Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

John Willis

Abstract

This thesis is a discussion of the political and social circumstances surrounding the Ottoman-Armenian relationship during the nineteenth-century. Starting in 1839 with the introduction of the Tanzimat reforms, the Hatt-I Sharif of Gülhane promised all subjects of the Ottoman Empire equality, rights, and opportunities that many modern nations now view as inalienable human rights. Throughout the Tanzimat, however, the Armenian people came to realize that the Ottoman statesmen were unable to deliver these rights to the extent they had promised, leading to disillusionment with the state. These tensions only heightened under Sultan Abdülhamid II‟s autocratic regime, which began in 1876. Abdülhamid‟s decision to revert the empire away from European influence and acceptance of pan-Islamic ideologies intensified the feeling of Christian alienation from the Ottoman government. The empire began dissolving from all sides due to new nationalist sentiments, such as with the continuing losses in the Christian Balkans and Slavic regions. Although the Armenian population was largely loyal to the Ottoman state during this time, the suspicion against Christian minorities increased within the Ottoman government. The constant denial of their rights led small Armenian revolutionary groups to become sporadically aggressive against the state, resulting in disproportionate state-sanctioned violence against the greater Armenian population. These tensions culminated in what is now known as the 1894-1896 Armenian massacres, where over 100,000 Armenians were violently killed by Abdülhamid‟s military forces. This thesis is an attempt to discover why the Armenian pleas for reform resulted in so much resistance from the Ottoman government, how both parties were affected by outside influences, particularly Europe, and why Abdülhamid believed the Ottoman-Armenian conflict had to be resolved in such a violent matter.

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