Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Pierre Loti's Les Massacres d'Arménie  
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Pierre Loti

Pierre Loti

The following is from Pierre Loti's Les Massacres d'Arménie (The Massacres of Armenia); Sema Flew translated. Thanks to geocities.com/soykirkur

The author lived from (1850-1923), and this work was published in 1918. Loti travelled widely and published many books giving accounts from other lands, but his heart was very much with Turkey; he visited the Ottoman Empire in 1880, in 1900, stayed from 1903 to 1905, then again after his retirement, in 1910 and in 1913.






Our dear and more than ever admirable France is, I believe, a country in which one lives in the utter ignorance of what is going on at the neighbor's. Turkey, for example, who was our ally during centuries, however, is unknown to us as the regions of Central Africa or the moon. Although the winters in Constantinople are much harsher than in Paris, nevertheless, I see our tourists arrive in Constantinople with linen clothes in December! Haven't I read in great Parisian newspapers, while my ship struggled snow storms for weeks, "Isn't Mr. Pierre Loti the happy one to be at the Bosphorus, the land of eternal Spring!" Because, you understand, this country is in the Orient, isn't that so; then, for the most of the average French, when one says Orient, one thinks of blue skies, sun, palm trees and camels. And in their amusing ingenuity, they confuse Turk with Kurd, Ottomans with Levantines, etc.; for them, all who wear a red hat, are always the Turks.

Go and try to open the eyes of some of the bourgeois back home, who, from father to son, are mesmerized into idiotic stupor, do I dare say, about the alleged ferocity of my poor friends the Turks. At the beginning of the Balkan War, was I not scoffed at, insulted, menaced enough for having taken their defense, for having dared to say that the Bulgarians, on the contrary, were cruel brutes and that their Ferdinand of Coburg (of whom all our ladies had taken fancy to and displayed his colors) was nothing but a wretched monster.)

Of that one, for example, of Coburg, I am vindicated today, because he has unmistakably proven what I have tried to warn: five times traitor in ten years and firing behind the back of the Allies without warning them, I do not see how one could ask for more! As to his soldiers, — almost direct descendants of the Huns, — I could relate first hand of their atrocities, I could cite about the devastating reports of the international commissions sent to the scene, but no one wanted to hear. No, it were the Turks, always the Turks, the Turks that one wanted to shame, and, as Gospel truth, one accepted at home, the periodic short communiqués of the Palatinate Ferdinand, who repeated this refrain: "The Turks massacre, the Turks continue to kill and commit the worst of horrors, etc., etc."

For different reasons, I will keep quiet about the dealings of some of the Christian allies of the good Bulgarians of the era.

My goal, today, is only to affirm, once again, this acknowledged truth, furthermore to those amongst you who have taken the time to document, namely, that the Turks have never been our enemy. The enemy of the Russians, oh! that unquestionably yes, they are and how, by all means, they would not be, under the continuous and relentless menace of the latter, who do not even make an effort to hide their obstinate intention to destroy them. It is not to us that they have declared war, but to the Russian, and who in their place would not have done the same? Later, history will say, among other things, how it was begun, that war, by some savages from Germany, aboard the small boats of the Sultan's fleet and who, in order to make things irreversible, did not hesitate to fire, without warning to the Russian side even before Enver, who perhaps still hesitated, was informed about it. Besides, what do the Turks owe us? Since the Crimean Expedition, we have not stopped to march with their enemies, and, in the last place, during the Balkan War, without doubt, in order to thank them for their generous hospitality, that they gave us during all the years in their country, we have grossly insulted them, continuously, in almost all our newspapers, that which caused them, I know, the most painstaking stupor.  It is a desperate act that in order to escape being crushed by Russia, that they threw themselves to the arms of the detested Germans — I say detested, because I am assured by a intimate minority, basically, they excrement it. Like how then to wish upon them a fatal error without mercy which had so many extenuating circumstances and for which that are prepared to make an honorable apology.

Oh! what prejudice brought on to France, if we would have had to give the Russians this Constantinople, which was a French city from the heart, a city where we could have said to be at home, and where the Russians, barely arrived, would have expulsed us as undesirable intruders! What breach of this principle of nationalities, nevertheless invoked today by all peoples, what breach if it would have been executed a certain shady signed agreement which tore, on top of Stamboul, from the Turkish homeland, still its cradle since its birth and all the Asiatic cities, Trebizond, Harput conquered by arms, it is true, but, which, with the centuries became centers of pure Turkishness! But this dubious Sazonnow agreement, recently divulged by the Bolsheviks, the Russian defection made it fall in deliquescence, and now, the day of solemn rules, the question of Turkish nationality will be put to the members of the Peace Conference, and it is then to those I put all my hope, for my poor Ottoman friends, even though one has already circumvented them, I know that, in order to render them unfavorable for their cause, but I have confidence in them just the same, because they could not fail to be, here like in all things, impeccable and magnificent justiciary.

I said that they were not our enemy, these so slandered Turks, and that they went to war with us against their heart. Moreover, I also said, and I said all my life, that they compose the most healthful elements, the most honest of all the Orient, — and the most tolerant also, much more than the Orthodox element, although this last assertion is to make the non initiated wild. Now, on these two points, here are all of a sudden, since the war, thousands of witnesses who give me reason, even before the most hardheaded. Generals, officers of all ranks, simple soldiers, who left France full of prejudices against my poor friends of over there and considering me a dangerous dreamer, spontaneously wrote to me, for pure conscience sake to tell me unanimously: "Oh! how you know them well, these chivalrous people, so gentle to the prisoners, to the wounded, and treating them as brothers! Count on us, upon our return, to join en masse our testimonies to yours." I would like to be able publish them all, these innumerable signed letters, so sincere and so touching, but they would be a fill a book!

To end, here is an anecdote, which I chose from a thousand, because it is typical. In 1916, an out of control French seaplane fell in Palestine, near a Turkish military post; the officers in charge there, after having made with courtesy, our aviators prisoners, telegraphed to the pasha, Governor of Jerusalem to ask for orders, and they were word-for-word answered this: "Treat them as your best relatives or your friends." The recommendation was, moreover, foreseen, because they had already treated them as brothers or friends fallen from the sky. And a few days later, when they received the order to send them to Jerusalem, knowing them to be money-less, they pitched in together to loan them necessities to make their trip comfortable.  And finally, without worrying to be disowned by our fighters down there, I dare to say that most of our soldiers, returned from the mad escapade of Dardanelles, would have been wasted at the beaches, if the Turks did not put in a great effort to let them re-embark; in general, they ceased fire on the French boats each time there was not a German brute tailing them.






To put such a title on this brochure, for me is like putting a small war standard, — war against the most falsely imbedded ideas, against the most indestructible bias. I know beforehand that I will, once more, reap a lot of insults, but I am someone who is not affected any more: at this moment in my life, I do not desire anything more and consequently do not fear anything, there is nothing that could oblige me to keep quiet what my conscience imposes me to say and to re-say with all my force. For many years I have hesitated to touch this sinister subject, kept at bay by a profound pity still for this unfortunate Armenia, which has, truly endured repression not too disproportionate to her mistakes… These dreadful massacres, some malevolent spirits believe, it seems that I have the naïve impudence to try to deny them, others underestimate me to the point of believing that I approve of them! Oh! if one were to find someday my letters of 1913 to the Ex-Crown Prince of Turkey, this Yousouf-izeddin, since assassinated by the Germans, this prince friend of France who had authorized my frank discussions with him, one would see what I think of the horror of these killings!

To begin, I will first re-talk about the Turks, — but I mean by this name the true, those of old times who, thank God, constitute down there the innumerable majority; I do not mean those of the new generation who are the exception, who deny all ancestral past, who want mostly to enrich over our disequilibriums and our modernism; and I mean even less these Levantines, mixture of all bloods, that our shocking ignorance of oriental things makes us confuse with the pure Ottomans. To judge them impartially, they, the true, it is necessary to consider them, I grant it, like people who are a few centuries behind, — and I do not reproach them, on the contrary. Their immobilized little cities in the open country, their villages, their countryside, are the last havens, not only of calm, but with all the patriarchal faculties who, more and more, are excluded from our modern world: loyalty, unblemished honesty; veneration by the children of their parents pushed to a limit that we no longer know; endless hospitality and chivalrous respect for the hosts; moral elegance and natural tact, even with the most humble: sweetness for all — even for the animals, religious tolerance without bounds for whomever is not their enemy; calm faith and prayer. As soon as one has left, to arrive over there, our Occident of doubt, cynicism, of racket and of squabble, where one feels like suffused with peace and confidence, one believes to go back in time to who knows what imprecise epoch, neighbor perhaps to the Golden Age.

All that I advance here is not questioned but for the most obstinate ignorants; thousands of witnesses are ready to affirm it and all our combatants of this last war demand nothing but to affectionately give deposition for the Turks, in front of the Great Tribunal of Humanity. Letters continue to arrive to me everyday, from officers, soldiers, even Catholic priests, who were able to know them closely at the Dardanelles and who remain amazed to have found them to be as I had described them. One of the most touching is, perhaps, from a young wounded soldier who had been their prisoner for a long time, who was returned by a special petition and asks me to let him know when the postal service is reestablished with Constantinople, to permit him to express again his tender reconnaissance of the Turks who took care of him with brotherly love. Thank God, in spite of the hardheadedness that cannot be reasoned with, the truth about them is beginning to make headway at home.

Poor Turks! But they are, alas! If I could say thus, the lack of their qualities, vis-à-vis their antique virtues, they have, suddenly, a blind fanaticism, as soon as Islam is directly menaced, as soon as the Caliph raises the green standard and throws an urgent call: then like exasperated lions they unleash against those who, for centuries, have been denounced as the most dangerous, responsible for all the injustices to the Fatherland. One expects that they are not unaware, no matter how little documents there are, that no matter what they do in Europe, it will always be they who are at fault, always they who are insulted and deprived, always they who shall pay; the unacknowledged coalition of all the people called Christians will never disarm. And they also know that these unfortunate Armenians will not stop, even at the most tranquil times, to be baneful and hypocritical informers against them. It is at these moments of red peril that Europe, who boasts to be a high civilizer, beside acting very badly in not trying to calm right away this crisis between these big wandering children: well, instead of that, Christian peoples, the Christian sovereigns, desirous to fish afterwards in troubled water, did not fear to send secret agents to them. Amongst these princes that I accuse, and in first place naturally, I will cite the impure Kaiser whose hands or rather tentacles, are always sure to be found, with blood all over, wherever a wound has a change of opening; I could with certainty cite some others, but the Censorship would erase their names. Alas! yes, the Turks have massacred! I claim nevertheless that the account of their killings was always madly exaggerated and ugly details were made with pleasure; and no one down there will dare to contradict me — that the heavier share of the crimes committed reverts to the Kurds whose defense I never took.  (1).

I maintain above all that the massacres and the persecution remain anchored at the bottom of the souls of all the races, of all human collectivity when they are pushed by any fanaticism, religious or anti-religious, patriotic or simply political but, the Turks are the only ones to whom one does not forgive.

Us the French, we have had the Saint-Bartholomew, — for which one would look in vain for a believable excuse — and then the Dragonnades, and then the Reign of Terror, and then the Commune, and who knows, alas! what tomorrow has reserved for us…Spain has had the Inquisition; she has cruelly persecuted and expulsed the Jews, who, moreover, took refuge in Turkey, where, not doing any harm, they were welcomed with the most

(1) Does one know that at one of the last sessions of the Parliament House in Constantinople, Muslim deputies, after stigmatizing with violence the massacres, spoke in praise of the provincial governors for having protected the Armenians in spite of the order of extermination coming from the Sultan.

absolute tolerance and became most devout Ottoman patriots. At the Balkans, among the Christians, chronic massacres and persecutions exist since centuries: Orthodox against Catholics, Exarchists against Uniates and Muslims, indifferent pillaging troops against everyone, massacring in order to pillage. During the war declared on Turkey in 1912 who was already at odds with Italy, the massacrers were odiously on the side of some of the Christian allies; in a previous book, I believe to have given irrefutable proofs, in publishing thousand authorized and signed testimonies, and some duly authenticated reports of international commissions. Did I not prove that the Muslims of Macedonia were massacred by the thousands in the most hideous ways? But that does not matter for the Occident, those crimes are of importance only if they are committed by the Turks. No, it is the Turks, always the Turks! To the others, we pardon everything. We did not have a grudge against the Russians for the enormity of their betrayal, and the bloody horrors of their Bolshevism. Without pain, we have pardoned the Greeks of the recent assassinations of our dear sailors in Athens; — we have not done anything similar to them, have they ever done the equivalent of such betrayal, these poor Turks, who have never stopped loving us in spite of our outrageous acts? No, but what does it matter, it is the Turks, always the Turks!…

To speak right now about the Armenian race is for me more painful than one would believe, because the amount of their unfortunate incidents rendered me almost sacred; also I would not do it except that it is necessary to defend my friends from too much libel. If I were able to claim and support that all the French who have lived in Turkey, even our monks and nuns, give the Turks their esteem and their affection, on the contrary, I believe that we would find barely one out of a hundred of us who has good memories of these unfortunate Armenians. All who have had any relationship whatsoever with them, mundane or business, — business affairs above all, that turn away with antipathy


(17 lines unfortunately were censored by either the editor or the French authorities. Tetedeturc.com speculates the era in which the booklet was produced was widely pro-Armenian.... not all that different from the prejudices that exist today, especially in France.)

ADDENDUM, 1-08: The Rev. J. A. Zahm enlightens from a 1922 book: "Does France, the first nation of Europe to form an alliance with the Sublime Porte, know these things? She does, but, at the present time, it suits her purpose to feign ignorance of them and to follow the policy of England in her dealings with those whom she has professed to be her friends and allies since the days of Francis I. With a volte-face worthy of a politician she does not even allow a favorite Academician, Pierre Loti—who knows the Turks better probably than any man in France—to make a statement in their favor, without censoring it, for fear he will reflect on the course of the present government." (Emphasis Holdwater's. "Volte-face" means "about face.")



As far as the most distant villages, as far as the countryside, one finds them, these Armenians who practice usury, and soon in order to reimburse them, it is necessary to sell the cattle and the plow, and then the land, and the family house. All this, it goes without saying, augment the exasperation that they cause already by this role that is attributed to them, not without reason, to be the continual informers who excite all the Christians, Catholic or Orthodox, against Islam and who rouse all of the Occident against the Turkish motherland.

In the preceding chapter, I told a Turkish anecdote: here, I will tell an essentially Armenian one. In an Asian city, during the 1896 massacres, the French Consul, who had sheltered as many Armenians as possible at the Consulate under the French standard, came up to his terrace to see what was going on in the neighborhood, when two bullets, came from behind him, whistling in his ears; turning, he realized in a flash, an Armenian who had been aiming at him from a window of a neighboring house. Apprehended and questioned, the sly aggressor answered: "I did that so that the Turks would be accused, and with the hope that after the murder of the Consul, the French would rise against them."

But all these grievances — and still many others — are they reason to exterminate them? By God it does not please me that such an idea touch upon me for an instant! On the contrary, if my humble voice had some chance of being heard, I would beseech Europe, who has already delayed too long, I would beseech her to intervene, to protect the Armenians and to isolate them; since for many centuries a reciprocal hate absolutely irreducible has existed between them and the Turks, let us designate a part of Asia to be Armenian land where they would be their own masters, where they would break their acquired characteristics in servitude, and develop in peace the qualities that they still have. — Because they have them, the qualities; I agree that they are laborious, persevering, and in some aspects their patriarchal family life commands some respect. And, finally, even though it might be perhaps secondary, they have physical beauty, which in Occident is obliterated more and more due to excess of instruction, mental strain, the devastating factories and alcohol; I cannot think without a special melancholy of these massacred women who, for the most part without doubt, had admirable eyes of velvet…

More than once, in Paris, when I had to during a conversation attribute to the Armenians the part of the responsibility of their sufferings that falls on them, little self-sufficient men, who spoke of oriental questions like a blind man would talk about colors, responded to me, believing to be spiritual: "then, it is the hare that started it?" — Oh, well but...at least the massacres of 1896 which were the loudest, it was definitely the hare!…Here, I apologize for quoting myself; I want to, nevertheless, reproduce this passage from a book titled Agonizing Turkey that I published in 1913:

"Before throwing to the Turks all the horror of these massacres of 1896, it would be necessary first of all to forget with what violence the "Armenian Revolutionary Party" had began the attack. After having announced their intention to set the city on fire, which "for certain, the posters brazenly placed on the billboards stated, would soon be reduced to a desert of ashes" (sic), a young group of conspirators, who had seized the Ottoman Bank to blow it up, while the others had the Galata district covered in blood. There had been eighteen hours of terror during which dynamite ruled; Armenian bombs launched from windows a little bit everywhere fell on soldiers' heads, and the music of the Sultan who was heading to the palace for Friday prayers, was particularly affected.

"Oh well, which is the nation in the world that would not have responded with a similar exemplary punishment? Certainly a massacre is never excusable; and I do not suggest absolving my Turkish friends, I only want to attenuate their mistake, the way it's right. During normal times, good-natured, tolerant to the excess, sweet like dreaming children, I know that they can jump with extreme violence, and that sometimes red clouds pass in front of their eyes, but only when a hereditary old hatred, moreover always justified, reanimates in the bottom of their hearts, or when the voice of the Caliph calls them to the supreme defense of Islam…"

Poor Turks! it would be a prejudiced mistake for us all, an injustice, a crime against the principle of nationalities so often invoked in our time, to tear them away from this ground, conquered by arms, it is true, but which, over the centuries, has become their true Motherland. There, they will continue to give us, more than ever, and to us French especially, this complete and affectionate hospitality to which they have accustomed us since their arrival in Europe. As to their religious tolerance, I would like for as many Catholics from home, who damn them, to interrogate our priests and our good sisters who down there rub elbows with them each day; they would learn thus all the outward manifestations of faith are largely protected over there, and that the processions, the flags, banned in France, freely circulate on the roads of Constantinople, where the Turks are the first to salute their passage. Let us try to parade Catholic procession in certain Orthodox or Exarchist countries! … And what will happen in Palestine when we will no longer have as guardians at the gates of the Holy Sepulchre, the good Turks always ready to put a stop to the quarrel, when the representatives of different Levantine Christian sects who excrement one another, begin to bloody the basilica while fighting like dogs, hitting with silver crosses or gold monstrances!… Oh! yes, let us leave the Turks in Constantinople; with their tendency to immobilize themselves, which certain short-sighted psychologists criticizes, but which is their supreme prudence on the contrary, they will maintain a benevolent center of peace and inalterable loyalty, above all when they will find themselves really in security; when we would have rid them a little of the Levantine element, when they no longer would feel like Pariahs to whom Europe always puts on the blame and towards whom converge all the covetous desires, — above all when they no longer would have the constant menace of innumerable Russian masses, who do not stop to yearn from their side and to repeat to those who want to hear, at the end of all their banquets: It is necessary to finish with the Turks!…The Russians, in spite of their treason, none of us come to hate them, but finally let us be told, just the same, on what they base their claim to Constantinople! They do not have neither the hereditary right nor the ethnographic right, nor any excuse, and their presence, at the entrance of this most important corridor in the world, would be a perpetual danger to Europe. But what I have just said here is indeed outside of this defense of Turks that my conscience obliges me to defend. Moreover, what affirms my faith in the justness of my cause is, that if I hear behind me cries, insults, and the laughs of those who do not know, I have for me the only witnesses that count, those of nearly all the French who have lived there and who have been able to compare among themselves, the such diverse nations of the Orient.

I am going to be awkward without doubt by ending my argument with one more point without much importance. I want nevertheless to still say this. In the human species there are not only speculators and electricians, there are also, and with the grace of God, more and more, artistes, poets, dreamers, their number increasing, in proportion to the terror of seeing the ugliness invade everything. That one leaves them at least and that one respects for them, like an Eden, this small corner of the World that is still the least disfigured by modernism. It is necessary to be grateful to the poor Turks who still enchant our eyes a little bit with what remains of their esthetic conceptions. From Stamboul to Adrianople, they have built beautiful cities, as one knows. From this Bosphorus, that would have been without them a strait like any other, they have created a unique décor, with such a strange beauty that they knew how to pour on both banks: palaces, mosques, minarets, lodgings with mysterious aspects, half submerged into the running water; — and with so much beauty also that they have planted even over rapids and noisy waters: bursting colors of the oarsmen, the exquisite elegance of thousands of golden caiques and tall ships whose sterns lifted like castles. All this, I know, is gravely damaged by the barbarism of so many strangers or by Ottoman, Greek, Armenian, Jewish Raya who have come there to establish and who by a stupefying inconsequence have worked each in their own way to destroy bit by bit its charm, that yet they had vaguely understood, since they had fallen for it. Let them not tell me that this infinite seduction of these centers of Islam could exist when the Turks are no longer there; no, the seduction, they had brought with them and it will go out the day of the cruel banishment; the peace, the mystery and the immense reverie would vanish after them. It would be finished the adorable spell of the country when one would not meet again, in the labyrinth of small Muslim roads, the same passerbys, the same veiled ladies, the same solemn and thoughtful Ottomans in their turbans and long dresses; when there would no longer be the sweet welcoming small cemeteries scattered among the living to sweeten the idea of death; above all, when during the five prayer calls, there would cease to be heard above all silent and reaped things, the soaring voices of the muezzins.



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