Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Richard Hovannisian vs. Stanford Shaw  
First Page


Major Players
Links & Misc.



Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems

 Naturally, our title should also reflect Ezel Kural Shaw, Stanford Shaw's wife; but it was really Stanford Shaw the Armenian activists were gunning for, once the Shaws' magnificent History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey was released. The "Armenian" section only encompassed some seven out of nearly one thousand pages, but naturally the Armenocentrics made the entire history of the Turks out to be about the Armenians. They stopped at nothing to try and ruin the reputation of the book, and Prof. Shaw. As always, a compliant and prejudiced Western audience mindlessly took the Armenians' side.

You can tell how infuriated Hovannisian sounds here; how dare the dirty, propagandistic presentation of his "history" be questioned. In his frustration, he strikes out any way he can, even by citing the silliest sources to prove his point. This was a rare time, however, when a contra-genocide specialist would have the last word; Shaw was the editor of the journal this forum appeared in. But Shaw did not need such an edge; Hovannisian sank his own ship, as you'll be reading.

In his eternal arrogance and racism, he is outraged that Turkish sources were being utilized, instead of the hateful sources that must be consulted in his own prejudiced world of genocide, in order to write Turkish history. And does he ever shoot himself in the foot; as an example, Hovannisian takes issue with the fact that the Armenians tried to assassinate the sultan in 1896. Naturally, he knows about the famous "Yildiz" attempt on Sultan Abdül Hamit's life in 1905, but he has no clue about the earlier episode. The reason, as the Shaws speculate: he only reads the sources he prefers, as the amateur scholar that he is.

It's really incredible the stupid things he says, even contradicting some of the writings in his own works. For example, he tried to give the idea the Armenians were persecuted, as his propaganda mill leaves him duty-bound to do. Yet in his 1967 book, Hovannisian himself conceded the Armenians had an "internal autonomy."

The Shaws really clobber him with what real scholarship entails. The expression, separating the men from the boys comes to mind. When Hovannisian tries to sell his perspective, he comes across as a child. And this fellow actually has made a profitable career as a "historian." It's mind-boggling.

Of course, Hovannisian had the last laugh in his "feud" with Shaw. He called him a "criminal," and sicced the mad dogs in his flock upon Shaw, who disrupted and, in short, terrorized his classrooms. Some of these loons bombed the Shaws' house in 1977. (The Shaws were inside; they could have been killed.) At every opportunity, Hovannisian tried to discredit Shaw; their mutual university (UCLA), at a loss to deal with fanatical Armenian intimidation, couldn't give Shaw much support. Ultimately, these Armenians made poor Prof. Shaw a nervous wreck, forcing him to leave his university.

Prof. Shaw was a "gentleman and a scholar" in the truest sense of the words, and refrained from divulging the outrages foisted upon him, attempting to not veer away from what really mattered, the history. Yet here is one example from the behind-the-scenes intimidation practices of the academic Armenians, following the usual Dashnak strategy to suppress freedom of speech: Marjorie Housepian (whose propagandistc "Smyrna" book Hovannisian will point to as a valid source in his essay below) contacted the Cambridge University Press and demanded that Shaw's History of the Ottoman Empire be withdrawn because her views on the subject were not accepted. Hovannisian led an entire Armenian delegation to the press and made very ugly threats, forcing the then editor of the book, Walter Lippincott, to take special security precautions.

Hovannisian has been at the discrediting game for a long time, and he surely has not stopped with Shaw. In early 2006, for example, he appeared at the University of Utah, in order to speak ill of the work of another amazing scholar, Prof. Guenter Lewy.



International Journal of Middle East studies
Vol. 9 No. 3, August 1978
Printed in Great Britain



The recent publication by the Cambridge University Press of Professor Stanford J. Shaw’s two-volume study entitled History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey should have met the need for a competent survey history in the field.1 Even casual perusal reveals that the work has required great labor. Hence, it is all the more disappointing that the study is marred throughout by the lack of sound historical methodology and balance. There is certainly room for a revisionist history of the Ottoman empire, but the effectiveness of such an endeavor must rest on convincing scholarship. It is regrettable that the author has frequently attempted to defend the Ottoman power structure and to disparage popular movements that had the potential of diminishing the authority of the reigning dynasty. In issues of intense controversy, Professor Shaw has relied almost exclusively on Turkish and a few supportive foreign sources and has repeatedly disregarded the enormous corpus of material that contradicts his thesis.
The image of the ‘Terrible Turk’ was perpetuated in Europe and America during the nineteenth century by hundreds of accounts and studies of Christian tribulations and a crusading spirit to assist these subject peoples. Although that general sentiment did not prevent the Western governments from ultimately coming to terms with the Turks in the 1920s, the unfavorable impression persisted for many years longer. It was only with the development of Ottoman and Turkish studies in the United States and the training of a generation of Turkish students in the West that significant strides were made in dissipating the heavy cloud that blotted the reputation of the Turkish nation. At the same time, several younger American scholars who had studied the Ottoman and modern Turkish languages and lived in Turkey began to reject the more traditionalist approach of diplomatic historians and the long-standing view of Turkish barbarities. They tried to show, for example, that the Turks had been more exploited by European political and economic imperialism than they themselves had exploited their subject nationalities. In this revisionist process, some researchers tended to blur the distinction between the character and content of European expansionism and that of domestic repression within the Ottoman empire. Critical standards applied in the use of Western sources often seemed to evaporate in the presence of Turkish materials. Armed with a knowledge of Turkish, the revisionists were excited by their ability to penetrate the inner chambers of past Turkish cabinets, to understand the concerns and motivations of the sultans, and to view events, as it were, from the other shore.

As a part of this approach, American and European sources relating to the treatment of the Ottoman Armenians were regarded with skepticism and no heed was given to the extensive literature and documentation in the Armenian language. There seemed to be a compulsion to legitimize the present and in so doing to view unfavorably any historical circumstances that could have affected or changed the current political structure. There existed, after all, a Turkish republic with certain given boundaries and this was proper because it was reality. Hence, even the tragic fate of the Armenians could be seen as a step, if not a necessity, in the formation of the Turkish republic, which was a good thing. This thesis was introduced in 1951 by long-time resident of Turkey Professor Lewis V. Thomas of Robert College and Princeton University:

By 1918, with the definitive excision of the total Armenian Christian population from Anatolia and the Straits Area, except for a small and wholly insignificant enclave in Istanbul city, the hitherto largely peaceful processes of Turkification and Moslemization had been advanced in one great surge by the use of force. How else can one assess the final blame except to say that this was a tragic consequence of the impact of western European nationalism upon Anatolia? Had Turkification and Moslemization not been accelerated there by the use of force, there certainly would not today exist a Turkish Republic, a Republic owing its strength and stability in no small measure to the homogeneity of its population, a state which is now a valued associate of the United States.2

Professor Thomas confused historical scholarship with a subjective assessment of American national interest and unwittingly provided a license to exclusivist regimes prepared to employ stringent policies to achieve uniformity and homogeneity. The
views of Thomas were furthered by several other Turkish specialists before one of his students, S. J. Shaw, pressed them to the zenith with his two-volume survey history. Transcending all previous limits of revisionist scholarship, the work has already provoked intense controversy and has made it all the more difficult to dissociate the study of racial and religious questions in the Ottoman empire from contemporary political issues.

While there is much to be said about Professor Shaw’s attitude toward the other subject nationalities, it is my intent in these few pages to assess his treatment of the Armenians in Volume II, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808-1975, which was co-authored with his wife, Dr. Ezel Kural Shaw. Their discussion of the Armenian question is neat and uncomplicated, but it is far from convincing. There was, the reader is told, no real Armenian problem prior to 1876. ‘The Armenians were as free to lead their own lives as were all the other subjects of the sultan. Their churches, schools, and hospitals were maintained and operated to meet the needs of the people. There was no significant dissatisfaction,’3 Armenian troubles began only when a part of the population succumbed to the machinations of nationalist provocateurs and Russian propagandists, who incited the villagers against the Ottoman empire during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878.

This interpretation ignores the more than 500 appeals that the Armenian patriarchs submitted to the government during the preceding twenty years, detailing the extortion, robbery, murder, abduction, and rape that had become commonplace in the Armenian provinces. Unable to endure the harsh exploitation, thousands of peasants forsook their native homes, allowing once-fertile fields to revert to wastelands. The appeals called attention to the law-abiding nature of the Armenians and their role as loyal taxpayers and tillers of the soil in contrast with the disloyalty of the nomadic marauders who paid no taxes and devastated the land. Expressing confidence in the paternalism of the padishah, the Armenians insisted that they had no separatist ambitions or political goals other than enjoyment of the rights granted in the various reform measures previously decreed. That the Armenian population was beset by anarchic conditions is certainly no exaggeration, for similar reports flowed in from the Balkans and the Arab provinces, and even the Turkish Muslim peasantry of Anatolia was frequently victimized. Such events were a fact of Ottoman life in the nineteenth century, not isolated instances invented by Armenian spokesmen. The records of the National Assembly of the Armenian millet, Atenagrutiunk azgayin zhoghovy, bear witness to the deplorable state of affairs in the interior provinces before 1876 and the repeated Armenian professions of loyalty and pleas for assistance against the predatory elements. And these conditions are further detailed in the extensive diplomatic correspondence and reports printed in such official publications as the British Blue Books.4

At the time of the Russo-Turkish war, Armenian religious leaders exhorted their people to join in the defense of the Ottoman empire and continued to express hope that the government would implement the essential reforms in the Turkish Armenian provinces. When the Russian army reached the outskirts of Constantinople and Patriarch Nerses Varzhapetian called on Grand Duke Nicholas at San Stefano to ask that the peace terms include provisions to protect the Armenian rural population from nomadic incursions, he did so with the knowledge of Turkish officials and he made no mention of an independent Armenian region. Yet, the Shaws give the following inaccurate information: ‘Inspired by the Russian propaganda, Armenian nationalist feeling had been stirred up among some intellectuals of the Ottoman Empire, and the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, Nerses, went to San Stefano to ask the Russians to create an independent Armenian state in eastern Anatolia in return for help against the Ottomans during the war.’5

This passage is one example of the factual errors in the text, hut there are even more distortions caused by the selective use or omission of crucial facts. In the six pages dealing with the Armenian question in the nineteenth century (pp. 200-205), the Shaws have created the image of numerous peaceful, law-abiding Muslim villages being wiped out indiscriminately by Armenian ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism.’ terms used six times on a single page (203). They level the grave charge that the Armenian nationalists went on a rampage of massacre ‘to stimulate’ a slaughter of their own people and thereby gain European intercession. The accusation is not new, but those who have made it have failed to provide proof.6 The Hunchak organization (the founding date of which is given incorrectly) and the Dashnaktsutiun assertedly  unleashed a reign of terror to provoke reprisals: ‘This would bring about foreign intervention and help the nationalists secure an independent, socialist Armenian republic, presumably in the six east Anatolian provinces from, which the Muslims would be driven out or simply killed.”7 The reader is asked to believe that small hands of Armenian revolutionaries were able to devastate one Muslim village after another but that Ahdul-Hamid’s provincial police were so ‘efficient’ that they prevented the Muslim population from responding in kind. This absence of retaliation, it is asserted, roused the revolutionaries to even greater violence and ‘within a short time, despite all the efforts of the government to keep order, the Hunchaks had what they wanted, reprisals from Muslim tribesmen and viIlagers.’8


Yet, in the very next paragraph, the Shaws state that 'the Hunchaks were denied the kind of harsh reprisal that they really needed to make their case in Europe.’ This contradiction was allowed to stand in order to provide a plausible explanation for the disturbances in Sasun in 1894. Since the Hunchaks had not been able to elicit sufficient retribution against their own people, they assertedly stirred up the rugged peasants of the Sasun district and met the Ottoman tax collectors with rifles and swords. When the regular army was called in, the rebels fled into the mountainous recesses, supposedly ‘ravaging the Muslim villages in the area as they went, knowing that the remaining Armenian peasants would suffer the Consequences.’ The responsibility thus having been placed on the Armenians, the authors continue, ‘and suffer they did, as the regular troops and Hamidiye regiments ravaged Sasun: after having seen the tragedies left in the nearby Muslim villages, where the entire Population had been wiped out.’ Accepting only the official Turkish account of the crisis, they then explain:

The countermassacre had burn undertaken entirely on the initiative of the Ottoman troops and local commanders and without any order to this effect from the central government. But the deed had been done, and the network of revolutionary propaganda was put into action to develop a popular European reaction similar to that which had followed the earlier events in Bulgaria. Once again the circumstances were ignored and the provocation forgotten. The Ottoman government was accused of ordering the destruction ot 25 villages in the area and of the execution of 20,000 Armenian villagers! Detailed investigations made by a mixed Ottoman and foreign commission demonstrated the exaggerated nature of the claims, but European public opinion, followed closely by its politicians, was ever ready to believe the worst of the Muslims. The sultan attempted to conciliate Europe and make it easier for their politicians to accept what they knew to be true by promising once again to make the reforms he was, in fact. already making in the east, and the powers therefore declined to intervene. 9

While it is not my intent to suggest that the Armenians were always guiltless or that some of them did not commit irresponsible acts, this simple, neat version presented liv the Shaws flies in the face of extensive international documentation. Even if the authors choose to ignore the accounts of foreign missionaries and of the Armenian survivors who testified that young men were bound together, covered with brushwood, and burned alive, that women were locked in churches where the soldiers and Hamidiye units were given free rein, and that children were put in single file and shot to see how many could be killed with a single bullet, they must certainly be aware that the records of the mission of inquiry and its European delegates are preserved in the French foreign ministry publication entitled Documents diplomatiques: Affaires arméniennes and in the British Parliamentary Sessional Papers entitled Events at Sassoon, and Commission of Inquiry at Moush. 10 The documents in these collections reveal that the Ottoman authorities prevented foreigners from entering Sasun after the massacre of the Armenians on the pretext of a cholera epidemic and hindered in many ways the investigation of the European delegates. Nonetheless, the Inquiry Commission, sitting in Mush, conducted its study during the first half of 1895. interviewing 190 witnesses, including civil and military officials and both Kurdish and Armenian inhabitants. The European delegates, far from confirming the ‘exaggerated nature of the claims,’ concluded that the Armenians had taken arms in self-defense and that the Turkish troops had committed acts of repulsive cruelty without regard for age or sex:

The absolute ruin of the district can never be regarded a measure proportionate to the punishment even of a revolt; à fortiori, in the present case, the only crimes of the Armenians, namely, those of having sheltered or perhaps concealed Murad and his band, of having committed some isolated acts of brigandage against the Kurds, or disregarded the authorities, and possibly of having offered some slight resistance to the Imperial troops under circumstances which have not been cleared up, cannot possibly justify the state of misery to which tile people and the country have been reduced. An equal responsibility rests on the local authorities, civil and military, for the absence of all measures to prevent a pseudo-revolt which is said to have shown itself as early as May, or to put a stop later to the strife between the Armenians and the Kurds, and the losses of all kinds which were the consequences. 11

It is puzzling how the authors can ignore this and other indictments and claim that the politicians of Europe refused to intervene because the knew that the official account of the Turkish government was true.


One of the most significant acts of omission in History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey is in the glossing over of the Armenian massacres of 1895-1896. The documentation relating to that systematic pogrom, during which thousands of people were killed, hundreds of villages pillaged and burned, and countless families forced to flee abroad, fills numerous dossiers in the archives of every major and many lesser powers.12 The holocaust enveloped the entire Armenian plateau and every Armenian-inhabited district of Asia Minor. Yet, disregarding the infinite sources that gainsay their presentation, the authors simply mention ‘communal disturbances’ in Trebizond and 'several other cities and towns.’13 For the nonspecialist reader, this treatment not only obscures a critical phase of the Armenian question but also conceals the cause-and-effect relationship in the next event upon which the Shaws dwell in order to strengthen their portrayal of the Armenians as fanatic, cold-hearted terrorists:

On August 26, 1896, a group of Armenians took over the main Ottoman Bank in Beyoglu, Bombs were planted throughout the building, some of the bank employees were held as hostages, and preparations were made for a lengthy siege in the hope of rousing European interest. Soon alter, a second group forced its way into the Sublime Porte, wounding several officials and threatening the grand vizer with a pistol. Revolutionary units ran through the old quarter of Istanbul, throwing bombs, and firing wildly with rifles and pistols, killing and wounding a number of innocent bystanders. Another bomb was thrown at the sultan as he was going to the Aya Sofya mosque for Friday prayers, with more than 20 policemen guarding him being killed. 14

Dr. Richard Hovannisian

Giving no intimation that the twenty-six youths who barricaded themselves in the Ottoman Bank were reacting to two years of massacre and plunder throughout Anatolia, the authors scoff at Armenian demands for reforms entailing the appointment of Christian governors and administrative officials in the Turkish Armenian provinces, the recruitment of Christian police, gendarmes, and militiamen, the forgiveness of taxes for five years and their reduction thereafter, the increase of state expenditures for
schools and other local needs, and a general pardon and the restoration of all confiscated property. ‘Abdulharnit could not accept these demands if he was to retain an authority in his empire so he rejected them.’ 15 Nonetheless, to reduce tension the sultan decreed an amnesty soon thereafter and supposedly began to appoint Christian administrators in the east, even though the Christians were a minority, and the Armenians, according to the Shaws but contrary to many other sources, numbered no more than 1,300,000 persons in the entire empire.16

In their treatment of this crisis, Mr. and Mrs. Shaw have committed a serious error by running together unrelated events to create the effect of a broad-ranging, coordinated conspiracy. There was no attempt on the life of either the grand vizer or the sultan in 1896; that is a fact. The sensational description in the text may have reference to events that occurred years later, but the authors do not say so and wrongly link a plot of regicide with the siege of the Ottoman Bank. What is more, they pass over in complete silence the massacre of several thousand Armenians in Constantinople during and immediately after the Bank episode. According to numerous eyewitnesses and members of the diplomatic corps, the mobs had been armed and organized by the police authorities. Led by theological students (softas), they indiscriminately bludgeoned and hacked to death Armenians in Pershembe-bazaar and in the quarters of Peru, Galata, Pancaldi, Tophane, Beshiktash, and Kassim Pasha and then fanned out into the villages of the Bosporus, including Bebek, Rumelihisar, and Candili. The source materials and published literature relating to the bloodshed are far too extensive to escape the attention of the objective historian.17 Yet the Shaws have skipped over these violent events and the preceding general massacres of 1895-1896 and have singled out the capture of the Ottoman Bank to build their case against the Armenians. The historical methodology used in this process cannot but come into question.


Moving on to the Young Turk era, 1908- 1918, S. J. and E. K. Shaw outline the events leading up to the counterrevolution by Abdul-Hamid’s conservative supporters in 1909. The hard-pressed Committee of Union and Progress, the reader is informed, sought the help of the national minorities with which the Young Turks had previously co-operated, but ‘The only result of this was an Armenian uprising in Adana that stimulated a severe repression on the part of the local garrison, with massacre and countermassacre following until as many as 20,000 people of all religions were killed (April 14, 1909). 18 As in numerous other instances throughout the book, in one sentence and citing one Turkish source, the authors would wipe away the countless documents, personal accounts, and studies relating to the turmoil, which spread all the way to Marash and Antioch. Armenian businesses were again looted, Armenian villages and city quarters binned, and the Christian population set upon by mobs of Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Fellahs, and Muslim refugees from Crete. The violence, which lasted for more than two weeks, resulted in the deaths of 18,660 Armenians, 745 other Christians (Greeks, Syrians, Chaldeans), and 620 Muslims. A parliamentary commission of inquiry found that the civil and military officials cif the Adana vilayet had not only been criminally negligent in their duty to protect the inhabitants but had actually incited the mobs.19

Perhaps the most inexplicable manifestation in the two-volume survey is the effort to whitewash the extirpation of the Ottoman Armenian population in 1915-1916. Minister of War Enver, it is stated, made a final effort to gain Armenian support during a crucial meeting with Armenian leaders at Erzerum in 1914, but the mission failed because assertedly Russia had already promised the Armenians an autonomous state inclusive of both Russian Armenia and a substantial part of Turkish Armenia, as well as assistance in driving out or eliminating the remaining Muslim population. This statement is untrue, as is the created impression that Enver conferred with Armenian spokesmen in Erzerum.

Listing my works as being the most reliable accounts of the Armenian national movement, the authors then quote me out of context, tacking on their own conclusion and making it appear to be mine in order to substantiate the Turkish and their own charge of Armenian disloyalty. They write:

The Armenian leaders told Enver only that they wanted to remain neutral, but their sympathy for the Russians was evident, and in fact soon after the meeting 'several prominent Ottoman Armenians, including a former member of parliament, slipped away to collaborate with Russian military officials,’ making it clear that the Armenians would do everything they could to frustrate Ottoman military action.20


Here, at the end of their interpretation, the Shaws cite my book, Armenia on the Road to Independence. What I actually wrote is markedly different both in content and in context:

When Ottoman participation in the World War became a reality, the apprehensive Armenian leaders strove to convince the Ittihad government of their fidelity and patriotism. The Patriarch instructed the prelates of all the dioceses within the Empire to perform religious services for the victory of the Ottoman homeland. Azatamart, the influential organ of Dashnaktsutiun, exhorted the Armenians to act as exemplary citizens and to avoid friction with other elements of the Empire. Aknuni and several other leaders of Dashnaktsutiun depended on their personal friendship with Enver and Talaat to persuade the ruling clique of Turkey that the Armenians were resolved to protect the integrity of the common fatherland. Although most Armenians maintained a correct attitude vis-à-vis the Ottoman government, it can he asserted with some substantiation that the manifestations of loyalty were insincere, for the sympathy of most Armenians throughout the world was with the Entente, not with the Central Powers. By autumn, 1914, several prominent Ottoman Armenians, including a former member of Parliament, had slipped away to the Caucasus to collaborate with Russian military officials, Such acts provided the Ittihadist Triumvirate with the desired excuse to eradicate the Armenian problem and eliminate the major racial barrier between the Turkic peoples of the Ottoman and Russian enipires.21

The contrast between the thrust of the two quotations and the implications of this manipulation need no further comment.

Subsumed under a misleading heading entitled ‘The Northeastern Front, 1914-1916’ (pp. 314-317), the authors’ presentation of the most traumatic event in Armenian history is so extraordinary that a full paragraph must be quoted here:

In the initial stages of the Caucasus campaign the Russians had demonstrated the best means of organizing a campaign by evacuating the Armenians from their side of the border to clear the area (or battle, with the Armenians going quite willingly in the expectation that a Russian victory would soon enable them not merely to return to their homes but also to occupy those of the Turks across the border. Enver followed this example to prepare the Ottoman side and to resist the expected Russian invasion. Armenian leaders in any case now declared their open support of the enemy, and there seemed no other alternative. It would be impossible to determine which of the Armenians would remain loyal and which would follow the appeals of their leaders. As soon as spring came, then, in mid-May 1915 orders were issued to evacuate the entire Armenian population from the provinces of Van, Bitlis, and Erzurum, to get them away from all areas where they might undermine the Ottoman campaigns, against Russia or against the British in Egypt, with arrangements made to settle them in towns and camps in the Mosul area of northern Iraq. In addition, Armenians residing in the countryside (but not the cities) of the Cilician districts as well as those of north Syria were to be sent to central Syria for the same reason. Specific instructions were issued for the army to protect the Armenians against nomadic attacks and to provide them with sufficient food and other supplies to meet their needs during the march and alter they were settled. Warnings were sent to the Ottoman military commanders to make certain that neither the Kurds nor any other Muslims used the situation to gain vengeance for the long years of Armenian terrorism. The Armenians were to he protected and cared for until they returned to their homes after the war. A supplementary law established a special commission to record the properties of some deportees and to sell them at auction at fair prices, with the revenues being held in trust until their return. Muslims wishing to occupy abandoned buildings could do so only as renters, with the revenues paid to the trust funds, and with the understanding that they would have to leave when the original ossirers returned. The deportees and their possessions were to be guarded by the army while in transit as well as in Iraq and Syria, and the government would provide for their return once the crisis was over.22


In the face of overwhelming proof to the contrary, the authors would have the reader believe that the Armenians were removed only from a few strategic regions and this, with the utmost of concern for the safety of their persons and properties. In view of what actually happened to the entire Ottoman Armenian population, the belaboring of this point is ludicrous. Such uncritical acceptance and reiteration of Turkish denials, rationalizations, and subterfuge turns revisionism into falsification. But the Shaws have even more to say on the subject:

The Entente propaganda mills and Armenian nationalists claimed that over a million Armenians were massacred during the war. But this was based on the assumption that the prewar Armenian population numbered about 2.5 million. The total number of Armenians in the empire before the war in fact came to at most 1,300,000, according to the Ottoman census. About half of these were resident in the affected areas, but, with the city dwellers allowed to remain, the number actually transported came to no more than 400,000, including some terrorists and agitators from the cities rounded up soon after the war began. In addition, approximately one-half million Armenians subsequently fled into the Caucasus and elsewhere during the remainder of the war. Since about 100,000 Armenians lived in the empire afterward, and about 150,000 to 200,000 immigrated to Western Europe and the United States, one can assume that about 200,000 perished as a result not only of the transportation but also of the same conditions of famine, disease, and war action that carried away some 2 million Muslims at the same time. Careful examination of the secret records of the Ottoman cabinet at the time reveals no evidence that any of the CUP leaders, or anyone else in the central government, ordered massacres. To the contrary, orders were to the provincial forces to prevent all kinds of raids and communal disturbances that might cause loss of life.23

Hence, with total disregard for the monumental historical evidence that refutes their narrative, S. J. and E. K. Shaw claim that the Turks merely followed the example of the Russians, that the Armenian leaders in the Ottoman empire openly sided with Russia and exhorted their people to disloyalty, that only the Armenians of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum, and the Cilician countryside but not those of the cities were ‘transported’ (a euphemism for ‘deported’) to northern Iraq and central Syria (a euphemism for ‘deserts’), that no more than 400,000 were ‘actually transported,’ that only about 200,000 perished as the result of all causes, and that there is no evidence of either government or Young Turk complicity in the ruthlessly executed extirpation.

As for examining the official Turkish records, it is pretentious to expect that if documents relating to the government’s role in the Armenian massacres still exist they would be made accessible to an American — or for that matter to any — researcher. The issue has been one of extreme sensitivity for every Turkish cabinet since the end of World War I. And even if there are no official Turkish records relating to the subject, what cannot be dismissed is the evidence in the thousands of eyewitness reports -. many by individuals whose governments were allied with Turkey, in the detailed accounts of the survivors, and in the extensive diplomatic correspondence. It is inconceivable that a scholar who has investigated the subject could remain unaware that the Armenian population was eliminated, not just in a few border districts, hut in all the Armenian plateau and Anatolia, starting in Erzerum and Cilicia and sweeping inland to Diarbekir, Harput, Sivas, Kaiseri, Yozgat, and the heart of the peninsula; along the Black Sea from Trebizond to Ordu, Samson, and Kastamuni; throughout western Anatolia from Bardizak, Ismid, and Adabazar to Bursa, Eskeshehir, Kutahia, and Konia; and in Europe from Thrace to the shores of the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles. It should not have been difficult to learn that nearly all able-bodied males in the Turkish Armenian provinces were killed within a few days’ march of their homes, that thousands of Ottoman Armenian soldiers were segregated into unarmed labor battalions and then slain, and that the death caravans of women and children did not lead to previously prepared relocation centers but rather into the clutches of personal slavery, ravaging venereal diseases, scorching heat, freezing cold, and belly-swelling starvation.24 Yet the authors have endeavored to minimize the scope of the tragedy and have even claimed that the worst atrocities of the war befell the Muslim population and that after the Turkish surrender in 1918 the minority elements, including the Armenians, ‘massacred large numbers of recently discharged Ottoman soldiers as well as thousands of civilians without any visible effort by the Allied forces to intervene.’25 Many other errors and untenable assertions have been made in the sections of the book dealing with the Transcaucasian government in 1917-1918, the Turkish invasion of tile Caucasus in 1918, the Republic of Armenia in 1918-1920, Soviet-Turkish collaboration in 1920, and the burning of Smyrna in 1922, but mere mention of these must suffice here.26

The fact that a strongly biased work such as History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey has been authored by an individual enjoying considerable academic recognition and published by a highly reputable press causes deep consternation. It is most regrettable that the specialists to whom the publisher sent the manuscript for expert advice could not or would not draw attention to the shortcomings and make recommendations that might have saved the book from becoming a disservice to scholarship in general and to the study of Armenian-Turkish relations in particular. One may speculate why a work with such serious flaws in methodology and objectivity would emanate from the pen of Professor Shaw. But about the book there can be no speculation. What could have been — what should have been — a valuable text is instead an unfortunate example of nonscholarly selectivity and deceptive presentation. The study of Armenian-Turkish relations has been carried far beyond the realm of revisionism.

Professor of Arrnenian and Near Eastern History
University of California,
Los Angeles


1 Volume I by S. J. Shaw is subtitled Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Volume II by S. J, Show and Ezel Kural Shaw is subtitled Reform, Revolutions and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808—1975 (Cambridge, London, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1976-1977). All citations of the work in this paper refer to Volume II (cited hereafter as Shaw and Shaw).

2 Lewis V. Thomas and Richard N. Frye, The United States and Turkey and Iran (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1951), p. 61.

3 Shaw and Shaw, pp. 201-202

4 Aside from the Armenian records, see, for example, Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Reports by Her Majesty’s Diplomatic and Consular Agents in Turkey respecting Conditions of the Christian Subjects of the Porte, 1868-1875, Sessional Papers, 1877, Vol XCII, c. 1739. and Instructions to Her Majesty’s Embassy at Constantinople respecting Financial and Administrative Reform, and Protection of Christians in Turkey, 1856-1875, Sessional Papers, 1877, Vol. XCII, c. 1740. See also the several Blue Books published between 1876 and 1881 and entitled Correspondence respecting the Conditions o,f the Population in Asia Minor and Syria.

5 Shaw and Shaw. p. 188.

6 See, for example, William L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1902 (New York and London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1935), I, 157-160.

7 Shaw and Shaw, p. 203.

8 Ibid.

9 Shaw and Shaw, pp. 203-204.

10 France, Ministere des Affaires Etrangerès. Documents diplomatiques: Affaires arméniennes: Projets de réformes dans l’empire Ottoman, 1893-1897 (Paris: Irnprimerie nationale, I897); Great Britain, House of Commons, Correspondence relating to the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, Sessional Papers, 1895, Vol. CIX, part r, c. 7894, 'Events at Sassoon, and Commission of Inquiry at Moush'; part 2, c. 7894-r, ‘Commission of Inquiry at Moush: Procés-verbaux and Separate Depositions.’ See also United States of America, The National Archives, Record Group 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Turkey, 1818-1906, Microfilm Publication M46, rolls 56-58, March 1894-August 1895; and Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801-1906, M77, rolls 166-167, October 1888-December 1896.

11 Great Britain, Sessional Papers, c. 7874, p. 173. See also Correspondence respecting the Introduction of Reforms in the Armenian Provinces of Asiatic Turkey, Sessional Papers, 1896, VoL XCV, c. 7923.

12 See especially the British Sessional Papers entitled Correspondence relating to the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, and Correspondence relative to the Armenian Question and Reports from Her Majesty’s Consular Officers in Asiatic Turkey. For the period 1892-1896, these are c. 7927, c. 8015, c. 8108, and c. 8273. See also France, Affaires arméniennes, documents 91-235, and Supplément, 1895-1896 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1897); Gerrnary, Auswartiges Amt, Die grosse Politik der europaischen Kabinette, 1871-1914 (Berlin: Deutsche Verlagagesellschaft für Politik und Geschichte, 1922-1927), X, nos. 2410 2476 passim; United States, National Archives, Record Group 59, Despatches from United States Consuls; Sivas, 1886-1906, Microfilm Publication T681;; Erzerum, 1895-1904,T568; Harput, 1895-1906, T579; Despatches from United States Ministers to Turkey, M46, rolls 59-62, September1895-February 1897; Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, M77, roll 167, October 1894-December1896. For representative eyewitness accounts and studies by Europeans and Americans, see Johannes Lepsius, Armenien und Europa (Berlin: Faber, 1896. French ed., Lausanne: Payot, 1896. English ed, London; Hodder and Stoughton, 1897); J, R. Harris and Helen B. Harris, Letters from the Scenes of Recent Massacres in Armenia (London: Nisbet, 1897); W. W. Howard, Horrors of Armenia: The Story of an Eye-Witness (New York: Armenian Relief Association, 1896); Félix Charmentant, Maryrologe arménien: Tableau officiel des massacres d'Arménie (Paris: Belin Frères, 1896).

13 Shaw and Shiaw, p. 204.

14 Ibid., pp. 204 205.

15 Shaw and Shaw, p. 205.

16 Ibid.

17 See, for example, Great Britain, House of Commons, Further Correspondence respecting the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey and Events in Constantinople, Sessional Papers, 1897, Vol. Cl, c. 8305; France, Affaires arrnéniennes, nos. 236-296, and Foreign Ministry Archives, Nouve!le série, Correspondance politique et commerciale: Turquie, politique intérieure, n.s. 71-72, February 1896 April 1897. See also Armenian accounts in Armen Garo [Garegin Pasdermadjian], Aprvadi orer (Boston: Hairenik, 1948), pp. 95-162, and Hushapatum H. H. Dashnaktsutian, 1899-1950 (Boston: Hairenik, 1950), pp. 280-301.

18 Shaw and Shaw, p. 281.

19 See, for example, France, Foreign Ministry Archives, n.s. 83, January 1908-February 1910; United States, National Archives, Numerical File 1906—1910: Turkey, 1909. The report of Hagop Babiguian, a member of the Ottoman Parliament and its commission of inquiry is published as La situation des Arméniens en Turquie exposèe par des documents (1908-1912): Rapport en 1909 sur les massacres arméniens d’Adana. See also The Adana Massacres: Who Is Responsible? The Parliamentary Commission to Adana (Constantinople, 1909): Z. Duckett Ferriman, The Young Turks and the Truth about the Holocaust at Adana in Asia Minor during April, 1909 (London, 1913); Georges Brézol, Les Turcs ont passé là; Recueil de documents. . . sur les massacres d’Adana en 1909 (Paris: l’Auteur, 1911); J. d’Annezay, Au pays des massacres, saignée arménienne de 1909 (Paris, Bloud, 1910); M. Séropian, Les vépres ciliciennes: Let responsabilités: Faits et documents (Alexandria: Della Rocca, 1909); A. Adossides, Arméniens et Jeunes-Turcs: les massacres de Cilicie (Paris: Stock, 1910).

20 Shaw and Shaw, p. 314.

21 Richard G. Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road to lndependence, 1918 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967), p. 42.

22 Shaw and Shaw, p. 315.

23 Shaw and Shaw, p. 315-316.

24 For an extensive bibliography of archival and published materials in Western languages relating to the elimination of the Ottoman Armenian population, see Richard C. Hovannisian, The Armenian Holocaust: A Bibliography relating to the Deportations, Massacres, and Dispersion of the Armenian People, 1915 -1923 (Cambridge, Mass.: Armenian Heritage Press, 1978).

25 Shaw and Shaw, p. 330.

26 Ibid., pp. 322-323, 324-326, 356-357, 362-363. Not mentioning the study of Marjorie Housepian, The Smyrna Affair (New York. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966, British ed, London: Faber and Faber, 1972), the Shaws write, ‘Perhaps the last atrocity of the war was the suggestion, quickly taken up by the Western press, that the victorious Turkish army was responsible for burning the conquered second city of the empire’ (Shaw and Shaw, p. 363).


No historical survey of so vast a subject as the Ottoman empire can possibly provide detailed and definitive coverage of every topic it includes. Thus we hope and expect that controversial subjects touched on in our book will stimulate responsible academic criticism, further research, and eventually a fuller understanding of that very elusive goal, the ‘truth,’ It is unfortunate that in presenting his view Dr. Hovannisian argues more like a prosecuting attorney seeking to denigrate or suppress information unfavorable to his position than a historian dealing with particular issues within an academic context. He allows that there is ‘room for a revisionist history of the Ottoman Empire’ provided that it is based on ‘convincing scholarship.’ To those who are ethnically, politically, and emotionally committed to a particular cause, however, no amount of scholarship could bring ‘conviction.’ Does Dr. Hovannisian really wish to perpetuate the biased image of the ‘Terrible Turk’ that has its roots in the age of the Crusades? Does not his suspicion of Turkish source material, nay his complete disregard of it, reflect anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim propensities? The weight of his accusations rests on the contention that the authors relied ‘almost exclusively on Turkish and a few supportive foreign sources’ and neglected ‘the enormous corpus of material that contradicts’ their thesis. First, this happens to be Ottoman history, and as such, Ottoman and Turkish source materials must he deemed of primary significance and importance. No history of France would be considered methodologically sound and balanced if it were construed on the basis of Italian and English or Spanish sources. Second, both primary and secondary non-Ottoman as well as Ottoman sources were extensively used and cited in the book, as is reflected in our citations given below in response to specific points raised by Dr. Hovannisian. Third, the matter of which source is given greater weight on a specific issue, factors of credibility aside, depends on the issue one is seeking to illuminate. If the question is how the Armenians suffered, then accounts of personal experience are of greatest import. If it is how deeply they suffered, it would be in order to take into account the sufferings of other peoples, Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Jews and the like, in the same circumstances. If it involves Ottoman government policies, Ottoman sources must be considered and used, first and foremost. If the question is why tragedies took place, one must treat the topic in the broader context of socio-economic, political, and ideological currents that are of relevance. Engaging in such an analytical interpretation is every historian’s privilege and duty. It is not a justification of what happened but, rather, an attempt to explain some of the complexities that surround ‘controversial’ issues.

The whole trend of Ottoman and Middle Eastern historiographv during the last two generations has, indeed, been to develop and use Ottoman Turkish and Arabic source materials in order to correct the long-standing Western ignorance of and prejudice regarding the Turks, the Arabs, and lslam. The late Lewis V. Thomas, who resided in Turkey for a short time during World War II before beginning a brilliant career at Princeton, was one of the pioneers of this movement. But Dr. Hovannisian’s effort to equate a subjective and almost apologetic remark by Professor Thomas with our overall interpretation of Ottoman and Turkish history is another misrepresentation and an absurdity. While we recognize and record the effects of nationalism on the different peoples of the Ottoman Empire, nowhere in the two volumes do we claim that forced ‘Turkification and Moslemization’ was a necessary precondition for the Turkish Republic. The Republic was secularist in outlook even before its realization, and whatever homogeneity it has was a product of its struggle for existence during and after World War I.


Dr. Hovannisian refuses to use or accept the principal sources available on the issues he mentions simply because they were written by Turks and insists that research he limited to carefully chosen contemporary wartime propaganda and politically and racially motivated ‘investigation’ reports whose flawed methods and one-sided procedures are apparent from even a cursory examination of their records, He reacts to an objective study of the issues and an attempt to explain the events of the time with accusations of bias and by citing entire paragraphs in a general context of refutation without actually indicating which of their statements he believes to be in error and on what basis. Even where certain controversial issues could be elucidated by the use of relevant Armenian documents, he fails to do so, It is difficult also to understand his insistence that everything we write of interest to him is new, and revisionary, and based entirely on Ottoman sources since most of our statements have long since been established in Western and Turkish scholarly studies and on the basis of sources in numerous languages, including Armenian.

The various discussions in the History of the Ottoman Empire —  and Professor Hovannisian in fact is looking at only seven out of almost one thousand pages — are based on some twenty years of research in Western as well as Ottoman archives and are fully documented in the bibliography of the work. In addition to the reports found in the Public Record Office, London, the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, the Haus- Hof- und Staazs-Archiv, Vienna, and the National Archives, Washington, the following records were consulted by the authors in the Basbakanlik Arsivi/Prime Minister’s Archives, Istanbul: (a) Minutes of the Council of Ministers/Meclis-i Vükela Mazbatalari, which are only partly complete for 1885 to 1893 and then fully complete until 1922, in 224 bound volumes; (b) Reports to the Council of Ministers and dossiers leading to imperial decrees/Mazbata ve irade-i seniye dosyalari, 16 bound volumes for 1881 through 1916; (c) Draft copies or orders, protocols and other official documents issued by the Council of Ministers/Iradat-i seniye re tezakir-i resmiye ye mazbata musveddati, 46 bound volumes for 1916 through 1922; (d) Dossiers of petitions presented to the Council of Ministers, including supporting documents/Tezakir-i seniya dosyalari, 117 volumes for 1888 through 1897; (e) Archives of the Sublime Porte/Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi, consisting of some 200,000 dossiers emanating from the office of the Grand Vezir, in particular his correspondence with the Ministry of the Interior (catalogued in registers nos, 52-122), the Ministry of War (registers nos. 193- 223), the Ministry/Department of Gendarmerie (registers nos. 650—663), the Anatolian Inspection (Commission (registers nos. 664-668), and the Ministry of Finance (registers nos. 400-517); registers of all secret telegrams sen[t] to and from the Sublime Porte (registers nos. 690-705), and registers of foreign and minority affairs (registers nos. 706-715), all between 1876 and 1922; (f) Dossiers of trade legislation relating to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 1809 and 1916; (g) the Archives of the Yildiz Palace, covering the reign of Abdulhamit II (1876-1909); (h) the Mesail-i Mühimme (registers of important problems) on the Armenian Question, 1876-1878; (i) Registers concerning the non-Muslim millets/Gayri Muslim cemaatlara ait defterler, series 8-21 registers of decrees concerning the Armenians between 1860 and 1904 — and series 9 — registers of berats issued to Armenians between 1839 and 1910.


In the Yildiz Palace Archives (at the Basbakanlik Arsivi), the following general reports and dossiers were consulted: K-I/2156/22,23 and 24, memoranda by Abdulhamit II on the Armenian disturbances in the east; K13/ZII2/35, reports by the Anatolian Investigation Commission regarding revolts and disturbances in the eastern provinces; K24/Z162/332M, orders issued by Hakki Pas[h]a while he was governor of Sivas; K30/Z98/36 and 50, various reports on the Armenian Question; K18/Z93/553/50, 52-59, reports on the state of the population in Anatolia, Bitlis, Sivas, Musul, Van, Hakkari, Maras[h], Konya, Ankara, Sivas and Koçgiri; K18/Z93/60-84, organization and activities of the Ottoman gendarmerie in the different eastern provinces, including several commission reports; K14/Z126/298, Report on the Armenians in Anatolia by Mehmet el-Mansur Efendi; K30/Z31, K31/Z27/299 and K30/Z50, memoranda and reports on the Armenian Question between 1895 and 1903.

Hovannisian fails to understand that all scholars need not have his biases and interests. He insists that, regarding issues and problems that concern him, others share his approaches and emphases, accusing those who do not of bias or worse. He also does not understand that issues that are of vital importance to Armenian history may not have the same standing in the context of Ottoman history. These tendencies appear very clearly in his analyses of particular points in our book with which he disagrees.

(1) Regarding the massacres and countermassacres that took place in Anatolia in 1895-1896, we did in fact state: ‘The winter of 1895-1896 witnessed large-scale suffering throughout Anatolia as general security broke down, but little could he done until the army was brought in during the Spring’ (II, 204). The methods used by the Armenian nationalist groups to secure foreign intervention at this time were very well documented by the distinguished Harvard University diplomatic historian, the late William L. Langer, in Diplomacy of Imperialism (2d ed.; New York, 1956), on the basis of Armenian as well as Western reports, and without any use of Turkish sources. Thus he found in the British Parliamentary Papers (Turkey No. 10, 1879, nos. 45 and 62 and Turkey No. 7, 1880, no. 3) statements from the British ambassador in June and July, 1879, such as ‘The same intrigues are now being carried on in Asia Minor to establish an Armenian nationality and to bring about a state of things which may give rise to a Christian outcry and European interference’ (p. 153); in the platform of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, it was stated that arrangements should be made ‘to organize revolutionary bands which should fight the government incessantly and should terrorize government officials, traitors, usurers, and all kinds of exploiters’ (Platform of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, 1892; M. Hovhannesian, Dashnagtzoutiune ev nera Hageratorinere [Tiflis, 1906], pp. 19-20, 151-152; quoted in Langer, p. 155). Avedis Nazarbek, founder of the Hunchaks, wrote (quoted in Langer, p. 156) that his aim was ‘to start a great insurrectionary movement in Turkey.... It was confidently expected that when the whole Empire was aflame, the European powers would step in and secure the rights of the small nations. Then, ultimately, it might be possible to unite Turkish, Russian and Persian Amerians in one socialist state’ (Henchak, I, 1 [Nov. 1887], I, 11-12 [Oct—Nov. 1888]; Nazarbek, ‘Zeitun,’ Contemporary Review, April 1896, pp. 513-528; Nazarbek, Through the Storm (London, 1899); Vicomte des Coursons, La Rébellion Arméniene (Paris, 1895), pp. 42 ff; Victor Bérard, La Politique du Sultan (Paris, 1897), pp. 155-156, 166-170). Langer reports (p. 157) that

Revolutionary placards were being posted in the cities, and there were not a few cases of the blackmailing of wealthy Armenians, who were forced to contribute to the cause. Europeans in Turkey were agreed that the immediate aim of the agitators was to incite disorder, bring about inhuman reprisals, and so provoke the intervention of the powers. For that reason, it was said, they operated by preference in areas where the Armenians were in a hopeless minority, so that the reprisals would be certain.

Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, founder of Robert College, reported that a Hunchak member told him that his organization would ‘watch their opportunity to kill Turks and Kurds, set fire to their villages and then make their escape into the mountains. The enraged Moslems will then rise, and fall upon the defenseless Armenians and slaughter them with such barbarity that Russia will enter in the name of humanity and Christian civilization and take possession.’ He concluded that ‘we Armenians have determined to be free. Europe listened to the Bulgarian horrors and made Bulgaria free. She will listen to our cry when it goes up in the shrieks and blood of millions of women and children . . .‘ (Boston Congregationalist, December 23, 1893, reproduced in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1895, p. 1416, and in Great Britain, Turkey No 6, [1896]). Of the Dashnaks, the English vice-consul at Van, Mr. Williams, reported in March, 1896 that 'They terrorize over their countrymen, and by their outrages and folly, excite the Mohammedan population and render nugatory all efforts to carry out reforms. I am firmly convinced that if they could be put down, or even kept quiet, one of the greatest obstacles to security in this district, as probably all over Anatolia, would he removed.' He went on to state: ‘The more I learn of past events and the present state of this province, the more clearly I see that the criminal actions of these societies have been largely responsible for the terrible scenes enacted here and all over Anatolia during the last autumn, much as the Turks are to blame’ (Turkey No. 8, 1896, no. 117 Langer, p. 322). Langer reports: ‘That the members of the Federation meant business was shown by the outbreak it organized in Van in mid-June 1896. The Armenians fell on the Kurds and killed a goodly number, with the usual result, the massacre of the innocent population. The outbreak was evidently meant as the first move in the new campaign of frightfulness which was to attract the attention of the powers, for in rapid succession similar “disturbances” took place in many other centres’ (Langer, p. 322; Lord Warkworth, Notes from a Diary in Asiatic Turkey [London, 1898], pp. 122 ff.; Great Britain, Turkey No. 8 [1896], nos. 246 ff., 273, and esp. no. 337; Affaires Arméniennes, 1893-1897, no. 220). These events were the background to the Armenian occupation of the Ottoman Bank on 26 August 1896 (described in Langer, pp. 323-324). Following the occupation, when the British diplomat F. A. Barker returned to Istanbul after conveying some of the Armenian nationalists to Greece, he reported that when he indicated his fear that innocent people would die as a result of their actions, they answered, ‘Those who die will do so as true patriots and martyrs, and as to the sympathy of the Powers, if we had thought we would lose it, we would have forced their hands by remaining in the Bank.’ He added, ‘They also told me that it had been their intention to kill all the Turks in the employ of the Bank before blowing the latter up, but that they had not had time, as things finished sooner than they had expected' (Langer, p. 324; front M. Varandian, Hai Heghapoghagan Dashnaghtzoutan Badmoutiun [Paris, 1932], I, 158 ff.; Great Britain, Turkey No. 1 [1897], nos. 25, 26; Affaires Arméniennes, nos. 236 ff., 254; and ‘The Constantinople Massacre,’ Contemporary Review, October, 1896, pp. 457-465.) Is more proof needed?



Dr. William Langer: an extraordinary scholar

Regarding the massacres and countermassacres that took place in Istanbul following the occupation of the bank in 1896, Langer states,

Nothing is further removed from my intention than to condone the Constantinople massacres or any other. At the same time it is the duty of the historian to look at the facts from all possible angles, and to avoid being carried away by the tidal wave of uncritical emotionalism. The British and the Americans were, from the start, the most gullible and the most thirsty for stories of blood-curdling atrocities. The greater credit, therefore, to those among them who managed to keep some sense of perspective. Mr. Herbert, the British chargé, appreciated the provocation to the Turks. Mr. Hume-Beaman, an expert on things oriental, roundly declared that every member of the Armenian committees should be hanged, and that the responsibilities for the massacres rested divided between these cowardly committees and the ‘braggart and ineffectual intervention of Europe’.

Speaking of the Sultan, Hume-Beaman continued:

It is all very well to call him ‘the Great Assassin’, but from the Muslim point of view he was very fairly justified in killing any number of rebellious infidels who were being supported by combined Europe in what he and every Turk considered as a plot against the realm. The Turks retorted on England especially that we used to blow Moslems from the muzzles of our guns and burn whole villages and mosques in India for an insult offered to one of our officials... (Langer, pp. 324-325; Turkey No, 1, 1897; Sidney Whitman, Turkish Memories [London, 1914], ch, ii; Louis Rarnbert, Notes et Impressions de Turquie [Paris, 1926]. pp. 15 ff.; A. G. Hume-Beaman, Twenty Years in the Near East [London. 1898], pp. 304-305).

Similar utterances were quoted in Sir Edwin Pears, Forty Years in Constantinople (New York, 1916) and in numerous issues of the British Parliamentary reports on Turkey, quoted by Langer on p. 157. Langer concluded (p. 163) that ‘Enough has been said above to make unnecessary any further reference here to the Hentchak and its program and methods. The leaders were quite prepared to have thousands of their fellow-countrymen massacred in order to force intervention by the European powers and in order to raise from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire a new Armenian socialist state.’

Professor Louise Nalbandian, in her Armenian Revolutionary Movement, based on Armenian sources (University of California Press, 1963), summarizes the Hunchak program:

Agitation and terror were needed to ‘elevate the spirit of the people’ ....The people were also to be incited against their enemies and were to ‘profit’ from the retaliatory actions of these same enemies. Terror was to be used as a method of protecting the people and winning their confidence in the Hunchak program. The party aimed at terrorizing the Ottoman government, thus contributing toward lowering the prestige of that regime and working toward its complete disintegration. The government itself was not to be the only focus of terroristic tactics. The Hunchaks wanted to annihilate the most dangerous of the Armenian and Turkish individuals who were then working for the government as well as to destroy all spies and informers. To assist them in carrying out all of these terroristic acts, the party was to organize an exclusive branch specificity devoted to performing acts of terrorism.... The most opportune time to institute the general rebellion far carrying out immediate objectives was when Turkey was engaged in a war (pp. 110-111).

She goes on to state that ‘The Hunchaks made the most of Turkish oppression by spreading various alarming reports through their publications, including exaggeration of Turkish atrocities’ (p. 119). The Dashnak program (pp. 168-171) included aspirations 'To organize fighting bands..., to use every means to arm the people..., to stimulate fighting and terrorize government officials, informers, traitors, usurers and every kind of exploiter,’ and ‘to expose government establishments to looting and destruction.’ Nalbandian concludes that ‘The Program of 1892 officially sanctioned terrorism as a method of activity, and in this respect coincided with the tactics of the Hunchaks.... The Hunchaks had used terroristic methods even before 1892. . ‘.

The late, great Dr. Stanford Shaw

This information is supported by Ottoman documents on the subject. Nazim Pas[h]a, Ermeni Tarih-i Vukuati, Basbakanlik .Arsivi, Yildiz K36/Z131/139(80), contains almost one thousand pages of captured Armenian documents. See also: Esat Uras, Tarihte Ermeniler ve Ermeni Meselesi (Ankara, 1950), pp. 423-577; Yildiz K35/Z50/345, Report of an Investigation Commission on the activities of the Hunchaks; K97/Z50/334M, French and Ottoman documents describing the activities of secret Armenian groups in the Ottoman Empire; and K-C/11, pp. 1-389, reports of Ali Ferruh Bey, Ottoman Ambassador to Washington, on Armenian activities in the United States between 1897 and 1900. It should be noted that these tactics, the accounts of which Dr. Hovannisian finds unconvincing, were not unique in the empire at that time. They were shared by some of the Balkan nationalists who were fighting the Ottomans in Macedonia. Charles Jelavich and Barbara Jelavich, in their recent study of The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920 (University of Washington Press, 1977), remark that the Bulgarian nationalists ‘did not hesitate to send raiding parties into Macedonia to terrorize villages or even to assassinate Turks with the hope that reprisals would force the population to revolt. The Greeks and Serbs responded with their own acts of violence. . . . Not only did the local population suffer from the action of their more fanatical members, but the Ottoman authorities also were caught in a dilemma. They were responsible for maintaining order, yet if they acted to apprehend and punish the guilty, they could find themselves pilloried in the European press as barbaric and oppressive even when the charges were not deserved’ (p. 212). Further research in the Dashnak archives, now located in Boston. is needed to see whether the charges related by Langer, Cyrus Hamlin, and others were, in fact, justified.



(2) On the Sasun affair. Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, pp. 160-161, related: ‘After numerous minor exploits the Armenian revolutionaries arranged for a grand coup They organized a really formidable rising among the Armenian mountaineers of the Sassun region, just to the southwest of Mush.’ Similar information on it and the Mus[h] affair is found in: Great Britain, Turkey No. 1 (1895), no. 252; Turkey No. 1 (1897), no. 142; Turkey No. 8(1896), nos. 117, 246, 247, 273, 337; Louise Nalbandian, Armenian Revolutionary Movement, pp. 121-122; Sidney Whitman, Turkish Memories (London, 1914); and Sir Charles Eliot, Turkey in Europe (London, 1900), p. 456. The complete investigation commission reports were found in the Yildiz Palace Archives: K22/Z141/386, K22/Z153/415, K9/Z72/1072, K11/Z120/1222, K14/Z126/390, K31/Z148/2582, K31/Z158/2021, K31/Z45/1863, K31/Z45/2023, K36/Z141/386. K36/Z141/419 K36/Z148/2581, K31/Z111/1985, K36/Z36/393, K35/Z50/2261, K35/Z85/35 (foreign documents), K35/Z30/33, K97/Z50/306, K35/Z30/29, K13/Z112/44 and K11/Z120/1222. The reports of the Anatolian investigation Commission, in the Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi, listed in register no. 667, and the reports to it (listed in register no. 664) also were studied before we reached our conclusions.

The information regarding the population of the Ottoman Empire is fully documented in History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, vol. II, pp. 117, 170(101), 239-241, 268(31), 270(96), 337(160); also Kemal H. Karpat, ‘Ottoman Population Records and the Census of 1881/82-1893,’ International Journal of Middle East Studies 9 (1978), 237-274; and S. J. Shaw, ‘The Ottoman Census System and Population. 1831-1914,’ IJMES, 9 (1978), 325-338. That all elements of the Ottoman population suffered terribly is demonstrated by a recent study of Ottoman population records, subjected to detailed computer analysis, which concludes that 20 per cent of the entire Muslim population of Anatolia, about 2.9 million people, were killed between 1914 and 1923 (Justin McCarthy, ‘The Muslim Population of Anatolia, 1878-1927,’ unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1978).

(3) On the oppression of the mass of Armenians by the Armenian oligarchy and the Patriarch, we based our information on a survey of the relevant Ottoman records. Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, also related:

Like the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Gregorian Church had been given practical self-government by Mohammad the Conquerer, so that the Patriarch of Constantinople was an important and powerful official. In actual practice, however, he was, in the early 19th century, merely the agent of the wealthy Armenian officials and bankers of the capital who formed a sort of aristocracy, cringing before their Turkish masters but taking a high hand in all questions concerning the Armenian Church and the Armenian people (M A. Ubicini, Letters on Turkey [London, 1856], II, letters iv-vii ; M. B. Dadian, ‘La Société Arménienne Contemporaine,’ Revue des Deux Mondes [15 June 1867], pp. 903-938; Leon Arpée, The Armenian Awakening, [Chicaco, 1909], ch. ix).


(4) On Russian encouragement of Armenian revolts against the Sultan, we relied principally on Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, who stated:

In the 18th century they looked to Christian Russia to save them. They established contact with Peter the Great who promised much and did little. They were encouraged by Catherine the Great to hope for the erection of a Kingdom of Ararat under Russian protection. . . . [And] It was not until Russia began to embark upon a crusade to liberate the Christians under the Ottoman yoke that the Armenians of the Caucasus bethought them of their brothers across the frontier (p. 150). [Also] As the Russian armies, commanded chiefly by Russian-Armenian generals, approached Erzurum in 1877, the Christian populatton was enthusiastic and prepared to join the invaders, but when the Russians were obliged to fall back the Armenians hastily changed their minds (p. 151). [And] At Constantinople the Armenian leaders at first repudiated any connexion with the Russians and protested loudly against all suggestions of revolt. But the insurrection in Bulgaria, followed by the active intervention of the western powers. brought about a chance of mind (p. 151) [and so forth).

(5) Professor Hovannisian simply is mistaken in denying that attempts were made on the lives of the Sultan and Grand Vezir during the 1896 disturbances, presumably because of his reliance on the Western press instead of the Ottoman documents available on the subject. Investigation reports on the attacks were consuted in the Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi nos. 137562 and 139421; Yildiz K48/Z145/2479, K36/Z141/282, K24/Z162/31, and K35/Z34/1397. As a result, the Sultan rarely left the palace grounds during the next twenty years, attending the Friday prayers at a mosque built on the palace grounds and learning about what was going on in his empire from an ever increasing army of police, secret police, spies, and photographers.

(6) If Dr. Hovannisian looks at a map of the entire Ottoman empire, he will see why the title ‘Northeastern Front' was correctly used to describe the events in eastern Anatohia during World War I. Nor does he seem to have read our discussion, We do describe how over 90 per cent of the Armenian residents of the empire died or fled during and after the war, and obviously from all the provinces, not just from those in the east where deportations were carried out in, 1915 and 1916. He also seems confused regarding our method of citation. Footnotes indicate mainly sources of quotations or particular laws or documents. The Bibliography indicates complete references on particular subjects. Regarding the deportations and other wartime events in Anatolia, we consulted the minutes of the Ottoman Council of Ministers (Meclis-i Vükela Masbatalari), which set policies, received a mass of information, and discussed the problems that arose, particularly in the sessions of May 14/27 and May 17/30, 1331 / 1915. Substantial documentation also was found in the Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi dossiers no. 179608, 189578, 175321, 203987, and 148765; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Turk Inkilabi Tarihi (3 vols. in 10 parts, Ankara, 1940-1967), II/3, pp. 18-100, Ill/1, pp. 349-380, 111/3, pp. 35-89; Gen. Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Turk Harbi, 5 vols., Ankara, 1963-1967; M. Larcher, La guerre turque dans Ia guerre mondiale, Paris, 1926; Ahmet Emin (Yalman), Turkey in the World War, New Haven, Conn., and London, 1930; Halide Edib (Adivar), The Memoirs of Halidé Edib, London, 1926; lrfan Orga, Portrait of a Turkish Family, London, 1950; Ali lhsan Sabis, Harb Hatiralarim, 2 vols., Istanbul, 1943-1951; C. Korganoff, La participation des Arméniens à la guerre mondiale sur le front du Caucase, 1914-1918, Paris, 1927; A. Poidebard, Le rôle militaire des Arméniens sur le front du Caucase, Paris, 1920; and F. Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasis, 1914-1921, New York, 1951.

Dr. Ezel Kural Shaw, in 1990

Among the more important dispatches consulted in the British Foreign Office archives (Public Record Office) were FO 371 /2130/15735, dispatch from the German Ambassador in Istanbul to the British Foreign Office, received in London, 9 April1914; FO 371/2130/31141, Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 2 July 1914; FO 371/2146/70404, Cheetham to Grey, 12 November 1914; FO 371/2485, containing copies of various Armenian nationalist plans for action against the Ottoman government at the start of the war; FO 371/2484/25167, Sir H. Bax Ironside to Foreign Office, 3 March 1915; FO 371/2484/37609, Ironside to Grey, 6 March 1915; FO 371/2485/41444, Armenian National Defense Committee in Boston to Grey, 23 March 1915 ; FO 371/4241/170751, Admiral de Robeck to Curzon, 12 December 1919, containing copies of orders issued by Ottoman officials concerning the deportations; FO 371 /2768/39517; FO 371/2130/5748, Ian Smith to Sir Louis Mallet, 10 January 1914; FO 371/5045/ E2736, Wardrop to Foreign Office, Tiflis, 11 March 1920; FO 371/4962/E14033, 9 November 1920; FO 371/4946/E14102, 13 November 1920; FO 371/5041/E357, 17 February 1920; FO 371/4965/E15131, minute by Lord Curzon, 5 December 1920; FO 371/3658/158226, Director of Military Intelligence to Foreign Office, 16 Septermber 1918; FO 371/3660/144753, 22 September 1919; FO /3660/154951, 20 October 1919, Etela ul-Mulk to Cox; FO 371/3550/157887, Wardrop to Foreign Office; FO 371/4159/137901, Robeck to Curzon, 25 September 1919; FO 371/4854/E2775, Wardrop to Curzon, 4 March 1920; FO/4161/E173267, secret intelligence report dated 18 December 1920; FO 371/4960/E12174; FO 371 /4215/157720, Sir Eyre Crowe to George Kidston, 1 December 1919; FO 371/4215/153371, Kidston to Crowe, 28 November 1919; FO 371/9158/E5523, Talat Pas[h]a’s instructions for the Armenian deportations in 1915; FO 371/3410/455, Vahan Cardashian to Lord Robert Cecil, 7 July 1918; FO 371/4222/142744, British Intelligence to Director of Military Intelligence, 15 September 1919; FO 3714240/161530, Lord Granville to Foreign Office, 8 December 1919; FO 371/4240/161530, M. Constantinis and C. Pissani to Lloyd George, received 26 February 1920; FO 371/4958/E9127, Minute by D. G. Osborn, 19 July 1920; FO 371/5135/E12594, Venizelos to Lloyd George, 5 October 1920, E371/5054/E9984, Robeck to Curzon, 16 August 1920: FO 371/4161/169898, Aueurin Williams to Cecil Harmsworth, 9 January 1920; FO 371/5120/E14122, Union Nationale Armenienne to Foreign Office, 30 October 1920; [FO] 371/5210/E13870, Minute by D. G. Osborne, 9 October 1921; FO 371/4157/66819, C. F. Bates to Albert Howe Lybyer, 12 April 1920; FO 371/4165/79400, A. F. Wavell to British High Commissioner, Istanbul, 15 April 1919; FO 371 /5053/E8264, Percy Christian to Lord Allenby, 2 May 1920; FO 371/5051/E6966, Lord Derby to Curzon, 21 June 1920; FO 371/5210//E13870, A. de Fleauriau to Sir J, Tilley, 8 November 1920; FO 371/5210/14898, Sir Horace Rumbold to Curzon, 19 November 1920; FO 371/3658/84426, Admiral Richard Webb to Curzon, 17 May 1919; FO 371/4185/156735, Robeck to Curzon, 19 November 1919; and FO 371/5043/1358. The most recent studies of this newly opened material are by Salahi R. Sonyel, 'Yeni Belgelerin Isigi altinda Ermeni Tehcirleri — Armenian Deportations: A Re-Appraisal in the Light of New Documents’, Belleten, 36 (1972), 31-69, and ‘Tehcir ye “Kirimlar” Konusunda Ermeni Propagandasi, Hiristiyanlik Dünyasini Nasil Aldatti,’ Belleten, 40 (1977), 137-185, both of which are based on extensive research in the British Foreign Office archives.

Among Ottoman documents of interest are: Ministry of interior general order of 28 April 1915, which, after ordering the imprisonment and deportation of members of the Hunchak and Dashnak groups, adds: ‘As this order is exclusively a measure against the extension of the Committees, avoid executing it in such a way which might cause the mutual massacre of Muslim and Armenian groups’ (found in Public Record Office, FO 371/4241/170751 along with an annotation by W. S. Edmonds, Consular Officer of the Eastern Department, that ‘There is not enough evidence here to bring home the charge of massacre any closer.’)

On 30 July 1915, Minister of Interior Talat Pasa ordered his governors: ‘Forbid the entry or free circulation of all foreigners and suspicious persons in the localities to be evacuated; if such people are already in the district they should be made to leave at once ; if such persons have bought goods (of evacuated persons) at ridiculous prices, measures should be made to annul the sale, restore prices to the proper level, and thus prevent illegal profits from being made; Armenians should be allowed and authorized to take away with them everything they want; if there is found goods not taken away which have deteriorated as a result, sell it by auction; if other merchandise can remain without deteriorating, keep it on behalf of the original owner; prevent all agreements regarding renting, pawning, attaching or sale or mortgage which is likely to deprive the owner of his property . . .‘ (FO 371/9158/E5523).

On 30 July 1915, Talat’s secretary Ali Münif ordered ‘. . . Make arrangements for special officials to accompany groups of Armenians being relocated, and make sure they are provided with food and other things they need, with all expenditures incurred in this way being paid out of government allottments [sic] for the emigrants’ (FO 371/9158/E5523).

On 15 August 1930 [1915], the Ministry of Interior’s instructions on the transportation of Armenians to Syria and lrak included: ‘If among those to be relocated . . . there are produced official documents showing that a family supporter is an Ottoman soldier, or if there are women or orphans without supporters, or Catholics and Protestants who do not wish to go to the assigned places, they should be separated and settled among the villages of the provinces and districts adjacent to the stations. The families of soldiers, Protestants and Catholics not yet relocated . . . must be left in their places of residence; also artisans and manufacturers necessary to the country and workers employed in factories which produce goods of public use or who are employed on the railways and in railway stations, . . . The food necessary for emigrants while on their journey until they reach their destinations must be provided . . . for poor emigrants by credit for the installation of the emigrants. The camps provided for transported persons must be kept under regular supervision; the necessary steps for their well-being should he taken, also to provide order and security. Make sure that indigent emigrants are given sufficient food and that their health is assured by daily visits from a doctor ....Sick people, poor people, women and children must be sent by rail, and others should be sent on mules, in carts or on foot according totheir powers of endurance. Each convoy should be accompanied by a detachment of the guards, and the food supplies for each convoy must be guarded until the destination is reached. . . . In cases where emigrants are attacked, either in the camps or during the journeys, these attacks must be repelled immediately. . . . Officials who receive bribes from the emigrants, or who abuse women by promises or threats, or who establish illicit relations with them. will be immediately recalled, with particulars to be sent to their court martials for severe punishment’ (FO 371/9158/5523).

The Ottoman cabinet minutes, Meclis-i vükela rnazbatalari, at the Basbakanlik Arsivi, Istanbul, report again and again of disorders in eastern Anatolia, of killings and deaths of Muslims and Christians alike as the result of the activities of maurauding [sic] armies and bandit forces, large-scale communal massacres and countermassacres, and famine and disease; investigation commissions were sent, and on the basis of their repons efforts were made to restore order and end the killings and deaths and to punish all those responsible, both Muslim and Christian (see, e.g., reports of meetings of 15 August 1915, 1331, 29 August 1916/1332, 17 December 1916/1332, 1 March 1917/1333 10 September 1915/1331, 16 September 1915/1331, 10 October 1915/1333, 26 October 1915/1331 14 May 1915/1331, 17 May 1915/1331, (summarized in Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Turk Inkilabi Tarihi (3 vols. in 10 parts; Ankara, 1940-1967), II/3. 18-100, and III/3, 35-59); 2 July 1915/1331, 13 July 1915/1331, 29 July 1915/1331, 12 March 1917/1333, 17 March 1917/1333, 3 April 1917/1333, 10 May 1917/1333, 17 May 1917/1333, 15 June 1917/1333, and 1 July 1917/1333.) We have not yet seen the cabinet records for 1918/1334. Nor have we seen the following records which still are in the process of being catalogued, but promise to provide important additional information on the years of World War I and the truce that followed:



HR-DVE- 1 General problems and affairs
HR-DVE-1.1  Military affairs
HR-DVE-1.2    Political affairs  
HR-DVE-1.2.1  Truce discussions
HR-DVE-1.2.2  Matters concerning the Allied occupation
HR-DVE-1.2.3    Matters concerning the truce and conclusion of peace  


 HB-1    General problems  
 HB-1.1    General military affairs  
 HB- 1.2    Specific military activities  
 HB-1.2.1    Truce affairs  
 H B-1.2.2    Matters concerning the Allied occupation  


DH-1 General problems in the provinces
DH-1.1 Military problems
DH-1.2 Political problems
DH-1.2.1 Problems concerned with the Allied occupation
DH-1.2.3 Problems concerning the conclusion of peace


IA-1 General problem of provisioning the population
IA-1.1 Provisions for Istanbul
IA- 1.2 Provisions for the province
IA-1.2.1 Problems involved with exports and imports


BH-1 General problems
BH-1.1 Military activities
BH-1.2 Political activities
BH-1.2.1 Truce problems
BH-1.2.2 Problems involving the Allied occupation


M L-1 General problems
ML-1.1 Military affairs
ML-1.2 Political affairs
ML-1.2.1 Truce affairs
ML-1.2.2 Occupation affairs
ML-1.2.3 Conclusion of peace

The reports of various provincial investigation commissions, some of which we used and cited in our hook and earlier in this paper, have been recatalogued as follows:

A-TF Investigation matters in general
A-TFA Anatolian Investigation Commissions
A-TFA-1 Anatolian Inspectorship
A-TFHC Hicaz Inspection Committee
A-TFK Investigation Commission
A-TFS Military Inspection Commissions
A-TFR Rumelia Inspection Commissions

Inspectorship for Vilavet of Rumelia. Separate files for financial, military, administrative, miscellaneous, complaint, gendarmerie, Kosova, Manastir, Iskodra, Selanik and Edirne affairs.

Finally, separate files are now being established concerning the affairs of all the major non-Muslim ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire, including the Armenians, and these should be of immense assistance when they become available.

For additional information, see an important new article by Attila Cetin, ‘Basbakanlik Arsivinde Uygulanan Tasnif Sistemi ye Kullanilan Kotlar,’ Tarih Dergisi, 31 (March, 1977), 235-268, as well as Midhat Sertoglu, Muhteva Bakimindan Basvekalet Arsivi (Ankara, 1955).



For additional information, see an important new article by Attila Cetin, ‘Basbakanlik Arsivinde Uygulanan Tasnif Sistemi ye Kullanilan Kotlar,’ Tarih Dergisi, 31 (March, 1977), 235-268, as well as Midhat Sertoglu, Muhteva Bakimindan Basvekalet Arsivi (Ankara, 1955).

(7) Concerning the condition of the Ottoman Armenians before 1876, in stating that ‘The Armenians were as free to lead their own lives as were all other subjects of the Sultan,’ we were referring to the existence of the millet system, and the Armenian millet in particular, which gave them, as it did the other subject peoples of the empire, including the Muslims, a substantial amount of autonomy. The complaints of the Patriarchs, to which Hovannisian refers, certainly only substantiate our previous remarks, in the same paragraph, (p. 201) that ‘they [the Armenians] were interspersed with the Muslim cultivators and nomadic tribesmen, the latter of both Turkish and Kurdish origin, whose condition was no worse but certainly no better than that of their Armenian brothers. If there were economic and social problems, these involved the misrule of the bureaucrats and the great landowners and the age-old tendency of the tribesmen to raid the cultivated areas, but these conditions affected Muslims and Christians alike.’ We certainly did not state or imply that conditions were idyllic for anyone, That is why the Ottoman government had been making efforts at reform since 1808. It is difficult to understand why Professor Hovannisian, in attempting to prove his point, omitted these words. In addition, if we had, indeed, included information regarding the Patriarchial complaints to which Dr. Hovannisian refers, we most certainly would have had to do the same for similar documents received from Arabs, Turks, Jews, Kurds. Greeks, and all the other people in the empire, a simply impossible task for a book of this sort.

(8) Regarding the efforts of Patriarch Nerses and Khrimian Hairig, during the conferences of San Stefano and Berlin, to secure autonomy or independence for the east Anatolian provinces under Armenian control, we relied on Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, pp. 151-153; Tchohanian, ‘Badaskhanaduoutiunnere’ (Responsibilities), .Anahid, 1, 3 (January 1899); Léart, La Question Arménienne à la lumière des Documents (Paris, 1913), pp. 27-40; and various Ottoman reports in the Yildiz archives, K31 /Z45/1917, K28/Z114/22, K28/Z114/1473 (report on Karatodori Pas[h]a on results of meeting with Bismarck, 14 June 1878), K39/Z20/1629 (Bismarck letter to Ottoman Foreign Minister), K31/Z45/1925M (14 Cemazi I 1312, report by Said Pas[h]a). K36/Z139/2 (Memorandum on the subject by the Sultan), K14/Z126/1288 (report by Artin Efendi), K14/Z120/1260 (report by Karatodori Pas[h]a), and K28/Z114/1813. Obviously the Patriarchal archives should be examined for information on this subject.

(9) In his only effort to use Ottoman sources, regarding the Adana disturbances of 1909, Dr. Hovannisian has failed to apply the normal techniques of historical analysis. If he had, he would have found that the parliamentary reports in question were in fact part of an effort to discredit the supporters of the recently deposed Sultan Abdülhamit II, and that they did not correspond with the actual investigation reports, which are found in the papers of the Anatolian Investigation Commission, file A-TFA in the Basbakanlik Arsivi. Our discussion also was based on Uras, Tarihte Ermeniler, pp. 557-577 and Ikdam, 28 February 1909/1324.


Other collections which we used included Topkapi Saray Arsivi, E4202, Armenian nationalist documents, and their Ottoman translations, confiscated after 1882; Yildiz K36/Z4l /386, registers of orders issued on the Armenian problem between 1890 and 1905; K36 /146/2328, report on the problems of Armenians in 1877, K36 /Z148/2581, report on Armenian nationalist committees based in Bitlis and their role in the Sasun affair; Hususi Iradat 1311/3 August 1309, dossier on Armenians who had emigrated to the United States attempting to return to the Ottoman empire to foment trouble; Hususi Tradat 1311, no, 34, 5 Sentember 1311, Declaration of loyalty to the Sultan on the part of his Armenian subjects; Hususi Iradat 1311, no. 83, 12 September 1311, dossier on the Committee on Armenian Rights; Yildiz K31/Z158/2021, 4 Zilhicce 1312, report by Kamil Pas[h]a on the Armenian Question; K31/Z27/299, report by Ahmet Cevdet Pas[h]a on the Armenian millet; K33/Z73/2273, ten registers of documents concerning Ottoman Russian relations between 1876 and 1906; K31/Z45/2023, Said Pas[h]a report on the Armenian revolt, 19 Cemazi II 1313; K31/Z158/2016, Kamil Pas[h]a report on the state of the eastern Anatolian provinces, 14 Cemazi I 1312; K31/Z158/2020, Kamil Pas[h]a recommendations for reform in the eastern provinces, 24 Safar 1313; K36/Z139/53, report by S[h]akir Pas[h]a on his inspection of eastern Anatolia between 1893 and 1900; K36/Z139/84, reports of investigation commissions sent to Monastir and Van between 1890 and 1900; K36/Z140/105, register of complaints from Arakil Kuyumcuyan regarding the misdeeds of the Armenian millet leader in Kayseri Bedros in collecting the military substitution tax (bedel-i askerive) between 1902 and 1909; K37/Z47/329M, problems involved in the selection of a new Armenian Patriarch; K37/Z47/27, reports on the activities of the Hamidiye Suvari Alayi; lrade, Meclis-i Mahsus 1308/4957, reports and complaints from foreign ambassadors concerning the situation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire; Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi 104328, dossier on provision of annual subsidy to Garabed Utüciyan, publisher of Massis, by Ottoman Ministry of the Interior (16 October 1315); and Yildiz K35/Z50/334M, reports from Ottoman missions in St. Petersburg and the Caucasus on activities of the Armenian Committee of Tiflis.

The existence of these Ottoman archives has been publicized by S. J. Shaw on several occasions, in particular in ‘The Yildiz Palace Archives of Abdülhamit II,’ Archivum Ottomanicum, 3 (1971), 211-237. and ‘Ottoman Archival Materials for the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: The Archives of Istanbul,’ International Journal of Middle East Studies, 6 (1975), 94-114, in the hope that other scholars would go to Istanbul to work through them. We await with interest similar detailed information about the nature and availability of the relevant Armenian archives.

No one denies, or seeks to deny, that the Armenian people suffered terribly during the last two decades of the Ottoman Empire. The History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey makes this clear, but in the context of Ottoman history and not, evidently, in the massive detail and with time kind of overtones Hovannisian would like to see. The point that he overlooks is that the experience of the Armenians, however terrible it undoubtedly was, was not unique to them. It was part of a general tragedy that engulfed all the people of the Empire Turks, Greeks, Arabs, Jews, and others as well, all of whom have traumatic memories of the period. Innumerable stories of the same sort of suffering as that mentioned by Hovannisian emanate from these people as well, but they also could not find a place in the few pages available on the subject in a general textbook. And even more important, this situation was the product, not of a conscious effort at extermination of any of these groups, as he alleges — this seems clear from careful examination of the Ottoman cabinet records — but, rather, of the final breakup of a multinational society as the result of a whole series of national revolts, terroristic attacks, massacres and counterrnassacres, and famine and disease, compounded by destructive and brutal foreign invasions, in which all the people of the empire, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, had their victims and criminals, and against which the Ottoman government found itself powerless to act despite numerous efforts to do so. The recent tragic events in the Lebanon provide a very limited example, on a relatively small scale, of the actual situation.

We appreciate, understand, and sympathize with the sensitivity of Professor Hovannisian and other Armenians on this issue. They and their friends and families bear tragic memories of the past. But it is to the interest of all concerned, Armenians, Turks, and others interested in the cause of humanity, that all sources be examined without preconceptions or prejudice. We do not believe that the gates of research on the Armenian Question closed a half-century ago. Nor do we claim that our work is anything more than a beginning In cases concerning Ottoman actions and Ottoman policies, Ottoman sources must be considered primary, but substantial materials in the Ottoman archives remain to be consulted, most important among which are the records of the ministries of the Interior and the Army, even though some of them arc duplicated in the Bab-i Ali Evrak Odasi. On the other hand, in matters concerning Armenian actions, policies, and experiences, Armenian sources must be consulted, and for this purpose the Dashnak archives in Boston as well as those of the Hunchaks and the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul should he itemized, described, and made available to all researchers wishing to use them. Obviously considerable linguistic, paleographic, and historical training is needed to prepare for this work. Only through consultation of all relevant records by different researchers, each giving his own differential weight to the sources at his disposal to present his interpretation, will a definitive picture emerge. The many facets of ‘truth’ will appear only when the inquiring mind of the reader examines all the interpretations and reaches its own conclusions.

Professor of Turkish and Near
Eastern History

Research Associate in Near
Eastern History

University of California, Los Angeles




Of interest:

Hovannisian Takes on McCarthy in a 1983 TV Debate

Lowry Examines Hovannisian's Scholarship in 1985

Christian Scholar Samuel Weems took apart Hovannisian's history in Weems' "Armenia," a few excerpts of which are dispersed at TAT, such as:

An Armenian Professor Proves: NO GENOCIDE


"West" Accounts


Armenian Views


Turks in Movies
Turks in TV


This Site

...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.