1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Armenia
ARMENIA (see 2.564).—The years between 1914 and 1921 are, perhaps, the most important of any in the modern history of the Armenian people. The bloodless Turkish revolution of 1908, followed by the assembling of a representative Parliament, opened a period in which, for a time, racial animosities seemed to have disappeared from the greater part of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians hailed the change as the end of their troubles, and massacre and oppression became dim memories. They appeared content henceforward to be citizens of a reformed Turkey and anxious to bear their part in all the duties of citizenship. Some, indeed, went so far in their new-formed patriotism as to call themselves Osmanlis, seeking to make a national name of the term hitherto used only by Turkish Moslems—a term embodying in the past the very spirit of Turkish conquest and oppression. Nor was it merely the rank and file of the Armenian people who so readily accepted the prospect of a new Turkey. Leaders of Armenian revolutionary societies—organizations whose purpose was to achieve Armenian independence, the Hunchakists by constitutional means, the Dashnakists by violence—themselves believed that the Young Turk movement deserved well of the Armenian people, and that the revolution should receive Armenian support. We need not enquire too closely into the causes of this sudden confidence. The Young Turks possessed, as yet, little experience in organization; they were deficient in means: they therefore courted leading Armenians and the Armenian secret societies, from which sources, to some extent, experience and financial aid could be obtained. On their part Armenians held that any change which diminished the power of the Sultan ‛Abdul Hamid and his creatures was so much to the good; and their leaders felt themselves competent to use the Young Turks for Armenian ends, and to go with them only so far as Armenian interests required. It is, indeed, a singular fact that the Young Turks and the Dashnakists continue to find some degree of usefulness in each other to the present time.
Cilician Massacres.—But disillusionment on the part of the Armenian people in general was not long delayed. The first free Ottoman Parliament met on Dec. 27 1908: in April 1909 massacre broke out at Adana, in the rich Cilician plain. After the first outbreak troops of the Young Turk army were hurriedly brought from Salonika, and the affair seemed to have been stamped out by the promptitude of the Government. But after a few days it flared up again, in consequence, it is stated, of Armenians having fired on the soldiery, who thereupon took an active part in the work of killing and burning. From Adana massacre spread to various towns of the vilayet of Adana, and into northern Syria, particularly at Antioch, Kirk Khan, and Mar‛ash. Though thousands perished in the towns, a greater number were slaughtered in remote villages and on lonely roads; for it was the time when Armenians from the mountains were on their way to the annual harvesting on the fertile Cilician plain. It is believed that in all not less than 20,000 lost their lives in this unexpected and disastrous outbreak.
Origins of the Cilician Massacre of 1909.—The origins of these massacres remain obscure; that some form of official prompting lay behind them, however, cannot be doubted. Not once but often it has been proved that Turkish authorities find no difficulty in preventing outbreaks of the kind if they choose; that, in fact, massacre is, at bottom, the result of official connivance more or less direct. The Cilician massacres have been charged to ‛Abdul Hamid and his satellites, as an effort by him to discredit the government of the Young Turks. They have been charged to the Young Turks, as an effort by them to discredit ‛Abdul Hamid, who had been deposed on April 9—just one week before the affair at Adana. Notwithstanding the vehement disavowal of complicity by the Government, and their ostentatious endeavours to compensate sufferers and provide for orphaned Armenians; notwithstanding the Turkish Commission of Inquiry, and the impartial hanging of Moslems and Armenians, time brings the guilt home more and more definitely to Young Turk leaders.
That the Armenians of Cilicia were blameless cannot be maintained. After the first fraternal demonstrations of the revolution they had adopted a manner toward their Moslem fellow citizens provocative and unwise beyond belief. They had indulged in Armenian national processions, displaying the flag of an independent Armenia; had publicly boasted that Cilicia itself was soon to become an independent Armenia; had insulted and beaten Moslems in the streets of Adana. To the fatal influence of these follies were added the economic facts that Armenian land-owners, already in possession of the richest areas of the Cilician plain, were rapidly increasing their holdings; and that the Armenian population prospered and multiplied while the Moslem population declined. The Moslems of Cilicia, indeed, were gloomily brooding over Armenian affronts to their patriotism, and economic Armenian encroachments on their position as the dominant and ruling race. These matters combined formed a mass of highly inflammable material.
Armenian Political Position.—As the Young Turk Government consolidated itself, and its control passed finally into the hands of the Subterranean Committee of Union and Progress, so the prospect of Armenians receiving equal treatment within the Empire disappeared. Armenian representation in Parliament was curtailed by means both direct and indirect. The total number of Armenians who might sit in the Chamber was arbitrarily fixed, irrespective of election results. The lists of voters were compiled under conditions that weighed against Armenians obtaining the vote in the proportion to which their numbers entitled them. In common with other Ottoman Christians the place of Armenians in the State became, in effect, that of undesirable aliens.
Turkish Wars of 1911-3.—The Italo-Turkish War of 1911-2 passed without changing the Armenian position. Nor did the first Balkan War, 1912-3, greatly affect the race except as to military service. During these wars it seemed, indeed, that massacre did not suit the policy of the Government, the desire being to stand well with the Powers. None therefore took place. In the Balkan War, however, military service fell heavily upon the Armenian subjects of the Empire for the first time. They were not permitted to serve forming Armenian units, but were distributed throughout the army; and the most laborious and dangerous duties are said to have been assigned them as a matter of policy. In these circumstances desertions were numerous, as might have been expected. But with none of the incentives usually prompting the soldier to high performance, with everything, indeed, against them, the Armenian elements, as a whole, earned the commendation of Nazim Pasha, the Turkish commander-in-chief, who declared in one of his despatches that the Armenian soldiers had performed their duty loyally and with courage.
Attempts by the Powers to ameliorate the political situation of the Armenian people were continued after the close of the Balkan War. Agreement with the Turkish Government seemed promising at the beginning of 1914, on the basis of an increased number of Armenian deputies for the Ottoman Parliament, and for the supervision of Ottoman officials in the “Six Vilayets” of Eastern Turkey-in-Asia by two European inspectors general to be selected by the Powers. There was also to be equal representation of Moslems and Christians on the councils of the vilayets of Van and Bitlis, in which districts the Armenian population was presumed to equal the Moslem. But the proposed reforms came to nothing. The Young Turk Government already had prevision of great events to come, and were temporizing in anticipation of developments.
The World War.—Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 1914, the action of the Young Turk Government resulted in war being declared on Turkey by Great Britain, Russia, France and Serbia. In committing their country to support of the Germanic Powers the Young Turk leaders saw, as they thought, the great occasion for recovering lost Turkish provinces and reestablishing the Ottoman Empire on the widest foundations, with corresponding advantage to themselves. They believed that with Germanic support they were speculating in certainties. They resolved to use the fortunate opportunity thus presenting itself for making an end of Ottoman internal difficulties as they saw them. Chief among these was the question of the Christian people, of Asia Minor, the Ottoman Greeks and the Armenians, who cherished national aspirations incompatible with Ottoman sovereignty. The “Turkification” of the whole population of Asia Minor the creation of a single homogeneous race for this great area was the underlying purpose.
Policy of Massacre and Deportation.—How the policy for dealing with the Armenian part of the question took form we do not know. Probably Tal‛at Pasha and Enver Pasha had as much to do with it as any—Tal‛at at least is credited with its application—but they only sought to follow, on a greater scale, the example set in past years by ‛Abdul Hamid. A preposterous and cynical scheme of compulsory colonization as part of the policy has been attributed to German theorists; but it was not even a mask except as affording greater opportunities for destroying the Armenian population. Described in a few words the policy was that of deportation coupled with extermination. The Armenian race was to be uprooted from the wide territories of Asia Minor beyond hope of continuance or return. From convenient areas those of the people able to march were to be deported to Mesopotamia and eastern Syria. Being an industrious and prolific race they might, in Mesopotamia, at least, do something toward creating a profitable, taxpaying province in place of one requiring incessant Ottoman outlay. Armenians from provinces too distant for deportation to be practicable were to be exterminated or driven to a fugitive existence.
Statistics of Armenian Population.—The following figures show the numbers and distribution of the Armenian race in Trans-Caucasia and Asia Minor, the destruction of which, or at least of the portion contained in Ottoman territory, was to be encompassed. In Russian Armenia the figures are those of the Russian census of 1916. For the Turkish vilayets they are, in the absence of any authoritative and reliable statistics, an exhaustive and impartial estimate for the period immediately before the war:—
Districts forming the Armenian Republic of Erivan:—Armenians, 795,000; Moslems, 575,000; other elements, 140,000; total, 1,510,000.
Areas claimed by Erivan, but claimed also by Georgia or Azerbäïjän:—Armenians, 410,000; Moslems, 460,000; other elements, 36,000; total, 906,000.
The six Armenian Vilayets of Asia Minor in 1914.
The Policy in Execution.—It is unnecessary to follow in detail the execution of the infamous policy for the destruction of the Armenian population of Asia Minor. Suffice to say it was begun soon after the outbreak of war by concocting reports of Armenian revolutionary plots in support of the Allied Powers; and then, as far as possible, by a general disarmament of Ottoman Armenians. Though British operations in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, and Russian operations against the eastern vilayets, kept the Turks occupied in a military sense, they did not prevent Turkish activity against Armenians. During the spring and summer of 1915, indeed, when the fate of Constantinople and Turkey hung in the balance and inhabitants of the Imperial City daily scanned the Sea of Marmora for signs of an approaching British fleet, the Young Turk Government prosecuted their Armenian policy with the utmost rigour. But when the Gallipoli operations had plainly failed, and the outcome of the war was thought to be no longer in doubt, a Turkish defeat in Russian Armenia, attributed by Enver Pasha to the Armenians, was revenged upon the race by massacres of even greater ferocity. From first to last they were organized and carried out systematically. Massacres on the largest scale took place at Bitlis, Mush, Sivas, Kharput, Trebizond—wherever, in fact, a considerable and more or less defenceless Armenian population existed. The people were butchered in masses, butchered in groups, drowned in the Black Sea and in rivers, burnt in buildings—killed by whatever processes were found most ready and convenient. Girls were placed in Turkish harems. It should not be supposed, however, that no resistance was offered, that the Armenian people sold their lives cheaply. Although supposed to have been disarmed, weapons remained, and on numberless occasions, in untold villages and towns, a hopeless resistance inflicted severe losses on the attackers.
Deportation, too, became an easy indirect means of destroying Armenian life. On the long routes of eastern Asia Minor by which movement took place; on the subsidiary roads leading to these routes; at the great concentration centres on which the columns of suffering humanity were directed, the Armenian people died of hunger, exhaustion, exposure, disease, in tens of thousands, perhaps in hundreds of thousands. Only a comparatively small proportion of those who set out reached the destination assigned them. The policy of transferring an Armenian population to Mesopotamia and Syria became in execution a wholesale means for destroying those who were despatched.
Estimated Loss of Armenian Life.—The Armenian policy of the Young Turks failed, however, in that part of Turkey-in-Asia lying between Erzerum and Bitlis and the Russian frontier. In this region, where the Armenian inhabitants were comparatively numerous, they were able to pass into Trans-Caucasia, or were preserved by the advance of the Russian armies. Within the stricken areas of Asia Minor, too, many escaped many more than are generally supposed. Kurdish tribes gave friendly shelter; even Turks were not without compassion; the nature of the country, itself, afforded opportunities for escape and concealment on a large scale. And in the Anti-Taurus mountains were Armenian fastnesses unreached by Turkish forces.
Armenian estimates of the losses suffered by their people as the result of the Young Turk measures are liable to be excessive. It is in the nature of things that they should be. But if we place the loss of life directly and indirectly caused by massacre and deportation since the year 1914 as being in the neighbourhood of three-quarters of a million we cannot be very far from the truth. In addition are what may be called the legitimate losses of war, and these, in proportion to the manhood of the Armenian race, were enormous.
As regards the Armenian population, not only of Asia Minor, but of Trans-Caucasia as well, from first to last Russia is believed to have sent 160,000 Armenian troops from Trans-Caucasia to her battle-fronts in Europe, of whom less than 30,000 survived. For operations in Asia Minor she subsequently raised an Armenian volunteer army, and swept into it refugees from Turkish territory. From 1914 to 1921 Armenians were fighting incessantly in Asia—for Russia; for the French in Cilicia and Syria, where many thousands were embodied; and for themselves in Trans-Caucasia. Probably not less than one-sixth of the males of the whole race perished in warfare, in addition to loss by massacre and deportation.
Russian Policy.—A brief outline must now be given of the military operations of Tsarist Russia against the Ottoman Empire during 1914-6, for they deeply affected Armenia and the Armenians. For more than two centuries it had been the traditional policy of Russia to obtain possession of Constantinople and the waterway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In the last 40 years she had seen her line of approach through the Balkan Peninsula made impracticable. Correspondingly her line of approach from Trans-Caucasia had gained immensely in importance. She had further established her naval supremacy in the Black Sea over any Turkish force that could be concentrated in those waters. With this as her policy, and in these circumstances, Russia, both openly and covertly, opposed all measures encouraging the development of Armenian national sentiment and aspirations, not only among the Armenian population under her rule in Trans-Caucasia, but also in Turkish Armenia. Tsarist Russia, in fact, desired Armenians in Turkey to remain a discordant disintegrating element in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the eastern vilayets, until such time as she should be able to make further annexations. An independent Armenia, it thus appears, was impracticable during the existence of Tsarist Russia.
When war broke out between the Allied Powers and Turkey Russia recognized that the supreme opportunity for achieving her dearest ambition had arrived. Following the decision of the British and French Governments to send a military expedition to the Dardanelles, she made a formal request to her Allies that her claim to possession of Constantinople and the Straits at the conclusion of the war should be admitted in advance. A week later the Western Powers agreed to the proposal, and the destiny of the greatest strategical position in the world, and with it the destiny of Armenia, seemed to be definitely settled.
Russian Invasion of Turkish Armenia, 1914.—Russian troops crossed the frontiers on Nov. 4 1914, two days after the declaration of war, and advanced towards the great Turkish fortress of Erzerum. But the movement had no weight; it ceased after a few weeks of indecisive fighting, and the Turks launched a daring counter-offensive against Ardahan and Kars, in Russian Armenia. This reckless movement was ended, however, by the battle of Sarikamish (Dec. 29 1914 to Jan. 1 1915) at which, and at the battle of Kara Urgan in the subsequent retreat, the Turkish army was almost destroyed. In revenge for the disaster, attributed by Enver Pasha and the Young Turks to Armenian elements in the Russian army, and to support and intelligence given by Armenians generally, exterminatory measures against the Armenian population of Asia Minor were redoubled at the beginning of April 1915. It was at this stage that the British and French Governments issued (May 24 1915) a declaration that they would hold Ottoman ministers personally responsible for the massacres.
Armenian Troops in the Russian Armies.—Here it may be remarked that when Russia mobilized in Aug. 1914 for the World War, her Armenian troops, numbering, it is said, more than 120,000 men, were despatched to European fronts. When war with Turkey demanded great armies in Trans-Caucasia these troops were not available. But as a matter of policy Russia raised an auxiliary volunteer army of Armenians, including many thousands of refugees from Asia Minor, for service against the mortal enemy of their race. To these and other Armenians in the Russian armies of Trans-Caucasia—natives of the region, inured to its climatic conditions, between them familiar with every road and mountain path, and animated by every incentive to fierce and resolute combat must be credited no small measure of the success which attended Russian arms against the Turks. Not without cause did Turkish leaders attribute their Caucasian disasters to their Armenian enemies.
Capture of Erzerum.—Stagnation followed on the Erzerum front for more than a year after the battle of Sarikamish. But during the spring and summer of 1915 a Russian army, operating in the neighbourhood of Lake Van, invaded and occupied the greater part of the Turkish vilayets of Van and Bitlis, peopled largely by Armenians. This southern campaign, however, had no serious importance except to distract Turkish attention and save an Armenian population. The one line of military advance from Trans-Caucasia into Asia Minor lay through Erzerum; and Russia was preparing for an unexpected spring upon this eastern bulwark of Anatolia. A great Russian army, including Siberian and Armenian troops, was concentrated within striking distance of the Erzerum position in the middle of winter. It advanced on Jan. 11 1916, and two weeks later had reached the outposts of the fortress, a march of some 80 m., with guns and supplies, through deep snow, at high altitudes, in temperatures often below zero. On Feb. 14-16 various commanding mountain forts, the main defences of Erzerum, some of them 9,000 ft. above sea-level, were taken by storm. The city was captured on Feb. 16—its fall a resounding disaster for the Ottoman Empire.
Invasion of Anatolia.—When the spring of 1916 came the Russians continued their operations westward, and by the end of July had captured the Black Sea port of Trebizond and the important military position of Erzinjan. They had reached a line about 30 m. west of Erzinjan, stretching from the Black Sea to the Euphrates and thence eastward to Lake Van and the Persian frontier, a line embracing the chief areas of Armenian population in Asia Minor. The line so held was nearly the same as that subsequently awarded by President Wilson as the western and southern frontiers of Armenia.
The Russian Collapse.—But this was Russia's farthest. She was weakening at home, where symptoms of upheaval were already appearing. On March 14 1917, a Provisional Government was proclaimed; the Tsar abdicated the following day; in September Russia was a republic, and on Nov. 17 Lenin and Trotsky seized the reins of power. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk, in which Germany imposed terms on her beaten and exhausted enemy, was signed on March 3 1918. The armed forces of Russia engaged in the war in western Asia lost their fighting value in 1917. The fleet at Sevastopol mutinied in June of that year and removed its officers; and the armies in Asia Minor were in process of disintegration at the same time. When the treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed these armies were only held together by the great personal influence of the Grand Duke Nicholas, viceroy and commander-in-chief in Caucasia, but had already voluntarily retired behind the Russo-Turkish frontier of 1914.
Treaty of Brest Litovsk.—In the Treaty of Brest Litovsk Turkish claims were not overlooked, in fact the treaty gave fulfilment to some of the wider ambitions which had developed in the Young Turk party. It provided, in effect, that between Russia and Turkey the frontiers should be those existing prior to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8; under this provision, therefore, the old provinces of Ardahan, Kars and Batum were to be returned to Turkey. Of these, Ardahan and Kars formed part of Russian Armenia, or Erivan.
Even prior to the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk Turkey had been able to take advantage of the growing weakness of Russia. As early as Aug. 1916 she had recaptured the towns of Mush and Bitlis. But immediately after the signature of the Treaty she pushed her troops forward and between March 12 1918 and April 27 reoccupied in rapid succession Erzerum, Sarikamish, Van, Batum and Kars. The liberation of Turkish Armenia by Russia had failed, and the disaster involved the return to Turkish rule of a large part of Russian Armenia. The only hope for the Armenian people now lay in themselves in whatever of wise prevision, unity and sacrifice they could command.
Federal Republic of Trans-Caucasia.—Steps in the right direction had, indeed, already been taken. The approaching collapse of Russia became apparent to Trans-Caucasian people early in 1917. On Sept. 20 1917 a Council of the Trans-Caucasian Peoples—of Armenia, Azerbäïjän and Georgia—assembled at Tiflis, proclaimed Trans-Caucasia a Federal Republic, and formed a Provisional Government. When Turkey, after the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, proceeded to overrun western Trans-Caucasia this Government attempted to negotiate a peace but found the endeavour fruitless. Not only were the Turkish leaders obdurate but the republic had no real unity among its parts. Azerbäïjän, with a Moslem population, though desirous enough of maintaining its independence, saw no great danger in Turkey recovering lost provinces at the expense of the Christian Armenians of Erivan; Erivan feared veiled annexation by Georgia under the guise of federation; and all three peoples were widely at variance upon questions of territory to which each thought itself entitled.
On April 13 1918 the Federal Republic broke off relations with Turkey and declared war, two days later the Turks occupied Batum, and on April 22 the Council of the Republic decided to proclaim its independence, but also to resume negotiations with Turkey for peace. With such waverings of policy the republic was likely to be short-lived.
The end came even sooner than was expected. On May 26 1918 the three states of the republic fell apart, each declaring its independence as a separate republic, and organizing a national Government of its own.
Armenian Republic of Erivan.—We now reach the point where the story of Armenia, hitherto the story of a dispersed people without a country, crystallizes into a story of an independent Armenian state—a state born to misfortune and bloodshed, surrounded by enemies, and inaccessible to its friends, a state whose survival and growth are matters more for hope than for confidence.
The territory of the republic of Erivan, excluding the districts in dispute with the adjoining republics of Georgia and Azerbäïjän, comprised the two Russian provinces of Erivan and Kars, possessing an area of some 17,500 sq. miles. By the census of 1916 these provinces contained, in round figures, a population of 1,510,000 of whom 795,000 were Armenians, 575,000 Moslems, and 140,000 of various other races. But the effective territory and population of the Erivan Republic were even less at the time its independence was declared, for nearly one-third of its whole area was in Turkish occupation under the terms of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. De facto recognition, however, was accorded the republic by the Allied Powers.
Outside the confines of the state so indicated lay other territories claimed by it, but claimed also by Georgia or Azerbäïjän. Rather more than 2,000 sq. m. were thus in dispute with Georgia, and some 12,000 with Azerbäïjän. The census of 1916 gave the disputed areas a population of about 900,000 equally divided between Armenians and Moslems. Part of the area claimed both by Erivan and Azerbäïjän were the mountainous districts of Zangezur and Karabagh, peopled by Armenian highlanders, perhaps the finest representatives of their race. These, however, were separated from Erivan by an area in which a Moslem population predominated.
At best the territory occupied by the republic was an unfruitful region of treeless mountains and valleys containing little cultivated land, few resources, and a people reduced to the edge of poverty. Even in time of peace it had raised barely sufficient food for the needs of its thrifty population, but now when 400,000 refugees had poured into it, chiefly from Turkish Armenia, the question of supplies became more and more acute. The existence of the republic, indeed, was eventually affected by the difficulty of obtaining supplies, not only of food but of munitions and fuel.
But the republic was faced with many other difficulties, some external, others internal; the greater number immeasurably intensified by the country's unfortunate geographical position. Erivan was, in fact, an Asiatic Switzerland, though far more remote from the sea and more inaccessible. The only line of railway communication towards the western world ran through Georgian territory to the Black Sea port of Batum, the only roadway to the sea was also through Georgia to Batum. And Batum at this time was in the hands of the Turks, and the Allies were still shut out from the Black Sea.
External difficulties were the active and veiled hostility of neighbouring states. Between Erivan and Turkey was the traditional hatred of Armenian and Turk, now inflamed to the desperation of a life-and-death struggle. Between Erivan and Azerbäïjän was the standing enmity of Armenian and Moslem, given definite point by the massacre of Armenians at Baku some 15 years earlier, and of Moslems by Armenians during the months following the declaration of Armenian independence. There was also the acute question of territory in dispute, accompanied by incessant border fighting. Between Erivan and Georgia trouble, at the moment, was chiefly upon opposing territorial claims. Another hostile external influence was, a little later, exerted by Gen. Denikin and his supporters, who aimed at destroying the independence of the Caucasian republics and reuniting them to a resurrected Russia.
Internal difficulties, apart from poverty and questions of the supply of food, clothing, munitions and medical stores, were caused, also, by the absence of administrative experience among Armenian leaders and the sinister influence wielded by the Dashnakists. This Armenian secret revolutionary society held an extreme socialism; it was thus to a large extent in sympathy with the Bolsheviks of Russia. At the same time it stood for an aggressive military policy by the Erivan Republic and the extension of territory at the expense of adjoining states.
British Expedition to Baku.—Operations which might have had far-reaching results for Erivan and other Caucasian states led to the occupation of Baku in the republic of Azerbäïjän, on July 28 1918, by a small British force. It had come from Mesopotamia through Persia, and thence up the Caspian Sea—a hazardous expedition intended to prevent, if possible, the despatch of German or Turkish detachments from Caucasia into Central Asia, and to open communications with the Caucasian republics. It had relied upon receiving local Armenian support at Baku, but this hope failed owing to the extreme war-weariness of the Armenian population. The Turkish troops which had already entered Azerbäïjän received reënforcements early in September, and then attacked the town and compelled the British force to reëmbark on Sept. 15.
Armistice of Mudros.—The Armistice of Mudros, signed on Oct. 30 1918, ended hostilities between the Allied Powers and Turkey. Better days seemed now to be in sight for the Armenian race. Turkey was crushed, the Young Turk Government had fallen into disrepute, the chief leaders were in flight, and it was the avowed purpose of the Allies to free the subject races of the Ottoman Empire from Turkish rule. The Armistice contained conditions that speedily relieved the position for Armenians. The Straits were opened, Allied warships reached Caucasian ports and Allied and American relief work was begun. Trans-Caucasia was to be evacuated by Turkish troops, an Allied garrison placed in Batum and elsewhere if necessary, and Armenian prisoners-of-war and interned Armenians released forthwith. Another clause provided for Allied occupation, in whole or part, of the six Armenian vilayets of Asia Minor in case of disturbances arising.
War Between Georgia and Erivan, 1919.—The collapse of Germany and the Armistice of Nov. 11 1918, marking the complete victory of the Western Powers, seemed to promise the eventual creation of an Armenian state containing a majority of the race. But with Turkish occupation ended the Caucasian republics fell out more seriously among themselves. In spite of Allied efforts to prevent hostilities war broke out between Georgia and Erivan in Jan. 1919; fighting also continued between the Armenians of Karabagh and Moslems of Azerbäïjän. At this time, too, the intrigues attending Gen. Denikin's movement went far to embroiling the republics. These unfortunate struggles did not, however, last long, nor were military operations undertaken on a serious scale, but the old causes of enmity remained, increased now between Georgia and Erivan by disputes regarding use of the Batum-Erivan railway, and the customs dues levied by Georgia on goods for Erivan.
Paris Peace Conference.—On Jan. 19 1919 the Peace Conference at Paris began its deliberations, from which, when Eastern problems could be reached, it was hoped that a satisfactory settlement of Armenian affairs might emerge. Each of the Caucasian republics was permitted a delegation to lay its claims before the Conference. Meanwhile the Supreme Council, acting as an executive body, despatched an Allied High Commissioner to Erivan to compose, if possible, the urgent differences between the rival republics.
Armenians of Erivan had agreed to join Armenians of Turkey in seeking the creation of a single Armenian state; the Armenian delegation at Paris therefore represented the whole Armenian race. The claim advanced by the delegation was, in brief, that to Erivan should be added the eastern districts of Asia Minor in which a considerable Armenian population had existed prior to 1914, and that these districts should include Cilicia as being the “Lesser Armenia” of mediaeval history.
But this comparatively moderate proposal bristled with difficulties, and traversed principles to which the Conference professed adherence. Ancient and mediaeval history offered feeble arguments for the recovery of territory from a race which could show effective occupation for the past 400 years. Nor did any juggling with ethnological figures assist the Armenian case, for the plain fact remained that in no vilayet of Asia Minor, even before the massacres and deportations, was there an Armenian majority over Moslems. The principle of self-determination by inhabitants would therefore, if applied, destroy Armenian claims.
The Armenian case stands, indeed, on firmer ground than doubtful historical sanctions and self-determination by a mosaic of local populations. Based on justice and high expediency it becomes a cause which no amount of theory can set aside.
Stated plainly the case for Armenia put forward by the delegation was that by race, language, faith, old history, services in the Allied interest, and barbarous treatment at the hand of the Ottoman Government over a long period, the Armenian people had shown themselves entitled to separate existence as an independent nation. And further, owing to their numbers having been artificially reduced by calculated and systematic massacre, justice required that their dead should be taken into account against the principle of self-determination within any Turkish territory to be allotted to an Armenian state. Expediency lay in the prospect that by the erection of an effective Greater Armenia a definite settlement of the Armenian problem would follow a problem likely, otherwise, to remain insoluble. And yet more, that an Armenian state, extending from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, would, with Allied aid, soon become a stable, self-reliant, civilized power in the midst of one of the chief danger-zones of the world.
The chief difficulty confronting the Armenian proposal was that the state to be created could not at first stand alone. It would require large financial and military support to set it on its feet and to maintain it during the earlier years of its existence—it was doubtful even if it could police its own territory at the outset. These difficulties were to be overcome, it was hoped, by placing the proposed state in the charge of a mandatory Power.
Throughout the year 1919 and the earlier half of 1920 the prospect of finding a Power who would undertake the onerous and costly task of mandatory grew less and less favourable. It had been hoped that America would accept the responsibility. The American people had shown much sympathy with the Armenian cause; politically America was disinterested and stood outside the jealousies of European powers; her prestige was great; her resources unimpaired; to the Armenian people she would have been their first choice as mandatory power. But the American Senate rejected the offer, fearing entanglement in Old World affairs. Great Britain, France, Italy, each felt unable to undertake the position—war had left them more or less exhausted; and their peoples would not incur the certainty of additional outlay of blood and resources. The Supreme Council proposed that Armenia should be placed under the League of Nations; the League decided that the acceptance of mandates did not fall within its purpose. And when, at a later date, Armenia applied for admission to the League membership was refused her.
Treaty of Sèvres and Armenia.—The Treaty of Sèvres, imposed upon Turkey and signed on Aug. 20 1920, provided for the creation of an enlarged Armenian state and for the settlement of its boundaries. In Caucasia they were to be adjusted by direct agreement between the states concerned or, in failure of that method, by the Allied Powers. In Turkey they were to be defined by President Wilson as arbitrator; and the Treaty bound Turkey to accept his decision, but limited the area subject to award to the whole or parts of the vilayets of Trebizond, Erzerum, Van and Bitlis. The interests of Armenians remaining in Turkish territory were safeguarded under the Protection of Minorities clauses of the Treaty.
President Wilson's Award.—The award defining the Turkish frontiers of Armenia was given by President Wilson in March 1921. It assigned to Armenia the greater part of the vilayets of Trebizond and Erzerum, and the whole of the vilayets of Bitlis and Van—in all an area of about 30,000 sq. miles. The award gave the territory essential to the creation and development of a self-supporting state. It included the greater part of the eastern districts of Asia Minor containing the bulk of the Armenian population in Turkey. It provided a coastline for the state of about 150 m., and included the historic seaport of Trebizond on which north-eastern Asia Minor depends for access to the sea. And while fulfilling these conditions it brought within Armenian territory as small a proportion of Turkish Moslems as might be.
Wrecking of the Award.—But however admirable in itself, President Wilson's decision took Armenia little further towards actual possession of the territory awarded under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres. The Peace Conference might assign the territory by treaty; the Turkish Government at Constantinople might accept and sign the treaty; and President Wilson might define the boundaries; but for Armenia to gain possession was another matter. It was on this difficulty—a difficulty to be overcome only by use of a great military force—that the fair prospect of an enlarged and independent Armenia was wrecked.
Even before the acceptance of the Treaty of Sèvres by the Constantinople Government the Turkish Nationalist movement had appeared in Asia Minor. Its chief purpose was to offer armed resistance to the execution of any treaty involving the transfer of Ottoman territory to Greece and Armenia. Whether the movement originated with the discredited Young Turk leaders or was a genuine movement recognized by them as a promising means to their own restoration to power, is not clear. But the movement grew rapidly in strength. Within a year the Nationalist Government, organized at Angora, was sovereign not only in Asia Minor, but had overshadowed the Constantinople Government and become the real rulers of the whole of Turkey. And as the movement gained in strength so the old Young Turk leaders reappeared—Tal‛at Pasha, Enver Pasha, Kemal Pasha, and others—promoting an alliance with Bolshevik Russia; urging Pan-Islamic ambitions, and apparently forming with their followers the extremist Left wing of the Nationalist movement. To suppress this rival Government, even had there been no secret concord between the two, was beyond the power of the Government at Constantinople. Nor were the Allied Powers in a position to enforce a treaty by a great new war involving vast expense. Still less was any single Power willing to undertake the task. Beaten and dismembered though the Ottoman Empire was, there still remained in Anatolia a reserve of strength, which, in combination with the great military difficulties presented by the country, and aided by Bolshevik Russia, was able to defy and thwart the decisions of the Peace Conference.
Greece, indeed, her own territorial gains at stake, and supported by the Allies, commenced military operations against the Nationalists in May 1920; and it seemed probable that the Armenian cause might benefit. The republic of Erivan therefore prepared to send troops into the territory assigned her by the Treaty of Sèvres, and desultory fighting occurred. Turkish strength in eastern Asia Minor, however, was too great for the small force Erivan could spare from other fronts to have any prospect of success, and no actual invasion of Turkish territory took place. Meanwhile Greek armies encountered little resistance and occupied a large area of western Asia Minor. These operations, however, in no way crushed the Nationalist power.
In Feb. 1921, Greece undertook yet greater operations; this time unsupported by the Allies, and in defiance of their wishes. She aimed at destroying the Nationalist forces and capturing Angora; but by the end of March her armies were driven back, and she found that an offensive on a vastly greater scale would be necessary to ensure success. To this yet more serious campaign she definitely committed herself in the summer of 1921.
Bolshevik Invasion of Caucasia.—To complete this historical sketch, it is only necessary to glance more particularly at the unhappy events in Caucasia and south-eastern Asia Minor during 1920-1, for in this period the tragedy of the Armenian race seemed to have reached its climax.
The Bolshevik occupation of Baku, at the close of April 1920, ended the independence of the republic of Azerbäïjän and established a Soviet Government in alliance with Moscow; it also brought Bolshevik forces into an area whence they could apply pressure to Georgia and Erivan. Bolshevik Russia and Nationalist Turkey were even now working together. Apart from strictly Bolshevik aims the common purpose existed of establishing direct communication between Russia, via Baku, and Nationalist Turkey. This could only be done through Erivan and Georgia by railway, or through Erivan by road; the republic of Erivan, in fact, completely barred both routes. In spite of Bolshevik propaganda in Erivan the people as a whole were strongly opposed to Bolshevism, and when in May Bolshevik forces in Azerbäïjän attacked Erivan they encountered a vigorous defence, and were repulsed. Moscow now endeavoured to negotiate a treaty of alliance with Erivan, but the terms offered were too severe. They included:—the right of transit through Erivan by rail for Soviet troops; the cession of the disputed districts of Karabagh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan to Bolshevik Azerbäïjän; and the control of the foreign policy of Erivan by the Moscow Soviet. Erivan refused, but in July was served with an ultimatum requiring it to evacuate the three districts just named.
The isolated republic had been in desperate straits for food, fuel for its railways, munitions and clothing for its troops; but supplies of munitions and uniforms, sent from England, reached the country just before the ultimatum was presented. For allowing the passage of these vital supplies through Georgia that republic, however, had insisted on retaining 20% of everything by way of toll.
While Soviet Russia applied pressure upon Erivan from the east, Nationalist Turkey did likewise from the west. The outcome was that the republic agreed to the occupation of Karabagh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan by Bolshevik troops, thus giving direct road communication between Azerbäïjän and Nationalist Turkey. With the very existence of Erivan thus threatened and conscious that the same danger hung over their own country the Georgian people might have been expected to make common cause with their Armenian neighbours. The danger, however, seemed to them less; they had open communication by sea and could, they thought, await developments. They mobilized troops on their frontiers; but gave no active assistance to Erivan.
Fall of Republic of Erivan.—By Sept. everything was in readiness for the next act in the tragedy. At the end of the month a Turkish Nationalist army suddenly attacked and captured Olti on the western frontier of Erivan. In the meantime Bolshevik forces in Azerbäïjän were massed along the railway skirting the northern frontier of the unfortunate Armenian Republic. An overwhelming Turkish advance was then made along the railway upon the great fortress of Kars in the heart of Erivan. Armenian troops checked the advance for a time, and compelled a Turkish retreat, but it was only a temporary setback; Kars fell, and the advancing Nationalists captured Alexandropol in November. Bolshevik risings broke out in the capital and other towns; the resistance of the republic collapsed, and the city of Erivan was speedily occupied by Turkish troops. At this stage a Soviet Government was set up, and the republic of Erivan became, in name, a Soviet Republic in alliance with Moscow. But even so it was a republic much reduced in area. In agreement with Moscow Turkey took possession once again of the districts of Kars and Ardahan, from which the Allied Powers had ejected her in Nov. 1918; and to this territory was added enough to bring the railway from Azerbäïjän to Erzerum within Turkish possession. Only in the region of Karabagh was any vestige of Armenian independence preserved; there, indeed, the Armenian mountaineers repudiated Soviet Government and, so far, seem to have retained a precarious but independent existence.
With Turkish forces in occupation of Erivan, a state which had striven to form a Great Armenia by the acquisition of Turkish territory, massacre might have been foretold. It was hoped, however, that Soviet influence would prevent great bloodshed, but the hope had no real ground for existence. At Olti, Kars, Alexandropol, and then in the city of Erivan, massacres on a scale comparable only with those of 1915-6 took place; and if this policy was followed in the towns it was followed in the villages as well. The total loss of life cannot be estimated, but was certainly great. When the snow melted in the spring of 1921 thousands of Armenian corpses were revealed, heaped together, just as they had fallen in the closing months of 1920.
Cilicia and S.E. Asia Minor.—In Feb. 1920 Turkish Nationalist forces began serious operations against Cilicia, then in occupation by French troops as part of the French sphere of influence. They defeated various French detachments, captured the large town of Mar‛ash, and there, and elsewhere in Cilicia as opportunity offered, resumed a systematic massacre of the Armenian population. The position was the more disastrous because, relying upon French protection for the future, a great immigration of Armenians into Cilicia had taken place; it was credibly reported, indeed, that some 20,000 of the race perished in south-eastern Asia Minor during the spring of 1920. At this stage the Allied Powers, who had recently decided that Constantinople should remain in Turkish hands, threatened to reconsider their decision unless effective Turkish protection were given to non-Moslem elements of the population in Asia Minor. The warning seemed to have some effect at the time, though later developments diminished its influence.
A definite Nationalist policy lay in the Cilician operations, however haphazard and casual they may appear. The idea had been broached, chiefly among Armenians, of creating a Franco-Armenian State in south-eastern Asia Minor—of, in fact, reviving the Lesser Armenia of history, and placing it under French protection. The hope that this scheme would mature was one of the influences which brought a large Armenian population into Cilicia in 1919. Nationalist operations in this region were designed to thwart the project by exterminating the Armenians, and involving the French in irritating and costly hostilities in defence of the territory. Warfare on a small scale continued during the greater part of 1920; for not only had the French their hands full in Syria, but they were anxious to avoid pushing matters to extremes with the Nationalists. They hoped, in fact, for an arrangement.
Siege of Hajin.—One of the most unhappy affairs of the Cilician War was the siege and capture of Hajin by the Nationalists. The town, a remote Armenian stronghold among the Anti-Taurus mountains, was held by its inhabitants against all Turkish attacks until Oct. 1920. Ammunition, however, ran out; expected relief never came; and in the end the town was stormed, and the greater portion of the population, numbering several thousands, perished in the usual massacre.
French Negotiations with Nationalists.—At the beginning of 1921 the French and the Nationalists came to an agreement by which, in return for important economic concessions in wide areas of Asia Minor, France was to vacate Cilicia. The National Assembly at Angora refused to ratify the agreement, on the grounds that it surrendered too much and obtained too little. They desired, in fact, possession of the port of Alexandretta which the French had retained. Negotiations, however, were continued. The hope that a Franco-Armenian State might be established in Cilicia had small prospect of realization unless a change should take place in French policy in these regions. (W. J. C.*)