Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Jeremy Salt's "Britain, the Armenian Question...1894-96"  
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Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems

Britain, the Armenian Question and the Cause of Ottoman Reform: 1894-96

Jeremy Salt

Middle Eastern Studies, July 1990 , Vol. 26 Issue 3.

(Thanks to Hector)


Throughout the nineteenth century successive Ottoman governments undertook reforms on a large scale, affecting all crucial areas of Ottoman society, and proving beyond doubt that reform was not merely a catchword used to 'throw dust in Europe's eyes' as some European critics seemed to believe. In Britain, the question of reform became of paramount importance as British political, religious and economic interests in the Ottoman state grew. Numerous British diplomats acknowledged the difficulties involved in trying to reform an empire so large and beset by so many problems. Writing from Tunis in 1877, Consul Richard Wood — 'the oldest (British) public servant in active service in the Ottoman dominions' and certainly one of the best informed — took a positive view, arguing that it was 'unfair' to tax the Ottoman government with insincerity in its 'laudable' efforts to give effect to reforms [1]. In 1878 the newly appointed British ambassador to the Porte, Sir A. H. Layard, submitted to Sultan Abdulhamit II some 'suggestions' for improving the administration of his empire and developing its vast natural resources [2]. Layard's suggestions were painted on a broad canvas and dealt with such matters as Ottoman finances, the judicial system, the development of roads, railways and natural resources, the need to pay public servants regularly, and the urgent need for an equitable tax system.

Ottoman reformers would have had little difficulty in identifying with many of these ideas. To a large and influential section of British public opinion, however, reform simply meant better treatment of Ottoman Christians, whose position or 'plight' had been thrust to the forefront of European diplomacy on numerous occasions since the Greek war of independence. The terrible events which had taken place on Mt. Lebanon and in Damascus in 1860 and the Bulgarian 'horrors' of 1876 had strengthened the belief in an age self-consciously and often aggressively Christian that it was Christians who suffered most under the Ottoman 'yoke'.


In the Hatt-i Serif of 1839 and the Hatt-i Humayun of 1856 Sultan Abdülmecid had affirmed that his subjects would be given fair and equal treatment irrespective of religious background. Further general undertakings were written into the Treaty of Paris (1856), but by the time the Cyprus Convention and the Treaty of Berlin were both signed in 1878 the concern of British Christians had begun to focus almost exclusively on the Armenians. 'The critical moment in the destiny of this country has, I believe, arrived', a British traveller wrote of the Ottoman state after the war with Russia in 1877/78. "The Armenians, detesting Ottoman rule, are ready to cast themselves into the arms of any power that will offer them protection and guarantee their future emancipation' [3]. An Armenian delegation went to Berlin in the hope that the European powers would impose an autonomous Armenian vilayet on the sultan. However, along with the humbled Ottomans, the Armenians were virtually ignored by the European power brokers. The question of reform was only taken up towards the end of the conference, resulting in the following clause being written into the treaty: 'The Sublime Porte undertakes to carry out without further delay the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in provinces inhabited by the Armenians and to guarantee their security against the Circassians and the Kurds. It will periodically make known the steps taken to this effect to the Powers, who will superintend their application' [4].

Sir Austen Henry Layard

Sir Austen Henry Layard

What Britain hoped to gain at Berlin for itself was encapsulated in a despatch written by Layard shortly before the congress began. The ambassador was gratified to learn that the views of the Foreign Secretary (Lord Salisbury) were now in line with his own priorities of blocking the Russians and maintaining, in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire, a 'strong hand and the power to rule' [5]. Britain's responsibility lay in ensuring that this power was not abused, and that it positively contributed to the welfare and prosperity of 'all classes, races and creeds'. If Salisbury's policies were carried out, Layard believed,

we may come triumphantly out of our difficulties and promote our interests and those of humanity and civilisation at the same time. But we must be firm and not yield an iota of this programme. The Russians, who cannot but foresee the enormous danger of a war with England, will endeavour to make concessions in the hope of averting one, but it is doubtful whether they will make those which are absolutely necessary to our interests as distinct from those of Europe in general. They will employ all their usual diplomatic tricks and cunning, but I think we shall not be taken in. We must have the Asiatic part of the question settled in a manner that will prevent the Asiatic dominions of the Sultan becoming ere long mere Russian dependencies, or as Ld. Salisbury very aptly calls them, 'satrapies' [6]

For his part Salisbury regarded Layard as being 'in the front of the battle for the interest of both England and humanity in the east' [7]. The Cyprus Convention and the Treaty of Berlin implanted in some minds the idea that Britain had acquired the right to establish a protectorate in the eastern vilayets of the Ottoman state. James Bryce, in a letter to The Times, wrote that 'happily the object which the friends of Armenia have is now, by an assumption of the protectorate of eastern Turkey, in large measure attained' [8]. Even Layard referred to the 'great additional labours imposed on me by our "protectorate" in Asiatic Turkey' [9], but he was clearly aware of the dangers involved. 'It is all very well to sit around a green table and cut up an empire on a map', he wrote shortly after Berlin, but 'it is a very different thing to put what has been so easily settled into execution. I anticipate no end of trouble and bloodshed for years to come in this unhappy country' [10]. Whatever the difficulties it was made clear to him that public opinion in Britain would allow no backsliding on the question of reform. Philip Currie — later (as Sir Philip) himself ambassador to the Porte — wrote to Layard from the Foreign Office that people would 'hardly tolerate the maintenance of the (Cyprus) Convention' if the 'Turks' refused to accept 'real reforms' [11].


Layard's attempts to persuade the sultan to accept British plans for reform, in which European supervision over tax collection, judicial procedures and the gendarmerie in the eastern vilayets was a dominant element, have been amply documented [12]. They foundered not only because the Ottoman government was in no position to finance the measures being proposed (and neither then nor later did Britain itself make any offers of financial assistance) but because the sultan was strongly opposed to any suggestion of European control. Layard persevered throughout 1879, with the policy of persuasion turning to threats that the fleet would be sent through the Dardanelles (Canakkale) unless the sultan did what was being asked of him. By 1880, the ambassador's exasperation seemed complete. British officers arriving in Istanbul on their way to organise the gendarmerie in the provinces had been treated with the 'most marked discourtesy and neglect' and very few had been even succeeded in reaching their destinations. 'It is no use making threats which are not to be put into execution', Layard wrote. 'If we are in earnest about wishing to save this country but at the same time to reform its administration so that its population may be justly and impartially governed we must be prepared to go further than mere menace' [13]. However, Layard's time at Istanbul was almost over. Within a few weeks the Liberals were returned to office and on 6 May the incoming Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone, recalled the man he once described as a 'pure Turkish jackall' [14].

William Gladstone

William Gladstone

With Gladstone as Prime Minister it was certain that the sultan would be even less responsive to British demands. Gladstone had taken a leading role in the Bulgarian agitation of the 1870s, his sixpenny pamphlet, 'Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East', selling by the thousands. To the Ottomans, he was a fanatic whose antipathy to the sultan, Islam and the Turks — whom he had described in 1876 as an 'anti-human specimen of humanity' [15] seemed to know no bounds. His bland disclaimer of any ill towards the Turks ('Hobart Pasha . . . told me the Sultan believed I was his greatest enemy. I have never been so great an enemy to him as he to himself. I have never had extreme views about Turkey' [16]) was belied by public and private statements made over a long period of time. He regarded Abdulhamit as the 'Arch-liar and Arch-cheat', a ruler whose political nature was absorbed in vice, a rascal whose chief characteristics were 'Protean shiftings and shufflings', 'bottomless fraud', falseness, immeasureable lying and any number of other sins [17]. It was no wonder that the sultan looked upon the British leader with 'a kind of horror' [18].

Attempts were made to maintain pressure on the sultan. Lord Dufferin, according to his biographer, was sent to Istanbul with a brief to 'extort' reforms [19] from 'that consummate rogue'.[20]

The failure of his predecessors to make any real headway in persuading the sultan to accept reforms devised by the British government was for Sir William White, ambassador from 1886-91, an 'object lesson in the futility of attempting to interfere in the Turkish administration of Asia Minor'.[21]

The sultan became rapidly disenchanted with the British during this period. In spite of the assurances given during the Congress of Berlin, Britain had taken part in the continuing dismemberment of the Ottoman empire. When in 1890 Arminius Vambery blamed him for the estrangement which had set in between the two countries, Abdulhamit was astonished: 'Since my accession to the throne they [the British] have not shown me the slightest sign of that traditional old friendship which characterised centuries ago the relations of this country with England. On the contrary, they seem to have been anxious to give me unmistakeable proofs of their outspoken enmity and of convincing me of a radical change in our former relations. I do not need giving you details, you know them well'.[22] The Egyptian question was near the top of his list of complaints. In the sultan's eyes, the British occupation was causing 'serious injury to my title of Khalife, for you know Egypt jointly with Mekka and Medina belongs to the dignity of the successor of Mohammed and forms the main attribute of the spiritual chief of Islam'. If the Egyptian situation were not 'regulated', then 'my prestige must immensely suffer in the eyes of my co-religionists, and I daresay nobody expects me to commit political suicide'.[23]

The planned reorganisation of the eastern vilayets in favour of the Armenians was the cause of equal rancour. The sultan and his ministers had often declared that the people of the east were not ready for the reforms being proposed. It was difficult enough for them to accept reforms which the Ottoman government was introducing of its own volition. The majority, wrote Consul Biliotti in 1880, were simply 'not in a sufficiently advanced state of intellectual development to understand the beneficial purposes of laws framed in a more liberal spirit than the existing ones. The only thing that they recognise in their new legal procedure is that culprits cannot be apprehended before being warned, that is summoned to appear in courts, and warrants for apprehension issued against them. The law which they were hitherto accustomed to fear but not respect has therefore lost the only power it possessed in their eyes, that of the dread it inspired'.[24] Through Vambery, Abdulhamit implored Britain 'not to press upon me with the introduction of reforms for which my people is still unripe and which are ipso facto injurious to the political, social and religious conditions of this country'.[25] Furthermore, he could not admit "any kind of superintendence or surveillance over my government even if such interference be made under the guise of friendly and well wishing advice'".[26] The sultan did not deny that there were serious problems in the administration of the eastern vilayets: 'As to the wrongs from which the Armenians have to suffer at the hands of the rapacious and disorderly Kurds you must not imagine that I am unaware of the gross neglect of my civil officers in the interior', he told Vambery. 'But my dear Reshid Effendi (i.e. my name), what can I do? My pashas have their own policy, they are utterly deficient in patriotism and honesty. I myself cannot cure the evils at once. It requires time and patience and if my friends, and particularly the English, whom you designate as such, go on augmenting my troubles instead of supporting me then my task will become more arduous and we both will have to suffer by it'.[27]

The prospect of an Armenian state roused the sultan to deep passions. 'Flaming with fury and trembling before me', he told Vambery that such a state would be 'the most crying injustice' to the Muslims of the six eastern vilayets — 'they can sever that head from my neck but never Armenia [sic] from my empire![28] It was against the current of such feelings, fed by the strong suspicion that the campaign of reforms was the thin end of a wedge which would indeed end in Armenian independence, that British diplomats saddled with the task of establishing a 'protectorate' laboured so fruitlessly through the 1880s.


When Sir Francis Clare Ford took over as ambassador from Sir William White, Lord Salisbury was able to record with satisfaction that there had been a 'considerable improvement' in the general administration of the Ottoman state in recent years.[29] At the same time there were numerous indications that the 'ancient symbiosis' [30] between Muslims and Christians was rapidly breaking down. Armenian revolutionaries were mobilising and stockpiling arms in numerous areas and their activities — ranging from placard warfare against the sultan to murder, bombings and pitched battles with troops — were already provoking Muslim reprisals and causing suspicion to fall on Armenian communities in general. In such an atmosphere, the events which took place in 1894 around Sasun — where intermittent conflict had been reported since 1891 — precipitated a slide into general communal chaos in the east. Sasun was presented by the Armenians and their foreign supporters as an unprovoked massacre of Armenians by Ottoman troops. Indeed, the Ottoman Commission of Inquiry subsequently appointed did find that despite formal denials 'the accusation of massacre of the Armenians by the troops at Geliguzan was well founded. The villages of Kavar, Senik, Semal and Geliguzan, and the entire district of Talori, Agpi, Hetink, Spagank, with their dependencies, were laid waste and almost all the inhabitants, left without homes or means, were forced to scatter among the Armenian villages of the plains'.[31] What the Armenians and their sympathisers abroad did not know or conveniently overlooked was the reason for troop reinforcements being to Sasun in the first place — an Armenian uprising in which many Muslim villagers were killed. According to the sequence of events given by Abdulhamit,

Murad (Hamparsum Boyadjian)

A man called Mourad, the same Armenian who was at the bottom of the troubles at Coum-Capou [Stamboul] two years ago and made his escape to Athens and from there to Geneva, found his way to Sasun and raised up all the population of eight or nine villages by telling them that 'there is an army coming to their help which is to reach Sasun in balloons'. He got them to abandon their villages and carry off all their property and families into secure places and then all the able men, being armed with flint guns, sabers, knives and axes, went up to a monastery on the top of a mountain nearby after having burned their villages and slaughtered all the inhabitants of all the Mussulman villages on the way and burned their villages too. This is the correct statement of Mourad in his declaration on his cross examination as reported by the Chief Commander of the 4th Army Corps.[32]

The sultan gave details of some of the atrocities which had been committed and commented that the behavior of the Armenians was enough 'to exasperate the mildest people in the world'.

Estimates of the number of Armenians killed in the Sasun district fluctuated wildly: the American consul at Sivas wrote that between 5,000 and 10,000 Christians had been killed, but these figures were greatly exaggerated. The sultan and his ministers simply could not understand 'how an old man like Mr. Gladstone could have been carried away with blind fanaticism in speaking at Chester of tens of thousands murdered at Sasun whereas the total population, Mohammedan and Christian, amounted to only three or four thousand souls'.[33] Only a few months later the American minister plenipotentiary in Istanbul wrote that the Armenians still enjoyed full religious freedoms under Ottoman rule and that 'in the face of facts like these, and with full knowledge that non-resident Armenians have been organising a revolutionary movement it is folly to insist, as has been done in the English and American press, that atrocities at Sasun were instigated by the Mohammedan hatred of the Christian faith'.[34] When the Ottoman commission of inquiry concluded its hearings, it found that 265 Armenians had been killed at Sasun. In a dissenting memorandum the British observer, Consul Shipley, criticised certain aspects of the inquiry and said the figure could be as high as 900, but this was still considerably less than the numbers being bandied about in the foreign press.[35]


Vambery cautioned Britain against further interference in Ottoman affairs.

Ármin Vámbéry

Arminius Vambery
The Hungarian professor believed
the Hungarian & Turkish languages
were similar, and helped
Bram Stoker for his research with
Dracula; he is believed to be the
inspiration for Van Helsing

The more the Armenians are supported by Europe, 'the greater becomes the danger which threatens them by the hand of the Kurds and the Ottoman authorities, for the scattered and isolated conditions of these Christians makes every effective defence totally illusory and still more under the present circumstances, when the so-called Hamidie regiments consisting of adventurous Kurds have been provided with modern arms by the Sultan. Considering that the Christian West cannot and will not interfere for the sake of these poor Christians by using coercive means in Constantinople, every encouragement given the Armenians is equivalent to an incitement to plunder and to murder. If the shortsighted humanitarians cannot be convinced of the real state of things, the [British] government certainly ought not to be deceived by the unmistakeable danger and they ought to act accordingly'.[36] Although Gladstone was no longer Prime Minister at this stage, the Liberals were still in government; they were overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Armenians and besides, public opinion was building up pressure on the Armenian question which no government could ignore. Thus it was that the reform question was dusted off and again placed at the top of the agenda. By December 1894, the American minister in Istanbul, Alexander Terrell, was recording his conviction that the 'guarded reserve' which had marked Britain's approach to reforms lately had given way to a more positive approach, and 'if I may judge from the spirit with which her representative here expresses himself, her future policy will be more aggressive'.[37]

Nevertheless, it is still surprising to find the British ambassador [now Sir Philip Currie] insisting on elements of reform which the sultan was known to detest, particularly European supervision. Currie believed that the Ottomans were maintaining neither the letter nor the spirit of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. The Powers wanted greater attention paid to 'the two great principles of equality and decentralisation', whereas in its own reform proposals the Porte had retained the principle of centralisation 'even in the smallest administrative detail'.[38] Currie also submitted that exceptionally vigorous measures were needed to restrain the Kurds, to the extent that they should be excluded from the reforms intended for the 'population of Armenia' and given a separate administration 'suitable to their warlike and primitive habits'.[39]

The British government's assumed right to dictate Ottoman policy was no more acceptable than previously to the sultan and his ministers, who were clearly faced with an extremely complex and volatile situation in the east. When the Ottoman ambassador in London, Rustem Pasa, asked the Foreign Secretary for the grounds on which Britain based its right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Ottoman state, Lord Kimberley, expressing some astonishment, replied that 'we had the most plain and undoubted right, based upon the Treaty of Berlin and the Cyprus Convention of 1878, and not only had we, in common with the other Powers, a right to interfere, but these treaties laid upon us most solemn obligations that we could neglect'.[40] As we shall see, this interpretation of Britain's rights and obligations was not shared by Lord Salisbury, who was directly involved in shaping both the convention and the treaty.[41]

In conversations with Currie, Abdulhamit accused England of encouraging and protecting the Armenians, who could not be brought into the provincial administration in greater numbers in the present disturbed conditions. His position was that the laws promulgated by his uncle and grandfather

Sultan Abdulhamit

were amply sufficient to insure good government if properly executed. He proposed, however, to improve the existing administration in three ways. Firstly by increasing the numbers of gendarmes and soldiers in places where Kurds and Armenians were in conflict: and secondly, by sending better men as judges. Formerly, few Turks went abroad to study and in Turkey they had hitherto had no opportunity of acquiring a proper judicial training. Such training was, however, now provided in the schools he had established. He added that he feared the indolence of his officials was responsible for much maladministration. In Europe, he had heard, the courts sometimes sat till late at night, whereas Turkish judges were always anxious to leave early. He would, however, see to this. Thirdly, he proposed to introduce a certain number of Armenian functionaries into the public service in some parts of the Empire but the execution of the reforms must be gradual and [would] depend on the good behavior of the Armenians themselves. Under these circumstances, there would be no necessity to demand reforms of the Porte.[42]


Having set up his own commission of inquiry in April the sultan informed Currie that he had decided to accept its recommendations which included the appointment of Christian muavins (assistants) to the valis in the eastern vilayets, of a 'certain number' of Christian kaimakams and mudirs, and the recruitment of Christians for the gendarmerie.[43] He hoped these measures would be acceptable to the British government. However, Britain remained committed to the introduction of a European plan of reforms. The Russian Foreign Minister held out little hope that such a project could be made to work: he believed 'that there were but three districts in Asia Minor where the Armenians formed the majority of the population, viz. Bitlis, Angora and Alexandretta.[44] But these places were far apart, and could scarcely be united in one province. Armenians were scattered throughout the country, indeed throughout the world, and there was no one locality which could be described as Armenia'.[45] The powers would assume a very heavy burden if they were to insist on these reforms being carried out,' and they could only do so by direct interference in the internal affairs of the country'.[46] The role of the British ambassador in persisting with the introduction of a European plan of reforms against the opposition and the warnings of the sultan was clearly critical. To the American minister, his 'aggressive policy' resulted in massacres.[47]

As Currie had been demanding, European supervision was again a feature of the memorandum and the scheme of reforms finally agreed upon by the ambassadors of Britain, France and Russia and presented to the sultan on May 11 and to the Porte on May 14, 1895. The first point sought in the memorandum was an unspecified reduction in the number of vilayets named in their reform plan (Erzeroum, Bitlis, Van, Sivas, Mamouret el-Aziz and Diarbekir), which would make possible certain economies in the general administration expenses'. Moreover, the redistribution should be effected in such a way 'as to divide the population into ethnographical groups of as homogeneous a character as possible in the different administrative divisions of each province'.[48] Secondly, concerning the appointment of valis, the ambassadors not only expressed their determination 'to address representations to the Porte whenever choice is made of individuals whose appointment might be open to objection', but they insisted that they should be informed 'unofficially' of these appointments beforehand. The third point sought a liberal amnesty for Armenians accused of or condemned for political offences but who had not been convicted of 'direct participation' in crimes against the common law.[49]

The fourth, fifth and sixth points sought the right of return for all Armenians who had been exiled without trial, or who had fled through poverty or fear caused by recent events; a swift hearing of all criminal proceedings; and an inspection of prisons by 'high officials' sent from the capital. The seventh dealt with the appointment of a high commissioner to supervise the execution of reforms, whose appointment would depend on the approval of the powers. Point eight sought the creation of a permanent commission of control, with three Muslim and three Christian members (apart from its president, whose religion was not specified), which would be obliged to accept submissions from the embassies. Point nine dealt with compensation to the Armenians for injuries and loss of property (no mention was made of injuries suffered and property lost by Muslims), point 10 with safeguards surrounding religious conversions, and point 11 with the maintenance of the privileges of the Armenians under the Armenian organic statute of 1863 and the berats (official warrants of approval) issued by the sultan.

The final demand concerned Armenians living in vilayets outside those in the reform scheme: 'If in those vilayets there are places (such as Hadjin, in the vilayets of Adana, and Zeitoun in that of Aleppo, and etc.), where the Armenians form the majority of the population, the existing administrative division shall be altered and the scheme of reforms for the constitution of the nahies [50] shall be applied to those places, which will thus become separate administrative divisions'.[51]


In their reform plan, consisting of 40 articles, the ambassadors also sought:

1. The appointment of valis for five years and the appointment of muavins, assistants to the vali, 'who shall be Christians when the valis are Mussulmans and Mussulmans when the valis are Christians'. Apart from receiving petitions, superintending the police and prisons and controlling the collection of taxes, the muavin would take charge of the vilayet in the vali's absence (Art.3).

2. The appointment of a 'certain number' of Christian mutesarrifs.[52] Each mutessarif would have a muavin, who would be Christian if the mutessarif were Muslim and Muslim if he were Christian. The muavin would take charge of the sancak [53] in the mutessarif's absence (Art.4).

3. The appointment of a 'certain number' of Christian kaimakams [54] in each vilayet, with muavins chosen according to the same prescription of religious 'balance' as described for the mutessarifs. In any case, the number of Christian mutessarifs and kaimakams must not be less than one third of the total in each vilayet (Art.6).

4. The division of each kaza [55] into a certain number of nahies, the boundaries of which 'shall be fixed as far as possible in such a manner that villages of the same religion shall be grouped in one and the same nahie. Regard shall generally be paid to topographical and ethnographical conditions, as well as to the requirements of the population' (Art.7).

5. The appointment of police 'irrespective of religion' from the population of the nahies (Art. 18).

6. In accordance with 'special regulations', the organisation of a corps of provincial gendarmes, two-thirds to be recruited from the police of the nahies (Muslims and non-Muslims in equal numbers), and the remainder drawn from the regular army (Art.21).

7. The appointment in the principal towns of the vilayets and sancaks of 'Committees of Preliminary Inquiry', whose duties would be to investigate arrests and inspect prisons. They would have the authority to order the imprisonment or the release of prisoners. Each committee would consist of a president and two other members (one a Muslim, one a Christian) (Art.23).

8. The appointment in each vilayet of an official to be responsible for controlling the Kurds. Under his authority, 'a certain number of officials shall accompany each tribe in its annual migration. These officials shall exercise over it a power of police, order the arrest of all malefactors and bring them before the ordinary tribunals'. Furthermore, 'efforts shall be made to impress on the nomad populations the principles of a sedentary life by accustoming them to agricultural labor and, with this object, land shall be allotted to them in localities where their installation cannot interfere with the tranquillity and welfare of the sedentary populations' (Art.24)

9. The use of Hamidiye cavalry only in conjunction with regular troops — 'at ordinary times and when not on service the Hamidie cavalry shall not wear uniforms or carry arms' (Art.25).

10. The collection of taxes under the direction of local authorities, with each subdivision of the vilayet taking from the taxes collected by it 'the amount necessary for the expenses of its administration' in accordance with figures set down in the government budget (Art.28).

11. The appointment of a 'sufficient number' of magistrates in each kaza, one third of them to be Christian (Art.30).

The plan of the ambassadors also dealt with the reorganisation of the nahies and the election of local councils (Arts.7-17). Although no demand for European supervision was made beyond the 'unofficial' communication of the names of proposed valis and the right to approve the High Commissioner, it was expected that foreign consuls would watch over the application of the scheme and that berats (official warrants of approval) would be sought to place additional consuls in towns where there were none.[56]


The memorandum and the reform project are astonishing documents, not only because they represented the attempt of three sovereign powers to reorganise the internal administration of a fourth — this was not unusual in dealings between the European powers and the Ottoman state — but because the ambassadors were setting themselves against some of the most fundamental aspects of Ottoman policy. These concluded centralisation, not the decentralisation sought by the powers. More importantly, all reforms introduced since 1839 had been directed towards the over-arching notion of 'Ottomanism', of creating a sense of Ottoman identity which transcended millet loyalty, and thus the redrawing of the nahies along religious or 'ethnographical' lines could not possibly be accepted. The idea that a handful of officials could step in and control migratory tribes was questionable at the very least. As for the element of European control, there was never any possibility that the sultan would accept it, raising the likelihood that the real target of the powers was not Abdulhamit but public opinion and particularly British public opinion.

Alexander Terrell

Alexander Terrell
The Texan served as minister to
the Ottoman Empire under Grover
Cleveland, 1893 to 1897.

In the opinion of minister Terrell, the measures proposed would bring about 'the gradual destruction of the Mohammedan rule and only a demonstration of force could make the sultan accept them'.[57] Certainly the authority of the central government would be weakened, and by setting quotas of Christian officials which would be out of proportion to the size of the Christian population, it seemed likely that communal tension might be increased rather than diminished.[58] Vambery told the British Foreign Office that the scheme suggested a total failure of the ambassadors to understand the practical difficulties involved. The establishment of separate Muslim and Christian enclaves would arouse no end of quarrels. In the provinces, he wrote,

Moslems imagine and claim certain privileges against their non Moslem coumtrymen, privileges which they believe to emanate from their religion and which have been sanctioned by the customs and usages of centuries. In Constantinople itself the government could introduce reforms in this direction owing to the higher standards of education and to the greater number of Christians living together with the ruling class. But in the provinces, this is not the case. Here things have remained in the same condition as before the tanzimat, all innovations have merely touched the outer surface, and if the Sultan would come out saying 'Mohammedans are just like Christians, there is no difference between you both' I am afraid he would create great discontent, nay, he would have to face a revolutionary rising.

If the powers did have as their aim the creation of a separate province or Armenian state, 'then their real troubles would begin, for the Armenians, being scattered over the whole Ottoman Empire, the so-called Armenia would have to extend from at least Erzeroum and Bayazid down to Diarbekir in the east and Adrianople in the west'.[60]

In its reply to the ambassadors the Ottoman government conceded some points — an officer and troops would accompany the Kurds on their annual migrations and every attempt would be made to induce them to adopt a sedentary way of life — but the most provocative of the European demands were rejected.[61] Appointments to the provincial administration, police and gendarmerie would be made only in proportion to the size of the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in each vilayet. A reduction in the number of vilayets and their reorganisation on 'ethnographical lines' was impracticable, 'seeing that in each district the populations are mixed'. The 'unofficial communication' of the names of the valis the sultan proposed to appoint would be derogatory to the independence of the Ottoman state. A 'pardon' (not an amnesty) had been granted to many Armenians, and it had been decided already to pardon more. Armenians who had been exiled or who had left the country for other reasons would be permitted to return if they gave guarantees of good behavior. The appointment of judicial commissions of inquiry was unnecessary; two inspectors, Muslim and non-Muslim, were to be appointed to each vilayet to expedite the course of justice and inspect prisons. And as the valis of each province were entrusted with seeing that the reforms were faithfully carried out, not to mention the commission established within the Interior Ministry and the inspectors it had at its disposal, the appointment of a High Commissioner was also unnecessary. Concerning the submission of information by the dragomans to a permanent commission of control it was feared that this 'could not but give rise to frequent controversies' and 'unpleasant difficulties'. Again, as one commission had been appointed already, there was no need to create another.


The appointment of Christian muavins to the valis to 'protect the interests of the Armenians' in the eastern provinces outside the reform scheme would constitute a special privilege at odds with the principles of equality already affirmed, and would furthermore 'provoke hostility between the communities'. The sultan was to take up the point again later, noting that the six vilayets 'cannot at any future time acquire a privileged character'.[62]

Although Vambery cautioned the British against bringing further pressure to bear on the sultan, not only did they persist but they began to think of more forceful means to attain their ends.

Lord Salisbury

Lord Salisbury

In June the Conservatives were returned to office and on 5 August Lord Salisbury inquired of his ambassador at the Tsar's court 'how far the Russian government are willing to proceed in putting pressure on the Porte as they do not consider that diplomatic means will be of much further avail. Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the three Powers cannot withdraw from the enterprise without loss of credit; and they have entertained no doubt that in consenting to co-operating with them in this matter the two allies contemplated the possibility of being driven to more energetic measures in the event of the Sultan declining to take any action'.[63] Already, it seems, Salisbury was preparing for the future division of Ottoman territory between the European states.[64]

If this indeed was the bait being offered, it was no longer in Russian interests to take it. The Russian Foreign Minister told the British ambassador that the ambassadors in Constantinople had no right to resort to coercive means or threatening language:

He feared that Her Majesty's Government, urged on by public opinion, which he believed had been the work of the Armenian committees, would be inclined to adopt a course with which Russia could not associate herself. The fact was that the Armenian committees in London and elsewhere aimed at the creation in Asia Minor of a district in which the Armenians would enjoy exceptional privileges and which would form the nucleus (noyau) of a future Armenian state, and to this Russia would not and could not agree.[65]

Furthermore, events in the eastern vilayets had brought Russian Armenians to an 'excited state' and the authorities had been forced to take 'severe measures' to stop them sending arms and money across the border.[66]

The Foreign Minister observed that while Mr Gladstone might regret the divergence of opinion which had developed between Russia and Britain, Russia's direct interests on its borders did not permit it 'to indulge in the philanthropic dreams which seemed to prevail in England, whose interests, on account of her insular position and distance from the Armenian districts, were not directly affected.[67] Repeatedly, the message was sent from St. Petersburgh that Russia would not sanction the use or even the threat of force.[68]

The Ottoman government continued to make adjustments to its own reform plans, but British frustration was palpable. The idea of a mixed commission of control with European members was raised but rejected on the grounds that it would be an infringement of the sultan's sovereign rights.[69] By early September, the Russians were insisting on bringing the Armenian question to an end: it had dragged on for too long, and as they hardly needed to point out, it was causing agitation throughout the Ottoman empire.[70]


The stalemate between Abdulhamit and the powers was eventually broken by the Armenians themselves. On 30 September, following a demonstration at the Armenian cathedral in Kumkapi, an estimated 2,000 Armenians began moving towards the Porte. [71; HW: approx. placement.] They were within a few hundred yards of the government offices when police intervened to stop them; in the skirmish which followed, 15 gendarmes and 60 Armenians were killed or wounded. Both Terrell and Currie believed an Armenian had fired the first shots, and Currie accused the Hunchaks of organising the demonstration in the hope of forcing the European powers to intervene.[72] Conversely, Terrell believed that the presence of a British naval squadron off Lemnos had encouraged an 'aggressive feeling' among the Armenians.[73] As news of the demonstration and confrontation with the police spread, and as Armenian bombings and killings continued, a violent mob reaction set in. In various parts of the city, Armenians were cornered and killed; a group of men carrying sticks and knives entered a han where 25 Armenian labourers were staying, locked the doors to keep the police out, and killed them all,[74] ; the British consulate kavas claimed to have seen four men bayonetted in the courtyard of the Ministry of Police.[75] Softas and Islamic students, joined in the attacks on the Armenians. Terrell described the 'Mussulman priests' as being 'greatly excited' [76] and numbers of Muslim agitators were arrested as the authorities sought to restore order.[77]

Now under renewed pressure from the ambassadors to accept their demands without delay, Abdulhamit responded by issuing an irade (rather than the more important hatt they had sought) on 17 October which was somewhat unrealistically greeted by some in Istanbul as 'harbinger of future peace'.[78] The measures outlined were presented not as reforms but as 'orders to enforce existing laws or regulations in harmony with them' [79], and, indeed, in view of the steps already being taken, there was very little that was new. The irade affirmed that non-Muslim muavins would be attached to Muslim mutessarifs and kaimakams in sancak and kazas with a large Christian population. Civil servants, police and the gendarmerie were to be recruited in proportion to the number of Muslims and Christians in each vilayet, which would provide for perhaps 'one Christian to five Turks [sic] at most'.[80] Non-Muslim muavins were to be appointed to the valis but only to 'cooperate in the general affairs of the vilayet', and not to assume the heavy burden of responsibilities originally sought by the powers.[81] Muslim and non-Muslim judicial inspectors would be appointed in each vilayet with the job of accelerating all processes of law and keeping check on the state of the prisons. The Kurds were to be escorted by regular troops during their annual migrations and the Hamidiye cavalry were to carry arms and wear uniforms only when on duty.[82]

Why is it then that England will not help me? I cannot understand it. Does Lord Salisbury not wish to help me? Can they not see that I am earnestly striving to put things right?'

Abdulhamit's sad plea to the British; some "Bloody Sultan."

Vambery took a pessimistic view of these latest changes wrung out of Abdulhamit.

Of course the English government now exult in joy for having triumphed over the sultan and (for having) compelled him to make concessions in the matter of reforms', he wrote, but it would be 'a very heavy task to appease the much agitated minds of the various inhabitants in Asia Minor and to re-establish the former relations between the various creeds and races, since the authority of the Porte has been much shaken.[83]

Terrell believed that any tranquillity would be temporary — permanent security and order were made impossible by the corruption of provincial governors, by race and religious hatred, by Abdulhamit's 'one-man despotism' but above all 'by the schemes of the Armenian anarchist who will never rest while certain of the sympathies of the Christian world'.[84]

It was also feared that while not going far enough to satisfy the Armenians, the sultan had gone too far for his Muslim subjects. The Times commented that the irade might exasperate the Muslims as being 'a preferential act of liberality' towards the Christian population'.[85] Whatever the precise truth, there is no doubt that the irade exacerbated the situation in the eastern vilayets, where uprisings, massacres and counter massacres were all signs that civil war was in fact raging in Anatolia.[86] During the last three months of 1895, and for much of 1896, many thousands of people were killed, the overwhelming majority of them Armenian — inevitably so, given the minority status of the Armenians almost everywhere, although where they were predominant (as at Zeitoun), Muslim casualties were high.[87] At the height of the turmoil Abdulhamit beseeched Salisbury to assist him:

Let then England help me by giving good advice to the Armenians or even threatening them that nothing will be gained by their present conduct and telling them that on the contrary, reforms cannot be carried out as long as they agitate and continue to create disorder. Why is it then that England will not help me? I cannot understand it. Does Lord Salisbury not wish to help me? Can they not see that I am earnestly striving to put things right?' [88]

Against a background of continuing violence in the east, the thrust and parry between the British government and Abdulhamit continued through 1896. In August Armenian revolutionaries again took the initiative, seizing the Ottoman Bank in what was a coup de theâtre aimed at forcing the European powers to redouble their efforts on the reform question. The revolutionaries killed a number of troops and civilians in what was part of a wider conspiracy involving attacks on other banks, police stations and government offices.[89] As had happened the previous year after the affray near the Porte, the seizure of the bank was followed by gruesome scenes in Istanbul as mobs hunted down and killed Armenians unlucky enough to be out on the streets.[90] Accompanied by his consular kavass, Terrell later took his carriage two miles through the Armenian quarter to the graveyard where he found

in revolting rows about seven hundred Armenian dead, whose tattered and poor clothing showed that they were the hamals or burthen carriers of the city. Not one decently dressed man was amongst them. Crossed and piled like dead dogs, they were left with cleft skulls and ghastly knife wounds, mute witnesses against timid and blundering diplomacy.[91]

In the meantime, the revolutionaries who had survived the raid had been pardoned by the sultan as part of the negotiated settlement of the affair and were sailing into exile.


The raid sent further tremors through the provinces; in October Abdul-hamit issued an irade effectively applying the 1895 irade to all the vilayets except the Hijaz, in an apparent attempt to placate the powers but Terrell at least thought it was time for them to call a halt:

In times of prosperity the Sultan can hardly maintain his sway in the distant provinces under a laisser faire policy and now with an exhausted treasury he is urged to press reforms for Christian races with an unpaid army, at the very time when wild fanaticism seeks their destruction. When we reflect that these reforms are urged in the belief that Russia will permit no forcible invasion of Turkey by any other Power to make them effective, the conclusion seems inevitable that these European powers are trying to promote a butchery and anarchy that will force the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among themselves, or that the ambassadors cannot understand the lessons of history and the plain causes of the events of last year.[92]

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922), as
he appeared in the 1860s; he was
jailed in 1888 for defending the Irish

In Britain the reaction to the events which were taking place in the Ottoman empire between 1894 and 1896 was one of Christian outrage. The fervent demands made at public meetings, the attacks on the Ottoman government, Islam and the Turks, all echoed the Bulgarian agitation of the 1870s. It was said that the Ottomans had a 'plan of extermination' [93], and that thousands of Christian martyrs were being cut down in a 'Mohammedan saturnalia'.[94] England not only had the right but a duty to intervene — alone if necessary — to save the Armenians.[95] Gladstone asserted that the Treaty of Paris had given the European powers the right to march into 'Armenia' and 'take the government out of the hands of the Turks' [96], and at a protest meeting read out a resolution, passed with much cheering, to the effect that the government 'will have the cordial support of the entire nation without distinction of party in any measures which it may adopt for securing to the people of Armenia such reforms in the administration of that province as shall provide effective guarantees for the safety of lives, honor, religion and property, and that no reforms can be effective which are not placed under the continuous control of the Great Powers of Europe'.[97] Even Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the fierce opponent of British intervention in Egypt, supported intervention for the sake of the Armenians; the British had encouraged them to organise and rebel for their own purposes, and 'if we do not go to war we shall be sitting down under the greatest affront we have suffered as a nation'.[98] From many pens streams of invective were directed against Abdulhamit, Gladstone's 'Great Assassin', this 'miserable caricature of a monarch', whose actions had revealed a 'satanic lust for blood'.[99] Coming from a country which he believed to be largely responsible for the making of the Armenian imbroglio, these insults not only embittered the sultan but confirmed his view that Britain had long since become fundamentally hostile to the Ottoman state. He had inherited a close friendship with Britain, which he was anxious to strengthen and preserve, but 'instead of supporting my efforts and meeting me halfway, England has unfortunately done all in her power to slacken and destroy this bond and, repulsing the friendly hand offered to her, she has become my bitter enemy and has done more harm to me than the historical foe of my nation and of my religion'. [100]

Having established beyond doubt that Russia would not countenance intervention, Salisbury sought to close the books on the Armenian question as tidily as possible. To those who demanded unilateral intervention he responded that it was out of the question for military as well as political reasons, because Britain simply did not have the military power to occupy the eastern provinces of the Ottoman state.[101] Further, if those who believed Britain was bound by its commitments to go to war to save the Armenians examined the obligations Britain had undertaken,

they would see that their judgment went too far. All that there is is an article in the Berlin Treaty under which the six Powers agree, not to any outside person but to each other, that if the Sultan promulgates certain reforms they will watched over the execution of those reforms. That is the whole. Now, of course, you must interpret international treaties as you would interpret covenants between man and man, and the meaning literally interpreted of the language used, I do not think anyone would deny, differs widely from that of undertaking a war to compel the Sultan to govern better than he does.

The other document quoted is the Cyprus Convention. How people should quote that Convention I cannot imagine because there is not the slightest trace in it of an undertaking on the part of England that she would interfere physically or materially on behalf of the oppressed subjects of the Sultan. I speak thus with some earnestness because it so happens that I drew the Cyprus Convention myself, and I helped in drawing the Sixty-first article of the Berlin Treaty and, therefore, I have a very vivid recollection of the fact. Nothing would have induced me to pledge my country — the taxpayers of my country and all who spend or are spent in its behalf — to an undertaking so desperate as that of compelling the Sultan, by force of arms, to govern well a country which otherwise he was not disposed to govern well. I am convinced that such an undertaking would have been impossible, and I certainly never would have counselled that the signature of an ambassador should have been put to it.[102]


To those who wanted the destruction of the Ottoman state, he replied that 'no arrangement to replace it can be suggested which would not carry with it a serious risk of European conflict ... it is an object of primary importance that the Concert of Europe should be maintained'.[103] Galling as it might seem to the partisans of the Armenians, it was only through the sultan that reforms could be introduced. Salisbury's frank admissions of Britain's limitations as an imperial power were regarded as dangerous and humiliating, even by supporters of the government. To others — to Gladstone — it seemed that one man in a ragged shirt had defeated six men well armed.[104]

Dr. Jeremy Salt

Prof. Jeremy Salt: Scholar par excellence

For all the effort Britain had put into trying to impose reforms of its own making on Abdulhamit, the record was a dismal one, as Salisbury had to admit in a review going back as far as the Treaty of Paris. As for the pressure directed against the sultan more recently, the irade of 1895 had resulted in nothing more than the appointment of a few Christian officials.[105] In a despatch sent in July 1897, Currie claimed some small victories before concluding that 'whatever might have been the effect of the reforms in quieter times it is becoming evident that no scheme, however carefully devised, will now suffice to confer equal rights on the Armenian population under the existing system of administration. Only a strong European control on the spot could bring about such a result'.[106] The ambassadors continued to make reflexive gestures in 1897 but these were overshadowed by the Cretan crisis, and by the turn of the century the question of reform had been shelved. It was revived briefly in 1913, only to be dropped a year later as the Ottoman state entered the First World War.



There can be no doubt that the Armenian question had been handled extremely badly, to the point of folly, by successive British governments. They had encouraged the Armenians to believe that European intervention was a real possibility, and they had pressed ahead with a reform programme which neither the sultan nor his ministers wanted, and for very good reasons. By trying to change the status quo in the eastern vilayets in favour of a Christian minority, the British were playing with fire. 'One has to be intentionally blind not to see that it is England's action which has roused the animosity and strewn the discord between the various elements constituting the Ottoman Empire', commented Vambery, a self-confessed anglophile.[107] As numerous travellers had observed, the eastern provinces of the Ottoman state were numbingly poor and difficult to govern at the best of times. The Muslim majority was jealous of its religious prerogatives, and resented the changes which Christian powers were determined to impose on Abdulhamit, particularly as many of the beneficiaries of these changes were involved in revolutionary activities which were taking the lives of Muslims. Not surprisingly, the consequences of what was predominantly a British reform campaign were entirely negative. Those who lost most were, of course, the people of the east. Thousands of lives were lost, much property was destroyed and agricultural and commercial life was disrupted. The long-term damage to relations between Muslims and Christians was incalculable. Further financial demands were made on a state already strained to its limits. As far as Britain was concerned, its standing at the Porte was severely diminished furthering Germany's political and commercial penetration of the Ottoman state.

Intervention in the Ottoman state for the sake of the Armenians might once have been feasible (although still unlikely unless greater interests were at stake), but by the 1890s interests and alliances had changed. Russia had its own severe problems, including a variety of revolutionary movements; there was, in fact, a lot in common between the tsar and the sultan. Britain's own attention was shifting to a newer field of imperial rivalry, Africa. Without any practical means of coercing the sultan, Salisbury eventually wrote to Currie, it seemed wiser to withdraw as much as possible from all responsibilities at Constantinople and concentrate on strengthening England's position in Egypt and the Upper Nile.[108] Armenian aspirations remained an aspect of British policy, but 'our interests and those of humanity and civilisation' were no longer running on parallel lines so far as the Ottoman empire was concerned.


British Parliamentary Papers are referred to only by title and command number. United States National Archives documents (despatches from US Ministers to Turkey 1818-1906) are preceded by the abbreviation USNA.

1. Turkey No.l (1878) Cd. 1905, no.574, Wood to the Earl of Derby, Tunis, 27 Nov.

2. British Library, Layard Papers, add. ms. 39142, the ambassador's plan of reform, handed
to Abdulhamit in July 1878.

3. Mrs J.E. Blunt, The People of Turkey, (London, 1878), Vol.11, p.352.

4. Article 61, Treaty of Berlin; see M.S. Anderson, The Great Powers and the Near East

5. Layard Papers, add. ms. 39131 (private), Layard to Currie, 15 May 1878.

6. Ibid.

7. Gordon Waterfield, Layard of Ninevah (London, 1963), p.423.

8. Quoted in R.W. Seton-Watson, Disraeli, Gladstone and the Eastern Question (London, 1935), p.526.

9. Layard Papers, add. ms. 39134, Layard to Currie, 28 Oct. 1879. See also Edward Dicey, 'Nubar Pasha and our Asian Protectorate', Nineteenth Century, Sept. 1878, pp.548-59.

10. W.N. Medlicott, The Congress of Berlin and After (London 1963), p.138.

11. Layard Papers, add. ms. 39021, Currie to Layard, 1 Aug. 1878.

12. By Medlicott and Seton-Watson, op. cit., among others.

13. Turkey No.7 (1880), Cd. 2574, No.3, Layard to Foreign Secretary, 27 April 1880.

14. Agatha Raram (ed.) The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886 (Oxford 1962), Vol.1, No.79,7 Aug. 1877.

15. W.E. Gladstone, Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East (London 1876), p.3.

16. S. Gwynn and Gertrude M. Blackwell, The Life of Sir Charles Dilke (London, 1917),
Vol.1, p.269.

17. Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, op. cit. Vols.I and II passim.

18. Quoted in Salahi Ramsdan Sonyel, The Ottoman Armenians: Victims of Great Power Diplomacy (London, 1987), p.75.

19. Sir Alfred Lyall, The Life of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava (London Thomas Nelson, n.d.), p.302.

20. Political Correspondence of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville, op. cit. Vol.1, p.359.

21. Colin L. Smith, The Embassy of Sir William White at Constantinople 1886-1891 (Oxford, 1957), p.105.

22.Public Records Office, Vambery Papers, FO 800/32. Vambery to Currie, June, 1890, fol. 92-3. On Vambery also see Mim Kemal Oke, 'Prof. A. Vambery and Anglo-Ottoman Relations (1889-1907)', the Turkish Studies Association Bulletin IX/2 (Sept. 1985), pp.15-28; and by the same author, 'Prof. A. Vambery's Personal Recollections of Abdulhamid II and His Reign', Comiti International D'Etudes Pre-Ottomanes el Ottomanes, VI symposium, Cambridge, 1984: Proceedings (Leiden, 1987), pp.259-273.

23. Vambery Papers, Vambery to Currie, June 1890, ibid.

24.Turkey No.6 (1881), Reports on the Administration of Justice in the Civil, Criminal and Commercial Courts of the Ottoman Empire, Cd. 3008, inc. in no.8, Biliotti to Earl Granville, Trebizond, 29 May 1880.

25. FO 800/32, Vambery to Currie, June 1890, op. cit.

26. Ibid.

27. FO 800/32, Vambery to Currie, 22 Oct. 1889.

28. FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, 1 July 1895; also see Vambery to Currie, 22 Oct. 1889, op. cit.

29. Turkey No.3 (1896), Cd. 8105, no.17, Lord Salisbury to Sir F. Clare Ford, 17 March 1892.

30. Avedis K. Sanjian, The Armenian Communities in Syria under Ottoman Dominion (Cambridge, MA., 1965), p.x.

31. The Ottoman Armenians: Victims of Great Power Diplomacy, op. cit., p.170.

32.USNA, Terrell to Gresham, 4 Dec. 1894. See also The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., 'Towards Civil War in Anatolia', for futher details of the Sasun upheaval.

33. FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, Budapest, 1 Nov. 1895.

34. USNA, Terrell to Gresham, No.370,4 Jan. 1895.

35. Turkey No.l (1895), Moush Inquiry Commission Proceedings, Cd. 7894, passim. Shipley's memorandum is enclosed in no. 267,16 Oct. 1895.

36. FO 800/32, Vambery to Sanderson, Budapest, 15 Nov. 1894.

37. No.351, Terrell to Gresham, 4 Dec. 1894.

38.Turkey No.l (1896), Correspondence Respecting the Introduction of Reforms in the Armenian Provinces of Asiatic Turkey, Cd. 7923, No.l, Currie to Kimberley, 19 Jan. 1895.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid., No.ll, Kimberley to Currie, 28 March 1895.

41. See The Annual Register, 1896, p.15.

42. Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, op. cit., No. 12, Currie to Kimberley, 27 March 1895.

43. Ibid., no.32 (telegraphic), Currie to Kimberley, 30 April 1895.

44. For population figures in the eastern vilayets, see The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., pp.79-87; also Stanford J. Shaw and Ezel Rural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Cambridge, 1977), Vol.11, pp.200-05.

45. Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, op. cit., No.14, Sir F. Lascelles to Kimberley, St. Petersburgh, 28 March 1895.

46. Ibid., No.44, Lascelles to Kimberley, 8 May 1895.

47. USNA, Terrell to OIney, No.1000,28 Sept. 1896.

48.See Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, incs. 1 and 2 in no.45, Currie to Kimberley, 11 May 1895, for full text of the memorandum and the 'scheme of administrative reforms'.

49. Ibid.

50. The 'nahie' (nahiye) was the smallest administrative sub-division within a vilayet.

51. Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, no.45, op. cit.

52. The mutesarrif (or mutasarrif) was the governor of a sancak.

53. The sancak was the principal administrative subdivision of a vilayet.

54. The kaimakam was the chief administrator of the kaza, a sub-district of the sancak.

55. The administration of all provincial administrative districts was a principal target of Ottoman reforms in the 19th. century.


The Times, 16 May 1895.

57. USNA, Terrell to Olney, no.555,14 June 1895.

58.In the form and at the pace demanded by the powers, reforms would lead to 'collapse and internecine warfare', Abdulhamit believed (see FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, Budapest, 1 Nov. 1895).

59.FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, Murzzuschlag (Styria), 1 July 1985. Vambery wrote that if the plan were introduced, 'there would be no end of petty quarrels arising either from local and individual interests of from religious fanaticism, Asiatic Christians being more fanatical than Moslems'.

60. Ibid.

61. Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, op. cit., no.74, Currie to Kimberley, 4 June 1895, enclosing the sultan's reply to the proposed scheme of reforms.

62. Ibid. See also Esat Uras, The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question (Istanbul Documentary Publications, 1988), pp.545-87, Passim.

63. Ibid., No.129, Salisbury to Lascelles, 5 Aug. 1895.

64. See The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., p. 176 et. seq.

65. Turkey No.l (1896), Cd. 7923, op. cit., no.76, Lascelles to Kimberley, 4 June 1895.

66. Ibid., No.94, Lascelles to Kimberley, 14 June 1895.

67. Ibid., No. 110, Lascelles to Kimberley, 3 July 1895.

68.Ibid., Nos.71,110, and 136. Salisbury again proposed the use of force against the sultan when the tsar visited Britain in 1896, but the Russian attitude had not changed. See Robert Taylor, Lord Salisbury (London, 1975), pp.170-71.

69. Ibid., Nos.170 and 172.

70. Ibid., No.174, Lascelles to Salisbury, 10 Sept. 1895.

71. USNA, unnumbered despatch, Terrell to OIney, 3 Oct. 1895; Turkey No.2 (1896), Cd. 7927, No.32 (telegraphic), Currie to Salisbury, 2 Oct. 1895, also No.50. [Holdwater note: in the document, Footnote 71 was not marked.]

72. Turkey No.2 (1896), Cd. 7927, No.50, op. cit.

73. USNA, unnumbered despatch, Terrell to Olney, 3 Oct. 1895.

74. Ibid.

75. Turkey No.2 (1896), Cd. 7927, op. cit., Currie to Salisbury, 1 Oct. 1895.

76. USNA, Terrell to OIney, unnumbered despatch of 3 Oct. 1895, op. cit.

77. USNA, Terrell to Olney, No.651,24 Oct. 1895. For more details of the demonstration and its aftermath see The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., pp.180-83.

78. USNA, Terrell to Olney, No.651,24 Oct. 1895.

79. Ibid.

80. Ibid.

81. According to the plan submitted to the sultan in May.

82. The Times published a full text of the irade in its issue of October 28; see also A. Schopof f, Les Reformes et la Protection des Chretiens en Turquie 1673-1904 (Paris, Libraire Plon, 1904), Nos.68 and 69 (the preamble and the irade issued by the sultan). This volume also includes a full text of the ambassador's earlier memorandum and scheme of reforms (Nos.59 and 60).

83. FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, Budapest, 1 Nov. 1895.

84. USNA, Terrell to Olney, No.651, op. cit.

85. The Times, 18 Oct. 1895, p.7.

86. See The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., chapters 5 and 6.

87. For contemporary American estimates of the numbers of Armenian casualties, largely based on missionary information, see, inter alia, USNA, Terrell to Secretary of State, No.724, 16 Dec. 1895 ('Attacks on Christianity in Turkey'); No.796, 4 Feb. 1896; No.924,21 July 1896; and No.1126,2 Jan. 1897. Armenian estimates are given in Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement (Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1963) and Avedis K. Sanjian, The Armenian Community in Syria Under Ottoman Dominion (Cambridge MA., 1965), among others. For estimates of the total number of Muslims and Christians killed see The Ottoman Armenians, op. cit., pp.171-72, and Kamuran Gurun, The Armenian File: The Myth of Innocence Exposed (London, 1985), p.161.

88. Turkey No.2 (1896), Cd. 7927, op. cit., enc. in No.254, Herbert to Salisbury, 11 Nov. 1895.

89. The seizure of the bank and its aftermath are fully described in Turkey No.l (1897), Cd. 8303; Turkey No.3 (1897), Cd. 8305; Turkey No.7 (1897), Cd. 8395, as well as Terrell's despatches from Istanbul, particularly No.966. of 1 Sept. and No.984 of 18 Sept.

90. These scene are fully described in Terrell's No.966, op. cit.

91. Ibid.

92. Terrell to Olney, No.1029,22 Oct. 1896.

93. E.J. Dillon, 'The Condition of Armenia', Contemporary Review, Aug. 1895, p.158.

94. E.J. Dillon, 'Armenia: An Appeal', Contemporary Review, Jan. 1896, p.6.

95. See The Times, 8 May 1895, for its account of a protest meeting held at St. James' Hall.

96. The Times, 7 Aug. 1895, p.7

97. Ibid.

98. W.S. Blunt, 'Turkish Misgovernment', Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1896, p.854.

99. See the Rev. Dr. J. Guiness Rogers, 'The Massacres in Turkey I': the Earl of Meath, "The Massacres in Turkey II' and John Burns MP, 'The Massacres in Turkey III', all in The Nineteenth Century, Oct. 1896.

100. FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, Budapest, 29 April 1898.

101. Annual Register, 1896, pp.16-17.

102. Annual Register, 1896, p. 15.

103. Turkey No.2 (1897), Cd. 8304, No.2, Salisbury to O'Conor, 20 Oct. 1896.

104. W.E. Gladstone, 'The Massacres in Turkey V, Nineteenth Century, Oct. 1896.

105. Turkey No.2 (1897), Cd. 8304, No.2, Salisbury to Sir N. O'Conor, Foreign Office, 20 Oct. 1896.

106. Turkey No.l (1898), Cd. 8716, No.272, Currie to Salisbury, 6 July 1897.

107. FO 800/33, Vambery to Sanderson, 1 Nov. 1895.

108. Robert Taylor, Lord Salisbury (London, 1975), p.171.




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...Is to expose the mythological “Armenian genocide,” from the years 1915-16. A wartime tragedy involving the losses of so many has been turned into a politicized story of “exclusive victimhood,” and because of the prevailing prejudice against Turks, along with Turkish indifference, those in the world, particularly in the West, have been quick to accept these terribly defamatory claims involving the worst crime against humanity. Few stop to investigate below the surface that those regarded as the innocent victims, the Armenians, while seeking to establish an independent state, have been the ones to commit systematic ethnic cleansing against those who did not fit into their racial/religious ideal: Muslims, Jews, and even fellow Armenians who had converted to Islam. Criminals as Dro, Antranik, Keri, Armen Garo and Soghoman Tehlirian (the assassin of Talat Pasha, one of the three Young Turk leaders, along with Enver and Jemal) contributed toward the deaths (via massacres, atrocities, and forced deportation) of countless innocents, numbering over half a million. What determines genocide is not the number of casualties or the cruelty of the persecutions, but the intent to destroy a group, the members of which  are guilty of nothing beyond being members of that group. The Armenians suffered their fate of resettlement not for their ethnicity, having co-existed and prospered in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, but because they rebelled against their dying Ottoman nation during WWI (World War I); a rebellion that even their leaders of the period, such as Boghos Nubar and Hovhannes Katchaznouni, have admitted. Yet the hypocritical world rarely bothers to look beneath the surface, not only because of anti-Turkish prejudice, but because of Armenian wealth and intimidation tactics. As a result, these libelous lies, sometimes belonging in the category of “genocide studies,” have become part of the school curricula of many regions. Armenian scholars such as Vahakn Dadrian, Peter Balakian, Richard Hovannisian, Dennis Papazian and Levon Marashlian have been known to dishonestly present only one side of their story, as long as their genocide becomes affirmed. They have enlisted the help of "genocide scholars," such as Roger Smith, Robert Melson, Samantha Power, and Israel Charny… and particularly  those of Turkish extraction, such as Taner Akcam and Fatma Muge Gocek, who justify their alliance with those who actively work to harm the interests of their native country, with the claim that such efforts will help make Turkey more" democratic." On the other side of this coin are genuine scholars who consider all the relevant data, as true scholars have a duty to do, such as Justin McCarthy, Bernard Lewis, Heath Lowry, Erich Feigl and Guenter Lewy. The unscrupulous genocide industry, not having the facts on its side, makes a practice of attacking the messenger instead of the message, vilifying these professors as “deniers” and "agents of the Turkish government." The truth means so little to the pro-genocide believers, some even resort to the forgeries of the Naim-Andonian telegrams or sources  based on false evidence, as Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Naturally, there is no end to the hearsay "evidence" of the prejudiced pro-Christian people from the period, including missionaries and Near East Relief representatives, Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and so many others. When the rare Westerner opted to look at the issues objectively, such as Admirals Mark Bristol and Colby Chester, they were quick to be branded as “Turcophiles” by the propagandists. The sad thing is, even those who don’t consider themselves as bigots are quick to accept the deceptive claims of Armenian propaganda, because deep down people feel the Turks are natural killers and during times when Turks were victims, they do not rate as equal and deserving human beings. This is the main reason why the myth of this genocide has become the common wisdom.