The Fate Of The Armenians -ar191602

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ONE of the few results that may be looked for from the War of Nations is the erection of an autonomous, or partly autonomous Armenians state in Asia Minor, although here, as with Poland, there is little likelihood that all the fractions of this unhappy race can ever be united under a single government, for at present the Armenians are divided among three different nations, Russia, Turkey, and Persia, their political lot closely resembling that of the Poles in this respect. Some aspects of the Armenians situation are presented in an article in Nuova Antologia (Rome), by a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Signor Filippo Media. At the outset he notes that but for Disraeli's opposition, the Armenian question might have been settled at the Congress of Berlin, in 18878, by constituting an Armenian dependency under the nominal suzerainty of Turkey. A petition signed by 200,000 Armenians had been presented, and several of the delegates were inclined to support the project, but Disraeli and his assistant, Salisbury, opposed it inflexibly. The chief cause of this opposition was the fear that the new Armenian state would follow the example of the Balkan states and gravitate toward Russia, and would thus render Turkey more vulnerable in case of a Russia attack in Asia Minor.

The same indifference to the fate of the Armenians, dictated by considerations of political expediency, prevented any attempt to enforce the article of the Berlin Treaty requiring the Turkish Government to reform the local abuses in Armenia, under the general supervision of the powers. As is well known, this article has always remained a dead letter, and not even the impression caused by the terrible happenings of 1895 and 1896 could induce the powers to interfere. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bourgeois, replied to an interpellation in the Chamber of Deputies, that in view of " the delicacy of the subject," his answer would have to be given personally and in writing, and in the very midst of the massacres, the Czar sent an autograph letter to the Sultan, Abdul Hamid accompanied by valuable gifts. To make the balance between the Allies and the Central Powers even, we are reminded that about the same time the German Emperor sent his photograph, with a friendly inscription, to the Sultan.

While this Italian writer is evidently a decided pro-Armenian, the general exactness of his presentment can scarcely be questioned. The recent revival of the Armenian persecutions in the most aggressive form is matter of recent history, and we must feel all the greater satisfaction that at last some apparently effective steps have been taken by a neutral whose power and influence are due, not to temporal, but to spiritual force. Of this, Signor Meda writes as follows:

The efforts of Monsignor Dolci, the Apostolic Delegate at Constantinople, though whom Benedict XV has transmitted his remonstrances and solicitude to the Sublime Porte, have been crowned with a considerable measure of success. In fact, the Turkish Minister of the Interior was induced, last September, to send a circular to the governors of the Empire, in which it is stated that the object of the measures taken in regard to the Armenians was only to check the rebellious activity of that nationality and its aspirations for the formation of an autonomous state, and not to massacre the Armenians.

In accordance with this, orders were given to suspend their expatriation, to protect those who had already been expatriated, on their way to the new districts assigned to them, and to provide them with requisites for the establishment of new abodes. All who should attack them on the way, or who should commit any acts of brigandage, were threatened with heavy penalties, and, finally, it was ordained that all failing to conform to these instructions should be denounced.

It appears that the Turkish authorities did not confine themselves to this circular, as information secured from the Apostolic Delegate is said to confirm the report that certain officials were punished, and that in many places the persecution had ceased. The warmest thanks were sent to the Holy See by the Armenian patriarch, with the earnest wish that the Armenian blood that had been shed, both of Roman Catholics and Gregorians, might serve a union between the two churches.

Of course, at best, this is only a step in the right direction, and any real a improvement of conditions can only come when the Turks are brought under the control either of the Allies or of the Central Powers, as will inevitably happen, whatever may be the result of the war.

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