H. M Knadjian.

The eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom online

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THE
ETERNAL STRUGGLE



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1



M. H. KNADJIAN






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Armenian Books by Author



THE DANGER

Warning to young people against moral danger.

ARMENIAN HOME
Advice to married people.

VICTIME OF REVOLUTION
Armenians fight for freedon.

THOSE ASLEEP
Description of life after death.

SUNDAY OR SATURDAY
Why Christians keep first day of the week as Lords Day.

THE OTHER WISE MAN
Translated and made in the form of a play.

VARTAN THE GREAT
The story of a historical drama

SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH
A comprehensive religious book in manuscript.



The Eternal Struggle

A WORD PICTURE OF
ARMENIA'S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM




The brave men, living and dead, who STRUGGLED
here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to
add or detract.

Abraham Lincoln



All Rights Reserved



Dedication




THIS BOOK Is DEDICATED

To
MR. K. ARAKELIAN

FOR HIS GENEROUS

CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS

PUBLICATION



Table of Contents

CHAPTER Page

Introduction I to XIV

Preface XV

I Arrival in Constantinople 1

II In Marsovan 7

III The Meeting Place of the Committee

Is Betrayed 13

IV Traitors 21

V Bekir Pasha & the Armenian Leaders 31

VI A Notable Conference 37

VII Sir Philip Currie & the Armenian Question 49

VIII Shadow of Death 59

IX I Am Again In Prison 65

X The Central Prison of Sivas 77

XI The Rescue of Aryan 89

XII A Night of Peril 101

XIII Vengeance 109

XIV I Am Deported to Ourfa 129

XV The Massacre of Ourfa 145

XVI The Aftermath of the Massacre 157

XVII Preparation for Defense 167

XVIII "To Be or Not To Be" 185

XIX Through Blood and Fire 197

XX The Beginning of the End 213



Introduction

There is a tendency in some quarters to lay the blame
of the Turkish atrocities on the Armenians, upon the head of
the Armenian Revolutionaries. It is said that agitators stirred
up the populace against the authorities arbitrarily and for self-
ish reasons. They disturbed the amicable relationship between
the Armenians and Turks and are responsible for the blood-
shed. This theory is advanced either by those who are ignor-
ant of the recent Armenian history, or by others who malici-
ously misrepresent the facts to exonerate the Government.
There is not a shadow of doubt that discontent existed long
before any revolutionary activity was initiated. The whole na-
tion was groaning under the Moslem oppression. . . .
"Hark ! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds
A long low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound."

The Armenian insurrectionary movement started, accord-
ing to Michael Varantian, towards the end of the 17th and
the beginning of the 18th centuries, initiated by the aristoc-
racy and assisted by the clergy. In 1678 a convention was
called in Echmiadzin, by Hagop Catholicos, to consider the
persecution of the Christians in Persia and try to find a way to
redress it. After long deliberation it was decided to send a
delegation to Europe to plead for the help of the Christian
sovereigns. It consisted of six members, three laymen and
three clergymen, under the leadership of the Catholicos him-
self. Among them was a man by the name of Israel Ory, who
claimed to be a descendant of one of the princes of Armenia.
On their way to Europe the Catholicos died and the delegation
was broken up. Ory, however, continued the journey and for
twenty years traveled from country to country, stirring up
interest in the Armenian question. During his itinerary he in-
terviewed the Pope, Louis the fourteenth of France, one of
the princes of Germany, and Peter the Great, the Czar of Rus-
sia. Some of them promised help. But the time was not pro-
pitious. There were rumors of war in Europe and each sov-
ereign was occupied with his own internal worries. Disap-
pointed and heart broken, Israel Ory died in 1711 and was
buried in Astrakhan, Russia.

Then followed Tavit Bey (David Bey), who at first, at



II



the head of a large army, prepared to assist the Russians
against the Persians. But when the Russians retreated with-
out accomplishing their purpose, Tavit Bey continued alone
fighting the enemy. Four years he struggled hard until he
captured his native province and established an independent
principality. Unfortunately, his life was cut short and once
more the Armenian population of the district went under the
yoke of their persecutors.

The Mohammedan rule was especially irritating to our
higher clergy. A number of them openly encouraged the re-
bellious spirit of men at arms. Archbishop Nerses of Ashtar-
ak was the soul of the uprising of 1826-1828. He personally
presided over the enlistment of volunteers and helped to draw
up a plan of campaign. He sent circular letters all over the
country, stimulating the benumbed patriotism of his flock.
"Remember," he said, "the glorious achievements of your fore-
fathers. You are their descendants, the same blood runs in
your veins. How they fought for God and the Church and for
the Homeland. How they sacrificed their lives for freedom.
The time has come to show that we are worthy to bear the
name of our ancestors. Be brave. Fear not. Let us all unite
and together possess the land bequeathed to us by them. Do
not spare the last drop of your blood if need be. May the grace
of God crown your efforts v/ith success." And he, the Arch-
bishop himself, holding in one hand the cross, and the flag in
the other, rushed into the battlefield.

It would be a long story to tell all the vicissitudes of the
war which followed. Enthusiasm was general. Victory was
assured. Once more the major part of Armenia was released
from slavery. But, as in former times, it was a short lived in-
dependence. Russia played false. Malicious and slanderous re-
ports against the Archbishop arrived at the Imperial head-
quarters and he was banished from his native land to spend
the rest of his life in obscurity.

The condition of that part of the country which was un-
der the Turkish domination was no better. Atrocities of all
kinds were perpetrated upon the Christians by their Moslem
neighbors with impunity. The archives of the Patriarchate
in Constantinople are piled high with the petitions of the suf-
ferers asking for redress. It is possible to doubt the heart-
rending descriptions of the ill-treatment endured by the Ar-
menians as being exaggerated. Therefore, I will leave them



Ill



in their resting place undisturbed. No one, however, can dis-
trust the veracity of those disinterested Europeans, who as
agents of their governments, lived in the country and were
eye witnesses of what was going on.

The Duke of Argyll, gathering the official testimonies
of some of the foreign residents, summarizes them in these
words, in his voluminous book on the Eastern Question: "So
far as government is concerned, Asiatic Turkey is simply
chaos. The account given of it by Sir Fenwick Williams in
1854 has been repeated by every competent authority over
and over again, during the four and twenty years which have
since elapsed. Official corruption and Turkish barbarism in
every form of development have been reducing some of the
fairest regions of the earth, and the seat of an ancient civiliza-
tion to a state of growing desolation."

Sir Fenwick Williams was a British general, who bril-
liantly defended Kars against the Russians for six months in
1855. During his residence at Erzeroom he had favorable op-
portunity of becoming acquainted with the condition of the
country. In his report, among other abuses, he lays stress on
the depredations of the Turkish Tax-Gatherers. No language
can portray the infamy which characterized the life and con-
duct of this body of men. They were solely responsible to the
governor, who appointed and dismissed them according to
their desserts, which depended upon their aptitude at robbery
and oppression.

In Europe and America the police is the servant of the
public. He is there to help those who need assistance, to pro-
tect the citizens against criminals, to defend the weak against
the aggressors. In Turkey, the zaptiahs were the dread of the
people, especially the Christian people. They ill treated the
inoffensive. It was best to avoid them. Bribery was rampant.
Do I exaggerate? Here is the testimony of one who claims to
have had a personal knowledge of Turkey, having lived there
for many years as British consul. Mr. Holmes says: "The
Turkish policy is, with much justice, a subject of grievance.
A great many of the men are notoriously bad characters, who
generally have to bribe the colonel and binbashi for admit-
tance to the force and reimburse themselves by extorting
money almost wherever and whenever employed."

As regards the Turkish officials in the provinces, the
condition was deplorable. Ignorance and arbitrariness could be



IV



detected in all their activities. Fanaticism and cruelty typifed
their administration. Bribery and extortion were the only in-
centives to action. Many authenticated facts could be cited
to show the state of affairs in some parts of the Sultan's dom-
inions. . . . One example will suffice. The new Vali, Ismail
Pasha, who had the appropriate nickname of Gourt (wolf)
Pasha, of the province of Diarbekir, soon after he put the ad-
ministrative machinery in working order, exerted himself vig-
orously to recover at least part of the large sum which he had
spent to procure the appointment. He extorted some 40,000
liras by fair means or foul. The wealthy Armenian merchants
were especially his field of operation. It is reported by a Brit-
ish Consul, that he sent his minions to a man of property to
collect an imaginary debt. When they found he was not at
home, they dragged his wife out of her hiding place and strip-
ped her of all the gold ornaments. She was so roughly handled
that she was confined to bed for weeks.

Ambassador Sir Henry Bulwar (1857-1865) in corres-
ponding with his Government expresses himself on this sub-
ject in these historic words: "We cannot conceal from our-
selves what is at the bottom of this irremediable rottenness of
the whole Turkish Government. Without recourse to Euro-
peans, an administration upon a satisfactory basis can never
be organized here. Without recourse to a new race, energy
can never be infused into affairs."

The Armenians have been molested by the Kurdish race
from time immemorial; but it became a terrible menace in
1890, when the "Hamediah Regiment" came into existence. It
was organized by the authorities with the sole purpose of prey-
ing on the Christian farmers, who had lately dared to com-
plain of the depredations of this lawless body of men. A wise
government would have patiently listened to the account of
grievances and ameliorated the condition for the sake of the
revenue, which the treasury derived, if for no other reason.
Instead, the state of affairs was rendered worse by arming
the aggressors and giving them a military standing. After this,
the Christian villagers refrained from making complaints;
for, complaining not only did no good, but brought greater
calamities upon their heads.

Mr. Taylor, the British Consul, in his report (March 19,
I860), relates the following occurrence as an example of the
condition in general; "On my way I stopped at the miserable



village of Pirran on the Boolanik Lake, containing only four-
teen houses, or rather, hovels, although a few years back it
had a population of 500 souls, owning amongst them more
than 1000 head of horned cattle. Now, I had the greatest dif-
ficulty in obtaining the necessary milk for tea.

"The evening before, a Kurd in the service of Boolanik
Kaimakam, a notorious character, only lately released from
prison, aided by six other miscreants of his tribe, the Hassan-
alee, had broken into the house of the village priest, and after
beating him and his son so as to leave them half dead, abduct-
ed the young bride of the latter. She was recovered some ten
days after, and delivered up to her friends, in a most pitiable
state."

Mr. Taylor concludes that in this way great crimes were
committed unpunished; grievous outrages perpetrated unre-
dressed.

It is not possible to fully describe the conflict that could
exist between Christians and Moslems when they have to live
together in the same land, especially if the latter is the abso-
lute reigning party. In its essence, Islamism is intolerant and
exclusive. Its votaries are arrogant, domineering, overbearing.
It was propagated by the sword and would be carried on by
the same means. It is unbelievable but true that the Koran
commands its followers : "And when you meet those who mis-
believe, then strike off heads until you have massacred them
and bind fast the bonds." Christians are infidel dogs, blas-
phemers, gaours. They are considered unclean, to be avoided
from contact, despised. Their evidence against the faithful
could not be tolerated. The only condition to live is abject sub-
mission to Moslem rule. With this notion of superiority incul-
cated from childhood, the Turk has been insufferable and un-
fit for good fellowship.

Another and perhaps the greatest cause of friction be-
tween the Turks and the Armenians was the difference in out-
look towards education. Among the latter, the desire for learn-
ing was keen. Western ideas were spreading rapidly. Taking
advantage of the easy means of communication with Europe
and America, the youth of the Nation came into contact with
peoples of modern notions, of politics, science and religion.
Colleges were established in strategic points in Turkey : Con-
stantinople, Marsovan, Harpoot, Aintab, by the American Mis-
sionaries, by which the Armenian young men and young



VI



women were benefited mostly. These institutions in the course
of time spread their influence upon the whole educational
system. They helped to adopt new methods of teaching, raise
the scholastic standard and kindle a deep yearning for eru-
dition. Pedagogic societies were organized and within a com-
paratively short time in every town and larger village, schools
came into existence for both boys and girls on latest European
principles.

This ill-treatment had been endured too long by the Ar-
menians. From the beginning of the Turkish domination of
the land, the state of affairs had gone from bad to worse. All
efforts by the friends of the administration for improvement
had been of no avail. Even ofter losing some portions of the
empire, the Sultan's government still persisted in its senseless
policy of oppression and reign of terror. At last the awakening
of the people from the slumber of many years took place. It
began at the highest headquarters and spread to the rank and
file of the Nation.

The charge is often brought by Turkish officials and
others that the discontent was fomented by Russian agitators
in the employ of the Czar's government. This has no founda-
tion in fact. It was true that the condition of the Armenians
living on the other side of the border being much better in
every way, made the lot unbearable for those who were suffer-
ing under the Turkish yoke ; but to say that the Russian gov-
ernment employed secret agents to stir up the people, is un-
true. It was intended to divert the attention of Europe from the
intolerable servitude to which Christians were subjected. Had
the Porte taken efficient measures to insure severe and impar-
tial justice, reform the method of taxation, establish equality
between Moslem and Christian, it would have removed exist-
ing disaffection and promoted loyalty.

Again the Armenians were denounced as a rebellious
nation, desiring to institute an independent state in the Turk-
ish empire. This false accusation was brought against them to
justify the harsh treatment that the government undertook to
mete out to them at every complaint. The responsible leaders
of the people never at any time demanded an impossible au-
tonomy. They were satisfied to remain subjects of the Sultan,
under a just and an equitable administration ; to be governed
with moderation and peace : to have security of life and prop-
erty and protection against their lawless neighboring tribes-



VII



men. Could there be a more elementary request that a subject
nation would make to their rulers. This was exactly what the
ambassadors in Constantinople frequently represented to the
Turkish government. The Duke of Argyll says : "All that they
asked was an engagement on the part of Turkey that she
would afford to her people some tolerable government some
administrative system, recognizing the fundamental principles
of civilization and extending to all classes of her subjects some
security for life, religion, property and honor. And even this
obligation it was the aim of the European Powers to impose
on Turkey in the form least obnoxious to the pride and least
offensive to the dignity of the Porte."

Meanwhile a group of writers in verse and prose, spread
patriotic enthusiasm among the Armenian reading public. Fa-
ther Alishan, Nalbandian, Raffi, Badganian, Surwantian, Por-
tugalian, Demirjibashian, Beshiktashian, Ardzrooni and many
others, through their writings, stirred up the slumbering love
of country and inspired hope for freedom. Books, magazines
and weekly papers were published. Lecture halls and audi-
toriums sprang up in many places and able speakers enlight-
ened the people on world affairs. Even in churches, some more
spirited preachers besprinkled their sermons with sentiments
of patriotism.

The question was squarely put before the Nation ; should
these wrongs be patiently endured forever, or something done
to improve the condition? It was not human to put up with
such oppression without complaint. There is a limit to endur-
ance. Some, for reasons of their own, kept silent, others, with
altruistic sentiments, raised their voices in protest.

The honor and responsibility of fearless and formal en-
deavor to bring to the attention of authorities the sufferings
of the Armenians, fairly belongs to one individual. In the high-
lands of Armenia in the monastery of Varak, there lived a
dignitary of the church, by the name of Mugurdich Khrimian,
a man of splendid character, known by the sobriquet, "The
Eagle of Vaspurakan." He assembled a class of young men
in the academy, of which he was the head, and instilled their
susceptible minds with the rudiments of knowledge, the senti-
ments of patriotism. With his newly acquired printing press,
he published a newspaper, in which were described not only
the intolerable condition of the Armenian farmers, but also



VIII



the criminal indifference of the local officials towards these
sufferings.

His fame spread abroad all over the country. He was
popularly known as Khrimian Hairik. When a vacancy occur-
red in the patriarchate in Constantinople in 1869, he was elect-
ed to occupy the chair of the patriarch. The populace in the
capital received him with open arms. In his first speech from
the chair of his high office, he declared : "I dedicate myself to
serve my Nation. You have to promise the same with me. The
Armenians everywhere are expecting from us the rendering
of their condition less heavy. I have promised to them. We
must work hard. You must enter into a mutual obligation with
me towards this end. Do not look upon me merely as the pa-
triarch of Constantinople, I am the personification of the sor-
rows of Armenia. I do not know by what means my predeces-
sors intermediated with the Government to find a remedy for
these afflictions : but my mediation is going to be efficacious."

This speech created a deep impression. The members of
the Council were divided into two groups, ultra conservatives
and liberals. The former, composed mostly of men of sub-
stance, counseling moderation; the latter urging more string-
ent representation with the Government, as they said, all the
legitimate and modest petitions in the past have been ignored.

A committee was elected to prepare a report. Khrimian
urged that the application should include a demand of appoint-
ing Christian officials along with the Moslem authorities, in
the administration of the provinces. When the Kurdish chiefs
realize that the Armenians also are admitted to high office
and have power to punish their misdeeds, they will stop mo-
lesting us. Why should our people as subjects of the Sultan
participate in all the obligations and be deprived of the privil-
ege of protection?

The committee prepared a long report, which was dis-
cussed in the Council for many months. After sundry altera-
tions and mutilations, it was presented to the Sublime Port.
Its style was dignified, but not offensive ; submissive, but not
servile. The Port received it favorably and responded to it by
appointing a mixed Commission to investigate. Hopes were
raised; everybody was elated. Even a superficial inquiry es-
tablished all the allegations of the Report and fully proved the
corruptions complained of. A long document was drawn up
and sent to the Palace for Sultan's signature. It never saw



IX



the light of day again. It rested comfortably with other such
communications forever. Conssequently no step was taken to
check the crimes and the situation in the interior became worse
with every passing year.

To renew the protestations was out of the question.
There were those at that time, as there have been in every
age, who opposed any kind of complaint against the Govern-
ment. Obsequiously compliant to all sorts of indignities, they
were satisfied with the status quo as long as they could make
money and get rich. Such men cannot see beyond their nose
and are insensible to the sufferings of others. Everything is
measured in dollars and cents.

A persecution started against the instigator of this move-
ment. Malicious invectives were thrown at the face of this
holy man of God. Even today, after so many years, there are
critics, who, ignorantly or otherwise, lay the whole blame of
the atrocities and massacres on his white, sacred head, be-
cause he dared raise his voice against the domination and the
insufferable barbarities of an uncivilized government.

Khrimian Hairik, after four years of hard struggle, like
the great apostles, being in perils from his own countrymen,
in perils from the Turks, in labor and travail, despaired of ac-
complishing his purpose, and was compelled to resign. Pathetic
are his last words: "Allow me to vacate this chair," he said
in his resignation, "I could accomplish nothing as a patriarch ;
let me work as a simple Khrimian Vartabed. Say 'Fare you
well, Eagle of Vaspoorakan, go find your beloved Varak and
rest there.' Yes, give me back my peaceful chamber and my
pen : a little tanabour will suffice. Behold the storm-tossed ship
hastens towards haven."

In his successor, Nerses Varjabedian, elected patriarch
in 1874, we find another man of vigorous and courageous char-
acter, He had been with Khrimian throughout all his activity.
He was aware of the attitude taken by the Government against
the numerous complaints lodged with them. He tried another
line of action. About this time "The Ottoman Constitution"
was proclaimed, which promised reforms in all parts of the
Empire. Here was a good chance. To strengthen the hands
of the reformers, he adopted a policy of praising and compli-
menting them. Instead of condemning the higher officials for
the depredations committed in the provinces, he exonerated
them, saying these crimes were perpetrated against the will



of the Central Government. He went so far as to publish an
Edict addressed to the Armenian people, in which he strongly
vindicated the rulers of the country, lavishly praised their
good administration and attributed our national existence to
their beneficial rule. Patriarch Varjabedian was decorated by
the Sultan.

This change of front was supposed to break the antagon-
ism and alleviate the oppression. By flattering declarations, it
was hoped to gain favorable attention. Did it work? It is a
well known historical fact that the whole scheme of reforms
proposed at that time was a fiasco. It was conceived and set
on foot as a screen to blind the eyes of Europe. It was soon
found that, instead of improving the condition of the Christian
people, the state of affairs moved from bad to worse. The very
man who had been mostly responsible for this change of pol-
icy, Hamazasp Ballarian, a genuine turcophile, once more
stood up in the Council Chamber and spoke, but this time in
a different tone. He had gone out recently touring through
the country and had seen with his own eyes the extortions
practiced by the Kurds upon the Armenians. He related how


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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 1 of 21)