Friday 17 November 2017 Last Update: 11:14 PM

A Glance at the History of Armenians in Adıyaman

Published: 10-28-2017

Asst. Prof. Dr. Murat Gökhan Dalyan

Armenian existence in Adıyaman is observed to exist since the 4th century.

They were called Arevebasht (worshipping the sun) or Arevoti (the son of the sun) as they were fire-worshippers. Arevortis lived in the Adıyaman region (Mateos, 1989: 278). Islamic armies captured this region from 639 onwards. The Arabs considered the region as a part of small Armenia (El-Belazuri, 1955: 197-248-251-282-283; Ağırakça, 1996: 95-96; Bulduk, 2004: 13). The Armenian population in the region increased when Armenians who were suppressed in Byzantine due to denominational differences migrated to the region in 713. Along with this, some problems started to emerge. Religious and political conflicts are the main ones among these. As a result of the decline of Byzantine after the defeat of Malazgirt, eastern Anatolian lands where Armenians resided came under Turkish rule. Armenians who remained without self-defence in Adıyaman formed groups in cities like Adıyaman and Marash and founded princedoms. The most important among these is the princedom founded by Philaretos who spent his childhood in Adıyaman. Philaretos tried to follow balanced politics to be able to protect his lands stuck between the Seljuks and Byzantine. Social and political relations through marriages started to develop between Armenians in Adıyaman, Samsat and Besni and Europeans in Crusader Earldom established in Urfa as a result of the Crusades. Later on the wish of the Urfa Earldom to expand in the region had been against Armenians. They had engaged in assassinations to decrease the political power of Armenian leaders in the region. The fact that the wife of Keysun judge Kogh Vasil founded an army of riders and pawns to be able to be protected from the Crusaders and Franks gives an idea about the extensions of the pressure and attacks by the Earldom of Urfa. However, the Seljuk and Artuqid invasions brought about intimacy between Armenians and Crusaders. When the threat of Turks decreased, the fight between the parties started again and Crusaders in the Urfa region captured Armenian lands in the Adıyaman, Besni, Samsat, and Keysun regions (Demirkent, 1990: 160). The relations between Armenians and Crusaders were determined by Turks for a long time. The close co-operation between Armenians and Crusaders lasted until Nureddin Zengi captured Urfa. Adıyaman Armenians came under the rule of Artuqid Timutash in exchange for his help to Zengi. After this date, Adıyaman and thus Armenians came under the rule of the Artuqids and then the Seljuks starting from the beginning of 13th century onwards. During the ascension of Kilicarslan II to the throne, though Besni Armenians wanted to get rid of Seljuk rule by co-operating with Stefan, one of the leaders of Cilicia Armenians, they were not able to achieve this. Nevertheless, Kilicarslan II did not suppress Armenians. After the Seljuks, the Cilicia Armenians and the Memluks fought for the rule of Adıyaman-Besni region and the region changed hands between the two parties (Ersan, 1995: 201).

When it came to 19th century, most of the Armenians in Adıyaman lived in the Old Palace Neighbourhood and the feet of the castle. They made their living generally through shop keeping and trading. They also held some offices such as Police Commissary and Assembly membership. They were occupied with agriculture and husbandry in the villages.

Before the missionaries came to the villages, Gregorian Armenians in Adıyaman region were administered by Malatya Delegacy of Sis Catholicos. In Armenian source of 1876, it is stated that Armenians lived in Samsat, Kavrak, Dardığan, Kantar, Göl-Pınar, Karkuşen, Kızılcapınar, Vartanakeğ, Parpato, Kolik, Büyükbağ, Narlıca, Kan, Huni, Kavardiş, Garbiş, Henic, Gargar, Pertoso, Temsias, and Kahta towns and villages apart from Adıyaman and Besni (Sırvantsdyants, 1879: 329-334).

With the activities of American missionaries in the southeastern Anatolia region, Adıyaman started to be visited in 1851 onwards by missionaries of the center called “Southeast Armenian Station” and later on changed to be “Central Turkey Station.. Armenians accepted the missionaries as clergy and preachers in the beginning, but they reacted the moment when they learned the real purposes of these. They went to any lengths to prevent the activities of missionaries and tried to convince their brothers separated from them to convert back to their former sects. Although they used the methods such as beating, blackmailing, complaint to authorities, not accepting the dead to their graves, harassment, and economic pressure to prevent conversion, they could not eliminate the influence of the missionaries. Armenians accepting Protestantism, on the other hand, embraced their new sect more tightly due to the troubles caused by the pressure of Gregorians. Consequently, missionaries applying to all methods to be able to win supporters broke the unity of the Adıyaman Armenians, brought about conflicts, caused families to fall apart, and even the graveyards were separated due to these conflicts (Dalyan, 2010: 81-98). On the other hand, the conflicts cut the relations between some parties reacting to the Protestants and opened the way for them to become Catholics, and so a new division happened among Armenians (Dalyan and Yıldız, 2010: 74-85). Apart from that, separatist ideas and activities started to spread among the Adıyaman Armenians because of the Protestants. In 1887, harmful publications sent from Malatya Protestant School to the school in Adıyaman were captured by authorities (DH.MKT., 1517/ 96). The number of those inclining towards the idea of independent Armenia gradually increased. Revolutionist ideas and separatist movements brought about conflicts between the two peoples in 1895. However, these did not go beyond being street fights and they were calmed down thanks to the constructive precautions of the authorities. Those who wanted to cause conflicts to break out between the Armenians and Muslims in these times could not achieve their goals when they could not find addressees due to the warnings and advice of Muslim leaders.

Armenians who became Catholics started to complain that they were exposed to pressures by Kurds and state officers in the region. As it is seen in the example of complaint letter of Haçatoryan in 1891, such complaints were revealed to be generally fake complaints as a result of the investigations (DH. MKT. 67/38; DH.MKT. 1699 / 59). Catholic Armenians were especially in Samsat apart from Adıyaman and Besni. Religious activities in these regions were administered by the Armenian Community in Malatya and even the maintenance of churches and the salaries of the priests were given from there (Tuğlacı, 1985: 8).

In conclusion, peace and serenity between the communities in Adıyaman before the activities of missionaries were destroyed after the beginning of these activities. While Armenians in the region would speak mostly –and even only- Turkish before, Armenians firstly realized their national identities with the influence of missionaries and started to revolt. The schools of Protestants in surrounding cities and especially in Malatya created the base of idea for separatist activities of the Armenians in Adıyaman and this situation caused the intensification of the differences between peoples and the separation of both Armenians and Muslim people in the region from each other. Missionary activities in Adıyaman continued until World War I.

During the Frist World War, the Adıyaman Armenians were also subjected to deportation and placement. Some of Armenians who were sent to Syria and especially Aleppo and stayed alive returned to Adıyaman after the Mundros Armistice and these people migrated to big cities due to economic reasons. The fact that there were around six thousand Muslim Armenians who became Muslim not to migrate and who were not deported due to marriages in the region was expressed by Patriarch Mesropyan (Mutafyan, 2009: 24). It is known that a significant number of Armenians live in the Kahta region today.


Ottoman Archive

İ.HR. 251/14916.

DH.MKT., 1517/ 96.

Y.PRK.UM. 33/60.

Y.A.HUS. 9/2.

DH.MKT. 67/38.

DH.MKT. 1699 / 59.

DH.MUİ. 21/2.

A.MKT.MHM., 657/6.

Y.PRK.UM. 33/85.

Books and Articles

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Bulduk, Abdulgani (2004), El-Cezîre’nin Muhtasar Tarihi, prep. Mustafa Öztürk- İbrahim Yılmazçelik, Elazığ.

Dalyan, Murat Gökhan- Yıldız, Mehmet (2010),  “XIX. Yüzyılda Adıyaman Süryani Ve Ermenileri Arasında Katolik Misyonerlik Faaliyetleri”, Adıyaman Üniversitesi, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, Vol. 5, December 2010, p.74-85.

Dalyan, Murat Gökhan, “Amerikan Misyonerlerinin Ermeni Toplumunda Meydana Getirdiği Bölünme ve Çatışmalar: George b. Nutting – George h. White ve Adıyaman Ermenileri Örneği”, Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, May 2010 Vol: 21, p. 81-97.

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