Arnold Joseph Toynbee.

The murderous tyranny of the Turks, online

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DR476 T6

Toynbee, Arnold Joseph, 1889

- -1.975.
"The murderous tyranny of

the Turks.*"





with a Preface by



Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer
to President Wilson.








with a Preface by



Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer
to President Wilson.







" Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the
only possible manner, namely, by carrying away them-
selves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bim-
bashis and their Yuzbashis, their Kaimakams and their
Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall I hope clear
out from the province they have desolated and profaned."


" A near future will, it is to be hoped, blot out the
scandal that such heathendom should ever have estab-
lished itself on European soil. What has this Turkish
Empire done in three entire centuries 9 It has done
nothing but destroy."



No one who has studied the history of the Near East
for the last five centuries will be surprised that the Allied
Powers have declared their purpose to put an end to the
rule of the Turk in Europe, and still less will he dissent
from their determination to deliver the Christian popu-
lation of what is called the Turkish Empire, whether in
Asia or in Europe, from a Government which during
those fire centuries has done nothing but oppress them.
These changes are indeed long overdue. They ought to
have come more than a century ago, because it had then
already become manifest that the Turk was hopelessly
unfit to govern, with any approach to justice, subject
races of a different religion. The Turk has never been
of any use for any purpose except fighting. He cannot
administer, though in his earlier days he had the sense
to employ intelligent Christian administrators. He
cannot secure justice. As a governing power, he has
always shown himself incapable, corrupt and cruel.
He has always destroyed ; he has never created.

Those whom we call the Turks are not a nation at all
in the proper sense of the word. The Ottoman Turks
were a small conquering tribe from Central Asia, ruled
during the first two centuries of their conquests by a
succession of singularly able and unscrupulous Sultans,
who subjugated the Christian populations of Asia Minor
and South-Eastern Europe, compelling part of these
populations to embrace Mohammedanism, and sup-

porting their own power by seizing the children of the
rest, forcibly converting them to Islam, and making out
of them an efficient standing army, the Janizaries, by
whose valour and discipline the Turkish wars of conquest
were carried on from early in the fifteenth down into the
nineteenth century. Ag a famous English historian
wrote, the Turks are nothing but a robber band, en-
camped in the countries they have desolated. As
Edmund Burke wrote, the Turks are savages, with whom
no civilised Christian nation ought to form any alliance.

Turkish rule ought to be ended in Europe, because,
even in that small part of it which the Sultan still holds,
it is an alien power, which has in that region been, and is
now, oppressing or massacring, slaughtering or driving
from their homes, the Christian population of Greek or
Bulgarian stock. It ought to be turned out of the
western coast regions of Asia Minor for a like reason.
The people there are largely, perhaps mostly, Greek-
speaking Christians. So ought it to be turned out of
Constantinople, a city of incomparable commercial and
political importance, with the guardianship of which it is
unfit to be trusted. So ought it to be turned out of
Armenia and Cilicia, and Syria, where within the last
two years it has been destroying its Christian subjects,
the most peaceful and industrious and intelligent part of
the population.

If a Turkish Sultanate Is to be left in being at all, it
may, with least injury to the world, be suffered to exist
in Central and Northern Asia Minor, where the population
is mainly Mussulman, and there are comparatively few
Christians and those only in the cities to suffer from
its misgovernment. Even there one would be sorry for
its subjects, Mussulman as well as Christian, but a weak
Turkish State, such ae it would then be, could not venture

on the crimea of which it hai been guilty when it was
comparatively strong.

That the faults of Turkish government are incurable,
has been most clearly shown by the fact that the Young
Turkish gang who gained power when they had deposed
Abd-ul-Hamid, have surpassed even that monster of
cruelty in their slaughter of the unoffending Armenians.
The " Committee of Union and Progress " began by
promising equal rights to all races and faiths. This was
" Union." It proceeded forthwith not only to expel the
Greek-speaking inhabitants of Western Asia Minor, and
to exterminate the Armenians, but to attempt to Turkify
the Albanians (Muslims as well as Christians) and to
proscribe their language. This is what " Union " has in
fact meant. What " Progress " has meant in the bauds
of ruffians like Enver and Talaat, Prussianised Muslims
worse than the old Turkish pashas, we have all seen
within the last three years. The Muslim peasant of
Asia Minor is an honest, kindly fellow when not roused
by fanaticism, but the Turk, as a Governing Power, is
irreclaimable, and the Allied Powers would have been
false to all the principles of Eight and Humanity for
which they are fighting if they had not proclaimed that
no Turkish Government shall hereafter be permitted to
tyrannize over subjects of another faith.




President Wilson, is his note to all the belli-
gerent governments, called upon both parties to
state in the full light of day the aims they have
set themselves in prosecuting the War. The
Allied Nations, in their joint response made
public on January llth, 1917, explain that they
find no difficulty in meeting this request, and
make good their words by stating a series of
definite conditions. Among them are :

" The liberation of the peoples who now lie
beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks ; and

" The expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman
Empire, which has proved itself so radically alien
to Western Civilisation"

The plan of the Allies for the settlement of
Turkey is thus communicated to the world with-
out reserve, and it is worth examining what it
involves, and why it is right.


Who are the peoples in Turkey whom the
Allies are determined to liberate ? The Ottoman
Empire contains somewhat more than 20,000,000
inhabitants, and of these only about 8,000,000


less than 40 per cent, of the whole are Turks.*
There are 7,000,000 Arabs ; there are 2,000,000
Armenians (or, rather, there were, before the
atrocities of 1915) ; the Greeks, too, number
little short of 2,000,000, and there are probably
the same number of non-Turkish mountaineers
Kurds, Nestorians, Druses, Maronites and so on.
The non-Turkish peoples thus amount to more
than 60 per cent, of the population of Turkey.
They were all of them settled in the country
before the Turks arrived the Turks conquered
Asia Minor about the time the Normans con-
quered England, while several of the conquered
races have lived there from time immemorial
and all these races have been at their lowest ebb
since and so long as they have been under
Turkish Government.

The Greeks were leaders of civilisation in the
Ancient World and in the Middle Ages, till the
Greek Empire of Constantinople was conquered
by the Turks in 1453. From that moment they
dropped out till the War of Liberation, a century
ago, restored part of the Greek nation to indepen-
dence. The Greeks who have remained under
Turkish government have also remained cut off
from Greek national life.

* The word " Turk " is here used as equivalent to " Turkish-
speaking"; but of course only a fraction of the present
Turkish- speaking population in the Ottoman Empire is
Turkish by descent. The rest are older native elements,
forcibly assimilated by the handful of Turkish conquerors
from Central Asia.

The Armenians were the first people to make
Christianity their national religion. They are
an intellectual people, clever and industrious in
practical affairs and in the life of the spirit.
When they possessed an independent kingdom
they produced a fine literature and architecture,
which Turkish conquest destroyed. Since then
the Turks have repressed all symptoms of
Armenian revival by massacres, the most terrible
of which was perpetrated last year.

The Arabs created a wonderful civilisation at
the time when Medieval Europe was in its
darkest age. Their discoveries in mathematics,
astronomy, chemistry, medicine, are the founda-
tions of modern science, as is witnessed by the
Arabic words in our scientific vocabulary. This
Arabic civilisation was swamped by the Turkish
migrations from Central Asia in the llth cen-
tury, and blotted out by the Mongols, who
followed in the wake of the Turks and sacked
Baghdad, the Arab capital, in the 13th century.
The Arabs are still the most progressive race in
the Islamic world ; they are almost as numerous
as the Turks in the population of the Ottoman
Empire, and they are not divided from the Turks
by difference of religion. Yet the Turkish
government excludes them from all share of
control, and has thwarted their revival as
persistently as it has thwarted that of the
Armenians and Greeks. They too have been
massacred and exiled during the present Wai.


The Kurds, also, were there before the Turks,
but they have not the same tradition as the other
three races behind them. In their case the Turks
have not destroyed an existing civilisation, but
have prevented them acquiring civilisation when
they showed inclination to do so. The Kurd
has been a lawless mountain shepherd for many
centuries, but he becomes a hard-working,
peaceable cultivator when he comes down into
the plains. The Turkish government deliberately
checked this tendency, which began to show itself
in the Kurds about half a century ago, by serving
out arms to them and licensing them to harry
their Armenian neighbours.


This maiming and warping of more gifted
peoples is in itself a capital indictment of Turkish
domination, but the wrong is made infinitely
worse by the outrageous methods by which it has
been carried out. These methods are justly
described as a " murderous tyranny " in the Allies'
Response to President Wilson's question.

There are three stages in the history of Ottoman
tyranny, and the worst stage is the present.
The Ottoman State has been a purely military
State from beginning to end. Osman, its founder,
from whom the Osmanli Turks take their
name, was the hereditary chief of a wandering
band of Turkish freebooters from Central Asia,


whose father was licensed by Turkish Sultans
already established in Asia Minor to carve out a
principality for himself at the expense of the
neighbouring Christians, just as the Teutonic
knights carved out the principality of Prussia at
the expense of the original native population.
This Ottoman dominion, which started thus in
the 13th century with a few square miles of
territory in North- Western Asia Minor, ex-
panded during the next three hundred years till
it stretched from within a few miles of Vienna to
Mecca and Baghdad. It destroyed the Ancient
Empire of Constantinople, which had preserved
Greek learning during the Middle Ages ; the free
Christian kingdoms of Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia,
Wallachia, Moldavia and Hungary ; and the
independent Moslem states of Western Asia.
Such a career of destructive conquest was a
disaster to civilisation, and it was only made
possible by a ruthless militarism.

The Ottoman method of conscription was to
take a tribute of children from the conquered
Christians so many children from each family
every so many years bring them up in barracks
as fanatical Moslems and train them as pro-
fessional recruits. These '' Janissaries," mili-
tarised from their youth up and divorced from
every human relation except loyalty to their
war-lord, were the most formidable soldiers in
Europe, and each new Christian land they con-
conquered was a new field of recruitment for their


corps. The Ottoman Empire literally drained
its victims' blood, and its history as a Vampire-
State is unparalleled in the history of the world.


This was the first stage in Ottoman history ;
the second, inevitable in a purely military state,
was internal and external decay. The Empire
was cut short by Austria, Russia and other foreign
powers ; the subject peoples began to win back
their freedom by breaking away from under the
Turkish yoke. A good government would
have met these dangers by improving the
conditions of the Empire. It would have
tried to make the subject peoples contented,
to give their capacities for development free
play, to build of them a bulwark against
outside enemies. But the Turkish govern-
ment had not the imagination or the good
will to adopt a policy like this. It had nothing
but its military tradition of violence and cunning,
and it tried to stave off the consequences of its
own rottenness by making the subject peoples
even weaker and more wretched than itself.
This was the policy of Abd-ul-Hamid, who reigned
from 1876 to 1908, and his method was to set one
race against another. The Kurds were en-
couraged to massacre the Armenians ; the
Turkish soldiers were ordered to join in the
massacre when the Armenians put up a resistance.
The Bulgars were allowed to form armed bancls


to " Bulgarise " the villages of Macedonia, and
the Greeks to form bands of their own to with-
stand them ; the Macedonian peasants were
harried by both parties, and if they harboured
the bands to avoid incurring their vengeance,
Turkish troops came up and burned the village
for treason against the Ottoman State.


In the first stage the subject peoples paid their
tribute of children and were then left to them-
selves. In the second stage they were hounded
on to destroy each other by the Machiavellian
policy of Abd-ul-Hamid. The third stage has
been introduced by the Young Turks, and they
have been destroying the subject races by syste-
matic government action a government employ-
ing its resources in the murder of its own people.
And this has been carried on with redoubled
vigour and ruthlessness since the Turkish
Government entered the War, and has been sure
of Germany's support in defying the civilised

The Young Turks are " Nationalists " who
have learnt in the German and Magyar school.
Their national idea is to impose their own
nationality by force on others. When the
Young Turks came into power in 1908 they
announced a programme of " Ottomanisation."
Every language in the Empire but Turkish was
to be driven off the field ; Turkish was to be the


sole language of government, and even of higher
education. The non-Turkish majority was to be
assimilated to the Turkish minority by coercion.
The programme was copied from the " Prus-
sianisation " of the Poles and " Magyarisation "
of the Roumans, Slovaks and Southern Slavs
in Hungary whom the Allies declare their inten-
tion of liberating likewise from foreign domination
in another clause of their Note. But in their
Nationalism, as in their Militarism, the Turks
have gone to greater lengths than their European
counterparts. The Prussians expropriate Polish
landowners against the payment of a price for
their land ; the Turks drive forth Greeks
and Bulgars destitute from their homes and
possessions. The Magyars mobilise troops to
terrorise Slovaks and Roumans at the elections ;
the Turks draft the criminals from their
prisons into the Gendarmeri to exterminate the
Armenian race. From the beginning of their
regime the Young Turks have pursued their
nationalistic programme by butchery. The
Adana massacres of 1909, the most terrible
slaughter of Armenians between the Hamidian
massacres of 1895-6 and those at present in
progress, occurred within a year of the procla-
mation of the Young Turk Constitution, which
assured equal rights of citizenship to all inhabi-
tants of the Empire. In 1913 the Turkish Army
was engaged in exterminating the Albanians
because they had an un-Ottoman national spirit
of their own. This work was interrupted by the


Balkan War, but the Turks revenged themselves
for their defeat in this war, which liberated large
Greek and Slav populations from their yoke, by
exterminating all Greeks and Slavs left in the
territory they still retained. They occupied
themselves with this in the interval between the
end of the Balkan and the beginning of the
European War, and Greece was on the verge of
war with Turkey again to protect the dwindling
remnant of the Greeks in Turkey's power, when
the crisis was overtaken by the greater conflict.
As soon as Turkey became Germany's ally,
Germany restrained the Young Turks from per-
secuting their Greek subjects, because it was not
to Germany's interest that Greece should be
involved in the war on the side of the Entente.
But she left them a free hand with their other
subject peoples, and the result has been the
Armenian and Arab atrocities, which began in
1915 and have gone on ever since.


Only a third of the two million Armenians in
Turkey have survived, and that at the price of
apostatising to Islam or else of leaving all they
had and fleeing across the frontier. The refugees
saw their women and children die by the roadside,
and apostacy too, for a woman, involved the
living death of marriage to a Turk and inclusion
in his harem. The other two-thirds were
" deported " that is, they were marched away


from their homes in gangg, with no food or
clothing for the journey, in fierce heat and bitter
cold, hundreds of miles over rough mountain
roads. They were plundered and tormented by
their guards, and by subsidised bands of brigands,
who descended on them in the wilderness, and
with whom their guards fraternised. Parched
with thirst, they were kept away from the water
with bayonets. They died of hunger and ex-
posure and exhaustion, and in lonely places the
guards and robbers fell upon them and murdered
them in batches some at the first halting place
after the start, others after they had endured
weeks of this agonising, journey. About half
the deportees and there was at least 1,200,000
of them in all perished thus on their journey,
and the other half have been dying lingering
deaths ever since at their journey's end ; for
they have been deported to the most inhospitable
regions in the Ottoman Empire : the malarial
marshes in the Province of Konia ; the banks of
the Euphrates where, between Syria and Mesopo-
tamia, it runs through a stony desert ; the sultry
and utterly desolate track of the Hedjaz Railway.
The exiles who are still alive have suffered worse
than those who perished by violence at the

The same campaign of extermination has been
waged against the Nestorian Christians on the
Persian frontier, and against the Arabs of Syria,
Christians and Moslems without discrimination.


In Syria there is a reign of terror. The Arab
leaders have been imprisoned, executed, or
deported already, and the mass of the people lie
paralysed, expecting the Armenians' fate and,
dreading every moment to hear the decree of
extermination go forth.

This wholesale destruction, which has already
overtaken two of the subject peoples in Turkey,
and threatens all that 60 per cent, of the popu-
lation which is not Turkish in language, is the
direct work of the Turkish government. The
" Deportation Scheme " was drawn up by the
central government at Constantinople and
telegraphed simultaneously to all the local
authorities in the Empire ; it was executed by
the officials, the Gendarmerie, the Army, and the
bands of brigands and criminals organised in the
government's service. No State could be more
completely responsible for any act within its
borders than the Ottoman State is responsible
for the appalling crimes it has committed
against its subject peoples during the War.


These crimes, and the phases of Ottoman
History which lead up to them, demonstrate, in
the language of the Allies' Note, that " the
Ottoman Empire has proved itself radically alien to
Western Civilisation" Where Ottoman rule
has spread, civilisation has perished. While


Ottoman rule has lasted, civilisation has remained
in abeyance. It has only sprung up again when
the oppressed peoples, at the cost of their own
blood and by the aid of civilised nations more
fortunate than themselves, have succeeded in
throwing off the Turkish yoke ; and these
struggles have been so much regained for liberty
and progress in the world, because the infliction
of Turkish rule upon any other people has been
an incalculable loss.

To this long history of horror the Allies are
determined to put an end. They will " liberate
the peoples who now lie beneath this murderous
tyranny." But they proclaim no tyrannous
intention against the Turks themselves. In
another clause of their note, they put it on
record that " it has never been their intention
to seek the extermination or the political extinction
of the Germanic peoples" The declaration holds
good, by implication, for the Magyar, Bulgar,
and Turkish peoples who are the Germanic
peoples' allies. There are regions in Asia Minor
where the Turk is undisputed occupant of the
land. The Allies have no intention of
" deporting " or exterminating the Turk from
these regions, as the Turk has deported the
Armenians from the regions that are theirs.
The Turk, like the German, Magyar and Bulgar,
will remain where he belongs. Out of the broad
territory over which he at present domineers, he


will be allowed to keep his just pound of flesh,
but woe to him hereafter if he sheds one drop of
Christian blood. . . .


This settlement of Turkey is a logical element
in the Allies' general aim in the War : " The
reorganisation of Europe, guaranteed by a stablz
settlement, based alike upon the principle of
nationalities, on the right which all peoples, whether
small or great, have to the enjoyment of full security
and free economic development, and also upon
territorial agreements and international arrange-
ments so framed as to guarantee land and sea
frontiers against unjust attacks"

This aim is no invention of yesterday ; it has
been the aspiration of all lovers of liberty for a
century past.

" Let the Turks" said Mr. Gladstone in a
famous speech, " now carry away their abuses in
the only possible manner, namely, by carrying away
themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs,
their Bimbashis and their Yuzbashis, their Kaima-
kams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and
baggage, shall I hope clear out from the province
they have desolated and profaned"

The province for which Mr. Gladstone pleaded
was Bulgaria ; but since Bulgaria has been
freed, the other peoples who have still remained
under the tyranny have suffered horrors in-
finitely worse in their extent and their iniquity
than those which in 1876 aroused the indignation
of the world.


Heinrich von Treitschke loved many things
more than liberty, but the profanation of
liberty by the Turk drew from him a denunciation
as strong as Gladstone's own. " A near future"
he writes, " will, it is to be hoped, blot out the
scandal that such heathendom should ever have
established itself on European soil. What has
this Turkish Empire done in three entire centuries ?


Online LibraryArnold Joseph ToynbeeThe murderous tyranny of the Turks, → online text (page 1 of 2)