H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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The Tartars of Transcaucasia represent a section of those warriors
of Turkish race who, from the time of the appearance of the
Seljuks down to the end of the eighteenth century, were driven
to this country by political conditions from the northern
provinces of Persia — that is, from Azerbaijan, and from the
eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. Their language is still the
li?ig?ia franca of the districts between Caucasus and the Armenian
plateau. Within the area with which we are now dealing they
belong almost entirely to the Shiah sect, and, besides sharing the
religion of Persia, contain an admixture of Persian blood. It is
not so long ago that their seats in Armenia formed a Persian
khanate, and were administered by Persian sirdars ; and the wealthy
families who flourished during that period are still the owners of
extensive gardens, and live on the proceeds of their land. In the
humbler walks of life they are distinguished by their skill in all
those methods of working mud which are practised in the East ;
they are plasterers, wall-makers, skilled men in the construction
of works of irrigation ; while most of the little tradesmen, the
hucksters and fruit-s6llers are Tartars, and many of the gardeners
and drivers of carts. In the country they have passed from the
nomadic stage, and are prosperous settlers upon the land. In
the town of P^rivan, where their numbers equal those of the
Armenians, many of the largest gardens are owned by Tartar
families, and many of the most prosperous houses of business
are in Tartar hands. The degree of religious tolerance which
they have achieved in that town was a matter of extreme
astonishment to me, when I remembered how often I had in
vain resented the bigotry of the Shiahs while travelling within
the dominions of the Shah. The Persians are unable to enforce
reciprocity in their country, and to repay us for the pleasure and
the profit which they may derive in inspecting the great religious
buildings of Europe b}- suppressing and impounding the vicious
fanatics who drive us from the doors of their mosques. It is
a pleasure to offer a well-deserved tribute to that sense of respect
for themselves and for their religion of which the Shiahs of

Statistical and Political 455

Erivan give so striking a proof by admitting the stranger, what-
ever his creed, into the innermost courts of their spacious and
beautiful mosque ; and it is not imprudent to hope and to expect
that the narrow path which they are still treading may widen
as the years increase. On the other hand, it is not without
disappointment that we may note the small progress they have
hitherto made in availing themselves of the opportunities of
education which the Russian Government have placed within
their reach. I have drawn attention to this circumstance in my
notice of the schools of Erivan ; and it is safe to prophesy that,
unless a radical change be soon eft'ected, the Tartars will be edged
out by the Armenians and will diminish in numbers year by

The remaining peoples native to the country upon whom it
is necessary to bestow a passing glance are the Kurds, the Greeks,
the Turks, the Georgians and the Karapapakhs. The Kurds
within Russian territory have not yet abandoned their nomadic
habits ; they are found as far north as the country about Batum,
but their principal pasture-grounds are on the Turkish frontier and
in Karabagh. The Kurds in the neighbourhood of Ararat pursue
two main directions during their summer wanderings ; one body
proceeds towards the north, through the districts of Edgmiatsin
and Alexandropol, and stations itself upon the highlands about
Akhaltsykh and Akhalkalaki ; the other takes an easterly course
and enters the Government of Elizabetpol. The total number
of Kurds in Transcaucasia is given as 100,000, of whom the
larger part inhabit within the area with which we are concerned ;
the rest are found in greatest number in Karabagh. The Greeks
have several villages, principally in the Government of Kars ;
those which I saw were prosperous, and the gay dresses and
trinkets of the women betokened a somewhat higher stage of
comfort than that which is usual in the country as a whole.
These Greeks speak Turkish and are learning Russian ; their
versatile genius enables them to change nationality as we take
a change of air. They are excellent miners and road engineers ;
the fine chaussec which has recently been completed up the valley
of the Toporovan river to Akhalkalaki was constructed by the
skilled labour of Greek workmen. The small number of Georgians
who are included in our area are found, as would be expected,'
in the valley of the Kur. In many places the race has received
such a laro-e admixture of Turkish blood that the inhabitants.

456 Armenia

although classed as Georgians, would call themselves Turks, and
are in religion Mussulman. In such villages I found much
discontent with the existing order, and the evident outward signs
of breaking up and decay. The Turks are found almost ex-
clusively in the Government of Kars, which is also the seat
of a hybrid tribe called Karapapakhs, or " Black Caps," from
the black lambskin caps which they wear. The origin of the
German and of the Russian settlers has already been described
in the course of this work (see Ch. VII.) ; the latter belong almo&t
exclusively to the Dukhobortsy and Molokan sects, expelled by
the Russian Church-State from the home provinces of the Russian
Empire. The Dukhobortsy must have diminished in numbers
to an appreciable extent since the date of these statistics, owing
to the recent emigration of large numbers into the bosom of the
British Empire (p. i 16).

When one reflects upon the social condition of the country,
no circumstance is perhaps more striking than the complete
separation of one race from another. Although living side by
side, there is an entire absence of natural fusion of the different
elements upon a common plane. Cases exist both in the Russian
and in the Turkish provinces of Armenia where, from a sense of
advantage or by compulsion, the people of a particular district
have adopted the Mussulman religion during periods of Mussul-
man persecution, and have become, by intermarriage and closer
intercourse, absorbed into the dominant race. I may instance in
Russian Armenia the Georgian inhabitants of the valley of the
Upper Kur, and across the Turkish frontier the Armenians of the
Tortum district and the Greeks of many of the valleys of the
peripheral region. But such examples have only aggravated the
differences to which separation is due. They have converted
the existing prejudices into animosities, and have retarded rather
than advanced any tendency towards fusion. When Russia
appeared on the scene, it might have been expected that at least
in the case of Christians of various professions and nationalities
a disposition to draw together might have made itself felt. As
a matter of fact the reverse has been the case. To the old
religious breaches has been added a new barrier — the hungry
Russian Orthodox Church. Certainly in the case of a marriage
between a Russian sectary and an Armenian — and I believe
also in that of the other professions, should, for instance, an
Armenian of the Gregorian persuasion wed a Protestant of the

Statistical and Political 457

same nation — the children of such a mixed union are required by
Russian law to be brought up in the Russian Orthodox faith. It
makes no difference that neither of the parents professes that
faith. The result has, therefore, been that the old heterogene-
ous collection have been increased by two more species of the
Christian happy family — the Molokans and Dukhobortsy. And
upon both is riveted isolation from their neighbours — or in the
alternative the necessity of educating their children in a creed and
religious system which they abhor.

In such circumstances very little has been effected by the
Russian settlers towards raising the standards already prevailing
in their adopted country. Inasmuch as these sectaries belong to
the flower of the peasantry in Russia, one should, perhaps, regret
the presence of any artificial barriers. It is true that they do not
stand as high in the scale of peoples as their Armenian neighbours
with their ancient but deeply corroded culture and their natural
aptitudes — these, happily, unimpaired. But in moral force the
Russians are easily superior ; and their methods of agriculture, if
they were generally followed in the country, would produce an
economical revolution. Up to the present time their example
has been thrown away. Their neat stone houses, spacious carts,
ploughs and field implements have not inspired the Armenians to
forsake their ancestral habits — to improve the means of cultivation,
and to emerge from their unhealthy burrows into the light and
comfort of glass windows and solid walls of stone. This barrenness
of result is, no doubt, in part due to the manner in which the
Russian immigration took place. Expelled from their native
country, the "peasants came in whole villages, with their women
and their children and their household goods. Their new settle-
ments were grouped together and rendered self-sufficient ; and
neither the necessities nor the inducements of social intercourse
drew them away from their own circles. To the traveller as well
as to the native they are a piece of Russia laid down in Armenia ;
the curious stare and pass on. As an outpost of the northern
empire they can be of little value owing to the religious opinions
which they profess. It is well known in the country that the
Government are reserving vast tracts of land in the hope that
some day Russian colonists, these, it is expected, of the Orthodox
faith, may be attracted to these salubrious uplands. The climate
would suit them well. Should the Germans realise their scheme
of colonising Asia Minor, an ethnical redistribution would be

458 Armenia

accomplished on a large scale. But the population of the
country is at present so scanty and its resources so vast, that the
Armenians have little to fear from such a development.

Let us now proceed to the political side of our subject, and
endeavour to measure the system of government under which
these various peoples live. It will be interesting to keep in view
both their dispositions towards it and the results, material and
moral, which it may be considered to have brought about.

The administration by Russia of the north-eastern half of
Armenia has been occupied with races whose more recent political
history consists in their passage from one domination to another ;
and the presence of discontent in certain quarters may be
regarded as the inevitable outcome of the change. The
Mussulman adherents of the old Turkish dominion share with
their neighbours of Turkish origin the humiliation of a fallen state ;
and their Turkish sympathies and connections, while they excite
the suspicions of the Russian Government, dispose them to yield
to the lightest pressure, and to cross the border into Turkish soil.^
The Armenians, who have been a mainstay to Russia both in her
Persian and in her Turkish wars, whose lands were swept by
the tide of battle, and who can recall the memory of conflicts
which extended even to the walls of their sanctuary, the cloister
of Edgmiatsin, are inclined to temper their sentiments of gratitude
with the consciousness of the services which they rendered —
services which many among them may be disposed to consider have
only resulted in the imposition of a fresh and more burdensome
yoke. North of the tableland the Georgian races, whose kingdom,
harassed by Mohammedan peoples, was driven to seek assistance
outside, have not yet forgotten the disappointment of the hope
which many among them had cherished, that Russian intervention
might assume the form of a protectorate rather than of a complete
absorption of the Georgian element into the Russian State. But
such regrets and disillusionments are but the familiar sequel to
the constitution of empire upon a new soil ; and human nature
under such circumstances is more prone to count the loss than to
recognise the gain. Over twenty years have now elapsed since
Russia completed her subjugation of the Caucasus, whose peoples,
untamed for so long a period, menaced the base of her advance ;
order and peace have been given to the country, and life and
property are safe. Georgian children are no longer sold into
1 See especially Ch. III. p. 68 and Ch. IV. pp. 75, 77.

Statistical and Political 459

slavery, and a middle class is forming amongst that people,
whose traditional relation to one another was that of noble and
serf. An experienced traveller, who visited the Armenian
provinces in 1868, and passed through the more fertile regions
of the country between Kars and Kagyzman, has left on record
a striking picture of the misery of those Mussulman times.
He was crossing the district of Shuragel, the ancient Shirak of
the Armenians ; and he speaks of deserted towns and villages,
of Armenian peasants who clung to their ruined homes with a
pertinacity of affection which neither poverty nor oppression could
subdue, of the dispossession of the Christians by the Turkish
Beys, and of the exactions and forays of the Kurds, which had
curtailed agriculture and stifled industry, and had reduced both to
the extreme limit on which human life is able to subsist.^ If, at
the present time, the Armenian peasant gathers for himself the
crops which he has sown, and the restless Kurd consults his
safety by a sober respect for the law, it is to Russia that the
people owe this deliverance from the license and anarchy of
former years.

Had the Russian Government confined its energies to the
amiable and disinterested task of establishing and maintaining
public order as the guardian of a distracted country and the
knight - errant who clears the land of thieves, it would have
received the ungrudging gratitude of the Armenians, until in the
maturity of time they had learnt to walk unaided and to cope
alone with those lawless elements which might still resist the
yoke of law. When that happy state had been accomplished
it might only be natural to suppose that the progressive tendencies
of the Armenian would lead him to take counsel with his
neighbours and friends, to thank his protectors for past benefits,
and to submit that the continuance of foreign tutelage was no
longer necessary or desirable in the interests of a country to whose
welfare they had contributed so much. To the Russians such a
possible, but I think improbable, outcome of all their efforts was
scarcely calculated to present so rosy an appearance as their
ingenuous wards might have expected or hoped, and, if the advan-
tages offered by the Russian Empire were not sufficiently apparent
by themselves, it was necessary to reform and to educate a per-
versity which sooner or later would yield. The Russians are not
a commercial people, and would be content to see the Armenians
1 Consul Taylor, an unpublished Report.

460 Armenia

conduct the commerce of their native country and develop its vast
resources, could they but collect the means ; but only on one
condition were they prepared to encourage such activity : that
their subjects should become Russians, and that the province should
be joined to the Russian Empire not only by the slender thread
of annexation, but by the abiding tie of a common patriotism
founded on a community of sentiment with themselves. But
just at this point the real difficulties of empire arise. Races who
stand on a low scale in Nature have become absorbed into the
Russian system by the exertion of little further energy than was
required to ingrain in them that wholesome respect for their
northern conqueror which the first sharp conflict had inspired ; and
the broad, expansive Russian character' has been able to assimilate
them to itself. It is different when, whatever the degree of
degradation to which they may have been reduced by Mussul-
man oppression, a people is conscious of elements of vitality
impelling them to higher ideals and standards than those which
guide the powerful protectors under whom they have commenced
to breathe. An empire which is confronted with such a situa-
tion has few alternatives among which to choose. If it cannot
attract the subject people towards it — if it cannot accomplish that
task of self-change which is more difficult than any problem
which the exercise of empire may present — it will sooner or later
be driven to adopt the expedients of coercion and repression, and
to lower the plane of civilised life by arresting the race for
progress in which it was itself unfitted to compete.

Such a political situation can best be gauged and appreciated
if we approach it from several different points of view — the nature
of the Russian system, the attitude of Armenians in particular
towards it, the true significance of such struggles in the larger
issues of the outside world. . . . The kindness and hospitality
of the Russian people, the amiable disposition which, in spite of
official exigencies, makes them wish the traveller well, the real
desire which a large and increasing number among them cherish
for social progress at home — are features in the Russian character
which the shortest acquaintance will recognise with respect, and
which make for the true advance of Russia as a civilised nation
among her peers. But the moment that the elements of progress
in Russia have asserted their right to rule, the Russian system, as
we know it, will die and disappear, and the laws which govern
its existence will be subject to new conditions, which ma}' make

Statistical and Political 461

for closer national concentration rather than for expansion abroad.
Such reflections, although not new, are pertinent in this place.
The element of finality, always relative, may justly appear in the
eyes of many Armenians to be wanting to the political system
and to the Government under which they live; and the abhorrence
which that system inspires tempts them to convert the thought
into a wish. The ultimate outcome of any revolution in the
affairs of Russia is too uncertain, and the present evils of her
Government are too substantial and apparent to induce them
willingly to cast in their lot with the Russian people, and to
abandon their hope of fulfilling their destiny in their own manner
and, if possible, by themselves.

A people whose commercial activity has brought them into
contact with the most progressive races of Europe, and whose
natural instinct renders them eager to assimilate Western thought,
can scarcely be blamed if they chafe under a system which
assumes to establish the opinions they shall hold and to select
the books which they shall read, and which subjects every action
of their daily life to an inquisitorial control. Such methods are
only the manifestations of a settled and uniform plan. The
Armenian must sink his individuality and resign his initiative
into Russian hands. He must imbue himself with the ideas
which his rulers have prepared for him, and which may be
opposed to the tendencies and the capacities with which he has
been endowed. In such a prospect he recognises nothing to
admire and much to fear. He sees the more capable races either
driven from the Russian Empire or made the object of a constant
jealousy and antipathy rather than of increasing respect. He
feels the grip of an organisation which is founded on European
methods, and commands all the resources which those methods
provide ; but he distrusts the hands which wield these weapons,
and he is indifferent to the objects to w^hich they are turned.
Even the material results of such a system leave him little to
hope beyond what he has attained. The resources of the country
still lie dormant, and the Government seems to lack the means or
else the will to turn them to account. He sees the rich forests of
the peripheral region, which might yield a considerable revenue
in return for an outlay which would be comparatively small, left
unexploited and neglected, while shiploads of wood are entering
the ports to supply the requirements of the oil industry. That
industry itself he sees promoted by foreign capital in Russian

462 Armenia

guise, while the jealousy of all foreign capital has closed the door
to its beneficent action in the provinces of his home. Only a
single military railway traverses the tableland, and there is
scarcely a road upon it except such as are rendered necessary
by the exigencies of the military arm. A few examples of the
economical condition of these provinces may emphasise and
explain such statements of a general kind. The two principal
towns are Alexandropol and Erivan ; yet the road which joins
them makes the colossal circuit by the northern shore of Lake
Sevan, where it meets the main avenue of traffic between Tiflis
and Erivan. From a point further west on this roundabout line
of communication a road has been cut with the laudable object of
shortening the distance ; but the same contempt for the smaller
and more irksome duties of life to which we become accustomed
in purely Eastern countries has allowed it to fall into ruin by
neglect, and we are met by the sight, so familiar to the traveller
in the East, of yawning culverts and broken bridges and parallel
tracks which have diverged and avoided the perilous surface of
the metalled way. In Erivan itself, the chief town of a district
where capital might be turned to the greatest advantage, it is
impossible or difficult to find a foreign newspaper, while the
industrial skill of the advanced races of Europe is not represented
by a single foreign enterprise, or, so far as I know, by 'a single
foreign man of business or industrial employee. Persons who
know the country well have told me that from the point of
view of irrigation, so important a requirement in a land which
suffers from want of rain, it has gone back since the times of
the Persians, who are experts in such arts. As a consequence
of this economical stagnation, the spectacle is often presented in
a country which enjoys security and repose of miserable villages,
pinched by the scantiest resources and in appearance not more
prosperous than those on Turkish soil. I cannot help thinking
that many of these evils are due to excessive centralisation in the
Russian capital. When the Governor of the Transcaucasian
provinces was a Grand Duke residing at Tiflis, he was able to
gratify his personal interest in their welfare by the exercise of
a large measure of independent initiative and control ; at the
present day the smallest projects are referred to St. Petersburg,
and are made subservient to the general economic policy which
governs the Empire as a whole. But such an explanation serves
only to display and emphasise the character of the Russian

Statistical and Political 463

system itself: how small are the prospects which it offers in
return for the leaden yoke which it brings.

Little by little, as all danger on the side of the Mussulman
states has gradually disappeared, the Russian Government have
considered it opportune to apply more drastic methods, and to
impose upon the newest of their adopted children a fuller
measure of the disciplinary regime. With what instruments they
have worked, and how first the Church and next the schools have
been the objects of their relentless embrace, has been already
told in the foregoing chapters, notably those on Erivan and
Edgmiatsin. On their side the Armenians have shown no
disposition to adopt Russian ways of thought. The greater has
grown the pressure, the more they have writhed and twisted ;
at the present moment they are lying still with broken wings.
The situation is cruel in the extreme. From the Turkish
provinces they are beaten up towards the Russian frontier by
bands of long-beaked, predatory Kurds. Should they reach their
asylum, they are caught in the meshes of a quite impervious
network ; they are sorted and sifted about by a swarm of active
little officials — the police of the districts, the police of the
towns, the political police. Camps are instituted where the great
majority will be detained at pleasure, to be returned on the first
opportunity to their rifled homes. The repetition of this process
is causing the decimation of the Armenian people in a surer and
much more efficacious manner than any massacres. It is true
that the amelioration if not the removal of such conditions lies
to some extent in their own hands. " Accept our system, follow
the Georgians, and seek spiritual and political salvation within

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 48 of 49)