Reviews

What is the reality behind the Armenian tragedy of 1915?

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
1893 1,001,465. Not available 36,268.
1905 1,031,708. 89,040. 52,485
1914 1,161,169. 67,838. 65,844

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

    8,070. Roumania

    1,230. Austria

________

2,427,394 Total

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.

14,856,118 Muslim

  1,475,011 Armenians

  1,285,853 Other Christians

     123,947 Jewish

     170,822 Other foreigners

_________

17,911,751 total

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.

Armenians being deported

Armenians being deported

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.

Armenian refugees

Armenian refugees

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.

http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/armenia-population/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_diaspora

http://countryeconomy.com/demography/population/Armenia

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Population

Armenian diaspora’s population estimate

ARMENIAN POPULATION IN THE WORLD more that 10 million
Albania 500
Argentina 130,000
Buenos Aires N/A
Armenia 3,800,000
Austria 3,000
Australia 59,400
Melbourne 7,000
Sydney 42,000
Bahamas N/A
Belarus 25,000
Belgium 5,000
Bolivia N/A
Bosnia-Herzegovina N/A
Brazil 40,000
Bulgaria 30,000
Plovdiv 15,000
Canada 80,000
Montreal 50,000
Ottawa 1,000
Toronto 30,000
Chile 1,000
China 16
Colombia 250
Costa Rica 20
Ivoiry Coast 20
Croatia N/A
Cuba 100
Cyprus 2,740
Czech Republic 10,000
Denmark 3,000
Dominican Republic 75
Ecuador N/A
Egypt 6,500
El Salvador N/A
Estonia 2,000
Ethiopia 400
Finland 1,000
France 450,000
Lyon 100,000
Marseille 80,000
Paris 200,000
Georgia 460,000
Germany 42,000
Ghana 15
Greece 20,000
Guatemala N/A
Hungary 15,000
Honduras 900
Hong Kong 16
Kazakhstan 25,000
Kuwait 5,000
Kyrgyz tan 3,285
Hawaii, U3,215,800 ( 04.2005 )init SA N/A
Hungary N/A
India 560
Indonesia 10
Iran 80,000
Iraq 20,000
Ireland 50
Israel 3,000
Italy 2,500
Milan 800
Rome 400
Venice 200
Jamaica N/A
Japan 10
Jordan 51,533
Latvia 5,000
Lithuania 2,500
Luxembourg 10
Kenya N/A
Latvia N/A
Lebanon 234,000
Lithuania N/A
Luxembourg N/A
Mexico 500
Moldova 7,000
Monaco 200
Morocco N/A
Netherlands 3,000
New Zealand 600
Norway 1,000
Panama N/A
Paraguay N/A
Peru N/A
Philippines 8
Poland 92,000
Portugal N/A
Puerto Rico N/A
Quatar 150
Romania 7,500
Russia 2,200,000
Moscow 450,000
St. Petersburg N/A
Saudi Arabia N/A
Senegal 15
Singapore 35
Slovakia N/A
South Africa 200
South Korea 12
Spain 1,000
Sudan 1,000
Swaziland 8
Sweden 5,000
Switzerland 5,000
Syria 150,000
Tahiti N/A
Tajikistan 6,000
Thailand 1,000
Tunisia N/A
Turkey 1,080,000
Turkmenistan 32,000
UAE 3,000
Ukraine 150,000
United Kingdom 18,000
London 12,000
United States 1,400,000
Boston 50,000
Chicago N/A
Detroit 60,000
Florida (state) 25,000
Boca-Raton, FL 2,400
Orlando, FL 850
Fresno (County) 50,000
Los-Angeles 360,000
Miami 1,000
New-York 100,000
Philadelphia, PA 10,000
Phoenix, AZ 2,500
Raleigh, NC 500
Richmond, VA 1,200
Seattle 2,000
Tampa, FL 1,200
Washington DC 10,000
Watertown, MA 10,000
US Virgin Islands N/A
Uruguay 19,000
Uzbekistan 70,000
Venezuela 2,500
Vietnam 8
Yemen N/A
Yugoslavia 10,000
Zaire N/A
Zambia 10
Zimbabwe 28

 US State Department document on Armenian Refugees in 1921

US_State_Department_document_on_Armenian_Refugess_in_1921

12 replies »

  1. Excellent research Ismail Veli . Some American scholars have tackled the question of Armenian population like you have and are in agreeance with your findings that the Armenian deaths at this time are grossly ınflated by the Armenian diaspora. Turkey offered to open their records over the last few years, Armenia rejecting the proposal. There are also claims by Turkish historiand that Armenian Dashnak armed guerrila movement supported by Russians terrorised the Eastern Anatolian Turks and killed over 2 million Turks ! wether this number is inflated or not is another questionmark! To me it seems that both parties are using the old psychological war propoganda and have not got over the grief felt by the war dead at that time. As you say best way is to let historian look at all the records available and settle this long winded saga of upmanship and erronous propoganda . After all the Armenian populations were partners in the Ottoman empire and both populations lived side by side for very many centuries. Its best they put thes allegations to bed and live in peace with each other as neighbours like the rest of Europeans.

  2. There was an excellent documentary on Aljazeera recently and the conclusions were that Armenians did have a bad time around 1915 but genocide did not happen.

    It is time the governments of USA and France in particular revisited this issue, read ALL the facts presented and not rely on sensationalism and popularism.

  3. Thank you Sermen and David for your comments. History based on popularism and propaganda often insults the victims as it deters objectivity in arriving at the real facts.

  4. I’ve no doubt that the Armenians have grossly inflated the figures and most historians are aware of this, but what is worrisome is the international support they’ve garnered. This is not surprising due to the anti-Ottoman/Turkish feeling and propaganda that has existed for centuries, and the desire to carve up the Ottoman empire. This aim has not diminished and is the reason why the genocide propagate continues.

  5. INTERNATIONAL LAW SAYS IT IS NO GENOCIDE
    Comment 1 of 2

    Relentless promotion of a contested claim as “settled history” (i.e. genocide) to unsuspecting masses by Armenians and their supporters is quite unsettling. This enduring prejudice against Turks and Muslims may be at the root of some conflicts today.

    I understand Armenians’ conviction, their raison d’etre, their unifier, and identity marker, but I am afraid such convictions and feelings and are not sufficient to justify demonizing an entire country, Turkey, and its people, Turks, with the most serious crime of genocide. I am thankful that we have an inconvenient truth called “law” to stop such arbitrary lynching.

    The United Nations 1948 Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide provides the definition of genocide and stipulates that
    — genocide charges can only be litigated at a “competent tribunal”
    — which shall follow “due process”
    — to prove “intent to destroy.”

    Such was never done in the case of Turkish-Armenian conflict and no court verdict exists saying it is genocide. To call it one anyway would be defrauding the unsuspecting public that there is a genocide verdict when we all know that there is not. So calling it genocide would be a fraud.

    In a landmark decision, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unequivocally supported the above position in its Dec 17, 2013 verdict on Perincek vs Switzerland that “[t]he existence of a ‘genocide’, which was a precisely defined legal concept, was not easy to prove”. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) added: “doubted that there could be a general consensus… given that historical research was, by definition, open to discussion and a matter of debate, without necessarily giving rise to final conclusions or to the assertion of objective and absolute truths”. Thus, the ECHR created a legal precedent of inadmissibility of any comparison between the Holocaust and the Armenian claims; the latter lacks what the former clearly has: concrete historical facts, clear legal basis, and existence of the “acts had been found by an international court to be clearly established”.

    “How can you be so sure that 1915 is genocide?”

    This simple but poignant question, posed by the presiding judge at the European Court of Human Rights to the lawyers of the Armenian side, sums it all up, doesn’t it? It is like “the king is naked” call of the “genocide industry”.

    After all, the Jewish Holocaust verdict is backed up by Nuremberg Tribunal. Where is the Armenian Nuremberg? Where is the court-verdict that says 1915 is genocide? (Don’t waste your time looking for it, as it does NOT exist.) All we have are discredited claims, biased articles and editorials, persistent intimidation, intimidation, terrorism, an PR gimmicks like films, exhibits, memorials, and similar embellishment produced by the Armenians and their supporters. But no concrete facts. Nothing that can stand the scrutiny of a court room.

  6. LET THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
    Comment 2 of 2

    The Jewish Holocaust is a court-proven genocide and there is a competent tribunal that went through due process to prove intent to exterminate.

    Remember Nuremberg?

    Where is the Armenian Nuremberg?

    To call 1915 a genocide would be to equate “official” Armenian narrative to real Jewish experience. It would be an insult to the silent memory of six million Jews who were killed just for being Jews. Whereas Armenians resorted to terrorism (1862-1922,) revolts (1882-1920,) and treason (1878-1920) and caused 519,000 Turks and other Muslims to meet their tragic ends at the hands of Armenian revolutionaries. Jews did not do any of those heinous acts in 1930s or 1940s. So how can any decent human being measure the two events by the same yardstick: genocide ? That is why the UN, the US, the UK, Australia, Israel, Sweden and many other countries do not accept the use of the term genocide to describe the Turkish-Armenian conflict.

    Armenian Genocide is an oft-repeated fallacy and a long-discredited political claim promoted by Armenians and others who have only been exposed to the official Armenian narrative during their upbringing and education. These people, for example, can never explain a photo like this (see http://www.ethocide.com) where Armenian cadets at the Armenian Military Academy , established in 1906 in Bulgaria, arrogantly brandish their Russian-made Mosin weapons. They cannot because they have never heard about the Armenian Military Academy in Bulgaria whose cadets practiced their art of killing on my grandparents in the village of
    KIRLIKOVA. They cannot because they have never heard terms like Dashnaks, Hunchaks, Armenakans, Ramgavar, Nemesis, and more, names of Armenian terrorist gangs, who, collectively, killed 519,000 Turks and other Muslims during WWI.

    I am the son of Turkish survivors from both paternal and maternal sides. My father was the sole survivor of the village of KIRLIKOVA–hence my family name–where the entire Turkish population of the village and the four neighboring Turkish villages were exterminated by Bulgarian and Greek irregulars, helped by Ottoman-Armenian cadets from the Armenian military academy nearby (www.ethocide.com . ) So where is my pain in the alleged Armenian genocide narration ?

    Armenians took up arms against their own government; killed their Muslim, mostly Turkish, neighbors and other fellow Ottoman citizens, even Ottoman Jews. Armenians joined the invading enemy (Russian, French, British, and Greek) armies. Turks defended their home against a serious military threat posed by the Armenian insurgency at a time of brutal multiple foreign invasions. The measure the Turks took to mitigate the Armenian threat was TERESET (TEmporary RESETtlement order of May 31, 1915) of those in the Armenian community that supported the Armenian insurgency, directly or indirectly, not wholesale massacre like in allies did during WWII in Dresden, Nagasaki, or Hiroshima.

    This fact was well articulated as follows by a Christian missionary, George M. Lamsa, in his book The Secret of the Near East, (The Ideal Press, Philadelphia 1923, p 133: )

    “…In some towns containing ten Armenian houses and thirty Turkish houses, it was reported that 40,000 people were killed, about 10,000 women were taken to the harem, and thousands of children left destitute; and the city university destroyed, and the bishop killed. It is a well- known fact that even in the last war the native Christians, despite the Turkish cautions, armed themselves and fought on the side of the Allies. In these conflicts, they were not idle, but they were well supplied with artillery, machine guns and inflicted heavy losses on their enemies….”

    Peace

  7. Does the census include women and children? In any case, arguing numbers and acting so defensively- both sides are guilty of this- is a very ineffective way of tackling the problem. We all must live with the sins of our fathers, but they don’t have to define us.

    • Thank you everyone for your comments. Photis, all the figures include the total population. Until the mid to last quarter of the 1800s the Ottomans generally counted men, but in the last quarter of the 19th century women and children were also included. The rest are all independent accounts of countries that included the total population. Sadly as Ergun and Photis point out (albeit from a different point of view) We have to live with the sins of our fathers. Its sad that humans even today resort to this level of violence in defence of what they perceive to be their rights. If history has taught us one thing, its that we rarely learn from past mistakes.

      • Thank you for your reply Ismail. I thought as much. It’s a very interesting and dangerous topic to write about, a sensitive issue for both sides. Acceptance that the reality is different that what we want it to be is certainly the first step. I grew up in Cyprus in the 80s-90s, the Greek Cypriot education system at the time was carefully omitting any atrocities committed by Greek Cypriots. If it wasn’t for my grandfather, I would have a very one sided version of history.

        On another note, I really enjoy your historical articles about Cyprus, keep them coming!

      • Thank you For your comments Photis. I must admit I thought a lot about writing this article. as you rightly pointed out its a very sensitive subject for all sides involved. I’m happy that you enjoy my historical articles. I enjoy the research much more than the political turmoil and bickering of our tragic recent history.

  8. I read Mr. KIRLIKOVALI’ s comment. He explains the realities. Therefore, I have nothıng to add. As for the author’ s statement in the article as ” It would make sense for the Ottoman, Armenian, Russian archives to be opened to historians for closer inspection.” I want to draw your attention what the Argentinian journalist and author Mariano Saravia recently said. He has written a book with the title of “The Armenian Cry” . He says he made use of national archives from Turkey, Armenia, Germany, and the United States. Therefore, any scholar or author can enter the Turkish archives. (Click below link, pls.)

    http://asbarez.com/141890/the-armenian-cry-book-signing-to-be-hosted-at-glendale-youth-center/