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the bosom of the Russian Church-State." One cannot doubt
that in that event the whole weight of the great Russian Empire
would be thrown into the scale for the Armenians. What a
tempting prospect for a people so sorely tried ! Will they not
before very long subscribe this obvious solution, for which there
is so much to be said? I have put the question to all the
Armenians with whom I have enjoyed opportunities of intercourse,
and I have put it to those one or two European Consuls who
have been in Armenia and know the Armenians well. The
answer has invariably been in a negative sense. Many Armenians
go so far as to openly profess their preference for the Turkish
Government. They state the matter neatly in the form of an
antithesis. It is a choice between two Oppressions, one physical



464 Armenia

and spasmodic, the other moral and systematic. It is not the
first time in history that they have been offered the alternative
of slavery in body or slavery in mind. A remnant may be
absorbed ; but the majority will follow their destiny, will wander
out, and, perhaps, disappear.

Such is the conclusion, so full of pathos, with such a vein of
unconscious satire, throwing curious side lights upon the gilded
figures of Christianity and Empire marching down purple steps with
arms entwined. . . . My reader who may know the Armenians
from his sad experience of an Armenian dragoman picked up in
the Levant, will not, perhaps, be disposed to view the ruin of that
people with feelings of keen regret. For myself, coming to the
subject free from any prepossessions, but with the lessons of ex-
tensive travel in the countries west of India fresh imprinted on my
mind, I must freely confess to exactly contrary sentiments. We
are living in a time of startling changes in Asia ; we are witnesses
of one of those great waves from Europe upon Asia of which
the tide-marks have all but vanished from the sands of the
Present after many centuries of repose and stagnation. Some
diversion of the current, it is true, has taken place towards
Africa ; but the reservoirs of Europe are being filled in a much
greater measure than they are depleted by issues in that direction.
A new and, to all appearances, a permanent factor of immense
potentiality in its reflex influence upon the economy and
diplomacy of Europe has arisen in the shape of the United
States of America. American competition is already obliging
the industrial states of Europe to compose those ancient quarrels
which have so often exhausted their great resources, and which
have been so long exploited with success by Oriental rulers.
Day by day new inventions are annihilating the old-world
obstacles of distance and of time. Asia is brought to our doors ;
and, when we lift the veil in which she has so long slumbered,
there is nothing beneath but her fair frame and the flimsiest web
of human littleness, yielding to the first and most clumsy attempt
to brush it aside.

Nepioi I — We are surely simpletons if through motives of
adventure and cupidity we fondly cherish the vision of this long-
lost continent parcelled out like virgin ground among ourselves.
The Asiatic, with all his debility, is not the African ; he is our
father, from whose lips we received our first lessons, and his old
age, become almost child-like, contains the germs of rejuvenescence.



Stalisfical and Political 465

like the gods of ancient Greece. Tenderly and with affection
should we approach these old races whom Providence has con-
ducted to our threshold. They will repay us for our forbearance
and solicitude. They worship strength ; but the display of power
in a brutal and ruthless spirit betrays in their eyes, who have
seen the passage of so many despotisms, underlying elements
of present weakness and certain failure. In some condition, one
cannot help feeling, they are likely to survive us, the richer or
the poorer for the example and imprint which we may have
bestowed.

In the Armenians we have a people who are peculiarly
adapted to be the intermediaries of the new dispensation. They
profess our religion, are familiar with some of our best ideals, and
assimilate each new product of European culture with" an avidity
and thoroughness which no other race between India and the
Mediterranean has given any evidence of being able to rival.
These capacities they have made manifest under the greatest of
disadvantages — as a subject race ministering to the needs of
Mussulman masters. They know well that with every advance
of true civilisation they are sure to rise, as they will certainly
fall at each relapse.

For nearly a thousand years they have been held in subjection ;
and it would be folly to expect that they should not have suffered
in character by the menial pursuits which they have been con-
strained to follow. They have been rayas, exploited by races
most often their inferiors in intellect ; and I need not enlarge
upon the results which have followed from such a condition.
One should rather wonder that their defects are not more pro-
nounced.

On the other hand, they are possessed of virtues with which
they are seldom credited. The fact that in Turkey they are
rigorously precluded from bearing arms has disposed superficial
observers to regard them as cowards. A different judgment
might be meted out were they placed on an equality in this
respect with their enemies the Kurds. At all events, when given
the chance, they have not been slow to display martial qualities
both in the domain of the highest strategy and in that of personal
prowess. The victorious commander-in-chief for Russia in her
Asiatic campaign of 1877 was an Armenian from the district of
Lori — Loris Melikoff. In the same campaign the most brilliant
general of division in the Russian army was an Armenian —
VOL. I 2 II



466 Armenia

Tergukasoff.^ The gallant young staff- officer, Tarnaieff, who
planned and led the hair-brained attack on the Azizi fort in front
of Erzerum, was an Armenian, and paid for his daring with his
life. At the present day the frontier police, engaged in controlling
the Kurds of the border, are recruited from among Armenians,
These examples may be sufficient to nail to the counter an
inveterate lie, from which the Armenians have suffered, at least in
British estimation, more, perhaps, than from any other supposed
defect.

If I were asked what characteristics distinguish the Armenians
from other Orientals, I should be disposed to lay most stress on a
quality known in popular speech as grit. It is this quality to
which they owe their preservation as a people, and they are not
surpassed in this respect by any European nation. Their
intellectual capacities are supported by a solid foundation of
character, and, unlike the Greeks, but like the Germans, their
nature is averse to superficial methods ; they become absorbed in
their tasks and plumb them deep. There is no race in the Nearer
East more quick of learning than the Persians ; yet should you
be visited by a Persian gentleman accompanied by his Armenian
man of business, take a book down from your shelves, better one
with illustrations, and, the conversation turning upon some subject
treated by its author, hand it to them after a passing reference.
The Persian will look at the pictures, which he may praise. The
Armenian will devour the book, and at each pause in the con-
versation you will see him poring over it with knitted brows.
These tendencies are naturally accompanied by forethought and
balance ; and they have given the Armenian his pre-eminence in
commercial affairs. He is not less clever than the Greek ; but he
sees further, and, although ingrained with the petty vices of all
Oriental traders, the Armenian merchant is quick to appreciate the
advantages of fair dealing when they are suggested by the condi-

1 "The manner in which he (Tergukasoff) handled his men at Taghir on the i6th
of June, when, with eight battalions, he thoroughly defeated the twelve which Mahomed
Pasha opposed to him ; the stubborn resistance with which he checked Mukhtar Pasha's
onslaught on the 21st at Eshek Khaliass ; the gallant retreat which his half division
effected in front of Ahmed Pasha's twenty-three battalions ; and, finally, his dashing
flank march from Igdyr to Bayazid, and the relief of that place in front of two Turkish
corps, both superior to him in numbers, stamp him a general of division of the first class.
Had the Czar many more like him, this war would have been completed a month ago."
C. B. Norman {Times war correspondent), A^-inenia and the Campaign 0/1877, London,
n.d. p. 247. In most cases when Armenians enter the Russian service they Russianise
their names by turning the Armenian termination -ean into the Russian -off, as
Melikean into Melikoff.



Statisfical and Political 467

tions under which his vocation is pursued. A friend with a large
experience of the Balkans, with their heterogeneous urban popula-
tions, has told me, as an interesting fact, that in the statistics of
bankruptcy for those countries the proportion of Armenians
implicated is comparatively low. Inasmuch as such bankruptcies
are usually more or less of a fraudulent nature, the fact indicates
not, perhaps, so much the greater integrity of Armenians, as their
power to resist an immediate temptation and their promptitude
in recognising the monetary value of commercial stability.

But in order to estimate this people at anything like their
true worth, one should study them not in the Levant, with its
widespread corruption, but in the Russian provinces of Armenia.
Here they have most successfully utilised the interval between
the period when the sword of Russia was the sword of the
deliverer and that present-day period when the principles which
inspire her rulers are those of Pan-orthodoxy and Panslavism. I
was so much surprised by the results achieved, and by the con-
trast which was offered between the sterling progress of this
newly-emancipated population and the stagnation and progressive
relapse of their neighbours of different nationality, spread over the
whole wide area of the Nearer Asia, that, without any certain
previous purpose, I resolved to pursue the study further and to
protract the journey into Turkish territory. For what was it that
I saw? In every trade and in every profession, in business and
in the Government services the Armenian was without a rival and
in full possession of the field. He equips the postal service by
which you travel, and if you are so fortunate as to find an inn the
landlord will be an Armenian. Most of the villages in which you
sojourn are inhabited by a brawny Armenian peasantry. In the
towns, if the local governor attaches to your service the head of
the local police, it will be a stalwart Armenian in Russian uniform
who will find you either a lodging or a shady garden in which to
erect your tents. If you remark on the way some well-built
edifice which aspires to architectural design, it will be the work of
an Armenian builder from Alexandropol. In that city itself,
where the Armenians are most numerous, the love of building,
which was so marked a characteristic of their forefathers, has
blossomed again among kinder circumstances ; a spacious cathedral
and several large churches stand among new stone houses fronted
with ambitious facades. In Erivan each richer merchant has
lodeed himself in an as^reeable villa, of which the Italian architec-



468 Armenia

ture rises from the shade of poplars and willows and fruit trees
laden with fruit. The excellent wine which is found in Erivan is
made according to the newest methods by an Armenian who has
studied for two years in Germany the most modern appliances of
the industry in Europe. The monetary transactions of the country
are in the hands of Armenian bankers. The skilled workmen —
jewellers, watchmakers, carpenters— are Armenians. Even the ill-
miened officer of mounted frontier police, whose long association
with the wilder elements — Kurds and robbers of small and large
degree — has lent him the appearance of a chief of brigands, will
bear, not much to its honour, an Armenian name. The large
majority of the people do not speak Russian, or speak it very
imperfectly. Indeed, were it not for the fact that the governors
and chief police officials of large districts are Russians, and that
Cossacks and Russian regular soldiers may here and there be seen,
the traveller would not suspect that he was in a Russian province,
and would go the way he listed with the most serene composure
until he was rudely awakened by some abrupt collision with the
Russian system and brought to his proper mind. As it is,
the Armenian has edged out the Russian, and, if Peace were
allowed her conquests unhindered, he would ultimately rule in the
land.

Such a situation is suggestive ; nor can we feel surprise if the
Armenian has exercised his Oriental imagination upon it in a
manner less prudent than may be calculated to appeal to the
slower veined races of the West. The idea of a modern Armenian
kingdom has set the spark to that national enthusiasm which the
perusal of his historical records has fed. The example of Eastern
Europe has seemed to justify his speculations. When I come to
deal with the Turkish provinces, I shall endeavour to show the
falseness of such premisses ; but I do not believe that any such
details have influenced his somewhat more general conceptions,
and they are not pertinent here. The vision of an independent
Armenian state, could it be realised in a remote future, will not
appeal to all minds alike. Many will see a real danger to human
progress in the creation of these small states. The national
sentiment they would place among those realised ideals upon
which, as our civilisation widens, it is necessary to build anew.
The magnitude of the conflict, should any of the greater nations
enter the arena of war, acts as a wholesome preventive to
ambitions which the small state is prone to indulge on the least



Statistical and Political 469

pretence. The gratification of such ambitions causes bad adminis-
tration and ends in bankruptcy, while few of the advantages which
are offered by a great empire can the people of a little country
enjoy. Such considerations have great weight, and it would
probably be well if, whenever it were practicable, our political
actions were founded upon them ; yet they scarcely indicate a
solution in the present case. The Armenian, who is a convert
to such views, might justly ask in what quarter he should look.
The Turkish Empire will not even protect him, and massacres
its Armenian subjects ; while, should he turn his eyes to Russia,
he sees no prospects of material advantage which would enable
him to rise above the economic stage to which he has already
attained, and surrender to Russian ideals could only be effected
in his opinion at the price of moral and intellectual annihilation.
Confronted with such an outlook, he seeks refuge within himself;
and, should he consult his more sober perceptions, he will labour
in silence and without ostentation to supply the requirements
which his race still needs ; to raise the peasant from his present
degradation, to purify the Church, to promote the interest of his
richer neighbours in work for the common good. These are the
more legitimate ambitions which, however tedious, are certain of
success, and which will establish, whatever be the revolution of
politics, his right to influence the history of his country as
one of the only stable native elements of progress in the Nearer
East.

If, before concluding these reflections, we turn to the broader
issues upon which such questions bear, and, having examined the
comparative failure of Russia in Armenia, consider its significance
to the larger world, we may find that the v'ery strength of the
Russian system as a powerful factor in international life derives
from the self-same character which has denied her victory here.
Had Russia through a natural process of attraction been able to
draw towards her the higher races who stood on her path, she
would have been a greater nation, but perhaps a less formidable
force. Round her she groups the less cultivated peoples — the
nomads of Asia, the wanderers of the steppe — and arms them
with the might of a European organisation which the intellect of
Europe, impressed into her service, perfects as a weapon for her
use. The dangers which such results threaten can only imperil the
improvident and those whose nervous powers are unstrung ; but
the world has not yet advanced sufficiently to render those dangers



4/0 Annenia

unreal. The indolence of mind which shrinks from facing
difficulties and leaves them to solve themselves is not the least
element of weakness in her European neighbours by which
Russia profits and through which she grows ; but the victory
will now as always be given to those states which unite with a
higher civilisation a spirit of enterprise still healthy and powers
still unimpaired.



END OF VOL. I



Pi-'nitid hy R. S: K. Ci.ARK, Limiteij, EdinbuT^h



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Nov. 1^., 1901

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In accoi'dan.ce '.^itn votsr favor

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