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Armenian Catholicos Khrimian Letter to Nicholas II

Armenian Catholicos Khrimian to Nicholas II,                                                                                   Echmiadzin, July 1, 1904*

Mkrtich Khrimian (1820-1907) was one of the most prominent ecclesiastical figures of the Armenian national movement of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. Khrimian, in his capacity as the Armenian patriarch of Constantinople, had led a delegation in 1878 in Berlin to press for the rights of the Ottoman Armenians following the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish war. He, however, did not find a sympathetic ear among any of the powers gathered at the congress and returned to Constantinople to give a speech decrying Armenia’s abandonment. Khrimian continued to devote his efforts to find a solution to the Armenian Question, as the social and civil reforms embodied in Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin were never fully implemented by the government of Sultan Abdülhamid II, and were instead answered with repression and then full-scale massacres in 1894-96. Armenians gradually looked toward Turkey’s archrival the Russian Empire to exert pressure for it to undertake the promised measures. The necessity of reform must have been extremely urgent as Khrimian’s letter to Emperor Nicholas II came at a time when the Armenian Church’s relations with the Russian government had fallen to their lowest ebb.[1]

                                                                                                                                   Armen Manuk-Khaloyan                                                                                                                                       Center for Armenian Remembrance

My most merciful sovereign and exalted monarch! My entreaty to you concerns my flock in Turkey, which has now fallen in such misery and despair under the yoke of the Mohammedan. It was in the year 1878, during the Congress of Berlin, that the supplicating voice of my helpless flock reached for the first time the doors of the great powers of Europe. As a senior archbishop and the patriarch of Constantinople at that time, and as an individual well acquainted with the abject conditions of my nation, I appealed to the mercy of the great powers, England, France, Germany, Austria[-Hungary], and Italy, while my colleague Archbishop Khoren Narbey had the pleasure of being granted an audience with the tsar liberator of blessed memory, Alexander II, and placing before his feet the defense of the cause of the long-suffering Armenian people. The fruit of our labors was Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin, whose purpose it was to lighten the burden of the Armenian subjects of Turkey.[2]

Exalted monarch, I do not dare tire your Imperial Highness at length, but I am unable to conceal the reality of the matter – that is, the burden of the peaceful Armenian people of Turkey through the course of the past quarter century has grown only heavier, not lighter. Recall only the catastrophes of 1895-96, about which I sent detailed reports at the time to Your Imperial Majesty’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. To my great anguish, similar calamities are now being repeated at Sasun and Mush in Bitlis province and there is a threat that they may spread and envelop the other Armenian-populated regions…

I now once again appeal most humbly to the protection of Your Majesty, and unshakable is my belief that the word of Your Highness will put an end to the unbridled violence and all the troubles afflicting my oppressed flock living within the borders of Turkey.

I, moreover, feel it my duty to inform most humbly Your Majesty that I have delegated Archbishop Hovsep, the leader of the Armenian diocese in the United States of America, and Archbishop Sahak, the leader of the diocese of Iran and India, to mediate on behalf of my name with the other powers that were signatories to the Treaty of Berlin to demand that the government of Turkey protect the Armenian people from Mohammedan abuses.

 


* State Historical Archives of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, f. 56, op. 5, d. 338, republished in Hayots’ ts’eghaspanut’yuně Osmanyan kaysrut’yunum: Pastat’ght’eri yev nyut’eri zhoghovatsu [The Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Collected documents and materials], compiled by Mkrtich G. Nersisyan and Ruben G. Sahakyan (Erevan: Hayastan, 1991), pp. 213-14.

[1] See Hugh Seton-Watson, The Russian Empire, 1801-1917 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 500-01.

[2] Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin was a revised version of Article 16 of the Treaty of San Stefano, the original peace agreement signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Article 16 read, “As the evacuation by the Russian troops of the territory which they occupy in Armenia, and which is to be restored to Turkey, might give rise to conflicts and complications detrimental to the maintenance of good relations between the two countries, the Sublime Porte engages to carry into effect, without further delay, the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by Armenians, and to guarantee their security from Kurds and Circassians” (Edward Hurtslet, The Map of Europe by Treaty [London: Buttersworth, 1891], vol. 4, p. 2686). Article 61, in contrast, made no mention of the Russian army, which would have served as a guarantee of the reforms.