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Demographic engineering in the late Ottoman empire and the Armenians

Online Publication Date: 01 May 2007 To cite this Article: Şeker, Nesim (2007) 'Demographic engineering in the late Ottoman empire and the Armenians', Middle Eastern Studies, 43:3, 461 - 474 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/00263200701246157 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00263200701246157


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Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 43, No. 3, 461 – 474, May 2007

Eastern Studies, Vol. 43, No. 3, 461 – 474, May 2007 Demographic Engineering in the Late

Demographic Engineering in the Late Ottoman Empire and the Armenians


Demographic engineering is a novel concept employed to explain the forced migrations and ethnic cleansing of recent decades in several regions of the world, such as the Balkans, Caucasus and Africa. Nevertheless, it is not appropriate to confine the use of the concept to a region and/or historical period since it defines state intervention regarding population level, composition, distribution and increase/ decrease. In other words, any deliberate state programme or policy originating from religious/ethnic discrimination or initiated for political, strategic or ideological reasons which aim to increase the political and economic power of one ethnic group over others by manipulating population through various methods can be defined as demographic engineering. 1 Within this framework, it should be pointed out that demographic engineering is not a phenomenon peculiar to the decline of empires. It can be observed in various ages in struggles for territory and for control of its resources. However, in earlier ages, that is, before the rise of nation-states, attempts at demographic engineering did not aim to provide homogeneity in a particular place. Resorting to engineering methods such as manipulating population levels, forced migration, massacre and ethnic cleansing with the purpose of providing ethnic and/or religious homogeneity is discernible in relation to nationalism, particularly in its ethnic form. The spread of ethnic nationalism by the end of the nineteenth century gave a new, and more rigorous and merciless dimension to policy aiming to manipulate the demographic characteristics of any given geographical entity, since ethno-demographic surgery became the principal means of settling the majority of a certain group of population in a given area or the elimination of ‘undesirables’ from the same area. For this reason, it is possible to read the history of nationalism as the history of demographic engineering. This is particularly true in the context of imperial decline and the emergence of political entities which claim to be founded on national and/or ethnic identity. 2 The history of the Ottoman Empire fits well into this picture. A deliberate state policy of manipulation of the demographic characteristics of particular regions can frequently be observed in the Ottoman lands. From the sixteenth century until the final years of the empire, this policy developed mainly in three phases. First, the early forced migration and settlement policy of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries aimed to take control of a region and a particular population through altering the demographic structure. In order to secure their domination in recently conquered territories, organize agricultural production and provide security and order, the

ISSN 0026-3206 Print/1743-7881 Online/07/030461-14 ª 2007 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/00263200701246157

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Ottomans moved some populations from one area to another. 3 The second phase covers the second half of the nineteenth century and extended into 1913. During this phase, the Ottoman territories became a shelter for thousands of Muslims forced to migrate from the Balkans and Caucasia by the newly emerged nation-states and Russia. 4 In the resettlement of Muslim refugees, Ottoman statesmen considered ethnic and religious characteristics and aimed to change the demographic composition of certain regions in favour of the Muslims. Examples of such a policy can clearly be seen during Abdu¨lhamit II’s period (1876–1909). 5 In the final phase, during the First World War, there was an attempt at ethnic restructuring of the core territory of the Ottoman state. During the war ideological transformation from a relatively civic-minded to a selfish ethno-religious nationalism resulted in a state-led demographic reconstruction in Anatolia. This article aims to analyze this last intricate process through highlighting the case of the Armenians in the late Ottoman Empire as they were subjected to a harsh policy of demographic engineering by the Ottoman state and eventually removed from Anatolia, the core territory of today’s Turkey.

Reporting on political conditions in the district, George Horton, the American Consul-General in Smyrna, defines the situation as follows: ‘There are many who believe that we are living on the crater of a volcano, and that, if race hatred is thus systematically cultivated for some time to come, at last there will be some kind of an eruption’. 6 The situation was defined in this way not so much because of the increase in tension among ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire, but rather due to the recent policy of the ruling party, the Committee of Union and Progress (hereafter CUP), which, following the defeat and loss of territory in the Balkans, decided to follow a strategy of aggressive Turkish nationalism targeting the non-Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire. The question why the CUP turned to a Turkish nationalist policy by the end of the Balkan Wars has several answers. First, failure to prevent the disintegration and territorial losses of the empire; second, inability to establish an Ottoman identity as a means of keeping all the peoples of the empire together without distinction of race, ethnicity or creed – the so-called Ottomanist doctrine; third, and connectedly, to eliminate the disintegrative effects of nationalism; and, fourth, failure to end the foreign intervention of the Great Powers, particularly on behalf of the Ottoman non-Muslims, which had also occupied the agenda of the Ottoman reformers throughout the nineteenth century, 7 convinced the CUP leaders that the only way to preserve the Ottoman state was to base it on an exclusively Turkish identity. All these factors also explain to a great extent why this latecomer Turkish nationalism essentially targeted non-Muslim ethnic groups with considerable populations in Anatolia – the Greeks and the Armenians – on the eve of and during the First World War. Both were perceived as a threat, as disloyal subjects with the capacity to further break up the empire, as they were both resistant to an Ottoman identity and insisted on their own nationalisms; they were also seen as agents of imperialist penetration. However, it is not correct to attribute this sudden shift of policy merely to the actual circumstances surrounding the Ottoman state by the end of 1913 and to the

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pragmatism of the Unionist leadership. The Greeks and the Armenians were actually viewed with suspicion by early Turkists in Anatolia in the last decades of the nineteenth century, coincidentally with the identification of Anatolia as a Turkish homeland. 8 The CUP, which was founded as the defender of the multi-national, multi-ethnic and multi-religious structure of the empire, was, from the beginning, under the control of non-Turkish Muslim intellectuals, one of whose primary considerations was the unification of the Muslims against the threat coming from the Armenians and the Balkan Christians in the empire. A group within the CUP even considered itself as Turkish, emphasizing a single ‘dominant element [millet-i haˆkime] of the empire’. Their conviction was that the Turkish element was demographically dominant in the empire; therefore the Turks should dominate and rule. 9 The composition of the CUP following the merger with the Ottoman Freedom Society (Osmanlı Hu¨rriyet Cemiyeti) in 1906 strengthened its Turkish base, since the majority of the absorbed party was formed by Muslim Turkish officers who had been active in the 1908 Revolution. Strengthening the state under Turkish nationalist aspirations was one of the major goals of these officers. 10 It is therefore not hard to understand why, even after the joyful response from all parts of the empire to the reinstatement of the Constitution in July 1908, Unionist policies, adopted immediately after the suppression of the 31 March counter- revolutionary rebellion with the purpose of preserving the integrity of the state and securing the unity of all elements in a centralized state, faced strong resistance even from non-Turkish Muslim elements. Although the opposition of ethnic and religious groups to the centralizing measures of the Unionists was due to fear of losing the position and privileges inherited from the traditional system 11 and a desire for the

maintenance of their own nationalist agendas, the claim that the CUP was in essence a Turkish organization aiming at the Turkification of the non-Turkish population is not unfounded. 12 Ottomanism, official policy of the Ottoman state from the beginning of the Tanzimat era in 1839, which promoted an inclusive Ottoman citizenship to form a supra-nationality transcending ethnic and religious identities through installing the principle of equality in the Ottoman legal system, interestingly was argued by Ziya Go¨kalp, ideologue of the CUP and reputed for his pan-Turkist ideas, to be used as a cloak for the Turkification of the Ottoman state. 13 Although the CUP maintained its adherence to an Ottoman unity in the aftermath of the Revolution as a requirement for the integrity of the state, doubts about its viability arose during the elections at the end of 1908. Disappointed by the behaviour of ethnic groups during the election campaigns, Hu¨seyin Cahit (Yalc¸ın), an ardent Unionist journalist and later a member of the Central Committee, came to the conclusion that the country was a fatherland only for the Turks. According to Yalc¸ın, only the Turks responded emotionally to the word vatan (fatherland). For a



Bulgarian, fatherland meant annexing Macedonia to Sofia; for a Greek,


together with some parts of Anatolia. Armenians were planning the partition of Anatolia to make a homeland for themselves. Arabs and Albanians had vague


religious ties to Istanbul. How could they not turn to those who offered money and provided them with the most benefit? In this case, the right to control the destiny of the country and decide on its fundamentals should be in the hands of the Turks. 14 As

a result, prior to the outbreak of the 31 March incident, Ottomanism was a lost cause after the suppression of the rebellion it almost entirely lost its influence. 15

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From this brief narrative, it can be suggested that the CUP’s ideological turn to Turkish nationalism was not a sudden occurrence following the end of the Balkan wars. Rather, it followed an evolutionary line, the first stage of which is discernible in centralizing measures taken after the counter-revolution; among these were the Law of Associations enacted in August 1909 which forbade the establishment of political clubs or associations having an ethnic or national resonance, and the imposition of Ottoman Turkish as the compulsory language in educational institutions. In the second stage, marked by resistance to such reforms and the Albanian rebellion against them, the Unionist leadership became convinced that melting Ottoman peoples in an Ottomanist pot would not be possible. The Albanian rebellion, which illustrated to the Unionists that nationalism was not confined to non-Muslims, marked a major step in their ideological transformation toward Turkish nationalism. The final stage was reached by the end of the Balkan wars. It should, however, be pointed out that the CUP did not abandon its formal adherence to the union of peoples (ittihad-ı anasır) until 1916. 16

The ideological transformation of the CUP resulted in the major drive toward the policy of demographic reconstruction that began to be implemented in the full sense early in 1914. The aim of this policy is clear: to increase and firmly establish political and economic power of the Turkish ethnicity in territory within the jurisdiction of the Ottoman state. This was to remove all internal and external setbacks originating from the nationality question (anasır meselesi) of the nineteenth century, which became a perpetual issue along with the Eastern Question, the diplomatic question that emerged with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and signified the competition among the Great Powers for control of the Ottoman territories. Launching this policy in early 1914 and not before can be attributed to many factors, but three of them were determinant. First, political power had been monopolized by the CUP by mid-1913. Its firm control over the military and civil bureaucracy as well as it being the only party with a widespread local organization gave a free hand to the Unionists in decision-making and implementation. Secondly, as a result of the Balkan wars the Eastern Question was removed from the Balkans and transferred to Asia Minor. Although it was also transformed from a territorial to an economic and commercial competition among the Great Powers, and although the further disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was not in anyone’s interest and all were united in favour of maintaining the integrity of the empire at that moment, 17 that was not the perception of the Unionists. The resurgence of the Armenian reform question in diplomatic circles in 1913 and the agreement eventually concluded in January 1914 made foreign intervention a reality; an intervention which would end in the loss of the eastern provinces. Finally, the wave of immigration to Anatolia from the Balkans and tragic stories of immigrants’ struggles for survival provided a feeding ground for Turkish nationalism. In the words of a leading Ottoman intellectual, Halide Edip (Adıvar),

the vast number of Balkan Turks, refugees who poured into Constantinople and Anatolia with their lurid and sinister tales of martyrdom and suffering at the hands of the Balkan Christians, the indifference and even the apparent joy of the

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so-called civilized outside world at their sorry state, aroused a curious sympathy for everything that was Turkish in those days. 18

The problem of resettlement of the immigrants added to the growth of the Turkish nationalist sentiment. In these circumstances, the Unionist leadership radically departed from dealing with the issues that emanated from nationality and decided to resolve them through demographic engineering. As has been pointed out above, the aim was twofold: to provide demographic superiority for Turkish ethnicity and to strengthen this ethnicity economically. Demographic superiority was to be achieved through deportation of the non-Muslim population and resettlement of Muslim refugees in evacuated areas. However, ethnicity was the most important criterion in resettlement as the Ministry of Interior repeatedly gave instructions for the dispersal of ‘unreliable’ elements such as the Arabs, the Albanians, the Bosnians and the Kurds (mu¨teferrikan iskaˆn) during resettlement. 19 In the resettlement of such ethnic groups the rule that their population should not exceed 5–10 per cent of the Turkish population was to be strictly observed. The economic nationalism of the CUP consisted of developing Muslim/Turkish enterprises at the expense of the Greeks and the Armenians in commerce and industry, and to form a Muslim/Turkish bourgeoisie which was to form the basis of the state. 20 As conceived by the leading Unionists, this was the precondition for being ‘economically independent of internal and external rivals’. 21 This policy was initially implemented against the Ottoman Greeks who were mostly situated in the capital, the Aegean coast and Thrace prior to the outbreak of the First World War. The boycott of Greek enterprises, aiming to disrupt the economic power of the Greeks, was followed by the deportation of the Greek population especially from the Aegean coast and Thrace, and the settlement of Balkan refugees in their place. During this process, the Unionist government was not directly involved, acting behind the scenes to prevent any possible foreign inter- vention, but its local branches in Western Anatolia and the Special Organization (Tes¸kilaˆt-ı Mahsusa) organized the deportation with the intention of clearing the Aegean region of Greeks in order to make space for the Muslim-Turkish refugees coming from Serez, Kavala, Salonica and Kosovo. 22 There was no official order for the deportation; instead, repressive measures such as intimidation and sporadic killings forced the population to leave. 23 As a result of these measures, approxi- mately 150,000 Greek residents had to migrate to Greece. During the war against the Armenian population this policy was definitely harsher and wider in scope. In fact, the resolution of the Armenian issue was what Horton had predicted as the eruption of the volcano. An extensive literature dealing with various aspects of the Armenian deportations and massacres of 1915 exists; nevertheless, the debate on this issue has been limited to the labelling of the events, i.e., ‘genocide’ or not. 24 Rather than becoming involved in such restricted debate, I will attempt to analyze the issue in the light of two contemporaneous testimonies.

In the aftermath of the First World War, when the Armenian deportations and massacres were part of a hot debate among the Ottoman public, it was usually

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accepted that the Unionist policy toward the Armenian population was destructive, although causation and justification for the measures through a defensive line of policy, focusing on what happened and why, are generally overstated. 25 An illustrative example of this is found in the memoirs of Dr. Res¸id, who was the governor of Diyarbekir province during the events. 26 He claims that, although the government was perfectly aware of the Armenian activities and organizations for the partition of the fatherland, as well as plans designed to exterminate the Ottomans before and after the mobilization for war, it remained astonishingly indifferent for seven or eight months before taking strong measures, i.e., deportation. Massacres of the Armenians occurred as a result of lack of means for keeping order, transportation and supplies. Irregulars were used since the government could not assign regular troops. Revenge attacks by tribes which were accustomed to plunder and brigandage and by deserter soldiers on Armenian convoys and villages regrettably could not be prevented. As a result, massacres ensued. However, deportation was unavoidable since the intentions of the Armenians with regard to Ottoman lands and the Ottoman nation were clear. Not taking these measures would have been suicide for the nation and government. Regarding the abandoned Armenian property, Dr. Res¸it states that immediately after the evacuation, refugees were resettled into Armenian homes while military needs were supplied with some of their movables and most of the rest were sold at auction. Besides this line of argument justifying the deportations and massacres, an account by Celal Bey, governor of Aleppo in the same period of time provides

another part of the picture. 27 Celal states that initially he was not of the opinion that deportation orders were for the annihilation of the Armenians, rather he regarded them as a temporary precaution entailing their evacuation from the war zone. Since he did not carry out the deportation of the Armenians in Antakya, he was removed from his office and posted to Konya, where he witnessed the



miserable conditions of thousands of deported Armenians, from Konya,


Eskis¸ehir and Karahisar, waiting at the station to be sent to their destination, Deyr-i Zor. He was under pressure from both official and unofficial authorities to hasten the deportation process. Since he viewed the deportation as detrimental to

the country, he told the authorities in Konya and

participate. Later, a deputy of Konya conveyed the verbal message from a member of the Central Committee of the CUP that this decision had been taken by the Central Committee after long discussion, that it was not possible to change it and since the deportation of the Armenians was a necessity for the national ideal, he should change his mind; otherwise he would be discharged from office, which soon happened. Asking why the government deported the Armenians to the deserts of Zor which was lacking water, food, and materials for construction, Celal

Bey states that unfortunately it is not possible to deny the question or to find excuses for it. The intention was annihilation and [they were] annihilated (Maateessu¨f meseleyi inkaˆr ve te’vile mecal yok. Maksat imha idi ve imha edildi). It is also impossible to hide the fact that this decision was taken by some influential members of the Central Committee of the CUP and was implemented by the government, which itself was formed by the members of the Central Committee.

Istanbul that he would not


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Many accounts could be added to these. These were chosen since their authors were ‘insiders’ representing the perpetrator side and officials dependent on the central government during the deportations and massacres. Secondly, these officials took the opposite stance toward deportation. Thirdly, both give important clues to the implementation and aim of the deportation law. Even from this brief overview of these accounts, it is possible to draw the following conclusions with regard to the conduct of affairs by the government:


The central government and those who were of the opinion that the deportation of the Armenians was absolutely necessary acted out of fear of national extinction. Deportation was a part of the national ideal.


All Armenians were suspect. The anger of the government was directed not only at the Armenian activists and collaborators but at the whole population.


The government decided on the deportation of Armenians without taking any measures for their sustenance or safety. Although there is no mention of an official order for the destruction of the Armenians, their survival was hardly possible because no measures were taken to provide natural means of livelihood, such as food, health protection, transportation and settlements.


The evacuation of the Armenians, from the government’s point of view, was necessary not only for strategic reasons but also for ‘practical ones’; that is, for the resettlement of Muslim refugees who were existing in miserable conditions and to supply the Ottoman army.

What about the massacres carried out through the Special Organization, irregulars and some Kurds? It is possible to attribute the drives to three factors, one structural, one historical and one contextual. The first is the state tradition of repressing any unrest by the reestablishment of order by force. It is possible to trace this tradition to the early centuries of the Ottoman Empire, when nationalism did not exist even in the vocabulary. As Davison aptly states,

the use of force was of course not confined to the repression of nationalist movements, but extended to the repression of rebellion that occurred because of the ambitions of a local strongman, because of local grievances against provincial administrators, because of tribal discontent, or for whatever reason. 28

Particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century, however, unrest usually took a nationalist character, especially in the Balkans. The central government took up arms against rebels and used irregulars together with regular troops to suppress rebellions, as was the case in the Bulgarian uprising in 1876 and the Armenian uprisings in 1894–96. Uprisings were usually local in character, and coercive measures were applied for the restoration of order. However, the case in 1915 was different. At this time, the intention was not to restore order but to create a new order. This order was to be founded by a civil–military elite with a social Darwinist outlook drawn from militaristic and nationalist German doctrines 29 and experienced in competing ethnic nationalisms in Macedonia and accompanying foreign inter- vention, in the Albanian rebellions, in the revolts in Yemen, in the war against Italy in Tripoli and, finally, in the Balkan wars. All these experiences proved to this elite

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that the state was in a struggle for survival and taught them to adopt ‘a culture and politics of violence’ as instruments for achieving their goals. 30 The second factor is the existence of an ethnic group, namely the Kurds, that could be mobilized against the Armenians in eastern Anatolia, where the massacres were most intensive. Kurdish–Armenian relations were increasingly strained in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Relations between Kurds and Armenians had deteriorated due to excesses against prosperous Armenians by some Kurdish notables, Russian–British rivalry in the region, the activities of the Armenian revolutionary organizations, Abdu¨lhamit II’s policy of using some Kurdish tribes as a base of support and as military power against the Armenian nationalists, and their involvement in the Armenian massacres of 1894–96. Coming to 1914, the most persistent problem between these two peoples was the so-called agrarian issue, which was actually the essential source of conflict. Allowed by the central government to seize and pillage Armenian lands and property following the 1894–96 persecutions, Kurdish notables and landlords who had formed the Hamidiye regiments resisted any attempt at restitution of usurped lands by the governments after 1908. 31 It is not too surprising, then, to see that most of the Kurds involved in the Armenian massacres were those who had been recruited into these regiments, which were initially dissolved after 1908 and soon revived as militias, and fought in the Balkan wars and on the eastern front during the First World War. It is important to determine the reasons that led a sizeable part of the Kurdish population to participate in the Armenian massacres. Although the issue needs more research and analysis, particularly regarding Kurdish–Armenian relations after 1908 within the framework of socio-economic and cultural differences, central governments’ alliances in the region and Russian intrigues especially after 1913, it is no exaggeration to say that while Armenian deportation and massacres resolved the so-called Armenian Question for the central government, it did the same with the agrarian question in favour of the usurpers. Finally, the contextual factor should be pointed out, signified by the anger of the Unionists toward the Armenians at a time when the Ottoman army was heavily defeated in Sarıkamıs¸ under the command of Enver Pasha and the Allied navies seriously threatened the capital through the military offensive in the Dardanelles. The Unionists laid the blame for the defeat in the east to the Armenian collaboration with Russia and, consequently, they perceived all Armenians, of all ages, as collaborators and intriguers for the Armenian national cause. At this point it is important to note Enver’s warnings to the Armenian Patriarch, which read:

And yet one of the first acts of the Minister of War, Enver Pasha, after the outbreak of hostilities between Turkey and Russia was to solemny [sic] warn the Armenian Patriarch that any attempt at insurrection or any act of aggression against the Musulmans on the part of this Community would expose it to the most terrible consequences. He explained to him clearly that, busy at it was defending the country against three powerful enemies, the Government, which no doubt would proceed most rigorously on its own account but making a distinction in the measure of the possible between the guilty and innocent, would be unable to protect it against the just but blind vengeance of the Musulman crowd four and one half times as numerous as the Armenians. He

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pointed out then even if he, Minister of War, had disposable troops to sent [sic] to the spot, the absence of means of communication would prevent him from intervening in time and that, under such conditions, all provocation would be not only a crime but an act of folly. The President of Chamber, Halil Bey, addressed the same warning, in the same impressive language, to the Armenian deputies. 32

The Armenian deportations and massacres were the peak of the demographic engineering policy in the Ottoman Empire. The execution of such a policy would not have resulted in an, at least religiously, homogenous Anatolia had not a strong Turkish nationalist movement emerged with the aim of preserving the territorial and demographic status quo in the post-war context. By the end of the First World War, the territory of the Ottoman state had been de facto delineated into Anatolia and the demographic composition of this territory had been radically changed by the Unionists’ wartime policy. However, there was the possibility of remapping Anatolia along ethnic lines, as favoured by the Allied Powers’ peace-making scheme. Also, the facts that repatriation of the Armenian and Greek refugees, which was seen as indispensable for the establishment of an Armenian state stretching from the six vilayets to Cilicia and the annexation of western Anatolia to Greece, and consequently, the restoration of their abandoned property were alarming a parti- cular group of military and political elite comprising of ex-Unionists, commanders and officials, both in the capital and the provinces. The Turkish nationalist movement was born amidst this alarming situation. Its nucleus, Defence of Rights societies, which were Unionist initiatives, soon appeared in regions particularly under Armenian and Greek threat. When the cession of

territory became a reality rather than a possibility through the Greek occupation of


Izmir in May 1919, it gained momentum, mobilizing the population explicitly against Armenian and Greek political aims within the framework of Islamic solidarity, which proved to be the most effective instrument, together with stressing the Armenian threat in the eastern provinces to draw support from numerous Kurdish notables and tribal leaders. Thus the purpose of this movement was from the beginning to quash Armenian and Greek claims over Anatolia and to use all means to this end. It was within this context that the repatriation of surviving Armenians and the restoration of their property, being among the priorities of the Ottoman governments, under Allied pressure, was to be put into effect. However, the repatriation of the Armenians faced strong resistance, especially in the provinces. It is obvious that the preservation of seized, pillaged or nationalized abandoned property was an important motive for the opposition of the Muslim population to repatriation. But more than these people, the resistance was led by local officials who had a Unionist background and had played a greater or lesser role in the Armenian deportations and massacres and were still occupying positions of influence. Obstruction to the repatriation of the Armenians by such officials was frequently recorded. Reporting on the condition of deported Armenians in Asia Minor, the American Consul General in Salonica wrote:

Encouraged by the [Moudros] Armistice, and the declaration of the Ottoman Government that the deported are now free to return to their homes, many of

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these [Armenian] people

They are to be found all along the roads, in general without money, food, shelter, or clothing; and are therefore easy victims to death and disease. Their condition is made still worse by the fact that although the Central Government has apparently changed its attitude toward them, nevertheless the attitude of local officials with whom they come in vital daily contact, has not changed Those of the deported who reach their homes at last, are finding them either in ruins as a result of general plunder, or else they are occupied by Moslem refugees from European Turkey, the Caucasus, or elsewhere. The latter refuse to give up the homes they occupy, and the Moslem officials naturally support the Moslem occupants rather than the Armenian new-comers, who were the former owners. Thus the Armenians find themselves on the streets of their own villages, surrounded by hostile people and officials, and without means of work or support. 33

are now setting out to return to their old homes.

A similar report was transmitted by the American Consul in Trabzon, who stated that

‘the Turkish authorities are placing all possible obstacles in the path of Allied control officers to prevent the repatriation of Armenians and the restitution of their

property’. 34 Complaints by Armenians who returned to Geyve, a district in Izmit, and demanded the restitution of their homes only to encounter reluctance and actual mistreatment from the district governor was conveyed to the Ottoman government to little avail. 35 At that time the Ottoman government was inclined to ascribe the hindrances to repatriation to the difficulties of transportation, food supplies and insufficient dwellings. 36 Nevertheless, the political aspect of the repatriation was not disregarded. The Ottoman government did not allow the repatriation of the Armenians to eastern Anatolia since the region was sparsely populated due to the evacuation of Muslims following the Russian invasion. If Armenians were resettled there, it was highly possible that Muslims would form as the minority in case of a

plebiscite. 37 As a result, Armenians could effectively be repatriated only to Cilicia where approximately 120,000 Armenians were resettled under British and French occupation. 38 In the east, the British occupation of Kars and the transfer of its administration to the Armenians early in 1919 allowed limited repatriation. The repatriation of the Armenians, therefore, was contingent on the occupation by Allied Powers which the Turkish nationalists, who had become more unified and organized by the autumn of 1919, viewed as an attempt to cede the occupied territory to a would-be Armenian state. Planning a mode of action in Cilicia, the nationalists portrayed the situation such that, as a result of the withdrawal of Ottoman forces from the region, the Armenians began to establish themselves under British and French protection, with the result that an immediate and concentrated Armenian threat emerged in Cilicia. This threat was aggravated by the employment of Armenian divisions in foreign uniforms which, through psychological and material measures, forced the Muslims to emigrate, to be replaced with Armenians from various parts of the Ottoman Empire. As precautions, the nationalist leadership prohibited the emigration of Muslims, and the selling of immovable property to foreigners and Christians, and ordered the implementation of a strict boycott against non-Muslims and the formation of nationalist organizations in the region. 39


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Demographic Engineering in the Late Ottoman Empire


Viewing the Armenians as a graver danger than the officially occupying power, the Turkish nationalists began to extend their organization widely through civil and military staff, local notables, and tribal chieftains, and to form bands in Cilicia. Exploiting the French enrolment of Armenian volunteers in the occupation forces, they targeted the Armenians in order to force the French to withdraw. As a matter of fact, France, as soon as it took over control of the region from the British, displayed its willingness to reach an agreement with the Turkish nationalists. In January 1920, nationalist attacks began in Maras¸, a district in Cilicia with one of the highest percentages of Armenian population in late 1919. Besieging the city for about three weeks, nationalist mobilization resulted in the devastation of the district and the killing of thousands of Armenians. 40 Similar action was followed in Urfa, Hac¸in and Ayintab. When it became obvious as early as June 1920 that France was endea- vouring to reach an agreement with the nationalists, which eventually resulted in a complete withdrawal, there remained no option for the Armenians but to migrate, despite assurances for their safety from both the nationalist government and France. In consequence, over 50,000 Armenians departed from Cilicia prior to and immediately after the conclusion of the Franco-Turkish Accord. 41 Thus, destruction of the material foundation of a perceived threat toward the territorial integrity of what remained of the Ottoman Empire was a legitimate reason for action from the Turkish nationalists’ point of view. Although their motives and goals demonstrated some fundamental differences from those of the Unionists in a radically changed context, they resorted to the same means in dealing with both the Armenians and the Greeks during their struggle. In fact, like the Unionists, they viewed the non-Muslims as a threat. 42

The removal of almost the entire Armenian population from Anatolia during the First World War and its aftermath signified the radical shift in the management of ethnic conflict from an imperial tradition to one peculiar to nation-state formation, in which nation was defined in ethnic and religious terms. Although resorting to repressive measures to terminate a conflict is common to both, the nation-state is by definition exclusionary and therefore, in addition to suppressing the element of instability, it may opt to eliminate it since it is no longer only a source of instability but also represents the ‘other’ and a rival of the ‘imagined nation’. In the recon- structed ethnic and religious nationalism of the Unionists and later the Turkish nationalists, the Armenians were obviously cast out of the Ottoman com- munity, particularly after the entry of the Ottoman state into the First World War. Whether well-founded or not, they were perceived by the policy makers as a menace to the security of the state. Legitimized by security concerns, the implementation of the Armenian deportation, however, demonstrates that the government’s aim was not confined to security. Changing the demographic composition of Anatolia and providing that no potentially ‘dangerous’ element would densely inhabit any given region in order to create the desired social fabric were the principal goals. Elimination of ‘undesirables’, central to the making of the Turkish nation-state in 1923, was the most noticeable characteristic of the final transformation of the Ottoman Empire. Construing this transformation as the eventual consequence of

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472 N. S¸eker

competing nationalisms among ethnic groups on overlapping territory seems insufficient. Rather, it was the product of the redefinition of the ethno-religious constituencies of the nation, as Turks and Muslims, by the civil and military elite representing the central state having a capability to mobilize various means for the ethnic restructuring of Anatolia. Actually, such means of demographic reconstruc- tion as deportation and resettlement could widely and effectively be carried out only by an organized power, that is, the state. It is noticeable that the ethnic restructuring of Anatolia was fulfilled by two successive cadres of officials and officers, who were capable of using governmental means to this end. Triggered in a wartime situation by the Unionists, the process was completed by the Turkish nationalists, whose success was largely predetermined by the ground that the Unionist policy had prepared.



For motives of deliberate demographic alterations and tools employed in the process see M.Z. Bookman, The Demographic Struggle for Power: The Political Economy of Demographic Engineering in the Modern World (London: Frank Cass, 1997) and M. Weiner and M.S. Teitelbaum, Political Demography, Demographic Engineering (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001).


For the relationship between dissolution of empires, forced migration and ethnic cleansing see R. Brubaker, ‘Aftermaths of Empire and the Unmixing of Peoples’, in K. Barkey and M. von Hagen

(eds.), After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building (Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview

Press, 1997), pp.155–80.







Tekeli, ‘‘Osmanlı

Imparatorlu gu’ndan Gu¨nu¨mu¨ze Nu¨fusun Zorunlu Yer De gis¸tirmesi ve


Sorunu’, Toplum ve Bilim, Vol.50 (Summer 1990), pp.50–4.



K.H. Karpat, Ottoman Population: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Wisconsin: The

University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), pp.60–77 and A.C. Eren, Tu¨rkiye’de Go¨c¸ ve Go¨c¸ men Meseleleri:





Tanzimat Devri, Ilk Kurulan Go¨c¸ men Komisyonu, C¸ ıkarılan Tu¨zu¨kler ( Istanbul: Nurgo¨k Matbaası,






Ipek, Rumeli’den Anadolu’ya Tu¨rk Go¨c¸leri (Ankara: Tu¨rk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 1994), pp.155–9

and A. Sofuo glu, ‘Osmanlı Devletinde Ortaya C¸ ıkan Go¨c¸ Problemleri ve Tu¨rk Go¨c¸lerinin Bir Safhası:

1903–1904 (Rumıˆ 1319) Yılında Meydana Gelen Go¨c¸ler’, Tu¨rk Ku¨ltu¨ru¨, Vol.XXXIII, No.383 (March 1995), pp.177–8.


From George Horton to the Secretary of State, 21 Feb. 1914, United States-National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.00/606.



Davison, ‘Nationalism as an Ottoman Problem and the Ottoman Response’, in W.W. Haddad and


Ochenswald (eds.), Nationalism in a Non-National State: The Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire

(Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1977), pp.25–56.




Kushner, The Rise of Turkish Nationalism 1876–1908 (London: Frank Cass, 1977), pp.51–4.




Hanio glu, The Young Turks in Opposition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp.169–70.


E.J. Zu¨rcher, Unionist Factor: The Role of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Turkish National Movement, 1905–1926 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1984), pp.22–3.


For a convincing argument see A. Kansu, The Revolution of 1908 in Turkey (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997),




K.H. Karpat, ‘The Memoirs of N. Batzaria. The Young Turks and Nationalism’, International Journal





of Middle East Studies, Vol.6 (1975), pp.276–99; S. Aks¸in, Jo¨n Tu¨rkler ve Ittihat ve Terakki ( Istanbul:

Remzi Kitabevi, 1987), pp.103–4.



U. Heyd, Foundations of Turkish Nationalism: The Life and Teachings of Ziya Go¨kalp (London:

Luzac & Company Ltd and the Harvill Press, 1950), p.73.





H.C. Yalc¸ın, Siyasal Anılar ( Istanbul: Tu¨rkiye Is¸ Bankası Ku¨ltu¨r Yayınları, 2000), p.73.



Z. Go¨kalp, Principles of Turkism, trans. R. Devereux (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1968), p.8.





T.Z. Tunaya, Tu¨rkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, Vol.III ( Istanbul: Iletis¸im Yayınları, 2000), p.295.



N.D. Harris, ‘The Effect of the Balkan Wars on European Alliances and the Future of the Ottoman Empire’, Proceedings of the American Political Science Association, Vol.10, Tenth Annual Meeting

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Demographic Engineering in the Late Ottoman Empire


(1913), p.111; R.H. Davison, ‘The Armenian Crisis, 1912–1914’, The American Historical Review, Vol.53, No.3 (April 1948), pp.481–505.

18. H. Edib, Turkey Faces West (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1930), p.115.






19. F. Du¨ndar,

Ittihat ve Terakki’nin Mu¨slu¨manları

Iskaˆn Politikası (1913–1918) ( Istanbul:


Yayınları, 2001).

20. Ziya Go¨kalp’s words criticizing Ottomanism demonstrate well the recently developed nationalist economic outlook. He claims that it was the Turks who had suffered most from Ottomanism since the Christians and Jews had occupied economic key positions in commerce, industry and the crafts while Muslims who were the ruling millet in the Ottoman Empire remained as peasants, government officials and soldiers. As a result, ‘while the poor Turks inherited from the Ottoman Empire nothing but a

broken sword and an old-fashioned plough, there arose among the non-Muslim communities, which had no part in the Government, a wealthy bourgeoisie with European education. The Muslims produced no such class possessing the qualifications required of rulers, notably education, initiative and organizing abilities’. Heyd, Foundations of Turkish Nationalism, pp.73–4.

21. N. Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1964), p.335.


22. N. Tac¸alan, Ege’de Kurtulus¸ Savas¸ı Bas¸larken ( Istanbul: Aksoy Yayıncılık, 1998), p.44.

23. R.P. Adalian, ‘Comparative Policy and Differential Practice in the Treatment of Minorities in

Wartime: The United States Archival Evidence on the Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman

Empire’, Journal of Genocide Research, Vol.3, No.1 (2001), pp.31–48.

24. Given the politicization of this issue, consider recent parliamentary decisions in several countries, it might be useful to remember an article published 30 years ago giving the essence of controversy as emanating from the approach of both the Turkish and Armenian historians. It is no exaggeration to point out that the claims presented in the article are still valid. G. Dyer, ‘Turkish ‘‘Falsifiers’’ and Armenian ‘‘Deceivers’’: Historiography and the Armenian Massacres’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.12 (Jan. 1976), pp.99–110.

25. F.M. Go¨c¸ek, ‘Reconstructing the Turkish Historiography on the Armenian Massacres and Deaths of 1915’, in R.G. Hovannisian (ed.), Looking Backward, Moving Forward (New Brunswick and London:

Transaction Publishers, 2003), p.211.


26. A Circassian by origin, Dr. Res¸it is one of the founders of the Ottoman Union Society ( Ittihad-i Osmani Cemiyeti), the nucleus of the CUP that had appeared in 1889. When most of the leading members of the CUP were exiled by Abdu¨lhamit II in1895, he was enrolled in the Fourth Army which was situated in the eastern provinces where the Armenian events took place. In 1897, he was exiled to Tripoli where he stayed until the 1908 Revolution. When the Great War broke out, he was appointed governor of the Diyarbekir province. He implemented the deportation law of 1915 in the region and he was arrested due to his responsibility for the Armenian massacres at the end of the war. Before being court-martialled, he escaped from prison and committed suicide on 6 Feb. 1919. Part of his memoirs relating to the Armenian deportation and massacres were serialized between 10 Feb. and 14 March


1919 in a daily newspaper named Memleket. Its transcription was published as Su¨rgu¨nden Intihara

Dr. Res¸it Bey’in Hatıraları [From Exile to Suicide: Dr. Res¸it Bey’s Memoirs], ed. Ahmet


Mehmetefendio glu ( Izmir: Tu¨kelmat A.S¸., 1992), pp.19–43.

27. His accounts appeared in a daily under the title, ‘Ermeni Vakayi ve Esbab ve Tesirleri I-III’ [Armenian Events and Their Causes and Effects], Vakit, 10, 12 and 13 Dec. 1918.

28. Davison, ‘Nationalism as an Ottoman Problem’, p.45.

29. H. Nezir, ‘Aspects of the Social and Political Thought of the Ottoman Military, 1908–1914’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Manchester, 2001).

30. G.W. Gawrych, ‘The Culture and Politics of Violence in Turkish Society, 1903–14’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.22, No.3 (July 1986), pp.307–30.

31. F. Ahmad, ‘Unionist Relations with the Greek, Armenian and Jewish Communities of the Ottoman Empire, 1908–1914’, in B. Braude and B. Lewis (eds.), Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire (London: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1982), pp.420, 423.

32. The National Congress of Turkey, The Turco-Armenian Question: The Turkish Point of View (Constantinople: Socie´te´ Anonyme de Papeterie et d’Imprimerie, 1919), pp.79–80. Cf. ‘And as they could not reach the guilty ones, they punished all those that were left, irrespective of age or sex; and as Enver put it, they had no time to discriminate and settle this matter, while war was pending, in a ‘‘platonic’’ way, but had to resort to drastic measures, no matter who might be hurt thereby. Enver has told me repeatedly that he warned the Armenian Patriarch that if the Armenians made any attack on

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474 N. S¸eker

the Turks or rendered any assistance to the Russians while this war was pending, he will be compelled to use extreme measures against them.’ From Morgenthau to Lansing, 18 Nov. 1915, United States- National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.00/798 1/2.

33. From George Horton to the Secretary of State, 16 Dec. 1918, United States-National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.4016/398.

34. From G. Bie Ravndal to the Secretary of State, 12 Aug. 1919, United States-National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.00/923.

35. Sabah [Morning], 21 Nov. 1918.

36. Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 21 Dec. 1918, Meclis-i Mebusan Zabıt Ceridesi [Minutes of the Ottoman Assembly].



37. S. Aks¸in, Istanbul Hu¨ku¨metleri ve Millıˆ Mu¨cadele, Vol.I ( Istanbul: Cem Yayınevi, 1992), p.32.

38. From J.B. Jackson to Secretary of State, 31 May 1919, United States-National Archives, Record


Group 59, 867.00/897. Also E . Bre´mond, La Cilicie en 1919–1920 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1921),


39. General Staff Archive, Ankara, 27 Nov. 1919, 270/196.

40. From Bristol to Secretary of State, 14 Feb. 1920, United States-National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.00/1112 and 23 March 1920, 867.00/1179. Also S.E. Kerr, The Lions of Marash (Albany, NY:

State University of New York Press, 1973).

41. C. Price, ‘Present Turkish Rule in Cilicia’, Current History, Vol.16 (May 1922), pp.216–20.

42. In the light of these facts, the insistence of the Turkish delegation during the Lausanne Peace negotiations for a compulsory and undefined exchange of populations with Greece, and its refusal to accept the repatriation of the Armenian refugees, become comprehensible. B.N. S¸ims¸ir, Lozan Telgrafları [Lausanne Telegrams], Vol.II (Ankara: Tu¨rk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 1992), p.581.