The Ottoman Armenian Tragedy is a Genuine Historic Controversy
Edward J. Erickson
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

Researcher, Birmingham University, retired Lieutenant-Colonel, PhD in Ottoman Military History, The Leeds University. Erickson is the author of numerous books and articles on the Ottoman Army during the early twentieth century. - [info]

major publications

relevant publications

Source: Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency

“The book places the Armenian revolutionary movement within a chronological narrative of Ottoman counterinsurgency campaigns that establish a context for understanding the empire’s geostrategic and military problems in dealing with its restive multiethnic population. It is the author’s contention that the Ottoman government’s 1915 shift to a counterinsurgency campaign, based on population relocation of some of the Armenians, came about because of two principal elements centered on an existential danger to national security in wartime. The first of these elements was the Ottoman government’s belief that the Armenian revolutionary comiteed directly threatened military lines of communications.  The second (...) was a critically weak military posture in the empire’s core areas caused by the concentration of the Ottoman army in 1914 on the frontiers. As a result of these twined elements, the Ottoman government chose to pursue a counterinsurgency campaign against the Armenian revolutionary comitees in 1915 from a weak position of constrained resources centered on population relocation explicitly designed to separate revolutionary insurgents from a base of popular support.” P. 3

“The book establishes a comprehensive framework for understanding why the Ottoman state decided to relocate en masse the Armenian population living in six eastern provinces out of twenty in the empire in 1915. Although it is true that individuals, and large groups of Armenians, were relocated en masse were regionalized in just six military critical provinces in the empire’s core, while elsewhere the relocations were limited to selected groups of Armenians. In fact, at the war’s end in 1918, 350,000-400,000 Armenians from a prewar population of 1.5 million remained in their homes in the Ottoman Empire. (...) It explains that the Ottoman counterinsurgency campaign (...) was the outcome of an evolving counterinsurgency policy nested within the context of a global war. It illuminates why the Ottomans believed that the Armenian revolutionary committees were a genuine threat to national security in 1915 and why the Ottoman state chose a vigorous counterinsurgency policy based on relocation.” P.4

“(...) The First General Congress of the Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries convened in Tiblisi in early autumn 1982, in order to sort out the following three points of dissention: revolutionary objectives, party organization, and methods and tactis to be used by the party. As the congress deliberated it reached general agreement and the introduction to the Dashnak’s new program stated that the party’s purpose was “to bring about the political and economic freedom of Turkish Armenia by means of rebellion.” P.16

“(...) there were two serious outcomes that affected the Ottomans as a result of these nationalist insurrections by committee (...) Insurgency by committee became, and remained, a persistent concern of the Ottoman government and army until the final days of the empire. The intellectual focus and interest of an entire generation of the Ottoman officer corps shifted from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency campaigns.” P.36

“The CUP staged a bloody coup d’état, known as he Raid on the Sublime Porte, and established tighter control over the faltering Ottoman State. However, this failed to bring victory in the Balkan Wars. The military defeats gave rise to hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Turkish refugees, who poured into the empire’s western regions from the newly conquered provinces. Moreover, defeat in the Balkan Wars brought renewed activity on the part of the European powers in establishing a supervised administrative reform package supporting the Armenian population in eastern Anatolia. Together, these events moved the Armenian committees to break off relations with the CUP, resurrect their dormant organizations, revive their military capability, and open direct channels of communication with the governments of Russia and France. As a general European war broke out in the summer of 1914, the Ottomans viewed the increasingly strident nationalism of the Armenian committees as a serious threat to the empire’s security.” P.98

“As early as August 5, 1914, the Russian high command discussed the idea of arming the Armenians and encouraging them to rise in rebellion against the Ottomans. On August 29, General Nikolai Yudenich, chief of staff of the Russian army group in the Caucasus, composed a memorandum titled “On the Arming of Ottoman Armenians”, in which he advocated arming the Armenians as a fifth column (to use a modern term) inside the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, he proposed that covert weapons depots be established along the border and that trustworthy Armenian couriers smuggle the weapons into Ottoman territory. Two days later, Yudenich followed his suggestions by requesting that the Russian high command (the Stavka) provide 25,000 rifles and 12 million rounds of ammunition with which to arm the Armenians.” P.144

“The Armenian hero and military leader Antranig arrived on October 19, 1914, at the Tiblisi railway station to throngs of cheering Armenians. Antranig desired to centralize and command all of the volunteers, about 3,100 men altogether, but the Russians sent the legions in different directions. The First Legion, composed of 1,200 men, led by Antranig personally, deployed to the Persian border immediatly while the Second Legion of 500 men, led by Dro, followed to Igdir on October 20, 1914. Hamazapsp’s Third Legion and Kéri’s Fourth Legion, each of 500 men, marched toward Sarikamis on November 1 and 6, respectively. A message from Yudenich to General Nikolayev confirmed that Dro was positioned near Igdir for operations against Dogubeyazit and Van. A Fifth Legion under Vardan set off toward the frontier opposite Van.” P.145

“The uprising in the city of Van, in April 1915, was orchestred by the Dashnaks in conjunction with a simultaneous offensive by the Russian army, which itself included Armenian legions of expatriate Ottoman Armenian citizens. It was carefully planned; the small Ottoman force in the area quickly lost control of the city, and then failed to prevent the relief of the Armenians by the advancing Russian army. The loss of the city in this manner, to internal revolt supported by well-coordinated Russian military offensives, was  immediately viewed by the Ottoman high command as a template for future enemy operations (...) Today, there is no doubt that the allies encouraged and supported the Armenian committees to revolt against the empire in the spring of 1915, and that the Ottomans believed that what happened in Van was about to be repeated elsewhere.

(...) The Armenian insurrection was a genuine security imperative requiring an immediate solution, and it was an existential threat to the survival of the empire’s armies.” P. 161, 162

“In Armenian villages on the road between Sivas and Erzincan, Ottoman officers found illustrated bulletins and posters advocating resistance and massacre of Muslims. These incidents were especially disturbing to the Ottomans because they indicated a higher degree of organization, which also included the cutting of communications lines and the interdiction of roads.” P. 162, 163

“The intelligence reports, and associated message traffic, in the first four months of 1915 between the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of War, and the staffs of the Third and Fourth Armies show a joint appreciation that Armenian rebellion, terrorism, and weapons collection had erupted into a full-blown insurrection (...) Talat ordered the arrest of the leaders of the Armenian committee leaders in Constantinople and elsewhere on April 24. He justified this by stating the recent troubles in Zeytun, Bitlis, Sivas, Kayseri, and Van were caused by the revolutionary Armenian committees that had gathered “to incide upheavals in the regions in the army’s rear areas and to threaten the Ottoman Army at every opportunity through their attempts, organizations and publications.” Continuing, Talat ordered the immediate shutdown of both the Hunchak and Dashnak commitees.” P.182

“Enver and the Ministry of War also issued a directive on April 24 to begin localized evacuations of Armenians in the areas, where the Armenians were actually in rebellion. The directive also noted that “the Armenians were a great danger to the war effort, especially in east Anatolia.” This directive empowered the commanders of the Third and Fourth Armies to relocate Armenians that they designated as dangerous, but only from areas where they actually were engaged in rebellion.” P.182

“An understanding of the relocation decision as a resource-driven strategic outcome requires an examination of the Ottoman government’s assessments of the security situation, as it existed in May 1915, and the directives themselves. The partial relocation directives from the Ministry of War in April 1915 evolved into a regional program of population removal a month later. By late May 1915, government policy crystallized in formal relocation measures promulgated by government decree. These government instructions explicitly outlined the reasons for the relocation of Armenians from specified areas as well as presented the idea that these policies were a new military course of action. The army’s part in this was to forcibly remove any Armenians who resisted relocation.” P.184

“Beginning in July 1915, what were regarded by the Ottomans as coordinated and full-blown insurgencies erupted in Antep, Antioch, Karahisar, Maras, Urfa, and Zeytun. (...) In terms of how the armies of the day dealt with counterinsurgency, the Ottoman army employed a very conventional approach that reflected contemporary de facto Western practices.” P. 211, 212

“The decision to relocate the Armenians was an evolving counterinsurgency response that began with localized population removal but which, by late May 1915, escalated to a region-wide relocation policy involving six-provinces. There was little else that the thinly stretched Ottomans could have done. (...) The Western model of population relocation had worked for the Spanish, the Americans, and the British. It is, therefore, understandable why the Ottoman government turned to this counterinsurgency policy, which could be operationalized using minimal military resources, in order to deal effectively with the Armenian insurrection. (...) As to the question of whether the relocation was necessary for reasons of Ottoman national security in World War I. From the perspective of what the Ottoman government believed was happening – the answer is yes. (...) The relocation of the Armenian population, and the associated destruction of the Armenian revolutionary committees, ended what the Ottoman government believed was an existential threat to the Ottoman state, and the empire survived to fight on until late 1918.” P. 213, 214

Source: Ordered To Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War

"There is a huge body of historical literature concerning the "Armenian genocide" that maintains that the Young Turks, in particular Enver, Talat, and Cemal, intentionally sought to exterminate the Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire. This case against the Young Turks rests on the premise that they intended to racially purify the empire by purging or exterminating its minorities, particularly the troublesome Christian Armenians. Moreover, the literature maintains that under the pretext of wartime emergencies and threats to national security, the Young Turks took advantage of circumstances to conduct genocide against the Armenians. Using a combination of methods ranging from massacre to starvation, the Young Turks then deliberately and intentionally caused the deaths of several million Armenians. Much of this literature is emotionally charged and a large percentage of it is directly generated by the descendants of the survivors of the events. The genocide itself has, over the past eighty years, become a highly political issue in most western countries, as Armenian descendants seek legislative condemnation of the modern Turkish Republic. Because of this transgenerational campaign to establish that an Ottoman genocide (defined as an intentional and systematic attempt to exterminate a people or a race) against its Armenian subjects occurred, balanced and objective discourse on this subject becomes difficult." P. 95

"Compounding the implementation of these policies was the continuing Armenian Rebellion, which included bombings, assassinations, and the wholesale slaughter of Muslim Turkish villages. In some places the rebels even gained the upper hand. The rebels in the city of Van were ultimately relieved by advancing Russian forces. At Musa Dag in Cilicia, highly organized Armenians fought the Turks for forty days. These events were bound to inflame an already angry Turkish population and bureaucracy. In spite of this, the Ministry of the Interior continued to muddy the organizational waters by establishing further regulations that safeguarded the homes of the deportees. According to the ministry, the homes of the deportees were to be sealed and possessions left behind were to be cared for. If the Armenians' homes were used as temporary lodging for Balkan immigrants the new occupants would be liable for any accrued taxes and for damages. Certainly there were many mixed messages with all of their associated and unsaid complexities to be found in the rapidly evolving legal mechanisms which governed the deportation and relocation of the eastern Anatolian Armenians. The ponderous and complex wheels of the relocation process now began to grind the Armenians into dust." P. 103

"In the end, hundreds of thousands of Armenians died during the Armenian Rebellion and deportation of 1915-1916. A similar number of Muslim Turks also died during the Armenian revolts and during the Russian occupation of Erzurum, Van, Erzincan, Trabzon, and Malazgirt. To be sure, many Armenians, particularly leaders and men of military age were immediately killed or massacred early on before entering the deportation flow. Many more, especially the elderly and the infirm, died en route from apathy and neglect, or were murdered outright, as the deportees were passed from local official to local official in an ambulatory pipeline that resembled a decaying daisy chain. Finally, the geographic constraints imposed on where the Armenians could ultimately be allowed to settle imposed long term starvation as they were sent to arid locations outside the fertile and well-watered route of the Baghdad Railroad. It was a recipe for disaster with profound historical, moral, and practical consequences which persist into the present day." P. 103

Source: "Armenian Massacres, New Records Undercut Old Blame”, The Middle East Quarterly, Vol. XIII, Number 3, Summer 2006

"Clearly, many Armenians died during World War I. But accusations of genocide demand authentic proof of an official policy of ethnic extermination. Vahakn Dadrian has made high-profile claims that Major Stange and the Special Organization were the instruments of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Documents not utilized by Dadrian, though, discount such an allegation."

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