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C H A P T E R V I I The Armenian Persecutions 4 FTER THE successful struggle o£ the various Balkan i-X peoples for independence during the preceding hundred JL -lkyears, the largest Christian national group left in the Ottoman empire in 1914 were the Armenians, most of whom lived in the eastern portions of Anatolia.1 After submitting for centuries to legal discrimination, harassment, and misgovernment —which earned them the designation of the "loyal com­ munity" (Millet-i Sadi\a) by their Turkish overlords—many Ottoman Armenians had become increasingly restive and na­ tionalistic in the course of the 19th century.Since their requests for efficient and fair government, evenhanded justice, and lo­ cal autonomy were repeatedly ignored by the Porte, and since the diplomatic efforts of the European powers on their behalf produced little more than paper reforms, some elements of the Armenian community turned to "nonlegal" and violent meth­ ods to throw off the Turkish yoke. After the 1860s a number of revolutionary societies and parties sprang up, and by the early nineties the radicalization of the Armenian revolutionary movement found outward expression in the emergence of the Huncha\ian Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federa­ tion or Dashna\tsuthiun. While the "Hunchaks" aimed for the creation of an independent Armenian state, the "Dashnaks " advocated radical political and social reforms within the framework of the Ottoman empire. Both groups hoped to at­ tract energetic European support for the Armenian cause, but it was a hope that proved illusory.2 When in the mid-i890s 1 Counting Roman Catholics and Protestants as well as the Gregorian majority, there were an estimated 1.8 to 2.1 million Armenians in the Ottoman empire by 1914. For an excellent introduction to the history of the Armenian people see Hrant Pasdermadjian, Histoire de I'Armenie (Paris, 1949). 2 Cf. A. O. Sarkissian, History of the Armenian Question to 1885 cThe ^Armenian Tersecutions Sultan Abdulhamid II responded to mounting Armenian agi­ tation by ordering, or condoning, the massacre of thousands o£ Armenians in Constantinople and elsewhere in the empire, the European powers restricted themselves to largely ineffec­ tual diplomatic protests and the protection o£ some Armenian conspirators.3 The overthrow of Abdiilhamid's despotic regime and the formal resurrection of a constitutional form of government by the Young Turks in 1908 was initially greeted by many Otto­ man Armenians as the dawn of a new era, but their hopes were quickly quashed. Though some Armenian groups were eager to collaborate with the new regime the Young Turks soon made it clear that they had no intention of granting the nonTurkish communities in the empire the political equality which they desired.4 In 1909 thousands of Armenians were massacred by Moslem mobs in the so-called Cilician Vespers. Even though the central government in Constantinople was perhaps not directly involved in this new outrage, many Ar­ menians did not trust the Young Turks thereafter.5 (Urbana, 111., 1938); Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963); and Roderic H. Davi­ son, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856-1876 (Princeton, 1963), and passim. 8 On the shifting policies of the European powers on the "Armenian Question" in the latter half of the 19th century cf. Pasdermadjian, pp. 320-412, passim·, William L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism, i8go-igo2, rev. edn. (New York, 1951), Chapters v, vn, x; and A.O. Sarkissian, "Concert Diplomacy and the Armenians, 1890-1897," in Studies in Diplomatic History and Historiography in Honour of G. P. Gooch, A.O. Sarkissian, ed. (London, 1961), pp. 48-75. 4Cf. Pasdermadjian, pp. 438-41; Lewis, pp. 206-15; Ernest E. Ramsaur , Jr., The Young Tur\s: Prelude to the Revolution of igo8 (Princeton, 1957), pp. 65-66, 70-75, 124-29; and Sarkis Atamian, The Armenian Community (New York, 1955), pp. 156-77. 5 Cf. Andre Mandelstam, Le sort de I'Empire Ottoman (Paris, 1917), pp. 203-206; Simon Vratzian, Armenia and the Armenian Question (Boston, 1943), pp. 22-23; Atamian, pp. 174-75, 178, note 20; Lewis, p. 212. cIhe ^Armenian Tersecutions During the next few years the Porte officially improved the legal status of the Armenians and extended to them all the duties and privileges of military service, but in many prov­ inces the traditional forms of harassment and sporadic acts of violence (especially by the Kurds) against the Armenian pop­ ulation continued virtually as before. After prolonged negotia­ tions the Porte in February 1914...


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