economic aims of the new party were to be determined after careful
investigation into the needs and desires of the people. Two
economic objectives were described in the program. These were the
establishment of a progressive system of taxation above a certain
income bracket and a system of universal compulsory education.
Ill. The Hunchak program
advocated revolution as the only means of reaching the immediate
objective. The arena of revolutionary activity was designated as
Turkish Armenia. The Hunchaks said that the existing social
organization in Turkish Armenia could be changed by violence
against the Turkish government and described the following
methods: Propaganda, Agitation, Terror, Organization, and Peasant
and Worker Activities.
to be directed to the people to educate them toward two goals. The
party was to explain to them the basic reasons and the proper time
for revolution against the government, thereby indoctrinating them
with the basic idea of revolution. This goal, however, was not
sufficient in itself. The people had to have a knowledge of the
social order that was to be established after the
Terror were needed to "elevate the spirit of the people."
Demonstrations against the government, refusal to pay taxes,
demands for reforms' and hatred of the aristocracy were part of
the party's agitation campaign. The people were also to be incited
against their enemies and were to "profit" from the retaliatory
actions of these same enemies.
Terror was to be used as a method of protecting the people and
winning their confidence in the Hunchak program. The party aimed
at terrorizing the Ottoman government, thus contributing toward
lowering the prestige of that regime and working toward its
complete disintegration. The government itself was not to be the
only focus of terroristic tactics. The Hunchaks wanted to
annihilate the most dangerous of the Armenian and Turkish
individuals who were then working for the government, as well as
to destroy all spies and informers. To assist them in carrying out
all of these terroristic acts, the party was to organize an
exclusive branch, specifically devoted to performing acts of
Organization of the party was to be a centralized system
directed by a central executive committee. The Hunchaks believed
that the revolution could not be won by the participation of the
party organization alone. They considered it absolutely essential
to win the active support of the peasants and workers. There were
to be two large revolutionary groups, one of peasants and the
other of workers. Besides these separate groups, there would be
guerrilla bands, composed of both peasants and workers, who would
become fighting units during the anticipated revolution. The role
of the peasants and workers was not to end after the victory, for
the Hunchaks saw in these two groups the very basis of the society
that was to be thereafter established. The peasants and workers
were to protect the gains and interests of the people, and were to
take the reins of government and rule according to democratic
principles. The plan giving the details of these governing
principles was to be published at a later date.
The most opportune time to institute the general rebellion for
carrying out the immediate objective was when Turkey was engaged
in a war. The Hunchaks were ready to fight not only the Ottoman
regime, but any other power that wished to dominate Turkish
non‑Armenians of Turkish Armenia were not overlooked. The party
declared that in order to better the condition of the
non‑Armenians, it was necessary to get the sympathy of other
minorities, such as the Assyrians and Kurds, for the revolutionary
cause. These groups were to help bring about a revolution against
the Turkish government when circumstances should be favorable.
This final part of the program pointed out that the greatest
number of Armenians lived in Turkish Armenia, and that the area
also comprised the largest part of historic Armenia. Here the
majority of the Armenian people were living under impossible
conditions imposed by their Ottoman rulers, as the Great Powers
had recognized when they sanctioned reform in Turkish Armenia in
Article LXI of the Treaty of Berlin.
considerations led the Hunchaks to demand that all revolutionary
forces devote themselves to winning the independence of Turkish
Armenia. Again, the party cautioned its followers against the
selfish interests of other powers in regard to this region, and
predicted that, after the fall of the already bankrupt Ottoman
regime, the European Powers would systematically carve up the
empire, including Turkish Armenia, for themselves. The Hunchaks
therefore warned against allowing Turkish Armenia merely to pass
from the hands of one oppressive overlord to another. Here they
again restated their "immediate objective" ‑ the political
independence of Turkish Armenia.
program envisaged a continuation of the fighting after the
establishment of an independent Turkish Armenia. The revolution
would then be extended into the Russian and Persian dominated
areas of Armenia, with the purpose of establishing a politically
independent Armenian federative democratic republic composed of
Turkish, Russian, and Persian Armenia. The independent country
would then lead the Armenians in the homeland and abroad toward
the Hunchak "future objective" ‑ a socialistic society for all
short note inserted at the end of the program, the Hunchaks
reaffirmed the need for a government based on democratic
principles, which they considered an absolute necessity for the
progress of all humanity. Progress, it added, was impossible under
the Turkish regime, or in any other autocratic state ‑ even in a
government ruled by an Armenian nobility or by Armenian autocrats.
The sole guarantee for Armenian progress was a free people's
government in an independent Armenia.13
predominant objectives were revealed in the program. The immediate
objective was the independence of Turkish Armenia; the future
objective was Socialism. These two objectives were complementary.
Both liberation and the building of socialism were to be striven
for at the same time. The breadth of the political and ideological
objectives of the Hunchaks is noteworthy. They were the only
Armenian political party in the nineteenth century whose program
unambiguously demanded an independent and unified Armenian
Republic, and beyond this, a socialistic order for all the peoples
of the world.
program of the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party was both socialistic
and nationalistic. The first part proclaimed the Marxian class
struggle and predicted the triumph of the exploited classes
through revolution. It called for "economic truths," which,
although not described in detail, can be attributed to Marxian
influences. Hunchak adherence to Marxian dialectical materialism
is later defined in the pages of its party organ and other
plan as a whole reflected the influence of Russian revolutionary
thought. The "methods" outlined in part three very nearly
duplicated those put forth in the Russian Narodnaya Volya (People's
Will), and strikingly coincided with it in regard to
propaganda, agitation, and terror. Also following Narodnaya
Volya, the organization was based on a centralized system of
administration. The proposed use of guerrilla bands, however, was
probably a result of Greek and Bulgarian revolutionary influence.
not surprising that these students were so strongly influenced by
the Russian Narodniki. All of them were either born in
Russia or educated there, and all were well acquainted with
Russian revolutionary ideology.14 Mariam Vardanian (Maro),
a member of the committee that wrote the plans for the
revolutionary organization, had worked with the Russian
revolutionaries in St. Petersburg and, according to the late
Mushegh Seropian, hers was the ruling intellect of the group.15
Geneva students also associated and were on good terms with the
Russian Social Democrats G. V. Plekhanov and Vera Zasulich, who
were then in Geneva.16 Both had been former members of
the secret Russian revolutionary societies Zemlya i Volya
(Land and Freedom) and Cherny Peredyel (Black‑Earth
Distribution), and at the time of the founding of the Hunchakian
Revolutionary Party, Plekhanov was known as the leading Russian
exponent of Marxism.
Nationalism is evident throughout the program. The immediate
objective itself ‑ the independence of Turkish Armenia ‑ shows the
patriotism of the young founders. Part two is almost entirely
devoted to a sympathetic description of the Armenians in Asiatic
Turkey. Nowhere in the program is there any sign of conflict
between national aspirations and universal socialism. For the
Hunchaks, nationalism and socialism were mutually compatible and
could be harmoniously developed together.
Although the Hunchaks were strong nationalists, this did not
prevent them from concerning themselves with the condition of the
non‑Armenians in Armenia. Yet, while Assyrians and Kurds are
specifically referred to in their program, there is no mention of
the Turkish people. This is a conspicuous omission. But it should
be noted that the party, from its early days, made a distinction
between the Turkish government and the Turkish people.17
The party did not necessarily identify the Turkish people with
their corrupt administrator, and worked with Turk as well as with
Greek, Assyrian, Druz, Kurd, and Turkornan revolutionists.18
students unanimously accepted the plan that had been drawn up by
their committee. The name of the new revolutionary organization
had not as yet been chosen. In the sequel, it was named after its
party organ, the Hunchak (or Hentchak), the Armenian
word for bell. The name was reminiscent of the journal Kolokol
(Bell) published by Alexander Herzen, a contributor to the
ideology of the Russian social revolutionaries.
THE FOUNDING AND ACTIVITIES,
party of the Hunchaks, founded in Geneva in August, 1887,19
did not have an official name until 1890, when it became
known as the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party. The seven official
founders were Avetis Nazarbekian, Mariam Vardanian (Maro), Gevorg
Gharadjian, Ruben Khan‑Azat, Christopher Ohanian, Gabriel Kafian,
and Levon Stepanian.20
at last the Armenian type arrived in Geneva, the students began at
once to learn how to set it up and to prepare the paper.
Nazarbekian and Gharadjian, who were the best equipped in the
Armenian language, were appointed to write the articles for the
first issue. These were read orally to the rest of the students to
obtain their approval. When Gharadjian's article was rejected he
was so angered that he broke off relations with the others of the
group.21 Nazarbekian's articles were accepted and
published in the first issue of the Hunchak (Bell). The
paper first appeared in Geneva in November, 1887, three months
after the party was formed.
first editorial of the Hunchak appealed to its readers to
join the party and spread revolutionary activity. Although the
ideology of the party was socialistic, help from the capitalist
European Powers was to be accepted if any was forthcoming. The
first editorial read in part:22
accomplishment of the freedom of Armenia from Turkey cannot be
realized from the outside alone, but it can succeed from within.
If we fold our hands and wait for European intervention, the
Armenian people will sink into unbearable misfortune. It is true
that there may be created such political upheavals that a
particular European government might find it profitable to bring
forth the Armenian Question and might, in a direct or indirect
manner, demand its just solution. Just as in the past, such
possible circumstances make it necessary for us to prepare for
such an occasion from which to benefit. However, we must add that
the present policy and diplomacy of the European Powers is like a
windmill ‑ it turns in this direction of the wind today, while
tomorrow, according to the pleasures of the same wind, it may turn
in the opposite direction.
publication of the Hunchak was accomplished in complete
secrecy. Three false addresses were given so that no one would
know the paper was being published in Geneva. All correspondence
and gifts went to three addresses, in Paris, Montpellier, and
Geneva. The students were particularly careful about copies of the
paper that were sent to Turkey and Russia, since they could not
gain legal entry there. Such copies were printed on thin paper,
wrapped in packages, and posted at intervals from Paris, Geneva,
students published their program for the first time in the
October‑November 1888 issue of the Hunchak, and also in a
separate pamphlet.24 The implementation of the Hunchak
program encountered strong resistance from various intransigent
religious, nationalistic, and social groups in the Ottoman Empire.
get the sympathy and coöperation of the Moslem masses, the
Hunchaks distributed among them propaganda literature in the
Turkish language,25 but considering the profound
differences that existed between the Moslems and Christians, the
Hunchak efforts were bound to encounter great opposition. The
Pan‑Islamic movement, which had been fostered by Sultan Abdul
Hamid II, had greatly deepened the cleavage between the followers
of the two faiths. This new Islamic movement stressed the
superiority of Islam and had as its object the unifying of all the
Moslems under the Ottoman Caliph ‑ Sultan Abdul Hamid Il.
socialistic ideas of the Hunchaks were disapproved by some
important Armenian groups as well, especially by the Russian
Armenian bourgeoisie. At first the latter extended some help to
the Hunchaks in their revolutionary activity, but at no time were
they willing to accept socialistic doctrines. The initial
cooperation came to an abrupt end, and the wealthy Russian
Armenian bourgeoisie, as a whole, decided to resist the spread of
Hunchak influence. The well‑to‑do Armenians in Turkey also found
it to their advantage to condemn Hunchak ideas and activity.26
Despite any such ideological enemies however, the Hunchaks were
still determined to launch their program in Turkish Armenia.
Hunchaks quite naturally chose Constantinople for the center of
their organization and activity in Turkey. Within seven months
they enlisted seven hundred members in the capital. Most of the
members came from the educated class; they were mainly persons who
held positions in foreign consulates and maritime companies.27
The Hunchaks sent out leaders from Geneva and Constantinople to
numerous towns and villages in Turkey to organize the Armenians.
The places in Asiatic Turkey to which these leaders went included
Bafra, Marsovan, Amasia, Tokat, Yozgat, Akin, Arabkir, and
Trebizond.28 It was not long before hundreds of young
Armenians in Turkey, Russia, and Persia rallied to the Hunchak
banner. The Hunchaks also attracted supporters in Europe and the
United States. In 1890 the union of the separate groups resulted
in the adoption of the party's official name, the Hunchakian
party translated the Communist Manifesto into Armenian and
published Marxist writings in the pages of the Hunchak, but
these had no important effect upon the Armenians. Many party
members were not socialists by persuasion, but rather joined the
Hunchaks because of their immediate objective of winning the
freedom of Turkish Armenia. The Hunchaks, in fact, did not insist
that those who joined them should adopt socialistic principles.
This fact cannot be over‑emphasized, for it will account for much
of the future strife within the ranks of the party.
THE DEMONSTRATION OF KUM KAPU
Hunchakian Revolutionary Party revealed its power for the first
time in Constantinople on Sunday, July 15, 1890, when it organized
the Demonstration of Kum Kapu. The purpose of the demonstration
to awaken the maltreated Armenians and to make the Sublime Porte
fully aware of the miseries of the Armenians."
demonstration started in the Armenian Cathedral in the Armenian
Quarter of Kum Kapu. Here Patriarch Khoren Ashegian was addressing
a large congregation gathered for the Vartavar (Transfiguration of
our Lord) services. In the cathedral, Haruthiun Tjankulian, a
party member, read a Hunchak protest directed to the Sultan which
advocated Armenian reforms. Afterward, he went to the Patriarchate
and smashed the Turkish coat of arms.31 Although the
Armenian Patriarch protested, he was forced by the Hunchaks to
join them in presenting the protest to the Sultan. Hardly had the
procession toward Yildiz Palace started when it was blocked by
Turkish soldiers, and a riot ensued in which a number of people
were killed and wounded.32 Tjankulian, who was
considered the Hunchak hero of the demonstration, was arrested and
sentenced to life imprisonment. The Porte ignored the reforms
urged by the Hunchaks, and the European Powers did not support
them. Instead, a number of Hunchak leaders, as well as other
demonstrators, were killed, wounded, and imprisoned. The
casualties were not confined to Armenians alone, for a Turkish
gendarme and a soldier were also killed during the riot.33
Although the Demonstration of Kum Kapu was obviously unsuccessful,
it did have an importance, for it
appears to be the first occasion since the conquest of
Constantinople by the Turks on which Christians dared resist
soldiers in Stamboul."
Hunchaks believed that the Demonstration of Kum Kapu, though in
some degree a failure, had nonetheless served to arouse the
European Powers in regard to the Armenian Question. The Hunchak35
wrote that England and Russia were vitally concerned with the
whole Eastern Question, but could not agree between themselves
about it. England wished to control Crete, and Russia was desirous
of adding Turkish Armenia to its own territory.36 The
Hunchaks opposed Russian territorial aims and insisted on a
completely independent Armenia. They would reject any European
proposals that were contrary to that supreme objective, and
declared themselves ready to shed their "last drop of blood" for
party declarations were bold statements, which, when analyzed,
bring up the following questions. How much blood was to be
sacrificed for the revolution and who were to die for the cause ‑
only a few Hunchak revolutionaries or numerous Armenian
inhabitants of the interior provinces? What would be the value of
an independent country whose people had been nearly wiped out in
the revolutionary process? The opponents of the Hunchaks were not
willing to see a large part of their nation destroyed in order
that the Hunchaks might attain a dubious political goal.
the Hunchaks were not to be deterred. They continued to organize
demonstrations and insurrections in towns and villages inhabited
by Armenians. In 1891 they joined the Oriental Federation, which
was composed of Macedonian, Albanian, Cretan, and Greek
revolutionaries,38 hoping to synchronize their efforts.
Hunchak revolutionary activities were markedly evident in 1892,
and even more so in 1893. The Hunchaks made the most of Turkish
oppression by spreading various alarming reports through their
publications, including exaggerations of Turkish atrocities.
Hunchak revolutionaries posted placards on public buildings and
walls of houses in the regions of Marsovan, Yozgat, Amasia, Chorum,
Tokat, Angora, Sivas, and Diarbekiar.39 These placards
were in Turkish and were addressed to Moslems everywhere,
including India, encouraging them to rebel against oppression. By
such methods the Hunchaks hoped to arouse the Turkish people
against their government.40
January 5, 1893, the placards were posted in Marsovan on the
premises of Anatolia College, which was administered by the
American Missionary Board. This act aroused the Turkish government
against the missionaries.41 The Reverend Edwin Bliss
has written that Professors Thoumaian and Kayayan, who were
members of the faculty, were accused, though without proof, of
having something to do with the placards, and they were arrested
and imprisoned. Although the Turkish authorities may not have had
definite evidence against Professor Thoumaian, we know from the
Hunchak Aderbed (Sarkis Mubailiadjian) that Thoumaian was
carefully watched by the government and that, as early as 1891, he
and other Hunchaks were consulting with one another and planning
revolution against the state.
1893 the Turkish government arrested and hanged many
revolutionaries as well as other prominent Armenian intellectuals,
merchants, and clergymen, especially in the region of Marsovan and
Yozgat. In the same year the famous Hunchak hero and revolutionary
pioneer, Zhirayr Poyadjian, brother of Murat (Hambardsum
Poyadjian), was also hanged by the Turkish government
in Yozgat. Also in 1893 Damadian, another Hunchak leader, was
arrested on the road between Moush and Sassun.42
THE SASSUN REBELLION
the region of Sassun (located in the province of Bitlis), a
revolutionary named Damadian, the Hunchaks, and others had been
exciting hostilities between the Kurds and the Armenians;43
and in August, 1894, an actual rebellion broke out. The Sassun
Rebellion represented one of the major efforts of the Hunchakian
Revolutionary Party against the Turkish government and the Kurds.
the region of Sassun the Armenians had been paying tribute (hafir)
to the Kurds to assure themselves of Kurdish protection and
assistance. The size of the annual tribute was assessed according
to the resources of the Armenians. Any refusal to pay elicited
prompt and violent Kurdish reprisals; yet, somehow, the two
peoples got along without actual fighting until about 1890‑1891.
There were two primary reasons why hostilities should flare up at
that time: (1) the establishment of a solidarity among the Kurdish
tribes through religious propaganda of the sheiks; and (2)
agitation among the Armenians, which had been started by such men
as Damadian and later continued by the Hunchak Murat (Hambardsum
Poyadjian). The rebellion began when the Kurds, secretly
encouraged by the Turkish government, attacked and plundered the
Armenian village of Talori.
the spring of 1894 the Hunchak leader Murat had arrived in the
region of Sassun. He too, like Damadian, encouraged the Armenians
to refuse to pay the hafir and to free themselves from what
he called a system of bondage. Murat and a band of followers
started minor acts of aggression against the Kurds, who countered
with attacks against the Armenians. The government interpreted the
Armenian activities in Sassun as a rebellion against the state and
sent troops to quell it.44
Murat's leadership the Armenians resisted the far superior Turkish
forces for more than a month; but the Turks finally succeeded in
capturing Murat and a number of his men45 and in
subduing the Armenians. This latest Armenian uprising and the
Turkish reprisals had aroused Great Britain, France, and Russia,
who sent a Commission of Inquiry to Sassun to investigate the
situation. The Commission found that the sole crimes of which the
Armenians were guilty were that they (1) had sheltered Murat and
his band; (2) had indulged in a few isolated acts of brigandage;
and (3) had resisted the government troops under conditions that
were not entirely clear.46 The Commission concluded
that the thorough Turkish devastation of the region was far in
excess of what the punishment for the revolt should have been. It
formally stated its belief that the misery to which the Armenians
were reduced could not be justified.47
Hunchaks considered the Sassun Rebellion a great victory for their
party as well as for the Armenian cause. They believed that
because of their revolutionary activities, particularly in Sassun,
the European Powers at last had recognized the crying need for
reforms in Armenia. On May 11, 1895, indeed, Great Britain,
France, and Russia sent a memorandum to Sultan Abdul Hamid II
urging reforms in the six Turkish Armenian provinces.48
Memorandum49 included a Project of
Reforms for the Eastern Provinces of
Instead of signing and enforcing this program, Sultan Abdul
Hamid procrastinated as usual. In the meantime the persecution of
the Armenians continued, especially in the Armenian provinces.
THE DEMONSTRATION OF BAB ALI
protest against the Sultan's refusal to decree reforms, the
Hunchaks staged the Demonstration of Bab Ali in Constantinople on
September 18/30, 1895. The demonstration was accompanied by much
bloodshed. At this time the Hunchaks decided to present their own
petition ‑ which they called their "Protest‑Demand" ‑ to the
Sultan. For a better understanding of this demonstration we should
first examine the organization of the Hunchakian Revolutionary
Party in Constantinople.
the Turkish capital there were two separate Hunchak committees.
One was the Board of Directors; the other was the Executive
Committee. The Board gave instructions for nearly all of the
revolutionary activity in Turkey, with the knowledge and approval
of the General Headquarters at Geneva. The Executive Committee of
Constantinople directed the organizational work according to the
instructions of the Board of Directors. The members of the Board
of Directors and the Executive Committee did not know one another,
but there was complete coöperation between them. This coöperation
was achieved by having one man, called the Representative of the
Two Committees, who acted as the intermediary between the two
Executive Committee, after receiving the order from the Board of
Directors to organize the Demonstration of Bab Ali, chose three
men to supervise the project. The leader was Karo Sahakian (Heverhili
Karon).52 Patriarch Mattheos Ismirlian, hearing rumors
of a demonstration, called Karo and asked if the rumors were true.
If there was to be a demonstration, the Patriarch insisted that it
should be a peaceful one. Karo also wished a peaceful
demonstration, but some members of the Committee did not agree;
the matter was left to the Board of Directors, who decided that it
should be peaceful.53
Months of secret preparations ended on September 16/28, 1895. On
that day the Hunchaks presented the following letter, written in
French, to the foreign embassies and to the Turkish government:54
Armenians of Constantinople have decided to make shortly a
demonstration, of a strictly peaceful character, in order to
give expression to their wishes with regard to the reforms to be
introduced in the Armenian provinces. As it is not intended that
this demonstration shall be in any way aggressive the
intervention of the police and military for the purpose of
preventing it may have regrettable consequences, for which we
disclaim beforehand all responsibility.
(Seal of the Hintchak Society)55
demonstration took place on Monday, September 18, 1895, two days
after the foreign embassies were informed. The Turkish government
had itself taken security measures; soldiers were posted on the
streets around administrative buildings, and the police in
Constantinople were alerted for possible action. It was almost
noon on Monday when the Hunchak leaders entered the Armenian
Patriarchate, from which they were to lead thousands of
demonstrators to the palace of the Sultan.56
Hunchak Karo, the head of the demonstration, was to present the
petition to the Sultan on behalf both of the Armenians of
Constantinople and of the six Armenian provinces. The petition,
written by the Hunchak Board of Directors, complained against (1)
the systematic massacre of the Armenians by the Turkish
government, (2) the unjust arrest and the cruel punishments of
prisoners, (3) the Kurdish injustices, (4) the corruption of tax
collectors, and (5) the massacre at Sassun. It demanded: (1)
equality before the law; freedom of the press; freedom of speech;
and freedom of assembly; (2) that all persons under arrest be
given the right of habeas corpus, and that the Armenians be
granted permission to bear arms if the Kurds could not be
disarmed; (3) a new political delineation of the six Armenian
provinces; (4) a European governor for the six Armenian provinces;
and (5) financial and land reforms.57
their petition the Hunchaks expressed the principle of
"egalitarianism" by asking that the rights demanded for themselves
also be given such other Ottoman subjects as were without such
rights. They warned that if the situation continued as it was the
Ottoman Empire itself would suffer.58
Sahakian and some of the demonstrators, after reaching the Gates
of Bab Ali, were denied entrance by the officer in charge, and
Karo was seized by the zaptiehs (Turkish police). Severe
fighting and violence broke out at once. In the meantime Karo was
brought before a Turkish official, who, after receiving the
petition, had him imprisoned. On that Monday, and for several days
ensuing, hundreds of demonstrators were imprisoned. The prisons
became crowded with wounded men, and scores of dead bodies were
collected from the streets of Constantinople.59
rioting and bloodshed in Constantinople alarmed the Turkish
government and disturbed Europe. The Ottoman Council of Ministers
assembled to discuss the situation, while some of the leading
European papers gave much attention to the rioting in
Constantinople. The London Times on October 1, 1895,
described "the affair" as one of "a most grave character." It went
on to say that "the
rioters, who were armed, offered a most stubborn resistance," and
that "the Armenians, on being arrested, were thrown to the ground,
disarmed, beaten, and then bound."
before the Demonstration of Bab Ali, the Europeans were of course
aware of the Armenian Question, as it was generally referred to at
the time. During the years 1894‑1895, hundreds of books,
pamphlets, and articles relating to the Armenian atrocities were
disseminated in Europe (especially in England) and in the United
States. British public opinion, in particular, favored a peaceful
and friendly solution of the Armenian Question. In any event, the
Powers were now made to realize the seriousness of the situation
and they (England, France, and Russia, supported by Germany,
Austria, and Italy) demanded that the Sultan introduce the
Armenian Reform Program of May 11, 1895.61
pressure of the European governments induced Sultan Abdul Hamid to
sign the Armenian Reform Program on October 17, 1895, about a
month after the bloody demonstration. The Hunchakian Revolutionary
Party considered this a great victory, and their party organ, the
Hunchak, carried the following:
telegram received today, the 18th, communicates the news that at
last the Sultan, by signing an official irade, has
accepted the recently revised Armenian Reform Program presented
to him by the three Great Powers in May.
Thus, at last, we have forced our ferocious executioner to
recognize the rights of the Armenian people, to listen to their
voice, and to bow before their aspirations and moral strength.
Thus, at last, today all the Armenians and the whole world are
witnesses to the Party's great victory, which we won by the
expenditure of so much blood and zeal.
Thus, this work of ours has been great and triumphant.62
Unfortunately, the Hunchaks and the Armenians in general were too
optimistic. The signing of the Armenian Reform Program by Abdul
Hamid did not bring peace to the Armenians in Turkey. Like so many
of the Sultanic irades (decrees), this one, too, became a
dead letter, and the persecution of the Armenians continued.
THE ZEITUN REBELLION
Previous to the signing of the Reform Program, Zeitun had once
again become the center of Armenian protest against the Ottoman
regime. Since the Zeitun Rebellion of 1862 the inhabitants of
Zeitun never ceased criticizing the central government. Their
resentment was heightened in 1878, when, following another
rebellion the Turks built a fortress at the entrance of the town.
On October 12, 1895, the Zeitunlis rebelled once again ‑ this time
under the guidance of the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party. The six
Hunchak leaders in Zeitun ‑ Aghassi, Apah, Heratchia, Neshan,
Meleh, and Karapet ‑ hoped that the uprising of Armenians there
would be quickly followed by Armenians
Before the insurrection gained momentum, Turkish forces attacked
Alabash, an Armenian village near Zeitun.64 This was
the beginning of fighting that was to involve Zeitun as well as
the numerous nearby villages. After four months of fierce fighting
the Zeitun Rebellion ended on February 1, 1896,65
following the intervention of the European Powers. After laborious
negotiations the peace terms formulated by the six European
consuls of Aleppo were accepted by the Porte. These peace terms,
as summarized by the French ambassador to Constantinople, were as
Surrender of all war arms; a general armistice; expulsion from
the territory of the Empire of five foreign revolutionary
committee members [all Hunchaks]; abandonment by the Porte of
all arrears of taxes; promise of reduction of land taxes; and
application of reforms contained in the general act.66
However, these peace terms, like the Armenian Reform Program, soon
most active era of the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party ended in
1896. The primary purpose of the party's activities since 1887 had
been to bring about European intervention with the Porte in favor
of freeing Turkish Armenia. But, as it turned out, the Hunchaks
had little success in securing European support.
result of the Demonstration of Kurn Kapu (1890) was the sacrifice
of many Armenian lives without either persuading Turkey to carry
out the promised reforms or convincing the European Powers that
they should force Turkey to do so. The rebellion precipitated by
the Hunchaks at Sassun (1894), which cost the lives of thousands
of Armenians, succeeded in bringing a Commission of Inquiry to
Sassun, and compelled the European Powers to present the Armenian
Reform Program to the Sultan on May 11, 1895. But history showed
that the program of reforms proposed by the European Powers was
not worth these thousands of human lives. Although the immediate
result of the Demonstration of Bab Ali (September 18, 1895) had
been the signing of the Reform Program by Sultan Hamid, the bloody
demonstration in the long run was of little value because the
Program was never enforced. Even the military victory of the
Hunchaks in the Zeitun Rebellion of October, 1895‑February, 1896,
when the Turks suffered heavier casualties than did the Zeitunlis,
was hollow, since the Turks could afford heavy sacrifices of men,
and no amelioration of conditions followed.
Hunchaks relied in vain on the European Powers to use coercive
measures against the Sultan for the purpose of making him put into
effect the Armenian Reform Program which he had signed in October,
1895. The activities of the Hunchaks had only helped to enrage
Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who already hated the Armenians and feared
that they, like the Balkan countries, would obtain their freedom.
was evident that the Sultan had decided to settle the Armenian
Question in his own way ‑ by the massacres of 1894 and 1895,
culminating in that of 1896. Thus, the year 1896 brought one of
the blackest pages in the history of the Armenian people, as well
as a near deathblow to the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party.
SPLIT IN THE PARTY
1896 there was much dissension among the members of the Hunchakian
Revolutionary Party. The two primary causes for this disunity were
socialism and differences concerning tactics. Many of the members
of the party believed that the European Powers had abandoned the
Armenian Question because of the socialist doctrine of the
Hunchaks. These members insisted that the socialist doctrine be
eliminated from the party's program and that the party should work
solely for the political independence of Armenia.67
dissenters also blamed Nazarbekian, the editor of the Hunchak,
for their party failures. They criticized him for writing
editorials that advocated insurrections and incited fighting
wherever there were Armenian revolutionaries. They likewise
accused him of writing indiscreet editorials that gave the Turkish
officials much information that was detrimental to the
The party soon fell
into two factions. One was the pro-Nazarbekian
faction, which was in accord with the existing program of the
Hunchakian Revolutionary Party; the other was the anti‑Nazarbekian
faction, which desired the elimination of socialism from the party
program and called for changes in tactics and administration.
contrast to conflicts in European socialist organizations of the
day, the rift in the Hunchaks was not based on variations in
socialist ideology. The anti‑Nazarbekian faction wished to
eliminate socialism completely from the program, leaving no room
for compromise within a socialistic framework. The August 1896
convention of the anti‑Nazarbekians firmly excluded socialism from
their own program, saying that it was not necessary for the
freedom of Turkish Armenia; at the same time they decided to work
in absolute secrecy. Two years later (1898), at a meeting in
Alexandria, Egypt, they reasserted their London decisions of 1896
and named their organization the Reformed Hunchakian Party.69
anti‑Nazarbekians demanded that a meeting be held to elect a new
Central Committee, but this demand was refused by Nazarbekian and
his wife Maro, both of whom were on the Central Committee.70
The pro‑Nazarbekians accused their adversaries of trying to hold a
meeting before that of the Second General Congress of the Hunchaks,
which was to take place in September of that same year (1896).71
anti‑Nazarbekians, whose request for a meeting was refused,
decided not to wait for the convocation of the General Congress,
but held a convention of their faction in London, in August, 1896.
The inter‑party conflict of the Hunchaks at London in 1896 took
place in the shadow of the Fourth Congress of the Second
International, held July 27‑31, 1896.72 It is not known
whether there was any direct connection between the Hunchak clash
and the Socialist International Congress at London.73
Hunchakian Revolutionary Party, now no longer including the anti‑Nazarbekian
faction, held its Second General Congress in London during
September, 1896. In that year the party decided to abandon its old
policy of public demonstrations, but its organ, the Hunchak,
persisted in maintaining socialist doctrines.74
Many pamphlets, mostly translations from Marxist ideology,
continued to be printed,75 and the party continued the
publication of Aptak (Slap), a satirical journal on
political and national affairs, which was first published in
Athens during the year 1894.76
1896 rift among the Hunchaks markedly weakened the party. Still
another political party, later known as the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation or Dashnaktsuthiun, which had been established on
Russian soil in 1890, became a prominent revolutionary
organization. The Hunchakian Revolutionary Party had been invited
to join the Dashnaktsuthiun in 1890 and had temporarily merged
with the new federation, but this association endured for less
than a year. After certain disruptions, which will be described in
chapter vii, the Hunchaks completely separated from the newly
formed party and continued as a separate organization. They
continued to form Hunchak branches in cities and towns in Turkish,
Russian, and Persian Armenia and in communities among the
Armenians of the Diaspora, as far off as the United States. These
branches remained in existence even after 1896, when the most
active period of the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party came to an
the Hunchaks were launching their vigorous campaign in Turkish
Armenia, the Dashnaktsuthiun was establishing a firm foothold
among the Armenians in Russia and was beginning to make itself
felt in Turkish Armenia. Previous to the establishment of this new
political party in 1890, revolutionary circles had already existed
among the Armenians in Russia during the 'sixties, 'seventies, and
‘eighties. We shall next consider these early organizations in
Russia, which were devoted to aiding and if possible liberating
the downtrodden Armenians under Turkish rule.
NOTES TO CHAPTER V (Pp. 104‑131)
1890 the organization was officially named the Hunchakian
Revolutionary Party. The name was changed in 1905 to Hunchakian
Social Democrat Party and then in 1909 to Social Democrat
Hunchakian Party, the name it bears to the present day. Hunchakian
has been rendered in various spellings: Hunchag, Hentchak,
Hentchag, Hintchak, Hintchag.
Hagop Turabian, "The Armenian Social Democratic Hentchakist
Ill (July 1915‑June 1916), 451, 456.
Ruben Khan‑Azat, "Hai Heghapokhakani Husherits" ["Memoirs of an
Armenian Revolutionary"], Hairenik Amsagir, V (June 1927),
Personal interview with the Armenian musicologist Rouben Tigranian,
a native of Tiflis. He was personally acquainted with Avetis
Nazarbekian as well as his uncle, Melikazarian of Tiflis.
Shortly afterward, Avetis Nazarbekian and Mariam Vardanian (Maro)
were married. They had two children, a boy, Vatya, and a girl,
Byelka. The Nazarbekian family resided in England, but in later
years the couple was divorced and Avetis married his cousin. In
1927 Avetis Nazarbekian was in the United States and on the
invitation of the Committee of Revolutionary History in Moscow, he
went to the Soviet capital, where he was to write a history of the
Hunchaks. For a short notice of the Nazarbekians in England in the
1890's see David Garnett, The Golden Echo (New York, 1954),
6. Nicoli Matinian had to return to Tiflis because of financial
difficulties during the first days that Avetis Nazarbekian and
Mariam Vardanian came to Geneva.
Khan‑Azat, op. cit., p. 69.
Ibid., p. 71.
Ibid., p. 70.
Khan‑Azat, Hairenik Amsagir, V (July 1927), 53.
Ibid., p. 54.
Hunchak, October‑November 1888. Hunchak is also
Leo, Thiurkahai Heghapokhuthian Gaghaparabanuthiune, I,
Avetis Nazarbekian, although born in Tabriz (Persia), was
considered a Russian Armenian because he had lived in Russia
since his childhood and had been educated there. Khan‑Azat,
Hairenik Amsagir, V (July 1927), 54, states that all the
Hunchak founders, including himself, were Russian Armenians.
From a personal interview with the late Mushegh Scropian, former
Armenian Archbishop of Cilicia, and one of the first members of
the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party. He was personally well
acquainted with the founders of the party.
Khan‑Azat, Hairenik Amsagir, V (July 1927), 55.
17. Hemayeak Aramiants, Veratzenundi Erkunke [The Pains
of Rebirth] (Constantinople, 1918), pp. 13‑14.
18. Aderbed (Sarkis Mubaihadjian), 50 Amyak 1878‑1928 Voskya Hobelian
Hai Heghapokhuthian [Fiftieth Year, 1878‑1928 ‑ the Golden jubilee
of the Armenian Revolution], MS dated Leninakan (Soviet Armenia),
December 31, 1927.
"Soc. Dem. Hunch. Kus. Amer‑i Sherdjan"
Democrat Hunchakian Party of America"], Hunchak Taregirk [Hunchak
Yearly] (New York, 1932), p. 25. Hereafter cited as
20. Levon Stepanian is considered the seventh of the founders of the
Hunchakian Revolutionary Party although he was not in Geneva when
the plans were drawn up. At that time he was studying in
Montpellier and was planning to graduate in the winter of 1887. He
had already expressed an ardent desire to join the party.
Therefore, the six students in Geneva sent him the plans, which
he, too, wholeheartedly accepted. After his graduation he joined
his friends in Geneva.
21. Gevorg Gharadjian, who was a dedicated Marxist, went to
Montpellier and then to the Caucasus. There he joined the ranks of
the Russian Social Democratic Party. He said that when he was
among the group the name of the party had not been chosen and that
only after the Hunchak was published did the Hunchakian
Revolutionary Party come into existence.
Hunchak, November 1887.
Khan‑Azat, Hairenik Amsagir, V (July 1927), 62.
Dzragir Hunchakian Kusaktsuthian [Program of the
Hunchakian Party] (2d ed.; London, 1897), Preface; this
special pamphlet was an abridged edition of the program. The
second edition of the program printed in 1897 was also abridged.
Hunchak Taregirk, p. 31.
26. Sahakian, "S.D. Hunch. Kusaktsuthian Goyuthian Antscalin yev
Nerkayis" ["On the Existence of the S.D. Hunchakian Party in the
Past and in the Present"], Eritassard Hayastan [Young
27. Aderbed, op. cit.
29. Turabian, op. cit., p. 456.
Hobelianakan Tonakataruthiun I Pars S.D. Hunch. Kusaktsuthian
60 Ameaki [The Celebration of the 60th Anniversary
of the S.D. Hunchakian Party] (San Francisco,
31. Aramiants, Feratzenundi Yerkunke, p. 13.
32. Seropian, Mer Paikare, pp. 189‑190; Ormanian,
Great Britain, Correspondence respecting the Condition of
the Populations in Asiatic Turkey, and the Proceedings in the
Case of Moussa Bey. Parl. Pubs., 1890‑91, Vol. XCV1
(Accounts and Papers), c. 6214, Turkey No. 1 (1890‑91), no. 86.
Sir W. White to the Marquis of Salisbury ‑ (Received August 21),
Ibid., no. 80. Sir W. White to the Marquis of Salisbury ‑
(Received August 8), pp. 62‑63.
Hunchak, September 7,1890.
Khan‑Azat, Hairenik Amsagir, VI (February 1928), 130‑134.
Great Britain, Correspondence..., Turkey No. 3 (1896), op.
cit., no. 87. Consul Longworth to Sir Clare Ford ‑ (Received
at the Foreign Office, March 3), pp. 62‑63.
Personal interview with the late Max Balian. Mr. Balian was a
student at Anatolia College and was one of the young Hunchaks who
secretly posted the placards in the Marzovan region in 1893.
Turkey and the
Manoug C. Gismegian, Patmuthiun Amerikahai Kaghakakan
Kusaktsuthiants 1890‑1925 [The History of the
Armenian‑American Political Parties 1890‑1925] (Fresno,
1930), pp. 56‑59.
Great Britain, Correspondence relating to the Asiatic Provinces
Part I Events at Sassoon, and Commission of
Inquiry at Moush. Parl. Pubs., 1895, Vol. CIX (Accounts and
Papers), c. 7894, Turkey No. 1 (1895), Inclosure in no. 23.
Memorandum, pp. 11‑12.
44. Ministère des affaires étrangères, op. cit., no. 86. Annexe
à la dépèche de Constantinople du 16 août 1895. Rapport Collectif
des Délégues consulaires adjoints à la Commission d'enquête sur
l'affaire de Sassoun, pp. 96‑111.
45. Gurgen Tahmazian, "Hambardzum Poyadjian (Murat)," Hisnameak ‑
1887‑1937 ‑ Sots. Demokrat Hunchakian Kusaktsuthian [The
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, 1887-1937],
published by the Sots. Dem. Hunchakian Kus. Kedr. Vartchuthium
[Central Committee of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party]
(Providence, 1938), pp. 114‑116. Hereafter cited as
Great Britain, Turkey No. 1 (1895) (Part 1), Inclosure in no. 252.
Report of the Consular Delegates attached to the Commission
appointed to inquire into the Events at Sassoun, p. 173.
Great Britain, Correspondence respecting the Introduction
of Reforms in the Armenian Provinces of Asiatic
Pubs., 1896, Vol. XCV (Accounts and Papers), c. 7923,
Turkey No. 1 (1896), no. 45. Sir P. Currie to the Earl of
Kimberley ‑ (Received May 15), p. 34.
Ibid., Inclosure 1 in no. 45. Memorandum, pp. 35‑45.
The major points covered in this Memorandum were the
following: (i) Eventual reduction of the number of vilayets; (ii)
Guarantees in connection with the selection of the Valis; (iii)
Amnesty for Armenians condemned or under arrest for political
offences; (iv) Return of Armenians who have emigrated or who have
been exiled; (v) Final settlement of pending proceedings for
crimes and offences against the common law; (vi) Inquiry into the
state of the prisons and the conditions of prisoners; (vii)
Appointment of a High Commissioner to superintend the execution of
the reforms in the provinces; (viii) The creation of a Permanent
Commission of Control at Constantinople; (ix) Compensation for
losses sustained by the Armenians who suffered in the occurrences
at Sassoun and Talori, etc.; (x) Regulations concerning religious
conversions; (xi) Maintenance and strict enforcement of the rights
and privileges granted to the Armenians; (xii) Condition of the
Armenians in the other vilayets of Turkey in Asia.
Ibid., Inclosure 2 in no. 45. Scheme of Administrative Reforms
to be introduced in the Eastern Provinces of Asia Minor; the
existing Vilayets of Erzeroum, Bitlis, Van, Sivas, Mamouret‑ul‑Aziz,
Diarbekir, pp. 46‑64. This scheme of reforms consisted of a
project of administrative, financial, and judicial reforms, which
was drawn up in accordance with the existing laws of the Ottoman
51. Gegharn Vardian,
"Pap Alii Tsoytse" ["The Demonstration of Bab
Ali", Hisnameak, p. 133.
"Pap Alii Tsoytse" ["The Demonstration of Bab
Ali", Hunchak Taregirk, p. 36.
Ibid., pp. 37‑38.
Vardian, op. cit., pp. 125‑126.
Great Britain, Correspondence relative to the Armenian
Question, and Reports from Her Majesty's Consular Officers in
Parl. Pub., 1896, Vol. XCV (Accounts and Papers),
c. 7927, Turkey No. 2 (1896), Inclosure 1 in no. 50. The
Armenian Revolutionary Committee to Sir P. Currie, p. 32.
56. Vardian, op. cit, p. 126.
Ibid., pp. 132‑133.
Great Britain, Turkey No. 2 (1896), op. cit., Inclosure 2
in no. 50. Petition, pp. 32‑35.
59. Karon, Hunchak Taregirk, pp. 41‑52.
The London Times, October 3, 1895.
William L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism 1890‑1902
(2d ed.; New York, 1951), pp. 161, 203; A. J. P. Taylor, The
Struggle for the Mastery in
(Oxford, 1954), p. 359; Morris Wee, "Great Britain
and the Armenian Question 1878‑1914" (unpublished Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1938), p. 283.
Hunchak, October 20, 1895.
63. Nurhan Lusinian, "Zeytuni Tjakatamarte" ["The Battle of Zeitun"],
Hisnameak, p. 136.
64. Avetis Nazarbek, "Zeitun," Contemporary Review, LXIX (April
65. Zeituntsi, Zeituni Antsialen yev Nerkayen [Out of
Zeitun's Past and Present] (Paris, 1903), II, 34. For a
detailed account see ibid, pp. 1-76,
and Aghassi, op. cit., pp. 183‑318.
66. Ministère des affaires étrangères, op. cit, no. 184. M. P.
Cambon, Arnbassadeur de la République française à Constantinople,
à M. Berthelot, Ministre des affaires étrangères, p. 214.
Hisnameak, p. 149.
68. Gismegian, op. cit, p. 53.
Ibid, pp. 66‑67.
Ibid., p. 60.
Hisnameak, p. 149.
Bulletin périodique du bureau socialiste International, 4e
année, No. 101 p. 2.
The Hunchakian party was a member of the Second International, but
the exact date of its entrance is not clear. It is definite that
the Hunchaks were members by 1904, since they had a representative
at the Sixth Congress at Amsterdam, G. V. Plekhanov, a member of
the Russian Social Democrat delegation. They did, however,
participate in European socialist activities prior to this date.
In 1903 the Hunchaks sent their own representative, S. Kasian, to
the German Socialist Party convention in Dresden.
The Hunchak was published in Geneva from 1887 to
1892. The party moved its headquarters to Athens in 1893 where
the Hunchak continued publication under Nazarbekian's
editorship. In 1894 the party headquarters moved from Athens to
London where, under the editorship of Nazarbekian, the Hunchak
November 20, 1894 issue appeared. The Reformed Hunchakian
Party also started publishing a paper called Hunchak as its
party organ. A court fight between Nazarbekian and the Reformed
Hunchakian Party resulted in a victory for Nazarbekian. Three
issues of the Reformed Hunchakian Party paper were published
without a name. These nameless issues were later called Mart
In 1898 the Nor Kiank [New Life], another
official organ of the Reformed Hunchakian Party, began to be
published in London. The old Hunchak continued to be
published in London until 1904, when it was moved to Paris. It was
published in Paris until 1914.
75. Aderbed, op. cit. For a list of pamphlets published by the
party to 1894 see the Hunchak, June 10, 1894.
76. Mihran M. Seferian, Hunchakian Mathian [Hunchakian Book],
4th pamphlet (Beirut, 1954), pp. 93, 98. At Athens during 1894
the party also published a scientific monthly, Gaghapar [Opinion],
which was devoted to socialist theory. Official party newspapers
and periodicals to 1954 totaled 107 publications in forty‑one