THE ARMENIANS OF TODAY
Written by Reverend George Filian and originally published in 1896
There are about five million Armenians in the world at present: three million in the Turkish Empire, a million and a half in Russian Armenia, and half a million more scattered through Persia, India, and Burmah, Egypt, Europe (there are two or three hundred thousand in the Austrian Empire), and America. There are poor and ignorant people among them, as among every people; the majority, however, are (or were before the late horrors) well off, and many of them rich, educated, refined, and, in a word, modern Christian people. Of all the impudent inversions of truth ever perpetrated, the most outrageously impudent and shamelessly the exact contrary of fact is the assertion of Mavroyeni Bey, the Turkish minister at Washington, that the case of the Turks against the Armenians is like that of the whites against the Indians in this country; that the American whites must be allowed to keep the Indians down, and the Turks must be allowed to keep the Armenians down. If the Indians possessed all the money, all the intelligence, all the cultivation, and all the morals in America, and the whites were a mob of ignorant, cruel, lustful ruffians holding them down by the organized power of the sword, the comparison would be just. As it is, the Turks correspond fairly enough with the Indians, and the Armenians to the whites, in every other respect than military power. Does a Turk—a true Turk—ever write a book? Does he ever publish a newspaper, or read one? Does he ever build a church, or pay attention to the moral precepts taught in one? Does he ever found or manage a business, or even an estate? In a word, does he have any more intellectual, moral, or business part in the life of modern civilization than a Hottentot or a Matabele? And do not the Armenians do and have all these things? Are they not in the stream of the same kind of cultivated Christian life led by Americans? Nowhere else on earth, but in the Turkish Empire, can one find millions of gentlemen and ladies and civilized modern citizens ruled over, oppressed, and massacred in hundreds of thousands by a gang of mediaeval Asiatic barbarians, not advanced from the time of Timour or Jenghiz Khan. It is the greatest anachronism and monstrosity of modern times.
If my work is thought prejudiced, listen to what is said of them by men of the first authority,—the greatest statesmen, the best informed special correspondent, and one of the chief historians of England at the present time. First the statesman:—
“The Armenians are the representatives of one of the oldest civilized Christian races, and beyond all doubt one of the most pacific, one of the most industrious, and one of the most intelligent races in the world.”—Gladstone
Next the special correspondent:—
“The Armenians constitute the whole civilizing element in Anatolia (Asia Minor); peaceful to the degree of self-sacrifice, law-abiding to their own undoing, and industrious and hopeful under conditions which would appall the majority of mankind. At their best, they are the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are moulded.”—E. J. Dillon.
Lastly the historian:—
“The best chance for the future of the Asiatic provinces of Turkey lies in the uprising of a progressive Christian people, which may ultimately grow into an independent Christian state. The Armenians have, alone among the races of Western Asia, the gifts that can enable them to aspire to this mission. They are keen-witted, energetic, industrious, apt to learn, and quick in assimilating western ideas.”—James Bryce.
IN THE TURKISH EMPIRE
There are about two million Armenians in Armenia Proper, and another million scattered through the rest of the empire. The absurd figures given by some writers, making them greatly less than this (one magazine editor got it down to 300,000! It is significant that he was a strong apologist for the massacre, and laid all the blame to the Armenians) result mostly from taking the official statistics of the Turkish government. Now, there are three reasons why these are always grossly wrong; of no more value than the weather predictions in an almanac, and always wrong in the direction of understating the numbers.
One is that it is the Sultan’s interest to make them as small as possible, that the Armenians may not be considered to have the right to autonomy as a nation; the fewer they are, and the more outnumbered by the Turks, the less right they seem to have. “An independent Armenia?” shriek the Turkish ministers and officers. “Why, there are only a few hundred thousand Armenians in their so-called country, and even so, there are three Turks to one Armenian in that very district!”
The second is that in an Oriental country a census is not a means of knowledge but an engine of taxation. The ruler has no care for information on the subject for his own sake, as Western governments have. What he wants is to see how many people and in what places he can screw more taxes out of. The people know this as well as he, and use every effort to outwit his agents, and prevent them from knowing their numbers. This is why even civilized governments ruling over Oriental nations can rarely get any nearer than a rough guess at the numbers of the nation; the inhabitants are suspicious, and resort to falsehood. In the case of the Armenians, remember what I said in the first chapter about an Armenian being taxed for every male child he has, every year as long as the child lives; naturally, he will not tell the number of his children unless he has to. Here is a practical illustration. Some years ago I was in an Armenian village when the Sultan’s officers came to take the census. There were about 300 persons in the village; the officer wrote 200, because only a few names of boys were given him out of the whole. The tax is based on the registration, and if you can keep off the registers you can escape the tax.
The third is the gross incompetence, the corruption, and the drunkenness of the officers. The Turkish officials, governors, mayors, clerks, generals, soldiers, all drink any sort of liquor they can lay hands on, and are drunk as often and as long as sober; they are so ignorant that they cannot do their work decently even when they are sober; and they are utterly venal, without the least sense of official obligation. What sort of a census is likely to be taken by these ignorant, whiskey-swilling, venal barbarians? One of these officials, whom I know well, once came to a village to take the census. The Armenians got him so drunk that he barked like a dog, bribed him, and he put down about half the number of the population.
How, then, do I know the correct number? From a knowledge of the districts, the numbers of villages, and statistics resting on a better foundation than the above. I do not pretend that the number is exact; but it is near enough for practical purposes.
The Armenians in Turkey are divided into four classes. The first comprises merchants and bankers. The second is the professional class: physicians, professors, teachers, and preachers. The third is that of artisans: weavers, blacksmiths, copper, silver, and gold smiths, tailors, shoemakers, etc. The finest Oriental rugs are made by the Armenians, and there are weavers of silk and cotton goods, and all kinds of hand-made embroidery. There are no factories in Armenia. The fourth class is that of farmers, a pure, simple, industrious class, with beautiful farms, vineyards, and orchards, whose products I have described.
One-tenth of all the Armenians in Turkey are in Constantinople. Many of them are poor, in the nature of things; but the leading bankers, merchants, and capitalists there are Armenians, surpassing even the Greeks and Jews. I give a few representative names: Gulbenkian, Essayian, Azarian, Mosditchian, Manougian, Oonjian. The physicians in largest practice are Armenians: Khorassanjian, Mateosian, Dobrashian, Vartanian, etc. The Sultan’s personal treasurer is an Armenian, Portukalian Pasha. The chief counselor in the foreign office in Constantinople is an Armenian, Haroutiune Dadian Pasha. The greatest lawyers are Armenians: Mosditchian, Tinguerian, etc. The chief photographers of the Sultan are Armenians, Abdullah Brothers and Sebah, the former considered one of the best photographic firms in the world. The personal jeweler of the Sultan is an Armenian, Mr. Chiboukjian. For all his hate of the Armenians, he has to employ them, for no others are competent or trustworthy. The best musicians are Armenians: Chonkhajian Surenian, Doevletian, and an Armenian young lady named Nartoss, who often plays the piano before the Sultan. The greatest orator in Constantinople is an Armenian and a professor in Robert College, Prof. H. Jejizian, to my thinking, superior to either Beecher, Wendell Phillips, or Robert Ingersoll, all of whom I have heard. Finally, the Armenians, as a whole, form the best “society” in Constantinople, and their modes of living, dress, houses, and ways are precisely like those of Americans or Europeans. These are Mavroyeni Bey’s “Indians”!
Smyrna is a city of 150,000 or more population. About 80,000 are Greeks; you may call it a Greek city. The Armenians there number about 8,000, or one-tenth of the Greeks, but are ten times richer than all the Greeks together. The principal buildings are owned by Armenians; the business is in the hands of the Armenians. The chief business men are well-known in Europe. Mr. Balyivzian owns many steamers which ply on the Mediterranean. Mr. Spartalian is another very rich and very benevolent man; he built a magnificent hospital at Smyrna. In Samsoun, Marsovan, Caeserea, Adana, Amassia, Tocat, Sivas, Harpoot, Mesere, Malatia, Diarbekir, Arabkir, Urfa, Aintab, Marash, Tarsus, Angora, Erzeroun, Erzinghan, Moosh, Bitlis, Baiburt, Trebizond,—in a word, everywhere it is the same. Go where you like in Turkey, you find the Armenians at the top.
When I say they are the richest, I mean until early in 1894 they were the richest. But now, in many cities of Armenia proper, since the recent atrocities, they have become the poorest.
Leading citizens, and the fathers of families, for the reasons I have mentioned, were specially singled out for vengeance. Their stores, banks, and houses were plundered and then burnt, their money and jewelry taken from them, and then they were murdered wholesale. Now the Turks and the Kurds for a time are rich with Armenian property; wearing the gold watches of Armenian gentlemen, their women wearing the jewelry of Armenian ladies.
The Armenians in Russia are the richest and the most cultivated of any in the world, and have great influence. Mr. Kasbarian, an Armenian, is considered the richest even of them. The rich city of Tiflis is practically an Armenian city.
There are about 50,000 regular Armenian soldiers in the Russian army, and some of its greatest generals have always been Armenians.
If the Czar would permit this force and the capitalists to settle the Armenian question, they would do it in a month, and make Armenia free. The Armenians have so far been treated very kindly and have prospered exceedingly in Russia, but I do not believe it will last. In my opinion, the young Czar is only waiting for his coronation to oppress the Armenians as he has the Jews. Yet the Czar’s ablest servants and advisers have been Armenians. The body-guard of Nicholas’ grandfather Alexander was the Armenian Count Loris Melikoff, universally known; three times wounded by Nihilists on account of his position. During the last Turko-Russian war some of the generals who accomplished the most with the least sacrifice were Armenians: Der, Lucasoff, Lazareff, Melikoff. There are now no less than eighteen Armenian generals in the Russian service. I will mention a part: General Sdepan Kishmishian, commander of Caucasus; General Hagop Alkhazian, General Alexander Lalayian, General Demedr Der Asadoorian, General Ishkhan Manuelian, General Alexander Gorganian, General Ishkhan Gochaminassian, General Khosros Touloukhanian, General Arakel Khantamirian, General H. Dikranian. There are many other prominent Armenian officers.
In Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other great cities in Russia there are many Armenian professors in the universities, mayors of cities, judges of courts, and high civil officers. I will give a few of their names, to show that I am not talking blindly:
- Count Hovhannes Telyanian, minister of education, etc.
- Gamazian, minister of foreign affairs in Asia.
- Muguerditch Emin, counselor of education.
- Nerses Nersessian, professor in Moscow in the Royal University.
- Dr. Shilantz, professor in the medical college at Kharcof.
- Boghos Gamparian, superintendent of the Royal army of Riza.
- Melikian, professor of natural sciences in the University at Odessa.
- A. Madinian, mayor of Tiflis.
- V. Keghamian, mayor of Erevan.
- H. Moutaffian, mayor of Akheltzka.
Hundreds and thousands are high officers in different departments of the Russian government, but there is no space to give a roll of them.
One, however, a personal friend, I must write a few words of, namely, Professor John Ayvazovski, of the council of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, a marine painter of the first rank. He is now 79, but looks scarcely 60, with beautiful large, bright eyes. He came to the World’s Fair, where fifteen of his pictures were exhibited in the Russian section; and he presented two other fine ones to the American people in recognition of their help to the Russian famine sufferers,—one showing the arrival in port of a steamer with its cargo of grain, the other the advent of a drosky at a village of starving people, with a man in front waving an American flag. He visited and painted an excellent picture of Niagara. He had seven pictures at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876. His paintings are mostly in royal palaces: there are 120 in that of the Russian imperial family, and 34 in the Sultan’s. His own gallery, at Theodosia, Russia, has 84. He has received many prizes from expositions. He is also a great scholar and a good Christian. His brother, who lately died, was one of the greatest bishops of the Armenian church.
There is a very interesting story about Professor Ayvazovski’s boyhood which I will give here:
His parents were Armenian peasants, living in a village not far from Moscow. One day Nicholas I was passing by the hamlet on horseback, and dropped his whip. The Emperor beckoned to young Ayvazovski, and told him to pick it up. The boy approached boldly and asked, “Who are you?” Nicholas replied, “I am the Emperor.” The boy rejoined, “If you cannot take care of your whip, how can you take care of your subjects?” The Emperor was pleased at this remark, and ordered him to be educated at his own expense, and in any profession he chose. He took to the brush, and is the pride of his nation.
IN PERSIA, INDIA, ETC.
The Armenians of Persia are great merchants, and high civil officers of the Shah. I name only a few:
Chahanguir Khan is minister of arts and superintendent of the arsenal.
Nirza Melkoum Khan was the former ambassador of the Shah at London; a man of great wealth and learning, and an able diplomat. He retired on account of age, and lives in London.
Nazar Agha was ambassador of the Shah at Paris.
General Sharl Bezirganian is the general superintendent of the telegraph service in Persia.
In India and Burmah there are great Armenian merchants, who are millionaires, and respected by the governments and the peoples.
In Egypt, though few in number, they are the ruling element. Nubar Pasha was the prime minister of the Egyptian government until a few weeks ago; one of the richest men in Egypt, and the greatest statesman in Africa. He speaks several languages, and spends his summers in France, owning property in Paris. Dikran Pasha is another rich and very gifted Armenian, and Boghos Pasha another man of power.
There are very rich merchants among the Armenians at Vienna, Paris, Marseilles, London, and Manchester. There is a strong Armenian colony at Manchester. All of them are merchants, and some of them millionaires. Almost the whole clothing trade between England and Turkey is in their hands. They have a beautiful Armenian church there, and always a learned Armenian bishop; I speak from knowledge and observation. They are much respected by the English. Some of the Armenian gentlemen are married to English ladies of good family, and their domestic life is very happy. Prince Loosinian, an Armenian, a very great scholar, and much respected by the French, lives in Paris; he is descended from the last Armenian dynasty. His brother Khoren Nar-Bey Loosinian was one of the foremost Armenian bishops; the Sultan of course hated him, and it is said had him poisoned while imprisoned in Constantinople.
The Armenian scholars in Europe are well-known, and on a level with the best of any country. There is not an institution of learning in Europe where they are not to be found, either as students or professors; and the prizes and medals they win are many.
There are two great centers in Europe for the Armenian scholars and authors: one at Vienna and the other at Venice. They have colleges and printing presses in these places; and they write, translate, and publish themselves in nearly all languages all sorts of valuable books. So the Armenian people are well supplied with the best modern books. But it must be remembered that these valuable books are forbidden by the Sultan to go into Turkish Armenia; he wants the people kept ignorant. Some of their great scholars came home from Europe to preach and teach in Armenia, to elevate their nation; but some were killed and some banished during the recent atrocities.
The Armenians are a new people in America. Seventeen years ago, when the writer first came to this country, there were not more than a hundred in the United States; since then about 10,000 have come, most of them within ten years. The first ones came about forty-five years ago, among them Mr. Minasian and Mr. Sahagian,—both poor young men, now both rich. Mr. Minasian lives at Brooklyn; Mr. Sahagian at Yonkers, N.Y. Those who have come lately are mostly the poorer class; they fled from the “order” of the Sultan, and not being allowed to leave Turkey, bribed the police and ran away. Not knowing the English language, they work in factories in various States. There are some well-to-do merchants, however, doing business in New York, Boston, and elsewhere, handling Oriental rugs, dry-goods, etc. Some of the New York names are Gulbenkian, Topakian, Tavshandjian, Yardimian, Chaderdjian, Telfeyian, Kostikian. In Boston are Ateshian, Bogigian, etc. Mr. Kebabian is in New Haven; Mr. Enfiyedjian in Denver. There are many others also in other large cities.
Besides merchants, there are many professional men among them, about a dozen physicians in New York city alone: Dr. Dadirian, Dr. Gabrielian, Dr. Ayvazian, Dr. Apkarian, Dr. Altarian, Dr. Koutoojian. Some of them are engravers and photographers. In New York city there are Hagopian, Kasparian, Matigian, and others, very skillful engravers. In Boston there is the New England Engraving Co., who are Armenians; the manager is Mr. G. Papazian.
There are about half a dozen Armenians who are pastors of American churches in different states. About a dozen are special lecturers on the Armenian atrocities: Mr. H. Kiretchjian, the secretary of the American Relief Association, Mr. Samuelian, Rev. A. Bulgurgian, Rev. S. Deviryian, Mr. S. Yenovkian, etc.
There are hundreds of Armenian students distributed among nearly all the universities, colleges, and theological seminaries in America, and most of them are of a superior sort. The greatest physicians in Turkey are Armenians, who were graduated from different medical colleges in this country. Some of the leading pastors and professors in Armenia, who were banished and killed during the recent atrocities, were graduated in this country.
Of the factory hands mentioned, there are about 1,000 in Worcester, Mass.; about 800 in New York and Brooklyn; about 400 in Boston, and the remainder are scattered everywhere from New York to California, from Maine to Florida.
A number of Armenian young men have married American women; I believe ninety per cent. are happy. After forty or fifty years, there will be a large class of American citizens of Armenian blood, and many millionaires among them. They are gifted in business, and they are a sober, honest, and faithful people. I do not think that there is a single criminal among the 10,000 Armenians in this country.
Some of the Armenian daily and weekly newspapers are as follows:
- In Constantinople: Arevelk, Avedaper, Puragn, Dyaghig, Hayrenik, Masis, Pounch.
- In Smyrna: Arevlian Mamoul.
- In Etchmiazin: Ararat.
- In Tiflis: Aghpour, Artzakank, Mishag, Murj, Nor-Tar, Darak.
- In Venice: Pazmaveb.
- In Vienna: Hantes Arnsoria.
- In Marseilles: Armenia.
- In London: L’Armenic.
- In New York: Haik.
Wherever the Armenians go they carry with themselves the church, the school, and the press.
THE ARMENIAN RELIEF ASSOCIATION
This association is putting forth every effort to alleviate the sufferings of needy Armenians wherever they may be found; their work has already resulted in untold blessings and it deserves the hearty support and contributions of the benevolent public. The officers of the association are the following well-known American and Armenian gentlemen:
- Right Rev. Bishop H. Y. Satterlee, D.D., president.
- Hon. Levi P. Morton, first vice-president.
- Right Rev. Bishop Potter, D.D., second vice-president.
- Charles H. Stout, Esq., treasurer.
- J. Bleeker Miller, Esq., chairman executive committee.
- Nicholas R. Mersereau, Esq., secretary.
- Herant M. Kiretchjian, general secretary.
- Rev. J. B. Haygooni, A.M., organizing secretary.
- Mr. H. K. Samuelian, agent.
- The headquarters of the association is in New York.