THE ARMENIAN MASSACRES AND THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE
Written by Diana Abgar and originally published in 1910
During a period extending over thirty years the civilized world has heard of Turkish Massacres of Armenians. Massacres of a nature so ferocious and diabolical, so hideous and revolting, that no pen could adequately describe their horrors.
Writing in 1896, Mr. James Bryce, in his supplementary chapter to the 4th edition of his book “Transcaucasia and Ararat” makes the following grave comment:–
“Twenty years is a short space in the life of a nation. But these twenty years have been filled with sufferings for the Armenian Christians greater than their ancestors had to endure during the eight centuries that have passed since the first Turkish Conquest of Armenia. They have been years of misery, slaughter, martyrdom, agony, despair.”
And the years that have followed from 1896 to 1909 have had the same tale of woe to unfold; a tale of horrors such as have never been surpassed in the history of nations.
The opinion of the Turkish Pasha, “The way to get rid of the Armenian Question, is to get rid of the Armenians” was followed by “le Sultan Rouge,” and that the monster and assassin who sat on the Turkish throne from 1876 to 1909 was not able to accomplish this policy to the bitter end of complete extermination, was no doubt due to the grit and stubborn endurance of the victims.
A Turkish writer has made the remark, “There are Armenians, but there is no Armenia.” This assertion would be true if meant in a political sense only, for of all civilized races on earth, Armenians are politically one of the most forlorn, but the country has not been wiped off the map. It still occupies the geographical place it has held since history has been written. The land of the Euphrates and Tigris, that Araxes valley, where, as simple and primitive Armenians will to this day assert in unshaken belief, God made man in His own image, and the country round the base of Ararat, where the generations of men once more began to people the earth.
Once the land of Ararat was an independent kingdom until the tide of victory rolled over it and conquered its independence. Hemmed round by three Great Empires, Russian, Turkish and Persian, the unfortunate geographical position of the country became the cause of its people’s ruin.
It is of bitter interest to Armenians to know that Ararat is the point where the three Empires, Russian, Turkish and Persian, meet, whilst the children of the land of Ararat have passed under the sovereignties of Czar, Sultan and Shah. Thus it may be true that there is no Armenia in the political sense of the word, but if Armenia has lost her independence, the Armenian people have survived.
The Author of “Transcaucasia and Ararat” thus writes of them:
“The Armenians are an extraordinary people, with a tenacity of national life scarcely inferior to that of the Jews.”
The remark is true. There are two nations of antiquity who notwithstanding unremitting persecutions, and centuries of loss of independence, have survived their contemporary nations; their fortunes have run on parallel lines, though their national characteristics have been different in some respects. Together with his other avocations, the Armenian is mountaineer, soldier, labourer, agriculturist, while the Jew is purely a dweller in cities; but the same virility of life, the same mental and physical strength have sustained both. The sons of Heber, great grandson of Shem, have however become wise in their generation, the Jew is now more American than the American, more British than the British, more French than the French, more German than the German. Not so the sons of Haik, great grandson of Japhet, for with the same determined obstinacy with which he has clung to his faith, the Armenian clings to his nationality. He has known how to resist Russian endeavours of absorption, and Turkish systems of extermination. When he gives up his nationality, it will be the story of the hunted animal brought to its last gasp.
The Armenians have been called “the most determined of Christians,” a remark the truth of which has been borne out by their unequalled martyrdom for their faith; and yet it may truly be said that in no Christian Church is the lay element more strong than it is in the Armenian Church. Conscious of this freedom, Armenians are surprised to read assertions made by some writers, about “the gross superstitions” of their Church, which they on their part regard as the happy medium between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Surrounded with pomp and splendour, and a show of outward ceremonies, which the average Armenian regards as no more than mere adjuncts to gratify and impress the sensibilities, the Liturgy of the Armenian Church, in its grandeur and pathos, appeals to the heart of the Armenian people, as no other form of worship can; it is the reason, as has truly been said of them, that “they carry their religion with them wherever they go.”
The Armenians have also been called “the interpreters between the East and the West.” There is no doubt a certain adaptability which is a national characteristic; and as language is the vehicle of comprehension, their talent for acquiring languages helps to bring them into touch with Eastern and Western peoples; but the main truth of the observation lies in the fact, that being born Asiatics, and living for the most part in the midst of Asiatic surroundings, they fall into the ways of Asiatic life; they understand Asiatics better, and know how to sympathise with them; whilst on the other hand, their religion is the religion which has moulded the thought of the West, and consequently also the religion that has moulded the thought of a people who were the earliest Christians.
The main point of social difference between them and other Asiatic nations, lies in the exalted position occupied by their women, and this point of difference may be traced to that one cause or influence, which has exalted the position of women in the West, the doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth. This point of difference in social life, together with the difference of religion, has always kept them separate from Persian and Turk.
Private and trustworthy information to hand brings the news that the ex Sultan Abdul Hamid, aware of his impending dethronement, desired to bring about a general massacre of Christians in Constantinople, beginning with the foreign Embassies downwards. “I must be the last Padishah, even though Turkey perish,” was Abdul’s frantic appeal to his satellites, but his minions, not daring to venture on so dangerous an undertaking, planned the massacres to begin at the village of Adana, inhabited by the unfortunate Armenians. It was a safe plan, since the Armenians had no battleships to turn their guns upon Constantinople, and by the bombardment of the capital, to seek revenge for the murder of their countrymen.
A massacre so wanton as that of Adana, can only find its counterpart in the other Turkish massacres of Armenians which preceded it.
“Abdul the Damned” has been dethroned, but he has not been executed, and so long as he continues to draw breath, as long is there danger for the Armenians.
We hear of the Mahommedans in India cabling their petition to the new Turkish Government to spare the life of the ex-Padishah and the ex-Caliph of Islam; the erstwhile “God’s shadow on earth” and the erstwhile “God’s envoy on earth” the sacredness of whose person should be inviolate. In this demonstration of the Indian Mahommedans, we can read the epistle of Mahommedan thought, and feel the pulse of Mahommedan feeling all over the Sunni Moslem world.
Although intensely mercenary, Abdul Hamid however not only never grudged the gold which helped to accomplish the Armenian massacres, but he used it largely in douceurs which purchased silence or false representations of his diabolical acts, and it was by means of such douceurs that he went farther than seducing merely his own subjects.
“Mais l’oeuvre de l’impérial corrupteur a dépassé les limites de son Palais et de ses États, N’a-t-il pas, en effet, étouffé sous des baillons dorés la voix d’importants organes de la presse européenne? N’a-t-il pas acheté à l’étranger des politiciens et même des diplomates?
Saïd Pacha ayant recherché ce qu’en six mois les massacres d’Arménie avaient coûté au Trésor turc, en allocations à certains journaux européens, a établi le compte approximatif suivant: 640 décorations, et 235,000 Livres Turques (près de cinq millions et demi)!1”
It needs not be added that no one who knows the truth of Turkish affairs, doubts the truth of this impeachment.
“But whatever the future may bring, the past is past, and will one day fall to be judged. And of the judgement of posterity there can be little doubt.”
In these memorable words, Mr. James Bryce in the supplementary chapter of his book “Transcaucasia and Ararat” concludes his criticism on what he calls “the fatal action followed by the fatal inaction of the European Powers.”
It is true. As surely as the world revolves on her own axis, and as day succeeds night, so surely History will record and Posterity will judge. But what compensation to the Armenians? What compensation for the rivers of blood that have inundated their land? What atonement for the hideous past? What relief for the present? What hope for the future?