3 APRIL 1880, Page 6

THE COMING ARMENIAN QUESTION. T HE Conservative leaders have repeatedly asked

during the Elections what the Liberals would do in foreign politics, and especially in Turkey, if they came into power. The best way of answering a question of that kind, which is really a question as to tendencies, is to restrict it to some one definite issue, which plain people can understand. What, for example, will a Liberal Foreign Secretary, with a working majority behind him, do in Armenia ? We all know what the Tories have done there, and the well informed politician who writes in the Contemporary Review under the pseudonym of "An Eastern Statesman "tells us this week what has been the result of their action. They first of all, through the secret agreement between Lord Salisbury and Count Schouvaloff, dismembered Armenia, giving over a huge cantle of it, including its second best port, to Russia. We do not blame them greatly for that, for they could not help it with- out fighting, and from actual fighting, except against bar- barous foes, they shrank back ; but still they gave it. They then, as some compensation, assented to the insertion in the Treaty of Berlin of Clause 67, which contains these words :— "The Sublime Porte engages to realise, without any delay, the ameliorations and reforms which are demanded by the local wants of the provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Circassians and Kurds. It will periodically make known the measures taken to this end to the Powers, who will superintend the application of them." The Turks assented, the Treaty was signed, and then,—then the Government left Armenia to its fate so com- pletely that their own Envoy, Sir Henry Layard, has told them that an Armenian question is rising fast ; and that the people are suffering till they are looking abroad for help, which can only come from England or Russia.

"An Eastern Statesman" agrees heartily with Sir Henry Layard. He declares that so frightful has the position of the Armenians become since the ratification of the Treaty of Berlin, that an Armenian Question—quite as dangerous as the Herzegovinian question—may be on us before we are aware. The Armenians, who from the time of Constantine have played an important part in the government of the East, have long been employed by the Turks in business transactions for which Ottomans have not the capacity, and are now so dispersed, that of the five millions in existence two are known to be in Turkey, about a million dispersed everywhere, and hardly two millions in their own land. These two millions are deprived by their rulers of arms, and are forbidden to defend them- selves, a prohibition felt with unusual severity by a race which, though it so closely resembles the Jews in many re- spects, differs from them in a decided capacity for military service and for generalship. Count Bagrathion who com- manded at Borodino was, and Count Loris Melikoff who con- quered Kars is, an Armenian, the latter a man belonging to a family which is lost in the night of history, the stupid story of his relationship to the Czar being not only untrue, but, from their ages, impossible. Without arms, and surrounded by Kurds and Circassian colonists, the Armenians are compelled to rely on Turkish protection, which, according to An Eastern Statesman" who, be it remembered, is distinctly friendly to the Turks as a people, is of this kind,— " The complaints of the Armenians against the Turkish Government may be easily understood, for they are as specific as were those of the Bulgarians before the war, and they have been fully and officially communicated to the Governments of Europe. They do not hesitate to assert that in Armenia there has been for many years a deliberate attempt to exterminate them, an attempt which has met with some success,—and they object to being exterminated from the country where they have lived for 3,000 years. In those parts of Asia Minor where they are in a hopeless minority they have suffered much less, and have generally lived on comparatively friendly terms with the Turks, but since the war the suffering has been much more general than before. The instruments used by the Government in this work of oppression have been the Kurds, the Circassians, the army, the the police, the courts of justice (?), the tax-gatherer, and agrarian laws. We may add the Turkish Beys and the Turkish officials generally, although there have often been exceptionally good Governors, who failed to comprehend the nature of the work which they were sent to do. It is generally agreed that since the Congress of Berlin the condition of the people has been growing steadily worse, and that there is no hope of improvement except through European intervention. Europe is already familiar with the sad story of the ravages committed in Armenia by the Kurds, but these frequent raids upon Christian villages are but a small part of the sum of misery which the Turkish Government continues to in- flict upon the Armenians through the Kurds. These wild nomads are alternately repressed and let loose, and the repression, which is called an islahat (reform), is more destructive than the work of the Kurds themselves. An army is sent into the country, which does but little harm to the Kurds, who simply retire to the mountains with the plunder of years, a part of which they share with the Turkish pashas. The army retires, after having collected from the Armenians the whole tax of the province, including what ought to have been paid by the Kurds. In its place it leaves a local militia, made up of Turks and Kurds, under the command of the Turkish boys, who proceed to collect the regular taxes over again, in addition to three or four extra taxes, which often raise the amount collected to seven times the amount of ordinary years. The next year the Kurds return as before to their work of plunder, mutilation, and murder, the Armenians never being allowed by the Turkish Govern- ment to arm themselves in their own defence. As there are no Kurds in Northern and Western Asia Minor, the Turks have now sent the Circassians to do a similar work there, and towns almost in sight of Constantinople, like Adabazar, are given over to their tender mercies, while the authorities laugh in the faces of ambas- sadors and consuls who interfere to protect the lives and property of the people. An English consul lately spent a month in Adabazar, and finally went away, leaving the people in a worse condition than before."

Whether extermination is or is not desired at Constantinople may be doubtful, but depopulation certainly is, for the Vali of Erzeroom, a Turk, recently appealed to Constantinople, "and informed the Porte that whole districts were being de- populated, and that the people would be forced to emigrate to Russia, which would result in great loss to the Imperial treasury. The Grand Vizier replied, 'It is not necessary for you to meddle in political affairs, or to consider things from this point of view. A happy journey to the Armenians who wish to emigrate. I will fill their places with Circassians and others.'

The only wonder is that any Armenians remain in the country, for it is not simply life and property which is de- stroyed,—they are subjected to insult and abuse of every kind. A single Kurdish chief has carried off for his use within a few years 167 Armenian girls. Such things, and worse, are occurring every day, and no redress is ever obtained. The police, where there are any, are as bad as the Kurds, and very often are Kurds. The gendarmerie, of which so much has been said, and which was to have been under the com- mand of English officers, does not exist." The Christian popu- lation of Armenia has been reduced one-fourth since the Treaty of Berlin, a place like Souren, for example, with nine Armenian churches, not having one Armenian inhabi- tant left, while the Patriarch who represents these things to the Porte and to the Ambassadors is calmly bidden "to have patience." Sir H. Layard can summon the Fleet to save a convert, but he cannot summon it to save the most ancient of all Christian peoples. The result of Tory manage- ment has, in fact, been to make of the Treaty of Berlin a provocation to the Turks against the Armenians, instead of a protection for them.

Now, what would the Liberals have done We do not doubt for a moment that they would have accepted the Treaty of Berlin as their point of departure, and have insisted on Clause 67 being carried out. The Armenians, though irritated till an insurrection of the most formidable kind may break out at any moment, are still Asiatics, and have not the loathing to the Moslem found among the Christian races who are also European. They understand the Turks, they are accustomed to them, and they are scattered among them, and their requests are singularly mild. They do not ask for tke expulsion of the Turks, or the independence of Armenia, but only that Armenia shall be placed in the position of the Lebanon, under European protection,—shall, in fact, be made such a principality under the Sultan as Wallachia once was. They ask for their autonomy only, under which they can become a quiet and industrious people, keeping the Kurds in order with a local militia, and offering shelter to thousands of the poorer Turks, with whom they alone among the Chris- tian subjects of the Porte are on amicable terms. They would manage their province easily enough, would swarm back to it in hundreds of thousands, and would offer to England, as their protector, the aid of a race which in Asia is as diffused, as cosmopolitan, and as able as the Jews in Europe. For such a people, under such a treaty protection, the Liberals, well aware that if they are to bar Russia in Asia they must have a point dappui, such as Armenia would afford, would have exerted themselves to the utmost at Constantinople. They would have availed themselves at the Seraglio of the Armenian readiness to pay for their liberation, would have united with Prince Bismarck, who is friendly to the Armenians, and by this time would have constituted Armenia a Principality, under the Sultan. That, as it seems to us, would have been a policy better worthy of the Government than the one pursued, more inconvenient to Russia—if that is to be an argument—and indefinitely more beneficial to "British interests." For the alternative, clear and unmistakable, is an outbreak in Armenia, for the avowed purpose of becoming a Russian province :—" Armenia is near to Russia, and far from Europe. There are already half as many Armenians in Russia as in Turkey, and Etchmiadzen, the holy city, is in Russia. The whole country might be occupied by Russian troops, and England could do nothing directly to prevent it. Armenians occupy high positions in the Russian civil and military services, and are reported to be very loyal to the Emperor. The Armenian population in Turkey has long been to some extent under Russian influence, and although the great majority would prefer the protection of England, there is an active Russian party in opposition to the Patriarch. Tens of thousands have fled from Turkish misrule to find peace under the protection of Russia. Such is the situation at present. What will it be, if England refuses to secure autonomy to Armenia The whole Armenian nation must then come under the influence of Russia, and look to her as its only hope." These are the opinions of "An Eastern States- man" friendly to Turkey, of Sir Henry Layard, and, in great measure, of Lord Salisbury, before he had fallen under the influence of the present Premier, who may, as a correspondent suggests, have planned out a great Asiatic empire, but who is careless whether within that empire there are Christian Asiatics or not.