The publishing house Russian Political Encyclopedia – ROSSPEN has published a book by a well-known American political scientist, professor at the Massachusetts University Gunter Levi, The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire: Myths and Reality.
The publication is a translation of the book: The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, Disputed Genocide.
In the multinational Ottoman Empire there was a system Millet, in which each religious community had to obey its spiritual leader; the Muslims – to the Khalifa, the Orthodox – to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Jews – to Hahambashi Chief Rabbi, and the Armenian population – to Catholicos. The Millet system introduced by Mehmet II (Mehmet Fatih) immediately after the conquest of Constantinople in May 1453 was an institution of self-government for minority religious communities in the Empire. In this system, the Armenians showed special loyalty and allegiance to the central government of the empire. The authorities were favorable to Armenians, calling them “loyal subjects” (Millet-i Sadika or Tebe-i Sadika). However, after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 all that changed. The San Stefano Peace Treaty of March 3, 1878, and the Treaty of Berlin of 13 July 1878 obliged the Ottoman Empire to improve the living conditions of Armenians and ensure their safety.
The Ottoman Government undertook to inform the Western powers on the measures taken for this purpose. Russia and the Western countries, especially Britain, provided protection to the Armenians and supported their struggle against the Empire.
The Armenian leaders were not satisfied with the terms of the Treaty of Berlin – on a par with the peoples of the Balkans, they wanted the right to establish their own state.
A group of Armenian students established the Social Democratic Party Hnchakyan in Geneva in 1887 and then all revolutionary forces merged in the new organization in Tiflis in June 1890. This resulted in the fact that a new party called Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) was formed. They were the conductors of the idea. Along with the nationwide uprising, they considered political terror as one of the most important instruments in achieving their goals. Since mid-1890 began the first unrest among the Armenian population of the Empire, which led to the tragic events in the near future.
The start of the First World War and the coming of the Ottoman Empire into the conflict were considered by the Armenian political parties as the most appropriate factor for their long-standing idea of creating an Armenian state in the territory of the eastern vilayets (districts) of the Empire. It was even enshrined in Article 6 of the Hnchakists’ program, which included the involvement of the Ottoman Empire into the war and the general organization of an uprising for the purpose of immediate implementation of the goals set for the party. In turn, the Armenian factor was a powerful weapon in the hands of the Entente against the Ottoman Empire. For a successful outcome of the war on the Caucasian front against Turkey Russia pinned its hopes on the role of the Armenians. Tsar Nicholas II during his visit to Tbilisi met with Catholicos Gevorg V in November 1914 and promised him that “the Armenian question will be resolved in accordance with the expectations of the Armenians at the end of the war, during the peace talks.”
This was an important signal for the Armenian population of not only Russia, but also Turkey, to act. At the beginning of the war the Russian government even allocated primary expenditures for armament of the Turkish Armenians and the organization of their revolts in the rear of the Turkish army; this totaled 242,900 rubles.
In the last, fourth, part of the book Levy considers the most important aspect of the Armenian issue: whether the Young Turk regime had planned the destruction of the Armenians, as well as the question of liability for the loss of lives.
The author states there is no authentic documentary evidence of the central government of Turkey guilty of the mass killings of 1915-1916. In their absence, the Armenian side is based on the materials of dubious authenticity, such as Memoirs of Naim Bey Antonyan or copies of the alleged documents used by Turkish military courts of 1919-1920.
The author casts doubt on the reliability of the Armenian version that this event really was a premeditated plan of extermination of the Armenians. Military actions were on two fronts – on the East against Russia and on the West. The primitive transport system, food shortages and dreadful sanitary conditions contributed to numerous victims among the relocated Armenians.
The author’s conclusions on the events of 1915 against the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire are based on a thorough analysis of all the available historiography of this theme and numerous documents from various archives in the US, Germany and the UK.