Your Excellency, I have the honour of enclosing a report by the Imperial Vice-Consul in Erzerum, which deals with a talk by a Russian traveller on the Armenian question. The views mentioned in it, for example that the Kurds should be employed to wind up the Armenian question, are at least very close to the opinions of the Russian civil and military authorities in these border regions. The press in Tiflis also publishes articles often, which throw suspicion on Germany's position in the Armenian question and present Russia as the only friend of the Armenians.
Even if the loyalty of the government in St. Petersburg is beyond all doubt in this matter, in my opinion such trends should not be overlooked.
Upon his return to Russia, a Russian political agent, Gospodin Beresowski, who travelled through Turkish Armenia for a few months at the beginning of this year with the support of the Russian consulates, has given a lecture in Tiflis on his findings on the conditions in the Armenian vilayets which is enclosed in an English translation and entitled, "Disappearing Armenia".
The opinion, which is made clear in the lecture is typical of the Russian trends which rule in Tiflis. Of particular interest is the open demand of the lecturer that Russia support the Kurd movement in order to assist the Armenians. The appeal to the Russian Armenians present to assist their brothers-in-faith is also very obviously a part of the Russian plans. The lecturer calls the British and French policy in Armenia egotistic although it is evident that the Russian plans are far more in their own self-interest. When the lecturer speaks of two-and-a-half million Kurds, he is exaggerating tenfold, for there are only about 240000 Kurds in Van, Bitlis and Erzerum, to which a maximum of 140000 Kisilbashi in Harput, Dersim and Erzerum can be added. Even though the lecturer vastly exaggerates the conditions, some of the information does seem to be true, for example the complete defencelessness of the Armenian women, especially, as the Armenian Patriarch recently assured me, in Vilayet Bitlis.
The Turks cannot be blamed for not wanting to do anything to assist road construction in the Russian-Armenian border area, as in doing so they would only assist the Russians in moving their canons from the border to Erzerum. On the other hand, the "Compagnie des Routes" [the "Road Company"] which operates here is very busy repairing the roads from Trapezond and Sivas to Erzerum.
Turkey has not been so weakened of the Balkan-war as is thought, but is still strong in Asia and is since the war strengthening her fanatical Moslem element there. This awakened fanaticism is now spreading to the Caucasus and the Armenian question has become a serious Russian question. An essential element of this question is the Kurdish element, an element very little known especially by Russians, though it is now beginning to be seriously studied by Europeans, especially English and Germans, whose example should be followed by Russia.
The Kurds, descendants of the original conquerors, are hopelessly uncivilizeable. They were brought into this country in 1504, and, though remaining to a great extent independent, gave no trouble to the Turkish Government. Only after Russian influence began to spread in Asia Minor in the earliest part of the 19th century, the Kurds did begin to stir, and there were several Kurdish revolts against the Turkish Government notably those of 1814, 1829, 1832, and 1854. These revolts were put down by Turks with the help of England. There was another rising in 1878, directed by the famous Hussein Pasha (apparently him of the Bear Hunjaily, who has died recently).
After 1878 however Abdul Hamid followed the successful policy of winning over the Kurds, especially by his organisation of the Hamidiye regiments and of turning them into instruments against Christians and against Russia. After his fall the Young Turks at first seemed to adopt a contrary policy but soon showed their true colours. Some Young Turks of European education entered in the service of the Turkish Government, and used their possibility to make a propaganda for Kurdish independence among their tribes. Abdul Reza, one of the sons of Bedr Chan, started his propaganda among the tribes near the Persian frontier, and next, it was started of his relations near the centre of Kurdistan. In the north it has been carried on chiefly by Abdul Kair. This propaganda was against the Turkish Government but now another movement [illegible] by the Turkish Government, has begun amongst the Kurds against the Armenians. I have myself seen two members of the Turkish Government, going about among the Kurds and preaching death against the giaurs! I possess an anti-Christian and an anti-Armenian paper, distributed by these two members. The Armenian villages have begun to suffer, and are in an interoperable position. The Government, fully alive of the danger to itself from this Kurdish movement, has usually been exciting one element of the population against the other. The result of the Kurdish movement cannot been predicted, but, in any case, it will come much unabashed, especially to Armenians. Already the Kurds of Van and Bitlis have ceased to pay taxes, and have driven out the officials of the Turkish Government from many places. But a serious outbreak of the rising has still been put off by the skilful intriguing of the Turkish Government, which to confuse the minds of the Kurds has a powerful helper, named the British government. The British Consuls in the different districts of Turkish Armenia, by instruction of their Government, are carrying on an analogous propaganda among the Kurds. Towards the middle of May there was to be a meeting of Kurdish chiefs to arrange the general rising. The Turkish Government is progressing just at the moment as Russia is trying to commence an active policy in Asia Minor. The Kurd, though a British, thanks to the conditions created by the Turkish Government, is still apt for better things, and is of a fairly reasonable nature. Of course the fall of Turkish power in Europe has not escaped of the notice of the Kurds. They have seen the gradual dismemberment of the Turk monster and have understood that the dismemberment is only due to the moral help of Russia. Hence they lean towards Russia, as they know that they can do nothing without her. The stronger the Kurdish movement grows, the stronger grows the idea among the Kurds of a rapprochement with Russia. Kurds also see that Turkey, having left all her youth on the battle fields in Europe, has no longer any strength in Asia Minor.
The situation of the Armenians in the Vilayets of Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Harput, Sivas, Erserum is critical. Exact figures of calculations cannot be obtained, but the Armenia of old days no longer exists - only fragments. Only in the Vilayet of Van the Armenians form 18 percent of the population, in the Mush sandjak of the Vilayet at about 70 percent, in the other regions their number does not exceed 30 percent. The Armenians formerly were in all the regions the majority.
The three Armenian organisations are the Tashnak, the Hinchak and the social democrats. Since the fall of Abdul Hamid they have been reduced to inaction by the Young Turks, deceiving their leaders by empty promises. Just now since the beginning of the Turkish reaction a vast field has been opened for their activity. But there is no union among them - only hatred, jealous and all sort of dissension.
According to some Russian newspapers the cause of the economical situation is purely agricultural but this is not so. It is useless to raise the question of restoring to the true Armenian owners the lands, which have been seized from them by the Kurds. The Armenians must give up all such hope. It is tale to talk of wiping out two and a half million Kurds, who now hold those lands. Before the constitution, the lands of the Kurds who were generally the landlords of the country, were cultivated by the Armenians as tenants without any contracts. But after the constitution the Beys demanded contracts of a monstrous kind. Besides the payments under the contracts the Armenians had to pay half or even three quarters of the harvest. Moreover there are land taxes. Thus the Armenian is at the Bey's mercy and can make no profit for himself as all the profit goes to the Bey. The situation of the Armenian land owners is still worse as he is being deprived of his land, his only means of subsistence. In addition to the legal direct and indirect taxes there are a series of arbitrary impositions, for instance a tax ”Mer Dorma” (Give and ask no question) paid on dairy produce. Again there are the taxes for roads, schools, though no Armenian school gets any subvention from the Government.
The Government has intended an infernal device to take the lands away from the Armenian land owners. This is the Government agricultural bank, which with fair speeches press on the Armenian, who wants in advance of ten, fifteen or twenty pounds, to be repaid in 1 year with heavy interest. The poor simple villager consents and loses all his land. In the region of Ekhlat 92 percent of the lands of the Armenians are thus pledged to the bank, and 87 percent in the region of Malatia. Nothing then remains but emigration. According to the Russian Consular statistics in the month of April more than 1000 Armenians emigrated from the region of Harput, and in a single month 1870 Armenians emigrated from the Vilayet of Erzerum. The military service of Armenians was given a great impulse to the emigration. They are always put in the fore-front of the battle, and ill-created in the barracks. I have myself seen Armenian soldiers with their tongues cut out. From the Malatia region alone some 400 Armenians between sixteen and twenty years of age have run away and thus the most vigorous element of the population is being lost, and in fifteen or twenty years it will not be disappearing Armenia but banished Armenia. The Armenians in Russia, America and elsewhere should at once set about seeking remedies. One would be an Armenian national bank to compete with the Turkish agricultural bank and save the land from falling into the hands of the Kurds. The advances to the villagers should be without interests, and the national bank should found various cooperative unions, which by opening credits would partly relieve the economic situation. It is for you Armenians of the Caucasus, to take the first step, you who are enjoying security for your life and property!
The Armenians have owed their national existence to their church, but now there is a great change and there they are becoming indifferent to their religion and are ready to change it to obtain means of life. According to consular informations thousands are formally requesting that they might become orthodox, catholic, or protestant. A part of the Armenians have already lost their language. For instance more than 26000 in Cherik (?) in the Vilayet of Harput no longer speak Armenian. The missionaries, French, German, and English are under the mask of benevolence, working for the ruin of the Armenian nationality, while the [illegible] of the Turkish Government are going about spreading discord among the different Christian nations.
The smallest [illegible]. One [illegible], considered well-educated, has visited in a presence of an Armenian, whose three sons were soldiers at the war. The father asked for news of them, and [illegible] said: ”are there not enough dogs in the street already without you coming to ask about the other dogs?”. The constitution is supposed to have brought equality but, the truth is shown by the following figures Vilayet Erzerum: 2193 officials, 18 Christians, population of Vilayet 362000 Moslems, 560000 Christians; Vilayet of Van of 1160 officials 13 Christians, more than half of the population being Christians.
In judicial proceedings the judges are invariably hostile to the Christians, hardly one half percent of the judgements are in favour of Armenians. Lately, a law has been passed, making null Armenian testimony against Turks.
The Turkish provocative activity has increased lately. Since the Balkan war, a great number of agents has been sent into various regions of Asia Minor, where they are carrying on a violent propaganda against the Christians. In one sandjak, the Russian Consul complained to the Turkish Government of the anti-Christian attitude of the chief of police, who in consequence was promoted to the chief town of the Vilayet.
Ordinary crime is growing. In the region of Van on the space of a month, there have been seventeen assassinations, which is not excessive for a population of about 300000. Such things happen also in the Caucasus in the Government of Elizavetpol. But the dangerous factor is, that crime committed against Christians is considered in Turkish Armenia as heroism: if is a crime committed by an Armenian, then even the family of the accused is at once arrested.
The Armenians of the Caucasus should aid their brethren by means of intellectual culture. The Great Powers should raise the question of a change of the entire system of taxation. Two years ago the Young Turks made a rule that the Armenians should pay in cash the tithe, paid hither to in kind.
The reforms are useless. They are to be directed by certain Powers, which are only interested in maintaining the existence of Turkey. Thus in a recent debate, the English Parliament has supported Sir Edward Grey, who insisted that England must guarantee the integrity of Turkey, which means oppose Russian influence in Asia Minor. The British Consuls are all working for this, and showing delicate attentions to the Turks. For instance, for fifteen years these Consuls have not hoisted their flags on the occasion of Moslem feasts. Now, by order from London, on each Moslem feast, they hoist their flag. Many of them are making open propaganda against Turkey’s adversaries, especially against Russia. At one time, it is true, Gladstone and one or two writers raised their voice for the Armenians. But these were simple personal philanthropies. Quite different is the English policy towards Armenia. This policy is egoistical and interested and results from fear of Russia. The natural leaning of the Armenians towards Russia strengthened by the Balkan war, has excited the Armenophobe activity of the English. The English and French are equally selfish. France has no sympathy for Armenians, but only wishes to exploit them, and Armenia, being poor as a productive country, has no importance for France. One crosses hundred of kilometres, seeing nothing but rocks and nakedness. The designs both of French and English are purely political.
On the other hand, Russian commercial relations with Armenia in her frontier country are progressing in spite of persecution of Russian Commercial travellers and Russian commerce by the Turkish authorities. For example, Russian sugar has been officially denounced as injurious.
The Turkish Government does nothing to improve means of communication near the frontier.
The Powers of Europe wish to keep up a barrier against Russia.
But Russia should consider the Armenian question as a Russian one. All the population, even the Muselmans, even the rising generation of Circassians, are leaning towards Russia.
An old man in an Armenian village rises every morning and weeps towards the east, saying: ”the Muscovite Uncle is not coming”. An Armenian peasant offered the Russian Vice-Consul one rouble to help the Zar send an army there.
In another place an old Armenian kneels daily before a Russian tomb in the local cemetery to hear the word ”Yes”, which has been promised him in a dream.
Portraits of the Zar and the Empress are everywhere.
The Anti-Christians of the Turkish Government will soon force Russia to intervene in Armenia, to save the persecuted race.
Unanimity and reasonableness are on the other hand required of the Armenians themselves. Any reforms, introduced at the instance of the Great Powers, till be applied to the Turks, and in the past, the series of treaties and reform schemes including the treaty of Berlin show what that means. The protestant pastor Orimm says: ”Turkey is impotent to reform herself”. He proposes the indispensable condition of great reforms:
1) The different Armenian parties must unite and active intellectual forces must be created.
2) The Armenians must defend themselves, though there is probably no present danger of the repetition of a general massacre. The Armenians of the Caucasus must induce the Russian Government to intervene without hesitation to safeguard the lives and goals of the Armenians in Turkey.
3) Schools must be spread over Armenia. The people long for them. At present only the United Society occupies itself with the spread of instruction.
The Armenian women in Turkey are deprived of all rights.
General Haslewitsch and Lazarjj have been in favour for active policy in Armenia. Lately, when Sheikh Obeid-Ullan took Urmia, the Russian statesmen unfortunately declined the offer of his support on the ground, that he was a brigand chief, but the English had no such scruples.
Russia should lend her moral support to the Kurdish movement, as she has aided Mongolia. Thus we could give to the Armenians of Turkey the opportunity to breathe freely. The danger to the Armenians is not from the Kurds, but from the Government.
I have been eyewitness of the mischievous anti-Russian propaganda of the Turkish authorities. An autonomy under European surveillance might be given to Armenia. As through Austria, autonomy has been given to the half savage Albania, may not also to Armenia, the neighbour of Russia. The Armenian element by its industry would be of great use to Russia as history process. It is our duty to save it from destruction, with which it is threatened in the infernal land of the Young Turks. As the Russian poet says: ”Come so thou, and she answers I come”.