Tuesday 24 April 2018 Last Update: 10:45 AM

Why did Ottoman Armenians & Muslims Become Enemies?

Published: 02-10-2017

"Although most Armenians maintained a correct attitude vis-à-vis the Ottoman government, it can be 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."


Richard Hovannisian, "Armenia on the Road to Independence," 1967, p. 42

So why did Ottoman-Armenians stop become disloyal, after being known for centuries as the "Loyal Millet," or Faithful Nation?


Deceptive Armenian propaganda would have us believe that Turks and other Muslims suddenly decided to start killing Armenians for sport in the late 1890s, and has concocted baseless theories for the 1915 period, such as "pan-Turanism" or "Muslims hate Christians" (without fully explaining why these reasons were absent in centuries past... and also without explaining why other minorities escaped the Armenians' fate of "deportation," the propagandists' synonym for "genocide").


Events do not suddenly exist, without reason, as though history takes place in a vacuum. In order to understand why something happened, it is necessary to delve into the sequence of events that transpired in the past.


Prof. Justin McCarthy, in his extremely scholarly book "Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922," instructs us on the genuine, historical backdrop... without bias, which is what makes him such a historian par excellence. (This book is a must-have for any truthful party interested in the "genocide" matter.)


The professor basically ties in the reason, also by examining the period that transpired before the "seventy years," with exactly what Jemal Pasha had written in his memoirs :


"As to the occurrences which took place during the deportations these must be ascribed to seventy years of accumulated hatred between Turks, Kurds, and Armenians. The responsibility must lie with Muscovite policy which made mortal enemies of three nations who for centuries had lived together in peace."


(Perhaps why at least one Armenian scholar from Armenia, Rafael Hambartsumian, gave Russia "equal genocidal guilt." It's the rare Armenian who goes even beyond, acknowledging that "The real enemy of the Armenians were the Russians, not the Turks"... as William Saroyan  wrote, in "Antranik of Armenia.")


(pp. 25-29)


In studying the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, one becomes aware that they can and should be treated as one region, despite political boundaries. Throughout the 100-year period of this study, the histories and the peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia cannot be understood separately. Economically, socially, linguisti- cally, and religiously the connections among the peoples of the region remained strong well into the 1920s, perhaps beyond.


To understand the closeness of the histories of the peoples of the "Russian South" and "Ottoman East" one has only to consider them by religious groups, rather than by political borders. It is impossible to consider the Anatolian Armenians as if they were not intimately connected to the Armenians of Erivan. Too many migrants crossed from the Ottoman Empire to Russia, too many bishops from the jurisdiction of Istanbul to that of Echmiadzin and back, too many revolutionaries crossed and recrossed the borders for the Armenians to be accurately styled as Turkish Armenians and Russian Armenians in any but a political sense. The same was true of Muslims, especially the Turks and Kurds of the southern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. Although most Muslim migration was outmigration from the southern Caucasus to eastern Anatolia, there was considerable ongoing migration for purposes of trade, employment, and family. Muslim nomads crossed the political borders freely. New infusions of forced migrants brought news of the Caucasus to their fellow Muslims in the east.


Armenians under Russian and Ottoman rule obviously viewed each other as brothers, no matter their citizenship. The same was true of Muslims. It is doubtful if the concept of citizenship, as opposed to religious affiliation, had taken any great hold in either the Caucasus or eastern Anatolia before the 1920s. In the east, a Caucasian Muslim felt closer to an Anatolian Muslim than to a Caucasian Armenian, just as an eastern Anatolian Armenian affiliated himself with Armenians of the Caucasus, not Anatolian Muslims. For this reason, it is ridiculous to speak of a large group of loyal Muslim subjects of Russia in the Caucasus or loyal Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in eastern Anatolia. Both regions had Muslims and Armenians who were integrated into the political system and could be considered as loyal, even patriotic subjects. Most Armenians and Muslims, however, were peasants or nomads who knew no real affiliation above tribe or village, except their religious affiliation. Their primary loyalty to their own religious groups was proven again and again in the Caucasian and eastern Anatolian wars.


In time of war, the sympathies of Armenians and Muslims emerged openly. There was no doubt as to the loyalty of either group. Despite the fact that some Muslims fought on the side of the Russians, particularly in the Crimean War,[3] and many middle- class Armenians supported the Ottoman government, both Arme- nians and Muslims in the east generally assumed that their place was alongside their coreligionists. This was true in both the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. In the Caucasus, Muslims responded to Ottoman calls for rebellion against their Russian masters in time of war and fought as guerrillas and regular troops against their Russian masters, as stated by W. E. D. Allen:


[In World War I] In the Valleys of the Coruh and the Oltu-cay there were very mixed elements: Christians (Armenians) predominated in the towns of Artvin, Ardanuch, Ardahan and Oitu, while Muslims were in the majority in the countryside; these Muslims included Groups of Georgian origin, like the Laz and Acars, Turks, remnants of the old Tatar hordes, and Cherkesses who had settled, after 1864, on what was then the Turkish side of the border. Irrespective of their racial origins, all the Muslims proved more or less ready to help the Turks, particularly when they came as an invading army. Thus the Cherkesses of Upper Sarikamis stubbornly defended their stone saklyas by the side of the Turkish askers, and the needy inhabitants of the uplands provided scanty food to the divisions ofHafiz Hakki during their desperate march across the Allahuekber Mountains [in the ill-fated invasion ofthe^south- ern Caucasus].[4]

Justin McCarthy
Prof. Justin McCarthy (from "The Armenian Revolt")

Some Armenians began to act as adjuncts of Russian policy and the Russian army as early as the early 1700s, in the time of Peter the Great. The dependence of Armenians on Russia and their expectations of assistance from that quarter had begun to grow from the first incursions of the Russians into the Caucasus. As far back as the reign of Peter the Great, when they organized a military force to assist the Tsar's invasion of the region,[5] Caucasian Armenians had promised loyalty and support to the Russian tsars. During ihe 1700s and 1800s, Armenian secular and religious officials sup- ported the Russian invasion of the Muslim khanates in the Caucasus and the overthrow of their Muslim rulers. At the same time, Armenians first acted as spies for the Russians against their Muslim overlords, in this case the Persian Empire.[6] When the city of Derbend was under siege by the Russians in 1796, its Armenian residents sent the invaders information on the town's water supply, allowing the Russians to defeat the Khan of Derbend.[7] An Armenian Archbishop, Argutinskii-Dolgorukov, proclaimed publicly (1790s) his hope and belief that the Russians "would free the Armenians from Muslim rule."[8] Armenian subjects of the Persian and Ottoman empires, as well as Armenians living in the Russian Empire, fought on the side of the Russians against Persia and the Ottoman Empire in the 1827-29 wars and the Crimean War.[9]