H. M Knadjian.

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

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the chiefs of the Kurdish tribes subject the Christian farmers
to all kinds of outrages with impunity, very often in conjunc-
tion with the Valis and Mutasarifs. "When I asked a Vali
why these culprits were not kept under control, for which he
had sufficient number of troops, instead of being licensed to
plunder and pillage, he answered that it was the Secret of the
Government. I did not at first understand the meaning of
this assertion; but afterwards, a friendly official explained to
me that the Kurds were permitted to harass the Armenians
by incessant attacks, in order to hold them down and allow
them no chance to rebel."

This has been the policy of the Turkish administration
from the beginning Instead of alleviating the oppression, to
intensify it, in order to stop complaining. This is the policy
of all tyrants all over the world. It has always ended in disas-

These were critical times for Turkey. The armies of the
Czar were knocking at the gates of Constantinople. The Rus-
sian Commander-in-Chief had encamped at San Stefano and
was dictating the terms of peace. The Sultan was ready to
accept any kind of humiliating terms, if he could only keep
the hereditary enemy out of the Capital.


It was under these circumstances that the Armenian lead-
ers took a decisive step, which had a far reaching effect upon
the future of the nation. The temptation was great. The vic-
torious Moscovite, the defender of the suffering Christians in
the Turkish Empire, had arrived in the vicinity. He would, no
doubt, enter Constantinople, possess the long coveted straits
and extend his protecting arms all over the country. In a way,
it was a good policy to offer welcome to the conqueror. Be-
sides, they were desperate. They had employed every legiti-
mate means to relieve the people from their oppressors, with
no result. They must do something. A godsend savior was
standing at the door. Who would not invite him in?

Patriarch Varjabedian, therefore, in obediance to the gen-
eral feeling and with the consent of the Armenian National
Council, sent a delegation to the Russian Headquarters, to
ask Prince Nicholas to take the Amenian question into con-
sideration in the peace negotiations. This appeal was not over-
looked. Article 16th was inserted in the Treaty of San Stefano.

But the Russians did not advance farther. Under the pres-
sure of the Concert of Europe, led by Great Britain, they re-
treated. Later in the same year (1878), the Congress of Berlin
waa convened to reconsider the Treaty of San Stefano. Here
again Varjabedian had his representatives to plead the cause
of Armenia. But the delegates of the Great Powers would not
even listen to them. The only thing they did was to change
the 16th article into the 61st article of the Berlin Treaty,
which instead of improving the former, made it less effective.
Taking away the duty of supervising on the reforms in Turkey
from one Power, it laid it on six Powers. The responsibility
was divided. Everybody's business, it was nobody's business.

Deep disappointment prevailed on all sides. The situa-
tion became in a marked degree more serious. It seemed as if
we had added treason on our rebellious discontent by appeal-
ing to foreigners for help. The Government viewed our con-
duct in this light. The Grand Vizier openly declared that the
Armenians, instead of assisting the State in times of peril,
went over to the enemy and tried to betray their soverign.
What has Europe to do with our internal affairs?

Underlying these remarks a definite threat could be de-
tected. I am fully convinced that the embryo of the plan for
wholesale destruction of the Armenians formed itself at this
time in the minds of Abdul Hamid and his advisors. Later


events of a bloody nature in Alashkert, Erzeroom and Con-
stantinople, conclusively demonstrated this fact, where, ac-
cording, to one investigator, "there was not a semblance of
revolt; the inhabitants were perfectly peaceable, and the at-
tack on them was as cruel and wanton a deed as could well
have been commited."

The answer of the Turkish Government to the 61st article
of the Berlin Treaty was to increase the pressure on the Ar-
menians. Censorship of the press became more rigorous. The
entrance of foreign journals and magazines into the country
was prohibited; even the text books in English and French
languages were turned down. An army of spies, in the Capital
and in the larger cities of the Provinces, kept the authorities
posted with what was going on ; one could not speak his mind
in a public place for fear a spy might be listening. The higher
schools and colleges especially were under the ban; the in-
structors were molested ; the students arrested and imprisoned.
Even the churhces were not free from suspicion; doubtful
words and sentences of the preacher were reported ; sometimes
religious expressions were grotesquely distorted, giving them
treasonable meaning. Leaving the country for foreign ports
was forbidden; traveling in the interior became a tortuous af-
fair ; at every police station, your passport was examined, your
pockets were searched, any papers and letters that you pos-
sessed were confiscated, and not infrequently, your purse was
abstracted. Protest was worse than useless. It endangered
your life. Highway robbery, holdups, raids, cattle stealing,
plunder, rapine, kidnapping and abduction of women continued
unrestricted, with a vengeance.

After the failure of the work of both the patriarchs
Khrimian and Varjabedian a withering criticism started
against them and their activities. They were held responsible
for the deplorable happenings. They were blamed for the non-
fulfillment of their expectations. They were denounced as in-
competent, unfitted to manage the affairs of the Nation. A
good chance was created for the turcophile element to censure
them as the cause of all of these sufferings. We were well off
and comfortable until these disturbers of the peace came to
power. Some of them went so far as to charge Patriarch Var-
jabedian of acts of treachery, just as the Vizier had done before
them, calling him a traitor.

Nerses Varjabedian a traitor! A man of rare patriotic


spirit to be accused of treason! A Turk may be excused for
calling him a traitor ; but for an Armenian to see in his activ-
ity any thing but the outcome of a consuming love for his
people, is to sink to the lowest depth of infamy. Varjabedian
was a man of iron character. Did he not withstand Abdul
Hamid, when the latter ordered him to call back his represent-
atives from Berlin? "I would rather be hanged over the gate
of the Patriarchate than recall the Armenian delegation from
the Berlin Conference," he answered.

However, the situation was tragic. His position was un-
tenable. There was only one way left open for him to follow.
Disappointed, heartbroken, he stood up and tendered his res-
ignation with these historic words ; "Answer me, you deputies
of the people, is it not the cause of the Nation that I presented
to the attention of the Powers? Speak! Would you have for-
given me, if your Patriarch had remained unconcerned, at a
time like this, when the fate of the Christian peoples of the
Turkish Empire was under consideration to be settled? Tell
me, would the spirits of our forefathers from Haig to our
last King, Levon; from Gregory the Illuminator to the last
Nerses have pardoned me, if I had not, in spite of every ob-
stacle, caused the cry of the Nation to reach as far as Europe?
I demand your formal vote of confidence. Answer me with
your unanimous voice. This is a case in which the voice of the
Council must be unanimous."

After enumerating the benefits to the Nation from mak-
ing the Armenian question an international affair, he goes on
to exhort the deputies to carry on the work thus begun. "Such
a work cannot be accomplished in one day, nor by the agency
of one man. Let us unite our efforts and be prepared for the

Poor Varjabedian! He could not get a unanimous vote.
How could he, with so many ultra conservative members?
Still he was genuinely optimistic. He could not foresee that he
was dealing with a barbarous enemy and Machiavelian friends.

After him, a conservative churchman occupied the patri-
archal chair. Hamid told him plainly that the Armenians would
not see the day of freedom until the religion of Islam was
destroyed in the country.

It was under these circumstances that a movement was
discernible among the younger generation. The revolutonary
ideas were gaining ground rapidly. In various localities tenta-


tive attempts were made to organize, but nothing definite
came out of them. A serious effort was made in 1886, in Lon-
don, to form a secret society; this also proved a failure. The
ground was not yet ready. It paved the way, however, two
years later, in 1888. to organize the Hunchakian Party.

It was bound to come. There was no other door left open.
Every peaceable means had been used without success. As
faithful subjects, we had appealed to our rulers for redress.
Again and again, our petitions had been laid aside. Nothing
unreasonable was requested just elementary justice. And
yet, our suit was ignored; our entreaties fell on deaf ears.
Driven to despair, we applied, when the occasion presented
itself, to the Christian Powers for succor. Here, also, we were
turned down. Instead of assisting us, they callously bargained
over our sufferings for more concessions from the Sultan.
What else was there for us to do? Could the wiseacre critics
of the revolution answer? Of course, there are those who
would be willing to submit to all kinds of indignities for the
sake of a few liras ; but who could guarantee that all will think
in the same way? The youth of the nation, especially those
who had come into contact with European civilization, found
the regime intolerable. They flocked around the new idea.
Duke of Argyll says : "When those Public Societies, which are
called Governments, fail in their duty, and abdicate their
proper functions, that Secret Societies find their opportunities
of action."

Two years later, in 1890, the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation came into existence. Suspecting from various signs
what was in store for us, these two organizations undertook
to prepare the people for self defense. Their foresight was
justified. The fiendish plan of Abdul Hamid began to unfold
itself, namely, to solve the Armenian question by annihilating
the Armenian Nation. The heroisms exhibited in repelling the
onslaughts of the Turkish hordes by the Revolutionists in
some localities are the bright beacons in our history of those
dark and dismal years, between 1894 and 1915.
"It is enough in sooth that once we bore
These fardels of the heart the heart whose sweat was gore."


This book is not an autobiography, although the story is told
in the first person. It does not claim to be a work of art or
literature : it is testimony of a great tragedy.

My experiences imprisonment and deportation with their
attendent perils are real. Nothing is exaggerated. Some
parts may sound sensational, but sensationalism was not my
intention. The cruelties and outrages committed against de-
fenseless victims may seem unbelievable, but they are true.
The heroism and selfsacrifice manifested by some of the de-
fenders can be classed with the greatest and most sublime
achievements of history. Facts are often stranger than fiction.
The hero and the heroine are fictitious. Dikran Aryan repre-
sents many devoted leaders of the revolution who lived during
the period between 1895-1915. Arusag Ananian is the incarna-
tion of the loyalty and faithfulness of her sex, manifested un-
der most trying circumstances; she is the personification of
Armenian women, who willlingly sacrificed their lives to keep
their honor unsullied.

Encounters between the Turks and the revolutionaries, similar
to those related in this book, actually occurred at different
times and in different places.

The names of the towns and villages are not changed.
The massacres of 1895-6 in Armenia; and those of 1906 in
Cilicia, are undeniable historical facts, authenticated by of-
ficial reports of various consuls to their respective govern-

The deportation of the Armenian population to the deserts of
southern Turkey under the pretext of military necessity, dur-
ing World War I, is well known in Europe and America.
Many are the witnesses who have on record the utmost suffer-
ings of helpless women and children.

The resistance of the Armenians of Ourfa against deportation
and the consequent struggle against overwhelming numbers
and eventual annihilation are recorded in the annals of the
Turkish government.

M. H. K.



Through me the <way is to the city dolent;
Through me the <way is to eternal dole;
Through me the <way among the people lost.
All hope abandon, ye 'who enter in!


It was the autumn of 1894.

A motley crowd had gathered in the station square
Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Circassians, Bulgarians and
others when I arrived in Constantinople from Paris by the
Orient Express. Officers and aides, surrounded by soldiers,
were expecting a passenger. It was rumored that a prince of
the Imperial House of Austria was coming to visit his majesty,
Sultan Abdul Hamid. After the customary ceremonies of wel-
come, the cavalcade, led by the military band, started towards
the Yildiz palace.

Until that moment the other passengers were not allowed
to alight. When the time came to leave the station the police
at the entrance began to examine the passports of those who
were coming from Europe. Taking my handbag, I presented
myself, with others, before the officer without having any
sense of danger. When he found out that I was an Armenian
and was coming from England, he told me to wait.

One by one the passengers left the station and I was left
alone. One of the policemen approached me and taking the
satchel from my hand told me to follow him.

At the police headquarters I was invited to sit down. Lat-
er I was led to the chief of police. My name, occupation and
birth place were recorded. When I was asked why I went to
England, what I was doing there and with whom I had associ-
ated, I answered without hesitation. I was sent back to the
same room to wait. Hours passed. The time was getting late,
and yet permission to leave was not granted me. Calling one
of the officers, I inquired the reason for this delay. The man
was astonished at my incredulity. With a faint smile he said,
"My friend, do you not know that those who enter a Turkish
bath will not come out without sweating?" I did not under-
stand what he meant. The saying was an enigma to me.

When all the offices in the building were deserted and
darkness began to fall, the same officer came to me and polite-
ly said : "The time is late ; the Pasha desires that you stay with


us tonight as our guest." He led me to a large hall and, open-
ing the door, ordered me to enter. The place was dimly light-
ed. At first I could see nobody, but when my eyes got used
to the darkness, I was able to discern about a score of men
scattered all over the big room.

There were among them Armenians and Turks. I was
careful not to associate with any of them, not from pride, but
for fear of compromising myself. A young man, however,
attracted my attention. He was well-dressed, and had clean
cut features and a superior bearing. He did not look like an
ordinary prisoner. Encouraged by my attention he approached
and desired to make my acquaintance. After giving our names
to each other, we began to converse. When he learned that I
was coming from England, he told me that he had been in
England also and that he had studied architecture in the Unit-
ed States. Thinking that he could use his profession in this
country and that he could make a living among his own coun-
trymen, he came to Turkey and, like myself, was arrested and
detained in this place. He had signed an application for a posi-
tion in the public works department of the government and
expects to get out within a short time.

The name of my fellow prisoner was Dikran Aryan. A
man of high education, he spoke English and French fluently.
His manners were gentlemanly, his speech cultivated. He was
tall and well-built, with broad, square shoulders and strong,
muscular arms. His skin was fair, his hair dark and wavy and
he had black fiery eyes. He was twenty-five years of age.

He was well-informed on political questions, but evident-
ly spoke with reservation. He avoided talking about revolu-
tionary matters, but one could see that he knew all about that
recent movement. From the first a friendship was established
between us which lasted to the end.

Gradually I became acquainted also with other Armen-
ian prisoners. Some were arrested for minor offences. Some
had quarreled and disturbed the peace. There was one, a teach-
er, whose only crime had been that one of his pupils had
written a verse for exercises in which he had lauded national

Several days passed in this way. I was waiting for the
police authorities to discover that I had done nothing that
deserved punishment and release me. I had friends in Constan-
tinople, but they did not know I had arrived and was in pris-


on. The American missionaries had invited me to take up the
pastoral work in Scutari, but they had not been advised of my
arrival. I wanted to send word to them, but how?

On the third day of my imprisonment, a policeman open-
ed the door and called out, "Dikran effendi." Aryan stood up
at once and answered, "Here." "You are wanted upstairs,"
said the policeman. Dikran took up his satchel and prepared
to leave. When he shook hands with me and said goodby he
added that his application had been accepted.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Did you not hear what the policeman said? He called
me effendi. They do not give that title to a prisoner."

I asked him to call at the American Bible House and to
tell the missionaries and the Ascabed (the head of the pro-
testant community) of my arrival and imprisonment. This
he promised to do and went out. I heard afterwards that he
was appointed as one of the architects on the construction of
the new bridge.

On the following day I was called to the headquarters of
the police department. There I saw an American gentleman,
evidently a missionary, who greeted me in Turkish and offer-
ed me a seat. He was a stranger to me. He had a piece of
paper in his hand and was trying to explain its contents to
the chief of police. It was the notes for one of my English
sermons, in which I had pointed out the attitude of Christ
against war as one of the benefits that Christianity had
brought to the world. This sentence had become a stumbling
block to the Turkish censors. They had given it a revolution-
ary import. There were other words too, which they had twist-
ed out of their original meaning.

The missionary could not convince the Chief that the
sentence was harmless and I was ordered back to the prison.
Before I left the room, I spoke to the missionary in English
and told him that there is a letter of introduction for Judge
Tarring in Constantinople which the Turkish authorities had
confiscated with my other belongings. "Kindly let him know,"
I said.

As soon as Judge Tarring heard that there was a letter
addressed to him at the police headquarters, he sent his drag-
oman and demanded it.

When I was called again to the Chief's office I knew
that I was free because the title "effendi" was attached to my


name. There I saw an Englishman of imposing appearance
who, turning to me, asked, "Are you Reverend Knadjian?" "I
am," I answered. Then through his interpreter he explained to
the functionaries present that I was recommended by influen-
tial persons in England and that there was no doubt whatso-
ever about my innocence. He peremptorily ordered my release.

"Pack ayee,*Effendi," answered the Pasha. "Very well,

Judge Tarring took me in his carriage and left me at the
Bible House. I was free.

I visited the American missionaries, who were glad to
see that I was out of prison. They made arrangements for my
new pastorate in the church in Scutari and assisted me in
finding a place to stay. Specially Mr. W. W. Peet, the Treas-
urer of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions, was kindliness itself. He did everything possible to
make my stay in Constantinople comfortable.

Before leaving the Bible House, I called on our Ascabed
whom I knew personally. When he saw me, his first question
was, "For what act of disloyalty were you imprisoned?"

I was astonished!

"For no act of disloyalty whatsoever," I answered.

"How could that be?" he insisted.

"I do not know," I said. "I am not aware of any violation
of the law on my part."

He shook his head; he would not believe me. Without
waiting for further elucidation, he began to lecture me on the
duty of obeying the laws of the country.

"My dear sir," he continued, "you should not do this
thing. It is not right. Every government has its shortcomings.
Should the people rebel because of that? Especially we, Ar-
menians, a subject nation, living with other nationalities un-
der the rule of the Sultan, should be more careful. How can
we expect to rise against the mighty Ottoman Empire? More-
over the pastors and priests, the religious leaders of the people,
should not allow themselves to be involved with political af-
fairs. It is beyond their sphere of activity. For a minister of
the Gospel of peace to be found in acts of rebellion is unpar-
donable." He was trying to warn me against revolutionary ac-
tivity of which I was not guilty. He was blaming me for acts
which I had never committed or even thought of committing.

I listened to him patiently to the end, but I was stirred


deeply. After the recent treatment which I had received at the
hands of the Turks, to be taken to task by our official head
made my blood boil. I knew that he had dealings with the
Turkish government and entertained friendly feelings towards
the Turks, but to be so blinded by personal interests that he
could not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent was
intolerable. Throwing aside all caution, I said:

"Ascabed Effendi, you are talking to me as if I am a
dangerous revolutionist. I do not understand what has caused
you to suspect me. I never have taken part in revolutionary
work. I have never had rebellious thoughts against the govern-
ment. I went to England to study theology. I had neither
time nor the disposition for national questions. Your accusa-
tions are absolutely groundless. I am not guilty. But I tell
you this. My feelings have undergone a change since I entered
Turkey. I came to this country with no revolutionary ideas.
I can even declare that I was indifferent towards politics. The
Turkish government is responsible for this change. If there
are Armenians who are dissatisfied with the present system
of government and are rebelling against oppression and tyrany,
I give them credit and sympathize with them."

My stay in Constantinople, however, became irksome.
At no time was I free from molestation. Detectives were
watching my every move. Once every two weeks I had to re-
port to the Police Headquarters. They would ask questions
in the attempt to trap me. My letters were opened and the con-
tents were noted. I was unhappy.



For when men lose the joys that sweeten life,

I cannot deem they live, but rather count

As if a breathing corpse. His heaped up stores

Of wealth are large, so be it, and he lives

With all a sovereign's state; and yet, if joy

Be absent, all the rest I count as nought,

And would not weigh them against pleasure's charm,

More than a vapor's shadow.


I was entertaining the idea of tendering my resignation
and returning to England, when a man arrived from Marsovan
on personal business. He came to see me and reported that,
before he left, the Armenian Evangelical Church of that city
held a congregational meeting and decided to call me to take
up the pastoral work there, and had commissioned him to de-
liver this invitation personally.

I did not answer him immediately. I did not know wheth-
er or not to accept the call. Since I felt unsafe in the capital
where I could elude arrest more easily, it would certainly be
fraught with danger to live in one of the interior cities of the

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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 2 of 21)