Factors leading to the creation of the Armenian issue

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, with the encouragement of Russia, Britain, France and the Empire of Austria-Hungary, the nations which constituted the empire started struggling for liberation and they were successful. These developments set examples for the Armenians, as well. With financial and moral help of the countries, which wanted to dissolve the Ottoman Empire, they started rebellions in some regions. In this way, in the second half of the 19th century, an “Armenian question” came into being.

During this period, the former Empire of Russia, which emerged gradually as an important state, accepted the Ottoman territories as a natural area of expansion through Ottoman territories and it possessed the goal of opening out to warm seas. In order to achieve this goal, its primary means was to make war. Beside this, it played the role of being the protector of the Christian communities under the Ottoman rule. On the other hand, the main powers of the period, Britain and France also aimed at securing the Armenians for Protestantism and Catholicism. In the framework of these goals, they established the Armenian Catholic Church in 1830, and the Armenian Protestant Church in 1847 in Istanbul. The real intention of this interest for the Ottoman Armenians and other Christian communities shown by Britain and France and Russia was to intervene in the interior affairs of the Ottoman State and dissolve the empire.

These powers promised Armenians the establishment of the Armenian State in Eastern Anatolia. However, in the period in question the Armenian population in the region constituted only 15% of the general population. For instance, in Bitlis, where they populated mostly, they were not even 1/3 of the population of the province. The starting point for the “Armenian question” is Hagia Stephanos Agreement and Berlin Conference, signed at the end of the 1877-78 Ottoman-Russian war. The 16th article of Hagia StephanosAgreement, which the Ottoman State had to accept is as follows:

“Because the evacuation of the regions in Armenia, which are under the occupation of the Russian Forces and ought to be rendered to Ottoman State, this might cause detrimental chaos in the friendly relations of the two states in these regions. The Ottoman State guarantees, without losing time, the redressing and arrangements required for the local interests in these provinces, where the Armenians live, and providing the security of the Armenians towards Kurds and Circassians.”

Although in principle this provision of the agreement did not exactly satisfy the Armenians, who wished to gain their independence, it is important to note that the "Armenian question" was recorded in an international document and the region called "Armenia" was mentioned for the first time in history. Also, in 1878, the 61st article of the Berlin Agreement, which was signed at the end of the Berlin Congress, replaced the 16th article of the Hagia Stephanos Agreement and it is as follows:

"The Ottoman State guarantees, without losing time, the redressing and arrangement that are required by the local interests in the provinces, where the Armenians live, and providing peace and security of the Armenians towards Kurds and Circassians. And since it shall notify the concerned states about these precautions, these states shall monitor the implementation of these precautions.”

With this provision of the Berlin Agreement, the foreign powers were recognised the right of intervention to the Turco-Armenian relations.


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