We always hear from Armenians about how they were
persecuted in the Ottoman Empire.
For example, in this rare PBS-TV debate, Prof. Richard Hovannisian tried to pull the
wool over the audience's eyes by declaring Armenians were "second class
If anything, the Armenians were FIRST CLASS citizens.
There was practically no limit to the aspirations of
Armenians, as all levels of society and government were open to the Ottoman
Empire's "Loyal Millet"... even in the latter years, when they
ceased to be so loyal. These were mostly during the days when Muslims were not
regarded as human beings in Europe, and as Lord Curzon put it (in an 1854 book
on Armenia), "the USA was a land of liberty, where every free and
independent citizen had the right to beat his own nigger."
In fact, more than simply being prosperous, Armenians
were frequently in the upper classes. In this report detailing life in Van shortly before the
"genocide years," the Armenians controlled the marketplace, and the
Turks were the poor ones.
In this page, we'll examine the prosperity of some
Armenians... keeping in mind the inconsistency of such permitted success
during the days when the Armenians were supposed to be
IN THE 19th CENTURY IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE:
29 Armenians achieved the highest governmental rank of
22 Armenians became ministers, including Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
33 Armenians were elected to the Parliament,
7 Armenians were appointed as Ambassadors, 11 as Consul Generals,
11 Armenians served in universities as professors.
There were 803 Armenian schools employing 2088 teachers with over 80,000
pupils within the Ottoman Empire in 1901-2
"...Summing up the
participation of the communities other than Armenian, it is clear that
none of them had such a large and permanent co-operation with the
Ottoman Government in the public affairs of Eastern Anatolia and Syria
as the Armenian 'millet'."
Mesrob K. Krikorian, Armenians in the Service of the
Ottoman Empire (London 1977) p.107
More Stats in TAT's Reference Page
The world renowned cymbal-drum-percussion
company is the oldest corporation still active in America. It was founded in 1623.
The company's web site, at zildjian.com, informs us Avedis Zildjian
first discovered a method of fusing copper, tin and silver to create unique musical
instruments, in 1623 Ottoman Empire.
A nifty timeline on the site explains further; the pictures indicate
cymbals were a fixture in Ottoman military bands, and Avedis was the "founder of the
craft of Turkish cymbal making." The sultan (Osman II) appreciated the efforts of his
loyal Armenian citizen, and gave Avedis 80 gold pieces along with the name "Zildjian."
("Zilci" means bell ringer in Turkish, and the suffix of "ian" (or
"yan") means "son of." The site is not very forthright in the
"background" page, crediting the word as "Armenian," but at least in
the timeline the word's true origin is given credit.)
"In 1623, Avedis receives the blessing from Sultan Murad IV
allowing him to leave the Ottoman palace to start his own cymbal foundry" in an
Istanbul suburb, Samatya.
Son Ahkam succeeds the dad, and in 1680, the text implies Europe
latched on to cymbals. So they had the Ottoman Empire to thank, for cymbals. (In the form
of these talented Armenians, certainly.) During the 1700s Europe incorporates cymbals into
their own military bands; "Mozart uses cymbals to represent the popular Janissary
music in Il Seraglio," in 1782.
1851: Avedis II builds his own schooner and sails to Marseilles and
then to London (1851, 1862) to exhibit his cymbals at International Trade Fairs."
WOW! What wealth, to afford the construction of sophisticated
sea-craft. What freedom to travel outside the country. How peculiar for a "second
1868: SUPPORT FROM THE SULTAN A series of fires renders the family
unable to pay their debts or buy raw materials. "The Zildjians receive attractive
offers to transfer the business to Paris but do not want to leave their homeland."
Isn't that nice? Yep, these were loyal Ottoman-Armenians who clearly
loved their country.
"Reigning Sultan Abdulaziz intercedes, ordering that everything
necessary be done to help the Zildjian family."
Isn't that nice? That's quite a fair shake granted to a "second
Here we are entering the genocide period; hold on to your hats...
Another Armenian Success Story
Alex Manoogian, behind the
financing of most of PBS' Armenian programs through the years, emigrated from Turkey
in 1920. The late auto-parts Detroit businessman saw his company mushroom to annual
sales of $3 billion. After 1920, he was joined by his parents, his brothers Charles
and George, and sisters Margaret and Aghavni. Sounds like the whole family joined,
and... hey. Weren't the Armenians supposed to have been "annihilated" in the
In 1909, an older son opts to get out of the
family business, instead entering politics. He becomes the attorney general of
YES! During the days when a Catholic would have
found it difficult to get elected dog catcher in the United States. We keep getting
confirmation after confirmation of what a wonderful land of tolerance this Ottoman
Avedis II's son Aram gets to run the business,
and a "period of political upheaval" makes it difficult for him to
continue manufacturing cymbals in Istanbul.
Now what could that mean? Do you think he was
marked for massacre?
The next sentence provides the needed clue...
"After joining the Armenian National
Movement, he is forced temporarily to flee to Bucharest (where he opens a second
So here's the deal. The Armenian revolutionary committees
were actively involved in spreading terror, adding to the Sick Man's woes, having
its hands full with the upheavals in the Balkans and such. What does the Zildjian of
this period do? He forgets about all the kindness his family received through the
centuries, and works to undermine his nation, while his nation was growing steadily
Granted, he could have been forced by the
Armenian terror groups, in the same way a lot of wealthy and loyal Armenians were
bled dry, or threatened with violence. During the brief three year period of
1904-1906, for example, there were two Armenian victims assassinated by Armenian
terrorists for every one non-Armenian. As Heath Lowry put it, the purpose was
intimidation, and "to frighten the overwhelming majority of peaceful Armenians
into silence as regards the activities of the terrorists."
On the other hand, Aram could have been one of
the many Armenians intoxicated by the zeal of the revolutionists, and to consciously
have chosen to stab his nation in the back. And how did his nation punish Aram's
potentially traitorous activities?
"Eventually Aram returns to his native
country, where he exports cymbals around the world."
Not only were those Turks tolerant, they were
Then the timeline ignores the genocide years
(to the site's credit; Armenians rarely lose the chance to tell their sob story),
and skips to 1927. Two years later, the family relocates to "Armenian
country" in the United States, Massachusetts, thanks to a nephew who had
already immigrated and was operating a candy factory. Lucky for the firm they were
just in time for America's Jazz age.
Reader Mehmet who turned me on to this history
(which he ran into in an issue of "The Economist") wrote:
Isn't it amazing how the
"genocidal" Ottoman state allowed this business to flourish? It's even
more amazing that this business was able to survive into the 21st century due to the
"genocidal Nazi style persecution" of Armenians in early 1900s Ottoman
Turkey. I guess this is just another example of the strength of the "Armenian
Readers are invited to submit more "Armenian
Success Stories" in the land of toleration, the Ottoman Empire.