The Ottoman Armenian Tragedy is a Genuine Historic Controversy
Garabet K. Moumdjian
Feroz Ahmad
Arend Jan Boekestijn
Brendon J. Cannon
Mary Schaeffer Conroy
Youssef Courbage
Paul Dumont
Bertil Duner
Gwynne Dyer
Edward J. Erickson
Philippe Fargues
Michael M. Gunter
Paul Henze
Eberhard Jäckel
Firuz Kazemzadeh
Yitzchak Kerem
William L. Langer
Bernard Lewis
Guenter Lewy
Heath W. Lowry
Andrew Mango
Robert Mantran
Justin McCarthy
Michael E. Meeker
Hikmet Ozdemir
Stephen Pope
Michael Radu
Jeremy Salt
Stanford Shaw
Norman Stone
Hew Strachan
Elizabeth-Anne Wheal
Brian G. Williams
Gilles Veinstein
Malcolm Yapp
Thierry Zarcone
Robert F. Zeidner

Rebels with a cause: Armenian-Macedonian Relations and Their Bulgarian Connection, 1895-1913

“Armenian and Mecedonian revolutionary organizations boast of mutually beneficial relationships dating back to the middle of the 1890s. Although the two groups opted for different approaches to the Ottoman Empire – Macedonian revolutionaries fighting for outright independence while their Armenian counterparts advocated a reformist agenda in the eastern provinces of the empire – their collaboration seemed to be a natural one. Among all Christian minorities within the empire, it was the Macedonians and the Armenians that did not achieve their respective goals as stated in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. (...) The Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO) and its successor, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), were regarded as assiduously nationalistic in nature, which was apparent from the Young Turks’ attempts to keep a safe distance from them. Simultaneously, Macedonian revolutionaries advocated unity with Armenian revolutionary organizations, especially the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which also drew the ire of leaders from all the Young Turks factions. Still, it is critical to point out that the osmosis between the two Christian communities occurred in Bulgaria, which became the center of Armenian-Macedonian collaboration. The country was indeed a safe haven for Armenian and Macedonian revolutionaries; while sizable Armenian communities existed in Sofia and Varna, the crux of this collaboration centered on Filipe (Philippopolis, currently Plovdiv), further south and near the Macedonian border. It was in Filipe that Macedonian revolutionary leaders like Boris Sarafov, Gotse Delchev, and Slavi (Svetoslav) Merdzhanov, among others, established their first contacts with Hunchak and later with ARF revolutionaries.” P. 132, 133

“The reasoning behind the formation of the Armenian revolutionary organizations is best described by Hrach Dasnabedian, the official historian of the ARF: ‘The growing appetite manifested by Russia in its wars against the Ottomans in 1828 and 1877 created hope and aspiration for Armenians in both empires. It led to massive Armenian migrations to the Russian-dominated parts of the Caucasus... The renaissance of the Christian people of the Ottoman Empire (Greeks, Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians) was a contagious stimulus that infected Armenians... The impotence of the Patriarchate and its national bodies in asking for reforms for then Armenians in the interior...was enough for the creation of a revolutionary tendency within the Armenians... Moreover, the Armenian Nationalistic Movement was a peaceful reformist attitude aiming at attaining for Armenians what already was normal for the dominant Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire. (...) If there was even some semblance of autonomy or freedom in the minds of some Amenians that was not yet formulated in a bold political, ideological platform.’” P. 135

“Although the Balkan liberation movements inspired Armenians in the Ottoman Empire just as much as they motivated some radical irredentist elements within Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro, it was the Armenian revolutionary movement that served as a model worthy of emulation for the Macedonians. According to a leading ARF historian: ‘Even though the liberation struggles of the Balkans had been a source of inspiration for the Armenian Awakening in the Ottoman Empire, it seems that the case was reversed vis-a-vis Macedonia, because the latter was inspired by the Armenian liberation struggle. The Macedonians had to remain under Ottoman dominion until the Balkan Wars of 1912-13’” P. 136

“Emboldened by various contacts and clearly learning from fellow revolutionaries, a small Bulgarian-Macedonian radical group was formed in Salonika in 1899, which catapulted Merdzhanov, a prominent member destined to become an important link between the IMRO and the ARF, to the forefront. The group planned to assassinate the sultan and bomb the Ottoman Central Bank in Constantinople as wll as its branch in Salonika. In the face of insurmountable obstacles that literally prevented anyone from approaching the sultan, the first project was quickly abandoned, highlighting the imperatives of pratically over zeal. The group concentrated on the second project, attacking the Cental Bank and its branch. It rapidly organized surveillance stations that monitored both facilities. (...) Tunnels to both banks were dug from surveillance points that were completed by 1900, certainly in record time. Explosives for both operations were carried by Armenian volunteers from Russia through the port of Batumi but failed to reach their destinations, for reasons that were never elucidated. Ottoman policy authorities intercepted the Armenian volunteers, confiscated the weapons, and, following an “investigation” that most likely involved torture, captured Merdzhanov and his comrades.” P. 137, 138

“Interestingly, the 1903 events in Macedonia corresponded with an elevated cadence of revolutionary activities in the eastern vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. This shows that the reciprocal events were no coincidence but rather a previously decided, concerted effort. Although fighting for “the welfare and protection of their people” against regular Ottoman troops and Hamidiyye regiments earned the ARF fedayeen various epithets, most were dubbed troublemakers for instigating tensions. Relying on a report produced by an Armenian informant, British vice-consul Edward B. Freeman asserted that about forty revolutionaries were organized into three bands in Sasun and that “their plan was to act according to events in Macedonia.” Moreover, “the fixed purposed of the revolutionists this time was to provoke such a slaughter of their race that the Powers will be compelled to intervene onde and for all.” P. 149

“Geveva, the meeting place of all rebels from the east, became the center of this meeting that was organized by the editorial board of “Droshak”. Greel, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bosn,an, Herzegovinian, and Armenian elements participated. (...) The main objective was to create some sort of modus vivendi among the forces struggling against the regime of the sultan. The meeting also dealt with the means by which to topple the oppressive regime.

After much deliberation, participants formulated a united resolution that called for:

  1. Putting aside any and all infighting and animosity toward each other;
  2. Fighting against the sultan’s regime in a united front;
  3. Granting self-rule for Macedonia, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as a federation of all the small nationalities of the Balkans;
  4. Introducing radical changes and constitutional applications within the government of the Ottoman Empire;
  5. Struggling to attain the above objectives with a united front until the existing regime was toppled.” P. 151, 152

“(...) the glorification of the Armenian Company and its travails during the First and Second Balkan Wars – to the detriment of the ARF Western Bureau and the Constantinople Responsible Body – was, to say the least, harmful to already damaged Armenian-Young Turk relations:

Compatriots, Volunteers: There will come a beautiful day, when darkness and the long night of repression is destroyed and replaced with the sun of a new life. At that time, the Armenian nation will remember its sons who fought and fell in Macedonia, since their souls will then be united with the souls of those who fought and fell for the creation of a beautiful Armenian sunrise... Hurrah for those Armenian volunteers who participated in the battle for the liberation of Macedonia... Hurrah for the leaders of the Armenian Company, Antranig and Nzhdeh.

ARF Balkans Central Committee
November 8, 1913

Antranig’s simbolyc participation in the Balkan Wars on Bulgaria’s side occurred at a time when some eight thousand Armenian soldiers were serving in the Ottoman army in the Balkan theaters. Regrettably, the whole debacle failed to protect or serve Armenian interests, as it furhter alienated the ARF from the Young Turks. This in turn left a negative impact on the Armenian Reforms Project within the eastern vilayets of the Ottoman Empire that was already in the works.” P. 162, 163

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