Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Tolerance & Fairness, Under the Ottomans  
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 (Accorded) Internal autonomy...the millet system proved workable and beneficial for the Armenians.
(Richard Hovannisian, 1967.)


1. The Millet System, by Dr. Talip Kucukcan

2. Historical Tidbits from Guestbooks:

3. Armenians Prosper Under Turkish Rule, by Prof. Soysal

4. Relevant Quotes 

5. Origins of Ottoman Religious Tolerance: Ahdnama



The Millet system has been an important administrative apparatus to serve this end throughout Ottoman history. As a well known historian points out 'the Millet system emerged gradually as an answer to the efforts of the Ottoman administration to take into account the organization and culture of the various religious-ethnic groups it ruled. The system provided, on the one hand, a degree of religious, cultural and ethnic continuity within these communities, while on the other hand it permitted their incorporation into the Ottoman administrative, economic and political system.' (Karpat,1982)

Broadly speaking, the term 'Millet' in the context of Ottoman history means a religiously defined people. The Millet system had a socio-cultural and communal framework based, firstly, on religion and, secondly, on ethnicity which in turn reflected linguistic differences of the Millets consisted essentially of people who belonged to the same faith.

(Karpat, 1982) Shaw (1977) further elucidates the nature of this system:

‘division of society into communities along religious lines formed the millet (nation) system, with each individual or group belonging to one millet or another according to religious affiliation... Each millet established and maintained its own institutions to care for the functions not carried out by the ruling class and state, such as education, religion, justice and social security. The separate schools, hospitals and hotels, along with hospices for the poor and the aged, have remained to modern times long after the millet courts and legal status were ended by the nation states established in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.'

The Millet system has allowed the development and maintenance of ethnic identity on the part of minority subjects within the Ottoman Empire. Greek Orthodox Christians were established as the first major Millet and the Greek Orthodox patriarchal was recognised within the Millet system. The patriarch was allowed to apply Orthodox law in secular and religious matters to the followers of Orthodox Church in Istanbul.

Similarly, the policy of toleration and multi-culturalism consolidated by the Millet system allowed the Jews to form their own ethnic community and to establish independent religious institutions in Istanbul. It has been noted that the autonomy given to the minorities within the Ottoman territories attracted large numbers of displaced Jewish communities who then, were among the victims of persecution in Spain, Poland, Austria and Bohemia. Dumont (1982, p. 221-2) points out that 'while in Russia, Rumania, and most of the Balkan states, Jewish communities suffered from constant persecution (pogroms, anti-Jewish laws, and other vexations), Jews, established on Turkish territory enjoyed an altogether remarkable atmosphere of tolerance and justice.'


Dumont, P., (1982) 'Jewish Communities in Turkey during the last decades of the Nineteenth Century in the light of the Archives of the Alliance Israelite Universelle' in Benjamin Brad & Bernard Lewis (Eds.), Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, The Functioning of a Plural Society Vol.1, Holmes & Meier Publishers, New York, London, pp. 209-242

Karpat, K. H. (1982) 'Millets and Nationality: The Roots of the Incongruity of Nation and State in the Post-Ottoman Era' in Benjamin Brad & Bernard Lewis (Eds.), Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, The Functioning of a Plural Society Vol.1, Holmes & Meier Publishers, New York, London, pp.141-170

Shaw, S. J. (1977) History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 1., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 (New Approaches to European History, 17)
by Donald Quataert

By Dr. Talip Kucukcan 

From: turcoman.btinternet.co.uk/ottoman-millet-system.htm


  Slightly Edited Historical Tidbits from Guestbooks:


It is a known fact that the Ottoman Empire had the most liberal laws in the World, for its time. 

Here are a few examples: 

-Different religions could be judged by their own courts; for example, a Greek Orthodox Christian would not be judged by a Muslim. 

-There was full freedom of belief, especially during the pre-1820 period. 

-There was no ethnic background checks — you could be from any nation and become a minister of the strongest country on earth (Albanians for example contributed 48 ministers, and one of the most famous viziers: Sokullu was of Croatian origin) 

-The state would repair churches as well as synagogues.

-The Ottoman Empire is the state that OPENED the Cypriot Orthodox church, after hundreds of years of closure under Catholic rule, and gave it autonomy. 

(The writer is "Istankoy." Below is a passage from my favorite guestbook commentator, a Brit apparently of Czechoslovakian/Welsh descent... Nick.)


As for tolerance, the Ottoman Empire was a remarkable enterprise — a truly meritocratic state. Compare it, for example, to the Spanish empire which existed in the same time frame. Within a generation or two after the Spanish re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula all Muslims (who had been there 600 years or more) and Jews had been eradicated, expelled or forced to convert to Catholicism. Where did the Jews go? To Ottoman lands.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Spanish waged a colonial war in the Netherlands against Dutch Protestants that was horrendous even by the standards of the day — which were pretty grim. In the Americas they destroyed at least two highly sophisticated native cultures and reduced the people to stone age slavery where the memory of their civilisation barely survived....... then they stole everything in sight.

In Ottoman lands however, Orthodox churches and local cultures not only survived, but thrived. If the Ottomans had used the Spanish model of colonial war and government Cyprus, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Armenia would all be Muslim countries today — the way south and central Americans are Catholics. And I don't remember seeing anywhere in my history books an Ottoman version of the Holy Inquisition! In fact, if you look at Cyprus specifically it is thanks to the Turks that the Orthodox church has such an important position in Cypriot life.

After three hundred years of Crusader then Venetian rule the Orthodox church was dead on its feet — a little longer and they would all have been Catholics. It was the Ottomans who restored the autocephalous Orthodox archbishopric — a position that had been dormant since Byzantine times... Greeks should thank them. Turks today must be wondering why their ancestors bothered. I do. Here endeth the lesson.

Armenians Prosper Under Turkish Rule 


(The following excerpt is from the pen of Professor Mumtaz Soysal of Ankara University. Note relevant quotes at end, attesting to Ottoman fairness and tolerance.)

Armenian propagandists claim that the Turks mistreated non-Muslims, in particular Armenians throughout the history, to support their 'genocide' claims. Otherwise it would be very difficult for them to explain how the Turks, who lived side by side with their Armenian neighbours in total harmony for centuries, suddenly decided to massacre them all. 

The fact is the Armenian community was free to conduct their internal affairs as they pleased, including religious activities and education. There was never any attempt to convert Armenians or other non-Muslims to Islam. The Armenian spiritual leaders even went to Sultan Meliksah to thank him for his protection. The Armenian historian Mathias of Edessa relates that: 

"Meliksah's heart is full of affection and goodwill for Christians, he has treated the sons of Jesus Christ very well, and he has given the Armenian people peace, affluence and happiness" [2] 

Turkish tradition and Muslim law dictated that non-Muslims should be well treated in Turkish and Muslim empires. Therefore people from different religions were treated with an unprecedented tolerance which was reflected into the philosophies of great philosophers such as Yunus Emre and Mevlana. Their mottos were "we have the same view for all 72 nations" and "you are welcome, whoever you are, whatever you are". This approach was in stark contrast with the mentality of the Christian rulers who had slaughtered Christians of other sects, let alone non-Christians such as Muslims and Jews throughout history. Byzantine persecution of Gregorian Armenians, Venetian persecution of the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of the Morea and Aegean islands, Hungarian persecution of the Bogomils, Spanish persecution of Jews, Inquisition of the Dark Ages, Nazi persecution of Jews and recently Serbian slaughter of Bosnians. 

Fatih Sultan Mehmed's conquest of Istanbul in 1453 opened a new era of religious, political, social, economic and cultural prosperity for the Armenian population. Fatih issued a decree establishing the Armenian Patriarchy in Istanbul under Patriarch Hovakim. As a result of this, thousands of Armenians emigrated to Istanbul from Iran, the Caucassus, eastern and central Anatolia, Balkans and Crimea — not because of persecution or forced dislocation but because Fatih made his Empire a true centre of Armenian life. The Armenian community thus expanded and prospered together with the Ottoman Empire until their uprising in the darkest hours of the Ottomans. 

By Ottoman law, all Christian subjects who were not Greek Orthodox were included in the Armenian Gregorian millet. This included Paulicians, Yakubites, Bogomils and Gypsies leading to substantial disputes in later times as to the total number of Armenians living in the Empire. Thus the estimates of Armenians deported after their uprising vary greatly. Armenian figures go as high as 2.5 million whereas British sources come closer to the actual Ottoman Census statistics of 1 million. 

Freedom in the Ottoman Empire 

Freedom granted to non-Muslims by the Ottomans was so well known in Europe that the Empire became the major place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution. Thousands of Jews fled from persecution from Spanish rulers in 15th century to Ottoman lands followed by Jews in Central and East Europe as well as Russia. Catholics and Protestants also fled to the Ottoman Empire, often entering the service of the sultans and contributing to the military and governmental life. 

2. Mathias of Edessa, Chronicles, Nr. 129

Prof. Jeffrey Lewis of Oxford University

Prof. Jeffrey Lewis of Oxford University

   In the documentary "Sari Gelin," Prof. Jeffrey Lewis of Oxford University stated:

The Ottoman Empire would not have lasted for six hundred years... You cannot for six hundred years suppress, subdue or bully a lot of people of different ethnic groups. And in any case, if you ill treat your subjects, then the tax is not collected from them.


Relevant Quotes

 When Napoleon Bonaparte tried to stir revolt among the Armenian Catholics of Syria and Palestine to support his invasion of 1798-1799, his ambassador Sebastiani in Istanbul replied that: 

"The Armenians are so content with their lives here that a revolt is impossible" 

Turkish tolerance towards non-Muslims was so well known that many famous historians commented on their virtue: 

Voltaire: "The great Turk is governing in peace twenty nations from different religions. Turks have taught the Christians how to be moderate in peace and gentle in victory" 

Philip Marshall Brown: "Despite the great victory they won, Turks have generously granted to the people in the conquered regions the right to administer themselves according to their own rules and traditions" 

J. W. Arnold: "It is an undeniable historical fact that the Turkish armies have never interfered with the religious and cultural affairs in the areas they conquered." 

Even Politis who was the foreign minister in the Greek government led by miserably defeated Prime Minister Venizelos: "The rights and interests of the Greeks in Turkiye could not be better protected by any other power but the Turks"


"I can only differentiate the Muslims of my subjects at mosque; the Christians at church; and the Jewish at synagogue. Apart from that, they are all my sons and daughters" --Sultan Mahmut II


Origins of Ottoman Religious Tolerance: Ahdnama

 In 1463 Sultan Mohhamed the Second, granted a charter of rights, better known as the Ahdnama, to the Bosnian Fransciscan in which he regulated his relationship with the Catholic Church in Bosnia represented by the Bosnian custos Andjeo [Angel] Zvizdic. He also granted a similar charter to the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Genady II. Society and governmental control under Ottoman rule were even organized along religious group lines (the millet system). Thus, for the Orthodox and Catholic believers, religious authorities were also civil one, responsible to a certain extent for the members of their respective groups. 

In its form, content and particularly in the Sultan's pledge in the conclusion it has the force of the international contract. Mohammed the Second, who after the fall of Constantinopole in 1453, considered himself the Eastern Roman Emperor, granted a similar charter to the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Genady II. It is interesting to point here that Pope Pius II, who denied the right of Mohammed the Second to call himself Emperor of Byzantinum (since he was not a Christian!), never formally contested the legallity of the Ahdnama. Andjeo Zvizdic "Vrhbosanski" remained the "Sultan's faithfull subject, obedient to his rule" as he promised in the Ahdnama charter, until his death in 1498. His two brothers, Domsha and Milutin, held hign administrative posts in the Bosnian Sanjak. 

Quoted here is the segment of the Ahdnama Charter: "I, Sultan Mohammed-han, announce to all the people that the recipients of this imperial firman, the Bosnian Clergy, are held by me in my great esteem, and I therefore order that: No one should disturb or meddle with them or their churches. They are to live in peace in my Empire. Those who have fled should feel free and secure. They should return and settle again without fear in their monasteries... They must not be disturbed either by My High Majesty, or by my viziers, employees, subjects or any other inhabitants of my Empire. No one should attack, insult or endanger: either them, or their lives, or property, or their churches. And if they wish to bring some person from foreing lands into my state, they are allowed to do so. Having made this imperial order, I make the following sacred pledge: By the Creator of earth and sky, who feeds all his creatures, by the seven sacred books, by our great Prophet, and by the sword which I wear, I swear that no one shall act against what has been written here while this clergy remains subject to my service and faithful to my rule." 

written on May 28 (1463) 

The Armenian Patriarch was also established by the orders of Mehmet.

More importantly, when talking about the Armenians, their privileges were particularly generous. From the viewpoint of the rankings of the millet system, the qualification given to the Armenians were quite positive, and they were welcomed into the system with the title millet-i-sadika (the loyal nation). Hence, assertions, claiming that the Armenians had been subjected to long term discrimination, including violence and massacres, and that Armenians were treated as a "second class minority" within the millet system of the Ottoman Empire seem to be gross exaggerations.

Süleyman Seyfi Öğün, Facing “Original Sin” or “Realities”: Meditations on the Armenian “Genocide,” THE ARMENIANS in the Late Ottoman Period



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