1895/96 Armenian Issues

The Azarians

1895/96 Armenian Issues

The Armenians in the Turkish Empire

The Ottoman Empire, in addition to the Turks, included numerous minorities. Among them were Kurds, Greeks, Jews, and Armenians. Most of the businesses such as shipping, banking and manufacturing were in the hands of the Greek, Jewish and Armenian minorities.

The Armenians over the centuries had been good citizens of the sultans. One of the nineteenth century sultans even declared the Armenians his "most loyal millet" (A millet is a national or religious group with in the Ottoman Empire).

However, the Moslems looked upon the non-Moslem groups as "cattle" or "gaiour". Non-Muslims were not granted the liberties and political rights of the believers. They were in fact second-class citizens.

Because of the religious and financial situation, there was a level of animosity towards the non-Turkish minorities.

Massacre of Armenians in 1895

There were numerous massacres in 1895 in which an estimate 100,000 to 200,000 Armenians lost their lives. These including:

  • A massacre in Constantinople from September 30 to October 6 calmed by the efforts of European ambassadors.
  • A massacre in Harpoot from November 10 to November 11 in which over 500 people were killed.
  • A massacre in Sivas on November 12 in which approximately 1,500 people were killed.
  • A massacre of Armenians in Akhisar on October 15, 1895 in which 35 people lost their lives.

    The Reverent Mr. Chambers of the American mission sent the following report to London on October 22, 1895.

    "As I enterd the village of Akhisar on Sunday, a fearful stench greeted me. Several bodies that had that morning been removed from a well were being buried. I visited four wells, from one of them-- ten minutes walk from the scene of the slaughter--- fourteen bodies had been recoveerd, from another, two, from another, five. One had not yet been opened; there were bloodmarks on the stones covering it. In all, twenty three bodies have been recovered for burial....

    The murders were committed in the most inhuman manner: cudgels, knives, axes, swords, and firearems were used. Young boys helped in the slaying. Ropes were tied to the feet of the dead and the bodies were dragged through the streets.... and thrown in the wells. One old man of 75 years was tumbled in without being killed, and was left to die among the corpses of his friends.

    There were almost 200 Armenian shops..... I was amazed to see what a clean sweep was made. The merchants' money, watches and other valuables were first secured, then the men killed and their account books, notes of hand and valuable papers, torn to shreds.

    There were sizteen armed officials present.... but their presence was evidently and encouragement to the killers. They could have stopped the slaughter at its inception or at any time during its course....Instead of attempting to do so they acted as follows: Kolaghassi (a police officer) observed the killing for forty minutes and then taking with him three zaptiehs (police officers of another rank) rode to Gueve, five miles away, to give word to the Kaimakam (the commissioner of a subdistict) who four hours after the slaughter commenced, arrived on the scene. This shows fiendisth deliberation of movement.....

    The killing of so many, the disposing of the bodies, the careful covering up of the wells, the washing of the bloodstains... all show a perfection of plan and deliberation of action impossible to an unprepared and suddenly aroused mob..... There had never been the slightest trace of Hunchagism (Armenian political activity) in Akhisar, the Armenians had no arms and made no resistance, not did they do anything to bring on the affray."

Massacre of Armenians in Constantinople in 1896

In order to draw attention to the situation of the Armenians in Anatolia, on August 26, 1896 a group of twenty five Armenians seized control of the Ottoman Bank in Constantinople. They treatened to blow up the bank unless their greivances were addressed. They received safe conduct to a French ship in the harbor. After their departure there was a massacre of Armenians in the Galata commercial quarter. The attacks which included widespread looting lasted two days and eventually spread to the Armenia section of the Jewish quarter. The Armenian population of both these quarters was almost completely wiped out. It is estimated that five to six thousand Armenians were killed. The carnage was finally stopped when British troops moved in obstenibly to protect British lives and property. Many Armenians in the city emigrated within a few months of this incident.

Abraham and Lucy were married in the Beyoghle section of Constantinople in 1895. Their daughter, Catherine was baptized in October 1896 in the same church as the marriage but the address listed was Galatia. I do not know what the family did during this difficult time. The family never mentioned the incidents of 1896.

Massacre of Armenians in Adana in Cilicia in 1909

There was an incident in April (13th-16th) 1909 of anti-Armenian demonstrations in Adana in Cilicia. The government in Constantinople sent two divisions of solders to quell the disturbance. On April 24, before the troops arrived, new hostilities broke out. The regular army units in the area, opened fire on the very crowded Armenian quarter, and hurled firebombs into it. About 200 small villages in the area were burned and plundered. The number of Armenia deaths was estimated to be about 30,000. It is not clear whether these atrocities occurred with the sanction of the government or were totally independent of the government.

Constantinople August 1896

The events of the August 1896 "Armenian Riots" instigated by the seizure of the Ottoman Bank in Galata were recorded in Scribner's Magazine under the title A Bystander's Notes Of A Massacre, The Slaughter of Armenians in Constantinople by Yvan Troshine.

The following information is from the Scribner's article:

Around one o'clock in the afternoon there were several large explosions in Galata. These were followed by shots "fired in rapid succession".

The end of the bridge at Galata was barred by troops so Mr. Troshine went to the office of a friend in Stamboul (the Moslem section of the city). From this building he could look across the bridge with a telescope and see the bank. Soldiers were all around the bank firing towards it. Wild stories began to circulate including that "the bank had been attacked by Turkish troops who were tired of waiting for their pay". Eventually a man arrived who had been in Galata and reported that the Bank had been seized by a group of Armenians who were going to hold it until the Sultan granted their demands for an autonomous Armenia.

"By four o'clock reports began to come in that Armenians had been killed while peaceably walking the streets."
At this point most of the shopkeepers closed up shop and almost everyone headed for home. Mr. Troshine and a friend walked toward the bridge to try and take a steamer for the Bosphorus and get away from the city.

"Numbers of Turks were assembled at the street corners, many of them carrying clubs or rough billets of wood. But we saw no violence toward any Christian. Troops were scattered along the street in parties of ten or twelve. There seemed good reason to hope that they would prevent mobs from forming to attack Christians."
The year before a Turkish mob had killed many Christian in Constantinople. It was hoped that the government had learned from the storm of indignation after these attacks and would do what ever was necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of the year before. If the government won control of the mobs and did not allow any further massacres of Christians the sympathy of the Europeans would be with the Turks and not with the Armenian "terrorists".

However, the troops chose to ignore the massing Turkish mobs that started killing "Armenians of the poorer class, who had been killed, not with weapons, but by beating with clubs". The corpses were "indecently" piled like "offal" in scavenger carts and pushed through the streets for all to see. As they arrived at the bridge, Mr. Troshine and his friend, came upon an awful sight.

"Men were at work gathering dead bodies of Armenians out of the water. Almost immediately upon the outbreak at the Bank the Kurdish porters employed at the Custom-House on the Stamboul side of the harbor, more than a mile from the scene of disturbance, had killed all whom they could catch of their Armenian associates, and had thrown them into the sea. The police were now having the bodies dragged from the water in order to be taken away by the carts; and some of the wretches were still alive."
These "poor fellows" were attacked by a mob with clubs and beaten to death while the police stood by. Only after the Armenians were dead did the police disburse the mob. Instead of arresting the murderers they let them get away and simple called the scavengers cart to take away the dead.

"Turkey had learned nothing from the indignation of the world at the massacres of the last year"
Later encounters between Mr. Troshine and some Armenians and Greeks revealed that some Armenians were allowed to pass unharmed and were even assisted by the police to move through the mobs. While on the steamer up the Bosphorus Mr. Troshine learned that:
"Even the Armenians who had found their way to the steamer to go to their homes in the upper Bosphorus testified that no one had molested them or made them afraid."
However, it was clear that the lower classes of Armenians were being killed
"wherever they were found, notwithstanding the fact that no outbreak had occurred in Galata or Pera besides the one at the Bank".
It as reported that almost immediately after the first explosion at the Bank gangs of Turks formed in the area and armed themselves with clubs. Those without clubs broke up tables in local cafes to supply themselves with some form of weapon. Instead of going towards the Bank some 300 hundred of them made off down the hill toward Cassim Pasha where numbers of Armenian workmen from the eastern provinces lived. The next day's news revealed that some hundred of poor Armenian workmen in Cassin Pasha had been beaten to death.

There had also been attacks on Armenians houses at Samaria, Ballad, and the region of the Adrianopolis Gate (areas near the "revolutionist outbreak").

Several hundred men were killed in the Armenian Quarter of Hasskeuy on the other side of the Golden Horn. The women of the quarter were unharmed. Houses were pillaged.

"There was no Armenian outbreak to provoke this terrible slaughter"
The revolutionaries in the Bank surrendered during the night.

As it turned out twenty-four young Armenians from abroad and two Russian Armenians were involved in the bank incident. Some entered the bank as if to deposit bullion, which was carried in bags on the backs of porters. Others remained outside waiting for a signal. Bombs were set off and shots fired by both sides. There were over a hundred bank employees held captive by the Armenians. Demands were made that

"The Sultan agree to executer the Reform Scheme of 1875 under European supervision, that there be no promiscuous massacres in the city on account of the outbreak; that the members of the band in possession of the Bank be given safe conduct out of the empire, and that pending negotiations the troops be withdrawn from the vicinity of the Bank."
After several hours of discussion, it was agreed that the Sultan would consider the question of reform and the revolutionists would be given safe conduct out of the empire. Not only were they given save conduct out they were given money "to spend in France on arrival".

Things appeared quite in the morning but the city remained shut up. Not even the tobacconists and the water sellers were working.

There was blood on the streets and indications that many shops had been broken into and pillaged.

"Not an Armenian was to be seen, and what few Christians of other race ventured upon the streets sought to diminish the temptation which their presence might offer to the mob by making themselves as inconspicuous as possible in the depths of cabs. Everywhere the bludgeon-men were standing about or sauntering along in groups."
The mobs were made up of the lower classes: "the better class of Turk were none among them".

A walk though Galata showed a considerable number of business offices and stores belonging to Europeans which had been entirely sacked; the desks and files ransacked, the furniture broken, and all portable valuables carried off, while the safes were taken from their places and turned upside down in the attempt to find a vulnerable spot, but in most cases abandoned unopened after sledge-hammers had smashed every projecting point in vain."
The Turkish government maintained that only Armenians engaged in revolutionary activities were murdered yet the author recounts numerous instances where people where killed in cold blood for no other reason than that they were Armenian while the police looked on and did nothing.

The atrocities spread outside of the city to village along the Bosphorus where Armenian houses were pillaged and a number of Armenians killed.

The British Charge d'Affaires, after viewing the pillage of the offices of Englishmen, ordered a force of British marines ashore to protect English property. Several ambassadors met and sent a collective telegram to the Sultan telling him that they were forced to order armed marines ashore for the protection of the embassies.

The Sultan at last had ordered the massacre to stop. However, firing and looting continued all over the city until about 8 o'clock at night when it suddenly stopped. By Friday morning the police were maintaining control and dispersing the mobs.

"There will never be any trustworthy report of the number of Armenians killed during the thirty-six hours of massacre of Constantinople. Some of the officials seem to have two sets of records- both equally wrong. One report was prepared for the Sultan's eyes. In the hope of commendation for zeal in repressing rebellion, actual and possible, it places the total of Armenian dead at more than eight thousand. The other report was made out for consumption in Europe. In the hope of convincing the world that nothing had occurred worthy of condemnation. It decries the number of Armenian dead to be eleven hundred. The actual fact, probably, is that between four thousand and six thousand persons were killed for sheer hate of race, besides any few scores of actual revolutionists who may have fallen through their own folly. Of Turks, military and civilian, their own authorities say that less than one hundred and fifty were killed. Nevertheless the official documents declare that the whole of these disorders were the work of Armenians. So far as the Turkish official utterances are concerned, not one particle of regret, of shame, or remorse is felt for the destruction of these thousands of helpless creatures."
Catholic Armenians

"The actual fact as to the principle on which the authorities acted, I believe was unconsciously revealed by the words of a high police official with whom I had occasion to talk of the danger which even Europeans might incur should mob rule be prolonged. He said, "We have orders to protect all foreigners. In fact we have instructions also to protect Greeks and Roman Catholic natives. If you have friends among them who are alarmed, you may tell them confidentially of this fact. But you must tell it to them very confidentially, for if the Armenians should hear of it they would all be calling out "I am a Catholic, or I am something else", and demanding to be protected."
It is not clear how the Turks would know a Catholic Armenian from any other Armenian.

1896 Armenia and Its Sorrows

The book Armenian and Its Sorrows was published just before the events of October 1896. In the second addition some comments were added about the events of October 1896 in Constantinople.

"Within two hours every street in the lower part of Galata was literally flowing with Christian blood. The troops were quickly on the scene to regulate the traffic, but never made the slightest attempt to check the murderous proceeding of the Mohammedan populace.

The afternoon and evening were devoted to scenes of carnage, and all though the night the mob took free vengeance on the Armenians, murdering, wrecking houses, and pillaging shops, while the authorities exercised no restraint upon them. The number of persons killed between Wednesday and Sunday is estimated by the Embassies at between five thousand and six thousand largely belong to the class of street porters. About a thousand more are missing."

A European Merchant's Office as Left by the Looters
Collection Maggie Land Blanck

There were only a few pictures accompanying the Scribner's article. With the exception of the above photo they were all normal scenes of men loafing or walking about. None of them looked ominous.

Mr. Troshine did try at one point to take a "snap shot" of the mob outside a building he was in. He was spotted by one of the mob who called out that there were Armenians in the building. The mob proceeded to try and break down the doors. Knowing that "nothing could persuade the ignorant mob that the camera was not a most infernal kind of a bomb" and that would assure that the mob would storm and take the building, he put the camera away. The mob was eventually driven away by the police who told them there were only Europeans in the building.

Street Scene During The Armenian Riots

October 19, 1895

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck

Turkish Troops Desecrating a Church at Galata, The London News, Saturday July 11, 1896

The accompanying article was missing.

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck

"Le Stragi degli Armeni Comesse dai Turchi a Constantinopoll"

(The massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in Constantinople)

L'Illustrazione Popolare, 20 September 1896

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck


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