The Deportations of 1915: Procedure
The atrocities of 1915 are described in detail in the documents collected in this book, but it will be well to give in conclusion a bare summary of events, partly to make the detail less confusing to the reader, and partly to bring out the essential unity of design which underlay the procedure against the Armenians at the various dates and in the various provinces of the Empire to which the documents relate. This fundamental uniformity of procedure is more sinister than the incidental aggravations of the crime by Kurds, peasants, gendarmes or local authorities. It is damning evidence that the procedure itself, which set in motion all the other forces of evil, was conceived and organized by the Central Government at Constantinople.
The dismissal of the Inspectors-General and the abrogation of the reforms were followed immediately by the mobilization of the Ottoman Army for eventual participation in the war, and with this the sufferings of the Armenians began. It has been mentioned already that the Young Turks had extended the duty of military service to their Christian fellow-citizens, and that the Armenian recruits had distinguished themselves in the Balkan War; but naturally the measure was not retrospective, and Armenians who were already past the statutory age of training when it was introduced, were allowed to pay the "Rayah" poll-tax as before, under the formula of an exemption-tax in lieu of military service. In the autumn of 1914, however, there was a general levy of all males in the Empire from twenty years of age to forty-five, and soon from eighteen to fifty, in which the Armenians, whether they had paid their annual exemption-tax or not, were included with the rest. There were also drastic requisitions of private supplies, by which the Armenians, again, were the principle sufferers, since they were the chief merchants and store-keepers of the country. These were considerable hardships and injustices, but they were not necessarily in themselves the result of a malevolent design. Apart from what actually followed, they might have been simply the inevitable penalties of a country which had been embarked by its Government on a struggle for existence.
In October, when mobilization was completed, the Government had, in fact, declared war on the Allies, and in December its grandiose military operations began. Enver Pasha, with the main Ottoman forces, started an encircling movement against the Russian troops in Caucasia, along a front extending from Erzeroum to the Black Sea Coast; Halil Bey led a flying column across the frontier of Azerbaijan, and raised the Kurds; Djemal Pasha felt his across the Sinai Peninsula towards the Suez Canal. For a week or two the invading armies met with success. They reached Ardahan, almost in the rear of Kars, they pushed the Russians back from their rail-head at Sari-Kamysh, and they occupied the capital of Azerbaijan, Tabriz. But then the campaign broke down in disaster. Two Turkish army corps were destroyed at Sari-Kamysh in the first week of January, 1915, and the rest were driven out of Russian territory by the end of the month; on the 30th January, the Russians even reoccupied Tabriz. Djemal's Egyptian expedition was a month in arrear, but its fortunes were the same. He reached the Canal at the beginning of February, after a creditable desert march, only to return by the way he came, after an abortive night attack. There was no more question of the offensive for the Turks, but only of defending their own straggling frontiers; and this breakdown was a bitter blow to Young Turkish official circles, for it shattered half the hopes that had lured them into the war. The unmeasured optimism of the winter gave place to equally violent depression, and under the influence of this new atmosphere the persecution of the Armenians entered a second and more positive phase.
A decree went forth that all Armenians should be disarmed. The Armenians in the Army were drafted out of the fighting ranks, re-formed into special labor battalions, and set to work throwing up fortifications and constructing roads. The disarming of the civil population was left to the local authorities, and in every administrative center a reign of terror began. The authorities demanded the production of a definite number of arms. Those who could not produce them were tortured, often in fiendish ways; those who procured them for surrender, by purchase from their Moslem neighbors or by other means, were imprisoned for conspiracy against the Government. Few of these were young men, for most of the young had been called up to serve; they were elderly men, men of substance and the leaders of the Armenian community, and it became apparent that the inquisition for arms was being used as a cloak to deprive the community of its natural heads. Similar measures had preceded the massacres of 1895-6, and a sense of foreboding spread through the Armenian people. "One night in the winter," writes a foreign witness of these events, "the Government sent officers round the city to all Armenian houses, knocking up the families and demanding that all weapons should be given up. This action was the death-knell to many hearts."
The appalling inference was in fact correct, for the second phase of persecution passed over without a break into the third and final act, and it is evident that the whole train had been laid by the Ministry at Constantinople before the first arms were called in or the first Armenian thrown into prison. This carries the detailed organization of the scheme at least as far back as February, 1915, and, indeed, the elaborate preparations that had already been made by the 8th April, the date of the first deportation at Zeitoun, presuppose at least as long a period. It is extremely important to emphasize these chronological facts, because they refute the attempt of the apologists to disconnect the last phase from the phases that preceded it, and to represent it as an emergency measure dictated by the military events of the spring.
In reality, the situation had been growing tenser before the spring began. In outlying villages, the inquisition for arms had been accompanied by open violence. Men had been massacred, women violated and houses burnt down by the gendarmerie patrols, and such outrages had been particularly frequent in the Vilayet of Van, where the soldiers seem to have been exasperated by their recent reverses and were certainly stimulated by the truculence of the Governor Djevdet Bey, who had returned beyond the frontier. The crowning outrage was the murder of four Armenian leaders from the City, when they were on their was to an outlying district to keep the peace, at Djevdat's own request, between the local Armenians and their Moslem neighbors. The Armenian inhabitants of the City of Van took warning from the fate of the villagers and from this and most sinister crime, and prepared themselves, in case of need, for self-defense. Their action was justified by Djevdet Bey himself, for he had been drawing a cordon round the garden suburbs of Van, where the majority of the Armenian population lived, and on the 20th April he unleashed his troops upon them without provocation. The Armenians of Van found themselves fighting for their lives against a murderous attack by what was supposed to be the lawful Government of their country. There had been the same sequence of events at Zeitoun. The search for arms had been accompanied by a formidable concentration of troops in the town, and the final phase had been opened, not indeed by a butchery, but by the deportation of the first batch of the inhabitants. This had outbreak at Van, and both events were previous to the new turn in the military situation. In fact, it was the distress of the Armenian civil population at Van that decided the Russian initiative. A Russian column, with a strong contingent of Russian-Armenian volunteers, forced its way towards the city from the direction of Bayazid, and relieved the defenders on the 19th May, after they had been besieged for a month. The strategy of encirclement was now retorted upon the Turks themselves, for on the 24th May another Russian column occupied Urmia, and drove the last of the Turco-Kurdish invaders out of Azerbaijan. A British expeditionary force was simultaneously pressing up the Tigris, and while events were taking this serious turn in the east, the heart of the Empire was threatened by the attack on the Dardanelles. By the end of May, 1915, the outlook was as desperate as in the bad days of 1912, but it must be emphasized again that the final phase in the procedure against the Armenians had already begun before these acute military dangers emerged above the horizon. The military straits in which the Young Turks found themselves in the spring of 1915 may have precipitated the execution if their Armenian scheme, but have no bearing whatever upon its origination.
On the 8th April, then, the final phase began, and the process carried out at Zeitoun was applied to one Armenian center after another throughout the Ottoman Empire. On a certain date, in whatever town or village it might be (and the dates show a significant sequence), the public crier went through the streets announcing that every male Armenian must present himself forthwith at the Government Building. In some cases the warning was given by the soldiery or gendarmerie slaughtering every male Armenian they encountered in the streets, a reminiscence of the procedure in 1895-6; but usually a summons to the Government Building was the preliminary stage. The men presented themselves in their working clothes, leaving their shops and work-rooms open, their ploughs in the field, their cattle on the mountain side. When they arrived, they were thrown without explanation into prison, kept there a day or two, and then marched out of the town in batches, roped man to man, along some southerly or south-easterly road. They were starting, they were told, on a long journey -- to Mosul or perhaps to Baghdad. It was a dreadful prospect to men unequipped for travel, who had neither scrip nor staff, food nor clothes nor bedding. They had hidden no farewell to their families, they had not wound up their affairs. But they had not long to ponder over their plight, for they were halted and massacred at the first lonely place on the road. The same process was applied to those other Armenian men (and they numbered hundreds or even thousands in the larger centers) who had been imprisoned during the winter months on the charge of conspiracy or concealment of arms, though in some instances these prisoners are said to have been overlooked -- an involuntary form of reprieve of which there were also examples during the French Reign of Terror in 1793. This was the civil authorities' part, but there was complete coordination between Talaat Bey's Ministry of the Interior and Enver Pasha's Ministry of War, for simultaneously the Armenian Labor Battalions, working behind the front, were surrounded by detachments of their combatant Moslem fellow soldiers and butchered in cold blood.
The military authorities also made themselves responsible for the civil population of Bitlis, Moush and Sassoun, who were marked out for complete and immediate extermination on account of their proximity to Van and the advancing Russian forces. This task was carried out by military methods with the help of the local Kurds -- another reversion to the tactics of Abdul Hamid -- but its application appears to have been limited to the aforementioned districts. In the rest of the Empire, where the work was left in the hands of the civil administration, the women and children were not disposed of by straightforward massacre like the men. Their destiny under the Government scheme was not massacre but slavery or deportation.
After the Armenian men had been summoned away to their death, there was usually a few days interval in whatever town it might be, and then the crier was heard again in the streets, bidding all Armenians who remained to prepare themselves for deportation, while placards to the same effect were posted on the walls. This applied, in actual fact, to the women and children, and to a poor remnant of the men who, through sickness, infirmity or age, had escaped the fate marked out for their sex. A period of grace was in most cases accorded for the settlement of their affairs and the preparation of their journey; but here, again, there were cases in which the victims were taken without warning from the loom, the fountain or even from their beds, and the respite, where granted, was in great measure illusory. The ordinary term given was a bare week, and it was never more than a fortnight -- a time utterly insufficient for all that had to be done. There were instances, moreover, in which the Government broke its promise, and carried away its victims before the stated day arrived.
For the women there was an alternative to deportation. They might escape it by conversion to Islam; but conversion for an Armenian woman in 1915 meant something more physical than a change of theology. It could only be ratified by immediate marriage with a Moslem man, and if the woman were already a wife (or, rather, a widow, for by this time few Armenian husbands remained alive), she must part with any children she had, and surrender them to be brought up as true Moslems in a "Government Orphanage" -- a fate of uncertain meaning, for no such institutions were known to be in existence. If the convert could find no Turk to take her, or shrank from the embraces of the bridegroom who offered himself, then she and her children must be deported with the rest, however fervently she had professed the creed of Islam. Deportation was the alternative adopted by, or imposed upon, the great majority.
The sentence of deportation was a paralyzing blow, yet those condemned to it had to spend their week of grace in feverish activity, procuring themselves clothing, provisions and ready money for the road. The local authorities placed every possible obstacle in their way. There was an official fiction that their banishment was only temporary, and they were therefore prohibited from selling their real property or their stock. The Government set its seal upon the vacated houses, lands and merchandise, "to keep them safe against their owners' return;" yet before these rightful owners started on their march they often saw these very possessions, which they had not been allowed to realize, made over by the authorities as a free gift to Moslem immigrants, who had been concentrated in the neighborhood, in readiness to step into the Armenians' place. And even such household or personal chattels as they were permitted to dispose of were of little avail, for their Moslem neighbors took shameless advantage of their necessity, and beat them down to an almost nominal price, so that when the day of departure arrived they were often poorly equipped to meet it.
The Government charged itself with their transport, and indeed they were not in a position to arrange for it themselves, for their ultimate destination was seldom divulged. The exiles from each center were broken up into several convoys, which varied in size from two or three hundred to three or four thousand members. A detachment of gendarmerie was assigned to every convoy, to guard them on the way, and the civil authorities hired or requisitioned a certain number of ox-carts (arabas), usually one to a family, which they placed at their disposal; and so the convoy started out. The mental misery of exile was sufficiently acute, but it was soon ousted by more material cares. A few days, or even a few hours, after the start, the carters would refuse to drive them further, and the gendarmes, as fellow-Moslems, would connive at their mutinousness. So the carts turned back, and the exiles had to go forward on foot. This was the beginning of their physical torments, for they were not traveling over soft country or graded roads, but by mule-tracks across some of the roughest country in the world. It was the hot season, the wells and springs were sometimes many hours' journey apart, and the gendarmes often amused themselves by forbidding their fainting victims to drink. It would have been an arduous march for soldiers on active service, but the members of these convoys were none of them fitted or trained for physical hardship. They were the women and children, the old and the sick. Some of the women had been delicately brought up and lived in comfort all their lives; some had to carry children in their arms too young to walk; others had been sent off with the convoy when they were far gone with child, and gave birth on the road. None of these latter survived, for they were forced to march on again after a few hours' respite; they died on the road, and the new-born babies perished with them. Many others died of hunger and thirst, sunstroke, apoplexy or sheer exhaustion. The hardships endured by the women who accompanied their husbands on Sir John Moore's retreat to Corunna bear no comparison with the hardships these Armenian women endured. The Government which condemned them to exile knew what the journey would mean, and the servants of the Government who conducted them did everything to aggravate their inevitable physical sufferings. Yet this was the least part of their torture; far worse were the atrocities of violence wantonly inflicted upon them by fellow human beings.
From the moment they left the outskirts of the towns they were never safe from outrage. The Moslem peasants mobbed and plundered them as they passed through the cultivated lands, and the gendarmes connived at the peasants' brutality, as they had connived at the desertion of the drivers with their carts. When they arrived at a village they were exhibited like slaves in a public place, often before the windows of the Government Building itself, and every Moslem inhabitant was allowed to view them and take his choice of them for his harem; the gendarmes themselves began to make free with the rest, and compelled them to sleep with them at night. There were still more horrible outrages when they came to the mountains, for here they were met by bands of "chettis" and Kurds. The "chettis" were brigands, recruited from the public prisons; they had been deliberately released by the authorities on a consideration which may have been tacit but which both parties clearly understood. As for the Kurds, they had not changed since 1896, for they had always retained their arms, which Abdul Hamid had served out and the Young Turks could not or would not take away; and they had now been restored to official favor upon the proclamation of the Holy War, so that their position was as secure again as it had been before 1908. They knew well what they were allowed and what they were intended to do. When these Kurds and chettis waylaid the convoys, the gendarmes always fraternized with them the most active part in the ensuing massacres -- for this was the work which the brigands came to do. The first to be butchered were the old men and boys -- all the males that were to be found in the convoy except the infants in arms -- but the women were massacred also. It depended on the whim of the moment whether a Kurd cut a woman down or carried her away into the hills. When they were carried away their babies were left on the ground or dashed against the stones. But while the convoy dwindled, the remnant had always to march on. The cruelty of the gendarmes towards the victims grew greater as their physical sufferings grew more intense; the gendarmes seemed impatient to make a hasty end of their task. Women who lagged behind were bayoneted on the road or pushed over precipices, or over bridges. The passage of rivers, and especially of the Euphrates, was always an occasion of wholesale murder. Women and children were driven into the water, and were shot as they struggled, if they seemed likely to reach the further bank. The lust and covetousness of their tormentors had no limit. The last survivors often staggered into Aleppo naked; every shred of their clothing had been torn from them on the way. Witnesses who saw their arrival remark that there was not one young or pretty face to be seen among them, and these was assuredly none surviving that was truly old -- except in so far as it had been aged by suffering. The only chance to survive was to be plain enough to escape their tormentors' lust, and vigorous enough to bear the fatigues of the road.
Those were the exiles that arrived on foot, but there were others, from the metropolitan districts and the north-west, who were transported to Aleppo by rail. These escaped the violence of the Kurds, but the sum of their suffering can hardly have been less. They were packed in cattle-trucks, often filthy and always overcrowded, and their journey was infinitely slow, for the line was congested by their multitude and by the passage of troops. At every stopping-place they were simply turned out into the open, without food or shelter, to wait for days, or even weeks, till the line was clear and rolling-stock available to carry them a further stage. The gendarmes in charge of them seem to have been as brutal as those with the convoys on foot, and when they came to the two breaks in the Baghdad Railway, where the route crosses the ranges of the Taurus and Amanus Mountains, they too had to traverse these, the most arduous stages of all, on foot. At Bozanti, the rail-head west of Taurus, and again at Osmania, Mamouret, Islahia, and Katma, stations on either slope of the Amanus chain, vast and incredibly foul concentration camps grew up, where the exiles were delayed for months, and died literally by thousands of hunger, exposure, and epidemics. The portion of them that finally reached Aleppo were in as deplorable a condition as those that had made the journey on foot from beginning to end.
Aleppo was the focus upon which all the convoys converged. In April, it is true, half the Zeitounlis had been sent north-westward to Sultania, in the Konia district, one of the most unhealthy spots in the Anatolian Desert. But the authorities changed their mind, and dispatched the exiles at Sultania south-east again, to join their fellow-townsmen in the Desert of Syria. Thenceforward, the south-eastern desert was the destination of them all, and Aleppo, and in a secondary degree Ourfa and Rasul-Ain, were the natural centers of distribution.
Some of the exiles were planted in the immediate neighborhood of Aleppo itself -- at places like Moumbidj, Bab, Ma'ara, Idlib -- but these seem to have been comparatively few, and it is not certain whether their quarters there were intended to be permanent. Many more were deported southward from Aleppo along the Syrian Railway, and allowed to find a resting-place in the districts of Hama, Homs and Damascus. A still larger number were sent towards the east, and cantoned on the banks of the Euphrates, in the desert section of its course. There were some at Rakka; Der-el-Zor was the largest depot of all, and is mentioned in this connection more frequently than any place after Aleppo itself; some were sent on to Mayadin, a day's journey further down the river, and Moslem travelers reported meeting others within forty-eight hours' journey of Baghdad. No first-hand evidence has come in of their presence at or near Mosul, though they were frequently informed of their journey that their destination was to be there.
The dispersal of the exiles was thus extremely wide, as the authors of the scheme had intended that it should be, but certain features are common to all the places to which they were sent. They were all inhabited by Moslem populations alien to the Armenians in language and habits of life; they were all unhealthy -- either malarious or sultry or in some other respect markedly unsuitable for the residence of people used to a temperate climate; and they were all remote from the exiles' original homes -- the remotest places, in fact, which the Government could find within the Ottoman frontiers, since Christians were debarred from setting foot on the sacred deserts of the Hidjaz, and a British expeditionary force was occupying the marshes of Irak. The Ottoman Government had to content itself with the worst districts at its disposal, and it did its utmost to heighten the climate's natural effect by marooning the exiles there, after an exhausting journey, with neither food, nor shelter, nor clothing, and with no able-bodied men among them to supply these deficiencies by their labor and resource.
The transmission of the exiles to these distant destinations was naturally slow -- indeed, the slowness of the journey was one of the most effective of its torments. The first convoy started from Zeitoun on the 8th April, 1915; fresh convoys followed it during the seven ensuing months from the different Armenian centers in the Empire, and there is no record of any stoppage until the 6th November. On that date an order from Constantinople reached the local authorities, at any rate in the Cilician plains, directing them to refrain from further deportations; but this only applied to the remnant of the local Armenian residents, and the masses of exiles from the north and north-west who were still painfully struggling across the barriers of Taurus and Amanus, were driven on remorselessly to their journey's end, which cannot have been reached by them (or by such of them as survived) before the very close of the year. The congestion of the routes was partly responsible for this delay; but the congestion would have been still more pronounced if the scheme had not been carried out methodically, region by region, in an order which betrays more than anything else the directing hand of the Central Government. Cilicia was the first region to be cleared, just as it had been the principal region to suffer in the massacres of 1909. Strategically and economically, it was the most vital spot in Asiatic Turkey, and its large and increasing Armenian population must always have offended the sensibilities of the Young Turkish Nationalists. It was the natural starting-point for the execution of the Ottomanization Scheme, and the deportations were in progress here fully six weeks before they were applied to the remainder of the Empire. Zeitoun was cleared on the 8th April; Geben, Furnus and Albustan within the next few days; Dort Yol before the end of the month. At Hadjin, on the other hand, the clearance did not begin till the 3rd June, and dragged on into September; while at Adana, the city of the plain, there was only an abortive clearance in the third week of May, and the serious deportations were postponed till the first week in September.
The next region to be cleared was the zone bordering on Van and immediately threatened by the Russian advance, from the Black Sea to the Persian frontier. In the south-eastern districts of this zone -- Bitlis, Moush, Sassoun and Hakkiari -- the clearance, as has been remarked already, was not effected by deportation, but by wholesale massacre on the spot. Outlying villages of the Boulanik, Moush and Sassoun areas were destroyed in the latter part of May, and before the end of the same month Djevdet Bey retreated down the Bohtan Valley from Van, and massacred the Armenians of Sairt. The Armenians of Bitlis were next massacred by Djevdet, on the 25th June; and, in the first week of July, 20,000 fresh troops arrived from Harpout and exterminated the Armenians of Moush -- first the villagers and then the people of the town, which was bombarded by artillery on the 10th June. After making an end of Moush these troops joined the Kurdish irregulars operating against Sassoun, and on the 5th August, after bitter fighting, the surviving Sassounlis -- man, woman and child -- were annihilated in their last mountain stronghold. At the end of July the Ottoman forces temporarily re-entered Van, and slaughtered all the Armenian inhabitants who had not escaped in the wake of the Russian retreat. In June and July the Nestorian (Syrian) communities of the district of Hakkiari, in the upper basin of the Greater Zab, were also attacked by the Kurds and destroyed, except for a remnant which crossed the watershed into the Urmia basin and found safety within Russian lines.
In the north-western districts of the frontier zone the semblance of deportation was preserved, but the exiles -- women and children as well as men -- were invariably massacred in cold blood after a few days on the road. Before the end of May there was a massacre at Khnyss, and on the 6th June the deportations began (with the same consummation) in the villages of the Erzeroum plain. At Erzeroum itself the first deportation took place on the 16th June, and the last on the 28th July (or on the 3rd August, according to other reports). The Armenian Bishop of the city was deported with this last convoy, and never heard of again. At Baibourt, the surrounding villages were similarly cleared before the town, and the townspeople were dispatched in three convoys, the last of which started on the 14th June. From the town of Erzindjan four convoys started on successive days, from the 7th June to the 10th. Practically none of the exiles from Erzindjan, Baibourt or Erzeroum seem to have outlived the first stages of the journey.
At Harpout, the clearance began on the 1st June, and continued throughout the month. On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th July the adjoining town of Mezre was emptied as well. The convoys from these two places and the neighboring villages were terribly thinned by atrocities on the road.
At Trebizond the deportations were carried out from the 1st to the 6th July, and seem to have been simultaneous in the various coast towns of the Vilayet. Here, too, deportation was merely a cloak for immediate massacre. The exiles were either drowned at sea or cut down at the first resting-place on the road.
In the Vilayet of Sivas, again, the villages were dealt with first, but the city itself was not cleared till the 5th July. At X. the men were deported on the 26th June, the women on the 5th July, and the last remnant, who had found protection with the American Missionaries, were carried away on the 10th August. All the men, and many of the women, were massacred on the road.
The Armenian population in the provinces west of Sivas, and in the metropolitan districts surrounding Constantinople, was removed by train along the Anatolian Railway to Konia, and thence towards Aleppo along the several sections of the Baghdad line. In all this region the scheme was put into execution distinctly later. At Angora the deportations began towards the end of July, at Adapazar about the 11th August; at Broussa there seems to have been no clearance till the first weeks of September, but this is stated to have been one of the last places touched. At Adrianople, however, the Armenians were not deported till the middle of October; and at K., in the Sandjak of Kaisaria, not till the 12th/15th November.
The south-eastern outposts of the Armenian Dispersion were left to the last, although their immediate neighbors in the Cilician highlands had been taken at the very beginning. The villagers of Djibal Mousa were not summoned till the 13th July; Aintab was not touched till the 1st August, and then only cleared gradually during the course of the month. The summons to Ourfa, which was answered, as at Djibal Mousa, by defiance, was not delivered till the last week in September.
Glancing back over this survey, we can discern the Central Government's general plan. The months of April and May were assigned to the clearance of Cilicia; June and July were reserved for the east; the western centers along the Railway were given their turn in August and September; and at the same time the process was extended, for completeness' sake, to the outlying Armenian communities in the extreme south-east. It was a deliberate, systematic attempt to eradicate the Armenian population throughout the Ottoman Empire, and it has certainly met with a very large measure of success; but it is not easy to present the results, even approximately, in a statistical form. The only people in a position to keep an accurate account of the numbers affected were the Ottoman authorities themselves; but it is unlikely that they have done so, and still more unlikely that they would ever divulge such figures to the civilized world. We are compelled to base our estimates on the statements of private persons, who were excluded from detailed investigation by the jealous suspicion of the Government officials and were seldom able to observe events in more than a limited section of the field. We must make out computations by piecing together these isolated data form private sources, and since Oriental arithmetic is notoriously inexact (and this is scarcely less true of the Nearer than of the Further East), we shall only make use of testimony from foreign witnesses of neutral nationality. Such witnesses may be assumed to be comparatively free from unconscious exaggeration and completely innocent of purposeful misrepresentation, and we can accept their statements with considerable assurance.
The first step to establish the number of Armenians living within the Ottoman frontiers at the moment the deportations began. All the other figures ultimately depend upon this, but it is harder than any to obtain, for there are no independent foreign estimates of this in record, and the discrepancy between the native estimates is extreme. The Armenian Patriarchate, after an inquiry conducted in 1912, placed the number as high as 2,100,000; the Ottoman Government, in its latest official returns, puts it at 1,100,000 and no more. Both parties have an equal political interest in forcing their figures, but the Armenians are likely to have had a greater respect for exactitude, or at any rate a stronger sense of the futility of falsification. The most "neutral" course under the circumstances is to halve the difference, and to take the number provisionally as being 1,600,000, with the qualification that the true figure certainly lies between this and 2,000,000, and probably approaches more closely to the latter. The rest of the necessary figures can fortunately be drawn from foreign neutral testimony, in which such baffling discrepancies are rarer.
The second step is to estimate the number of those who have escaped deportation. There are the refugees who have escaped it by crossing the frontier -- 182,000 into the Russian Caucasus and 4,200 into Egypt, according to detailed and trustworthy returns. There are also two important Armenian communities in Turkey where practically all but the leaders have been left unmolested -- those of Smyrna and Constantinople. At Constantinople about 150,000 Armenians must still remain. Then there are the Catholic and Protestant Millets, which were nominally exempted from deportation, and the exempted converts to Islam, as well as Armenians of the other denominations, were given the same treatment as the Gregorians, and the actual percentage of conversions is unascertainable, for they were encouraged in some places and discouraged in others. We must also allow for those who managed to elude the Government's net. As a general rule, this category is more numerous in reality than it appears to be, and this is especially so in the Near East. But in the present case the Young Turks seem to have put a Prussian thoroughness into the execution of their scheme, and the margin of ineffectiveness was evidently narrow. In the towns, such as Zeitoun, Hadjin, Sivas, X., and Erzeroum, where we have sufficient testimony to cross-check the estimates presented, the clearance, by deportation or massacre, seems to have been practically complete. At Erzeroum, for instance, there were 20,000 Armenians before the clearance began, and when it was over there were not more than 100 left. Concealment on any considerable scale can only have been practiced in the villages, yet the number of those who have emerged from hiding since the Russian occupation is extraordinarily small. According to the investigations of the Patriarchate, there were 580,000 Armenians in 1912 in the Vilayets of Erzeroum, Bitlis, and Van, which are now within the Russian lines. The American Relief Committee has recently been informed by its agents on the spot that there are now only 12,100 left alive there. Whatever arbitrary margin of reduction the absence of confirmatory statistics may make it necessary to subtract from the former figure, the proportion borne to it by the 12,100 survivors remains infinitesimal. Putting the communities at Constantinople and Smyrna and the refugees together at about 350,000, we shall certainly not be reckoning too low if we allow a quarter of a million for the Protestants, Catholics, converts and others who were spared, and estimate the total number of Armenians in Turkey who escaped deportation at not more than 600,000.
This leaves at least 1,000,000 to be accounted for by deportation and massacre, and probably 1,200,000 or more.
The third step is to estimate what proportion of these million Armenians has perished and what proportion survived, and here again our material is scanty and generalization unsafe, the procedure of the authorities being erratic in this respect also. In certain vilayets, like and Bitlis, there was no deportation at all, but massacre outright; in others, like Erzeroum and Trebizond, and again at Angora, deportation and massacre were equivalent, the convoys being butchered systematically at an early stage on the road. In Cilicia, on the other hand, the men as well as the women seem to have been genuinely deported, and the convoys seem only to have been reduced by sickness and exhaustion. Yet even where there was no wholesale massacre on the journey, a convoy might practically be exterminated by degrees. A large combined convoy, for instance, of exiles from Mamouret-ul-Aziz and Sivas, set out from Malatia 18,000 strong and numbered 301 at Viran Shehr, 150 at Aleppo. In this case, however, the wastage appears to have been exceptional. We have one similar instance of a convoy from Harpout which was reduced on the way to Aleppo from 5,000 to 213, a loss of 96 per cent.; but in general the wastage seems of fluctuate, with a wide oscillation, on either side of 50 per cent.; 600 out of 2,500 (24 per cent.) reached Aleppo from a village in the Harpout district; 60 per cent. Arrived there out of the first convoy from the village of E. (near H.), and 46 per cent. Out of the second; 25 per cent. Arrived out of a convoy from the village of D. in the same neighborhood. We shall certainly be will within the mark if we estimate that at least half those condemned to massacre or deportation have actually perished.
We can check this estimate to some extent by the record of arrivals at certain important centers of traffic on the exile routes, or at the final destinations of the convoys. On the 16th August, 1915, for instance, an exceedingly competent neutral resident at Constantinople stated that, to his knowledge, there were then 50,000 exiles scattered along the route from Bozanti (the first break in the Baghdad line) to Aleppo; on the 5th November, another witness, who had just traversed this route, wrote back from Aleppo that he had passed 150,000 exiles between there and Konia. Again, 13,155 exiles had reached or passed through Aleppo by the 30th July, 1915, and 20,000 more arrived there between that date and the 19th August. By the 3rd August 15,000 of these had been transmitted alive to Der-el-Zor, and this was only the beginning of the arrivals in the Zor district. No exiles reached Damascus before the 12th August, but between that date and the 3rd October, 1915, 22,000 of them had come through. These are isolated data, and prove little in themselves, but in its Bulletin of the 5th April, 1916 the American Relief Committee has published a cable recently received in the United States from a competent source, in which the total number of "Armenians exiles alive at the time in the regions of Der-el-Zor, Damascus and Aleppo is estimated roughly at 500,000. This figure is possibly an exaggeration, but it is not incompatible with our two previous conclusions, that the total number of Armenians affected by the Young Turks' scheme was at least a million, and that at least 50 per cent. Of these have perished. To the alleged 500,000 survivors in the three regions mentioned we must add an uncertain but inconsiderable margin for the exiles who may have been planted at Mosul or who may still, in March, 1916, have been held up on the road; and this will raise the original number affected to something approaching 1,200,000, which we considered, on other grounds, to be nearer the real figure than the bare million which we accepted.
We can sum up this statistical inquiry by saying that, as far as our defective information carries us, about an equal number of Armenians in Turkey seem to have escaped, to have perished, and to have survived deportation in 1915; and we shall not be far wrong if, in round numbers, we estimate each of these categories at 600,000.
The exact quantitative scale of the crime thus remains uncertain, but there is no uncertainty as to the responsibility for its perpetration. This immense infliction of suffering and destruction of life was not the work of religious fanaticism. Fanaticism played no more part here than it has played in the fighting at Gallipoli or Kut, and the "Holy War" which the Young Turks caused to be proclaimed in October, 1914, was merely a political move to embarrass the Moslem subjects of the Entente Powers. There was no fanaticism, for instance, in the conduct of the Kurds and chettis, who committed some of the most horrible acts of all, nor can the responsibility be fixed upon them. They were simply marauders and criminals who did after their kind, and the Government, which not only condoned, but instigated, their actions, must bear the guilt. The peasantry, again (own brothers though they were to the Ottoman soldiery whose apparent humanity at Gallipoli and Kut has won their opponents' respect), behaved with astonishing brutality to the Armenians who were delivered into their hands; yet the responsibility does not lie with the Turkish peasantry. They are sluggish, docile people, unready to take violent action on their own initiative, but capable of perpetrating any enormity on the suggestion of those they are accustomed to obey. The peasantry would never have attacked the Armenians if their superiors had not given them the word. Nor are the Moslems townspeople primarily to blame; their record is not invariably black, and the evidence in this volume throws here and there a favorable light upon their character. Where Moslem and Christian lived together in the same town or village, led the same life, pursued the same vocation, there seems often to have been a strong human bond between them. The respectable Moslem townspeople seldom desired the extermination of their Armenian neighbors, sometimes openly deplored it, and in several instances even set themselves to hinder it from taking effect. We have evidence of this from various places -- Adana, for instance, and AF. In Cilicia, the villages of AJ. and AK. in the AF. district, and the city of Angora. The authorities had indeed to decree severe penalties against any Moslem as well as any alien or Greek who might be convicted of sheltering their Armenian victims. The rabble naturally looted Armenian property when the police connived, as the rabble in European towns might do; the respectable majority of the Moslem townspeople can be accused of apathy at worst; the responsibility cannot rest with these.
The guilt must, therefore, fall upon the officials of the Ottoman Government, but it will not weigh equally upon all members of the official hierarchy. The behavior of the gendarmerie, for example, was utterly atrocious; the subordinates were demoralized by the power for evil that was placed in their hands; they were egged on by their chiefs, who gave vent to a malevolence against the Armenians which they must have been harboring for years; a very large proportion of the total misery inflicted was the gendarmerie's work; and yet the gendarmerie were not, or ought not to have been, independent agents. The responsibility for their misconduct must be referred to the local civil administrators, or to the Central Government, or to both.
The local administrators of provinces and sub-districts -- Valis, Mutessarifs and Kaimakams -- are certainly very deeply to blame. The latitude allowed them by the Central Government was wide, as is shown by the variations they practiced, in different places, upon the common scheme. In this place the Armenian men were massacred; in that they were deported unscathed; in that other they were taken out to sea and drowned. Here the women were bullied into conversion; here conversion was disallowed; here they were massacred like the men. And in many other matters, such as the disposal of Armenian property or the use of torture, remarkable differences of practice can be observed, which are all ascribable to the good or bad will of the local officials. A serious part of the responsibility falls upon them -- upon fire-eaters like Djevdat Bey or cruel natures like the Governor of Ourfa; and yet their freedom of action was comparatively restricted. Where they were evil -- intentioned towards the Armenians they were able to go beyond the Central Government's instructions (though even in matters like the exemption of Catholics and Protestants, where their action was apparently most free, they and the Central Government were often merely in collusion); but they might never mitigate their instructions by one degree. Humane and honorable governors (and there were a certain number of these) were powerless to protect the Armenians in their province. The Central Government had its agents on the spot -- the chairman of the local branch of the Committee of Union and Progress, the local Chief of Gendarmerie, or even some subordinate official on the Governor's own administrative staff. If these merciful governors were merely remiss in executing the instructions, they were flouted and overruled; if they refused to obey them, they were dismissed and replaced by more pliant successors. In one way or another, the Central Government enforced and controlled the execution of the scheme, as it alone had originated the conception of it; and the Young Turkish Ministers and their associates at Constantinople are directly and personally responsible, from beginning to end, for the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.
Arnold Toynbee, "A Summary of Armenian History up to and Including the Year 1915," in Viscount Bryce, preface, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16: Documents presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs By Viscount Bryce (New York and London: G.P.Putnam's Sons, for His Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1916), pp. 637-653.