Armenian News Network / Groong


A SNAPSHOT OF SULTAN ABDUL HAMID II

Armenian News Network / Groong
January 13, 2010

KAY MOURADIAN's notes from these books:

    THE FALL OF ABD-EL-HAMID
    by Francis McCullagh
    Methuen, 1910
    and
    THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
    by Alan Palmer
    John Murray, Publisher 1992
    and
    INSIDE CONTANTINOPLE
    by Lewis Einstein,
       (U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary, Constantinople 1906-1909 and
       Special Agent at the American Embassy in Constantinople in 1915)
    John Murray, Publisher 1917

During the 1800's the Ottoman Empire was unraveling. Abdul Hamid II, encouraged by powerful Ottomans in Constantinople, felt his brother Sultan Murad was not strong enough to rule the empire and helped to have him dethroned. Succession to the throne then went to the eldest living brother and Abdul Hamid II became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1876.

Abdul Hamid imprisoned Sultan Murad, Murad's wife and their three daughters in the basement of Tschigiran Palace by the edge of the Bosphorus. In that cold basement there was only a broken down piano, a few wooden crates and a small hibachi type burner for charcoal. Every day soldiers would bring them food and a few pieces of coal to burn to keep them warm. Murad's wife and one of his daughters died within the first year. Sultan Murad was hanged 28 years later.

The author of the Ottoman constitution, Midhat Pasha, and his colleagues successfully deposed Sultan Abdul Azia and had brought the liberal Murad V to the throne. Well educated, Murad lasted as Sultan for a mere three months. Diagnosed as unstable, Midhat Pasha then approached Murad's younger brother Abdul Hamid II to take over. Abdul Hamid agreed. The new Sultan appointed Midhat Pasha as Grand Vizier, allowed Midhat to bring his constitution to a newly formed Parliament, which meant that the new Sultan would have to give up some of his powers. Midhat wanted the Ottomans to emulate the British way of governing with equality for all. The Sultan's powers would become similar to that of the British King.

Shortly thereafter the Crimean War started. Sultan Abdul Hamid asked Britain to help, the British at first refused until it appeared that Russia was capturing too much land. At the time England owned 25 % of the world and decided it best to help the Ottomans. They feared if the Ottoman Empire collapsed theirs would be the next to fall. England sent her Indian troops to Malta. The Russians backed down.

The treaty of Berlin in 1878 was the result of the Crimean War. Much of the war centered on the Balkans, particularly Bulgaria. Romania won her independence from Turkey, but had to concede much of her land to Russia. Turkey was able to keep her lands in Eastern Entail if she promised reforms for her Armenian inhabitants primarily to protect them from the Kurds and Circassians. Turkey got to keep the Dardanelles, but Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro won autonomy from the Ottomans. And England became a protectorate of Cyprus but was required to pay the Sultan a stipend from revenues gained.

After the treaty was signed, Abdul Hamid, the opportunist that he was, dismissed Midhat Pasha and exiled him to Italy. He allowed the Parliament to form, but when the deputies began to criticize corrupt pashas and demanded they appear before the new Chamber to answer the charges, Abdul Hamid II dismissed Parliament, never again to reconvene under his reign.

The Armenians had strong national pride, but were no race of fighters. Still, Abdul Hamid regarded them with an obsessive fear. Armenians said they didn't want autonomy, just security from Kurdish bandits. Originally they requested a Christian governor in the Armenian Vilyats, like that of Lebanon. It was during that interim Armenian political parties began to form. Hunchaks started in Geneva with a mission to unify an Armenian socialist state carved out of Turkish territory. In 1890 the Armenian Revolutionary Federation or Dashnaktsuitim, Dashnaks formed. Tired of waiting for help from the European powers, the Dashnaks became more militant.

Abdul Hamid II had a deep fear of being assassinated. More than 50,000 spies in Constantinople were on his payroll as well as 40 translators reading foreign newspapers. Daily he read their reports. Ruling the empire through the telegraph, he never left his Palace grounds at Yildiz, except for the Friday Selamlik in the mosque he built by the entrance gates of Yildiz. The Selamlik became a Friday ritual so the populace would know the Sultan was alive and well and running the empire. Otherwise no one would know who was holding the reigns of power.

When the Young Turks were successful with their bloodless revolution in 1908, they took some of the powers away from the Sultan and reinstated Parliament along with Midhat Pasha and his constitution. Parliament now had 300 deputies of which 15 were Armenian.

After 33 years of ruling the Empire, Abdul Hamid did not let go of power easily and tried a coup in 1909. He had many of his 50,000 spies posing as holy men whose purpose was to agitate the army's enlisted men and as well as village Turks in the interior who hated the new Young Turk philosophy of liberty, fraternity, and equality for their Christian neighbors. These holy men spread rumors that the new Young Turks were trying to Europeanize Turkey and were not adhering to Islamic Sharia Law by giving women new rights with too much liberty, that the new Young Turk army officers had photos of women in their lockers and the Young Turk leadership were intent on replacing the traditional fez with the European hat. The holy men were successful in stirring the emotions of the enlisted men who became enraged, rebelled and in mobs attacked Parliament killing several politicians, and murdered many of their own army officers. The worst massacre took place in Adana in 1909 where more than 20,000 Armenians were killed, mostly by Turkish soldiers.

It was during that time that the United States Diplomat Lewis Einstein witnessed the political transition when the Young Turks came into power. I read with great intrigue his observations citied in his book, Inside Constantinople, on page 197: `The main interest now lies in the Armenian persecution (1915), which is assuming unprecedented proportions. Talaat is its main instigator in a Cabinet which he controls. Power has brought out cruelty in this son of a gipsy. His lack of education and real ignorance are concealed under a cloak of cynicism, and he has fine Oriental contempt for those who see to propitiate him. An apparent bonhomie and a certain willingness to oblige in personal matters give him popularity. He was different six years ago, when I used to see him daily after the Adana massacre; he had a seemingly engaging frankness, which contrasted favourably with the shiftiness of Hamidian officials. He then told me that he wished to see the Governor of Adana hanged for allowing the murder of 20,000 people, and praised the English Consul, Doughty Wylie, who was wounded in trying to check it. Now he himself fosters the same thing. All his loyalty is to his organization, and his policy is ruthless Turkification, which will later be turned against the Germans, but has now fastened on the Armenian as a victim. He declares openly that the persecution is revenge for the defeat at Sarakymish, the Turkish expulsion from Azerbaidjan and the occupation of Van, all of which he lays at the Armenian door. The vast depots of arms and bombs found in Armenian villages are a myth. My engineer friend told me he had seen photograph of the captured weapons, which amounted in all to 64 rifles and a few revolvers.'

In 1909 the crafty old Sultan had put Turkey on the brink of a civil war. When the Young Turks got their act together and finally stopped the massacres, they shipped Abdul Hamid to Salonika with his wives and 8 of his harem favorites. When the Balkan war broke out in 1912, the Germans rushed Abdul Hamid and his entourage into a submarine and brought them back to Constantinople where they lived in Beyberly Palace on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus.

Abdul Hamid loved music, especially opera and was a fine craftsman of wood carving. He designed and crafted all the dining room chairs that are presently in the palace at Yildiz Park. His happiest days were spent carving wood, and his deep fear of assassination never came to be. He died an old man from congestive heart failure.

During 1878-1879 Abdul Hamid had been forced to cede two-fifths of his land. Between 1908 and 1913, under the political leadership of the Young Turks, another 425,000 square miles, or over 1/3 of the remaining Empire passed out of Ottoman sovereignty. Resolved not to lose more land, Talaat Pasha, the Minister of Interior, told the American Ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, Sr. `WE WILL NOT LOSE ARMENIA.' Western Armenia is now part of Turkey.

--
Professor Kay Mouradian is a health and physical education specialist
retired from the Los Angeles Community Colleges. Her publications
include Reflective Meditation: a Mind Calming Technique, A Guide for
Those Teaching Yoga in the Community Colleges, and she has also
contributed publications in several magazines and newspapers. Her
first novel, "A Gift In The Sunlight: An Armenian Story", now in its
second edition, was inspired by her mother's remarkable survival of
the Armenian Genocide. http://www.aGiftInTheSunlight.com/
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