Armenian pogroms in the Ottoman Empire

As you remember from the article The Crisis of the Ottoman Empire and the Evolution of the Position of Gentiles, the first Armenians in the Ottoman state appeared after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

They lived here for a long time, and the first Armenian church in this city was built in the middle of the XIV century. To reduce the percentage of the Greek population in the new capital, the sultans began to resettle people of other nationalities and other religions to it. This category also includes the Armenians, who, although they were Christians, did not obey the Greek patriarch.

In 1475-1479. Crimean Armenians appeared in Constantinople, in 1577 – Armenians from Nakhichevan and Tabriz. Armenia itself was conquered by the Ottomans under Sultan Selim II – in the 16th century. But, in addition to Constantinople and Armenia proper, people of this nationality also lived in Cilicia, in the vilayets of Van, Bitlis and Harput.

For centuries, Armenians were considered a “reliable nation” (Millet-i Sadika) and had the status of dhimmi (“protected”). They paid jizye (poll tax) and kharaj (land tax), as well as military fees (since the Gentiles did not serve in the Ottoman army and, therefore, did not shed their blood for the empire).

But their situation in Turkey was not particularly difficult. Moreover, Armenians have traditionally been part of the cultural and economic elite of the Ottoman state, which caused the envy and displeasure of many ethnic Turks. While the empire flourished, won victories on land and at sea, expanding in all directions, this discontent was of a restrained nature.

However, with the onset of the crisis of the Ottoman state, failures were increasingly explained by the intrigues of the Gentiles. Muhajirs – Muslims who moved from the lost territories of the Transcaucasus and the Balkan Peninsula – were especially intolerant of the Christians of the Ottoman Empire. And the formerly tolerant sultans and viziers, in the hope of “letting off steam from the overheated cauldron,” now supported such sentiments in society.

The beginning of the Armenian pogroms

The first large-scale Armenian pogroms began at the end of the 19th century (in 1894–1896 and in 1899) under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. However, the French ambassador Pierre Paul Cambon, describing the “Massacre of Hamid”, reports that at that time in Turkey, Christians were killed “without distinction” – that is, not only Armenians.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton said then:

“I do not know what oriental sweets are, but I suspect that this is a massacre of Christians.”

This sultan, moreover, was the son of a Circassian woman and in his harem (according to his daughter – Aishe-Sultan) there was not a single Christian woman, which sharply distinguishes him from a series of other Ottoman rulers, whose beloved wives and concubines were often Armenian and Greek. …

Armenian pogroms in the Ottoman Empire

Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) – Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and 99th Caliph; known for his attempts to preserve the crumbling empire, relying on the ideology of pan-Islamism. Admirer of the work of I. Aivazovsky, whose paintings he collected. After the news of the Armenian pogroms, the artist sent a letter to the Sultan demanding that his works be thrown into the sea.


The victims of those pogroms, according to various researchers, were from 80 thousand to 300 thousand people. Other outbreaks of violence were recorded in Adana in 1902 and 1909, where, in addition to Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks also suffered. Muhajirs moved to the “liberated” lands.

After the assassination attempt on Abdul-Hamid II at the Yildiz Mosque of Constantinople on July 21, 1905, organized by members of the Dashnaktsutyun party (founded in Tiflis in 1890), the sultan’s attitude towards the Armenians, as you understand, did not improve. Abdul-Hamid then survived only because he stopped to talk with Sheikh-ul-Islam: the clockwork worked earlier, the explosion was so powerful that the performer himself died (a certain Zarekh, a militant who participated in the robbery of the Ottoman bank in 1896), and a lot of random people.

As you know, everything ended with the large-scale massacre of Armenians in 1915, which took place already during the reign of Mehmed V, the younger brother of Abdul-Hamid II.

The famous Fatih law had already been abolished (in 1876), but the traditions remained. And before accession to the throne, Mehmed lived in constant fear for his life: he was under constant surveillance and had no right to talk on the phone.

Mehmed V at the ceremony of taklid seif – girding with a sword ”(Osman I) – May 10, 1909 The heads of the Greek and Armenian Churches, as well as the chief rabbi of Constantinople, were for the first time invited to this ceremony.


The author of this drawing flattered the new sultan: it is known that he was so fat that it was with difficulty that it was possible to gird him with the sword of Osman.

Sword of Osman I (“Sword of Islam”). Made similar to Al-Battar – the sword of the Prophet Muhammad, which, according to legend, previously belonged to Goliath and King David, and was captured during the siege of Medina (the city was defended by the Jewish tribe of Banu-Kainuk) in 624. Stored in Top Caps

Mehmed V and his government


Mehmed V was no longer a sovereign sultan: he had to coordinate all his actions with the leaders of the Ittikhat (“Unity and Progress”) party, and since 1909, power in the country ended up with the “Young Turk Triumvirate”, which included Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha and Jemal Pasha.

Enver Pasha, Jemal Pasha, Talaat Pasha. On the night of November 3, they were taken to Germany on a German steamer, in December 1918, they were accused of involving Turkey in the world war and organizing the massacre of Armenians, and sentenced in absentia to death in their homeland.


Meanwhile, the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire were still trying to establish cooperation with the authorities, hoping that the deterioration of their situation was temporary, and soon the Sultan and his entourage would return to dialogue with them.

During the Balkan Wars, over 8 thousand Armenians volunteered for the Turkish army. But at the same time, the leaders of “Dashnaktsutyun” after the outbreak of the First World War declared that the Armenians of each of the warring parties should be loyal to their government. This caused the displeasure of the Turkish authorities, who called for an uprising not only to Muslims, but also to the Armenians of the Russian Empire, promising to create an autonomous Armenian region after the victory.

Armenian massacre of 1915

In November 1914, the authorities of the Ottoman Empire declared jihad against the Christians at war with Turkey. This further inflamed the situation in this country, and caused the killings of the Gentiles, which had not yet been sanctioned by the authorities. So, from November 1914 to April 1915. about 27 thousand Armenians and many Assyrians were killed (the exact number of victims on their part has not yet been calculated).

During the Sarikamysh operation (January 1915), the Minister of Defense of the Ottoman Empire Ismail Enver (Enver Pasha) was rescued by an Armenian officer during one of the battles: Enver even sent a letter to the Armenian Archbishop of Konya, in which he expressed gratitude to the Armenians for their loyalty.

But after the defeat of the Turkish army, he blamed the failure of the traitors, the Armenians, whom he urged to evict from the regions adjacent to the Russian Empire. All the soldiers of Armenian nationality were disarmed (many of them were later killed), the Armenians were forbidden to own weapons (they received this right only in 1908).

The first repressions began in Cilicia – in the city of Zeitun, where 3 thousand Turkish soldiers were brought in. Some of the Armenian men fled to a suburban monastery, besieging which the Turks lost 300 people. It seems surprising, but the Armenians themselves convinced the “rebels” to stop resistance and surrender – so great was their desire to keep the peace with the Ottoman authorities. All the surrendered Armenians were killed, and then it was the turn of the “compromisers”: they were evicted from their homes and sent to the desert area of ​​Der Zor in the territory of the Konya province.

On April 19, 1915, the killing of Armenians began in the Van province (up to 50 thousand people died). Having fortified in their part of the city, the Armenians resisted until May 16, when the Russian army approached. However, after 6 weeks the Russians were forced to retreat, and many local Armenians left with them to the territory of Russia.

On April 24, 1915, 235 prominent representatives of the Armenian diaspora were arrested in Constantinople and subsequently killed, soon the number of those deported exceeded 5 thousand. At the same time, the arrests of Armenians began in Adana and Alexandretta.

On May 9 it was the turn of the Armenians of Eastern Anatolia.

And finally, on May 30, 1915, the Majlis of the Ottoman Empire approved the “Law on Deportation”, on the basis of which the reprisals against Armenians began in all regions.

In July 1915, part of the Armenians who lived near Antioch went to the mountains, where they held out for 7 weeks. Some of them later ended up in the French Foreign Legion.

The Armenians of Constantinople and Edirne suffered less than others, since the embassies and consulates of European countries were located in these cities. The order to deport the Armenians was also ignored by the Governor of Smyrna, Rahmi-bey, who stated that their eviction would destroy the foreign trade of this city.

In other places, for the “better organization” of reprisals and deportations, special detachments – “Chettes”, subordinate to the Minister of Internal Affairs Talaat Pasha (in the future – the Grand Vizier), were created, which included criminals released from prison: they “helped” the army, the “Special organizations “Behaeddin Shakir, police and” activists “. Talaat was frank, speaking in the circle of his subordinates:

“The purpose of the deportation of Armenians is nothingness.”

Muslim neighbors, under pain of death, were forbidden to shelter Armenians and help them in any way.

Most often, the Armenians were treated as follows: adult men capable of resisting were immediately separated from their families and taken out of the settlements, where they were shot or cut. Young Armenian girls were sometimes transferred to one of the Muslim men, but more often they were simply raped.

The rest were driven to desert areas. Sometimes only a fifth reached the place of deportation; many of the survivors died of hunger and disease. So that their path was not “too easy,” Mehmet Reshid, the governor of Diyarbekir, ordered that horseshoes be nailed to the feet of the deportees. Later this example was followed in other cities.

However, sometimes they preferred not to take these defenseless Armenians away, but to kill them on the spot – they were cut and stabbed with bayonets, sometimes they were burned in closed houses and stables, or drowned in barges. In total, then about 150 thousand Armenians were destroyed (only in the city of Khynys – 19 thousand people, in the city of Bitlis – 15 thousand). However, this is a minimum figure: sometimes the number of victims is increased to 800 thousand, and some authors (for example, Shaan Natalie, which will be discussed in the next article) – up to one and a half million.

It is also known about the experiments on the Armenians of the Ottoman professor Hamdi Suat, who tried to find a cure for typhus. After the war, he was placed in a psychiatric hospital, and then declared the founder of Turkish bacteriology; the Suat House Museum operates in Istanbul.

On this slide, the words are highlighted: ÇaĞdaŞ Türk Patolojİsİnİn Kurucusu – “The founder of modern Turkish pathology”


Already on May 24, 1915, Great Britain, France and Russia in a joint declaration condemned Turkey, recognizing the massacres of Armenians as a crime against humanity.

However, mass reprisals against the Armenians continued until the autumn of 1916: up to 65 thousand Armenians were expelled from Erzurum alone (many of them were killed). Isolated episodes of massacres were noted up to the surrender of Turkey in 1918. And in September 1917, the Armenian and Greek quarters in the city of Smyrna (Izmir) were destroyed.

This was discussed in the article The Birth of the Turkish Republic.

It should be said that in parallel with the Armenians on the territory of the Ottoman Empire, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks were also destroyed at that time. In Greece, the events of those years are called the “Great Catastrophe”. From 1900 to 1922 the Christian population of the same Anatolia decreased from 25 to 5%. And in modern Turkey, the share of Christians in the population is less than 1%.

At present, there are monuments dedicated to the victims of the Armenian massacre of 1915 in 22 countries of the world. In addition to Armenia, they can be seen in France, in the USA (3), Canada, Bulgaria, Russia (2 – Rostov, Izhevsk), Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Georgia, India, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Cyprus.

Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, Armenia

Monument in Burgas, Bulgaria

Monument in Izhevsk


In the next article we will talk about the situation in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. And also – about the operation “Nemesis” for the physical destruction of Turkish dignitaries, guilty of organizing the massacres of Armenians in 1915-1916, and the leaders of Azerbaijan, involved in the massacre of Armenians in Shusha and Baku in 1918-1920, initiated by Hakob Ter-Hakobyan, better known as Shahan (Shagan) Natali.

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *