Thursday, 26 April

Kaza of Malazgird - Demography

Author: Tigran Martirosyan

A compactly Armenian-populated county until the mid-eighteenth century, Manazkert/Manzikert, later renamed Malazgird, during the late Ottoman era was located in the northeastern edge of the Moush sandjak (prefecture) of the vilayet(province) of Bitlis. For the most part, the county’s territory overlapped that of Apahunik gavar (county) of the Touruberan ashkhar (province) in the Kingdom of Greater Armenia. The principal town of the county shared the same name, Manazkert. Known as Manavazakert in antiquity, it was one of the most impregnable towns in all of historic Armenia due to its towered fortress walls, with a total population ranging from 30,000 to 35,000 people living in about 6,000 households. [1] One legend links the town’s name to Urartian king Menua. [2] Another theory suggests the town could be named after Manavaz, one of the sons of Hayk, the progenitor of the Armenian nation. From the fourth century BC until the sixth century AD, Apahunik belonged to nakharars, members of the Armenian nobility—first to the Manavazian princely house, who claimed descent from Manavaz, and then to the Aghbianosian family. After the Arab conquest of Armenia in the seventh century, nakharars continued to rule the county as vassals of Arab amirs.

At the end of the tenth century, Manazkert became a target of Byzantine eastward expansion, which was seen as a method of self-defense or the regaining of lands lost to Arabs centuries earlier. [3] At the beginning of the following century, however, the Byzantines had to confront the Seljuks, a nomadic Turkmen tribe belonging to the Oghuz branch of Turks, which in the tenth century began migrating westwards from the steppes of Inner Asia. Not long after the Seljuks expanded across Persia and into Asia Minor, they converted to Islam. Although they had raided eastern Asia Minor at one time or another, Byzantine control had been tight enough that the area remained largely Armenian and Greek-populated. In 1071, Seljuk Turks defeated an army of the Byzantine emperor Romanos Diogenes near Manazkert. [4] The Byzantine defeat opened up Karin (Erzurum), Yerznka (Erzincan), and other Armenian regions of eastern Asia Minor [5] to Turkish-Islamic conquest and marked the beginning of the long process of Turkification and Islamization of the region. [6] In the sixteenth century, Manazkert was annexed to the Ottoman Empire.

A century later, the county’s Armenian villages were ravaged during a series of Ottoman-Persian wars. In the 1770s, deadly clashes between Kurdish sheikhs of Malazgird and the neighboring Khnous (Hınıs) county resulted in the destruction of many Armenian villages. According to Tadevos Hakobyan, Stepan Melik-Bakhshyan, and Hovhannes Barseghyan, authors of the “Dictionary of Toponymy of Armenia and Adjacent Territories,” of 220,000 inhabitants in the first half of the eighteenth century, only about 60,000 remained in the latter half. [7] The subsequent influx of semi-nomadic Kurdish tribes distorted the county’s demographic make-up, while their chieftains’ struggle for arable land and pastures gave rise to violence against Armenians, who owned most of them. During the 1828-1829 Russo-Turkish war, hundreds of Manazkert Armenians, fearing an outbreak of Kurdish violence, followed the Russian retreat and settled in eastern Armenia and Russian Transcaucasia. Seizing this opportunity, Kurds moved in abandoned villages. British consul-general John George Taylor reported in 1869 that the Manazkert plain became, using an expression figuring in his report, “infested with the common curse of the county,” the Kurds from Hasananli (Hasanan) and Millanli (Milan) tribes, who amounted to 3,500. The Armenians who, in his words, “formed the principal portion of the industrious inhabitants in the plain, supplying all agricultural labor and trade,” amounted to 2,100. [8]

After the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish war, Ottoman authorities encouraged the resettlement of muhajirs, Muslim refugees from Russia’s North Caucasus, such as Circassians, Ossetians, Lezgins, and Chechens, as well as Turks and Karapapaks from Russia’s Kars oblast (province), in Malazgird villages. By the early 1880s, as many as 200 Muslim households were resettled in Malazgird and the lower sub-district (nahiye) of the Bulanik county, [9] while the Kurdish tribes of Hasananli and Sipkan seized control of most of the county. [10] Hasananli tribesmen laid hands on most of the Oshakan valley (called Havtrang in the Kurdish language and translated as “seven colors”), which extended westward through Malazgird along the banks of the Aratsani (Murat) River. [11] French geographer Élisée Reclus reported that in the late-1880s the upland river valley was inhabited by Kurdish tribes and that amongst the few centers of population in that region, the most noteworthy, “were Manazkert, which supplied a great part of Armenia with salt from the Tuzla-su, or ‘Salt River’, and Moush.” [12] The soil of the Oshakan (Havtrang) valley yielded grain of excellent quality, but the extensive flat plain in the county’s southeastern part was desolate and rendered unusable for agricultural work. That, in addition to the Kurdish influx factor, explained why the number of Armenian households in Manazkert villages was not as large as, for example, in the neighboring kaza of Bulanik. [13]

In 1883, Ottoman authorities assigned the status of kaza (county) to Malazgird and included its territory in the vilayet of Bitlis. In order to boost Muslim numbers, authorities preemptively merged into the newly-formed county the kaza of Karayaz from the neighboring vilayet of Erzurum, which was almost entirely populated by Kurds. [14] This resulted in Malazgird boundaries extending northwest into and beyond the Tvaratsatap (Karayaz) valley and passing to the northwest of the town of Dutagh (Tutak). As a consequence of demographic and administrative manipulations, in the late nineteenth century Muslims constituted the majority of the county’s population. The number of Manazkert Armenians dwindled during and after the 1894-1896 Hamidian massacres, when hundreds were killed and thousands fled to the Russian empire to escape atrocities. In the aftermath of the massacres, Armenian settlers from Sparkert, Khizan, and other counties of the Bitlis province, repopulated several Manazkert villages, which somewhat improved the Armenian demographics. However, in May of 1903, a devastating earthquake centered near Mount Sipan claimed the lives of about 700 Armenian inhabitants of Manazkert, destroyed five nearby villages and affected seventeen others. [15] Nearly a decade later, after the 1912-1913 First Balkan War, Ottoman authorities facilitated further resettlement of muhajirs in Malazgird villages.

This study relied on a number of sources, which can be found in the article “Kaza of Bulanik—Demography” ( The 1902 Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople census of the population of towns and villages on the Plain of Moush and its vicinity collected by writer Gegham Ter-Karapetian, the 1878 trip report by Armenian ethnographer Aristakes Ter-Sargsents (Tevkants), [16] the letter of 28 May 1915 from Pastor Hovhannes Ter-Avetissian, the vice-prelate of Manazkert, addressed to Catholicos Gevorg V Soureniants, [17] and an account on Taron by contemporary Armenian intellectual and historian Karo Sassouni, [18] provided supplementary data.

Immediately conspicuous among sources becomes a discrepancy regarding the number of villages in Malazgird. According to Ghukas Inchichian, a Mekhitarist geographer, in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries there were 360 Armenian villages in the county. In the 1760s, their number dropped to 100, and in the late eighteenth century, to twenty. [19] Authors of “Msho ashkhar,” an editorial published in the periodical Lumá, suggested that in the 1870s there were 64 total villages. [20] This figure matched the total of villages for the years 1871, 1872, and 1873 in Ottoman salnames, government annuals containing statistical data for the state and provinces. [21] Tevkants reported sixteen Armenian and 75 Kurdish villages in 1878. Bishop Grigoris Aleatchian, a prelate of Moush, reported 23 Armenian localities in 1880. Alexey Kolyubakin, a Russian vice-consul in Van, reported that in the mid-1880s the total number of villages amounted to 147. [22] Bishop Garegin Srvandztiants reported 49 Armenian villages for both Manazkert and Bulanik counties. [23] Vital Cuinet, a French geographer, suggested that in 1891 there were 50 total localities. [24] Ottoman salname from 1898 listed 126 total villages. Vladimir Mayewski, a Russian General Staff colonel, listed 149 villages in 1899, out of which 21 were Armenian. [25] The Patriarchate listed 26 Armenian villages prior to World War I (Raymond Kévorkian and Paul Paboudjian upgraded the figure to 39 using supplementary Patriarchate census data available to them). [26] Teodik (Teotoros Lapjinchian), an Armenian writer, reported 25 Armenian villages prior to 1915. [27] Pastor Hovhannes Ter-Avetissian reported 27 Armenian villages or 1,089 households prior to 1915.

The only two primary sources, in which the number of Armenian villages matched up, were the household count prepared by the Moush Prelacy from 1899, which was republished in 1912 by Armenian statistician A-Do (Hovhannes Ter-Martirosian), [28] and the household-and-population count prepared by the secretary of the Prelacy, Nazaret Martirosian. Both reported 40 Armenian villages in Manazkert. The reason this overlap occurred was that A-Do’s figures were initially supplied by Martirosian, who later updated the data and, in 1916, tabulated the village populations in the periodical Van-Tosp. [29] Sassouni apparently borrowed the figure from A-Do and Martirosian, when he suggested that prior to the genocide there were 126 villages in the county, out of which 40 were Armenian inhabitted. [30] Paradoxical as it may seem, most Armenian authors seem to have underreported the number of Manazkert villages containing Armenians. Russian authors Kolyubakin and Mayewski, on the other hand, appear to have offered the best estimate for the total number of villages.

Until the late-1870s, Ottoman salnames matched the Armenian figures remarkably closely. The 1871 salname for the vilayet of Erzurum stated there were 1,876 Armenian and 3,218 Muslim men in Malazgird. The 1872 salname stated there were 1,976 Armenian and 2,518 (it should read 3,518) Muslim men. A Moush Prelacy count concurred that, in 1,510 households, 5,494 men lived in the county, of whom 1,976 were Armenians and 3,518 Muslims. [31] Yet another salname, from 1873, listed 2,024 Armenian and 3,929 Muslim men living in a total of 1,510 households. [32] One exception was Tevkants, who reported 2,687 Armenian and 9,746 Kurdish inhabitants. [33] Based on a Prelacy count from 1880, Bishop Aleatchian listed 5,089 Armenian men and women living in 487 households. [34] Over the following decade, however, this convergence of Ottoman and Armenian statistics disappeared. The 1892 salname for the vilayet of Bitlis listed 14,649 inhabitants in Malazgird, of whom 10,066 were Muslim, and 4,583 Armenian. [35] The 1898 salname, upon which Mayewski appears to have based his count, listed 570 Armenian households. [36] If multiplied by eight, an average number for members per household in rural areas suggested by Bishop Vahan Ter-Minassian (Partizaktsi), [37] this figure would put the number of Armenians at 4,560. By contrast, a Prelacy count from the 1890s suggested there were 1,149 Armenian households or 8,043 inhabitants. [38] In Cuinet’s estimation, of 21,000 inhabitants in Malazgird in 1891, 12,000 were Kurds and 9,000 Armenians. [39] Martirosian reported 11,166 Armenian inhabitants living in a total of 1,351 households prior to World War I. [40]

The numerical discrepancy between Ottoman and Armenian sources is generally attributed to the implications of the peace treaties of San Stefano and Berlin after the conclusion of a Russo-Turkish war in 1878. The treaties called upon the Ottoman government to carry out reforms in eastern vilayets, referring to them as the “provinces inhabited by the Armenians.” Unsettled by European powers’ involvement with the Ottoman Armenians in terms of guaranteeing their security against Kurds, Circassians, and other Muslim groups, Ottoman authorities resorted to frequent undercounting of the Armenian population. [41] In the 1892 salname for the vilayet of Bitlis, the Armenian population figure for Malazgird is 1.7 times smaller than the figure contained in the Moush Prelacy count, and 1.9 times smaller than the figure contained in Cuinet’s report. In 1893, an Ottoman census put the Armenian population in four of the five counties of the Moush sandjak: Malazgird, Bulanik, Vardo, and Sassoun, at 25,873. In Cuinet’s report, the Armenian population in these counties is put at 9,000, 10,361, 7,994, and 8,389, respectively. The resulting total of 35,744 is almost 1.4 times larger than the Ottoman census figure.

Inconsistencies with regard to population figures intensified throughout the 1890s and, in the early 1900s, turned into a statistical standoff. A census carried out by the Ottoman authorities prior to World War I placed the number of Muslims in Malazgird at improbable 30,929 and the number of Armenians at 4,438. [42] Conversely, a census carried out by the Patriarchate produced a figure for the Christian population, almost all of whom were Armenians, at 11,931. [43] Drawing on Ottoman salnames, Mayewski stated that Armenians amounted to thirteen percent of the total population of Malazgird. [44] Cuinet, on the other hand, suggested that Armenians accounted for 43 percent of the total population. [45] Researchers are fortunate to have Karo Sassouni’s account “Turkish Armenia under the Russian Rule,” in which the number of Armenians of Manazkert and Bulanik counties, who were evacuated to eastern Armenia and other provinces of the Russian empire during the Russian advance into and withdrawal from Moush in the spring of 1915, was estimated to be 34,000. [46]

In mid-April, the Russian forces advanced as far as Dutagh, and the Ottoman army beat a hasty retreat, plundering Armenian villages as they withdrew. When the Russians arrived at the town of Manazkert the following month, almost all Armenian villagers were fortunate to escape massacres; killings of several dozens of Armenian adolescents occurred in Banzde, Kharaba Ghasmik, Khotanlu, Marmous, Mollabagh, Molla Mustafa, Noradin, and Roustamgetik. Except for inhabitants of several villages in the Lower Bulanik nahiye who were killed, most Armenians of the Bulanik county also escaped massacres, fleeing to Manazkert between the fourteenth and sixteenth of May. [47] If using only the Ottoman data for both counties—4,438 for Malazgird and14,662 for Bulanik—the number of Armenians would total 19,100. On the other hand, if using solely the pre-war Patriarchate figures of 11,931 for Manazkert and 25,053 for Bulanik, the number of Armenians would total 36,984. From only a few villages of Manazkert, Bulanik, Moush, and Van, within days after the Russian forces unexpectedly withdrew in mid-July, around 5,653Armenians fled. [48] Another source indicated that the number of Armenians from the Bulanik, Khlat (Ahlat), and Khnous counties who fled to Manazkert was estimated in late May to be around 20,000. [49] It can, therefore, be said that Sassouni fairly accurately reported the number of Armenian populations of Manazkert and Bulanik that fled for safety.

Another Ottoman source, found in the collection of documents titled “Armenian Activities in the Archive Documents, 1914-1918,” indicated that, in 1915, the number of Malazgird Armenians who were to be forcibly deported, or as the source put it, “relocated and distanced,” was recorded in Ottoman registries at 4,430, and the number of Bulanik Armenians at 14,309. [50] However, the resulting total of 18,739 differs from the figures contained in Armenian sources. An Armenian accusatory report published in 1918 in Aleppo put the number of survivors from Manazkert and Bulanik at about 25,000. [51] Although a report signed by a group of genocide survivors carries less accuracy than a census or a count, the figure contained in it is still 1.3 times larger than the Ottoman figure for the two counties. According to a Moush Prelacy count, the results of which were published in Martirosian’s statistical table, prior to World War I, Armenians in Manazkert accounted for 11,166 inhabitants living in 1,351 households. This figure is 2.5 times larger than the Ottoman figure for the same county.

Listed below are the villages in Malazgird, which were either largely populated by Armenians or had a number of Armenian (in some cases, ethnically-unspecified) households or were formerly inhabited by Armenians, along with their present-day Turkified names placed in brackets. In cases where present-day names were not identified, names of the mahallesi (translated from Turkish as “neighborhoods”) in which they are located, are given. Because sources used for this study provided discrepant data, determining the most approximate population number per village was not deemed achievable. Unless otherwise specified, the data submitted below are drawn from sources covering a period of about 25 years or from the 1890s to 1915.

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