in his introduction of Leon Surmelian's "I Ask You Ladies and
Gentlemen" (1945, Dutton), called the book "gentle,
civilized" and "a story without hate." And one of the
remarkable features of this book is that its author does not automatically
make all Turks out to be monsters. It is this disarming quality that makes the
"extermination" chapter all the more alarming. Since Surmelian
sounds so credible, the evil acts he presents come across as believable.
And perhaps they happened just the way in which he
depicted them, during the "death march." No one denies there were
times the Armenians were abused, even by the gendarmes who were assigned to
Yet Surmelian provides giveaway signs of his own Dashnak
mentality, even when he was a little boy. As objective observers are keenly
aware, trust is not a favor to be granted to the
"end-justifies-the-means" Dashnak personality.
As K. S. Papazian astutely concluded in (p. 67 of) his
1934 book, "Patirotism Perverted," the Dashnaks'
"hands are raised against everybody, its plots and crimes have rocked the
conscience of all decent Armenians, and have disgraced our people before the
So was Surmelian being honest in his reportage, or was
his "unhateful" style a sneaky bone that he threw, in the knowledge
such would have presented a more believable format for his Dashnak ideology
and his service for the "Armenian Cause"? As with the rest of the
"genocide" madness, you weren't there and neither was I.
The fact is, throughout his narrative, Surmelian wastes
little opportunity in painting the Turks in the same brush as typical Armenian
propaganda. The Turks are stupid, sinister, and basically evil, despite token
descriptions of humanity (which are quite laudable, given their absence in the
"regular" channels). On the surface, there is then an "unhateful"
nature with the book. But as with the "genocide," if one wishes to
get to the truth, one must scratch beneath the surface. It does not take much
scratching to conclude that, despite what Saroyan tells us, "I Ask You
Ladies and Gentlemen" offers quite a bit of hatred... as we'll soon
The clarity with which Surmelian remembers the most
minute details from thirty years ago, as a nine-year-old, already is the
greatest cause for suspicion. The way he rounds out the story with the
injections of "Armenian genocide-speak" (such as all the Armenian
men being subjected to annihilation... as if today's worldwide Armenian
population could have reached 7 million from what was 3 million, had all the
men been wiped out) makes it appear that he used this opportunity to lay on
the typically deceptive Armenian propaganda.
Regardless: the book offered some interesting
observations aside from the "cause" that are worth taking a look at.
Leon Surmelian and his family were in Trabzon/Trebizond
when the war started. The two Armenian newspapers were the "prudent" Byzantion
and the "hot-headed" Azatamart. His pharmacist father comes across as one
of the many good Armenians who was trapped between loyalty to the state and the pressures
brought upon by the greedy, fanatical revolutionary leaders. ("Father
was strongly for Armeno-Turkish friendship, and the only Armenian in Trebizond critical of
Russia... he heaped again his scorn for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. 'It's
destroying our nation! It has ruined our schools, disunited our people. What do your
people know about international politics? Wasn't it all this revolutionary foolishness
that started the Massacre?'" Three cheers for Surmelian the senior!)
The fact that Leon Surmelian had a
"humane" Armenian for a father (an intelligent father whom Surmelian deeply
respected for being "always right"), and a mother who shunned political
conversations (and thus, theoretically, would not have served as an anti-Turkish
influence) makes it all the more profound that Surmelian harbored such traitorous feelings
for his Ottoman nation, as he reveals time and again... even as an impressionable
nine-year-old. (At such a young age, often it is the parents who do the impressing.) Thus,
ironically, the one truth that is revealed from "I Ask You Ladies and
Gentlemen" is that young Surmelian represented the way most Armenians must have
felt. The "average Joes" of the Armenian community — not all, but
all too many — were basically anti-Turkish and ready to collude with the enemy
It appears Surmelian's Uncle Leon was a member of
the Dashnak Armenian Revolutionary Federation, at odds with a cousin named George. ("Brother George, as we children called him—was hardly on speaking terms
with Uncle Leon, because of past party quarrels. He had been a member of a rival
revolutionary faction, the Hunchak, or Bell, and still had a revolver. But he had resigned
from the party, disillusioned and bitter, and withdrawn from all political activity.")
[Pg. 17]: "An old Turkish beggar was calling on us. Turkish
beggars did not fare very well in our exclusively Christian street; our old clothes and
leftover food usually went to Christian beggars but we were extremely generous with this
man... We were quite certain that God, seeing our good deed, would summon back the angel
of death and permit Uncle Harutiun to live."
This passage indicates the Armenians in this
neighborhood were isolated from the Muslims; this was not always the case from other
accounts I've read, where there was a community feeling between the two groups. (More on
this later.) In this example (along with other clues that will emerge), we can see there
is a "looking down on" the Turks, even at the level of the beggars. (I'd presume
most would feel those who have hit bottom are of the same class, and don't deserve further
prejudice.) Much the same way as Ohanus Appressian revealed in "Men Are Like That":
"I can see now that we Armenians frankly despised the (Turkic) Tartars, and while
holding a disproportionate share of the wealth of the country, regarded and treated them
as inferiors." This is a recurring theme in much of
Armenian literature, and surely too many Armenian youths from Internet forums have nothing
but contempt for what they regard as "racially inferior" and subhuman Turks.
It's interesting the family decided to become
charitable with the beggar in the hopes of being rewarded for their "good deed."
Uncle Leon was again reassuring [about the real
attitude of the Ittihad]. "It’s common knowledge in Constantinople that the
minister of the interior, Talat Pasha, dines and plays backgammon with our party
leaders,” he said. “And the Ittihad does what he says. Jemal Pasha, the new
minister of the navy, is also friendly.” “How about Enver?” That was the most magic
name of all for the Turks. “Enver had nothing but praise for our soldiers during the
Balkan War. It wasn’t easy for our boys to fight against the Christian Bulgarians —
with Antranik serving in their army. (...) But Uncle Leon... also had words of caution for
them from the party leaders. “We can dine and play backgammon with them, but we must
never cease to organize. They can fool us again...”
A quick look at Jemal Pasha, according to the
notorious Turk-hater, Johannes Lepsius, from his
book, Deutschland und Armenian: "Jemal Pasha... prevented serious rioting in
his district and took some steps to feed those who had been deported and provide necessary
services..." At another point in the book, an April 1, 1915 telegram from German
Consul Rossler states: "Jemal Pasha gave the order... any Mohammadan who attacks an
Armenian will be court-martialed." The fact is, Jemal Pasha always stood up for the
Armenians, and his reward was to be murdered at the hands of Armenian terrorists.
Surmelian's paragraph above continues with a deeper
condemnation of how evil the Turks really are, but I ask you this, ladies and gentlemen:
how feasible is it for leaders to show a genuine friendliness toward Armenians to later go
and conduct an extermination policy against them? In his book, I'm not sure whether
Surmelian provided a murder motive (I didn't have the luxury of examining at length, aside
from a quick read-through, and a hurried xeroxing of some pages), but the typical one is
that the Ottoman Empire intended to "Turkify" the nation, that is, pan-Turanism.
If the motive was based on such racism, can you imagine the pretense of dining with the
object of racial hatred, and playing board games with them? Would Hitler have asked a Jew
to share a few beers?
On the other hand, a good reason why the Armenians
gained their reputation for disloyalty is that they thought little of demonstrating
outward friendship while colluding with the enemies of their country; if
"fooling" was taking place, it was on the part of the Armenians.
While it was nice of Surmelian to reveal the Turkish
leaders had human dimensions — that was far more to expect than your general Armenian
"genocide" writer — the author's real intention appears to be the
demonstration of how really inhuman these Turks were. The style of "civility"
troublingly comes across as a pretense, akin to the Nazis' playing sweet music for
concentration camp arrivals. (Surmelian will go on to give a really atrocious example of
this, with two Turkish boys who had befriended him, coming up.)
[p. 62] We all knew the Turkish march:
Yashasun hurriet, edalet, mussavat,
Long live liberty, fraternity, equality,
Long live the people!
Brass-band words borrowed by the Young Turks from the slogan of the
French Revolution. That such words should exist in Turkish, we thought. . . . Yet the
music was good, and we sang it lustily, with imitations of various band instruments.
Yes, here the Armenians were granted an autonomy by the Ottomans when the
Armenians' previous rulers, the Byzantines, did not... and even when the Armenians'
rulers-to-be, the Russians, would not... allowing for the Armenians to maintain their
national identity since the 11th century (starting with the Seljuks), and Surmelian
provides this awful dig for his unwary English-speaking reader, already immersed in
"Terrible Turk" propaganda. The funny thing is, the more "liberty,
fraternity, equality" the Armenians were granted, the greater would Surmelian's
beloved Dashnaks (and other fanatical revolutionists) feel free to draw a deeper wedge
between the two peoples. Once again, Surmelian doesn't miss the opportunity to slip in an
untruthful assertion, in his "gentle, civilized" fashion.
How Valid was "Liberty, Fraternity,
Equality" in 1915 France?
Let's examine the concept ninety
"Many of France's estimated 5 million Muslims
feel the country has promised more than it has delivered. Not surprisingly, despair
and anger run deep.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité are ideals
that France has nurtured over the centuries. But they were in little evidence last
week around Paris."
From "Why Paris is
Burning," TIME Magazine, Nov. 14, 2005, p. 38
In other words, it's easier to have
"liberty, fraternity, equality," in nations that are homegeneous. 1915
France had much less of a melting pot than in 2005. How much "liberty,
fraternity, equality" do you think a North African immigrant enjoyed in 1915
And let's not forget an important
difference. "The Other" (Moslems) in 2005 France want to be accepted as
French. They want integration. As the article explains, while on paper they may have
equal rights, "many suffer from persistent
discrimination." A viewpoint
on the same page, "How Much More French Can I Be?", tells us the
previous generation "did all they could not
just to fit in but to become invisible. Calling attention to themselves meant
trouble — endless ID
and visa checks from police, racist remarks and insults — so they avoided all that."
By contrast, "The Other"
Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, in the centuries when they desired to fit in,
prospered to the point of having, on average, more comfortable lives than the
average Turk. Those who lived east, where the Ottomans had less control, faced
danger from lawless bands. What we're never told is that everyone faced the same
danger from these lawless bands.
The troubles began in the 19th
century, when greedier Armenians no longer wanted integration but separation.
While last fall I was visiting in California I
spent a day with Leon Surmelian, the author of "I Ask You Ladies and
Gentlemen." In the course of a conversation, as we were discussing the Fedayi
commanders, Leon suddenly said to me: "Dro was the greatest commander of them
all; he was never defeated in battle."
Now Leon is not a military man nor is he a
James G. Mandalian, DRO, The Armenian
Review, June 1957
Indeed, Surmelian is no
historian. He is yet another Armenian believer who has allowed the false Armenian
version of events to wash all over him, if he's going to make a ridiculous statement
like Dro's never having been defeated. (Dro was Armenia's war minister in the 1920 war with the Turks
that led to Armenia's crushing defeat [under an administration Surmelian himself
served under]; the cowardly, terroristic butcher was best in battle when facing
defenseless villagers to exterminate, not real soldiers. Fables of his valor and
military genius come strictly from Armenian historians.)
In his book, Surmelian's heart
belongs only to Antranik; it looks like his hero-worship of Armenian mass-murdering
heroes took another turn, in later years.
[p. 64] Avedis had tried to organize the first trade
union in Trebizond, and staged a demonstration on May Day by unfurling a large red
flag on the Gray Hill, and then with a band of his comrades, mere schoolboys,
marching into the city singing La Marseillaise and an Armenian socialistic song. The
Turks thought the Armenians of the city had risen in revolt, to establish a kingdom
of their own—their old bugaboo—and a mob of Laz cutthroats, dervishes,
theological students, and other such patriots, armed to their teeth, gathered in the
Maydan, the central plaza, to “suppress” this new rebellion of the infidels.
Fortunately the town commandant happened to be a more enlightened man and knew
something about May Day celebrations in Europe. When the alarmed leaders of our
community appealed to him for protection, he sent troops to disperse the murderous
mob, and a massacre was narrowly averted.
In the entire book, Surmelian
gives overt examples of the Armenians' treacherous disloyalty (especially deriving
from himself, as the best example), and the possibility of Armenian revolt is termed
as an insignificant "bugaboo"? The thousands of Turks the vicious
Armenians subjected to outright murder, especially in the past forty-odd
"terrorist" years, was a very serious matter.
An example of losses (albeit
exaggerated) comes from the diary
of Aghasi, who began the 1895 Zeitun rebellion: "From the beginning until the
end of the insurrection, the Turks lost 20,000 men, 13,000 of whom were soldiers,
and the rest were bashi-bozuks [irregulars]. We had lost only 125 men, 60 of whom
had died in battle, and 65 of whom were dastardly killed during the
cease-fire." (p. 306] )
As W.W.I approached,
the local residents had good reason to fear Armenian treachery... for quite unlike
the innocent martyr nation the world came to know them as, when Turks were at the
mercy of Armenians, rarely was mercy shown.
Note how this episode
is presented: the Muslims are such an inferior sub-species, it is in their nature to
massacre, in a heartbeat. If the Ottoman Muslims were so dangerous and murderous,
wouldn't the time to have approached the "enlightened" commandant have
been before the May Day celebration had taken place?
"If the Turks had attacked us, we would
have defended ourselves," Uncle Leon said, while Mother got up and left the
room. These political arguments in our home made her acutely unhappy.
"Defended with what?" Father shouted.
"Our party had eight hundred members in
"All right, you had eight hundred heroes
against how many Turks? — eight hundred thousand, with millions more behind them.
Did you expect the British fleet to force the Dardanelles to come to your help—and
climb maybe to the top of Mount Ararat? Or did you think the Russian Emperor would
declare war on the Sultan because Avedis was waving a red flag and singing
I did not know what socialism meant, I did not
understand half of what they said. Though it seemed to me that Father was right—he
was too smart to be wrong—and though George and Vertanes agreed with everything he
said, and disagreed with everything Uncle Leon said, I was nevertheless heart and
soul for Uncle Leon. In fact I resented my cousins...
The fact that the
revolutionists might have been numerically inferior never stopped them from creating
riots and massacres in years past. After centuries of harmony, the sequence for the
troubles that occurred nearly always followed the same pattern: The Armenians would
ACT, and the Turks would REACT. If the Armenians had not stirred trouble... if they
had remained loyal, as they were up to the 19th century... none would have had to
fear a "massacre." (Just as Surmelian's dad said. He was too smart to be
Although father served as the
voice of reason and was "right," Surmelian's heart and soul still belonged
with his Dashnak uncle. A good revelation as to how the ordinary Ottoman-Armenian
must have felt, after years of prior agitation by the missionaries and the
[p. 65] I wanted to ask Father, "Then why
do you call Uncle Leon, and not Brother George or Brother Vertanes, to protect you
with his revolver when you go out at night?"
Father was in terror of the Turkish toughs who
attacked Christian pedestrians in the streets, robbed them, beat them, and sometimes
knifed them to death. The main street, from his pharmacy to our home, was fairly
safe, but the dark crooked narrow side streets were not. We had to carry a lantern
when we ventured into these perilous alleys on visiting our relatives. When it was
Father’s turn to keep his pharmacy open until past midnight, or when he went out
after supper, Uncle Leon had to accompany him as bodyguard.
It's amazing Father was
evidently never a victim of a mugging, after years of such operation. As if a second
man (the "bodyguard") would be of much use if a small gang were of the
mind to cause mischief. Yes, lawless criminals is a problem peculiar to every
country, and the gangs in this part of the world were surely not exclusively
Turkish. The Turkish ones most certainly did not ask their victims if they were
Christian before attacking them. The truth is, everyone suffered from toughs of all
stripes, particularly in regions of the empire where Ottoman control was weak. (This
type of account would be rare in an area where control was strong, as in Istanbul.)
Yet note again how the author gives the impression of anti-Christian persecution. .
[p. 66] We continued our vacation, and then
suddenly there was a war in Europe. The Great Christian Powers were fighting among
themselves. And Turkey, backed by Germany, saw her chance of settling old scores
with Russia and her allies—our friends.
Was that the reason? The
bankrupt, war-weary Ottoman Empire suddenly decided this would be a good opportunity
to take on the combined might of Russia, England and France? Or did the reason have
more to do with how these nations were trying to take the empire apart, reducing the
empire to little more than a European colony.... so that the Ottomans knew if the
Entente Powers were to win against Germany, nothing would stand in the way of the
empire's dissolution? Even with this backdrop, the Ottomans dragged their feet, and
would have entered as easily on the side of the Allies as with Germany, if not for
circumstances that real historians know all too well.
These "Great Christian
Powers" were some "friends"
of the Armenians, by the way. Even if they behaved like real friends, if your nation
goes to war, then these friends would need to stop being regarded as friends. Yet,
the Ottoman-Armenians decided to betray their nation, by choice or coercion, and
became "belligerents de facto."
As if to signal the approach of our doom there
was a total eclipse of the sun at this time. Old women in the village shook their
heads and said gravely: “It’s an ill omen. May God protect us."
An allusion to the oncoming
"genocide." However, if there were such an omen, it affected all Ottoman
peoples. The Muslims who suffered in far greater numbers did not count, and still
don't count... including the over half-million who died as a direct result of savage
Armenian treatment, along with some Russian help.
We found the city a veritable war camp in
September, with ships in the harbor unloading troops and supplies, and Turkish
soldiers, trained by German officers, marching off to war goose-stepping.
Let's keep in mind the book's
release was in 1945, when terms like "goose-stepping" had a particularly
chilling effect. The description brings us a step closer to "genocide."
Men and materials were being rushed to Erzurum,
the great fortress breasting the Russian Caucasus.
There was a general
mobilization. Vertanes, wearing the uniform of a Turkish lieutenant, came to bid us
good-bye. He, too, was going to Erzurum. He let me play with his sword. I practiced
drawing the long heavy blade out of its scabbard. If he was worried, he tried not to
show it. He knew he looked well in his uniform. The ends of his black mustache were
waxed and twisted up like Enver Pasha’s. He was in the medical corps. He asked
Nevart to play the piano for him once more, and when she finished her number, he
clapped his hands and cried, “Bis! Bis! Repetez!” with his customary enthusiasm.
He acted as if he had done nothing all his life but attend concerts.
Uncle Leon, being a widow’s sole support, was
allowed to pay an exemption tax of forty gold pounds—half of which he had to
borrow from Father.
“Before long they will take me too,” Father
said gloomily. “It’s going to be from seven to seventy.” The schools opened as
usual, but Trebizond was not the same city any more.
Why would father have thought
the mobilization would grow to be so all-encompassing? In his wisdom, he must have
recognized what a desperate situation this was for his country. Far from the Ottoman
Empire's opportunistically choosing to go to war, as son Surmelian informed us, the
Ottoman Empire would face three of the greatest superpowers of the period. Indeed,
all the fighting the Ottomans were engaged in during W.W.I was of a
"defensive" nature (save for Enver's ill-fated attack leading to
Sarikamish, at the outset).
Given this desperate
life-or-death struggle, where every man was needed to hold off such superior forces
from multiple fronts, the Armenian soldiers were of great need. This would be the
worst time to initiate an "extermination" program, even if the Ottoman
Turks were of the mind to do so. The securing of the borders would have needed to
come first, otherwise there would be no land left to "Turkify" anything,
particularly with the treaties the
Allies had agreed upon secretly, to divvy up Ottoman real estate. This is only
common sense. And Leon Surmelian has indirectly borne witness to this fact, through
his father, who was always right.
|Chapter 5: My Turkish
[p. 67] The frog said to the heron, “Please take me up with
you, friend heron. I am tired of living in this slimy water.”
The heron replied, “Very well, friend frog. Hang on with your
mouth to this stick in my beak. Take care not to say anything while we are in the air. Be
sure to keep your mouth shut.”
“I will not say a word,” the frog promised.
So they went up together. The heron flew over fields and
mountains, and the frog was delighted. But soon it forgot its promise, and as it opened
its mouth to speak, it fell to the ground and was killed.
OUR Turkish lesson that day was about the frog that talked too much.
There were many stories with a moral in our Turkish reader. This particular lesson made me
think of what my father often said: we Armenians talked too much; we did not know how to
keep our mouths shut. Thus we proclaimed our love for Russia, England, and France from the
house tops. The Turkish comic paper Karagoz had truthfully said, If you want to know
the situation in the Dardanelles, look at an Armenian’s face.
The Turks were very different from us; one could never tell what
they really thought, what they really knew. They kept their secrets to themselves, and if
they talked, they often meant the opposite of what they said.
(Another look at the Karagöz cartoon.)
The above passage is very telling. It gets to the
heart of the matter as to why the "Armenian Genocide" has become the accepted
wisdom throughout the world. The Armenians are noisy and screech at every opportunity; the
Turks prefer silence.
This difference is the reason why there is no limit
to Armenian "Oral History," and the Turkish counterpart is difficult to find.
It's because the Turks don't like to speak of their sufferings, they are the polar
opposite of a "please feel sorry for me" people. This British archival source
provides understanding, as [Shown
here on this page].
This is the noble, strong, silent method of
behavior, a trait often admired in our movie heroes... as opposed to the "feel sorry
for me" noisy way of behaving, that we usually look upon with contempt. It is this
attribute Pierre Loti referred to in "Fantome d’Orient" (1928), when he
wrote: "The dignified silence of the Turks against the mounting unjustified
attacks and mean slanders can only be explained by their pity for the blind. …How
beautifully this attitude of theirs answers the undignified calumnies."
However, the sad fact is, no matter how
"noble" it is to suffer silently, the way the world works — as the Armenians
and Greeks know all too well — is that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
Note how Surmelian attempts to turn this
"strong and silent" quality into something to be derided, as when he writes, the
Turks "often meant the opposite of what they said." I'm reminded of U.S.
Secretary of State Robert Lansing's attempt to turn this plus into a minus, when he
characterized a gesture of warmth and friendliness by Talat Pasha (in "Ambassador
Morgenthau's Story") as "Oriental
insincerity." Sometimes the Turks aren't guided by Western standards, as British
P.O.W. Harold Armstrong provided examples of in "Turkey in Travail" ("When we happened to talk of the war,
they told me glowing accounts of the success of the British troops").... but this
eastern mentality has at its root a desire to be sensitive and kind. Of course, such an
attitude could be easily misunderstood by cultures that appreciate directness; on the
surface, it can appear to be phony. Similarly, the "in your face" American style
can come across as crass... and not only by the easterner's perspective, but by most
Europeans, as well.
If we desire to get at the core of what true
dishonesty means, I believe the better determinant is to listen to the multitudes of
Western observations, as the following from Grattan Geary's' "Through Asiatic
"When a Mohammedan gives me his word,"
said a gentleman who had a long experience of the country, "whether he be a Turk or a
Kurd, I can always rely on it. I have never been what is called ' done ' by a Mussulman,
although I have had transactions of all kinds with Moslems for years ; but when a native
Christian tells me anything, I have cause instinctively to ask myself where the deception
lies — in what direction I am going to be tricked."
And one by Leslie Davis ("The Slaughterhouse
Province," p. 183):
"l[L]ying and trickery and inordinate love
of money are besetting sins of almost all (the Armenians)."
[p. 68] Just a few days before, we pupils of the
Armenian National School had given three Russian prisoners an ovation. They were Cossack
oflicers and had the faces of tigers. They acknowledged our applause and shouts of
admiration by bowing politely and smiling, while their Turkish guards no doubt gnashed
their teeth, but said nothing.
Can you imagine any nation at war that encounters a
blatant show of support for the enemy, from its own populace? Here are these symbols of a
hostile country, anxious to obliterate the Ottoman Empire, being openly admired from a
sampling of the Ottoman people themselves... how should the Turkish guards have felt? What
a remarkable display of toleration to do no more than "silently suffer."
Even today, "Hanoi Jane" Fonda can never
hear the end of spending a little time with the Viet Cong... an enemy that hardly
threatened the existence of the USA, as Czarist Russia surely did with the "Sick
This is a superb example of how the local Armenians
openly displayed their betrayal. The reader can get a better idea as to why it was not
just the armed Armenian rebels who needed to be targeted; in this atmosphere... and in the
midst of desperate wartime, no longer could friend be told apart from foe, in the
Ottoman-Armenian community. What nation would not have removed this dangerous, belligerent
community outside the war zone?
As Hovhannes Katchaznouni correctly informed us ([One of the main aspects of
Armenian] "national psychology... [is] to seek external causes for [Armenian ]
misfortune."..."), Armenians can never accept responsibility. Here they
openly do the crime, and when they get their just desserts (by being resettled).... they
must blame anyone but themselves.
[p. 69] The school bell rang the fire alarm. We ran down the
stairway into the playground, while the mysterious explosions became one continuous
"The Russian warships are bombarding the city!” our director
cried out excitedly. “To the church! Everybody go to the church !"
And to the church we ran, joyously. Here we felt perfectly safe, for
its cross was clearly visible from the sea, and we imagined the Russians were Christian
warriors coming to save us from the Turkish yoke. Perhaps the Russians were already
landing troops! We thought that under Russian rule Trebizond would become a modern port, a
real European city with straight streets and electricity. There was no more magic word in
our vocabulary than "electricity." It summed up all the glamor of Paris, London,
I was in heaven, listening to the thunder of the Russian guns. The
bombardment lasted about an hour, and was followed by a deathly hush, as if a volcano had
erupted like Vesuvius and buried the town under the rumbling torrents of its lava,
although the Christians were somehow miraculously alive, while all the Turks were dead.
Presently a mob of hysterical women were clamoring for us at the
gate. Aunt Azniv had come to take my brother Onnik and me home.
"Were you afraid?" she asked, pressing us to her.
"Not a bit," I assured her. I was disgusted. I saw a
platoon of Turkish soldiers marching down the street. "I thought the Russians had
landed troops," I said. "Shsh! Be careful! Remember what Father said. The walls
have ears," Aunt Azniv cautioned me, carrying a finger to her lips.
What! Even dear old Aunt Azniv encouraged her
As if Russian rule would have provided that
glamorous and "electric" modern lifestyle. (Here's a look at how the Armenians
really fared under the Russians.) Ironically, one
reason why the Ottomans lagged behind the modern world was because the limited budget,
already hindered by the extortion of European Capitulations, had to go to the military...
to keep the Russian bear, and other enemies, at bay. And when the Russian bear kept
killing and exiling Muslims from conquered lands, it was the resource-challenged Ottoman
Empire that was the last stop... these refugees needed to be taken care of. (Refugees who
were aware of the hand treacherous Armenians played at ruining their lives, complicating
relations between the two peoples further.)
According to Realities Behind the Relocation, 3,400
Armenians were sent away from Surmelian's area of residence, Trebizond. (p. 131);
Vahakn Dadrian states in his chapter of "America and the Armenian Genocide of
1915" that 8-10,000 lived in the city by the same name, and 55,000-60,000 in
the province (p. 69), the "wholesale liquidation... all but completed" by
mid-to-late August 1915 (p. 88), a good chunk of which ("nor was it
minimal," p. 82) via "drowning
But we know Dadrian was blowing his usual hot
air from the writings of missionary Ernest C. Partridge, who wrote: "the
Armenians who had lived in this territory and all the way up to the Black Sea (Trebizond), who had survived began to trek back," in
"Mary Louise Graffam," Armenian
Affairs, (Winter 1949-1950). If there
were a true policy of "wholesale liquidation," none could have survived.
[p. 70-72] On our way home German army trucks loaded
with Turkish soldiers roared down the main street. The war had brought the first
automobiles to Trebizond, and the Turks believed they were driven by shaitans,
devils, but I knew better. Automobiles were like electricity, products of modern
civilization, of European science.
As we passed by the French school, now
converted to a Turkish military hospital, we saw a group of German army nurses,
young women with pink cheeks and determined chins. They had red crosses on their
white caps and arm bands. This strange Alliance of the Christian cross with the
Turkish crescent disturbed and puzzled me. "Have the Germans become
Mohammedans?" I asked Aunt Azniv.
"No, my dear, I don’t think so. But they
might as well be," she added indignantly.
Quite the contrary, the Germans
often allowed their "Christianity" to supersede their alliance with the Ottomans. One reason why
race-and-religiously prejudiced Germans (like the aforementioned consul, Rossler),
similarly hoodwinked by missionaries and Armenians, provided testimony for the
Armenians' genocide. (An example of this attitude: The Germans treated the Turks
with high contempt, and more than one told me how glad he was to meet another white
man in this “native” country. "Turkey in Travail")
Note how the Turks are painted
as village idiots, and even a nine-year-old Armenian boy betters them, by knowing
what's up with those cars.
The next day we went to school as usual. Many
boys exhibited pieces of Russian shrapnel, and asked big prices for them. I got one
by trading for it a Nestlé chocolate premium, a pocket mirror with the picture of a
pretty girl on the back of it, and two rare stamps. That lovely piece of jagged
steel was now my prized possession. It symbolized the might of Christian Russia.
We were so restless and distracted in the
classroom that even Mr. Ohanian had to rap for order and attention. Well, sooner or
later the Russians would be in Trebizond. The Turks weren’t going to stop them.
Why, one of those Cossacks could cut down fifty Turks!
Two months later the Russian fleet bombarded Trebizond again, and this time it
seemed they would really land troops and occupy the city. The new bombardment lasted
five hours. Buildings were crashing down all around us. it was a terrifying, yet
glorious experience. But the Russian warships steamed away at nightfall, and from
the balcony of a neighbor’s house, in the shell-proof basement of which we had
taken shelter; we watched them disappear.
The next day both Turks and Christians fled to villages. We moved to Zefanoz, where
my grandmother had an estate. It was a cold, rainy day in February. On reaching the
village we found both of Grandmother’s houses requisitioned by a prominent Turkish
official, Remzi Sami Bey. His uniformed orderlies had taken the keys from the
caretaker and were busy cleaning the buildings. His wife and children were expected
to arrive momentarily.
We stood in the rain, shelterless. It was revolting. But what could we do? To oppose
a government requisition was a crime punishable by death. We wondered whether his
wife belonged to the old bigoted or the new “enlightened” class of Turkish
Happily she turned out to be of the latter. She was unveiled, which meant she was
emancipated and civilized. She and her two sons, riding on horseback, were
accompanied by a few soldiers. Pale, slender, chic, she was extremely attractive.
She told us that she was born and educated in Constantinople. We relaxed.
Her name was Selma Hanum. She apologized in exquisite Turkish phrases for the
inconvenience she had caused us, and she said she did not know the houses had been
requisitioned without their owner’s knowledge and consent. She was sorry. However,
because of her husband’s official position, which necessitated many important
conferences in their home with high German and Turkish officers, they had to live in
this village, which was close enough to the city, yet out of the reach of the
Russian guns. Perhaps we could rent to her the large house? Rent? We could hardly
believe our eats. She was a real lady. With mutual thanks and compliments an
agreement was reached.
She talked with us freely and without covering her face, for we had no menfolk with
us. Father had to remain in the city to keep his pharmacy open, as required by law,
and Uncle Leon was to join us in the village a few weeks later. She expressed the
wish, patting my head, that Onnik and I would play with her two sons, Mahmut Bey and
Shukri Bey. As their father was a bey, they were beys too, and she called them by
their titles. Both were fair, good-looking boys, in European clothes. We had never
played with Turkish children before, but now we shook hands and talked like friends.
Selma Hanum paid us a ceremonious visit, which we duly returned. After this exchange
of diplomatic courtesies, we became good neighbors, and Onnik and I played with
Shukri Bey and Mahmut Bey. Their mother would watch us approvingly. Mr. Ohanian was
also in the village, and she engaged him as Turkish tutor for her sons. I was very
happy because he was a poor man and had a family to support. We had no idea Turks
could be so nice. Selma Hanum won us over completely. In a few weeks the winter was
over. The crocus bloomed..
It is to the author's credit to
relate this example of the one Turk who was "so nice." I found this
statement to be a sad commentary: "We had never played with Turkish children
before." Because of segregation? Because of feelings of superiority?
|I believe in the
truth of eyewitness interviews from this
report covering the 1915 Van revolt. In the section entitled, "The
Pre-1915 Status of the Van Armenians & Relations with the Muslims," we
get accounts such as: 'Zahide Coskun of Koprukoy said: "We had Armenian
neighbours both in our village (at the time she was living in the village of Gollu)
and in the neighbouring villages. We got on with these neighbours of ours just as we
got on with the Muslims. Everything was good"...' I don't know what to make of
this picture of severe segregation that Surmelian presents. True, "Armenian
quarters" may have been separate in many villages. Yet, it's hard to fathom that
the Turks would be regarded as such an alien, unknown species, as Surmelian's story
[p. 73-74] I awoke one morning with the gay riot of
sparrows under the eaves of our roof. Onnik threw a pillow at me. I threw it back at
him, and we chased each other on all fours, growling and barking like dogs.
“Stop that racket !“ Mother cried. “You can take an example from Shukri and
Mahmut. See how gentlemanly, how well behaved they are.”
We had to agree that they were. We were pretty wild and rough compared to them. They
wore long pants, too, though they were not older than we.
“Onnik! Zaven !“ Shukri and Mahmut called us from the lawn, standing under the
windows of our bedroom. “Sabahunuz hayir olsun! May your morning be felicitous !“
“Sabahunuz hayir olsun!” we returned, leaning out the window.
Mother smiled. They were so glad to see us. It seemed they couldn’t get along
"Come on down, and let’s play tip-cat," Shukri begged. He sent a small
stick flying through the air with a blow of his bat. "See how I have improved
"You certainly have," we agreed. ~We had taught them the game. We were
their only playmates in the village; they did not associate with other boys, not
I had planted some beans under an acacia tree, and dashed over to see if they had
sprouted. Clawing the earth back, I felt them with the tip of my finger. They were
firm. They had taken root!
"My beans are growing !" I shouted excitedly, and grabbing Mahmut whirled
around with him. He was happy too.
"We have sunk another English battleship," he said. "Father got the
news last night."
"Our soldiers in the Dardanelles are eating English chocolate," his
brother Shukri added, laughing.
But what was good news for them, was bad news for us. I became glum. Mahmut sang “Illeri!
Illeri!” and marched across the lawn. He was always playing soldier, like me.
But while I aspired to be another Napoleon, his idol was Enver Pasha. He maintained
that Enver Pasha was greater than Napoleon and would clean up Russia, England, and
France. I was careful not to betray my feelings too much, and did not argue with
After breakfast we played tip-cat with them, and then watched the Turkish recruits
drilling on our lawn. Remzi Sami Bey had transformed part of our lawn into a drill
ground. The Christian soldiers were not given arms any more and were herded in labor
How mysterious. The Armenian
soldiers were given arms to begin with, which is odd if the idea had been to
exterminate the Armenians all along. Now why would you suppose the decision was made
to take these arms away? (Hint: "At the front the Armenians used blank
cartridges and deserted in droves.")
At least Surmelian treats the
"labor battalion hell" issue fairly, by acknowledging the other side of
the coin... a great rarity in Armenian propaganda (although he couldn't resist
adding another example of his own superiority, compared with the dim-witted Turks):
[pp. 74-5] For them life in the Turkish Army
was hell. But even the Moslems suffered. I felt sorry for these recruits. They were
such a miserable, submissive lot, just resigned to their kismet. They never joked or
laughed. Some of them were barefooted. They lived on bean soup and brown bread, but
the soup was like dishwater, and lucky was the man who fished out a bean. They were
starving. This group was almost ready to go to the front; they had finally learned
which side was left, and which side right. The sergeants had an awful time teaching
them that. I knew the commands much better than they.
While we were watching them drill, and the air
was filled with the hoarse shouts of the sergeants, the telephone rang. Telephones
were strictly for high official use, and Remzi Sami Bey had installed one in the
large house. This particular call was for Shukri and Mahmut, and came from another
village. They ran to answer it, and then told us proudly that they had just talked
to the sons of the governor-general, who was coming to spend a week with them. Their
fathers were close personal friends.
The guests arrived in the afternoon, on horseback, with a few orderlies. I disliked
them intensely the minute I met them. The three sons had mean faces, and were loud
and spoiled. Shukri and Mahmut included us in all their plans for the week, but
their guests could barely hide their contempt for us. We were nothing but giaour
dogs in their eyes. We were afraid to antagonize them; otherwise we would have
preferred not to have anything to do with them. The youngest, about my age, was the
meanest. We played marbles and knucklebones, and he flew into a rage when he lost.
In the running game, “taking prisoner,” I purposely let him catch me a few
times, though I could run faster than he. When I caught him, he insisted he had not
crossed my boundary. We had an argument. I was willing to let him have his way,
since his father was governor-general and our lives were in his hands. I wanted to
be diplomatic, since we were living in dangerous times, but I lost my patience.
"Giaour dog, you can’t talk to me like that !" he shouted in my face.
"You don’t have many more days to live anyhow. We will cut your throats. We
will massacre all of you. We will not leave a single Armenian alive I" He moved
his hand across his throat and showed me how they would butcher us.
Let's bear one thing in mind
with this anecdote: we're dealing with children. Children have a tendency to be
cruel, and these spoiled, mean Turkish kids sure sound like they were trouble.
Consider their governor dad was
getting all the lowdown on Armenian treachery, that Surmelian himself provided a
representation of, in his nine-year-old state. (ADDENDUM, 8-07: For example,
an Oct. 1914 telegram the governor wrote, featured in the "Trabzon Facts"
box below, and its original is here.) Imagine the headaches the armed Armenian rebels were
causing the beleaguered Ottoman army, from behind-the-lines. The dinner table
conversation in their household must not have held the traitorous Armenians in the
highest esteem. Of course these kids would have been influenced, and would have
treated poor little Leon with contempt. Among humans, this would be the normal
REACTION to treacherous ACTION.
Now let's add the factor that
these were kids, and mean-spirited ones at that. (Sons of the governor! Imagine the
superiority complex.) It's natural to assume, in creepy little kid-speak, that WE
WILL KILL YOU would be a natural outcome of the miserable situation.
Yet author Surmelian actually
takes this outburst as "extermination" evidence!
As if the governor... even if
he were made aware of secret extermination orders, assuming they were a reality...
would pass on such sensitive information to his little kids! (And his
"loud," big-mouthed kids, at that.)
I ask you, ladies and
gentlemen, is that not mind-boggling?
But here's where Surmelian
enters "unforgivable" territory:
After the spoiled brats make
such an ugly comment, little Leon Surmelian turns to his good friends, Shukri and
Mahmut ... and they respond with an embarrassed silence. Entirely in keeping with
their "gentlemanly" character, especially in the face of the other vicious
How does Surmelian interpret
He indicates to the reader that
it's obvious Shukri and Mahmut have also been made aware of these extermination
Yes, these little boys...
seemingly devoid of prejudice, as children naturally would be before their parents
or other influences corrupt them.... these little boys who played such warm, loving
games with little Leon, are made out to be — in my opinion — worst
monsters than the governor's creepy kids, for knowing that their Armenian friend's
life would soon be kaput.
This is the nature of the evil
Turks, then... according to Leon Surmelian.
[p. 80] ...[S]omehow news of events in Constantinople, Van, Erzurum and elsewhere in
Turkey reached us in Zefanoz. All the outstanding Armenian intellectuals in the capital,
hundreds of poets, journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and even members
of the Ottoman parliament, had been rounded up by the police in one night and sent under
heavy guard to the interior, nobody knew exactly where. They had disappeared and had not
been heard from. In Van an Armenian uprising had taken place after their leaders were
treacherously seized and murdered by the governor-general Jevdet Bey, who was Enver Pasha’s
brother-in-law, and the entire Armenian community there was threatened by a general
massacre. The Turks were bombarding the Armenian quarters of Van from the fortress. The
Van Armenians were famous fighters and Uncle Leon was confident they would resist to the
In Trebizond the blow first fell on the Russian subjects, several of whom were in Zefanoz,
and we had relatives among them. They were summoned to the palace of the governor-general
to hear an "important message"—and never returned. We understood they were put
in boats and deported to Kerasund, in the custody of gendarmes and chetas.
I had been lulled by the
"gentle, civilized" nature of what I hoped to be a rare, fair example of
"Armenian Oral History," but Leon Surmelian's treatment of Shukri and Mehmet
drove home for me that this is yet another exercise in Armenian propaganda. So it's hard
to take whatever Surmelian says seriously. Particularly when he informs his reader that
the ringleaders who had been rounded up had disappeared and had
not been heard from.. Even Peter Balakian provided a couple of
examples of survivors in his abominable "The Burning Tigris." According
to Balakian, they had escaped.... including his "action priest" relative. Or were they released, like the musician
Komitas, after a two-week imprisonment? No doubt most were executed, and there were likely
innocents among them, but there was a full-scale rebellion going on. Leaders had to plan
these rebellions, and the price for treason is a high one in any nation; particularly
during wartime... and particularly during a war when super-powered nations are at the
gates. (Incidentally, the Armenian who ratted out some of these leaders — Harootyoun Mugurditchian — was later assassinated.... by
none other than Talat Pasha's killer, Soghoman Tehlirian!
[The Armenian Review, Autumn 1950, pgs. 46-7]
And here we go again with the
blackening of that eternal Turkish villain, Jevdet Bey. (The one Balakian actually would
have us believe, from his "Tigris" work, nailed horseshoes on Armenian feet..)
Curiously, it was on the Armenians' very own "Date of Doom," April 24, that a
telegram was sent suggesting a "deportation." It was sent by Jevdet Bey, and the
"deportation" concerned the endangered Muslims in his district, not the
"Until now approximately
4,000 insurgent Armenians have been brought to the region from the vicinity. The rebels
are engaged in highway robbery, attack the neighbouring villages and burn them. It is
impossible to prevent this. Now many women and children are left homeless. It is not
possible nor suitable to relocate them in tribal villages in the vicinity. Would it be
convenient to begin sending them to the western provinces?"
Armenian propaganda loves to tell us
the Armenians were only defending themselves in Van, and Surmelian happily obliges in
repeating this lie. The fact is, this was one of several Van uprisings, the first one taking place only days after Russia had
declared war in late 1914. It was not the Armenians threatened with massacre, but the
Turks and Muslims... since the menfolk were all away, fighting on the multiple, desperate
wartime fronts. The well armed Armenians began their offensive on May 8, and started
burning down the Muslim quarters. Jevdet Bey had no choice but to order the evacuation of
Van, and Turkish defense forces left Van on May 17... whereupon the Armenians began to set
fire to the evacuated Turkish quarters ... clearing the way for Russian entry.
It is interesting that those of
Russian ethnicity were living in Trebizond and were also subjected to
"deportation." Since the lawless chetas (gangs) accompanied this move
(amazing the details a nine-year-old boy learned... and retained, for thirty years), we
can infer the heartless Turks must have murdered them all.
About a week later a proclamation by the governor-general was posted in the streets of the
city and announced by town criers. Copies of it reached Zefanoz and Mr. Ohanian, our
instructor of Turkish, read and translated it to the anxious people who gathered around
him. He wiped his pincenez glasses with a silk handkerchief exactly as in our classroom
before he started reading that lengthy edict. It went like this:
Our Armenian fellow-countrymen, having allied themselves with the
enemies of the state and religion, and being in revolt against the government, are to be
deported to special districts in the interior and shall have to remain there for the
duration of the war.
We hereby order every Armenian in the province of
Trebizond to be ready to leave in one week, June 24 to July 1. Every Armenian without a
single exception is subject to this decree. Only those who are too ill and too old to walk
will be temporarily exempted from the deportation and taken care of in government
hospitals. Armenians from this day on are forbidden to sell anything and are allowed to
take with them on their journey only what they can carry with them. No carriages can be
In spite of their ingratitude the government will not deny its Armenian subjects its usual
paternal care and protection, will keep their houses and stores under seal, and restore
them to their owners when they return from their temporary exile.
We are forced to take this extreme measure for the defense of the fatherland
as well as for the good and security of our misguided Armenian fellow-countrymen. If any
Armenian opposes this decision of the government by armed resistance or otherwise, or
tries to hide himself, he will be taken dead or alive. All those who hide an Armenian or
give him food, shelter or aid of any kind will be punished by hanging, whether they be
Moslems or Christians.
Mr. Ohanian wiped off the beads of perspiration that had sprung up on his scholarly brow.
The color was completely gone from his face.
"I devoted my life to the teaching of the Turkish language," he said in a voice
charged with emotion, "and now I have to read and translate a proclamation like
People discussed the implications of this order and I listened eagerly.
"The Germans have deported thousands of Belgians, but this is not a mere copying of
German methods. This accursed government wants to destroy our nation."
"Calling us ungrateful when Armenians have built Turkey We have built the palaces in
which their bloody sultans live, we have built their greatest mosques, we have sewed their
clothes and made their shoes and treated their sick and even taught their children how to
read and write their own language. We have built and they have destroyed. And now the
Ittihad is going to solve the Armenian question by exiling all of us, men, women and
"Where are they going to send us?"
"To the Arabian deserts. That’s where they are sending the Armenians of Erzurum. We
have to walk to Mosul and Baghdad." "It would take us at least four months to
"This is wartime and the government is disturbed by what has happened at Van, so
wants to remove the Armenian population farther away from the front as a military
necessity. I think, on the advice of the German high staff. We shall suffer, yes, but
deportation is better than massacre."
"What we should do is to escape to the mountains, as many of us as possible, and
fight our way to the Russian lines." This proposal thrilled me. Oh, boy, how I would
fight! "Don’t talk nonsense. It will be sheer suicide. Fight with what? Can we
muster up fifteen rifles?"
They argued pro and con. Uncle Leon summed up the discussion by saying out of the corner
of his mouth: "Whatever will happen will happen to us men." Meaning the
government’s intention was to kill the men, but merely deport the women and children.
And that seemed to be the general belief.
Uncle Leon was one of the few known revolutionaries in the village and being a marked man,
friends urged him to take his rifle and go join the band of peasant deserters in the
mountains, among whom was his cousin Barnak. But he shook his head:
"I can’t leave my mother alone."
"Don’t worry about me," Grandmother said. "I have lived long enough. You
run away and save yourself."
"I am going to stay with you no matter what happens."
A few words on the proclamation. Yes,
it was an awful directive, to disrupt the lives of so many. (And let's bear in mind, it
was not only Armenians who were "deported" by the Government, but Turks as well.
One example, from the Palu region: "...the entire civil population, Turkish as
well Armenian, were sent away." Leslie Davis, The Slaughterhouse Province,
p. 104) Yet, given the treachery that Surmelian has given wonderful evidence of, and given
the desperate wartime situation, no other nation would have acted differently.
Arthur Tremaine Chester gave the following analogy, were a similar situation
to occur in the United States, and logically predicted the USA's "internal
enemies" would have been treated much worse. Nobody shed a tear for the Muslims the
Russians ruthlessly exiled during this period, even though the Muslims were not in revolt.
In fact, Enver Pasha preferred the Ottomans to adopt the Russian course, as this May 2, 1915 telegram specifies; he preferred
to truly "deport" (to move out of the country, and not around the
country) the Armenians. Would that have been the greater humanitarian course? (A tip:
Hovannisian has written some 150,000 Armenians who accompanied the Russian retreats died
of famine. Imagine what would have happened to these Armenians had they been cruelly
driven to Russian territory, without provisions and the care the
Ottomans had set aside for the Armenians.
As it were, an Armenian
representative reported to
Ambassador Morgenthau himself that half a million Armenians had "already settled down to business" and were
"earning their livings," by September of 1915... over two months after this
march from Trebizond. In another private communication that the contemptible ambassador
kept from his propagandistic "Story" book, Morgenthau was quoted (by Vahan
Cardashian, in a March 3, 1916 letter to Lord Bryce) as saying Armenians were found in
good numbers in almost all the interior cities of Turkey, and that the attitude of the
Government was passive. (The Armenian Review, Winter 1957, p. 107.)
Yet, Leon Surmelian will deceitfully
go on to make his reader believe extermination was the fate of the Armenians.
There were more exemptions granted to
classes of Armenians (such as Catholics and Protestants), but note how we are told above
that the sick and the old would be exempted. If the idea was to exterminate the Armenians,
why would this be? (The genocidal nation pro-Armenians love to compare with the Ottomans,
Nazi Germany, had a policy of euthanasia for its sick. Maybe Hitler got the idea from the
Armenians; from a Turkish proclamation in Davis' The
Slaughterhouse Province: In January and February 1915, many Moslem sick and injured
who were returning to their homes from the front, were pitilessly massacred in Armenian
villages through which they passed.)
[p. 83] When in the evening Remzi Sami Bey, who had been extremely busy that week with
conferences in the city, returned to the village, a delegation of Armenian women headed by
Mother appealed to him to spare the women and children.
"We don’t know where to turn, whom to appeal to except you. You are our neighbor,
you know us," Mother said, blushing. Others, more frank and voluble, raised their
voices, half protesting, half begging him to exempt the women and children. At his request
this meeting took place on the lawn next to ours. His wife and sons kept discreetly out of
sight. Standing like a god before us the mighty bey listened to these appeals, and then
gave his official answer in a thundering voice.
"Ladies, Hanum effendiler! The Armenians of Van revolted to stab our heroic
army in its back, while the regiments of Armenian volunteers in the Russian army are
carrying on a war of extermination against us. We were obliged to withdraw from Van, and
the unprincipled traitors there who have taken up arms against their own government, have
committed terrible atrocities on the peaceful Turkish population."
He paused, surveyed the crowd before him, and throwing back his big handsome head roared
louder. "The Russians have set up an Armenian government in Van under the presidency
of the chief of those bloodthirsty fiends, and the very existence of our fatherland is
threatened! We are very sorry, but we have to remove all Armenians without exception to
the interior in order to protect the rear of our army. I give you my word of honor that
our gendarmes will protect you on your way and no harm whatever will come to you. The
Ottoman State is magnanimous. After the war, which cannot but end by the complete victory
of our arms, you will be permitted to return to your homes and receive back all your
properties and goods. The day will come when you will realize that Russia and your own
comitadjis are your worst enemies, and you will thank the government for securing the
freedom and safety of the country and your own future happiness and prosperity by the
expedience of temporary exile."
He turned on his heel, and strode back to his house.
For some reason I visualized the Armenians of Van as human warriors living and battling in
a red sky. Oh, if I could only be at Van! If I could somehow fly on a fiery horse to those
red clouds. The word “Van” constantly hammered in my mind as I lay in bed that night,
unable to sleep.
I find it highly interesting that Leon Surmelian
would include the above speech; he must have done so with a wink, assuming his reader will
realize that everything Remzi Sami Bey thundered was a lie. (Particularly with Surmelian's
upcoming chapter dealing with the "deportation," where he leaves no doubt the
aim was extermination.) Yet I get the strangest feeling, Surmelian's conscience (given his
"gentle, civilized" style) chose to give a little "equal time" here.
Everything the Bey promised was the truth — at least truth that he believed in.
The reasons he provided for the Armenians' removal
were right on the button. Atrocities were committed after the Van Armenians had won, and
the existence of the "fatherland" (is that Surmelian's "Nazi"
parallel at work again? Surely he knew the Turkish term would have been "motherland")
was highly threatened.
I'm sure Remzi Sami Bey believed the gendarmes would
have protected the Armenians, and despite the horrors Surmelian will tell us that they
inflicted, perhaps they did. The Bey was 100% truthful in conveying the fact that the
relocation was of a temporary nature, the state did issue orders safeguarding Armenian
property (even though no doubt there were abuses... but these genuine orders were not
issued for show), and the Armenians were allowed
The one area in which he erred (aside from,
probably, the gendarmes' behavior) was when he believed the Armenians will realize the
error of their ways, and concede they were the dupes and
pawns of the Russians and the horrible revolutionary leaders who did not care for their own people. Fat chance.
The next day all the Armenians in the village were busy preparing for departure. Women and
girls sewed knapsacks, breeches and caps as if they were going on a vacation. Mother hoped
we might be exempted from the deportation, Father being a pharmacist. The government
surely could not afford to deport him when epidemic diseases killed more soldiers than
enemy bullets and pharmacists were even scarcer than doctors. We were quite certain Father
would attach himself to an army hospital or do something like that to save us. There were
many influential Turks among his friends and clients, and he was known to be a
conservative man, opposed to our political parties.
If Surmelian Senior was the one voice of sanity
among his people, a true injustice was committed if he was not granted an exemption.
Particularly if a lot of influential Turks knew him, and particularly since his profession
was a valuable one. (Exemptions were granted, including for those who were soldiers and
their families... especially those who worked in the medics corps, as we learned was the
assigned area for Vertanes; I don't recall what his fate was, if
Perhaps the authorities decided the exemption would
have been too risky, if they had gotten wind of what a traitor Surmelian Junior happened
TRABZON ("Trebizond") FACTS
Let's take a look at other
perspectives regarding Surmelian's residence!
Anti-Armenian treatment in Trabzon, circa
The British Consul in Trabzon,
Alfred Bliotti, affirmed that the administration of the eastern provinces was indeed
oppressive; this, however, was not directed specifically at Armenians, but, rather,
was a general maladministration. He further stated that Muslims were more oppressed by
this administration, for the non-Muslims could voice their complaints through the
Consuls, whereas there was nobody the Muslims could complain to. Moreover, the Consuls
did not see the necessity of speaking up against the treatment of Muslims.
So it wasn't just the Armenians
who were "persecuted"!
Trabzon was the headquarters of the Dashnak
According to Louise Nalbandian, Trabzon was chosen as the center of the terrorist Dashnak party
in 1890. Most leaders resided in Tiflis.
Armenian Rebels Within the Trabzon Province
The Governor of Trabzon,
Jemal Azmi Bey, in a message he sent to the Ministry of the Interior on 8 October
1914, stated that "A band of 800 people comprising the Ottoman and Russian
Armenians in Russia, has been armed by the Russians, and sent to the vicinity of
Artvin. We have been informed that they will spread out between Artvin and Ardanuch,
that their number will be increased to 7,000, and that they will be used to disturb
security within the Ottoman country."
This report comes roughly a month
before war began. Perhaps the Armenian resistance in Trabzon was not as
inconsequential as Surmelian indicated. (Could this have been the governor with the
two demon kids? Jemal Azmi Bey would be murdered soon after the war by an Armenian
"Nemesis" assassin.) (ADDENDUM, 8-07: The original document.)
An Ottoman "Deportation" Order:
On 4 July 1915 (21 June 1331), the Ministry of
the Interior sent a message to the provinces of Trabzon,
Sivas, Diyarbekir and Elaziz, and to the sanjak of Janik: "It is ordered that the
Armenians and their families whom the Government considers dangerous be removed, and
that the merchants and artisans who are harmless be retained but that they be required
to move out of their towns within the province."
So the official order from Talat
Pasha regarding the Armenians of Trabzon was that not all the Armenians of Trabzon
were to be subjected for relocation, the opposite of Surmelian's claims. Then again,
Surmelian has written that his "Every Armenian without a single exception is
subject to this decree" was already in effect, June 24 to July 1... meaning that
there were no longer any Armenians left in the entire province (save for the too old
and sick) by July 4, since Surmelian's version affected "every Armenian in the
province of Trebizond." (ADDENDUM, 8-07: Other details of this document.)
(The above information is from K.
Gurun's "The Armenian File.")
[p. 85-87] We did not want the Turks to gather the
crops planted by Armenian peasants. Then we broke into the orchard of Mother’s
aunt. Her sour cherries were ripe, and we devoured fistfuls of them. She appeared in
the doorway of her cottage, a severe old dame dressed in black.
“Hey! You good-for-nothing rascals! Get out of my orchard!” she cried. “I was
keeping those cherries to make jam.”
“Jam?” We burst out laughing.
“Do you want the Turks to come and eat them?” I asked her, swinging merrily on
top of a tree.
She realized that this was not an ordinary cherry season, that in a few days we
would be on our way to Mesopotamia, and she need not worry any more about serving
her guests the sour-cherry sherbet of which she was so proud. And, shrugging her
shoulders, she went in.
On the afternoon of that same hectic day Mother received a note from Father. Unlike
the other families we did not make any preparations as we did not know what Father
wanted us to do. His note was laconic and gave us no hope of a possible exemption.
He asked us to take only a few blankets with us and return to the city, to Aunt
We looked like a group of forlorn refugees as we left Zefanoz. We did not lock the
door of our house, knowing the futility of doing so. Turkish peasants, sensing the
rich booty in store for them, had already gathered like vultures around the village.
Since we were forbidden to sell anything and had to travel to Mesopotamia on foot
our possessions were of no earthly use to us anyhow. We were not so naive as to
believe the government would keep them under seal, in spite of Remzi Sami Bey’s
What I regretted most leaving behind me was my potted pink carnation. I watered it
for the last time and hid it on the roof. I would have asked Shukri and Mahmut to
water and take care of it during my absence, and also to be kind to my beans, but
their door and windows were closed again. All departures make one not only sad, but
forgiving. I wanted to shake their hands and say good-bye, but they did not come out
of their house.
On our way back to Trebizond we met a Turkish family, obviously going to a village
for their summer vacation. The women rode astride on donkeys holding their little
ones in their laps, while the men jogged along the dusty road, big checkered
handkerchiefs tied around their perspiring necks. We were curious to know how the
rank and file of the Turks, families like this one, took the deportation order. The
women were veiled and we could not see their expressions, but the men seemed to tell
us with their sad eyes: “Why should such things happen? Isn’t there room enough
for all of us to live in peace? You have done us no harm, and we wish you no harm.
Allah be with you.”
The city was dead. Practically all the stores were closed, the streets deserted. Now
and then a Turk passed by, grave and silent. We almost wept when we saw the shutters
of our pharmacy drawn too, in broad daylight. That was something we had never seen
before. Poor Father! What was he thinking of, what was he doing, now that they had
taken his pharmacy away from him?
Aunt Shoghagat, Father’s sister, older than Aunt Azniv, lived in a Turkish ward.
We went down a very narrow street that descended like a winding stairway to the
beach, a ghostly lane impervious to the sun, cool as caverns and smelling of the
refuse of the sea. Life in this Turkish street was so very different, so somber and
mysterious, with latticed windows and exhortations from the Koran carved over the
façade of an old public fountain. Here we saw a few women fill their brass ewers,
different in shape from those Christians used. They had longer and narrower necks.
These women were shrouded and bundled in the mystery of the East, and only their
fingertips tinged with henna were uncovered. As they walked before us
clitter-clattering in their clogs we could not tell whether they were toothless old
hags or beautiful girls and brides.
To Surmelian's credit, we get
an idea the Turkish "rank and file" were not filled with hatred for their
Armenian neighbors. Quite the opposite impression from what Prosecutor Vahakn
Dadrian would have us believe, when he stated,
" There was massive, popular participation in the atrocities."
|"The Highway of Death"
This chapter is the one where Surmelian pulled
out the stops. So strongly propagandistic, I'll have to give a recap of the worst moments.
Once again, no one is denying the Armenians endured
great hardship, even at the hands of the sometimes low-quality gendarmes who were assigned
to guard them. (Although there were instances when gendarmes lost their lives, trying to
defend the Armenians from Arab bandits and other nogoodniks. Example 1: Amb.
Morgenthau; Example 2: Tehlirian trial. There
have been even the very rare cases of Armenians testifying that the gendarmes did their
best to protect the Armenians. ADDENDUM,
8-07: An internal report describing an
attack and gendarme response.) Those who are predisposed to believe in the monstrosity of
the Turks will hungrily devour Surmelian's claims. Objective readers who can see the
Dashnak author's blatant display of pushing typically propagandistic assertions will know
Highlights (or, more appropriately, Lowlights):
1) The Armenians who begin their miserable journey
know from the outset that they will be exterminated, whereas before they had thought only
the men would be killed, as you read above. Since they arrived at this conclusion, unlike
most unwitting Jews who were being transported during the Holocaust, the question needs to
be asked: why didn't the 50,000 "volunteers" Boghos Nubar
bragged about, most presumed behind Ottoman lines acting as a fifth column, make it their
business to rescue "their" women and children? Particularly since the caravans
were ill-guarded, and by low-quality gendarmes? This is the critical question Senator Reed raised while the Mandate possibility was being
discussed in the U.S. Congress. In other words, the men of any race would make it their
business to protect their own... and here was a situation where the Armenian men were
armed and ready.
"...In the early part of 1915, therefore, every Turkish city
contained thousands of Armenians who had been trained as soldiers and who were
supplied with rifles, pistols, and other weapons of defense. The operations at Van
once more disclosed that these men could use their weapons to good
Henry Morganthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story,
Doubleday, Page & Co., Garden City, New York (1918), page 301.
"[T]hat the Armenians possessed weapons was not
astounding: they nad carried arms for decades to defend their homes and fields from
Richard Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1967, p.53
The Armenians had their war
paint on even before war began, in all corners of the Empire, according to other
hostile foreign diplomats. Just two of many examples:
"The Armenians of Deurt-yol [Dortyol-Mersin] are now well
armed with modern rifles, every male adult having one in his possession."
British Consul Fontana [Aleppo] to his government, Oct. 21, 1913,
FO, 371/1773, No. 52128
"One of the leaders.., Boghos Nubar Pasha, has represented
to me that the Armenian population of Cilicia would be ready to enroll themselves as
volunteers in support of a possible disemberkation at Alexandretta, Mersina, or
Adana on the part of the allied forces...."
Mr. Chetham to Sir Edward Grey, Nov. 12, 1914, FO, 371/2146, No.
Could it be that Surmelian was
"exaggerating," and the notion that the Armenians knew they would be goners was
a convenient, cause-serving afterthought?
2) Anticipating the moment of slaughter, some in the
group pass out a form of poison, which doesn't work. Turns out to be a false alarm. At one
point (probably this one), some women are taken to be raped.
3) One of the women, unable to go on, is presumably
shot. (The group hears the shot ring out from behind.) If this actually happened, it would
have been real murder, and an abomination. My belief is that the author had an opportunity
for poetic license here, and took it. To my knowledge, those who were unable to go on were
left by the roadside, and it is obscene of Surmelian to paint a picture that these
unfortunates would have been purposely executed.
If the idea was to exterminate, 500,000 could not
have collected, according to no less an authority than the Turcophobic Morgenthau,
himself. (Settling "down to business"
and "earning their livings.") 1 million Armenians could not have survived, as
the Armenians themselves concede, from a
pre-war population of some 1.5 million. (Most succumbing to reasons having nothing to do
with murder... the same reasons that claimed the lives of about 2.5 million Turks/Muslims.
Morgenthau wrote thousands of Turks were dying daily of starvation.)
Here is another example of "Armenian Oral History" regarding those
who could no longer go on. The gendarme in this case was far from trigger-happy, and
probably saved the Armenians' lives.
4) Surmelian's sisters are saved because they were
adopted by a Muslim family. I guess the author's point was that they were taken against
their will, although luckily he didn't sink so low as to imply they were victims of a
Turkish "harem." Once again, the good nature of Turks who took Armenians into
their homes was made out to look like an "act of evil." (I wonder how many
racial-purity driven Armenians kindly took in Turkish orphans into their homes, when the
Armenians went on their ethnic-cleansing binges.)
the Extermination credit
5) Surmelian himself is saved when he is
"auctioned," yet another requirement of Armenian propaganda. Nobody wants him,
he pleads with a last-chance Turk to take him on, and when Surmelian wants out, the Turk
lets him go. At this point, the kid is free to carve his own destiny, and he makes way for
the soon-to-be Republic of Armenia. (Its nationhood made possible by the Ottoman Empire,
by the way. ("...[T]he Armenian
nation would never forget that it was the Ottoman Government which first conceived the
idea of founding an independent Armenia, and recognized it," wrote Avetis Aharonian in a Sept. 9, 1918 telegram to his
leader. Two years later, Aharonian would show his gratitude by signing the Sevres Treaty,
the death sentence for the Ottoman nation.)
As an interesting aside, Surmelian lays the blame
for the Armenians' "extermination" on Enver Pasha, and not the typical fall guy,
Two Consuls Check the Trebizond Murder Stories
The German consul
in Trebizond, Heinrich Bergfeld, was able to track down one of the many false
stories that flourished in a time of great stress and uncertainty. Soon after the
first convoy of Armenians had left Trebizond rumors spread that the deportees had
been murdered right after leaving the town and that the river Deirmendere, running
parallel to the road taken by the Armenian convoy, was full of corpses. Bergfeld
noted that the most fantastic accusations against the Turks had become highly
popular in the town. However, as the stories about the masses of corpses in the
river became ever more frequent and hardened into definite assertions, he decided to
check out their veracity. On July 17, accompanied by the American consul as a
neutral witness, he rode for four hours along the river but found only one dead
body. Inasmuch as the river contained very little water and was split into numerous
small and shallow branches, he concluded that it would have been quite impossible
for a large quantity of corpses to be carried by the river and swept out to sea. In
the meantime news was also received that the first group of deportees had reached
Erzinjan without losing a single person. [Bergfeld to Berlin,
July 25, 1915, PA, T.183/38 (fiche 7124)] Bergfeld served in Turkey for eight
years and spoke the Turkish language. His credibility is enhanced by his documented
intercessions on behalf of the expelled Armenians; later on he did not hesitate to
report the murder of other deportees.
"The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey—A Disputed Genocide," pp.
In later years, Surmelian
joins the Armenian military
[p. 218-220] He could not read and write Armenian,
and conducted all his correspondence in Russian. I was willing to forgive him that;
he was brought up in Russia, educated in Russian schools, and being a trained
soldier, a technician, our people needed him. What disturbed me was his complete
lack of national consciousness. The map in his office was not of Armenia, but of the
Crimea, where General Wrangel was still holding out against the Bolsheviks. Time and
again I saw him standing before that map, lost in deep meditation. He had marked
with a blue string the positions of the White and Red troops on the Crimean front,
and seemed to be totally indifferent to the position of the Turkish and Armenian
troops. His mind obviously was in the Crimea with General Wrangel. We needed a great
soldier as our Chief-of-Staff, but there was nothing great about this man.
The Minister of War was a peasant leader from Sassoun, and as such "one of
ours." On the morning I first reported for duty, I took his hat and raincoat as
soon as he came in and reverently hung them from a rack in his office. I noticed
that his battered hat was minus its lining, and his raincoat was a shabby one, which
predisposed me further in his favor. At noon I brought him his borsch and black
bread, exactly the same amount and quality as received by the humblest private; I
hoped he would not eat his lunch and leave it to me, but he always ate it. However,
he did not impress me as the right person to occupy such a responsible position. Our
republic was not fighting Kurdish guerrillas but a regular war of international
importance against crack Turkish divisions commanded by a first-rate general. He did
not seem to have anything to do, and neither, for that matter, was the
Chief-of-Staff particularly busy. I could not understand it. I thought they should
be in their offices at least ten hours a day, giving orders, making urgent telephone
calls, dispatching important messages, but because of their strange inactivity I
myself had very little to do.
I would look at their faces to find out how things were going for us at the front.
The Minister of War had a poker face and it was impossible to know what he was
thinking, and he hardly ever spoke. The most silent man I had ever met. His face
betrayed no emotion of any kind. And there were absolutely no signs of worry or
emotional strain on the handsome face of the Chief-of-Staff.
The Commander-in-Chief, General Nazarbekian, about whom I had read so much, was a
towering man with white hair, and tired, heavy-lidded eyes, wearing his uniform of a
Russian general with the blue cross of St. George hanging from his neck. There was
something of hoary Ararat about him, but like the Chief-of-Staff he spoke and
corresponded in Russian. Every morning, before he came to his office, I would
examine his large military map on the wall—at least he had a map of Armenia—and
study the tragic progress of the war. I wondered, did he suffer spiritual agonies as
he set the blue string on it back every day, ceding to the Turks another slice of
territory consecrated by the bones of our ancestors and the blood of our peasant
soldiers? That string always moved back, never forward. I could not help thinking
that he discharged his duties as commander-in-chief as would any Russian general
appointed to his post. He was too old, and should have retired long ago. We needed a
man who would personally lead our troops at the front, encourage them, goad them to
I suffered one disillusionment after another. Our army, as I saw it, was incompetent
or in utterly indifferent hands. We just did not have the right men, we did not have
real Armenians at the head of our troops. I could not distract myself by reading,
for which I had plenty of time. I would read a page or two from Turgenev’s Fathers
and Children, and Shakespeare’s Othello (in Armenian translations) mechanically,
without understanding what I read, and then pause and listen to the sound of the
guns on the Arax.
Kars fell. The Turkish occupation of this key fortress meant the collapse of our
front, but the Chief-of-Staff did not seem to be affected by the debacle at all: he
came to his office promptly at ten o’clock, drank his cocoa promptly at eleven o’clock,
and left promptly at three o’clock. Things continued as usual in the ministry of
war; the same old indifferent expressions on the faces of generals and colonels.
It was practically a hopeless struggle from the very beginning, but I thought with
the right leadership we could have kept Kars either by a successful resistance or
through the intervention of Soviet Russia, which professed friendship for our
people: all we had to do was to adopt a pro-Soviet policy. Politically we were a
naive and inexperienced nation.
Believing that it was a Bolshevik army attacking Kars with the purpose of handing it
over to Soviet Russia, our troops, whose morale left much to be desired, were
unwilling to fight their Turkish “comrades.” It was the general belief among
Armenians in the Kars region that the revolutionary army of Red Turkey was attacking
under the red flag of socialism, for the Turkish flag is all red, with the exception
of a white crescent and star in the center. For three days these Turkish comrades
robbed, raped and butchered the Armenians of Kars, not even sparing those who showed
their communist membership cards. Hundreds of prisoners were stripped of their
clothing and sent to Erzurum to work in labor gangs, and practically every one of
them died of hunger and cold. Meanwhile there was a mass movement of Turkish men,
women and children to Kars to settle in the vacant homes of massacred or exiled
Armenians, and thus another part of historic Armenia was completely Turkified.
The Turks had won the war, and further resistance was futile. Armenia sued for
peace. The Grand National Assembly of Ankara, speaking through its "People’s
Cornmissar for Foreign Affairs," demanded, and got, half of the territory of
our republic, and almost all the arms, ammunition, mules and rolling stock Armenia
And while negotiations for a suicidal peace treaty were going on at Alexandropol,
the government sent us to Nor Bayazet, to resume our agricultural studies.
|Wrapping it up
"(The Turks) demanded, and got, half of
the territory of our republic."
Would that happen to be the eastern Anatolian
lands the Armenians occupied, carrying out their bloodthirsty spree of ethnic
cleansing, before and after the Russians withdrew? How did these centuries-old
Turkish possessions suddenly become the territory of the Armenian Republic? Is it
because Woodrow Wilson decreed it?
Lands of "Historic Armenia"? What we
know as Armenia today only became populated with Armenians circa the 1820s, thanks
to the Russian policy of "kick the Muslims out and put the Christians in."
Maps of ancient Armenia did not refer to what we know today as Armenians; they were
one of many tribes, known as the Haik. (Already we know from the name that
"Armenia" stood for something different.) Only around a half century
before the birth of Christ did reference to the "Armenians" as we know
them, begin to appear. The Haik emigrated from elsewhere, most likely the Balkan
region, or nearby:
"The Armenians are the former
inhabitants of today's Switzerland"
Ruppen Courian, Armenian author of
Promartyrs de la Civilization (1964, p. 27);
As far as the Armenians who were butchered at
Kars.... who are we going to believe, a Dashnak Armenian propagandist like Leon
Surmelian, or American eyewitnesses
who were there at the time? Anti-Turkish Near East Relief representatives, no less,
who wrote accounts as the following:
"All the Americans in Kars are well,
and the Turkish Army is full of concern for us and accords us all considerations. We
have been given permission to continue our activities as before. The Turkish
soldiers are well disciplined and there have been no massacres."
Edward Fox, District Commander N.E.R. Kars
Halfway down this page, detailing the proclamation of the Treaty of
Alexandropol-Gumru (See under "Appendix II"), we are told the Armenian
Dashnak government turned everything over "to the Supreme Commander of the Army
to which office is appointed War Minister Dro." Yet Surmelian alludes to
a different war minister in the second paragraph of the previous excerpted section.
(For more excerpts regarding this period of Surmelian's life, see "Appendix
I" of the indicated above link.)
was expert in
the art of fiction
writing, to have written
a book on the topic.
Two fun facts regarding the author. In
the United States, Surmelian worked as a professor of English, just like Peter Balakian. He wrote at least one book on the
fundamentals of good writing. Judging by his authorship of "I Ask You Ladies
and Gentlemen," he was one fine writer. The man deserves much credit for
his mastery over a foreign tongue, given that English was not one of his native
Secondly, this book was the "final
straw" that flipped Vahakn Dadrian's lid and allowed for the preeminent
prosecutor to devote his life to the "genocide" with such zeal. The first
of the three books that drove Dadrian mad was another work of fiction, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. As James Mandalian rightly called it in his 1957 Armenian Review article, Surmelian was no historian. How appropriate that Dadrian was
so inspired by two works of pseudo history, to go on and offer the world his own
brand of "history."
HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED PROSECUTOR DADRIAN, IN HIS OWN WORDS:
Then I read a second book, Archbishop
Balakian's Armenian Golgotha, a book full of graphic descriptions of atrocity.
Then another thing that was really final straw was a scene that is deeply
ingrained in my psyche. It was a book by Leon Surmelian, titled I Ask you
Ladies and Gentlemen. He was adopted as a young child to serve, tending
animals, as a shepherd to a Muslim family, and there was a scene of a massacre
nearby, and a woman in the throes of dying recognized that this boy was an
Armenian and said, my child, if you ever manage to survive, please see to it
that our martyrdom is not consigned to oblivion, that we are remembered. This
impressed me terribly: the last wish of a dying victim of a massacre is not to
be consigned to oblivion but to be remembered. It is a very powerful thing. So
after that, I relinquished my interest in math and became fully engrossed in the
history of the Armenian genocide..
May 2, 2005 FrontPageMagazine.com interview
"Golgotha" book that blew Dadrian's mind was written by none other
than the aforementioned action priest relative of Peter Balakian's. The prosecutor makes good use of it these days,
while writing that all Turks are predisposed to kill.)
Armenian literature runs
rampant with flowery, poetic, melodramatic scenes like this... such as, for
example, the "mulberry bush" story
propagandist filmmaker Michael Hagopian has offered.. As a professional writer,
Surmelian was especially aware that the more a story tugged at the readers'
heartstrings, the less likely the story would be true. As Ara Baliozian noted, hatred and envy seem
to come naturally to too many Armenians. So here we have the impressionable
young Vahakn Dadrian not spending a moment pondering over whether this tale
could have been true; his hatred of the Turks took supreme priority, and his
envy helped make sure the Armenians' tragedies would take on mythical
proportions with his insane, one-sided research, over the years.
The story reminds me of
Soghoman Tehlirian's fantasy of his mother ordering him to kill, otherwise he
would no longer be her son; that's one of the tales the Nemesis assassin
told as he repeatedly kept perjuring himself at his trial. Dadrian is just like Soghoman Tehlirian, an
"Armenian hero" I'm sure Dadrian's bloated ego would love to be
identified with. Tehlirian the Dashnak terrorist killed many innocents with his
bombs and bullets, after he betrayed his Ottoman nation and joined the Russians.
Dadrian's way of perpetrating violence is different, proving once again that the
pen is mightier than the sword.
Leon Surmelian might have had a "gentle,
civilized" side to him as a human being, allowing him some restraint that is
atypical in the annals of "Armenian Oral History." However, he couldn't
restrain himself from piling on the propagandistic poop, making it seem all the more
believable, given his "fair" style. Some might say he had the right; his
family did go through a terrifying experience, and at least his very decent-sounding
parents seem to have been killed.
Had he a stronger code of morality, he would
have seen his people had no one but themselves to blame.... like, the parents of Edward Tashji, who
went through similar despair as their fellow Ottoman-Armenians, in the hellhole of
the war years. But Leon Surmelian could not be expected to see where the
responsibilities lay. In this book, he has revealed the attitude he had, even as a
young boy. The Armenians were under the "Turkish yoke," and were entitled
to perform their treachery. He openly admits, not without pride, whose side he was
on during the war. He really thought the Armenians were entitled to openly applaud
the enemies of his country, as he did with the Cossack officers while the Turkish
soldiers were gnashing their teeth. (P. 68.) What nation on earth
would tolerate such an attitude among its citiizens?
if you betray your country, there is going to
be a price to pay — it's as simple as that. But Leon Surmelian felt his Armenians
were exempt from this rule. He felt free to lay on thick the propagandistic
principles of his cause, disguising some as actually having been experienced by his
nine-year self, sometimes to the minutest detail. The perfect grounds to sucker his
(By the way, should you open up the Tashji link
directly above, note the real Turkish word to indicate one's homeland in the
second-to-last paragraph. The translation is "motherland." Sneaky
Surmelian, fully aware of this word, preferred to use "fatherland," a word
that brought "genocide" to mind for 1945 readers.)
We don't know how Surmelian's family members
died, assuming they did. (It's possible these details were in the book, and I missed
them.) The harsh conditions affecting all Ottomans — such as famine and disease
— probably claimed their lives, and not outright massacre. If they were massacred,
we don't know who the culprits were, as much as Surmelian prefers the finger to be
pointed at the gendarmes. Regardless, contrary to Surmelian's desire to have his
readers believe the Armenians were exterminated by Enver Pasha, we know for a fact
the relocation policy ended in early 1916. (Corroborated by Ambassador Morgenthau
himself, in a March 1916 letter by Vahan Cardashian to Lord Bryce, as shown above.)
We know a million Armenians survived, according to the Armenians... of a pre-war
population of some1.5 million. If the idea was extermination, the relocated
Armenians would have been ripe pickings. .. exactly like the defenseless Muslim
villagers were at the hands of the Armenians occupying eastern Anatolia. There could
not have been 625,000 (actually, up to 644,900, including the unaccounted) postwar
Armenians in the empire, just before the Sevres Treaty, according to the Armenian
Patriarch.... added to the hundreds of thousands of Ottoman-Armenians who left on
their own accord. (500,000 refugees in Transcaucasia alone, by Richard Hovannisian's
On p. 63 of his book, Surmelian wrote that his
father thought "the Europeanized Turks were far more sinister than the
conservative, old-school Turks." In this fashion, since his father was
always right, Surmelian might have been influenced with his strategy. Writing in his
"gentle, civilized" style, he became far more sinister than the typical
Armenians who wear their racism on their sleeves.
While preparing this page, I ran into an
eyewitness account from the "other side" that has been a part of TAT for a
while. It's from a Turk who was around the same age as Leon Surmelian, at the time.
Why is this account believable? Because, as with the rest of "Turkish Oral
History," the Turks preferred to — in Surmelian's words — keep "their secrets to themselves." These real eyewitnesses were
content to only tell their stories to close ones, if at all, and were content to
take their memories with them to their graves. In general,, they didn't go out and
broadcast their horrible experiences to the world, as did Leon Surmelian and so many
other Armenians, in keeping with their "genocide program." Generally,
whomever recorded the few examples of Turkish Oral History did so as an
afterthought, and only in response to the Armenians' Con Job. (The Armeno-Turkish
dynamic at play, as usual: Action... Reaction.) In other words, these people did not
go out of their way to tell their experiences; it was a "by the way"
thing, when someone doing research proposed the idea. These people had no agenda,
and thus would have had no reason to tell nothing but the truth. (Often corroborated
by genuine eyewitness accounts of the Armenians' allies, the Russians... far more
legitimate than their "Armenian" eyewitness counterparts, the bigoted
missionaries and foreign consuls, who relayed their opinions through hearsay and
Massacre at Van