The Ottoman Armenian Tragedy is a Genuine Historic Controversy
Stanford Shaw
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

Professor Emeritus of History, UCLA.

Professor Stanford Shaw was one of the most prolific Ottoman historians in the world. He received his B.A. at Stanford in 1951 and M.A. in 1952. He then studied Middle Eastern history along with Arabic, Turkish and Persian as a graduate student at Princeton University starting in 1952, receiving his M.A. in 1955. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1958 from Princeton University with a dissertation entitled The Financial and Administrative Organization and Development of Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1798. Stanford Shaw served as Assistant and Associate Professor of Turkish Language and History, with tenure, in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and in the Department of History at Harvard University from 1958 until 1968, and as Professor of Turkish history at the University of California Los Angeles, where he was founding editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Middle East Studies. After retiring from UCLA, he taught for nearly a decade at Bilkent University in Ankara. [info]

major publications

  • The Financial and Administrative Organization & Development of Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1798
    (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1962)
  • Ottoman Egypt in the Age of the French Revolution
    (Harvard University Press, 1964)
  • The Budget of Ottoman Egypt, 1005/06-1596/97
    (Mouton and Co. The Hague, 1968)
  • Between Old and New: The Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim III. 1789-1807
    (Harvard University Press, 1971)
  • Ottoman Egypt in the Eighteenth Century
    (Harvard University Press)
  • History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turk
    (2 volumes, Cambridge University Press, 1976-1977 with Ezel Kural Shaw)
  • The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic
    (Macmillan, London, and New York University Press, 1991)
  • Turkey and the Holocaust:Turkey's role in rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi persecution, 1933-1945 (Macmillan, London and New York University Press, 1993)

relevant publications

  • History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey
    (2 volumes, Cambridge University Press, 1976-1977) (with Ezel Kural Shaw)
  • From Empire to Republic: The Turkish War of National Liberation 1918-1923:
    A Documentary Study (I - V vols. in 6 books, TTK/Turkish Historical Society, Ankara, 2000

Source: Shaw, S.J. and Shaw, E.K. (1977). History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

"Frustrated in their hopes of dominating Southeastern Europe through a Bulgarian satellite, the Russians sought an alternative instrument to chisel at the Ottoman Empire and turned to one of the minorities that had not sought to revolt against the sultan, the Armenians. There had been no difficulty with the Armenians previously because they had been integrated fully into traditional Ottoman society, with their own Gregorian millet maintaining religious and cultural autonomy under the Armenian patriarch of Istanbul.

The international crisis that culminated at the Congress of Berlin contributed to changes in outlook within the Armenian millet. The achievement of independence by Bulgaria and Serbia stimulated many Armenians to hope for the same. The Russian invasion of eastern Anatolia in 1877 was spearheaded by Armenian officers and administrators who had risen in the czar’s service since his absorption of the Caucasus earlier in the century. They contacted many of their brothers in the Ottoman Empire to secure their help against the sultan. The mass of Ottoman Armenians remained loyal subjects, but the deeds of the few who did not left a feeling of mistrust. This was magnified by Patriarch Nerses’ efforts at San Stefano and Berlin to gain European support for an Armenian state in the east as well as subsequent Russian efforts to develop Armenian nationalism as a means of undermining the Ottoman state. The Armenians as well as the Ottomans thus became pawns in the struggles for power in Europe.

With Russian encouragement, most Armenian nationalists emphasized political goals. When the European powers did not pay attention to their demands for autonomy or even independence, they turned from persuasion to terrorism in order to achieve their ends. Armenian revolutionary societies sprang up within the sultan’s dominions, particularly at Istanbul, Trabzon, Erzurum and Van, among wealthy Armenians in the Russian Empire, and also in the major cities of Europe, publishing periodicals and broadsides and sending them into Ottoman territory through the foreign post offices.

The Armenian nationalists became increasingly violent, using terror to force wealthy Armenians to support their cause and to stimulate Muslims to the kind of reprisals that would force the governments of Britain and Russia to intervene. They strove to undermine the sultan’s faith in his Armenian officials by forcing the latter to support the national cause. The revolutionary nationalists formed their own terror bands in the east, attacking Ottoman tax collectors, postmen and judges, massacring entire villages, and forcing the Armenian peasants and merchants to hide and feed them on pain of death. But on the whole, their numbers were too small, the mass of Armenians too disinterested, and Abdulhamit’s provincial police too efficient for them to make much headway. The Muslims were kept from responding in kind, though the sporadic Armenian raids increasingly poisoned the atmosphere and made it more and more difficult for Armenians and Muslims to live side by side as they had for generations.

With the failure of the Armenian revolutionaries inside the Ottoman Empire, the stage was left to those outside. … Their (Hunchak and Dashnaks) programs involved the creation of action groups to enter Ottoman territory, terrorize government officials and Armenians alike, and stimulate massacres. This would bring about foreign intervention and help the nationalists secure an independent, socialist Armenian republic, presumably in the six east Anatolian provinces from which all Muslims would be driven out or simply killed.

Revolutionary literature was sent into the empire, again through the foreign postal systems; bombs were exploded in public places; officials were murdered at their desks, and postmen along their routes. Within a short time, despite all the efforts of the government to keep order, the Hunchaks had what they wanted, reprisals from Muslim tribesman and villagers.

It should be recalled that Armenian terrorism came just when millions of Muslim refugees were flowing into the empire from Russia, Bulgaria and Bosnia Terrorism and counterterrorism went on for three years (1890-1893), with the government acting sternly, albeit sometimes harshly, to keep order. …

The winter of 1895-1896 witnessed large scale suffering throughout Anatolia as general security broke down, but little could be done until the army was brought in during the spring. In Istanbul, the Armenian terrorists, still hoping to force foreign intervention, struck again. On August 26, 1896, a group of Armenians took over the main Ottoman Bank in Beyoglu. … Soon after, a second group forced its way into the Sublime Porte, wounding several officials and threatening the Grand Vezir with a pistol. … Another bomb was thrown at the sultan as he was going to the Aya Sofya mosque for the Friday prayer, with more than 20 policemen guarding him being killed. … To reduce the tension and prevent further clashes the sultan soon afterward decreed a general amnesty and began to appoint Christian administrators in the east, even though the Christians were minorities in most of the districts involved. …

With the provocations soon forgotten, relations between Muslims and Armenians in the empire for the most part returned to normal. … By 1897, then, the Armenian Question was exhausted and lay dormant until World War I. It is interesting to note, however, that during these last years the Armenians of the empire actually increased in population and as the empire lost territory in the Balkans, they became a larger percentage of the total population." Pp. 200-205

"The Entente propaganda mills and Armenian nationalists claimed that over a million Armenians were massacred during the war. But this was based on the assumption that the prewar Armenian population numbered about 2.5 million. The total number of Armenians in the empire before the war in fact came to at most 1,300,000 according to the Ottoman census. About half of these were resident in the affected areas, but, with the city dwellers allowed to remain, the number actually transported came to no more than 400,000, including some terrorists and agitators from the cities rounded up soon after the war began. In addition, approximately one-half million Armenians subsequently fled into the Caucasus and elsewhere during the remainder of the war. Since about 100,000 Armenians lived in the empire afterward, and about 150,000 to 200,000 immigrated to western Europe and the United States, one can assume that about 200,000 perished as a result not only of the transportation but also of the same conditions famine, disease and war action that carried away some 2 million Muslims at the same time.

Careful examination of the secret records of the Ottoman cabinet at the time reveals no evidence that any of the CUP leaders, or anyone else in the central government, ordered massacres. To the contrary, orders were to the provincial forces to prevent all kinds of raids and communal disturbances that might cause loss of life. …

Those who died thus did so mainly while accompanying the retreating Russian army into the Caucasus, not as the result of direct Ottoman efforts to kill them." Pp. 315-317

"The Ottomans were unable to react more actively to the Arab revolt or the expected British push from Egypt because they were diverted by a Russian campaign into eastern Anatolia. … The worst massacre of the war followed as over a million Muslim peasants and tribesmen were forced to flee, with thousands being cut down as they tried to follow the retreating Ottoman army toward Erzincan…

Armenians throughout the world also were organizing and sending volunteer battalions to join the effort to cleanse eastern Anatolia of Turks so that an independent Armenian state could be established." Pp. 322-323

“Following the revolution a truce was signed between the (Transcaucasian) Republic and the Ottoman Empire at Erzincan (December 18, 1917) but the Armenian national units began a general massacre of the remaining Turkish cultivators in the southern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, leaving over 600,000 refugees out of a former population of 2,297,705 Turks in the provinces of Erzurum, Erzincan, Trabzon, Van and Bitlis before the war.  

With the truce clearly violated, Enver responded with a general offensive. … On February 14 Kazım took Erzincan, forcing the thousands of Armenian refugees who had gathered there to follow their army back into the Caucasus. … When the Armenians at Erzurum refused to surrender, he took it by storm (March 12), thus breaking the Armenian hold in the north and forcing those concentrated at Van in the south to retreat without further resistance.

Peace negotiations with the Transcaucasian Republic began at Trabzon. … The Armenians pressured the Republic to refuse, however, so that hostilities resumed and the Ottoman troops overran new lands to the east as the Russians retired. Thousands of Armenians who had retired behind the battle lines expecting a victory which would enable them to settle in new homes in eastern Anatolia now were forced to flee into Armenia proper. Erivan became so crowded that “anarchy, famine and epidemic” were the result.” Pp. 325-326

"Although Armenian and Greek exiles and their supporters tried to instill anti-Muslim sentiments and national aspirations into the political life of the countries where they settled - particularly in the United States, France and Britain – Turkey effectively countered their claims by pointing out that what massacres had occurred in the past were the result of minority terrorism and not of government policy and that in any case the Republic could no more be held responsible for the actions of the sultans than could the commissars of the Soviet Union for the repressive policies of the czars." P.430

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