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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139 N. 1, ”Armenien”
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 04/04/1916
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 82
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/27/2012

The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)


No. 29
Constantinople, 4 April 1916.

Mr. Foreign Minister,

With my report No. XLIV [44] of 3 March this year, I had the honor of sending you 4 copies of a brochure called ”Vérité sur le mouvement révolutionnaire arménien et les mesures gouvernementales,” which the government here has published to explain the way it treats the Armenians, a treatment which has raised so many objections.

The explanations in the brochure does not seem to have convinced any Christian of the fairness of the applied measures, but they do seem to me to be of sufficient interest, so I have made a point of learning as soon as possible what have been the answers to the Turkish allegations from interested Armenians, not least because of the fact that the persecutions, in spite of the protests from the Christian world, still continue, and one must count on the possibility that the part of the Armenian people still alive in Turkey also will be subjected to massacres if the situation does not develop to the satisfaction of the Young Turk government.

Based on the important and interesting declarations I have been able to obtain in resident Armenian circles, I will therefore try to give a short account of the Armenian question seen from an Armenian point of view, so that it will serve as a kind of Armenian answer to the Turkish brochure.

Comments to the Turkish Brochure.

Before the nineteenth century Armenians lived in Turkey without being massacred. The Turk was the master, and the Armenian was his ”Raya” or serf who worked to increase his master’s income. As long as the Armenian peasant gave all his yield to his Kurdish or Turkish Agha, and as long as he did not protest if the Agha had gotten the idea of robbing his wife or daughter, the Agha would of course not kill his ”milk cow.”

But even in Turkey the new ideas of human rights were influential in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and slowly – it took about half a century before the Armenian population understood that it had a right to free and independent living – the Armenians started complaining to the Turkish authorities when the Agha robbed their cattle or their daughters. The complaints and dissatisfaction eventually convinced the Turkish government that it perhaps would be easier to finish off this infidel people, which, surrounded by Muslims, nevertheless stuck to their Church and to their national characteristics.

Already before the Turco-Russian war in 1877-78, the Turkish Armenians had observed the comfortable circumstances which the Armenians in the Caucasus had achieved under Russian rule, and when the Russian area was significantly enlarged after the war, so that ½ million Armenians came under Russian rule and thereby learned what it means to have a right to life, the Turkish Armenians felt even more strongly their oppressed status, and they started to regularly complain to the government in Constantinople. At the same time Armenian students from Russian Caucasus formed societies aimed at achieving reforms in Turkish Armenia.

The regime of Abdul Hamid, indignant that a Christian people under Turkish rule dared to demand the right to live and therefore had no justification for their existence, decided to annihilate the Armenian people.

The Abdul Hamid system consisted of a series of massacres, soon isolated, soon of a more comprehensive character. But this system was flawed in the way it that directed the attention of the European powers to the Armenian question, and because of the influence of the European public opinion Abdul Hamid did not succeed in annihilating the two and a half million Armenians.

After the introduction of the constitution the Young Turks, in an intoxicated moment of enthusiasm, made all kinds of promises to the Armenians, who, just like the other peoples of the Empire, were now to enjoy the freedom and equality of the constitution. But it was obviously difficult for a people which through the ages had looked upon themselves as masters to suddenly obey the new principles and look upon their former subjects as equal citizens in a constitutional state. The Armenians nevertheless let themselves be duped by the golden words and really considered themselves as equals to the Turks. This state of things led to the first massacre during the time of the constitution, the massacre in Adana in 1909 where approximately 20.000 Armenians were killed.

It soon became apparent, though, that with a real parliamentary system, the Turkish element in the chambers would quickly be outnumbered. If one imagined a union of the Armenian, Greek, Arab, and other non-Turkish deputies, this could soon endanger the Caliphate. One must bear in mind that of the 24 million inhabitants in the Turkish Empire before the beginning of the Balkan War, only 6 million were Turks, while there were 8 million Arabs, 4 million Greeks, 2 million Armenians, 1 million Kurds and Laz, and finally a number of Jews, Bulgarians, Albanians, Serbs, etc., etc.

Since the Turkish population, because of its lack of ability to evolve economically and culturally, was not able to use its strong political position to secure its superiority, the Young Turks, who at this time had already given up the hope of realizing the principle of equality, tried to tie the Arabs, Kurds, and the Muslim Albanians and Laz to them through a pan-Islamic movement, but the Young Turk administration continued a tradition of abuse from the days of despotism when it enrolled Kurds and Arabs, who had hitherto been exempt from military service, into the army, which created such dissatisfaction in said peoples that even the Albanians and Kurds revolted openly.

Only then did the Young Turks unmask and proclaim: Turkey for the Turks. But since they could not engage in a battle for this motto in a legal manner, and since they, out of consideration for Greece, did not dare to take it out on the Greeks, and really could not let the Caliph start exterminating the Arabs who are Muslims like themselves, they decided to throw themselves at the Armenians, not only to neutralize this people, but also to thereby terrorize the other non-Turkish nations of the Empire.

In the Turkish governmental brochure it says on page 5 that the Armenians, through the Catholicos in Etchmiadzine, had turned to the Russian government, and that they, led by Noubar [Nubar] Pasha, tried to bring about a foreign intervention in matters of the Ottoman Empire. The Catholicos is the head of the Armenian Church, and as a resident of Russian Armenia he is a Russian subject. As an Egyptian Armenian, Noubar Pasha is an English subject. Because of the repressive Turkish regime directed at the Armenians, the Russian compatriots and the English-Egyptian Armenians saw it as a duty to try to introduce reforms in Turkish Armenia by turning to the Great Powers. Noubar Pasha became spokesman for the committee that went to the European capitals, and the Russian Armenians asked their government to pressure the Porte to introduce reforms. It was not Ottoman subjects who approached foreign powers, but Russian and British Armenians who turned to their respective governments.

But the Porte did agree to introduce reforms, and when the two European reform inspectors, the Norwegian Hoff and the Dutchman Westeneck [Westenenk], were appointed in 1914, all Armenians were satisfied. The Armenian press celebrated the occasion and even declared that maybe matters would soon be reversed, so that Russian Armenians would envy Turkish Armenians.

Then the World War started, and the government immediately used this event to dismiss the two inspectors and cease talking about reforms. This of course made all Armenians deeply disappointed, though they still hoped that the Porte would voluntarily enter the era of reform.

What Egyptian and Russian Armenians have done further is impossible to establish. But it is only natural that the Russian Armenians have sided with Russia, etc., and such conduct can hardly be counted as revolutionary movement from the side of the Turkish Armenians.

When Sassonow [Sazonov] declares in the Duma that Armenians fight side by side with Russian troops, he thereby only states that this part of the Russian population is true to their Fatherland, and when Lord Cromer has talked about how one of objectives of the present war was the liberation of Armenia, he has only done so because he believed it to be in agreement with English policy.

If Armenian committees consisting of Russian Armenians or Russian Armenian newspapers have worked for Russian objectives (pages 8, 9, 10, of the brochure), it is only natural, and this cannot lead to accusations against the Turkish Armenians for having made propaganda for autonomy.

Does one look upon the Russian Muslims, or the Muslims in English and French colonies, as rebels because the Turkish Caliph has declared Holy War, and because German and Islamic agents attempt to bring about a rebellion among this population?

And with regards to the proclamations which according to the brochure have been directed towards the Armenians when Turkey was still neutral, suffice it to ask whether the Italians looked upon the Tripolitan Muslims as rebels when Italy was still neutral, and whether they do so now.

The facts about the revolt in Van are rather different from what has been officially claimed (the legation has reported on this earlier), and it is still too early to get solid information concerning the other incidents. It can, though, already now be established that the Armenians have never taken to arms, except in legal defence against the robberies and massacres of Kurds and Turks.

But it is worth noticing that it seems strange that the Armenians in Ismid and Adabazar should have been spying when the Russian fleet was bombarding Heraclée (page 13). Ismid and Adabazar are located near Constantinople and about as far away from Heraclée as from any other theatre of war.

In reality, the persecutions of the Armenians have only been the execution of the Young Turk extermination plan without any reason, military or otherwise.

What the brochure mentions as ”victims of unfortunate abuse and violence” (page 14) include 2 million Armenians! and the law mentioned on the same page, issued to attend to the property of the deportees, is the law that confiscates all the belongings of the Armenians.

Under such circumstances it is doubtful whether the convicted persons mentioned on page 14 have been or will be sentenced for abusing Armenians, or for not abusing them enough.

With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully

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