Relations During World War I

Ottoman Empire went into war against Britain, France and Russia on November 1, 1914 and Armenian committees considered this as a great opportunity. The Armenians formed voluntary troops and joined the Russian forces. They attacked Eastern Anatolia together with the Russian expeditionary forces. Furthermore, new rebellions were provoked in various parts of Anatolia, Ottoman forces were stabbed in the back, and civil Turks were massacred. The Armenians' targets were not only the Turks but also the Byzantine Greeks around Trabzon and Jews around Hakkari.

Tashnaqsutyun committee was gathered in Erzurum in June 1914 just before the Ottoman Empire began to fight and it took the following decisions:

"Tashnaqsutyun Congress takes into account economic, social and administrative policies contrasting and followed by the government of Party of Union and Progress against Christian factors, and especially Armenians and its deceptive activities about oppression and reforms. So, it decided to remain as an opponent to the party, to criticize party's political program, to struggle severely against itself and its organization."

Turkish Armenians living in Marseilles published a declaration at the end of the meeting held on August 5, 1914, when Ottoman Empire declared mobilization just before it went into war. Several statements from the aforementioned declaration which was published in various newspapers were as follows:

"Russian Armenians will fulfil their duties in order to take revenge of the abuse against our brothers' corpses by taking place on the side of Moscow armies. We, Armenians under the tyranny of Turks, shouldn't point any of our arms to France, which is our second homeland, and to its allies and friends.

Armenians, Turkey calls you to arms without telling you who the enemy is; to enlist voluntarily in the French army and its allies, in order to help the defeat of Wilhelm II's army whose railways passed over the corpses of 300.000 of our brothers."

We can easily learn from any sources that Armenians cooperated with Russians when the war broke out.

On this subject Philips Price said that:

"... when the war broke out, Armenians in that region (Eastern towns) contacted with Russian authorities in the Caucasus secretly, and volunteers from Turkish towns were begun to join the Russian forces by the help of an underground organization."

Rafael de Nogales wrote:

"Garo Pasdermichan (Pastirmaciyan), deputy of Erzurum, passed across the border to join the Russian Army with almost all the Armenian Officials and soldiers the Third Army. After a short while, he returned with the Russian Forces, burned down the Turkish villages, killed violently all the innocent Muslims whom he caught. The measure taken by the Ottoman authorities was to disarm the Armenian soldiers and gendarmes still the army, perhaps they had not has the opportunity to escape, and to transfer them to labor battalions to work in road construction and in equipment transportation.

Clair Price wrote:

" In compliance with the 1908 Constitution, the Government of Enver Pasha had the right to call Armenians to arms together with Turks who were at the right age for military service. However, they immediately began to resist with arms against authorities especially in Zeytun. Along the Eastern borders, Armenians began to escape and join Russian armies. The Government of Enver suspected the loyalty of the rest and transferred them to working battalions."

The Ottoman Government declared mobilization on August 3. The Armenians of Zeytun refused to stay under the Turkish flag, so they formed Zeytun Commando Regiment under the control of their own officials and wanted to protect their region themselves. But naturally their demand was refused and hence they actually rebelled on August 30. At the end of the pursuit approximately 60 rebels were caught with their arms and peace was established for a short time, but in December people of Zeytun began to attack administrative officers and gendarme again.

In May 1915, Rsussian forces advanced in Eastern Anatolia. English and French forces attacked Çanakkale and in the south, the channel operation was in progress. The domestic situation of the country was as explained. In Zeytun, Van and Mus rebellions broke out, the rebellion in Van led to Rusian occupation, and meanwhile the revolts of Zeytun and Mus were going on. Every corner of the country was full of deserters, every corner was exposed to attacks of gangs. As all adult Turks were in the army, the country was left to Armenians. The State was trying to deal with those rebellions while it was also fighting on the fronts. Under those circumstances the Ottoman Empire had to take the decision of relocation of the rebellious Armenians.

There was another decision taken during the war related to Armenians in Turkey, which actually concerned the Patriarchate. With a new regulation published in Takvim-i Vekayi on August 10, 1916, the relations of Armenian churches in Turkey with Ecmiyazin were stopped completely. Sis and Akdamar Catholicoses were united, the center of Catholicosism was moved to Jerusalem. Istanbul Patriarchate participated in that Catholicosism. It was also decided that the Istanbul Patriarch can only be contacted through sect administration. Moreover, the new regulation established new rules for the election of Patriarchs and the formation of Patriarch Assemblies.

REFERENCE: (1) Gürün, Kamuran, Ermeni Dosyasi, TTK Basimevi, Ankara, sh. 193- 209 (2) Gürün, a.g.e., sh. 229