Krikor Behesnilian.

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iLWCt^ JJcX^J^ft^'^l^



an armenian'0 iBjrpenenccs,


Rev. Krikor Behesnilian,

AtUhor of '•'■ No Mean City."



Office of ®lje (Jljristian,


And may be Ordered of any Bookseller.

"The Armenians are the representatives ot one of the oldest
civilized Cliristian races ; and beyond all doubt one of the most
pacific, one of the most industrious, and one of the most intel-
ligent races in the world." — Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone
{Speech at Chester).

" Originally a brave and warlike people, the Armenians have
become distinguished for their peaceful character, and their sub-
missiveness to the government of every country in which they
live." — Encyclop^:dia Britannica.

"A remarkably strong bond exists among the Armenians as a
people. There are no people in the world among whom the
family tie is stronger or more respected, and there are certainly no
people in the East among whom the position of women is so
exalted."— The Late Captain James Creagh (ist Royals).

/■■' —


I BERT Y and freedom are words which
^1 sound sweet in one's ear. Man, the
Creator's highest handiwork, possesses a

■^yS) desire for religious as well as civil liberty.

Those who live in a free land scarcely realize
the privileges they enjoy. But when one who has
spent most of his life in a country under oppression
is permitted to taste the social, political, and re-
ligious liberty enjoyed in Britain, he recognizes
more fully what a degrading thing it is to be
under the oppressor's yoke.

Mr. Gladstone, in a speech at Chester, remarked
as follows : " The Armenians are the representa-
tives of one of the oldest civilized Christian races ;


iv preface.

and beyond all doubt one of the most industrious
and one of the most intelligent races in the

An Armenian by birth, and having lived almost
the whole of my life among my people, I think
I may claim to be in a position to lay before
the world the facts here given, which, I believe,
will throw further light on this sadly- interesting





Armenia — Past and Present 7

chapter ii.

The Evangelist among the Protestant

Churches in Cilicia 17

chapter iii.
Medical Relief Work 29

chapter iv.
Arrest and Imprisonment 32

chapter v.
Fire and Sword in Armenia 39

chapter vi.
A Typical Armenian Town 46

chapter vii.

Armenia and the Powers 55

chapter viii.
Armenia's Greatest Need 58

chapter ix.
The Remnant 61

O H- Z Q ^
< U) — U C^

w a ^ t i^

5 !

^rnwnia— ^aat anh ^xtzmt

x\NY of the countries which were once glorious
are now buried under ruins ; whilst others have
almost lost their importance. Armenia, how-
ever, is one which, although deprived of its
former grandeur, has recently attracted the
attention of the civilized world ; and every one
who is interested in its people is anxious for their deliver-

Armenia, the Minn i of the Scriptures (Jer. li. 27), originally
extended from Caucasia on the north, to the mountains of
Kurdistan on the south ; and from Asia Minor on the
west to near the Caspian on the east. Mount Ararat, on
which the Ark rested, was near its centre. The country is,
therefore, of great historic interest, although its unity is
now destroyed. It formerly comprised the territory now
occupied by the Turkish vilayet (province) of Erzerum,
part of Diarbekir (Kara Amid), the Russian trans-Caucasian
provinces, and part of the Persian province of Azerbaijan.
Armenians, as a nation, embraced Christianity at an early
age, when, in the year 302, King Tiradates was baptized by
St. Gregory the Enlightener, and his subjects became
Christians in a mass.

St. Gregory was indeed an Armenian of royal descent,
who, having been brought up in Caesarea, was there

8 Armenia — past antr ^tzsznl,

educated in the religion of Jesus. For a time he had
endured much persecution, and even bodily torture, for
refusing to unite in idolatrous worship. By the blessing of
God, however, upon his persevering exertions, a Christian
Church was formed in Armenia, over which he was
ordained bishop.

Armenia was once powerful and glorious. Solitary ruins,
silent and deserted, speak of past greatness, notably the
wonderful remains of the dead city, Ani, in the plain of
Kars. Armenia was governed at a very remote period by
its own king ; but the earliest historical record is that of a
dynasty in the sixth century B.C. In B.C. 328 the kingdom
was conquered by one of the generals of Alexander the
Great. The Romans in their conquest of the country ex-
tended it and divided it into Greater and Lesser Armenia,
the dividing line being the River Euphrates. The last king
of Armenia, Leon VI., was taken prisoner by the Saracens
at Gaban in a.d. 1375, after a vigorous defence of his city.
He was imprisoned in Egypt for six years ; and being
subsequently released, travelled through Europe, visiting
London and afterwards Paris, where he died, 1393. From
this time Christianity made way in the country, in spite of
all the efforts put forth by the Persians and other nations to
extinguish it.

'* With the introduction of Christianity a great develop-
ment of literary activity took place, which chiefly expended
itself, however, in translation from the Syriac and Greek.
Armenian students were found in Athens and Byzantium,
Alexandria and Rome ; and some of them attained celebrity
in their chosen pursuits. To this tendency we owe the
preservation, in Armenia, of many works that have perished
in their original languages ; such are the Chronicle of
Eusebius, some of the works of Philo, Bardesanes, Faustus
of Byzantium, Lerubna of Edessa, etc. The fifth century
was one of the most flourishing periods of Armenian

3ntroimction of ©IjrtBtianitj. 9

literature. It was then that Mesrob accomplished that
modification and development of the Armenian alphabet,
which has frequently procured him the honour of being
regarded as its inventor. The Old Testament was trans-
lated from the Septuagint by Isaac, or Sahak, the patriarch.
These learned men were succeeded by a number of worthy
disciples, such as Eznig of Golp (Kogkb), Goriun, the
biographer of Mesrob, and David the Invincible, a keen
student of Greek philosophy, who has left us ' Philosophical
Definitions' and 'Translations from Aristotle.' . . . . The
study of the Armenian language and literature by the
savants of Western Europe has shared in the general
development of Indo-European philology."*

In the sixth century the Armenian Church separated from
the other Christian churches of the East by adopting
Monophysite doctrines, and rejecting the decrees of the
council of Chalcedon, a.d. 451. From that time frequent
attempts were made to effect a union with Rome,
who made, and is making, strenuous efforts, by sending
zealous missionaries, to increase the number of her
adherents. The Armenian Catholic Church, however,
which first became a separate community towards the end
of the sixteenth century, has always been a small body.

After having been overrun by Mongols, Persians, and
Turks, Armenia passed from Persian rule into the power of
Turkey early in the seventeenth century. The country has
since become divided into several vilayets, one of which
bears the name of the ancient kingdom. The climate of
the region is varied, the table-lands being cold, and the
valleys in summer being subject to seasons of great heat.
The country has many fertile regions ; and possessing a
large number of lakes, is easily able to produce grain,
grapes, cotton, and fruits of various kinds. Manufactures
are not advanced to any great degree.

* Encyclopadia Britannica.

lo Armenia — ^ast ants ^ttstnt.

The present race of Armenians are found in all parts of
the Turkish Empire, and are a people of Caucasian type,
speaking a language of the Aryan family. It has been
estimated that there were 4,000,000 of Armenians in
the world, scattered through various nations, upwards of
1,200,000 being resident in Russia.

The Armenians have two languages — the ancient and
modern tongues — differing completely from one another.

Lesser Armenia has a unique claim upon the Christian
Church. From one of its provinces, Cilicia, came the great
Apostle of the Gentiles, Saul of Tarsus, whose writings form
so large a portion of the New Testament, and who was
chosen by the Lord Himself to stand in the front rank of
the early champions of the Christian faith.

England is specially indebted to Cilicia; for, in the
seventh century, Theodore of Tarsus became Archbishop of
Canterbury, and earnestly laboured to promote a high
standard of Christian living in this country.

The history of Cilicia is profoundly interesting, both from
a classical and biblical point of view. The province was a
centre of intellectual activity and culture, while its capital —
Tarsus — possessed one of the three great universities of the
ancient world. From this university came Nestor, the tutor
of Tiberius, and other tutors for Imperial Roman families.
Tarsus was also a great centre of trade ; " a point of union
for all the learned and rich of the east and west " (Basil).
Strabo says : " Rome is full of learned men from Tarsus."
Here Mark Antony had his first interview with Cleopatra ;
and Julius Caesar spent some time in the city. In the
civil wars it supported him ; and he bestowed upon it
the title of Juliopolis. Augustus also made it a " free city."

Tarsus is still an important city, having a population
of about 25,000. The natural features remain unchanged;
fertile plains still surround it ; the snow-clad Taurus moun-
tains look down upon the town ; and the bright stream

" £ia iKcan (Kitij." n

of Cydnus rushes through the city on its way to the
Mediterranean. Tent makers are still to be seen in its
streets weaving the rough waterproof hair cloth on their
simple looms, as in the days when the great Apostle to
the Gentiles engaged in this occupation. Indeed, one is.
constantly taken back in thought to the days of old.

The city is partially surrounded by a wall. Some of the
houses are built of stone. The principal edifices are a
castle built by Bayazeed, several mosques, public baths, and
an ancient church, now a mosque. The tomb of Sardan-
apalus, King of Assyria (who is said to have been the
founder of Tarsus), is a vast mass of stone 300 feet long,
140 feet broad, and 20 feet high. It is surrounded by a
wall, and the enclosure is used as an Armenian cemetery.
The finest modern building is the new Armenian Church.

Cilicia is now partly represented by the modern vilayet
of Adana, extending over 14,222 square miles, and having
a population of about 330,000. In recent times Adana,
the capital of the vilayet of the same name, is the most
important town in the province, and is estimated to contain
40,000 inhabitants. Mersina (ancient Zephirium) is the
seaport, and thirty-six miles by railway south-west of Adana;,
the population is 9,000. Five miles west are the ruins of
ancient Soles, afterwards Pompeiopolis. Among other •
historical towns in the province of Cilicia, Misis and
Sis may be mentioned. Misis, the ancient Mopsuestia
(Mamistra of the Crusaders), is situated on the Jihun,.
seventeen miles east of Adana, and contains a population
of 2,000. Sis, which is forty-four miles north-east of Adana,
is the religious capital of the Turkish Armenians, and
possesses a large monastery on the summit of a hill, built
like a fortress on the site of the royal palaces, where the
kings of Armenia resided from 1182 to 1374. Payas, a
maritime town, is fifty-five miles east-south-east of Adana,.
and situated on the east side of the Gulf of Alexandretta^

12 Armenia — ^aat attb present.

which, prior to the massacres, contained a population of
6,300, of whom the majority were Christians. Osmanie is
fifty-three miles east of Adana, having a population of about
10,000, the majority being Mohammedans.

The vilayet of Aleppo, which forms the northern
•extremity of Syria, and which extends from the Mediter-
ranean to the Euphrates, is closely connected, both
igeographically and commercially, with the vilayet of Adana.
The vilayet of Aleppo contains numerous cities, the principal
being Aleppo (the capital), Aintab, and Marash. Aleppo,
•or Haleb, is one of the chief centres of trade in the
Ottoman Empire. The city is situated on the Koeik
((ancient Chalus), and seventy miles on the east of the
Mediterranean. It rose to importance on the destruction of
Palmyra, and became the great emporium of trade between
Europe and the East. Its manufactures are silks, cottons,
gold and silver thread stuffs ; and trade is chiefly in the
hands of the Christians — Armenians, Greeks, Maronites,
Syrians, and Europeans. The present population is
•estimated to be 127,000. Large caravans arrive from
Baghdad, Diarbekir, Mosul, Kurdistan, and Armenia.
The trade with Europe is carried on principally by
Alexandretta, the seaport of the vilayet, which is situated in
the angle between Asia Minor and Syria, and which has an
■excellent anchorage. Average value of exports (wheat,
native manufactures, wool, &:c.) is about ;!^i, 000,000 ; of
imports (mainly European goods, &c.), about ;^i, 500,000.
The population of Alexandretta is estimated at upwards of
10,000, Christians being in the majority. During summer
the Consuls and other Europeans reside at Beilan, which is
SIX miles south of Alexandretta. Marash stands about
2,000 feet above the sea. Zeitoon, which is situated
168 miles north of Aleppo, and thirty-six miles from Marash,
stands 2,700 feet above the sea. It has a population of
-between 8,000 and 9,000 Armenians.

progress in Cilicia. 13;

In addition to its ancient importance, Cilicia has made
remarkable progress in Protestantism during the last three-
quarters of a century. Prior to the recent massacres, there
were in Asia Minor about 120 native Evangelical Churches,,
most of which were self-supporting. These Churches com-
prised 40,000 native Protestants, of whom upwards of
15,000 belonged to the native Cilician Evangelical Churches-
within the provinces of Adana and Aleppo, and were mainly-
drawn from the Armenian Church ; but having been led to~
see the errors of their early faith they embraced the Gospel.

At the introduction of Protestant Christianity the-
Armenian Protestants had to endure much persecution
from the Armenian Churches, especially from its clergy.
In 1823 Messrs. Lewis and Baker, agents of the Bible
Society, having applied to the Armenian Patriarch at
Constantinople for his sanction to the printing of a version
of the New Testament in the modern Armenian language,.
which the common people understood, that dignitary refused
his sanction in the most positive terms; and his example was.
followed by the clergy generally.

The interesting circumstance which first led the American^
Board of Missions to send missionaries to labour among;
the Armenians, was the conversion at Beyrout of three
Armenian ecclesiastics, who directed their efforts towards-
the accomplishment of a reform in their Church. They
were greatly aided in this by the labours of Peshtimaljian, a
learned and conscientious individual, who, until his death
in 1838, was at the head of a school established within the
precincts of the Patriarchate. He instructed great numbers
of priests, who went forth to labour among the people, with
minds thoroughly imbued and their hearts deeply impressed
with evangelical truth. The missionaries were greatly aided'
by Sahakyan, a pupil in the school of Peshtimaljian.

In the autumn of 1844 the appointment to the Patri-
archate of Constantinople of Matteos, Bishop of Smyrna,.

14 ^rmcnin— |Jaat Rnb present.

proved to be a great hindrance to the diffusion of Protestant
truth. His object was to crush, if possible, the Evangelical
party. Coercive measures were adopted, and the first
individual selected to be the subject of this bold experiment
was the priest Vartanes, who had been the unwearied pro-
moter of Evangelical truth, and had already suffered banish-
ment for his religious principles. The patriarch caused all
the Protestants in general, and the priest in particular, to
suffer severe persecution ; but the British Ambassador
represented the case of the oppressed and persecuted
Armenian converts to the Sultan, and by his earnest and
persevering exertions in their behalf, Raschid Pasha, the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave orders that the Protestants
should be allowed to resume their business on condition
that they became sureties for one another. This arrange-
ment settled, for the time being, the question of religious
liberty for the Protestants in Turkey. The first Evangelical
Armenian Church of Constantinople was formed on July ist,
1846. The Turkish Government — chiefly at the instigation
of Lord Cowley, who was temporarily acting as British
Ambassador to the Porte — issued an imperial decree on
the 15th November, 1847, recognising native Protestants
as constituting a separate and independent community in
Turkey. On the i8th February, 1856, the Sultan issued
a Firman, conferring equal rights, civil and religious, on
all the subjects of his empire. For some time past the
hostile attitude of the Armenian clergy toward the Protestants
has ceased, and there now exists a happy friendship between
the two communities.

The Gregorian Armenian Churches are regularly opened
twice every day, morning and evening, for prayer. Mass is
frequently performed in the city churches ; but in the
country less often, according to the size of the church and
the number of priests attached to it. The service occupies
sometimes five or more hours in its performance. It con-

®Ij« (Srcgorian €\}\ixc\j. 15

sists of chanting and reading prayers and portions of the
Scriptures, alternated with responses by the people.
The officiating bishops, priests, deacons, or singers are
richly dressed. Small bells are rung, and incense is burned.
The Eucharist, as in the Romish Church, must be received
fasting. The form of absolution is as follows: — "Maya
compassionate God have mercy on thee ! May He pardon
thee all thy confessed and forgotten sins ! And I, by right
of my priestly authority and the Divine command, ' Whatso-
ever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,' by
that same word do absolve thee from all connection with
thy sins of thought, of word, and of deed, in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

That the mother of our Lord was ever virgin the
Armenian Church regards as a doctrine of the highest
importance ; and they consider that the very thought of her
bearing other children after having given birth to Jesus,
cannot be entertained by anyone without his being charge-
able with blasphemy and impiety. The Gregorian Arme-
nians have an extreme veneration for the cross on which
our Saviour was crucified, attributing to it powers of inter-
cession with God, and of preservation from evil. In the
book which contains the Daily Prayers of the Church, the
following expressions occur : — " Through the supplications
of the Holy Cross, the silent intercessor, O merciful Lord,
have compassion on the spirits of our dead ! " After a cross
has been consecrated it may be set up towards the east as
an object of worship and prayer.

Those who belong to the Armenian Church believe
that by the Sacrament of Baptism original sin is taken
away, and that regeneration and adoption follow. Indeed,
they have very imperfect knowledge as to the deep
spiritual change being necessary, and have little hope of
gaining salvation, except by penance, fasting, and good
works. They believe firmly in Transubstantiation, and

1 6 Armenia — past anir present.

worship the consecrated elements as God, believing that
they have in themselves a sanctifying and saving power.
Unleavened bread is always used in the Sacrament ; the
broken pieces dipped in undiluted wine, are afterwards put
into the mouths of the communicants by the hands of the
priests, the Bishop previously turning to the congregation and
repeating the words, " Holy, holy ! let us with holiness taste
the honoured body and blood of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, which, descending from heaven, is divided
among us. This is life, hope, resurrection, propitiation,
and remission of sin."

The Armenian Church is Episcopal in its form of
government with the three-fold order — bishops, priests, and
deacons. There are three degrees of Episcopal rank —
the Archbishops (chief among whom is the Patriarch or
Catholicos), the Bishop, and the Vartabad, or doctor of
theology, who frequently has charge of a diocese with
Episcopal functions. The clergy are further divided into
the black-robed and the white. The former are monks, and
alone eligible for the higher clerical offices ; while the latter
include the parish priests and lower clergy. The clergy of
all ranks are supported entirely by the free-will offerings of
the people. Marriage may be contracted before ordination,
but not after.

There are four Patriarchs — their seats being respectively
at Constantinople, Jerusalem, Sis, and Etchmiadzin.

The Armenian Church has shown more fidelity to the
Christian faith than the other Eastern Churches, and it
deserves to be praised for having under almost continual
persecution defended its belief against the religion of Mo-
hammed. Although I am an Armenian by nationality, I
am bound to say the Church of Armenia needs the Bible
as much as those belonging to the other Eastern Churches.
It is to be lamented that the Armenian Church does not
realize more fully its dire need of Evangelical teaching.


^\)t (BbanQtli^t among t)jt ^rotistant
(t\)mc\jtz in Ciltria.

'HE Armenian Protestant Christians are, as a rule,
educated and enlightened ; but their parents,
who in early life had been worshippers in the
Armenian Church, still retain, to some extent>
the influence of the doctrines and habits of
their early years. This can be rectified only by
means of instructive sermons on the leading doctrines of
the Gospel.

Most of those who embraced Protestantism at its
introduction to Cilicia have endeavoured to teach them-
selves to read by means of the Bible. My own father
taught himself in this way ; but he was desirous that I
should obtain the necessary education qualifying me to take
an active part in the work of God. Thanks be to God who
has given him his heart's desire, which was also mine !
I owe much to my father's earnest prayers on my behalf.

I am a native of Cilicia ; at an early age I dedicated
myself to the Master's work. Having obtained a partial
education at home, I commenced as a lay worker in 1885,
and taught and preached at Tarsus and in other parts of
Cilicia under the auspices of the American Mission. Under
God's blessing many young men were brought to know
Christ, some of whom left the Armenian Church and joined
the Protestant Assembly. Of this number two were natives
of Tarsus : one of whom became a teacher in Tarsus, and
also in Konie (Iconium) ; while the other, after a course of

1 8 ®Ijc (Ebangclist in CiUria.

study at the Syrian Protestant College, Beyrout, qualified in
America with the object of working as a Medical missionary
amongst his native countrymen in Cilicia. Another suc-
cessful case was that of an orphan young man of Marash,
who was brought up by my parents, and instructed for
several years by myself. He afterwards taught in Albustan
(a village near Marash), and his services were greatly esteemed
by the Protestant residents. He is now studying in America
for further Christian work.

Many business young men, who were desirous of studying,
but who had no opportunity of doing so at any other time,
were enabled to receive Christian education as well as
secular knowledge in my evening classes ; and some were
led to the Saviour, as a result of religious conversations
which I had with them.

I afterwards assisted the native pastors of the Evangelical
Churches by taking Sabbath and week-day services, and
when paying their pastoral visits I frequently accompanied

The native Protestant Church of Tarsus, whose congre-
gation numbers upwards of 300, has made remarkable
progress owing to the co-operation of the workers of St. Paul's

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Online LibraryKrikor BehesnilianIn bonds : an Armenian's experiences → online text (page 1 of 5)