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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1917-02-16-DE-003
Source: DE/PA-AA/R14095
Publication: DuA Dok. 317 (re.)
Central register: 1917-A-05919
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Embassy/consular serial number:
Translated by: Linda Struck (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012

From the Ambassador in Extraordinary Mission in Constantinople (Kuehlmann) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)


Pera, 16 February 1917


For your confidential information.

The Cabinet of Talaat Pasha presented itself officially to the Chamber. On this occasion the new Grand Vizier made policy statements which appear to me to be of principal importance as they herald a new turning point in the internal history of Turkey.

As I already had the honour of reporting to Your Excellency some time ago, a moderate tendency was gaining ground in influential circles which, contrary to the inconsiderate nationalism of certain committee members, who did not even shy away from bloody acts of violence, demanded a sensible and tolerant internal policy for Turkey. On account of the many foreign elements in its midst, Turkey, compared with any other European state, has a completely different structure. Attempts to transform the foreign elements in the Ottoman state system by means of conciliatory concessions into real Ottoman patriots, thus training them to work voluntarily and of their own conviction within the Turkish state, have continually alternated with periods in which pressure and attempts at extermination were used to force the unity of make-up so necessary for the state.

During the last period of his rule, with his infamous Armenian massacres, Sultan Abdul Hamid had gone so far in the direction of a ruthless extermination policy that it made all people shudder, even in the Orient which was accustomed to bloodshed. At the beginning of its term of office the Committee, in all respects striving to adopt an attitude of opposition to the Sultan’s policy, took up the cause of the union of all the different peoples living in Turkey in a spirit of free and voluntary collaboration within the state and was able at the beginning of its activities to unite almost all the dissenting elements - Arabs, Armenians and Greeks - if only for a short time. However, the continued existence of the revolutionary separatist movement among the Armenians and the re-occurrence of a distinctly treacherous state of mind among broad Greek and Armenians circles during the Balkan War, when Turkey seemed near to collapse, led to a reversal and to a complete victory of the stance of the advocates of Turkish nationalism within the Committee.

The destruction of the Armenians which was carried out on a vast scale and the tendencies to proceed mercilessly also against the Greek element, which became obvious in individual smaller initiatives, have been the result of this political direction.

I believe that in terms of an overall outcome the extermination policy has damaged the Turkish state. The atrocities of the Armenian campaigns will weigh heavily on the Turkish name for a long time to come and for a long time to come will supply poisoned weapons to those who deny Turkey the attribute of being a cultural state and demand the expulsion of the Turks from Europe. Internally, the country is also noticeably weakened by the downfall and banishment of a physically strong, hard-working and thrifty people, in particular since the lack of manpower represents one of the greatest hindrances to a more rapid development of Turkish mineral resources.

In confidential conversations with Talaat Pasha I have not been sparing with my opinion regarding this issue since the beginning of my term of office here. The fact that he, now that he is in power, makes the matter of equal rights for the Ottoman nationalities an important item in the government’s policy, can be greeted with great satisfaction. As I have heard in confidence, we can most certainly reckon with a stop to the deportation of the Armenians and with a cessation of the persecution of the Greeks, which has happened in some places. It is said that the Armenians (although, however, this will not be enforced for some time yet) will be allowed to return to their old dwelling places, as long as these are not considered to be war zones.

The wild, nationalist direction is, of course, not yet dead. The capable and reckless brains who are behind that direction will not calm following their temporary defeat. Also, it cannot be expected that now, as if struck down by some magic wand, the complaints from the various provinces about the suppression and persecution on the part of individual administrative officers will suddenly be completely mute. But experience tells us that the watchword issued in Constantinople will be obeyed on the whole, and all the more so when the watchword is not the result of pressure on the central government from outside, but originates from a free decision of the Turkish rulers. Fortunately this is exactly the case this time.

Without doubt, the position taken by Talaat Pasha in his speech yesterday will remain paramount for some time to come. In my opinion this is a great gain for us and the matter of the German-Turkish alliance, because all our enemies have tried to make us responsible for the bloody excesses of Turkish nationalism. On the other hand, the frequent attempts at intervention, to which humanitarian considerations in the face of these methods have driven us, were a source of continual friction with the Turkish government. Also as regards our public, it is much easier to defend and maintain the alliance with a moderate Turkey which also operates internally according to modern principles, than with an extreme Ottoman-nationalist entity.

[von Kuehlmann]

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