By Ismail Veli……
Not having much knowledge of the Armenian and Turkish arguments about the 1915 ”Genocide”, ”Massacres” or ”expulsion”, whatever one wants to call it, I got curious enough to do a bit of minor research into some old books and documents based on the period. The figures given by the Armenians of 1.5 million killed, as opposed to about four to five hundred thousand by the Turks are so wide that It would make sense for the Ottoman, Armenian, Russian archives to be opened to historians for closer inspection.
As the larger claims are made by the Armenians, one would have thought they would be the first to open their archives to prove their claim. It seems they refuse to do this, which to someone like me who though ignorant of this problem, but curious to find the truth is confusing. So I decided that I would do my own mini research detached from the political propaganda on both sides into whatever little I could find. Frankly I ended up more confused than when I started, and am none the wiser. It’s left me with a lot of questions, but for what it’s worth I will share some details.
My first stop was to check out the figures. The Census figures before the 1915 figures was an obvious choice to verify the Armenian population and try to match this with the claims of 1.5 million killed.
Below are the figures given in the Ottoman census for the relevant years.
|Year||Gregorian Armenian||Catholic Armenian||Protestant Armenian|
In the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1910 the world Armenian population was given as 2.900.000. while those that lived in the Ottoman empire/Turkey was given as 1,500,000. The figures were written by a British writer. Strangely in the 1953 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the historical section for the 1910 numbers of the Armenians living in Turkey it was given as 2,500,550. The 1953 edition was edited by an Armenian writer. Some doctoring of the figures are clearly in evidence on this one. The 2015 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives a figures of 600.000 to 1,500,000 killed. The figures of casualties are so varied that impartial individuals clearly don’t know what to believe.
Armenian sources provided by the Patriarchate and taken on board by contemporary Armenian authors often reported figures given by others. Hovannisian reported that the Armenian population in Turkey before WW1 was less than 2 million, but more than 1.5 million. Pasdermadjian claimed there were 4.1 million worldwide. 2.1 million in the Ottoman empire, 1.7 million in Russia and 300.000 in the rest of the world.
Foreign sources gave the figures as follows:
Ludovic de Costenson 1913. Worldwide 3.1 million of which 1.4million were in Turkey.
Christopher Walker 1.5-2 million in Turkey
Claire Price reported a figure of 1 million in Turkey prior to the war.
Alexander Powell asserted that the world Armenian population in 1914 was no more than 3 million
Though 13 years before the start of WW1 H.F.D Lynch in his 1901 book ”Armenia,” believed the Armenian Patriarchate to be ”dishonest” on their figures and actually gave a breakdown of his findings, which offer some startling statistics. They are as follows in his own spelling.
906,984. The Armenian plateau (Russia and Turkish Provinces)
450,000. Caucasia and the rest of Transcaucasia
75,600. Astrakhan & Bessarabia
751,500. The rest of Turkey.
186,000. European Turkey.
28,890. Iranian Azerbaidjan.
14,110. Colony of Julfa and the rest of Iran
5,010. Bulgaria & Eastern Roumelia
We have to bear in mind that the population may have increased in 13 years, but due to high infant mortality and lower life expectancy it could not have made much difference.
A respected French geographer Vital Cuinet research on this subject was published in the” French Yellow Book of 1910.” His findings for the Ottoman Empire’s population were as follows.
1,285,853 Other Christians
170,822 Other foreigners
The benefit of checking out contemporary census statistics is to verify the claim of 1.5 million Armenian deaths. Judging by the highest independent estimates and taking into account the world Armenian population estimates on the eve of WW1, and comparing it to the survivors of today’s world Armenian population ranging from 8-11million (depending on the source) the figures don’t seem to add up. If we assume that half the population of 3 million (the highest independent estimate) were wiped out, how is it that 1.5 million have increased to 8million (which is the lowest estimate for today’s world population)??
China’s population in 1910 was estimated at 439,214,000 today it is 1,364,000,000. Just over 3 fold.
The 1917 Russian census for neighbouring Azerbaijan showed a population of 2.354,000. Today it is 9.600.00. 4 fold.
It’s hard to believe that the remaining 1.5 million Armenians would show a 5 fold increase on the lower estimate, or 7-8 fold increase on the higher estimate. A decimated population after 1915 would find it hard to pick up such an increase in its population.
One document that was released in 1961 based on an original letter from the British Embassy in Constantinople in November 1922 is also confusing in that it states the ”Approximate number of Armenians in the world at 3.004.000.” with the vast majority of 2.195.000 in the areas of Erivan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Trans Caspian and other parts of Russia. The confusion lies in that all the victims of the 1915 deportations came from the eastern parts of the Ottoman empire, which mostly covers these areas. So, How was it that 2.195.000 people were still estimated to be in and around the Caucasus region?
The confusion for the impartial reader is that, while the highest number of Armenians from various independent sources gives us a figure of 3.1 million, the British estimate the population in 1922 at just over 3million, but the Armenian claims of 1.5 million deaths would have reduced the population by half. Even if we take the highest possible estimate provided by Pasdermadjian of 4.1 million (see above) that leaves a casualty rate of 1.1 million. Pasdermadjian’s population estimates however is contradicted by every source, including other Armenians.
In addition I thought it would be useful to check the casualties for WW1 from a book published in 1917, which gave the figures up to that point. By 1917 the Armenian ”Deportations were at least 2 years old, and the publishers of ”’The Great War,” were ”The Amalgamated Press Ltd,” edited by H.W.Wilson. The books formed part of a series of 13 volumes. Details of the war casualties which totalled ”7 million” on all fronts were given in volume 9 on page 493, with the Germans being the highest in Western Europe at 1,067,000 and 254,000 missing presumed dead. The total amounted to 1,321,000. Strangely the Armenian casualties are not given. The report was based on ”An estimate of the British War Cabinet, in May, 1917, which placed the loss of lives at seven million, including women and children who had been starved or murdered in Belgium, Serbia, and Armenia.” The obvious question would be, if 1,5 million Armenians were killed, would this not have been given? especially as the propaganda war at the time was immense. We have to bear in mind that the British, French, Turkish and Russian figures all topped one million each. Newspaper reports by Turks or Armenians prone to exaggeration and propaganda need to be overlooked. But the British war cabinet should be a more reliable source of casualties for the period.
All the statistics in this article cannot and must not downplay the suffering of the vast majority of innocent people who lost their lives. Of that there is no doubt. if one thing is certain it’s that many innocent Armenians were murdered in the process of being deported from their homes. To excuse or deny this fact is not an acceptable option. What I would like to see from the Governments is more transparency on the true figures involved. Not having access to such information, impartial observers find it hard to come to a final conclusion. By the same token it would be much more positive if the Armenian government also acknowledge the losses inflicted on Turkish civilians during the period leading up to the fateful events. To imply that only one side committed atrocities while the other were angels only complicates the dispute. For their part The Turkish need to come out of their defensive shell and debate this issue in a more transparent and responsible manner. The Turkish government has begun to show some signs of finally debating this subject in a more mature manner, denying everything simply adds to the problem. Sadly most views from individuals or countries seem to be politically motivated or based on personal prejudice. What really needs to be done is for an international team of respected historians, including Turkish, Armenian and Russian to have access to every historic document that is available on this subject, so they can verify the facts and details of what really happened.
As the aggrieved party in this case is Armenia, I would like to believe they are more than prepared to open their WW1 archives without pride or prejudice. If their claims turn out to be correct then no doubt the truth needs to be acknowledged.
The information provided for today’s world wide Armenian population by the Armenians is the most detailed and would indicate a seven fold increase in the population after the tragic events of 1915 to the present. Considering most Armenians migrated to more economically advanced countries where the birth rates have been much lower this is a staggering increase, far in excess of normal growth rates.
NOTE; ”The Turkish government and people in general consider the transfer as a resettlement, and not a deportation as this may wrongly imply that they were moved to another country outside the Ottoman borders.” The terminology used in this article in no way takes a firm view, or supports either sides point of view. It was written with the express opinion that if we are to understand the complexities of such events in history ”ALL SIDES SHOULD BE WILLING TO OPEN THEIR ARCHIVES TO INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY.” History based purely on modern propaganda as opposed to archive information simply leads to exaggeration and misinformation.
Links to Armenian populations from various sources.
Armenian diaspora’s population estimate
|ARMENIAN POPULATION IN THE WORLD||more that 10 million|
|Hawaii, U3,215,800 ( 04.2005 )init SA||N/A|
|US Virgin Islands||N/A|
US State Department document on Armenian Refugees in 1921