Info

Christians, including Armenian Catholics and Protestants, Greeks and Nesto-rians, who were not directly involved in the nationalist project.59 As usual, the Armenian patriarch's protestations at the Sublime Porte met with no redress.

Deeply concerned about the exodus of the Armenian population of the eastern vilayets to southern Caucasia, Europe and the USA, in 1912 Catholicos Georg Sureneanc' moved the tsar to exert pressure on the Ottoman government for reform. However, the proposals for enhanced autonomy that emerged are highly ironic, given the officially organised deportations that began within a matter of months.

Genocide and global diaspora

During the deportations, the able-bodied men were often killed, and atrocities marked the inhuman forced marches ofthe rest ofthe population into the Syrian desert. Among the 1.5 million victims who perished during the years 1915-23 were some 4000 clergy. In 1912 the Armenian patriarch of Constantinople had presented the government with a full accounting of the churches and monasteries under his jurisdiction, which, in Ormanean's tally, amounted to 2200 structures, most of which were destroyed.60 A similar fate befell both the catholicate of Sis, which had presided over thirteen dioceses, of which only the see of Aleppo was to survive, and the Armenian Catholic church which previously administered nineteen sees and 156 churches. Meanwhile, the catholicate of Alt'amar was completely eliminated. Refugees heroically struggled to preserve some of their community's sacred objects from loss. The events left a deep psychological and spiritual scar on survivors, who strove amid the chaos and disorientation to come to terms with issues of theodicy and providence.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, casualties of war and deportation, taxed the church's resources not only in Caucasia, but also in the Near East. The patriarch of Constantinople, Zawen Eliayean, was exiled to Baghdad, then to Mosul, while the catholicos of Sis, Sahak II Xapayean, escaped with his flock after the French evacuation in 1921 to Bab near Aleppo, and then on to the Jerusalem patriarchate, the largest Armenian institution in the region. The church set up a network of orphanages and schools in Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus to provide relief to the children whose families had not survived.

59 Ibid., 231. By the time ofthe genocide there were fourunions of evangelical congregations in the Ottoman Empire with a population of around 51,000, and two in the USA.

60 Currently there are about thirty active Armenian churches in Istanbul, and three in the provinces (Kayseri, Diyarbekir and Vakif Koy).

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment