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THE Armenians have a tradition that they are the oldest nation in the world. They believe that the Garden of Eden was in southeastern Armenia and that Adam and Eve and their descendants lived and died there. They are certain Noah built the ark from gopher wood on their mountainsides, and that it came to rest on beautiful Ararat. Their descent is traced from the son of Tagarmah, the great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10. 2, 3). They call themselves Haigians, not Armenians. They are not Semites, like the Jews and Arabs, but belong to the Aryan race.

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Armenia, called Ararat in the older writings, was a strong kingdom B. C. 2350. The country was rugged, and the people did not develop as great a civilization as did their neighbors in the fertile lowlands of Mesopotamia.

An ambitious people.—The early Armenians desired a share in the rich east and west trade that was carried on in the Syrian Saddle. To obtain this, about B. C. 1500, they pushed their frontier from Mount Ararat to the bend of the Euphrates River and thus cut off Assyria and Babylonia for a time from Nineveh and Carchemish.

When King Nebuchadnezzar captured and destroyed Jerusalem (2 Kings 24) the Armenian king of Ararat was his ally. This ruler carried a Hebrew prince named Shampo to his capital, and he became a sort of a Joseph or Daniel in the kingdom, married an Armenian woman, and founded a dynasty of kings. In the seventh century B. C. the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 51. 27)


spoke of the "kingdom of Ararat" and referred to it as one of the destroyers of mighty Babylon. The Armenians fell a prey to the Assyrians and Babylonians at various times, but usually had only to pay tribute and were never destroyed, as were the Jews. They boasted a proud culture and were one of the few ancient peoples who never adopted the civilization of the Greeks.

Prosperity and adversity. During the Middle Ages, which were “dark ages” for Europe though periods of great culture in western Asia, Armenia attained its greatest power. Its area was ten times that of New York State. Its capital city, Ani, was surrounded by massive walls forty to fifty feet high and contained fortresses, .palaces, and beautiful churches.

Into this prosperous country came the Arabs with swords, bringing the new religion, Islam, which the Christian Armenians refused to accept. The struggle has been carried on by the Turks at intervals ever since, until this nation has no country and no protector among the great powers of the world. Their worst trouble with the Turks has been since Sultan Abdul Hamid came into power (1870). He levied such heavy taxes upon the Armenians that the government took almost one half of the crops, so the poorer farmers, though industrious, were usually in debt. When a baby boy was born his father had to pay a tax of two dollars. That poll tax was levied because the Armenians were exempt from military service. The tax had to be paid annually as long as the boy or man lived, no matter whether he emigrated or not. No Armenian could travel even in his own country without buying a passport. The Sultan would not allow the name Armenia to be used on maps, government paper, etc., and called the country Kurdistan.

Massacres and persecutions.—During the nineteenth century 240,000 of these helpless people were murdered, and many more suffered bitter persecution. From 1894 through the year 1896 over 83,000 were killed. Their churches, shops, houses, crops-in fact, all they owned-were in many cases entirely destroyed. Whole towns and villages were laid waste and thousands of helpless women and children starved.

The chief causes of these atrocities were religion and jealousy. The Mohammedans are taught that they must kill all who will not accept their Prophet. The Turks feared the spread of Christianity. The Armenians had large families, and the Turks small ones, so the Mohammedan population has been decreasing and the Christian increasing. Many Turks died during their pilgrimages to Mecca. Those who came home often brought cholera germs with them and spread disease among the people which still further reduced their number.

Commercial jealousy also played a part. The naturally shrewd, selfish, and industrious Armenians were absorbing the industries and acquiring the property of the lazy, shiftless Turks. This they, of course, resented. Religion served as a cloak for the Turks and the warlike Kurds of the plateaus, who found it easy to rob the richer Armenians of the fertile plains and, in the name of Mohammed, obtain ill-gotten gains.

A people who were made desolate.-After the raids or massacres, the thrifty Armenians would go back to their deserted villages and rebuild them, or else hide in caves and manage to raise food and acquire property. Then their relentless enemies would again swoop down on them to murder and destroy. This has happened again and again, until the country is in a pitiable state. During the World War thousands of Armenians fought valiantly in the armies of the Allies. General Antranik, their great patriotic leader, with a small force held the Turks in check many times so they could not attack the advancing British forces in Asia Minor. Other thousands of them joined the Russian army, and one of them, General Torcom, rose to high rank. 1. Why have the Armenians been so bitterly persecuted by the

Turks? By the Kurds?


Before the World War the Armenians numbered about 5,000,000 people. Authorities claim that nearly one half of them were killed in battle, murdered, or starved to death during the war and the period immediately following it. About one third of those that are left live in the Caucasus under the control of the British. One half million are scattered through Persia, India, Burmah, Egypt, Austria, England, and America. Two fifths of their number dwell in the land they claim as Armenia (see map). The remaining 750,000 are scattered through other parts of the Turkish empire. One tenth of the Armenians of Turkey live in Constantinople. In spite of the hard conditions placed upon them they are the leading bankers, merchants, moneyed men, and physicians of that city.

The educated traders of the near East.-Ninety per cent of the Armenians can read and write. They are keenwitted and adaptable, and acquire foreign languages readily. They learn new trades very easily, and are steady, dependable workers—two characteristics which make them a stable nation. Through persecutions the Armenians have developed a strong spirit of nationality and love for their own people. They have learned to bend but not break before an oppressor. They have also learned to use trickery to gain their point. Their shrewdness makes them the greatest moneymakers and traders of the Near East, outstripping even the Greeks and Jews.

The Armenians have been greatly helped by American missionaries, who, in 1831, established schools there for both boys and girls. These missionaries hoped to reach all the people in Asia Minor, but the Mohammedans forbade their children to attend the schools, and the Greeks were too proud to allow theirs to go, so the Armenians were the principal gainers. The schools have been very successful, and several American colleges in different parts of Turkey and Syria are great centers of moral, intellectual, and political influence. About nine tenths of the students and the leading native professors and teachers in the schools are Armenians. In many parts of the country the people have been able to take over the work begun by Americans and continue it themselves.

Relief work has been heroically carried on in Armenia by missionaries and Red Cross workers. Thousands of helpless people have been given food,, clothing, and shelter. Many orphans are cared for and taught in deserted school buildings and residences donated by the richer people. In some districts wool is sorted by little girls in pigtails and woven into cloth by sad-faced women who are glad to earn the daily dole of a few ounces of bread for each member of their families.


Among the chief cities of the Armenians outside of Armenia proper are Erivan in British territory, Trebizond on the Black Sea, Marash, noted for its trade in Oriental rugs, and Adana in Cilicia. Within what perhaps will be their own country in the better days to come are Erzerum, ancient Diarbekir, and Van.

The chief center of trade.-Erzerum is a city with a population of less than 100,000. It is a fortified town situated in a valley where the trade routes from the east to the west converge. It contains a custom house, several caravansaries, forty mosques, and a few churches and schools. Erzerum was one of the chief places of defense of Armenia during its days of power, and has been an important military post under the Turks. Its chief exports are animals, skins, furs, and nut galls. Its imports are shawls, silk, cotton, and cotton goods, rice, indigo, madder, rhubarb, and cutlery. 1. Why have the Armenians become the chief traders of the

near East? 2. Bring to class all the articles and pictures you can find telling

of relief work among these people. 3. Name and locate on your maps the cities of Armenia proper.

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