Because of the report of the Imperial Consul in Adana about the unfavourable mood of the Armenian population of those territories towards the German cause, I took the opportunity to approach the local Patriarch of the Gregorian Armenians to find out about his understanding of the relevant conditions.
According to the report by Dr. Buege, the Armenians in his district are afraid that in case of a German victory the existence of the Armenian people on Turkish ground will be annihilated, because Germany supported and even encouraged the Turkish government during the persecution of the Armenians, but that if Turkey should fall into the hands of the English or French, then all these stricken Armenians would finally find peace, etc. I therefore assured the Patriarch that the reform action for the Eastern Anatolian districts, which was started before the beginning of the war, although stalled now, is not dead, and that as soon as peace is restored, I will arrange for the resumption of the reform work, just as the early attempts of the Russian government to this end were supported by us.
It was obvious to the Patriarch that, because of the prevailing war circumstances, this work was postponed and could not be resumed again before the end of the war. For the moment he complained about the mistrust of the Turkish authorities towards the Armenians and especially about the fate of the Armenian districts close to the war zones, specifically around the area of Erzurum. All men between the ages of 20 and 45 who are able to bear arms were conscripted, the rest were engaged to help with transports and other related work; therefore, the villages were without protection from encroachment and assault from pillaging soldiers. Things seem to be calm in the other provinces with Armenian populations, but since the cut-off of correspondence there has been no reliable news.
Generally speaking, the Patriarch observed that every reasonable Armenian would wish to remain under Turkish rule and would reject an annexation of the districts concerned to a foreign state; but it is imperative that with the impending reforms in mind, equality before the law and protection of life and property for all Armenians in East Anatolia is guaranteed.
Referring to the sympathies of Armenians for one or the other power which is at war with us, the Patriarch explained that through border traffic with Russian regions, Russian sympathies are often brought in. Each year in spring, thousands of Armenians move to Russia to work there and return in fall to the Turkish homeland with their savings; at that point they draw a parallel between the treatment they receive abroad and their situation in Turkey, but they have no real idea how their destiny would shape up should they come under Russian rule. During the massacre of Armenians in Erzurum (1898), the Russian Consul Maximov is said to have turned away not only those Armenians who sought refuge in the consulate, but he is supposed to have instigated the fanatical mob by shouting encouragement for more atrocities. The Patriarch provided other details and added that the Russians entered into negotiations for reforms in Turkish Armenia out of consideration for the Armenian population in the Caucasus.
If there are sympathies for France, it is mainly because of French being taught as a first foreign language; knowledge of this language is the basis for introducing French ideas and French sympathy. Up to now, German has been introduced only in a few schools due to a lack of suitable teaching personnel. Pronounced sympathies exist for the U.S., even though the practice of proselytising of the English and the American missionaries often causes offence. The Patriarch avoided talking in detail about the Armenians’ unfavourable sentiments toward Germany and the underlying reason, but he meant that German politics under the rule of Abdul Hamid, which is viewed by the Armenians as hostile, was led by other considerations and that at present, due to different circumstances, there is no reason to reflect on the past and its occurrences. The extended and blessed activities of the Kaiserswerther deaconesses and other German associations meant to serve the Armenians in Turkey were rightly praised by the Patriarch.
The above statements of the Patriarch should be taken as more or less correct and sincere. As far as I know, he, like the majority of the Supreme Council of the Armenian community, is a member of the moderate party (“Ramgavar”). But it seems impossible to influence the broad masses of the Armenian population in a pro-German direction through the medium of the patriarchate, since the Ramgavar party does not own a suitable party organ. It might be possible to win over one or the other party newspapers for to causes, and I hold out the possibility of coming back to this matter as soon as the steps I have initiated show a tangible result.