Compiled by Jirair Tutunjian
Posted by Nayiri Abrahamian
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The Armenians of Constantinople

Describing the Armenians of Constantinople, Edmondo de Amicis wrote in ‘Constantinople’: “In general they are tall of stature, robust, corpulent, light-skinned, grave and dignified in movement and manner. Their faces reveal two qualities which are particular to their nature; an open, quick, industrious and pertinacious spirit, with which they are wonderfully well suited to commerce, and that placidity—which some call pliant and servility—by means of which they succeed in insinuating themselves everywhere, from Hungary to China, and in rendering themselves acceptable, particularly to the Turk whose trust and good will they have gained as docile subjects and obsequious friends. They have neither in character nor appearance any trace of warlike or heroic qualities. Perhaps they were not so formerly in the Asian region from which they came, and indeed their brethren who remain there are said to be quite different, but the transplanted ones are truly a mild an prudent race, modest in their lives, with no ambitions beyond their business, and more sincerely pious, it is said, than any other people of Constantinople.”

The Panagalti Armenian Cemetery

During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, a group of conspirators approached the sultan’s chef, Mannuk Karaseferian, with a plan to poison the sultan’s food. The chef reported the plot to the sultan. In return, the sultan offered Karaseferian a favor in return. The chef, an Armenian, asked for a place of burial for his people. Thus the Panagalti Armenian cemetery (1551-1939) came about. The cemetery was confiscated and razed by the Turkish government. Now it’s part of the Gezi Park, the site of hotels, apartment buildings, radio and TV centre and the locale where young people Erdogan’s plan to cut down the trees and transform the park into a shopping mall and an Ottoman-style military barracks.

‘The Camels of the Empire’

Travel writer Edmondo de Amicis, who visited Constantinople in the late 19th century, wrote: “The Turks call them [the Armenians] ‘the camels of the empire,’ and the Europeans say that every Armenian is born shrewd: these two sayings are largely justified by the facts; for thanks to their physical strength, and their agile mental acuity, they not only  furnish Constantinople with a large number of architects, engineers, doctor an ingenious an patient artisans of many kinds, but also most of the porters and bankers: porters who carry extraordinary weights and banker who amass fabulous treasures

Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge

The British built Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge in the 19th century. The new bridge was built by the Germans.

Armenia's Absence from Freya Stark's "Riding the Tigris"

The extent to which the Armenians and their cultural heritage disappeared from contemporary historical consciousness  is shown by the fact that in 1959—only 44 years after the Armenian Genocide—the  famous and open-minded English travel writer/spy Freya Stark could describe Van and Diyarbakir region without ever using the word ‘Armenian’ in her book (“Riding the Tigris”).



Seventeen Century Traveler Simeon of Lwow's Impressions of Diyarbakir in 1612

Seventeen century traveler Simeon of Lwow, who visited Diyarbakir in 1612, described the residents as having: “1,000 Armenian houses an all of them are wealthy, luxurious and glorious. And whatever business and riches exist, they possess; the mint, the customs, the caravanserais and the rest… and when it is a Sunday and the Armenians do not open their shops and do not work, you think the town is empty and desolate.

Diyarbakir Armenian Dominated Professions in the 19th Century

In Diyarbakir Armenians dominated certain professions (one 19th century traveler found that every architect and doctor in the place was an Armenian), they had numerous members on the local councils; they were great teachers of crafts such as metal work and carpet-making. Many worked as administrators in the departments of education and public health, in the judiciary, the postal and telegraphic service, and on the agricultural boards. Only the police force was dominated by Turks, and even in wholly Armenian districts only one or two Armenians would be allowed in each police station.

The Turkish Tribes of Eurasia

Until recently Turkish textbooks claimed that most people living from England to Outer Mongolia are really ‘Turks’. Government maps published as late as 1991 show almost the whole of the Eurasian world as having been inhabited by ‘Turks’ at one time or another. A government hand-out of the late 1980s claimed that ‘the Turkish tribes were scattered over an area of 18 million square meters between the 20th century B.C. and the 20th century A.D., and founded sixteen empires.

The Many Languages of Caucasus

Over twenty-eight nationalities live in the Caucasus, speaking over fifty languages and dialects. They vary from large nationalities like the Armenians and Chechens, with many native speakers, to tiny Dagestan mountain groups like the Rutuls, with 15,000 native speakers, and the Tsez, with only half that number.

Arabs of the WWI Ottoman Army

At least a quarter of the Ottoman army was of Arab stock, and most of them deserted if they could, rather than fight the Ottoman battles during WWI. The Arabs were hungry, maltreated and never paid, and they disappeared like water in the desert sands whenever they could see the chance. 

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