Shortly after the Treaty of Berlin the British Government despatched a number of consular officers with certain instructions to go and inquire into the general condition of Armenia, for the alleged purpose of ascertaining the necessary measures of reform.
These officers were secretly commissioned to make efforts for the killing of the Armenian Question. In the first place they baptized Armenia with a new name ; they called Armenia with the name Kurdistan, meaning the land of the Kurds. And who were the Kurds?—They were predatory savage tribes who lived on the highlands of Armenia, in tents, and had no place where they lived permanently the year round. They roved all over the country, and earned their honest living by means of their daggers. It was against these savages that the Armenians wanted protection, and the Signatory Powers of the Treaty of Berlin recognized in the 61st Article of that treaty that they were a bad lot, and that the Armenians needed protection against them. But the British consular officers recognized these professional thieves and assassins as the rightful owners of the country, and the Armenians were made guests in the home of these Kurds. This alone settled the Armenian Question. There was no Armenian Question according to this doctrine of the British Government. The country belonged to the Kurds, what did the Armenians want ? After that for many years Armenia was officially recognized by the British Government as Kurdistan, and when a question was made in the Parliament whether such and such outrages reported from Armenia were true, the under-secretary for Foreign Affairs would reply that the Government had no information of such an occurrence in Kurdistan.
The consular officers despatched to Armenia further published information regarding the imaginary virtues of the Kurds ; and when it came to saying anything about the Armenians they would pick cut what was injurious to them. Among others, these consular officers raised a question as to whether the Armenians did really form a majority of the population, to warrant their claims to having the administerial reforms which they desired—an absurd question ! If Armenians were found to form but a minority in their mother country, it appears that the hordes of Mohammedan savages would acquire the right of doing as they pleased with the helpless minority a splendid style of majority rule !
The Armenians suffered under the various Mohammedan elements, and they asked for redress ; they asked for justice ; they asked for the security of life, property and honor. But these things they had no right to have before the eyes of the British Government, unless they formed a majority of the population—an absurd pretext to obstruct the progress of civilization, and to keep Turkey intact in her barbarian character that it might the better serve as a barrier between Russia and the British interests in India. When has it been heard that predatory wild tribes, and civilized citizens living in cities, pursuing manufactures and arts, or industrious peasants pursuing agriculture, have been taken into account as equals in having voice in the construction of a government ? If the British Government is so zealous to do as the majority in a country would have, why does it not respect the will of the majority in the countries that it goes to grab ? And why does it seek the will of the majority in Turkey alone when the majority consists of savages and cut-throats ? Did the British Government occupy Egypt by the consent of the majority of Egyptians ? If today a popular vote were to be taken in Egypt as to whether the natives want England to stay in there or not, it is very likely that she would be voted out with an overwhelming majority. Did the British fleet ask the consent of the majority of the natives when it bombarded Zanzibar ? Did Britain respect the will of the native savages when she invaded Zululand, Matabella and Ashantee ? Then what the deuce impelled her to respect the will of the savage Kurds in introducing reforms in the administration of Armenia ?
This absurd question of majority as regards the introduction of administerial reforms in Armenia, was simply a round-about suggestion to the Porte that it could get rid of the Armenian Question by diminishing the number of Armenians, and the Turk was quick in taking the hint. Hence the Turkish doctrine that ”The solution of the Armenian question consists in the annihilation of the Armenian race.”
The Porte concluded that the shortest way of laying the Armenian Question to sleep was in seeing that the Armenians did form a minority—and a good minority at that.
The Circassian mountaineers in Daghistan had but recently been brought to submission by Russia, and they had begun to emigrate to the domains of the Sultan rather than live under the rule of the Czar and be restrained from exercising their wild habits. The Porte welcomed them all with open arms, and settled them in the fertile fields of Armenia, to live on the fat of the land. When these Circassian hordes entered Armenia they were in abject poverty ; they had almost nothing but the daggers and the pistols in their girdles, which are like inseparable members to a Circassian’s body. Within two or three years these Circassians were all in a prosperous condition, without labor or toil. They had all the cows, sheep, horses, rugs and other necessities that they cared to have, and they had so many cattle that they drove herds of them to the towns and sold them for any price to raise money for the purchase of better arms —swords, revolvers, rifles—the instruments wherewith they earned their livelihood. And where did they get all these things ? By robbery and plunder.
Even then the Porte attempted to begin the work of devastating the homes of the Armenians, at the hands of Sheikh Oubedullah, a Kurdish chief, who carried matters to such excess on the Persian frontier that the Porte was at last compelled to stop him, upon the strong representations of the Shah of Persia.
Meanwhile, the Armenians remained idle, and expected a speedy settlement of the matter by the good British Government. Everybody pursued his own course ; everybody minded his own business. Nobody felt the necessity of any preparation ; nobody realized the gravity of the future ; nobody could imagine that England was playing a treacherous part. Everything went on as before, and there was a general quietness among the Armenians. They had confidence in their Patriarch and they did not think that they had any personal duty themselves. Dullness reigned in the Patriarchate. The Patriarch simply waited to see what good turn the events might take, and to tell the truth, little was thought of the Armenian Question, which was like a spark that appeared and disappeared again.
Armenia’s ordeal by Armayis P. Vartooguian, New York, 1896