Zeitoun Resistance, didn't want the formation of another semi-autonomous Armenian region in the "Eastern" vilayets. In Sassoun, Armenian activists were working to arm the folk and to recruit young men by motivating them to the Armenian cause. 50,000 Turkish and Kurdish troops started the offensive in Sassoun, where 500 fedayees had to defend 20,000 unarmed people. The Armenians were headed by Andranik Ozanian along with Kevork Chavoush, Sepasdatsi Mourad, Keri, Hrayr Tjokhk, and others.[23]

Yıldız Attempt, 1905[edit]

The events of the Hamidian massacres and Sultan Abdul Hamid II's continued anti-Armenian policies[24] gave way for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to plan an assassination attempt on the sultan to enact vengeance. Dashnak members, led by ARF founder Christapor Mikaelian, secretly started producing explosives and planning the operation in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Dissolution, 1908–1918[edit]

Declaration of the Constitution Muslim, Armenian, Greek leaders together

The Second Constitutional Era of the Empire began shortly after Sultan Abdülhamid II restored the constitutional monarchy after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. The period established many political groups. A series of elections during this period resulted in the gradual ascendance of the Committee of Union and Progress's ("CUP") domination in politics. This period also marked the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Young Turk revolution, 1908[edit]

Karekin Pastermadjian member of "Chamber of Deputies" representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation from Erzurum. He was later elected to be ambassador of the Armenia to the United States.

On 24 July 1908, Armenians' hopes for equality in the empire brightened with the removal of Hamid II from power and restored the country back to a constitutional monarchy. Two of the largest revolutionary groups trying to overthrow Sultan Abdul Hamid II had been the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Committee of Union and Progress, a group of mostly European-educated Turks.[25] In a general assembly meeting in 1907, the ARF acknowledged that the Armenian and Turkish revolutionaries had the same goals. Although the Tanzimat reforms had given Armenians more rights and seats in the parliament, the ARF hoped to gain autonomy to govern Armenian populated areas of the Ottoman Empire as a "state within a state". The "Second congress of the Ottoman opposition" took place in Paris, France, in 1907. Opposition leaders including Ahmed Riza (liberal), Sabahheddin Bey, and ARF member Khachatur Maloumian attended. During the meeting, an alliance between the two parties was officially declared.[25][26] The ARF decided to cooperate with the Committee of Union and Progress, hoping that if the Young Turks came to power, autonomy would be granted to the Armenians.

Armenian reform package, 1914[edit]

The Armenian reform package declared that the vilayets which Armenians living were to be under an inspectors general, (the map is an archive document of 1914 Census).[27]

The Armenian reform package was an arrangement negotiated with Russia, acting on behalf of the Great Powers, and the Ottoman Empire. It aimed to introduce reforms to the Armenian citizens of the empire. This agreement, which was solidified in February 1914 was based on the arrangements nominally made in 1878. According to this arrangement the inspectors general, whose powers and duties constituted the key to the question, were to be named for a period of ten years, and their engagement was not to be revocable during that period. The Deportees of Malta and the Armenian Question By Bilal N. Simsir From PROCEEDINGS OF SYMPOSIUM ON ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE AND TURKEY (1912–1926), Bogazici University Publications, Istanbul, 1984, pp. 26–41

Immediately following the First World War, when the Allied armies occupied Istanbul and other key parts of the Ottoman Empire, several hundred prominent Turks were arrested. Then, one night in May 1919 a group of selected prisoners were seized by the British army, embarked on board HMS Princes Ena, and at once deported to Malta. Arrests and deportations continued up to November 1920. About one hundred forty Turks were deported to Malta by the British authorities during the years of 1919 and 1920.

Among the deportees were Ottoman Grand Vizier, Speaker of Parliament, Chief of General Staff, State Ministers, Army Commanders, Sheik-ul-Islam, Deputies, Generals, Colonels, Governors, University Professors, Editors, well-known Journalists, etc. All these prominent members of Turkish society were accused roughly of three categories of alleged offences: (i) failure to comply with Armistice terms, (ii) ill-treatment of British prisoners of war, and (iii) outrages to Armenians in Turkey and Transcaucasia.

The last category of offence, being related to much-talked Armenian deportation and so-called "massacre" during World War I, was particularly interesting. This is a short resume of the Malta episode with an emphasis on Armenian question. The paper is based on British official documents kept in Public Record Office, London. British sources on the subject is very illuminating.


On 2 January 1919, Admiral Calthorpe, the British High Commissioner at Istanbul, suggested to London to be authorised "to demand immediate arrest and delivery" to the Biritish military authorities of such Turks against whom there appeared to be a "prima facie good case". "No action, he said, would be better calculated to impress upon the Turks in interior that they are beaten and the Armenians must be respected." (1)

A special section of the British High Commission was created under the responsibility of Andrew Ryan to deal with Armenian and Greek "victims of persecution". Ryan, who had served as Dragoman or interpreter in the British Embassy at Istanbul for fifteen years before the War, was known as anti-Turk intriguer and described as "best hated man in Turkey."(2) As soon as he arrived again at Istanbul in November 1918, he renewed many old contacts with native Armenians and Greeks, engaged several Armenian informers and induced them to collaborate with Armenian and Greek Section. With their instrumentality and in cooperation with Armenian Patriarchate, a number of "Black Lists" of alleged "Turkish War Criminals" were drawn up. Between January and April 1919 four of these "informal" lists were presented to the Sultan's Government. Vahdettin was villing to revenge those members of the Committee of Union and Progress (C.U.P.) who were "their political enemies." Admiral Calthorpe wrote that it was "absolutely necessary to act through Turkish authorities".(3) Ryan minuted: "Our procedure continued to be that of suggesting names for arrest thus disclaiming all responsibility of guaranteeeing the evidence."(4)

Under the British pressure, between 160 and 200 persons had been arrested in January 1919, by the Government of Tevfik Pasha (5). On 30 January, Calthorpe telegraphed to the Governor of Malta, Lord Plumer, asking him if he can make arrangements to receive about 50 or 60 Turkish prisoners at Malta for safe custody out of Turkey.(6)

On 5 February, Admiral Calthorpe was instructed by the Foreign Office, to ask the Turkish Government to hand over to him or nearest Allied commander such Turkish officials and officers accused of offences such as: failure to comply with Armistice terms, ill-treatment of British prisoners, outrages to Armenians and other subject races, etc. (7) Upon this, a clash of opinion took place between Admiral Calthorpe and General Franchet d'Esperay, Commander of French forces at Istanbul. French general wrote that it was up to the Turkish authorities to proceed arresting the accused persons, formulating charges against them, and securing their punishment. (8) According to the French Government mere facts of Allies demanding arrests of Turks presumed guilty created "distinction to disadvantage of Muslim-Turks" while Bulgarian, Austrian and German offenders were as yet neither arrested nor molested.(9)

Meanwhile the Tevfik Pasha's Government took an important decision. On February 1919, it addressed a note to five neutral Governments of Europe, (Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland) informed them that the Turkish Government constituted a Commission for the investigation of alleged abuses committed in connection with Armenian deportation, and invited these neutral Governments to attach each of them two legal superintendents to the Turkish Commission.(9)

The British Foreign Office, rather alarmed upon this unexpected Turkish demarche, decided at once to obstruct it at the very beginning. The Foreign Office addressed a note to the Spanish Ambassador in London who liked to know how the Turkish proposal was regarded by His Britannic Majesty's Government, and informed him that "The acceptance of the Turkish invitation might, and probably would, run counter to the arrangements eventually made at the Peace Conference, and cause serious complications."(11). Thus, a neutral investigation of alleged offences against the Armenians during the Great War was discouraged and prevented. The British Government obviously reserved to themselves the right and privilege to investigate such offences and to prosecute the offenders. Tevfik Pasha, initiator of the idea of neutral investigations of the Armenian question, was forced to submit his resignation on 3 March 1919, and was subsequently replaced by Ferid Pasha.

The new Grand Vizier was extremely pro-British and is recorded to have said that "hopes of himself and his Master the Sultan were centred after God in British". He immediately ordered a kind of men-hunting operation in Istanbul in accordance with the wishes of the British High Commission. Nearly all ministers of the war-time Cabinets, including the Grand Vizir Said Halim Pasha, and most of leading members of C.U.P. were summarily arrested in March 1919.

Admiral Richard Webb, Assistant High Commissioner at Istanbul, reported that arrests were progressing "very satisfactorily," that he was "anxious lest overdrive a willing horse and make him jib at the same time pressing for surrender to the British the arrested persons." The British High Commission did not, for the time being, demand their surrender and continued instead to obtain more arrests. Furthermore, Admiral Webb continued: "It must be born in mind that degrees of guilt of accused vary greatly and that in regard to massacres question of evidence will be extremely difficult."(12)

Despite the lack of evidence as to alleged "massacres", the British High Commission continued to ask for more and more arrests in March and April 1919, though without any serious investigations. Nearly all prisoners were detained in the notorious Seraskeriat or "Bekir Aga" Prison in Istanbul.

On 15 May, the same day when the Greek troops first landed at Izmir, Admiral Webb informed General Milne that in view of the new circumstances, it was "inadvisable" any more that the detainees should remain in Turkish custody and that these persons should be taken over with a view to deport them to Malta. He added that he would not inform the Turkish Government of this step until it has been carried out. (13)

On 22 May an allied guard comprised of British and French soldiers under the British Command was placed at Bekir Aga Prison to ensure that the prisoners are not released or liberated.(14) Then in the night of 28 May, British Military authorities have taken over from Turkish prison sixty-seven selected detainees, placed them on board HMS Princess Ena, and the ship sailed that night for Malta.(15).

The British High Commissioner reported that the deportees were "very prominent members of the C.U.P.", so that stringent action to prevent their escape was of the "very utmost importance". If the accused were to escape, he went on, they would form the nucleus of all the inveterate supporters of the C.U.P." (16)

On hearing the event from the local press on 29 May, the French High Commissioner at Istanbul M. Defrance, expressed his discontent to his British colleague at not having been told the matter earlier. He wrote to Admiral Calthorpe on 2 June that the deportation of Turkish prisoners have been a surprise to him and he reiterated the French point of view that it was to the Turkish authorities themselves to deal with the accused persons. (17)

On his part French Commander General Franchet d'Esperay wrote a letter of protest, without using the word, to the British Military Mission at Istanbul that he was surprised that the British Commander "did not think fit to keep him informed of an event of such importance", that "no agreement was made before-hand between the Allied Governments concerning this removal, which was a "political measure" carried out by the British for their own purposes. Furthermore, he said that the use of French troops for such a purpose cannot be countenanced (18). "I am apologizing to Franchet d'Esperay" said General Milne.

On 4 June, the French Ambassadors at London communicated to the Foreign Office the regrets of his Government for deportation of Turkish prisoners out of Turkey. French Government was of opinion that it was to the Turkish authorities themselves to prosecute the alleged offenders, that the deportation of the latter could be presented as an act of "arbitrary revenge"(19). Despite French opposition, British authorities in Turkey continued deporting Turkish prisoners throughout the summer of 1919.

The new British High Commissioner at Istanbul, Admiral de Robeck, were soon to revise the position of Turkish prisoners. On 21 September 1919, he reported to Lord Curzon that the deportees of Malta were "hurriedly" selected from a list of prisoners, that "it was impossible to rely on known facts", and that "it might be very difficult to sustain definite charges against many of these persons before an allied tribunal". He suggested therefore that His Majesty's Government "should form some clear idea as to the best means of disposing of them eventually." On his part Admiral de Robeck abandoned, for the time being, any idea of recommending further arrests and deportations. (20)

There was now much hesitation among the British authorities regarding the alleged Turkish offenders. When Admiral de Robeck reported again in November 1919 that he did not consider it politically advisable to deport any more prisoners, W.S. Edmonds at the Foreign Office minuted that: "there seems to be a good deal of doubt among the Foreign Office, Constantinople, Solicitor General and Prisoners Department as to what is being done about offenders in general."(21)

By January 1920 the British attitude towards Turkey changed again. The last Ottoman Parliament was inaugurated on 12 January. Less than a month later, Admiral de Robeck reported that "opening of Parliament was followed by arrival in Istanbul of prominent nationalist leaders and language of open menace to Allies was used at more than one public meeting"(22). Moreover, he wrote that if the Allies desired to impose a drastic peace on Turkey, they would have to impose it by using armed forces against Turkish National movement. (23)

On 6 March, Lord Curzon informed Admiral de Robeck that the terms of Peace Treaty to be imposed upon Ottoman Government were indeed "sufficiently drastic", that Allies were contemplating the occupation of Istanbul, and that the occupation "will continue until the Peace Treaty has been accepted and put into execution" by the Turkish Government (24). Furthermore, Lord Curzon stated that the "arrest of dangerous nationalist leaders would be in accord with policy previously pursued."(25)

In the morning of 16 March 1920, all the official buildings in Istanbul, including the Chamber of Deputies, were formally and forcibly occupied by the troops of the Entente Powers, and several prominent Turkish nationalist leaders and deputies were arrested. On 18 March, Admiral de Robeck telegraphed to Lord Plumer, the Governor of Malta, the following: "I am embarking in HMS BenBow on March 18th about 30 important Turkish political prisoners whose arrest has been effected pursuant to instructions of His Majesty's Government. I would be grateful if you would be so good as to give orders for their reception and safe custody at Malta. "Benbow" due Malta 21 March" (26). New deportations were to continue from March to November 1920. Overall 144 Turkish prisoners were deported to Malta in the years of 1919 and 1920.

Following the deportation of his close collaborators as "politically undesirables", Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Leader of the Turkish National Movement, ordered, as a reprisal, the arrest of some 20 British officers in Anatolia, including Colonel Rawlinson, who was the younger brother of Lord Rawlinson and a relative of Lord Curzon.

In August 1920 the Peace Treaty of Sèvres was imposed upon Ottoman Government. The Treaty which was described by Mustafa Kemal Pasha as "a death sentence for the Turkish nation" and never ratified, contained some penalty clauses. By the terms of article 230 the Ottoman Government undertook to hand over to the Allied Powers those persons accused of "massacres," and to recognise the competence of Allied tribunals to try alleged Turkish offenders. Furthermore, the Sultan's Government undertook to furnish to the Allies "all documents and information of every kind" which would be considered necessary to ensure the full knowledge of the incriminating acts.

With the signature of the Treaty of Sèvres, nearly everything was completed for prosecution of the Turkish deportees accused of "Armenian massacres." The alleged offenders in question were already in British custody. The British forces were in occupation of Turkish capital and some other points in Turkey. Therefore, all Turkish Central State Archives and some of those kept in the provinces were at the disposal of the British authorities. Furthermore, the Ottoman Government undertook to assist the Allied authorities in prosecution of alleged offenders.

It seemed that the British Government doubted whether these Turkish deportees at Malta, whose arrests and deportations were caused by some zealots, were in fact guilty or not. The responsible British authorities were hesitating to accuse formally these deportees. On the contrary, they were contemplating their release. On 19 July 1920, W.S. Churchill, the Secretary of State of War, circulated to the British Cabinet the list of Turkish deportees at Malta and suggested that it should be carefully revised by the Attorney General. Churchill added: "those men against whom it is not proposed to take definite proceedings should at the first convenient opportunity be released." (27)

The Law Officers of the Crown was consulted and presented to the Cabinet a memorandum dated 4 August. It was understood that the Law Officers were dealing only with few Turkish deportees accused of ill-treatment of British prisoners of War. No material or evidence existed about alleged Armenian persecution. Therefore, the Law Officers abstained to formulate against the deportees such a crime. (28)

At their meeting held on 4 August 1920, the British Cabinet had under consideration both this memorandum and that of circulated by Churchill, and agreed that the list of Turkish deportees should be carefully revised by the Attorney General and that those deportees against whom no proceedings were contemplated should be released at the first convenient opportunity. (29)

On 8 February 1921, the Attorney General informed the Foreign Office that he was concerned only with eight Turkish deportees accused of ill-treatment of British prisoners of war and not with others. He suggested that His Majesty's High Commissioner at Istanbul should be asked to prepare the evidence against those interned Turks whom he (High Commissioner) recommended for persecution (30). Meanwhile, Lord Plumer, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta, submitted to the Colonial Office a detailed report on Turkish detainees. He suggested that some of them should be released and the charges on which the others were to be tried be communicated to them together with a summary of evidence (31). Thus, the crucial question of evidence to [be] produced against the deportees was now raised both by the Governor of Malta and the Attorney General. But no such an evidence ever existed in the files of [the] British Department in London, and Lord Curzon was expecting a full report and all incriminating documents from the British High Commissioner at Istanbul.

In the meantime, Curzon informed Sir H. Rumbold that an agreement with Turkey for the exchange of prisoners was contemplated and asked his opinion about a number of Turkish detainees at Malta (32). Rumbold replied: "Broadly speaking my view is that all persons against whom there are no charges justifying eventual prosecution might now be released provided that we can secure in exchange release of all British prisoners in the hands of Kemalists." The High Commissioner further suggested prosecution of some of deportees and selected the remainder for an exchange (33).

An agreement for the "Immediate Release of Prisoners" was signed between Bekir Sami Bey, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Robert Vansitart, a member of British Foreign Office. on 16 March 1921, in London. It stipulated the release of all 22 British prisoners in Turkey and repatriation of 64 Turkish deportees at Malta (34).

The British Government, thus, accepted the release of one half of the Turkish deportees, but continued keeping the other half for trial. Such an agreement was unacceptable to the Turkish Government. In fact, the instructions of Bekir Sami Bey precluded him from accepting any arrangement but one based on "all for all" exchange, and he was forced to resign from his post for having neglected the instructions.

Out of originally 144 deportees at Malta 56 persons were selected by H.M. High Commissioner at Istanbul for prosecution. On 16 March 1921, Sir H. Rumbold forwarded to the Foreign Office long expected "evidence" or "details of charges" against each of these persons (35). These documents consisted a few typewritten pages for each one of 56 deportees. The first pages of each "dossier" were reserved to the biographical information of the accused person and the last pages or paragraphs to the "accusation" itself. Andrew Ryan, explained how these "accusations" were drawn up:

"In practice we have gone on the principle that a sufficient presumption of guilt to justify detention and ultimate prosecution existed against all members of the responsible Governments of Turkey when the massacres and deportations took place and all persons so high in the councils of C.U.P. as to be credited with share in directing its policy. If this is the principle, then it seems to me that all these people should stand their trial...This appears to me the only logical course."(36)

This means that most of the deportees [were] considered a priori guilty. Such a logic and such a principle, were obviously quite the contrary of the well-established basic principle of law and justice, according to which each person is considered innocent until he is actually found guilty.

Sir H. Rumbold in forwarding to London the "evidence" against the deportees, wrote that very few witness were available, that [the] Armenian Patriarchate at Istanbul had been the principal channel through which information had been obtained, and that none of allied, associated and neutral Governments had been asked to supply evidence. He admitted that "under these circumstances the Prosecution will find itself under grave disadvantage", but he hoped that [the] American Government could supply "a large amount of documentary information."(37)

Sir Harry Lamb, one of Rumbold's collaborators, wrote frankly the following:

"No one of the deportees {at Malta} was arrested on any evidence in legal sense... The whole case of these deportees is not satisfactory.... There are no dossiers in any legal sense. In many cases we have statements by Armenians of differing values, in some cases, we have nothing but what is common report and an extract from a printed pamphlet. It is safe to say that very few 'dossiers' as they now stand would be marked 'no case' by a practical lawyer..."(38)

For the officials of the British Foreign Office such a result was obviously disappointing. They still maintained their efforts in order to secure prosecution of some of the deportees and for that purpose addressed for assistance to the United States of America and to the British Attorney General. On 1 April 1921, all available "evidence were transmitted to the Department of Law Officers for the information of the Attorney General.

In reply, the Law Officers stated again that they were concerned only with the eight detainees accused of cruelty to the British prisoners of war. As to the others, the Attorney General was of the opinion that, their detention or release involved "a question of high policy" and was not dependent on legal proceedings (39). Thus, the Attorney General refused to involve himself with the alleged case of Armenian "massacres" and he carefully refrained from pronouncing the word "massacre", so freely used by the allied war-time propaganda machine and by some politicians.

The top officials of the Foreign Office recorded their views on the Law Officers' Commentary as follows:

"The Attorney General is only concerned with eight Turks whose prosecution he desires for cruelty to British prisoners of war. The Foreign Office, however, is concerned with 45 Turks (of whom two have escaped from Malta) who ought to be prosecuted for massacre under the article 230 of Treaty of Sevres. The letter give no guidance as to those 45. Our difficulty is that we have practically no legal evidence and we do not want to prepare for proceeding which will be abortive...We asked Washington if the Americans could produce any evidence of massacre against the internees.

1. Remind Washington,

2. Reply that we wish to retain for prosecution all the internees against whom there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction...(40)

{Another member of the Foreign Office added}

"I think we should explain this, adding (if this is, as I presume it is, our view) that from the political point of view it is very desirable that these people should be brought to trial... and we should be very grateful if the Attorney General would let us have his views on this point"(41)

On the other hand, Lord Curzon informed Sir A. Geddes, the British Ambassador at Washington, that there was a "considerable difficulty" in establishing proof of guilt against the Turkish detainees at Malta and requested him "to ascertain if United States Government are in possession of any evidence that would be of value for purpose of prosecution (42). A list of names and brief particulars of 45 Turkish deportees who were detained at Malta for prosecution was forwarded to Washington in order to ascertain whether Americans can furnish any evidence against these persons (43).

On 13 July 1921, the British Embassy in Washington returned the following reply:

"I have the honour to inform Your Lordship that a member of my staff visited the State Department yesterday, the 12th instant, in regard to the Turks who are at present being detained at Malta to a trial... He was permitted to see a selection of reports from United States Consuls on the subject of the atrocities committed in Armenia during the recent war, the reports judged by the State Department to be the most useful for the purposes of His Majesty's Government being chosen from among several hundreds. I regret to inform Your Lordship that there was nothing therein which could be used as evidence against the Turks who are being detained for trial at Malta. The reports seems.. made mention of only two names of the Turkish officials in question... and in these cases were confined to personal opinions of those officials on the part of the writer, no concrete facts being given which could constitute satisfactory incriminating evidence. I have the honour to add that officials of the Department of State expressed the wish, in the course of conversation, that no information supplied by them in this connection should be employed in the court of law. Having regard to this stipulation and the fact that the reports in the possession of the Department of State do not appear in any case to contain evidence against these Turks which would be useful even for the purpose of corroborating information already in possession of His Majesty's Government, I fear that nothing is to be hoped from addressing any further enquiries to the United States Government in this matter." (44)

The Foreign Office was once more disappointed and one of them, W.S. Edmonds minuted: "It never seemed very likely that we should be able to obtain evidence from Washington. We are now waiting at the Attorney General's opinion as to whether there is reasonable prospect of convicting any of the prisoners charged with massacres, etc."(45) The Foreign Office was still persisting for prosecution of innocent Turkish detainees. In view of lack of legal evidence, they decided to use political argument and wrote accordingly to H.M. Procurator General's Department:

"From Political point of view, the letter said, it is highly desirable that proceedings should take place against all of these persons against whom there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction. On the other hand, it is equally desirable to avoid initiating any proceedings which might be expected to prove abortive. In these circumstances His Lordship (Curzon) would be so good as to favour him with an opinion as to which of the forty-five Turks mentioned above could be prosecuted, when the occasion presents itself, with a reasonable prospect of success."(46).

In its report dated 29 July 1921, H.M. Procurator General's Department pointed out that the charges made against the Turkish detainees named in the Foreign Office list was of "a quasi-political character" and that there existed great difficulty of securing proofs in these cases. To the Attorney General, "it seems improbable that the charges made against some of the accused will be capable of legal proof in a Court of Law." Therefore, the Attorney General was "not in a position to express any opinion" as to the prospect of success in any cases submitted for his consideration.(47)

This was the conclusive opinion of H.M. Attorney General. There was no evidence against the Turkish deportees and therefore no prospect of success of prosecuting them before a Court of Law. All political attempts of the Foreign Office to secure the conviction of innocent detainees thus failed in presence of dignified English Jurists. Upon the receipt of the letter of the Procurator General's Department, an official of the Foreign Office wrote:

"From this letter it appears that the chances of obtaining convictions are almost nil...

The American Government, we ascertained, cannot help with any evidence...

Besides the absence of legal evidence there is the extreme unlikelihood that the French and Italians would agree to participate in constituting the course provided for in article 230 of the Treaty {of Sèvres}.

On the other hand we certainly cannot release any Turks until our own prisoners are returned..."(48)

It was impossible to detain any longer the Turkish prisoners in Malta as actual offenders. From now on, the British authorities were keeping them as "hostages" against British prisoners in Anatolia. Before a final decision regarding these hostages, the High Commissioner at Istanbul was asked if he had any observation. Sir H. Rumbold was informed that "His Majesty's Government must contemplate...the release of the 43 Turks who remain at Malta" and he was requested to furnish his views upon this subject (49). In Istanbul Sir H. Rumbold asked the opinion of the English Judge Sir Lindsay-Smith and that of General Harrington's legal adviser. Sir Lindsay-Smith stated that he accepted the Attorney-General's opinion as conclusive and that "an abortive trial would do more harm than good." In conclusion, he said that the only alternative was "to retain Turkish deportees at Malta as hostages"(50). General Sir Charles Harrington added that there was no longer any good purpose served by maintaining these persons at Malta at public expense, and that the whole of them might be used to obtain the release of British prisoners (51).

In this context, Sir Horace Rumbold wrote to Lord Curzon that "Failing the possibility of obtaining proper evidence against these Turks which would satisfy a British Court of Law, we would seem to be continuing an act of technical injustice in further detaining the Turks in question. In order, therefore, to avoid as far as possible losing face, in this matter, I consider that all the Turks except the eight.... should be made available for exchange purposes."(52)

Eight detainees were those charged with cruelty to British prisoners. Both the Foreign Office and War Office were now in favour of an exchange all Turkish detainees, other than the eight, against the British prisoners in Turkey and the Law Officers of the Crown concurred in this view (53). Then, Lord Curzon informed Sir H. Rumbold on 27 September, that the British Government was ready to repatriate all Turkish deportees at Malta, including the eight, in exchange of all British prisoners in Turkey (54).

News in the press was quiet. No mention was made of the passengers aboard the HMS Crysanthemum, in what proved to be an embarrassing episode for the British. (Note other ship here is named the HMS Montreal, and not the FRA Montenol. Image: The Myth of Terror) On October 1, 1921, all Turkish deportees at Malta, to the number of 59, were embarked on board HMS Crysanthemum and FRA Montenol, and the ships sailed for Turkey. The Governor of Malta reported that everything possible was done to ensure "the reasonable comfort" of the deportees on board. When they were released, the deportees refused to sign clearance certificates and stated that they intended to make indemnity claims against the British authorities in respect of their internment at Malta (56). Chrysanthemum and Montenol arrived at Inebolu, on the south coast of the Black Sea, on October 31, 1921, and all deportees of Malta landed safely on Turkish soil. At the same time, all British prisoners in Anatolia were handed over to their authorities (57). The episode of Malta thus ended.


To sum up, these prominent Turks, accused of Armenian persecution, were arrested and deported without any serious investigation. The principal sources of information of the British High Commission at Istanbul were some local Armenians and the Armenian Patriarchate itself. There was, from the very beginning, a great deal of doubt whether the accused persons were in fact guilty or not. Admiral Webb wrote in March 1919 that "in regard to massacres, question of evidence will be extremely difficult". French authorities were against these arrests and deportations which they considered as "political measures". Admiral de Robeck wrote in September 1919 that "it was impossible to rely on known facts" and that "it might be very difficult to sustain definite charges against these persons before an allied tribunal." Indeed "no one of the deportees was arrested on any evidence" and "there was no dossier in legal sense."

From the political point of view, it was "highly desirable" for the British Government that at least some of these deportees should be brought to trial. The British Foreign Office has left no stone unturned in order to prove that an Armenian "massacre" actually took place in Turkey and consequently some of these detainees were guilty. But all efforts of the Foreign Office in this connection ended with a complete failure. There was no evidence, no witness, no dossier, and no proof. The Armenian Patriarchate furnished nothing incriminatory. The Turkish capital was under Allied occupation and all Ottoman State archives were easily accessible to the British authorities in Istanbul. Yet, the British High Commissioner was unable to forward to London any evidence in the legal sense. There was nothing in the British archives which could be used as evidence against the Turkish detainees at Malta. The State Department was also unable to assist the British Government with evidence against these Turks.

It appears that what actually took place in Turkey during World War I was not a "massacre" but a deportation. The Armenian minority in eastern Turkey revolted against the Ottoman State at a most critical time in recent Turkish history when Russian armies launched an offensive against Van, in the East, and when the Allied troops landed on Gallipoli peninsula, in the West, in April 1915. The Ottoman Government then decided in May 1915 to remove the insurgent Armenian minority from the war zone to the Syrian province of the Empire. Some 700,000 Armenians out of a total 1,200,000 were transported from Anatolia to Syria in very difficult conditions, i.e. at a time when the Empire was suffering from severe shortage of vehicles, food, fuel, clothing, and other supplies as well as large-scale plague and famine. Turks as well as Armenians suffered much from the ravages of foreign invasions, activities of robber bands, as well as general insecurity and blood feuds. Under these conditions, too many lives were unfortunately lost, but Armenian casualties were no greater in percentage than that of the Turks.

These facts were first interpreted and distorted by Armenian nationalists and propagandists. Then the British and French Intelligence Services on their part spread throughout the world the stories of imaginary "massacres" for the sake of their own political purposes. Since the Ottoman Government did not hesitate to declare a Cihad or Sacred War against them, the Allied Governments obviously excused themselves for having so much propagandized these stories and sufferings of Christian brethren under the Muslim-Turkish "yoke". This propaganda was still exploited at conference tables by some British politicians. But to make propaganda and to prosecute innocent people before a serious Court of Law were indeed quite different things. Sir Gordon Howard, the British Attorney-General, was not probably unaware that, in fact, no massacre was planned or ordered by the Ottoman officials and no planned massacre was carried out. He thought that all charges made against the Turkish officials and officers at Malta were of "quasi-political character" and consequently it was improbable that these charges will be capable of legal proof in a Court of Law. As a result, all detainees at Malta were released and repatriated without being brought before a Tribunal.

(1) Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), Foreign Office (hereafter FO) 371/4172/2391

(2) Sir Andrew Ryan, The Last of the Dragomans, (London 1951), preface

(3) FO 371/4172/1437

(4) FO 371/4174/11837

(5) FO 371/4172/13694

(6) FO 371/4172/16731

(7) FO 371/4172 FO to Calthorpe, 233 of 5.2.1919

(8) FO 371/4172/2408

(9) FO 371/4172/28138

(10) FO 371/4172/29498

(11) FO 371/. Greham to Spanish Ambassador, 4.3.1919

(12) FO 371/4172/41634 Webb to FO, 532 of 11.3.1919

(13) FO 371/4174 Webb to G.O.C. No. R.1315 of 15.5.1919

(14) FO 271/41741 Webb to Milne 22.5.1919. Duncan to Webb, 1302, 22.5.1919

(15) FO 371/4173/81368 Calthorpe to FO tel.No. 1150 of 29.5.1919

(16) FO 371/4174/88761

(17) FO 371/4174 Deference to Calthorpe, 2.6.1919

(18) FO 371/4174 British Military Mission to G.O.C. 30.5.1919

(19) FO 371/4173/84188

(2) FO 371/4174/136069

(21) FO 371/4174/156721

(22) Bilal N. Simsir (ed. by) British Documents on Atatürk (1919–1938), Vol.I, Ankara, pp. 367–368

(23) Ibid., pp 372'375

(24) Ibid., p. 441

(25) Ibid., p 443

(26) FO 371/5089/Plummer to S. of S. for the Colonies, tel no. 66, 18.3.1920

(27) FO 371/5090 and C.P. 1649. Memorandum by the S. of S. For War, 19.7.1920

(28) FO 371/5090/E. 9934 (C.P.1770)

(29) FO 371/5090/E.9934 and C.P. 1770

(30) FO 371/64990/E. 1801

(31) FO 371/6499/E. 2653

(32) FO. 371/6499/E. 3215

(33) FO 371/6499/E. 3277

(34) Text in FO 371/6500/E. 3375

(35) FO 371/6500/E. 3557

(36) FO 371/6500/E.3557

(37) FO 371/6500/E.3557

(38)FO 371/6500/E. 3554 Minutes by Lamb to the file of Veli Nejdet

(39) FO 371/6502/E. 5845

(40) FO 371/6502/E. 5845

(41) Ibid.

(42) FO 371/6502/E. 5845

(43) FO 371/6503/E. 6311

(44) FO 371/6504/E. 8519. R.C. Cragie (British Embassy in Washington) to Lord Curzon, No. 722 of July 13, 1921

(45) FO 371/6504/E. 8519 FO minutes

(46) FO 371/6502/E. 5845. Oliphant to Woods (Procurator General's Dept), E. 5845/132/44 of May 31, 1921

(47) FO 371/6504/E. 8745 Woods (Procurator General's Dept) to FO, 29.7.1921

(48) Ibid.

(49) FO 371/6504/E. 8745 FO to Rumbold, No.851, 10.8.1921

(50) FO 371/6504/E. 10023

(51) Ibid.

(52) Ibid.

(53) FO 371/6504/E. 10561

(54) FO 371/6504/E. 10662

(55) FO 371/6505/E. 11011 and E. 1112

(56) FO 371/6505. Plumer to War Office, No. 4133 (A), 29.10.1921

(57) FO 371/6505/E. 12068 and E. 12891

World War I, 1914–1918[edit]

With onslaught of World War I, the Ottoman Empire and Russian Empire engaged during the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns, and the CUP began to look on the Armenians with distrust and suspicion. This was due to the fact that the Russian army contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers. On 24 April 1915, Armenian intellectuals were arrested by Ottoman authorities and, with the Tehcir Law (29 May 1915), eventually a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide. There was local Armenian resistance in the region, developed against the activities of the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 to 1917 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians and even some Turkish writers and historians like e.g. Taner Akçam and Orhan Pamuk to have been state-sponsored and planned mass killings, or genocide.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Constantinople, Philip Mansel, 2011|url=
  2. ^ Minasyan, Smbat (21 June 2008). "Armenia as Xenophon saw it". Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 3 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Anabasis (Xenophon), IV.v.2–9.[verification needed]
  4. ^ We and They: Armenians in the Ottoman Empire
  5. ^ Ortaylı, İlber. Son İmparatorluk Osmanlı (The Last Empire: Ottoman Empire), İstanbul, Timaş Yayınları (Timaş Press), 2006. pp. 87–89. ISBN 975-263-490-7 (the book is in Turkish)
  6. ^ Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Volker Höhfeld. Türkei, Darmstadt 2002. pp. 128–132.
  7. ^ M. Canard: "Armīniya" in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden 1993.
  8. ^ G. L. Selenoy and N. von Seidlitz: "Die Verbreitung der Armenier in der asiatischen Türkei und in Trans-Kaukassien", in: Petermanns Mitteilungen, Gotha 1896.
  9. ^ McCarthy, Justin: The Ottoman Peoples and the end of Empire; London, 1981; p.86
  10. ^ Cahoon, Ben (2000). "World Statesmen"  |contribution= ignored (help).
  11. ^ Dadrian, Vahakn N. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1995, p. 192. ISBN 1-57181-666-6
  12. ^ Hovannisian, Richard, The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics, pg.129
  13. ^ Ortayli, Ilber, Tanzimattan Cumhuriyete Yerel Yönetim Gelenegi, Istanbul 1985, pp. 73
  14. ^ Hovannisian, Richard "The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times" pg.198
  15. ^ Armenian Studies: Études Arméniennes by Lebanese Association of Armenian University Graduates, pp. 4–6
  16. ^ Kirakossian, Arman J. British Diplomacy and the Armenian Question: From the 1830s to 1914, page 58
  17. ^ Ter-Minasian, Ruben. Hai Heghapokhakani Me Hishataknere [Memoirs of an Armenian Revolutionary] (Los Angeles, 1952), II, 268–269.
  18. ^ Darbinian, op. cit., p. 123; Adjemian, op. cit., p. 7; Varandian, Dashnaktsuthian Patmuthiun, I, 30; Great Britain, Turkey No. 1 (1889), op. cit., Inclosure in no. 95. Extract from the "Eastern Express" of 25 June 1889, pp. 83–84; ibid., no. 102. Sir W. White to the Marquis of Salisbury-(Received 15 July), p. 89; Great Britain, Turkey No. 1 (1890), op. cit., no. 4. Sir W. White to the Marquis of Salisbury-(Received 9 August), p. 4; ibid., Inclosure 1 in no. 4, Colonel Chermside to Sir W. White, p. 4; ibid., Inclosure 2 in no. 4. Vice-Consul Devey to Colonel Chermside, pp. 4–7; ibid., Inclosure 3 in no. 4. M. Patiguian to M. Koulaksizian, pp. 7–9; ibid., Inclosure 4 in no.
  19. ^ a b c Creasy, Edward Shepherd. Turkey, pg.500.
  20. ^ Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1996). Hayots Badmoutioun, Volume III (in Armenian). Athens, Greece: Hradaragoutioun Azkayin Ousoumnagan Khorhourti. pp. 42–44. 
  21. ^ Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: Perennial, 2003. pp. 107–108
  22. ^ Akcam, Taner. A Shameful Act. 2006, pg.42.
  23. ^ Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1996). Hayots Badmoutioun, Volume III (in Armenian). Athens, Greece: Hradaragoutioun Azkayin Ousoumnagan Khorhourti. p. 47. 
  24. ^ Kirakosian, Arman Dzhonovich. The Armenian Massacres, 1894–1896: 1894–1896 : U.S. media testimony, Page 33.
  25. ^ a b Kansu, Aykut (1997). The Revolution of 1908 in Turkey. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 78. ISBN 90-04-10283-3. 
  26. ^ Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1996). Hayots Badmoutioun (Armenian History) (in Armenian). Athens, Greece: Hradaragutiun Azkayin Oosoomnagan Khorhoortee. pp. 52–53. 
  27. ^ Kirakosian, J. S., ed. Hayastane michazkayin divanakitut'yan ew sovetakan artakin kaghakakanut'yan pastateghterum, 1828–1923 (Armenia in the documents of international diplomacy and Soviet foreign policy, 1828–1923). Erevan, 1972. p.149-358

External links[edit]

Category:Ottoman people