The birth of an empire is accompanied by wars and blood, and the collapse is accompanied with even more wars and blood. 

This fate befell all empires, from Roman to the Austro-Hungarian, and it has not left the Ottoman Empire untouched either, which lasted for six centuries on three continents.  

In the XIX century, period of power of the Ottoman Empire came to an end. Eastern Mediterranean was no longer a center of world trade, and progress was aggressively knocking on the door of the state which was more and more lagging behind.  Empire's economy was largely agrarian and underdeveloped, the army was poorly organized and poorly armed, corruption and embezzlement ran the show, and there was a mass of unresolved domestic problems, reforms, not carried out in time, and outstanding issues.    

However, under the authority of sultans, the population of the empire lived in relative peace, it is no accident that the Jews, persecuted in "civilized" Europe, found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. 

As Alexander Jevakhoff writes in his book “Kemal Ataturk”: “In the Empire, sultans have never put any of the nations in a privileged position, including Turkish: Empire should be a multinational community, and as a Muslim, it was possible to succeed in the public service, whether being an Albanian, Greek, Armenian, Arab, Circassian, Kurdish”.

According to the court laws of the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim could not judge a non-Muslim, meaning, Christian judged a Christian, and a Jew was judged by a Jewish judge, European countries, of course, did not provide such rights to their citizens not of the Christian religion.  

It is not a coincidence that, after the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmet II suggested to the Greek clergy to elect a new Patriarch, instead of the former, who was killed during the siege, he immediately approved the newly elected patriarch. As directed by the Sultan, the guard, consisting of Janissaries, has been allocated to protect the patriarch. 

Patriarch, together with the cathedral, received the status of supreme authority over the Orthodox (Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and others) and the status of a Court in disputes between them. They could impose penalties on Orthodox, including the death penalty, and the Ottoman authorities usually enforced them without objection (the so-called system of "millet" *). The downside of this policy was that, over time, Greeks took all top positions in Orthodox administration, which were often developing and fostering the language and culture of their own countrymen throughout the Orthodox administration, at the expense of the other nationalities. 

In 1461, on the initiative of the Sultan, Armenian Patriarchate was moved to Istanbul, Hovakim I (also known as Hovakim of Bursa) became the first Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul. Sultan also granted Patriarchate the former Greek Monastery in Samatya (Fatih district). Then the Patriarchate moved to Kumkapi area. 

It was after the Ottoman’s  capture of the Constantinople, Europe began to feel the fear of the Turks, following conquests of the Turks in Europe further increased Europeans’ fear of the Ottoman Empire, this fear eventually degenerated into turkophobia, in one way or another ,suffered by certain circles in Europe to this day. The West could neither take in, nor forgive the Turks for capture of Constantinople, siege of Vienna and other conquests on the continent.

The enmity of those circles did not disappear with the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, on the contrary, it has increased; the reason for that was the national liberation struggle of the Turkish people. At a time when Europe was preparing for burial of Turkey and even formalized that burial in the form of the Treaty of Sevres, the Turks dumped the invaders into the sea, and once again became masters of their destiny and their homeland.  Once again, proving to the world that the nations which accomplished great feats, can rise from the ashes.    

The Ottoman Empire was a common home for nations living in it, regardless of their religion. In this regard, there is an interesting statement of the western author about the Ottoman Empire: “To its own subject peoples it belonged in the Dar ul-Islam, or ‘Abode of Peace’, and was such a prodigy of pep, so vigorous and so well-ordered, such a miracle of human ingenuity, that contemporaries felt it was helped into being by powers not quite human – diabolical or divine, depending on their point of view.” 1

For centuries, Europe formed alliance and conspiracies against the Ottoman Empire, and finally, the empire made it to the XIX century as an exhausted, decrepit and underdeveloped state.   I must say, this was not so much the fault of enemies of the empire, as of a number of short-sighted rulers. 

In the Ottoman Empire, Armenians lived in peace and harmony with other nations, until the moment, when the Western powers showed up in the region (first as missionaries and traders), followed by the Russian Empire, with its own interests. Those in European capitals quickly realized that the Armenians, along with the Greeks, can play the role of the fifth column within the empire, and would be a perfect tool for pressure against the Sublime Porte. Here is what an author of Armenian origin B. Boryan writes about the Ottoman Armenians: “National Armenian history confirms that the sultans of Constantinople from the XVIII century to the present day (1876) generally loved and, if possible, protected Armenians”2

Boryan in his monograph "Armenia, International Diplomacy and USSR" analyzes a number of works and historical documents, these facts are useful for better understanding of the Armenian issue and the situation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, up to events of 1915. In the same work, Boryan refers to other historical facts as well, in particular, the report provided to Suvorov *, stating:

"Under the domination of Persian khans, Armenians were oppressed and exploited, and most of them fled to Turkey, 3 as Armenians live better in Turkey, rather than in Persia, and regarding Russia "many Armenians, says Lynch, go to the extent of openly giving preference for the Turkish patronage"4. Here, the author quotes the words of the Armenian historian of the XVII century Hakob Karnetsi who writes: "In the XVII century, the perfect order prevailed in Turkey". The historian also regrets that "... the Christian states did not have what the Ottoman Empire, the country of Muslims, did"5. Ottoman sultans and dignitaries called Armenians "Millet-i sadika" or "Tebai Sadika" which means "loyal nation" or "loyal subjects". In the Ottoman Empire, Armenians held high positions at the court, took a leading position in the financial sector and trade. Ottoman Armenians also held important posts in the public service. 

For example, according to the Ottoman historical registries, in the Ottoman state, 29 people from the Armenian community had the title of "Pasha" (the highest state title in the Ottoman Empire), 7 people were ministers, 32 members of parliament (the first Ottoman parliament in 1876 – 9 members, in second parliament of 1908 – 11, and in parliament of 1914 – 12,) 7 people were ambassadors, 11 were consuls general and consuls. Among the ministerial positions, occupied by Armenians, there were the most important, key positions, such as ministers of foreign affairs, finance, trade and post, in 1913, the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Ottoman Empire was occupied by Armenian, Gabriel Noradugyan. In the Empire, there was also an Armenian Marshal, Karapet Artin Davut Pasha. There were many outstanding Armenians architects, including those who designed projects for Sultan's palaces. Almost all trade in the empire was in the hands of Greek, Armenian and, partially, Jewish merchants. In 1835, Baron Wrangel wrote in his letter to Baron Rosen: “In Gumushane, Turkish authorities do not deny the Greeks and Armenians, no oppressions regarding religious rites. Peaceful trade is in their hands - the Greeks and the Armenians”.6 Armenian and some Western historians try to convince the world, that during the entire existence of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were oppressed, robbed and killed. But at the same time, would-be historians intentionally conceal the fact that the Armenians who were "robbed", "killed" and "humiliated", were able to occupy such positions in the Ottoman society. Speaking of "genocide", is it possible to imagine, that the Jews occupied such posts in Nazi Germany? During trading, European merchants attracted Armenians as persons of confidence and trading partners, very often, Armenians went to live in Europe and the US (especially, the process began in the XIX century). 

Western missionaries did not sit idle either, because Catholic missionaries have been working among Armenians even during the formation of the Ottoman Empire; after the fall of the Byzantine Empire their aim was to spread Catholicism among Armenians. At all times, the goals and objectives of missionaries were not as much strictly religious, as political. Missionaries have had some success in the issue of turning Armenians into Catholicism.  The Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) treated it negatively and generally opposed to Western missionaries, inverting the Armenians to Catholicism. Confrontation between the AAC and Catholics continued, when in 1829, under pressure of France, the Ottoman authorities allowed Armenians to create their own Catholic Church and elect an Archbishop. In 1846, an archbishop was granted the same administrative privileges as the Armenian Patriarch. Ottoman state recognized the Armenian Catholics as separate millet (group of people of the same faith), this recognition will cost the Ottoman State in the future, because the Western powers will intervene in the internal affairs of the empire, under the guise of "protecting the rights of their co-religionists".  

It should be emphasized that the activity of missionaries increased with the weakening of the empire. 

Armenians, who converted to Catholicism, could not play the role of a reliable support of the West in the Ottoman Empire and especially did not suite for the role of the fifth column. Despite the high costs and the long years of work of Catholic missionaries, with mainly France behind it, they were unable to convert a large number of Armenian into Catholicism, but the missionaries did not give up and continued their activities in this direction. By the middle of the XIX century, in Istanbul alone, there were more than 40 of French Catholic schools, half of them for women. While part of the western missionaries turned Armenians to Catholicism, another part of the missionaries converted them to Protestantism. 

In 1846, with the involvement of Western missionaries split from AAC, the "Armenian Evangelical Church" was founded by Armenians; Armenian Protestants believed that the traditions and customs of the Armenian Apostolic Church did not comply with Bible.  Missionaries, sponsored by the Western powers, did everything to split Armenians from AAC and subordinate to their own political and economic interests, to use them in the future, against the Ottoman Empire, the division of which was so much desired by them. Protestant missionaries, supported by the US government, have adopted the practice of opening schools from the Catholic missionaries, these schools, as well as Catholic ones, "forged right people" for the future "accomplishments". Western diplomats also actively helped and fully facilitated those missionaries.  They often interfered in the internal affairs of the empire, of course, on the side of the missionaries, under the guise of the very same arguments of protection of their coreligionists.  

Subversive activities of missionaries often contributed to the emergence of tensions between the local Christian population and their Muslim neighbors. The horrors that happened to Muslims, who lived in Greece, were still fresh in their memory. Movement of a large number of Muslims from the Balkans and the Caucasus to Anatolia also led to tensions between Muslim newcomers and local Christians. 

Almost wherever consulates of the Western powers opened, after a while, Armenian uprising were breaking out, and during those uprisings, western consulates were playing the role of first assistant and, after the suppression of the uprising, of insurgent defenders. It is worth noting that the missionaries were assigned the role of motivators for rebellion, and they did an excellent job. Jason Goodwin, British historian and writer, who specializes in the history of the Ottoman Empire, describes those events: The emergence of Protestant preachers among  the hitherto peaceful Armenians, chanting:" Forward, soldiers of Christ!", frightened Turks, who decided that, a repetition of what already happened in Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia awaits them”7 

Missionaries, systematically and continuously, created the necessary infrastructure throughout the empire, for example, in 1893, 463 churches were under the supervision of just American missionaries, and 1317 American missionaries “worked” in the territory of the empire. 

No less important for the American missionaries was their desire to get the Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire under their influence. It was assumed that all of this could help the United States to implement the political pressure on the empire, in particular, on the issue of Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, to ensure their ships equal rights of passage with other countries.8

Describing the activities of foreign missionaries in the Ottoman Empire, the famous Armenian writer of the 19th century, Raffi (Hakob Melik Hakobian) emphasizes that "the English missionaries were much more dangerous than the Americans."9    

It is worth noting that Western missionaries were working not only with Armenians, they were also actively working with members of other nations who inhabited the empire.  

For example, at first, the American missionaries worked actively with Greeks and Jews, and Muslims, but then, almost all their attention focused on Armenians. Schools, opened by missionaries, commonly turned into brainwashing centers; moreover, under the influence of missionaries, Armenians changed their creed, and have become enemies of the state.  

For missionaries, the conversion of Armenians to Protestantism was only the first stage of their mission, the second stage was to give them an education and, through education, to finally consolidate their loyalty to their Western "teachers". 

It was in these missionary schools that people for future uprisings and assassinations were prepared. 

Activities of Western missionaries in the Ottoman Empire, already in the first half of the XIX century, began to cause concern and dissatisfaction of the Russian Empire, and in 1837, Russia expressed its dissatisfaction with the spread of Protestantism among the Orthodox living in the Ottoman Empire. The Russian ambassador in Constantinople warned Western missionaries that "Russia will never allow Protestantism spread in Turkey" 10

Naturally, the activities of Western missionaries also displeased the local clergy. One of the first to protest was the Greek Orthodox Church, in 1835, Patriarch Gregory VI, in response to actions of American missionaries, sent a special message to the Orthodox and anathematized the Protestant missionaries. 11

Also, in 1846, there was a conflict between the missionaries and the Armenian Patriarch. Armenian priests were unhappy, that the US mission in Istanbul, established to convert the Jews into Protestantism, instead of the Jews, devote their efforts to Christians of other confessions and especially Armenians. 12 The Armenian Patriarchate played a great spiritual and administrative role in the life of not only Armenians inhabiting the Ottoman Empire, but also in the lives of other nations. The thing is that the Sultan entrusted the Gregorian Armenian Patriarch to manage not only Armenians, but also a number of other nations and religious groups.  Among the nations, subordinated to the Armenian Patriarch, were Gypsies, Assyrians, the Monophysites of Syria and Egypt, the Bulgarian Bogomils. Quite naturally, the patriarch was jealous towards any attempt to weaken his power and authority.13

Despite the discontent on the part of missionaries, both the authorities and the local non-Muslim clergy and laity, with the support of the consulates of the Western powers, have managed to create the infrastructure necessary for missionary activity. 

Over time, the activities of Western missionaries were focused mainly on the Armenians; the missionaries even opened an evangelical church, specifically to attract Armenians. 14

Western Protestant missionaries were supported by the American and British consuls in the field.

Financial incentives were used for the conversion of Armenians into Protestantism, their taxes, replacing military duty for Christians, were paid for them. Also, the missionaries hired protestantized Armenians for a certain payment, which in turn had to do the same as Western missionaries, that is to convert their fellow tribesmen into Protestantism. 

Missionaries were the conductors of ideas and interests of their states. Each power, that sent missionaries to the Ottoman Empire, tried to cover a larger geographical area and a large part of the population. Missionaries, in addition to the Ottoman government, also competed with each other. This is understandable and expected, as the country, sending their missionaries in the Empire, intended to use them, and the local population that fell under their influence, for political purposes - namely, to promote their economic interests and in the division of "the Ottoman heritage". It would be naïve to think that missionaries and their sponsors pursued exclusively humane purposes of "education" and "progress" of the local population.  

Missionaries, promising support from Europe, in fact openly acted as instigators of riots and terrorism among the Christian minorities, in particular, among the Armenians. In this regard, the British historian Dominic Lieven wrote: “Armenian revolutionaries could easily plan riots and terrorist operations, while being confident that the response of the Ottomans will provoke European intervention”. 15 The apologists of the idea of genocide prefer to ignore the degree of guilt and involvement of missionaries in the tragic events that occurred in the Ottoman Empire. 

Ali Hajizade, political analyst, head of the project “The Great Middle East”

[1] Jason Goodwin “Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire”, “Azbuka-Atticus”, 2013, p. 13

[2] From the monograph of Bagrat Artemovich Boryan “Armenia, International Diplomacy and USSR” 1928-1929, Forz. Vol. 1. 1876. pp. 369-370 

[3] Collection of acts related to the history of the Armenian nation. Vol.2 , M., 1838, p. 68

[4] H. F. B. Lynch “Armenia, travels and studies.” Vol. 1, Tbilisi, 1910, p. 589

[5] Avdalbekyan // Nork. T.Z.  1923. Pp. 106-107.; Raffi. Tachkaayk . Tbilisi, 1895.

[6] Ibid. Vol.8. pp. 889, Forz. Vol.1. 1876. p. 372. (Boryan B.A.)

[7] Jason Goodwin “Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire”, p. 471

[8] Zimina N.G., Candidate of Historical Sciences, "American missionaries in the Ottoman Empire (XIX-early XX century)"

[9] Raffi. "What is the relationship between us and the Armenians Turkey?" Collected Works, Vol. 9, Yerevan, 1958, pp. 488-489.

[10] Hamlin Cyrus ”Among the Turk”, London, 1878, p. 34

[11]  Archimandrite Jonah, "Light of the East", St. Petersburg, 1910, p. 16.

[12] Berezin, Ilya Nikolayevich. "Orthodox and other Christian churches in Turkey," St. Petersburg, 1885, pp. 66-67. 

[13] Jason Goodwin “Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 155-156

[14] William Webster Hall “Puritans in the Balkans”, Ph. D. Sofia, 1938, «Cultura» Printing House in Sofia .Written in English p. 9.

[15] Dominic Lieven, « Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals », Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN: 9780300097269, p. 259.

* "Millet" - in the Ottoman Empire, a group of people of the same faith, have autonomous administrative agencies such as the court, schools, hospitals and so on…

*Alexander B. Jevakhoff - author of "Kemal Ataturk", French historian and Turkologist, professor at the Sorbonne.

* Suvorov - Count Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov, Russian military commander. 

- Photo: School of American Protestant missionaries in the small town Saimbeyli (province of Adana)