CRESCENT AND IRON CROSS
BY E.F. BENSON
Crescent and Iron Cross, Preface
In compiling the following pages I have had access to certain sources of official information, the nature of which I am not at liberty to specify further. I have used these freely in such chapters of this book as deal with recent and contemporary events in Turkey or in Germany in connection with Turkey: the chapter, for instance, entitled 'Deutschland ueber Allah,' is based very largely on such documents. I have tried to be discriminating in their use, and have not, as far as I am aware, stated anything derived from them as a fact, for which I had not found corroborative evidence. With regard to the Armenian massacres I have drawn largely on the testimony collected by Lord Bryce, on that brought forward by Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee in his pamphlet The Murder of a Nation, and The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks, and on the pamphlet by Dr. Martin Niepage, called The Horrors of Aleppo. In the first chapter I have based the short historical survey on the contribution of Mr. D.G. Hogarth to The Balkans (Clarendon Press, 1915). The chapter called 'Thy Kingdom is Divided' is in no respect at all an official utterance, and merely represents the individual opinions and surmises of the author. It has, however, the official basis that the Allies have pledged themselves to remove the power of the Turk from Constantinople, and to remove out of the power of the Turk the alien peoples who have too long already been subject to his murderous rule. I have, in fact, but attempted to conjecture in what kind of manner that promise will be fulfilled.
Fresh items of news respecting internal conditions in Turkey are continually coming in, and if one waited for them all, one would have to wait to the end of the war before beginning to write at all on this subject. But since such usefulness as this book may possibly have is involved with the necessity of its appearance before the end of the war, I set a term to the gathering of material, and, with the exception of two or three notes inserted later, ceased to collect it after June 1917. But up to then anything that should have been inserted in surveys and arguments, and is not, constitutes a culpable omission on my part.
Crescent and Iron Cross, Contents
THE THEORY OF THE OLD TURKS
THE THEORY OF THE NEW TURKS
THE END OF THE ARMENIAN QUESTION
THE QUESTION OF SYRIA AND PALESTINE
DEUTSCHLAND UeBER ALLAH
'THY KINGDOM IS DIVIDED'
THE GRIP OF THE OCTOPUS
Crescent and Iron Cross, Chapter I
THE THEORY OF THE OLD TURKS
The maker of phrases plies a dangerous trade. Very often his phrase is applicable for the moment and for the situation in view of which he coined it, but his coin has only a temporary validity: it is good for a month or for a year, or for whatever period during which the crisis lasts, and after that it lapses again into a mere token, a thing without value and without meaning. But the phrase cannot, as in the case of a monetary coinage, at once be recalled, for it has gone broadcast over the land, or, at any rate, it is not recalled, and it goes on being passed from hand to hand, its image and superscription defaced by wear, long after it has ceased to represent anything. In itself it is obsolete, but people still trade with it, and think it represents what it represented when it came hot from the Mint. And, unfortunately, it sometimes happens that it is worse than valueless; it becomes a forgery (which it may not have been when it came into circulation), and deceives those who traffic with it, flattering them with an unfounded possession.
Such a phrase, which still holds currency, was once coined by Lord Aberdeen in the period of the Crimean War. 'Turkey is a sick man,' he said, and added something which gave great offence then about the advisability of putting Turkey out of his misery. I do not pretend to quote correctly, but that was the gist of it. Nor do I challenge the truth of Lord Aberdeen's phrase at the period when he made it. It possibly contained a temporary truth, a valid point of view, which, if it had been acted on, might have saved a great deal of trouble afterwards, but it missed then, and more than misses now, the essential and salient truth about Turkey. The phrase, unfortunately, still continued to obtain credit, and nowadays it is a forgery; it rings false.
For at whatever period we regard Turkey, and try to define that monstrous phenomenon, we can make a far truer phrase than Lord Aberdeen's. For Turkey is not a sick man: Turkey is a sickness. He is not sick, nor ever has been, for he is the cancer itself, the devouring tumour that for centuries has fed on living tissue, absorbing it and killing it. It has never had life in itself, except in so far that the power of preying on and destroying life constitutes life, and such a power, after all, we are accustomed to call not life, but death. Turkey, like death, continues to exist and to dominate, through its function of killing. Life cannot kill, it is disease and death that kill, and from the moment that Turkey passed from being a nomadic tribe moving westwards from the confines of Persia, it has existed only and thrived on a process of absorption and of murder. When first the Turks came out of their Eastern fastnesses they absorbed; when they grew more or less settled, and by degrees the power of mere absorption, as by some failure of digestion, left them, they killed. They became a huge tumour, that nourished itself by killing the living tissues that came in contact with it. Now, by the amazing irony of fate, who weaves stranger dramas than could ever be set on censored stages, for they both take hundreds of years to unravel themselves, and are of the most unedifying character, Turkey, the rodent cancer, has been infected by another with greater organisation for devouring; the disease of Ottomanism is threatened by a more deadly hungerer, and Prussianism has inserted its crab-pincers into the cancer that came out of Asia. Those claws are already deeply set, and the problem for civilised nations is first to disentangle the nippers that are cancer in a cancer, and next to deprive of all power over alien peoples the domination that has already been allowed to exist too long.
The object of this book is the statement of the case on which all defenders of liberty base their prosecution against Turkey itself, and against the Power that to-day has Turkey in its grip.
Historical surveys are apt to be tedious, but in order to understand at all adequately the case against Turkey as a ruler and controller of subject peoples, it is necessary to go, though briefly, into her blood-stained genealogy. There is no need to enter into ethnological discussions as to earlier history, or define the difference between the Osmanli Turks and those who were spread over Asia Minor before the advent of the Osmanlis from the East. But it was the Osmanlis who were the cancerous and devouring nation, and it is they who to-day rule over a vast territory (subject to Germany) of peoples alien to them by religion and blood and all the instincts common to civilised folk. Until Germany, 'deep patient Germany,' suddenly hoisted her colours as a champion of murder and rapine and barbarism, she the mother of art and literature and science, there was nothing in Europe that could compare with the anachronism of Turkey being there at all. Then, in August 1914, there was hoisted the German flag, superimposed with skulls and cross-bones, and all the insignia of piracy and highway robbery on land and on sea, and Germany showed herself an anachronism worthy to impale her arms on the shield of the most execrable domination that has ever oppressed the world since the time when the Huns under Attila raged like a forest fire across the cultivated fields of European civilisation. To-day, in the name of Kultur, a similar invasion has broken on shores that seemed secure, and it is no wonder that it has found its most valuable victim and ally in the Power that adopted the same methods of absorption and extermination centuries before the Hohenzollerns ever started on their career of highway robbery. But like seeks like, and perhaps it was not wholly the fault of our astonishing diplomacy in Constantinople that Turkey, wooed like some desirable maiden, cast in her lot with the Power that by instinct and tradition most resembled her. Spiritual blood, no less than physical blood, is thicker than water, and Gott and Allah, hand-in-hand, pledged each other in the cups they had filled with the blood that poured from the wine-presses of Belgium and of Armenia.
For centuries before the Osmanli Turks made their appearance in Asia Minor, there had come from out of the misty East numerous bodies of Turks, pushing westwards, and spreading over the Euphrates valley and over Persia, in nomadic or military colonisations, and it is not until the thirteenth century that we find the Osmanli Turks, who give their name to that congregation of races known as the Ottoman Empire, established in the north-west corner of Asia Minor. Like all previous Turkish immigrations, they came not in any overwhelming horde, with sword in one hand and Koran in the other, but as a small compact body with a genius for military organisation, and the gift, which they retain to this day, of stalwart fighting. The policy to which they owed their growth was absorption, and the people whom they first began to absorb were Greeks and other Christians, and it was to a Christian girl, Nilufer, that Osman married his son Orkhan. They took Christian youths from the families of Greek dwellers, forced them to apostatise, gave them military training, and married them to Turkish girls. It was out of this blend of Greek and Turkish blood, as Mr. D.G. Hogarth points out, that they derived their national being and their national strength. This system of recruiting they steadily pursued not only among the Christian peoples with whom they came in contact, but among the settlements of Turks who had preceded them in this process of pushing westwards, and formed out of them the professional soldiery known as Janissaries. They did not fight for themselves alone, but as mercenaries lent their arms to other peoples, Moslem and Christian alike, who would hire their services. This was a policy that paid well, for, after having delivered some settlement from the depredations of an inconvenient neighbour, and with their pay in their pocket, they sometimes turned on those who had hired their arms, took their toll of youths, and finally incorporated them in their growing empire. Like an insatiable sponge, they mopped up the sprinklings of disconnected peoples over the fruitful floor of Asia Minor, and swelled and prospered. But as yet the extermination of these was not part of their programme: they absorbed the strength and manhood of their annexations into their own soldiery, and came back for more. They did not levy those taxes paid in the persons of soldiers for their armies from their co-religionists, since Islam may not fight against Islam, but by means of peaceful penetration (a policy long since abandoned) they united scattered settlements of Turks to themselves by marriages and the bond of a common tongue and religion.
Their expansion into Europe began in the middle of the fourteenth century, when, as mercenaries, they fought against the Serbs, and fifty years later they had a firm hold over Bulgaria as well. Greece was their next prey; they penetrated Bosnia and Macedonia, and in 1453 attacked and took Constantinople under Mohammed the Conqueror. Still true to the policy of incorporation they continued to mop up the remainder of the Balkan Peninsula, and at the same time consolidated themselves further in Asia Minor. By the beginning of the seventeenth century their expansion reached its utmost geographical limits, but already the Empire held within it the seeds of its own decay, and by a curious irony the force that should still keep it together was derived not from its own strength, but from the jealousies of the European Powers among themselves, who would willingly have dismembered it, but feared the quarrels that would surely result from the apportionment of its territories. The Ottoman Empire from then onwards has owed its existence to its enemies.
Its weakness lay in itself, for it was very loosely knit together, and no bond, whether of blood or religion or tongue, bound to it the assembly of Christian and Jewish and non-Moslem races of which it was so largely composed. The Empire never grew (as, for instance, the British Empire grew) by the emigration and settlement of the Osmanli stock in the territories it absorbed: it never gave, it only took. From the beginning right up to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it has been a military despotism, imposing itself on unwilling and alien tribes whom it drained of their blood, and then left in neglect until some further levy was needed. None of its conquered peoples was ever given a share in the government; they were left unorganised and, so to speak, undigested elements under the Power which had forced them into subjection, and one by one the whole of the European peoples included in that uncemented tyranny have passed from under Turkish control. Turkey in Europe has dwindled to a strip along the Bosporus to the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, Egypt has been lost, Tripoli also, and the only force that, for the last hundred years has kept alive in Europe the existence of that monstrous anachronism has been the strange political phenomenon, now happily extinct, called the Balance of Power. No one of the Great Powers, from fear of the complications that would ensue, could risk the expulsion of the Turkish Government from Constantinople, and there all through the nineteenth century it has been maintained lest the Key of the Black Sea, which unlocked the bolts that barred Russia's development into the Mediterranean, should lead to such a war as we are now passing through. That policy, for the present, has utterly defeated its own ends, for the key is in the pockets of Prussia. But all through that century, though the Powers maintained Turkey there, they helped to liberate, or saw liberate themselves, the various Christian kingdoms in Europe over which at the beginning of the eighteenth century Turkey exercised a military despotism. They weakened her in so far as they could, but they one and all refused to let her die, and above all refused to give her that stab in the heart which would have been implied in her expulsion from Constantinople.
For centuries from the first appearance of the Osmanlis in north-west Asia Minor down to the reign of Abdul Hamid, the Empire maintained itself, with alternate bouts of vigour and relapses, on the general principle of drawing its strength from its subject peoples. Internally, from whatever standpoint we view it, whether educational, economic, or industrial, it has had the worst record of any domination known to history. Rich in mineral wealth, possessed of lands that were once the granary of the world, watered by amazing rivers, and with its strategic position on the Mediterranean that holds the master-key of the Black Sea in its hands, it has remained the most barbaric and least progressive of all states. Its roads and means of communication remained up till the last quarter of the nineteenth century much as they had been in the days of Osman; except along an insignificant strip of sea-coast railways were non-existent; it was bankrupt in finance and in morals, and did not contain a single seed that might ripen into progress or civilisation. Mesopotamia was once the most fertile of all lands, capable of supporting not itself alone, but half the civilised world: nowadays, under the stewardship of the Turk, it has been suffered to become a desert for the greater part of the year and an impracticable swamp for the remainder. Where great cities flourished, where once was reared the pride of Babylon and of Nineveh, there huddle the squalid huts of fever-stricken peasants, scarce able to gain their half-starved living from the soil that once supported in luxury and pomp the grandeur of metropolitan cities. The ancient barrages, the canals, the systems of irrigation were all allowed to silt up and become useless; and at the end of the nineteenth century you would not find in all Mesopotamia an agricultural implement that was in any way superior to the ploughs and the flails of more than two thousand years ago. But so long as there was a palace-guard about the gates to secure the safety of the Sultan and his corrupt military oligarchy, so long as there were houris to divert their leisure, tribute of youths to swell their armies, and taxes wrung from starving subjects to maintain their pomp, there was not one of those who held the reins of government who cared the flick of an eyelash for the needs of the nations on whom the Empire rested, for the cultivation of its soil that would yield a hundredfold to the skilled husbandman, or for the exploitation and development of its internal wealth. While there was left in the emaciated carcase of the Turkish Empire enough live tissue for the cancerous Government to grow fat on, it gave not one thought to the welfare of all those races on whom it had fastened itself. Province after province of its European dominions might be lost to it, but the Balance of Power still kept the Sultan on his throne, and left the peoples of Asia Minor and Syria at his mercy. They were largely of alien religion and of alien tongue, and their individual weakness was his strength. Neglect, and the decay consequent on neglect, was the lot of all who languished under that abominable despotism.
With the accession in 1876 of Abdul Hamid, of cursed memory, there dawned on the doomed subject peoples of the Ottoman Empire a day of bloodier import than any yet. The year before and during that year had occurred the Bulgarian atrocities and massacres, and the word 'massacre' lingered and made music in Abdul Hamid's brain. He said it over to himself and dwelt upon it, and meditated on the nature and possibilities of massacre. The troubles which massacre had calmed had arisen before his accession out of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, which corresponded to the Greek Patriarchate, and was given power over districts and peoples whom the Greeks justly considered to belong to them by blood and religion. Greek armed bands came into collision with Bulgarian bands, and in order to calm these disturbances by thoroughly effectual means, irregular Turkish troops were sent into Bulgaria, charged with the command to 'stop the row,' but with no other instructions. Indiscriminate killing, with all the passions and horrors that bloodshed evokes in the half-civilised, followed, and there was no more trouble just then in the disturbed districts, for there was none to make trouble. In 1876 Abdul Aziz was deposed by a group of king-makers under Midhat Pasha, Murad V. reigned shadow-like for three months, and during the same year Abdul Hamid was finally selected to fill the throne, and stand forth as the Shadow of God. It was a disturbed and tottering inheritance to which he succeeded, riddled with the dry-rot of corruption, but the inheritor proved himself equal to the occasion.
For a little while he was all abroad, and at the bidding of Midhat, who had placed him on the throne, he summoned a kind of representative Turkish Parliament, by way of imbuing the Great Powers with the idea that he was an enlightened Shadow of God bent on reform. This parody of a Parliament lasted but a short time: it was no more than a faint, dissolving magic-lantern picture. In the spring of 1877 Rumania, under Russian encouragement, broke away from Turkish rule. Turkey declared war on Russia, and in 1878 found herself utterly defeated. At Adrianople was drawn up the Treaty of San Stefano, creating an independent Bulgarian state, and, in the opinion of Great Britain and Germany, giving Russia far greater influence in the Balkan Peninsula than was agreeable to that disastrous supporter of Turkey, the Balance of Power. In consequence the Treaty of San Stefano was superseded by the Treaty of Berlin.
In those arrangements Abdul Hamid had no voice, but he was well content to sit quiet, think about what was to be done with what was left him, and thank his waning crescent that once again the Balance of Power had secured Constantinople for him, leaving him free to deal with his Asiatic dominions, and such part of Europe as was left him, as he thought fit. He could safely trust that he would never be ejected from his throne by a foreign Power, and all he need do was to make himself safe against internal disturbances and revolutions which might upset him. And it was then that he begot in the womb of his cold and cunning brain a policy that was all his own, except in so far as the Bulgarian atrocities, consequent on feuds between Bulgars and Greeks, may be considered the father of that hideous birth. But it was he who suckled and nourished it, it was from his brain that it emerged, full-grown and in panoply of armour, as from the brain of Olympian Zeus came Pallas Athene. This new policy was in flat contradiction of all the previous policy, as he had received it from his predecessors, of strengthening Turkey by tributes of man-power from his subject tribes, but it would, he thought, have the same result of keeping the Turk supreme among the alien elements of the Empire. Times had changed; it behoved him to change the methods which hitherto had held together his hapless inheritance.
Now Abdul Hamid was not in any sense a wise man, and the ability which has been attributed to him, in view of the manner in which he successfully defied the civilisations of Europe, is based on premisses altogether false. He never really defied Europe at all; he always yielded, secure in his belief that Europe in the shape of the Balance of Power, was unanimous in keeping him where he was. He never even risked being turned out of Constantinople, for he knew—none better—that all Europe insisted on retaining him there. As regards wisdom, there was never a greater fool, but as regards cunning there was never a greater fox. He had a brain that was absolutely impervious to large ideas: the notion of consolidating and strengthening his Empire by ameliorating its internal conditions, by bringing it within speaking distance of the influence of civilisation and progress, by taking advantage of and developing its immense natural resources, by employing the brains and the industry of his subject races, seems never to have entered his head. He could easily have done all this: there was not a Power in Europe that would not have lent him a helping hand in development and reform, in the establishment of a solvent state, in aiding the condition of the peoples over whom he ruled. In whatever he did, provided that it furthered the welfare of his subjects, whether Turk, Armenian, or Arab, the whole Concert of Europe would have provided him with cash, with missionaries, with engineers, and all the resources of the arts and sciences of peace and of progress. But being a felon, with crime and cunning to take the place of wisdom, he preferred to develop his Empire on his own original lines. In Europe he was but suffered to exist. There remained Asia.
The policy of previous Osmanli rulers has already been roughly defined. They strengthened themselves and the military Turkish despotism round them by absorbing the manhood of the tribes over which they had obtained dominion. Abdul Hamid reversed that policy; he strengthened the Turkish supremacy, not by drawing into it the manhood of his subject peoples, but by destroying that manhood. In proportion, so his foxlike brain reasoned, as his alien subjects were weak, so were the Turks strong. A consistent weakening of alien nations would strengthen the hold of those who governed the Ottoman Empire. It was as if a man suffered from gout in his foot: he could get rid of the gout by wholesome living, the result of which would be that his foot ceased to trouble him. But the plan which he adopted was to cause his foot to mortify by process of inhuman savagery. When it was dead it would trouble him no longer.
He was well aware that the Turkish people only comprised some forty per cent, of the population of the Turkish Empire: numerically they were weaker than the alien peoples who composed the rest of it. Something had to be done to bring the governing Power up to such a proportionate strength as should secure its supremacy, and the most convenient plan was to weaken the alien elements. The scheme, though yet inchoate, had been tried with success in the case of the Bulgarians and Greeks, and to test it further he stirred up Albanians against the inhabitants of Old Servia with gratifying results. They weakened each other, and he further weakened them both by the employment of Turkish troops in Macedonia to quell the disturbances which he had himself fomented. There were massacres and atrocities, and no more trouble just then from Macedonia. Having thus tested his plan and found no flaw in it, he settled to adopt it. But European combinations did not really much interest him, for he was aware that the Great Powers, to whose sacred Balance he owed the permanence of his throne, would not tolerate interference with European peoples, and he turned his attention to Asia Minor. There were excrescences there which he could not absorb, but which might be destroyed. He could use the knife on living tissues which the impaired digestion of the Ottoman Empire could not assimilate. So he hit on this fresh scheme, which his hellish cunning devised with a matchless sense of the adaptation of the means to the end, and he created (though he did not live to perfect) a new policy that reversed the traditions of five hundred years. That is no light task to undertake, and when we consider that since his deposition, now nine years ago, that policy has reaped results undreamed of perhaps by him, we can see how far-sighted his cunning was. To-day it is being followed out by the very combination that deposed him; his aims have been fully justified, and for that precise reason we are right to classify him among the abhorred of mankind. He had an opportunity such as is given to the few, and he made the utmost of it, even as his greater successor on the throne of Turkey for the present, namely Wilhelm II. of Prussia, has done, in the service of the devil. 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant,' must surely have been his well-deserved welcome, when he left the hell he had made on earth for another.
Of all his subjects the Armenians were the most progressive, the most industrious, the most capable. They therefore contributed, according to that perverted foxlike mind, one of the greatest menaces to the stability of his throne, which henceforth should owe its strength to the weakness of those it governed. They, as all the world knows, are a peaceful Christian people, and it was against them that Abdul Hamid directed the policy which he had tested in Europe. The instruments he employed to put it in force were the Kurds, a turbulent shepherd race marching with and mixed up among the Armenians. By this means he had the excuse ready that these massacres were local disturbances among remote and insubordinate tribes, one of whom, however, the Kurds, he armed with modern rifles and caused to be instructed in some elementary military training. Their task was to murder Armenians, their pay was the privilege to rape their girls and their women, and to rob the houses of the men they had killed. The Armenians resisted with at first some small success, upon which Abdul Hamid reinforced the Kurds with regular troops, and caused it to be proclaimed that this was a war of Moslems against the infidel, a Holy War. Moslem fanaticism, ever smouldering and ready to burst into flames, blazed high, and a fury of massacres broke forth against all Armenians, east and west, north and south. The streets of Constantinople ran with their blood, and before Abdul Hamid was obliged by foreign civilised Powers to stop those holocausts, he had so decimated the race that not for at least a generation would they conceivably be a menace again even to that zealous guardian of the supremacy in its own dominions of the Ottoman power. Very unwillingly, when obliged to do so, he whistled off his bands of Kurds, and dismissed them: unwillingly, too, he gave orders that the Armenian hunts which had so pleasantly diverted the sportsmen of Constantinople, must be abandoned: then was decreed a 'close time' for Armenians, the shooting season was over. There is no exaggeration in this: eye-witnesses have recorded how at the close of the business day in Constantinople, shooting parties used literally to go out, and beat the coverts of tenement houses for Armenians, of whom there were at that time in Constantinople some 150,000. But when Abdul Hamid had finished his sport, I do not think more than 80,000 at the most survived. These were saved by the protests of Europe, and perhaps by the knowledge that if all the Armenians were killed, there could never be any more shooting. The Kurds also had lost a considerable number of men, and that was far from displeasing to the yellow-faced butcher of Yildiz. A little blood-letting among those turbulent Kurds was not at all a bad thing.
Here, then, we see defined and at work the new Ottoman policy with regard to its peoples. Hitherto, it had been sufficient to take from them its fill of man-power, and leave the tribe in question to its own devices. There was no objection whatever to its developing the resources of its territory, to its increasing in prosperity and in population. Indeed the central Power was quite pleased that it should do so, for when next the gathering of taxes and youths came round the collectors would find a creditable harvest awaiting them. Such a tribe received no encouragement or help from the Government; that would have been too much to expect, but as long as it kept quiet and obedient it might, without interference, prosper as well as it could. But now, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, all that was changed; instead of a policy of neglect there was substituted a policy of murder. The state no longer considered itself secure when in various parts of its dominions its subjects showed themselves progressive and industrious. They had to be kept down, and clearly the most efficient way of keeping people down was killing them. Let it not be supposed for a moment that either the first massacre, or any that followed, was the result of local disturbances and fanaticism. It was nothing of the sort: each was arranged and planned at Constantinople, as the official means, invented by the arch-butcher, Abdul Hamid, of maintaining in power the most devilish despotism that has ever disgraced the world. Something had to be done to prevent the alien tribes in Asia slipping out of the noose of Ottoman strangulation, even as the European tribes had done, and forming themselves into separate and independent states. A ruler with progressive ideas, one who had any perception of the internal prosperity which alone can render an empire stable, would have made the attempt to weld his loose and wavering domination together by encouraging and working for the prosperity of its component peoples, so that he might, though late in the day, give birth to a Turkey that was strong, because its citizens were prosperous and content. Not so did Abdul Hamid; the Turkey that he sought to establish was merely to be strong because he had battered into a blood-stained pulp the most progressive and the most industrious of the alien peoples over whom he ruled.
It is significant that, while yet the blood of the murdered Christians was scarcely washed from the streets of Constantinople, the Emperor Wilhelm II. visited his brother-sovereign at Yildiz, after making his tour throughout the Holy Land. The two can hardly, in their intimate conversations, have completely avoided the subject of the massacres; but after all, that was not such an unmanageably awkward topic, for Wilhelm II. could tactfully have reminded Abdul Hamid that his own throne also was based on the murderous progress of the Teutonic Knights. Then there was the war between Turkey and Greece only lately concluded to discuss, and there again—for the Emperor's sister was Crown Princess of Greece—conversation must have been a shade difficult. Altogether, in spite of the Emperor's lifelong desire to visit the Holy Places in Palestine, it was an odd moment for a Christian monarch to visit the butcher of Constantinople. But the truth is that Wilhelm II. had a very strong reason for going to see his brother, for the fruit of German policy in Turkey was already ripening and swelling on the tree, and the minor disadvantages of visiting this murderous tyrant while still his hands were red with blood was more than compensated for by the advantages of having a heart-to-heart talk with him on other subjects. Germany had already begun her peaceful penetration, and the real motive of the Emperor's visit was, after swords and orders had been exchanged, to make the definite request that bodies of colonising Germans should be allowed to settle on the Sultan's dominions in Asia Minor, and a hint no doubt was conveyed that there would be plenty of room for them now that there were so many Armenian farms unfortunately without a master. But, like Uriah Heep, the Emperor had attempted to pluck the fruit before it was ripe, or, to use a more exact simile, before he was tall enough to reach it. In vain he represented to Abdul Hamid the immense advantages which would result to Turkey by the establishment of those Gott-like German settlers in Asia Minor. Out of his colossal egalo-megalomania, of which we know more now, he thought that any request which the All-Highest should deign to make must instantly be granted. But he met with a perfectly flat refusal, and the baffled All-Highest left Constantinople in an exceedingly bad temper, which quite undid all the good that the balm in Gilead and the sacred associations of Jerusalem had done him. It is pleasant to think of the Pan-Islamic merriment with which Abdul Hamid must have viewed the indignant exit of his Christian brother, who had come such a long way to see him, and was so tactful about the Armenian atrocities. He might perhaps—for those Christians were very odd pigs—have expressed horror or remonstrance. Not at all: he was much too anxious to get his request granted, to make himself disagreeable. But did his Christian brother really think that all those massacres over which Abdul Hamid had spent so much time and money, had been arranged in order to settle those nasty progressive Germans in the lands that had been so carefully depopulated? Why, the whole point of them had been that the Armenians were too progressive and prosperous, thus constituting a menace to the central Government, and certainly Abdul Hamid was not meaning to put in their place settlers even more progressive and with a stronger backing behind them. So off went the All-Highest back home again, very much vexed with Abdul Hamid, and possibly (if that was not sacrilegious) with himself for having been in too great a hurry. There was more spade-work to be done yet before Turkey was ripe for open and avowed colonisation by the Fatherland.
The episode, strictly historical, is of a certain importance, for it shows the date at which Wilhelm II. thought that the time had come for Germans to colonise Turkey. The peaceful penetration (which now amounts to perforation) was even then pretty far advanced. But Abdul Hamid seems to have seen the significance of the request, and for some little while after that German influence had a certain set-back in Turkey. The date of this marks an era, and Germany, 'deep patient Germany,' set to work again, in no way discouraged, to set her cancer-nippers in the cancer that already had begun to eat the live tissues round it.
Crescent and Iron Cross, Chapter II
THE THEORY OF THE NEW TURKS
In the year 1908 a military group in Constantinople, styling itself the 'Young Turk' party, seized and deposed Abdul Hamid, and shut him up at Salonika, there to spend the remainder of his infamous days. They put forth a Liberal programme of reformation, one that earned them at the moment the sympathy of civilised Europe (including Germany), and the Balance of Power very mistakenly and prematurely heaved a sigh of relief. For upwards of a century it had maintained in Constantinople the corrupt and bloody autocracy of the Sultans, fearing the European quarrels that would attend the dismemberment of that charnel-house of decay known as the Ottoman Empire, and now (just for the moment) it seemed as if a sudden rally had come to the Sick Man, and he showed signs of returning animation and wholesome vitality. The policy of the Powers, after a century of failure, looked as if it was justifying itself, and they were full of congratulations towards Turkey and each other. But never, in the whole century of their pusillanimous cacklings, had they made a greater mistake.
Whether the Young Turks ever meant well or not, whether there was or was not a grain of sincerity in this profession of their policy, is a disputed question. There are those who say that originally they were prompted by patriotic and high-minded aims, when they proclaimed their object of 'Organisation,' and of reform. But all are agreed that it matters very little what their original aims were, so speedily did their Liberal intentions narrow down to an Ottomanisation such as Adbul Hamid had aimed at, but had been unable to accomplish before his evil sceptre ceased to sway the destinies of his kingdom. In any case this programme earned its authors the sympathy of Europe, and probably this, and no more than this, prompted it. They wished to establish themselves, unquestioned and undisturbed, and did so; and I do not think we shall be far wrong if we take the original Young Turk programme about as seriously as we took the parody of a Parliament with which Abdul Hamid opened (as with a blessing) his atrocious reign. The very next year (1909) they permitted (if they did not arrange) the Armenian massacres at Adana, and the Balance of Power began faintly to wonder whether the Young Turks in their deposition of Abdul Hamid had not slain an asp and hatched a cockatrice. Given that their aims originally were sincere, we can but marvel at the swiftness of the corruption which in little more than a year had begun to lead them not into paths of reform and Liberal policy, but along the road towards which the butcher they had deposed had pointed the way. It must have made Abdul Hamid gnaw his nails and shake impotent hands to see those who had torn him from his throne so soon pursuing the very policy which he invented, and to which he nominally owed his dethronement. Strange, too, was it that his overthrow should come from the very quarter to which he looked for security, for it was on the army that each Sultan in turn had most relied for the stability of his throne. But Abdul Hamid, in order, perhaps, to deal more effectually with the subject races he wished to exterminate, had introduced a system of foreign training for the officers of his army, a course of Potsdam efficiency, and it was just they, on whom Sultans from time immemorial had relied, who knocked the prop of the army away from him. Though publicly, for the edification of Europe his deposers professed a Liberal policy, it was not on account of Armenian massacres that they turned him off his throne, but because of the muddle and corruption and debility of his rule. Herein we may easily trace the hand of Germany, no longer publicly beckoning as when Wilhelm II., just after the first Armenian massacres, made his request of the Sultan for the establishment in Turkey of German colonists, but working underground, sapping and mining like a mole. For Germany, her mind already fixed on securing Turkey as an instrument of her Eastern policy, wanted a strong Turkey, and without doubt desired to bring an end to the disorganisation and decay of the Empire, and create and at the same time interpenetrate an efficient state that should be useful to her. We may take it for granted that she, like the rest of Europe, welcomed any sign of regeneration in the Ottoman Empire, but there was an ulterior purpose behind that. Turkey, already grasped by the Prussian hand, must be in that hand a weapon fit for use, a blade on which she could rely. She strengthened the Turkish army by the introduction of Prussian discipline, and worked on good material. Already she has realised her ambition in this respect, and now controls the material which she then worked on.
The troubled years of the Balkan wars which followed this false dawn, coupled with the loss of all the territory which remained to the Ottoman Empire in Europe, with the exception of Thrace, caused an immediate reaction from the open-minded policy of the Young Turks, if we decide to credit them at the outset with a sincere purpose. Organisation by a slightly different spelling became Ottomanisation, and the aims of the Young Turks were identified with those of the Nationalist party which followed out and developed into a finished and super-fiendish policy the dreams of Abdul Hamid. He, as we have seen, had invented the idea of securing Ottoman supremacy in the Empire, not as before by absorption of the strength of its subject peoples, but by their extermination, and this formed part of the new programme which was to be more efficiently administered. Already, in 1909, the experimental massacre at Adana took place, and the Young Turk party, with its possibly Liberal aims, had become a party that had as its main object a system of tyranny and murder such as the world had never seen. Simultaneously Turkey itself, Nationalist party and all, became enslaved to German influence. Link by link the chains were forged and the manacles welded on, and before the European War broke out in 1914, the incarceration of Turkey in Germany was complete, and Wilhelm II. had a fine revenge for the snub inflicted on him by Abdul Hamid when he proposed the scheme of German colonisation in the lands depopulated by the Armenian massacres of 1895.
From the first the aim of the Nationalists, who thus formed so deadly a blend with the Young Turk party, was Ottomanisation, or the establishment within the Empire of an Ottoman domination which should be pure and undefiled, and in which none of the subject peoples, be they Armenians or Kurds, Arabs or Greeks or Jews, Christian or Moslem, should have any part. The inception of the scheme was no doubt inspired by the example given by Prussia's treatment of the Poles, and Hungary's of Roumans and Slovaks. But in thoroughness of method Prussia's pupil was to prove Prussia's master, for it aimed not merely at expropriation, but extermination, and sought to become strong, not merely by weakening alien elements, but by abolishing them. It did not set this out quite explicitly in its manifestoes and the resolutions of its congresses, but two extracts, the first from the proceedings of the 'Committee of Union and Progress,' held in Constantinople in 1911, have a sinister suggestiveness about them for which the acts and measures of the Committee had already supplied the comment.
'The formation of new parties in the Chamber or in the country must be suppressed, and the emergence of new Liberal ideas prevented. Turkey must become a really Mohammedan country, and Moslem influence must be preponderant. Every other religious propaganda must be suppressed.... Sooner or later the complete Ottomanisation of all Turkish subjects must be effected; it is clear, however, that this can never be attained by persuasion, but that we must resort to armed force.... Other nationalities must be denied the right of organisation, for decentralisation and autonomy are treason to the Turkish Empire.'
Could there be a completer reversion to the policy of Abdul Hamid, than this formal resolution, passed within three years of the time when the Young Turks deposed him? The conviction begins to dawn on one—as it began to dawn on the Balancers of Power—that he owed his downfall not to his illiberal and butcherous policy, but because he was not thorough enough.
The second extract, from a pamphlet by Jelal Noury Bey, may be added, which defines the policy, not with regard to the Christian or Jewish subjects of the Turks, but with regard to the Arabs, Moslem by creed, and the guardians of the Holy Cities.
'It is a peculiarly imperious necessity of our existence for us to Turkise the Arab lands, for the particularistic idea of nationality is awaking among the younger generation of Arabs, and already threatens us with a great catastrophe. Against this we must be fore-armed.'
The design of Ottomanisation soon began to take practical form. Ottomanisation was to be the highest expression of patriotism, and any means which secured it, massacres such as, in 1909, had taken place at Adana, or the treatment accorded to the Greeks and Bulgarians who remained in Thrace after the Balkan wars, were in accordance with the new 'Liberal' gospel. Thrace was the only territory left to the Turks in Europe, and as it was largely populated by Greeks and Bulgarians, it could not be considered as sufficiently Ottomanised. A massacre under the very eyes of Europe was perhaps dangerous, so it sufficed to put the entire non-Turkish population over the frontier and lay hands on their property. In fact this was the first of the 'deportation' schemes which, in 1915, proved so successful with the Armenians, and the effect of it was that neither Greeks nor Bulgarians were left in Thrace. Then followed the expulsion of Greeks from the Mediterranean sea-board, but this was never completely carried out because the European war intervened, and the attention of the Nationalists was claimed by their over-lord. Later, as we shall see, a further deportation of Greeks was begun, but again that was stopped, for Germany saw that it would never do to have her Turkish allies murdering settlers of the same blood as those she hoped would become her allies. Of course, when it was only a question of Armenians she did not interfere.
The design, then, of the new 'Liberal' regime, of which those three measures, the massacres at Adana, the expulsion of Greeks and Bulgarians from Thrace, and of Greeks from the sea-board of the Mediterranean, were early instances, was to restore the absolute supremacy of the Turks in the Ottoman Empire. It was obvious that the problem was one of considerable difficulty, since the Turks at the time composed only some forty per cent, of the whole population. They numbered about 8,000,000, while in the Empire were included about 7,000,000 Arabs, 2,000,000 Greeks, 2,000,000 Armenians, and 3,000,000 more of smaller nationalities, such as Kurds, Druses, and Jews. But the Turks were backed by Germany, and nowadays, since the abolition of the Capitulations, which leaves all alien races unprotected by foreign Powers, such as survive, after the extermination of the Armenians, are completely at the mercy of the Government in Constantinople. All these peoples speak a different language from the Turks, and have a different religion, for the Nationalist party, with a view to the Ottomanisation of the Arabs, have definitely stated that Arab Moslems are not of the true faith, and that their own Allah (in whose name they subsequently exterminated the Armenians) is the God of Love—German equivalent Got—whereas the Arab Allah is the God of vengeance. The sinister motive in this discovery needs no comment, for it is obvious that it releases the Ottoman Government from the prohibition in the Koran, whereby Moslem may not fight against Moslem. Therefore the Arabs were declared not to be true Moslems. Later on, that motive was translated into practical measures.
Among the first tasks with regard to the Arabs that faced the Nationalist party from what we may call the pacific side of their mission was to substitute the Turkish language for Arabic. Kemal Bey, a Nationalist of Salonika, with the help of Ziya Bey, collected round him a group of young writers, and these proceeded to translate the Koran out of Arabic into Turkish, and to publish the prayers for the Caliphate in their own language, and orders went out that these revised versions should be used in all mosques. Turkish was to be the official language for use in all public proclamations, and, with Prussian thoroughness, it was even substituted on such railway tickets as had hitherto been printed in Arabic. The new Turkish tongue (Yeni Lisan) had also to be purged of all foreign words, but here some difficulty was experienced, for Persian and Arabic formed an enormous percentage in the language as hitherto employed, and the promoters of this Ottoman purity of tongue found themselves left with a very jejune instrument for the rhapsodies of their patriotic aims. Poets in especial (for the Nationalists, like all well-equipped founders of romantic movements, had their bards) found themselves in sore straits owing to the limited vocabulary; and we read of one, Mehmed Emin Bey, who was forced to publish his odes in small provincial papers, since no well-established journal would admit so scrannel an expression of views however exalted. But the translation of the Koran was the greatest linguistic feat, and Tekin Alp, the most prominent exponent of Nationalism, refers to it as one of the noblest tasks undertaken by the new movement. It mattered not at all that by religious ordinance the translation of the Koran into any other tongue was a sin. 'The Nationalists,' he tells us, 'have cut themselves off from the superstitious prejudice.' A further attempt was made to substitute Turkish letters for Arabic letters in the alphabet, but this seems to have presented insuperable difficulties, and I gather that it has been abandoned.
[Footnote 1: This thwarted poet retired from the Committee of Union and Progress not long after, and his place was taken by Enver.]
The Ottomanisation of religion and language, then, was among the pacific methods of spreading Pan-Turkism through the Empire. A monstrous idol was set up, a Hindenburg idol, in front of which all peoples and languages, not Christians alone, but Moslems, were bound to prostrate themselves. Indeed it was against Arabs mainly that these provisions were directed, for the Arabs constituted the most menacing obstacle to the spread of Ottomanisation, since they numbered in the Empire only a million less than the Turks themselves. It was ordained by statute that no Arab could have a seat on the Committee of Union and Progress, and the Cabinet similarly was purged of any Greek or Armenian element. Never any more must there be new parties in the Chamber, never any more must Liberal ideas (to champion which the New Turk party had come into being) be allowed to prick up their pernicious heads. For the Nationalist party, with whom the New Turks were now identical, had taken as their creed all that the deposed Abdul Hamid stood for, and only differed from him in that as their schemes developed they looked forward to logical conclusions far beyond what he had ever dreamed of. But Abdul Hamid may, I think, be taken to be the true founder of the new Nationalism: at any rate it was he who had first seen the possibilities of massacre as a means of maintaining Ottoman supremacy. In the hands of Nationalists that was to prove a more effective weapon than the printing of railway tickets in Turkish. But already before the European War the Nationalists had vastly extended his ideas, and had seen the danger of allowing even Arabs to have a standing of any kind in the new state. Henceforth all subject people were to be rayas, cattle, as in the old days of the Sultans who absorbed the strength of the aliens, but did not exterminate them. But now the cattle were not only to be used for milk, but were to be slaughtered when advisable. Till then they must be dumb, or speak the language of their masters only, for this alone can save them from the shambles. Ahmed Sherif Bey, a prominent Nationalist, lays this down. 'It is the business of the Porte to make the Arabs forget their own language, and to impose upon them instead that of the nation that rules them. If the Porte loses sight of this duty, it will be digging its grave with its own hands, for if the Arabs do not forget their language, their history, and their customs, they will seek to restore their ancient empire on the ruins of Ottomanism and of Turkish rule in Asia.'
Here, then, is the definite statement of the Nationalists' hostility to all things Arab, and we shall see how they translated it into practice. Even Moslems were but cattle for them, as also were Armenians and Greeks and Kurds. Armenians were doomed to be the first complete sacrifice on the bloody altar of the Nationalists, and, as a Turkish gendarme engaged in that sacrifice said to a Danish Red Cross nurse, 'First we kill the Armenians, then the Greeks, and then the Kurds.' And if he had been a Progressive Minister he would certainly have added, 'And then the Arabs.'
It was not only within the present limits of the Ottoman Empire that the Committee of Union and Progress proposed to accomplish their unitive purpose, for after having seen a glorious and exclusive Turkey arise over the depopulated territories of their alien peoples, a vaster vision, for an account of which we are indebted to Tekin Alp, opened before their prophetic eyes. Out of the 10,000,000 inhabitants of Persia they claim that one-third are of true Turkish blood, and in the new Turkey which, so they almost pathetically hope, will be established at the conclusion of the European War by the help of Wilhelm II., those Persian Turks must be incorporated into the true fold of Allah, God of Love. The province of Adarbaijan, for instance, the richest and most enlightened district of Persia, they claim, is entirely Turkish, and here the needful rectification will be made in the new atlases that bear the imprimatur of Potsdam. Similarly, all the country south of the Caucasus must rank as Turkish territory, since the Turks form from fifty to eighty per cent, of the population; all Kazan, for the same reason, is truly Turkish, with the alluvial plains of the Volga, while the Crimea, so Tekin Alp discovers, is also a lost sheep longing for the Turkish fold. All this is Turkey (or Turania) Irredenta, and, may we not add:—
'Jerusalem and Madagascar And North and South Amerikee.'
And then what a glorious future awaits the Power that Europe once thought of as a sick man. 'With the crushing of Russian despotism,' exclaims Tekin Alp, 'by the brave German, Austrian, and Turkish armies, thirty to forty million Turks will receive their independence. With the ten million Ottoman Turks this will form a nation of fifty millions, advancing towards a great civilisation which may perhaps be compared to that of Germany, in that it will have the strength and energy to rise even higher. In some ways it will be even superior to the degenerate French and English civilisations.'
The arithmetic and the enthusiasm of the foregoing paragraph are, of course, those of Tekin Alp, from whose book, The Turkish and Pan-Turkish Ideal, the quotation is made. The work was published in 1915, and, appearing as it did after the beginning of the European War, it is but natural to find in it an expression not only of the Nationalist aims for Turkey, but of the Prussian aims for Turkey, or, to speak more correctly, of the dream which Prussia has induced in a hypnotised Turkey. It sets forth in fact the bait which Prussia has dangled in front of Turkey, the hunger for which has inspired the projected future which is here sketched out; and significantly enough this book has been spread broadcast over Turkey by the agency of German propagandists. The Ottomanisation of the Empire, the vision of its further extension, free from all consideration of subject peoples, was exactly the lure which was most likely to keep the Turks staunch to their Prussian masters. It will be noticed that there is no suggestion of the Turks recovering their lost provinces and kingdoms in Europe, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, Servia, and the rest, for it would never do to let Fox Ferdinand awake from his hypnotic sleep of a sort of Czardom over the Balkans, or cease to dangle dreams, that included even Constantinople before the shifty eye of King Constantine So, before Turkey was spread the prospect of appropriating Russian and Persian spoils: Prussia had already given the lost Turkish kingdoms in Europe elsewhere, but would there not be a dismembered Russian Empire to dispose of? The Crimea, the province of Kazan, the province of Trans-Caucasia: all these might be held before Turkey's nose, as a dog has a piece of meat held up before it to make it beg. Then there was the province of Adarbaijan: certainly Turkey might be permitted to promise herself that, without incurring the jealousy of Austria or Bulgaria. Greedily Turkey took the bait. She gulped it down whole, and never considered that there was a string attached to it, or that, should ever the time come when Germany, the conqueror of the world, would be in a position to reward her Allies with the realisation of the dreams she had induced, the string would be pulled, and up, with retchings and vomitings, would come these succulent morsels of Russia and Persia. Indeed these bright pictures flashed on to the sheet as the visions of Nationalists are but the slides in a German magic-lantern, designed to keep Turkey amused, and it was with the same object that Ernst Marre, in his Die Tuerken und Wir nach dem Kriege, was bidden to make other pictures ready in case Turkey grew fractious or sleepy. 'From the ruins of antiquity,' he says, when speaking of the Ottoman Empire, 'new life will spring, if we can manage to raise the treasures which time and sand have covered.' Then he remembers that he must be less Pan-Germanic for the moment, and dangles the bait again. 'In doing this,' he adds, 'we are benefiting Turkey. The Turkish state is no united whole, and it has always been very difficult to govern. Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, cannot be welded together. This is a war of liberation for Turkey.... Only by energetic interference, and by "expelling" the obstinate Armenian element could the Ottoman Empire get rid of a Russian domination.... The non-Turkish population of the Ottoman Empire must be Ottomanised.'
There is no need for further quotations, which might be multiplied indefinitely. The Prussian programme is for the moment identical with the Turkish Nationalist programme: Turkey, in order to be kept 'in with' Germany, must be encouraged to dream of depopulated Armenia (that dream has come tragically true) and of annexations in Russia and Persia. All this fitted in with the Turkish programme: Germany had scarcely to inspire, only to encourage. That encouragement she gave, for, simultaneously she was penetrating Turkey as water penetrates a sponge, and reducing it to the position of a vassal state. To keep Turkey happy she allowed the Armenian massacres to run their deadly course, and only interfered with other massacres when they did not suit her purpose. But supposing (to suppose the impossible) that a peace to the European War was dictated by Germany, how much of the future Pan-Turkish programme would be realised? Would there be a Turkey at all? I think not: there would be a Germany in Europe, and a Germany in Asia, where Turkey once was. Indeed, in all but name, they are in existence now; so complete, as we shall see, has been Germany's penetration of the Ottoman Empire. Just for the present she calls herself Turkey in those regions; that is her incognito. But Turkey as an independent Power has already ceased to exist, and Tekin Alp and the Nationalists still dream on with rainbow visions of Ottomanisation, the vistas of which stretch far into Persia and the plains of the Volga. And all the while she has been put out like a candle, and all that is left of her is the smouldering wick ready to be pinched between the horny fingers of her stepmother. There she stands, her stepmother, with her grinning teeth already disclosing the Wolf....
Whatever the end of the European War may be, in no circumstances can the dreams of the Nationalists be realised. Even if Germany and her arms were so victorious that Russia lay at her feet a mere inert carcase ready for the chopper, she would no more dream of giving Russian provinces to an independent Turkey than she would hand over to her Berlin itself. And if, as we know, Germany can never be victorious, will the Allies once more strive to keep the Sick Man alive, or leave in his ruthless power the peoples whom he is longing to exterminate? Even Tekin Alp can hardly expect that.
Here then, in brief, is the policy of New Turkey. Its subject peoples—Armenians, Arabs, Greeks, Kurds, and Jews—are to be totally unrepresented in its councils, though together they number sixty per cent, of the population of the Empire. But they are not only to be unrepresented in Government—they are, if the programme is to be carried conclusively out, to have no existence. In accordance with the plans of the murderous ruffians who to-day administer the Nationalist policy, those of the Armenians who have not fled beyond the frontiers have already been exterminated, and the same fate threatens Arabs, Greeks, and Jews. Hence, when the Allied Governments wrote their joint note to President Wilson, they stated that among their aims in the war was 'the liberation of the peoples who now lie beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks.' From that avowed determination they will never recede.
* * * * *
NOTE.—It is to be hoped that Tekin Alp's pamphlet, Turks and the Pan-Turkish Ideal, may soon be accessible to English readers. The author is a Macedonian Jew who writes under the pseudonym of Tekin Alp, and his mind is such that he appears to find romance in the idea of a united Turkey purged by indiscriminate massacre from all alien elements. But he sets forth with admirable lucidity the aims of the Nationalist party and the steps already achieved by them in their progress towards their ideal. Already the sequestered ladies of the harem have come out of their retirement and join in the crusade, and not only do men give lectures to women, but 'women mount the platform and address the men.' There are corporations to advance economic organisations, boy-scout centres all over the Empire, and 'intellectual parties' among the guilds of merchants—England and Russia appear as the most virulent foes of Pan-Turkism, 'the colossus of darkest barbarism joined with the colossus of a degenerate civilisation.'
In the second part of his pamphlet Tekin Alp passes on with an enthusiasm which is as sincere as it is pathetic to the vision of a tremendous Turkey, extending from Thrace on the west to the Desert of Gobi on the east. It embraces, as his map shows, Egypt as far south as Victoria Nyanza, Arabia, Persia, the greater part of India, the littoral of the Black Sea, the plains of the Volga, the circuit of the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, and in the north-east nearly touches Tomsk. All this naturally is dependent on complete German victory in the war, and, pathetically enough, Tekin Alp appears to think that his ideal Turkey will meet with the approval of Germany. Indeed it is no wonder that his pamphlet is circulated broadcast by German propagandists, for it is precisely what Germany wants Turkey to believe.
The romance of the movement appeals also very strongly to Ziya Goek Alp, the official bard of the butchers of Constantinople. He has written a sort of Ode to Attila, quoted by Tekin Alp, which is a fine frenzy in favour of barbarism. This preposterous poem begins:
'I do not read the famous deeds of my ancestors in the dead, faded, dusty leaves of the history books, but in my own veins, in my own heart. My Attila, my Huns, those heroic figures which stand for the proud fame of my race, appear in those dry pages to our malicious and slanderous age as covered with shame and disgrace, while in reality they are no less than Alexander and Caesar,' etc. etc.
I have been at present unable to ascertain whether it is true that the German Emperor has set it to music, under the impression that it refers to him and the German armies. It is very popular in Prussia, which need arouse no surprise.
Crescent and Iron Cross, Chapter III
THE END OF THE ARMENIAN QUESTION
We have traced in brief the backward progress of Ottoman domination, and have seen how, from the rough and ready methods of a military barbarism, the Turks evolved a more emphatic and a more highly organised negation of all those principles which we may sum up under the general term of civilisation. The comparatively humane neglect of the unfortunate alien peoples herded within the frontiers of earlier Sultans was improved upon by Abdul Hamid, who struck out the swifter and superior methods of maintaining the dominating strength of the Turkish element in the kingdom not by the absorption of subject peoples, but by their extermination. This in turn, this new and effective idea, served as a first sketch of an artist with regard to his finished picture, and starting with that the Nationalist party enlarged and elaborated it into that masterpiece of massacre which they exhibited to the world in the years 1915 and 1916 of the Christian Era, when from end to end of the Empire there flashed the signal for the extermination of the Armenian race. Abdul Hamid was but tentative and experimental as compared to their systematised thoroughness, but then the Nationalist party had learned thoroughness under the tutelage of its Prussian masters. And in addition to instruction they had had the advantage of seeing how Prussian firmness, with the soothing balm of Kultur to follow, had dealt with the now-subject remnant of Belgians. That was the way to treat subject people: 'the first care of a state is to protect itself,' as Enver and Talaat could read in the text-books now translated into Turkish, in copies, maybe, presented to them by their Master in Berlin, and Turkey could best show the proof of her enlightenment and regeneration, by following in the footsteps of Prussian Kultur. Perhaps a few thousand innocent men might suffer the inconvenience of having their nails torn out, of being bastinadoed to death, of being shot, burned or hanged, perhaps a few thousand girls and women might die by the wayside in being deported to 'agricultural colonies,' might fall victims to the lusts of Turkish soldiers, or have babes torn from their wombs, but these paltry individual pains signified nothing compared to the national duty of 'suffering the state to run no risks.' As one of this party of Union and Progress said, 'The innocent of to-day may be the guilty of to-morrow,' and it was therefore wise to provide that for innocent and guilty alike there should be no to-morrow at all. Years before the statesmanship of Abdul Hamid had prophetically foreseen the dawning of this day, when he remarked 'The way to get rid of the Armenian question is to get rid of the Armenians,' and temporarily for twenty years he did get rid of the Armenian question. But when, in 1915, Talaat Bey completed his arrangements for a further contribution to the solution of the same problem, he said, 'After this, there will be no Armenian question for fifty years.' As far as we can judge, he rather under-estimated the thoroughness of his arrangements.
[Footnote 1: Lately (September 1917), when the massacres were all over, Talaat, speaking at a Congress of the Committee of Union and Progress, upheld as right and proper the treatment of the Armenian race.]
The race thus marked out for extermination was one of the oldest settlements in Asiatic Turkey. Originally it was confined to Armenia proper, a highland district comprising part of what is now the Russian province of Trans-Caucasia, part of Persia, notably the province of Adarbaijan, and, within the Turkish frontier, the province of Armenia, itself. According to legend, which may well be correct, the Armenians were the oldest national Christian Church in the world, with a liturgy that dates from the first century of the Christian Era, while their translation of the Bible dates from the early years of the fifth century A.D. Here in these uplands they formed a compact and homogeneous population, spread over towns and country alike, and were occupied in the main with agrarian and pastoral pursuits. But they had in addition much of the versatility and business capacity of the Jews, as well as a strong liberal-mindedness towards progress and education, and thus, while they still continued up to the present day their pastoral life in the countryside, others gravitated towards towns, and by degrees they spread over a large part of the Turkish Empire, until most of the towns in Turkey had a progressive and peaceful quota of Armenian citizens, tolerated by their Moslem neighbours, and, though possessed of no great share of political influence, powerful, in that the trade and commerce of inland Turkey was largely in their hands. Wherever they went they established their schools; many were lawyers, doctors, and professors of education. Certain repressive measures were brought to bear on them; they were not, for instance, allowed to carry arms, except when, in accordance with Turkish conscriptive laws, they served in the Ottoman army. But many of them, by paying their exemption money, got off military service, and they confined themselves to the arts of peace, whether pastorally in their native highlands, or in the shops and offices of the towns to which they migrated. They were not, till the time of Abdul Hamid, held to be in any sense a national danger, for, except in Armenia proper, they were too scattered and too peace-loving an element of the population to be capable of united action, and never do they seem to have provoked any outburst of Moslem fanaticism. They had local quarrels and fights with the more warlike Kurds who encroached on Armenia, and in the towns where they settled they often incurred the vague jealousy and dislike which are the penalties of a race superior morally and intellectually to those among whom they live. But that superiority constituted in course of time the 'Armenian question,' to which Abdul Hamid alluded. In all, some sixty years ago their entire race numbered about 4,000,000 persons, of whom about 1,250,000 inhabited Russian Trans-Caucasia, about 150,000 were in the province of Adarbaijan, and there were smaller bodies of them in Austria and India. The remainder, some 2,500,000, were spread over Armenia, over the villages and towns of Turkey, notably the eastern edge of the Cilician uplands, while in Constantinople itself there were certainly not less than 150,000, and probably as many as 200,000. To-day, the male portion of the Armenian race in the Ottoman Empire has practically ceased to exist: a quarter of a million men and women escaped over the Russian frontier, five thousand escaped to Egypt, and there are a few thousand women and girls (it is impossible to ascertain the exact number) in Turkish harems. Turkism, as administered by Abdul Hamid first, then, far more efficiently, by Enver Pasha, and Talaat Bey, has solved the Armenian question.
The history of its solution falls under two heads, of which the first concerns the manner in which it was solved in Armenia itself, where the population was almost exclusively Armenian, both in towns and in the country. Here the eastern and north-eastern frontiers of Turkey, across which lie the province of Russian Trans-Caucasia and Persia, pass through the middle of districts peopled by men of Armenian blood, and when, in the autumn of 1914, the Turks made their entry into the European War, their eastern armies, operating against Russia, found themselves confronted by troops among whom were many Armenians, while in their advance into the Persian province of Adarbaijan, there were in the ranks of their opponents, Armenians and Syriac Christians. They advanced in fact, in the first weeks of the war, into a country largely peopled with men of the same blood as those on their own side of the frontier. Though the edict had not yet come from Constantinople for the massacre of the Armenians (Talaat Bey did not complete his arrangements till the following April), the slaughter of them began then, first in the advance of the Turkish armies, and following on that movement, which lasted but a few weeks, in their subsequent retreat before the Russians. All villages through which the Turkish armies passed were plundered and burned, all the inhabitants on whom the Turks could lay their hands were killed. Sometimes women and children were given to the Kurds, who formed bands of irregular troops in conjunction with the Turkish army, and these were outraged before they were slaughtered. A price was put on every Christian head, and in the Turkish retreat the corpses were thrust into the wells in order to pollute them. The excuse for this, as given by German apologists (not apologists, perhaps, so much as supporters and adherents of the policy), was that since behind the Turkish lines the country was populated by a race of the same blood as that through which they advanced, and then retreated, extermination was necessary in order to prevent or to punish treachery and collusion. But I have been nowhere able to find that there were instances of such, nor that the Turks put forward that excuse themselves. Indeed it would have been an unnecessary explanation, for but a few months after the opening of the war, Talaat Bey's plans were complete, and the extermination of Armenians hundreds of miles from any sphere of military operations rendered it needless to say anything about it, or to invent instances of treachery if there were actually none to hand.
Simultaneously the massacre of Armenians behind the Turkish lines began. The whole male population of the district round Bitlis was murdered, so too were all males in Bitlis itself. Then all women and children were driven in, as a herdsman might drive sheep, from the reeking villages round, and, for purposes of convenience, concentrated in Bitlis. When they were all collected, they were driven in a flock to the edge of the Tigris, shot, and the corpses were thrown into the river. That was the solution of the Armenian question in Bitlis.
North-west of Bitlis, and some sixty miles distant, lies the town of Mush. It used to contain about 25,000 Armenian inhabitants, and in the district round there were some three hundred villages chiefly consisting of Armenians. Arrangements were on foot for a general massacre there when the arrival of Russian troops at Liz, some fifteen hours' march away, caused the execution of it to be put off for a while, and up till July a few folk only had been shot, and a few beaten to death, as a warning to those treacherously inclined. Then the Russians, in the face of superior forces, had to retire again, and the massacres were put on a systematic footing. The account which follows is based on four independent authorities: (1) The statement of a German eye-witness in Mush in charge of an Armenian orphanage; (2) the statement of a woman deported from a village near, and subsequently killed by Kurds; (3) information from refugees escaped to Trans-Caucasia; (4) the journal Horizon of Tiflis. These supplement each other, often verify each other, and in no instance are contradictory.
Rumours of an impending massacre reached Mush before the end of 1914, at a time when the massacres across the frontier had begun. The Mutessarif of Mush, an intimate friend of Enver Pasha, had openly declared that 'at an opportune moment' the slaughter of the whole Armenian race was contemplated, and later Ekran Bey corroborated this in the presence of the American and German Consuls. Enver indeed seems to have been the chief organiser with regard to the massacres in Armenia itself, while Talaat Bey saw to the fate of those dispersed in towns throughout the rest of Turkey. During the whole of that winter, a very severe one, signs of the approaching extermination multiplied. In the villages round fresh taxes were introduced, and when Armenians were unable to pay they were beaten to death, while, if they resisted, the village in question was burned. But by July 1915 (after the unavoidable delay caused by the proximity of Russian troops) all was ready, and the massacre began in earnest.
Four battalions of Turkish troops arrived from Constantinople, and an order was given that all Armenians must leave the town within three days, after 'registering themselves' at the Government office. The women and children were to remain, but their money and their property would be confiscated. Within two hours after that, owing, I suppose, to fresh orders from Constantinople, the guns opened fire on the crowds in the streets flocking to the registry offices, and after that systematic house-to-house murder began. Prominent Armenians were tortured to death, houses containing women and children were set on fire, a body of men collected together was thrown into the river, girls were outraged and slaughtered. For two days the massacre continued, and by the end of the second day the Armenian question was solved as regards Mush.
In the surrounding villages the same Prussian thoroughness was observed, and out of all the inhabitants of the plain 5000 only seemed to have survived, who fled to Sasun (there to be subsequently massacred in 1916), while a few from outlying villages escaped to the Russian troops. In certain villages the girls and young women were given to the Kurd soldiery, who raped them publicly in the presence of their families, not sparing girls of eight and ten years of age, who then, bleeding and violated, were shot in company with the old women, for whom the Kurds (inspired by Allah, the God of Love) had no use. Elsewhere, as the story of a deported woman from Kheiban tells us, the women guarded by Kurdish troops were driven out of their villages, leaving behind the corpses of the men and of old women who could not walk, and for days were marched along the roads, nearly naked, under the fierce heat of the July sun. Once every other day they were given bread, but all did not get it, and many fell exhausted by the wayside, and were either whipped to their feet again or allowed to lie down and die. As they passed through villages Kurds would come out and rape a girl or two, and when they halted at night their guards would come among them.... Some few escaped; the rest, in dwindling company, went on through days of blinding sun and nights of shame till at last there were only a few remaining. It was not worth while going farther, for the work of Enver Pasha was nearly done, and the rest were pushed into the river. One alone survived, who could swim, and she, with her two-year-old baby on her back, got across the stream and made her way to a village where were a party of Armenians who had escaped massacre. She arrived there at midnight, and at first they thought she was a ghost. To them she told her story of the outraged and ever-dwindling caravan of helpless women and girls driven onwards all day beneath the smiting arrows of the sun, and encamped by the wayside, where they halted with their barbarous guards and their lusts for a terror by night. Of them none but this one was left, who had carried her baby with her every step of that infernal pilgrimage. Two days afterwards he died from want of nourishment, and before the week was out the mother fell into the hands of a body of patrolling Kurds, and was killed.
So the problem of the village of Kheiban was solved, and if in the history of the crimes that have blackened the earth with wanton cruelty and made God to hide His face, there is any so atrocious a tale, I do not know it. But if among the annals of heroism and of mother-love we want to find a nobler record than that of this woman of Kheiban, equally am I at a loss as to where we should look for it. Among the true and golden legends of the world shall that which she did be inscribed for a memorial of her.
Northward from Mush, and Bitlis lies the province of Erzerum, with the town of the same name, that contained in the autumn of 1914 some 20,000 Armenians. Here the first hint of coming trouble was the order that all Armenian soldiers serving in Turkish ranks should be disarmed. This was followed in June by another order that all the inhabitants of the hundred villages in the district should leave their homes at two hours' notice. They numbered between 10,000 and 15,000 persons. Of these a few took refuge with friendly Kurds, but of the remainder a few only lived to reach Erzinjan, where they were again deported, and the rest were murdered as they marched. In Erzerum itself orders were received by Tahsin Bey, the Vali of the town, that all Armenians were to be killed without distinction of age or sex. He refused to carry this order out, but his unwillingness was overruled. Simultaneously, the German Consul telegraphed protests to his Ambassador at Constantinople, and was told that Germany could not interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey.
[Footnote 1: At Angora a similar refusal on the part of the Governor resulted in his dismissal, and the same thing happened at Konia and at Kutaia.]
Here the method employed was deportation: the victims were murdered, not in the town itself, but were given orders to leave their homes, and under guard march (for no conveyances were given them) to other districts. The first company was to go to Diarbekr. All these, with the exception of one man and forty women, were murdered on the first day's march. The remainder reached Kharput, which was another station or collecting place for the deported. A German eye-witness tells us what fate waited them. 'They have had their eyebrows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off; their torturers hew off their feet, or else hammer nails into them as they do in shoeing horses. This is all done at night-time, in order that people may not hear their screams and know of their agony. Soldiers are stationed round the prisons, beating drums and blowing whistles. It is needless to relate that many died of these tortures. When they die, the soldiers cry, "Now let your Christ help you."' A second caravan of five hundred families left Erzerum: at Baiburt they were joined by another contingent deported from that town, and the account that follows is based on the information supplied by the Rev. Robert Stapleton, an American minister at Erzerum, and by an Armenian woman who was among the deported, and whose life was spared on her embracing Islamism.
The convoy numbered, when it left Baiburt, some 15,000 persons, and it reached Erzinjan in safety. There the massacres had already taken place, and the women and children had been deported, for they found no Armenians there. But the convoy had not yet arrived at its goal, and it started out again moving south by east till it came to Kamakh. There bands of Kurds descended on them, and in the space of seven days every male above fifteen years of age, including an aged priest of ninety, was killed. Thereafter a pilgrimage of women, as from Kheiban, moved southwards across plain and mountain, and every day its numbers were diminished, for the youthful and the good-looking were carried off by brigands. At night they were halted outside villages, and the gendarmes and villagers took what they chose. Many died from hunger and heat-stroke: others were left by the wayside. When they came to the banks of the river Kara-Su there was a debauch of horror. Women and girls and little children were raped and mutilated, and the children who still survived were thrown into the river. Those who could swim were shot. Thereafter the movements of this caravan are hard to trace. Probably there was then but little left of it. But others followed on the same route 'through fields and hillsides dotted with swollen and blackened corpses that filled and fouled the air with their stench.' Some of them reached Mosul, some reached Aleppo, another collecting station, where, by the mouth of other witnesses, we shall hear of them again.
Corroborative and additional evidence is given by the Danish Red Cross nurses who, with a noble disregard of their own safety, accompanied one of these caravans from Erzerum to Erzinjan. They speak of the massacres at Kamakh, of the killing by the river, and of a battue through the cornfields, where the wheat was high, into which some Armenians had escaped. At one time these Danish Sisters were in the charge of a gendarme who had superintended a massacre of 3000 women and children driven from their homes into the country, rounded up and killed. He told the Sisters that this was the best method of getting rid of them, for they should be made to suffer first, and besides it would be inconvenient for Moslems to live in a village with so many corpses about. At another place they came to a shambles, where Armenian soldiers, deprived of their arms, and sent to make roads, had been slaughtered: at another there were three gangs of labourers, one Moslem, one Greek, and one Armenian. These latter were guarded. Presently, as they proceeded along their road, they looked round and saw that the Armenian gang was being formed up by itself, a little off the highroad....
And so the ghastly record went on all over Armenia. At one place only, the town of Van, was any resistance organised. There, after the massacre had begun, some 1500 Armenians got hold of arms (probably many of these men were soldiers who had not yet had their arms taken from them), and for the space of twenty-seven days defended themselves against five thousand Turkish troops, till the Russian advance relieved them. During that advance Armenian refugees, into whose districts the massacres had not yet penetrated, fled for refuge to the invading army, and in all some 250,000 Armenians under its protection crossed in safety the Russian frontier into Trans-Caucasia. How many died on the way from hunger and exhaustion is not known. Cholera, dysentery, and spotted fever broke out among them, and the path of their passage was lined with dead and dying. Companies of Kurds made descents upon them, taking toll of their maidenhood, but, with the Russian line to protect them at their rear, they struggled on out of the cemetery and brothel of their native country, and out of the accursed confines of that hell on earth, the Ottoman Empire, leaving behind them the murdered myriads of their husbands and their sons, their violated wives and daughters. Through incredible hardships they passed, but, unlike the other pilgrimages we have briefly traced, they moved not towards death, but towards safety and life, and their dark steps were lightened with Hope.
Before the last of those who survived the hunger and the pestilence of that pilgrimage had reached Russian soil, it is probable that in all Armenia there was not a man of their race left alive, nor a woman either unless she had accepted Islamism and the life of the harem. A peaceful and progressive nation had been wiped out with every accompaniment of horror and cruelty and bestial lust, and in Armenia itself there would never more be an Armenian question. Abdul Hamid had hinted at the solution of it, and had made, as we have seen, experiments in that direction; but it was reserved for Enver Pasha and Talaat Bey, enlightened men of the Young Turk party, with the advantages of a Prussian example, to complete the work. Already Enver had said that he would never rest until the last Armenian in the Ottoman Empire had been killed, and before the end of 1915, as far as Armenia itself went, he was able to see a reasonable prospect of repose before him. But there was much work still left to do in other provinces.
We have seen that for the extirpation of Armenians in Armenia proper, the excuse put forward, if not by the Turks themselves, by their German apologists, was the necessity of guarding against treachery in the vicinity of the Turkish army, and against spying and collusion between the Armenians behind the Russian lines and those behind Turkish lines. The same pretext was put forward for the massacres and deportations from Thrace, from Constantinople, and from the shores of the Sea of Marmora. Here, if anywhere, there may be thought to be some justification for measures which might have been undertaken for the sake of public safety. At any rate, there were definite charges brought against Armenians in these districts, and the Armenian boatmen of Silivri, for instance, were imprisoned, but not, as far as I know, massacred, on the charge of revictualling English submarines, which at that time, as the reader will remember, had penetrated into the Sea of Marmora, and indeed had reached Constantinople itself. It is not, of course, consonant with Turkish or Prussian justice to substantiate charges before inflicting penalties, it is sufficient in the new World-justice to accuse. But here round Constantinople, there was some pretence at procedure before resorting to murder and deportation. A register was drawn up of all Armenians resident in the capital, dividing into separate classes those who were born in Constantinople, and those who were immigrants from Armenia, with a view to deporting those who were not native to the city. Here, I think, we may see traces of the Prussian instinct for tabulation, for classification, for category-mongering. Enver and his colleagues lost patience with these dilatory tactics. The Armenians of the province of Brussa were deported wholesale, and long before the registration lists of Constantinople were finished, all Armenians were moved out of the town. Ten thousand males were massacred in the mountains of Ismid, and the Armenian women and children taken into collecting stations for deportation to 'agricultural colonies' (so the phrase ran in the Pecksniff language of Prussia) situated in the Anatolian desert, in the desert of Arabia, and in malarious marshes on the Euphrates. With this clearing out of Armenians from Thrace, from Constantinople, and from Armenia itself, we have finished with our first class of the Armenian atrocities. For it reasons were at least invented by German apologists. Military necessities, which here, as in Belgium, knew no law, dictated it; the frightfulness involved was incidental to War. But such considerations were not even alleged for the second class of the murder-scheme. Before passing on, it will be well to review, quite shortly, the reasons which dictated it, and penetrate into the infernal councils of Enver Pasha and Talaat Bey.