THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
The regulation called “Nizâmnâme-i
Millet-i Ermeniyân” (Regulation of the Armenian Nation), which
reinforced the situation of the Armenian community in the
Ottoman Empire on 29 March 1863, and which granted some additional
privileges and autonomy concerning their self-governance,
became effective. According to the Islahat Fermâni (Firman
of the Reforms) this regulation, which included some new provisions,
that were additional to the present rights, was a reward that
was granted to the Armenians, who were considered as the most
loyal citizens of the state. The Armenian Patriarchate Assemblies
prepared this regulation taking the consent of the Ottoman
Government. With this regulation, immense privileges were
granted to the Armenians. This can be expressed as “a State
in a state; governance in governance.” In a way, with this
regulation, the Armenians wanted to eliminate the aristocratic
dominance of the Armenian nobles. In this period, the Gregorian
Armenians lived in 26 Episcopal branches under the administration
of their patriarch in Istanbul; and the Catholic Armenians,
whose majority was in the cities, constituted 13 Episcopal
branches under the administration of a Patriarch (1).
Kagik Ozanyan, the Armenian writer, expressed that this regulation
incites the revolutionary spirit among the Armenians and “The
Armenian Question” was put on the agenda (2).
THE INDEPENDENCE ACTIVITIES OF THE ARMENIAN
After the declaration of “Regulation of the Armenian Nation”
in 1863 the Patriarchs started to work in the national and
political environments. This regulation was considered as
a step for autonomy. They hoped that if the European intervention
expanded because of the Lebanon incidents, this intervention
would be very beneficial for them. The revolts (1780-1862)
that were started for an independent Armenia in the Ottoman
Empire, did not became succesful (3).
The idea of creating an autonomous state in the Ottoman Empire
belongs to Migirdiç Hirimyan (1869-1873). Migirdich Hirimyan,
born in 1820 in Van, became Vartabed (4) to the Akdamar
Church in 1854, at the age of 34; thus, he became the member
of the church. He started to publish the newspapers: The “Eagle
of Van”, aiming at Armenian independence, was printed in the
printing house he established in the Varak Monastery in Van;
and “Eagle of Mus” was printed in the St. Garabed Monastery
in 1863 in Mus. Hirimyan, who attracted attention through
his sermons, was elected as the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul
in 1869 (5). His election as the Patriarch resulted
in an increase in the national Armenian interests. As soon
as he started to work he began his new job on these two principles:
a. To examine the “Regulation of the Armenian Nation”
again and have it modified according to the demands and the
needs of the provinces,
b. To attract the attention of the Armenians in
Istanbul, the Assembly and the Government to Armenia.(6)
The bankers, moneychangers and the officials did not approve
and opposed these ideas of Hirimyan, whose aim was to pull
Armenians into dangerous adventures. They believed that their
future was united with Turkey. Consequently, Hirimyan could
not obtain his objective as a Patriarch, and he had to resign
in August 1873.
His predecessor Patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan (1874-1884) pursued
the idea of Hirimyan. In 1876, Abdulhamid II ascended the
throne and the First Constitutional Regime was declared. During
the Istanbul Conference (12 December 1876- 20 January 1877),
which was held to settle the Bulgarian issue, Nerses Varjabedyan
submitted a report prepared by the ex-Patriarch Hirimyan to
the British Ambassador Henry Elliot concerning the so-called
pressures on the Ottoman Armenians. However, because it was
not on the agenda of the conference, his initiative was successful
Reports and the applications of complaints by the Patriarchate
which started in the Hirimyan era increased after the problems
of Christians in Thrace. If we examine the reports of violence
given by the Patriarchate to the Sublime Porte and the European
countries, it is easy to notice that most of them were nothing
but common police incidents. On one hand, the Patriarchate
was exaggerating the most common incidents and informing the
government about them, on the other hand, the Patriarchate
transformed these incidents into serious political issues;
and started to inform the European countries about them.
Before 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War there were two alternatives
for the Armenians:
a. To remain loyal to the Ottoman State and the Turkish
b. To follow the steps of the other Christian communities
in the Empire and to provide the intervention of the European
Patriarch Nerses sent a letter to the British Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Lord Salisbury on 13 April 1878. The letter
is as follows:
“It is no longer possible for the Armenians and the Turks
to live together. Only a Christian administration can provide
the equality, justice and the freedom of conscience. A Christian
administration should replace the Muslim administration. Armenia
(Eastern Anatolia) and Kilikya (8), are the regions, where
the Christian administration should be founded... The Turkish
Armenians want this... That is, a Christian administration
is demanded in Turkish Armenia, as in Lebanon.”(9)
The Patriarch visited the British Ambassador to Istanbul,
Layard on 17 March 1878 and told him that: “A year ago
we did not have any problems with the Ottoman administration.
However the Russian victory has changed the situation now.
We want an independent Armenia in the East. If you can not
help us, we will apply to the Russians.” When the ambassador
asked him what he meant by “Armenia”, the Patriarch said,
“Van, Sivas, Diyarbakir and Cilicia”. The ambassador
said “Yes; but you do have not the majority in these places.”
The Patriarch replied “We know this. Yet Russia is gaining
lands now. The balance of powers between Russia and the Ottoman
Empire changed. We have to take our future into account.”
(10) Thus, he explained the objective of the Armenians.
Upon the peace request of the Ottomans, 1877-1878 Ottoman-
Russian War ended on 31 January 1878 through the armistice
concluded in Edirne (11), the terms of the peace agreement
were settled in Ayastefanos (Yesilköy). During the peace negotiations
in Ayastefanos (Yesilköy), Nerses Varjabedyan, in person and
the Armenian notables negotiated with the Grand Duke Nikola,
the head of the Russian delegation, the brother of the Tsar
and they maneged to add an article concerning the Armenians.
On 3 March 1878, the Ottoman State and Russia signed the Ayastefanos
Agreement, which included heavy provisions. By stating the
word “Armenia” in the 16th article of the agreement,
the Ottoman State was forced to accept the presence of a state.
However this agreement was not put into force.
When Patriarch Varjabedyan heard that the Ayastefanos Agreement
would be modified in Berlin, he started to initiate the activities
among the states that would participate in the congress. Within
the context of this objective, the Archbishop of Besiktas
Horen Nar Bey went to Russia (St. Petersburg) and was received
by Tsar Alexander II. Horen Nar Bey requested him to continue
protecting the Ottoman Armenians and to defend their struggle
in the Berlin Congress. A delegation under the chairmanship
of the ex- Patriarch Hirimyan visited the capitals of Europe
(Rome, Vienna, Paris, London) and started to propagate in
order to gain the politicians consent for the Armenian Struggle
(Hai Tahd). The delegation had a project comprising of 7 articles,
which stated the Armenian demands for the purpose of establishing
Armenia in Turkey (12).
In addition to those activities, patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan
sent a letter to the president of the Manchester Armenian
Committee, Karekin Papazyan (13), stating that they
were grateful to Russia and thanks to Britain, they gained
the hope and goals, which was to attain material and moral
prosperity. He also visited the British Ambassador, Layard,
in Istanbul on June 30. He reported that they had given the
project to the congress and he requested that the British
should support this project. (14)
Additionally, Patriarch Nerses sent the falsified statistical
figures of the church concerning the Armenian population in
the big states.
As a result, this artificial problem, the 16th
article of the Ayastefanos Agreement, was accepted as the
61st article of the Ayastefanos Agreement without
many modifications on July 13, 1878. In this way, the Armenian
question was established as the “Issue of Reforms”, that would
be implemented in the Ottoman State under the supervision
of the big states.
Nuryaz Çeraz participated in the Berlin Congress with ex-patriarch
Hirimyan as an interpreter-secretary and published a brochure
in 1879, which says that for the Armenians there was no need
to sink into despair because of the results obtained in the
Berlin Congress. Nuryaz Çeraz addressed them as follows
“The Berlin Congress laid down the foundations of the national
structure (The Armenian State)...Europe gave us arms; we have
to use them before they rust...We acquired a gold mine through
the Berlin Congress. It is our duty to run it and mine the
As it is seen in the brochure, the Armenians were proposing
the armed action and it was also stated that the European
countries were supporting them.
Patriarch Nerses Varjebedyan believed that the problem should
be worked out by means of revolution and rebellion and he
founded the “Reforms Commission” in the Patriarchate. Towards
the mid 1879, the Commission sent a circular to the Episcopacies
and invited the Armenians to the rebellion with one statement.
This circular also included what the Armenian religious people
in the provinces were supposed to do (16).
Meanwhile, the Archbishop Mateos Izmirliyan, the Deputy Armenian
Patriarch in Istanbul, dealt with sending letters to the episcopacies.
When these letters are examined, it is easy to see that the
Patriarchate was unfaithful and the aim of the action pursued
was to demolish the government to provide foreign intervention,
eventually to obtain autonomy (17).
The Governor of Sivas province, Hakki Pasha attracted attention
to the below mentioned issues in his article, published in
1881 and 1882, when the activities of the Patriarchate against
the state were reported to the Ministry of Interior (18):
1. The Patriarchate started sending circulars which
mention revolution and rebellion preparations, to the bishops.
2. The Patriarchate fired or killed some of the
sensible old bishops, who did not obey the rules of the Patriarchate
and who were of the opinion that it was in vain for the
Armenians to revolt and rebel and that the Armenian people
would experience harm. Young and revolutionist bishops and
priests replaced them.
3. The Patriarchate was involved in the censure,
which was the duty of the state, through sending secret circulars
to the European states, in order to show that they had the
majority in the “Six Provinces”.
4. The Patriarchate propagated against the Turks
and in favour of the Armenians in the European press, by collecting
taxes using different names such as Famine Relief for the
Armenians, payment of debts of Kudüs-ü ªerif and so forth.
It tried to pretend to demonstrate the ordinary crimes as
if they were the Armenian genocide. In short, it started a
campaign based on the distorted incidents, fiction and slander.
5. The Patriarchate has hundreds of thousands liras
(gold), which it collected from the Armenians under the pretence
of “relief”. The armed gangs, which disseminated from Russia
to Eastern Anatolia, with the help of local guards and using
some of this money started to terrorise.
6. The priests demolished the respect for the rules
of the government and obedience through posioning the minds
of the Armenian people even the little children in the Armenian
7. The Patriarchate is providing financial assistance
to the committees it had helped to establish. It is useful
to mention that the committees are under the administration
of the Patriarchate.
After the death of Nerses Varjabedyan in 1884, the Bishop
of Erzurum, Haratyun Vehabedyan (1885-1888) was elected as
Patriarch in 1885. Vehabedyan disapproved the policy pursued
by Migirdiç Hirimyan and Nerses Varjabedyan and he believed
that it was useless to hope for help from Europe for the reformation
of the condition of Turkish Armenians.
During the age of Haratyun Vehabedyan, who was the Patriarch
for three years, the Armenian rebellion committees were expanded
and opened branches in Europe and in America. The Armenian
Revolutionist Parties adopted the Armenian nationalism ideal
along with the church, in other words, the ideal revolutionary
movement demanding autonomy. “Armenagan”, the first Armenian
political party was founded in 1885 in Van. It was organised
according to the model of its pioneers in Europe and had its
own publication organ (19). In 1887, the Armenians
founded their first Marxist party in Geneva. Later on they
acquired the name “Hinçak Revolutionist Party” in 1890(20).
The Archbishop of Izmir Monastery, Horen Asikyan (1888-1894)
replaced Haratyun Vehabedyan. During this period, the ordinary
crimes in the provinces were exaggerated by the bishops and
were reshaped and reflected to Europe as the “Turkish oppression
and torture”(!).Their intervention was requested.
However, the Armenian committee members attempted to assassinate
of Patriarch Horen Asikyan believing that he was not active
enough for their cause. The Patriarch was only wounded and
he resigned (21).
After Horen Asikyan, the Ex-Patriarch to Egypt, Mateos Izmirliyan
was elected as the Armenian Patriarch to Istanbul (1894-1896).
This boosted the morels of the Hinchaks. He employed officials
and members, from the committees. Izmirliyan did not only
disseminate the idea of revolution and rebellion but he also
severely criticised the services provided by the government
and he sent reports to the British Embassy and to the newspapers
in London (22).
The rebellions, which took place in the period of Mateos Izmirliyan,
started to expand rapidly to almost all the provinces (23).
Thanks to the dexterity of Abdulhamid II, these rebellions
were suppressed in a very short time. Izmirliyan resigned
and went to Jerusalem. When he came back to Istanbul he was
elected as Patriarch for the second time (1908-1909)(24).
The proclamation of Constitutional Regime,
the Collaboration of Tashnak - Hinchak
Following the proclamation of the Constitutional Regime on
23-24 July 1908, the Patriarchate became accomplice a full
of the committees. Thus, the Armenian Church acquired its
role in terror after the proclamation of the Constitutional
The report No 602 on 3 December 1910 sent by the Russian Consul
to Bitlis to the Russian Embassy to Istanbul (25),
was clearly showed the relationship between the church and
the Tasnak members.
Following the “Incident of 31 March” in 1909, in Istanbul
temporarily there was no government and this provided the
opportunity, which the Armenians sought. With the encouragement
of Armenian Archbishop to Adana, Museg, the Armenian rebellion
took place on 14 April 1909, with the aim of obtaining the
intervention of the European countries through attracting
their attention to this and establishing the Armenian State
in Adana, Maras, Mersin and Iskenderun with the assistance
of the Hinchaks (26). During 13 days, approximately
20.000 Turks and Armenians died in Adana incidents. And the
Bishop Museg escaped to Alexandria in the second day of the
In the same period, on 29 May 1909, the Armenian Patriarch
in Istanbul, Mateos Izmirliyan, left to Istanbul to replace
the Catholicos Post, Eçmiyazin, Migirdiç Hirimyan, who died
on October 1907. Yegice Turhan replaced Mateos Izmirliyan
(1909-1911) as the Patriarch (27). After this, Hovannes
Arsaruni was elected for the Post of Patriarch (1912-1913)(28).
“The regulation on Armenian CATHOLICOS
The activities of the
Armenian Patriarchate to divide the country, necessitated
the modification of the rights, that were stated in the “Regulation
of the Armenian Nation”, granted by the Patriarchate and the
State in 1863. With the “Regulation of Armenian Cathogicos
and Patriarchate”, which became effective on 10 August 1916,
the two separate posts like Cathogicos, which is spiritual
and superior, and Patriarchate, which is semi spiritual, semi
political and administrative, were put together and the single
post, Cathogicos - Patriarchate Post emerged. The two Cathogicoses
(Sis and Akdamar) in the Ottoman State and the two Patriarchates
(Istanbul and Jerusalem) were abolished. The only post, Katogigos-Patriarchate
replaced them. Its location was not Istanbul, the political
center of the state; but the religious centre of Christianity,
Jerusalem. The changes were materialized in the assemblies
of the Patriarchate. The General Assembly (Millî Meclis-i
Umumî) comprised of 140 members was abrogated and the Religious
Assembly (Meclis-i Ruhanî) comprised of 12 persons and the
Joint Assembly replaced it. The Ottoman State aimed at disconnecting
the relation between the Cathogicos of Echmiyazin and Russia.
Therefore, the Ottoman State tried to free the Ottoman Armenians
from moral protection of Russia.
The Ottoman Empire
was defeated in the World War I and the Entente Powers occupied
its lands according to the provisions in the Armistice of
Mondros, which was signed between the Entente Powers and the
Ottoman Empire on 30 October 1918. Now, the time has come
for the liberation of the country and the establishment of
a new state, The Republic of Turkey.
Activities of Patriarch ZAven Efendi
The Armistice of Mondros
was an important step for the Armenians to establish Armenia.
Zaven Efendi, the Armenian Patriarch, came to Istanbul on
6 December 1918 in accordance with the Regulations in 1918
(30). He established an organisation to found the independent
Armenia (31). He collected aids like guns, bullets
and money, tried to find the necessary equipment and got
considerable assistance from the Greek Patriarchate (32).
Bogos Nubar Pasha made
an application to the Entente Powers on 30 November 1918,
using the title of “the representative of Turkish Armenians”
and he requested from the Entente Powers and the League of
Nations to take Armenia under their protection (33).
In the mean time, on 12 February 1919, the Patriarch Zaven
Efendi went to Istanbul, Paris and then to London for the
realisation of the same issue. First, he met Bogos Nubar Pasha
and he enlightened him concerning issues; next Lord Cecil,
Lord Curzon and his deputy Lord Harding. He also negotiated
with French Chambon and the Greek Prime Minister Venizelos
(34). He visited the British King George V to express
the gratitude of the Armenians (35). While he was coming
back from London to Paris he met with the French President
and the Prime Minister and he came back with feelings of contentment
and hope (36).
After the foundation
of the Turkish Republic and the Lausanne Conference, there
was no Armenian Question. The Armenian Church in Turkey opposed
the initiatives of the Armenian Diaspora that would put Turkey
into difficulty let alone pose problems. The Armenian Patriarch
continued to react against the so-called Armenian genocide.
Therefore Dikran Kevorkan,
the Chief of the Armenian Church in Kandilli said the following
in the TV program, called Ceviz Kabugu on 7 October 2000 concerning
the newly started propaganda within 6 months:
“The genocide and
relocation (Tehcir) (the act of moving someone from somewhere)
mean different things. The intrigues of the imperialists,
the Armenian leaders with apolitical visions (media, churches,
and the religious people) caused all these incidents. The
Patriarch is the spiritual leader. It is a mistake to ask
him about his political views. What could have they done the
imperialist powers if had not supported ASALA and PKK?”
The idea of Kevorkan
about the “assimilation” was as follows:
“Turkey is the only
country, where the Armenians can preserve their identity freely
and strongly. The Armenians, in the Diaspora abroad, change
their names before they start their struggles, because in
those countries an assimilation policy. The Armenians in the
Diaspora against Turkey, know very well that in some of the
churches in America the sacrifice ceremonies are fulfilled
in English. The Armenians are forgetting their own language.
When you say this, you are criticised. Therefore, we, the
Armenian citizens of the Republic of Turkey, are expressing
our grief. Why? Because it is unfair to act towards the Kuvay-i
Milliye (Power of Nation), commanded by Ataturk. All these
are the intrigues of the outsiders, including PKK, ASALA,
and this decree. Those are the ruse of the outsiders. We,
the citizens in Turkey, are of the opinion that this is unfair.
If the Armenians are wise they should not let themselves be
used as a tool.”
1. Ilber Ortayli, Tanzimattan
Cumhuriyete Yerel Yönetim Gelenegi, Istanbul 1985, pp. 73
2. Esat Uras,a.g.e.,pp.412
3. See Erdal Ilter,
Ermeni Mes’elesinin Perspektifi ve Zeytun Isyanlari (1780-1880),
Ankara 1988, pp.97-115
4. The spiritual ranks
of the Armenian Church are as follows: Katogigos, Patriarch,
Bishop, Vartabed, Priest.
5. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,
pp. 417; Louse Nalbandian, a.g.e., pp.53; Kamuran Gürün, a.g.e.,
6. The word, Armenian
means the Eastern Anatolia. However the word Armenia is accepted
as the geographical term, not as an ethnic term, in the geographical
scientific milieus. As from the XIII. Century, the name Armenia,
which means “High/ Upwards/ Mountainous Region”, did not
occur by chance and until the second half of XIX. Century
the region (Eastern Anatolia) was called “Turcoman Country”.
For more information see H. Kemal Türközü, Türmen Ülkesi (Dogu
Anadolu) Adi Emperyalizmin Etkileri, Ankara 1985, pp. 1-12;
Kamuran Gürün, a.g.e., pp. 1-9; Mehlika Aktok Kasgarli, a.g.e.,
pp.329; Tuncer Baykara, Anadolu’nun Tarihî Cografyasina Giris,
Anadolu’nun Idarî Taksimati, 1, Ankara 1988, pp.24-25,
7. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,
pp.417; Salahi Ramsdan Sonyal, The Ottoman Armenians,pp.41
8. Kilikya is a region
between Taurus Mountains, Amanos Mountains and the Mediterranean.
In the administrative context, Adana province was called Kilikya
in the Ottoman Empire. The borders of Kilikya has changed
9. F.O. 424/70, No.
134/I zikr., Bilal N. ªimsir, British Documents On Ottoman
Armenians 1856-1880), Vol. I, Ankara 19R2, pp.173. Document
10. Kamuran Gürün,
a.g.e., pp. 99.
11. Nihat Erim, Devletlerarasi
Hukuk ve Siyasi Tarih Metinleri: Osmanli Imparatorlugu Andlasmalari,
Vol.1, Ankara 1953, pp.381-385.
12. For the whole of
the project, see Esat Uras, a.g.e., pp.459-485; Enver Ziya
Karal. A.g.e., Vol. VIII, pp.132; L’ Angleterre et les Armeniens
13. For the text of
the letter, see Esat Uras, a.g.e., pp.485-486.
14. Kamuran Gürün,
15. Turkey No.4(1880).
No.118/I. Zikr., Bilal N. ªimsir, a.g.e., pp.602-606, Document
16. Mehmed Hocacioglu,
Tarihte Ermeni Mezalimi ve Ermeniler, Istanbul 1976, pp.181-182.
17. For the essence
of the letter, see Aspirations et Agissement Revolutionaires
des Comites Armeniens..., pp.308-310.
18. Mehmet Hocaoglu,
19. Louise Nalbandian,
20. Louise Nalbandian,
21. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,
pp.724-725. For the threatening letter to Horen Asikyan, sent
by the Hinçak Committee see Aspirations et Agissement Revolutionaires
des Comites Armeniens..., pp.310-311
22. Hüseyin Nazim Pasa.
Ermeni Olaylari Tarihi, I. Ankara 1994, pp.66.
23. For the chronological
order of the rebellions see Kamuran Gürün, a.g.e., pp.139-159.
24. Esat Uras,a.g.e.,pp.833;
Salahi Ramsdan Sonyel, a.g.e., pp.281.
25. Aspirations et
Agissement Revolutionaires des Comites Armeniens..., pp.95-103.
26. For more information
on 1909 Armenian incidents see Cemal Pasa Hatirat (1913-1922),
Istanbul 1922, pp.249-256; Esat Uras a.g.e., pp.810-829; Mehmet
Asaf, 1909 Adana Ermeni Olaylari ve Anilarim, yay. haz., Ismet
Parmaksizoglu, Ankara 1982; Salahi R. Sonyal, “The Turco-Armenian
Adana Incidents in the Light of Secret British Documents (July,
1908- December-, 1909), “Belleten, Number:20 i (Aralik 197),
27. Jacques de Morgan,
a.g.e.,pp. 369: Raymond H. Kevorkan-Paul B. Paboudjian, Les
Armeniens dans L’Empire Ottoman, Paris 1992, pp.29.
28. Jacques de Morgan.
29. BOA, DUIT, No.
67/1-I; for the French version of the Regulation see, Hrant
Vartabed, L’Empire Ottoman et L’Independence de L’Eglise Armenienne,
Publications de Dadjar, No. 2, Constantinople 1917, pp.80-94.
30. Zaven Efendi, who
worked as bishop in Erzurum between 1898-1906, in 1910 in
Van and between 1919-1913 in Diyarbakir, was elected the Armenian
Patriarch to Istanbul. However because of his negative activities
he was sent to Baghdad. Following the Mondros Armistice he
came back to Istanbul. For more information see Christopher
J. Walker, a.g.e., pp.426-427; and see Zeki Sarihan, Kurtulus
Savasi Günlügü, I, Ankara 1993, pp.136-137.
31. M.Kemal Atatürk,
Nutuk, I, 1919-1920, Istanbul 1967, pp.2; Selahattin Tansel,
Mondros’ tan Mudanya’ ya Kadar, I, Anakara 1973, pp.106
32. Ergünöz Akçora,
“Milli Mücadele Yillarinda Kurulmus Faydali ve Zararli Cemiyetler,”
TDTD, Number: 4 (April 1987), pp.20.
33. For the reference
text of Bogos Nubar Pasha see Esat Uras, a.g.e., pp. 923-924.
34. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,pp.
35. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,
36. Esat Uras, a.g.e.,