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Armenian And Civilization -nyt191702b
Armenian and Civilization
(Published by New York Times Company, Times Square, New York)
CURRENT HISTORY MAGAZINE [FEB. 1917]
Armenian and Civilization
IN the history of the struggles and triumphs of various nations the world is thrilled with the romance of conquest and exploration, of revolutions sweeping over the land, of dynasties that rise, flourish, and pass away. From these annals emerge the heroes, immortal names upon the scroll of national honor: great men and women whose personality and appearance are preserved by the genius of sculptors and the skill of painters. All this gives birth to that peculiar pride which we call patriotism, and which in turn renders a nation's flag a sacred emblem.
It is therefore with a species of sad surprise that we contemplate a people, superior in every way, chronologically the first Christians in the world, highly educated, enterprising, ambitious, who after twenty-five centuries of existence are without unity as a nation.
I am referring, of course, to the Armenians. Peaceable, law-abiding, eager to amass wealth and acquire culture, they have ever turned their attention to the arts and crafts rather than to arms and conquest. The result has been endless persecution through the ages, until today Armenia may be regarded as a vast community sacrificed upon the altar of barbarity and greed.
During the last six centuries the tormentors have been the Turks, whose cruelty has outdone all the others. They have confiscated or demolished property, despoiled women, massacred Armenians by the thousand, and prevented them from developing the great resources of their fatherland.
It is high time the world should know the truth concerning the whole Turkish Empire. Its people are practically without ambition, almost devoid of commercial energy, and steeped in a religion that is the very quintessence of predestination. "Whatever is to be is to be. So what is the use?" That which was good enough for their forebears is good enough for them. Such is their attitude toward progress. They have always regarded with a mixture of envy, spite, and suspicion any innovations the inaugurate. Such evidences of advanced civilization -- railroads, quays, great buildings, modern inventions -- as are to be found in Turkey today have been forced upon them by foreigners and constructed by foreign engineers; and the Turks have tolerated them because the building of such vast improvements offered great opportunities for graft.
During the last generation or so extraordinary care has been taken by the crafty Turk to conceal the true condition of his depraved country. Wealthy and influential tourists, as well as gifted writers, have been led astray, deliberately misinformed by the oily tongues of diplomats and officials. The result has been numerous books, stories, and reports of "the delightful home life," the "clean Turkish baths," the magnificent cities and the pleasing aspect with romantic Turkey presents to the world. In many instances, no doubt, writers have been well paid to convey these "impressions," and along with them misrepresentations concerning the character and status of the Armenians. The latter have been pictured as mutinous, troublesome, filled with treachery and deceit, lacking in national faith and patriotism, their only thought being to accumulate riches at the expense of the poor Turk. The world must now learn that most of these were honeyed lies.
In this executive capacity the Turk has always been a tyrant. Look into the history of his relations with the Bulgarians, the Syrians, the Persians, the Greeks: you will find oppression, tyranny, everywhere; only he has treated the Armenians with the greatest severity, for the reason that the descendants of Haig have never been able to fight back to any great extent. They have never been permitted to organize themselves into a State or nation of their own, with an adequate army at their command. Since the days of their lost kingdom, centuries ago, the Armenians have been merely a helpless part of the Ottoman Empire, subject to unjust taxation, plundered, and murdered at irregular intervals. That the civilized world should have stood aside, as it were, and allowed such a gigantic exhibition of injustice to go on is a circumstance calculated to impair one's faith in human nature. All the printer's ink in Christendom and all the eloquence of diplomats plenipotentiary cannot blot out the crimson stains that redden the pages of Turkish history during these shameful centuries.
If coming events cast their shadows before them, it would seen to an observant person that the opportunity is soon to be given to certain leading powers to redeem themselves by securing for Armenia the independence to which that country is rightfully entitles. Let us hope they will do this, and do it cheerfully.
In this connection one cannot help wondering just what Germany's attitude is toward Armenia and what is to be Armenia's fate in the event Germany is finally triumphant. It is to be hoped her conscience and her heart will be touched, after having witnessed so must distress, both at home and among the enemies with whom she has fought, and that, as a result, she will do her share in freeing forever the Armenian people from the thralldom in which they have been held.
I am sure the opinion is widespread that England is the logical nation to intervene in Armenia's behalf. During the last four decades, beginning with the treaty of Berlin in 1878, Great Britain has had brilliant opportunities to bring about much-needed reforms in Turkey. But for reasons that (with a little study) will become obvious to the reader, England has always acted in such a halfhearted manner as to leave the Turks free to continue their dastardly course.
Had a people as energetic and resourceful as the Armenians been able to realize their ambition to become an independent nation, and had they long since organized an efficient army of nearly a million men, what a different state of affairs might now be prevailing in the eastern theatre of the present war! Allied with France or England, they could have given efficient service against the Turks on many a "front," and perhaps materially changed the aspect of things. For the Armenians are great warriors when given the opportunity. There is a saying among the Turks: "Let not fifty Armenians get together, armed. They will conquer the world!"
Another country that should aid materially in gaining independence for Armenia is Russia owes it ti the Armenians to lend her assistance; for did she not at one time promise this very thing?
Soon after the war began the Turks attempted to induce a large number of Armenians to join the two million or more of their fellow-exiles in Russia, create a reign of terror and revolution in that country, and, if possible, deliver vast numbers of Russian soldiers into the hands of the Turks. This the Armenians indignantly refused to do, becoming so disgusted with the tactics of the Turkish Government that many thousands, already drafted into the army, deserted, while every Armenian that could manage to do so got out of the country and enlisted in foreign armies.
There are millions of Armenians scattered throughout the civilized world who would welcome an opportunity to return to their native land.
Eminently able to govern themselves, they deserve to have the same independence that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years by nationalities hardly their equal in intelligence and ambition. They want the whole world to know the truth: how for untold generations the Turks have ground them beneath the heel of oppression, woefully retarding the progress of the entire country. It is time some great power intervened and brought to an end the spectacle of a brutal people trampling the very souls out of human beings infinitely their superiors.
A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922