An Armenian Propaganda Journal: The Armenian Herald (1917-1919)

Propaganda and especially propaganda through media is one of the most effective methods used all along in order to influence people living in a certain geography and spread the desired ideas among these. Propaganda is the process of planned and continuous transmission of certain news, information, and special documents aiming to influence the opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours of certain target groups through mass communication means (İlter, 1994, p. 3). Used since very old times, propaganda owes its actual advancement to especially the developments in the 20th century (Berkes 1942, p. 3).

Published periodically, journals are one of the most important sources for a history researcher. They involve very significant information for the periods when they were published. Many journals about Armenians were published in the Western world and The Armenian Review, Ararat, Armenia, Armenie, Anglo-Armenian Gazette, New Armenia, Armenian News, and The Oriental World are some of the most famous ones. The media organ which constitutes the subject of this article is the journal The Armenian Herald (TAH) published between 1917 and 1919 in the United States of America.

TAH was released by an institution called the Armenian National Union of America, which was founded in the USA in March 1917. The copies until the last three volumes of the journal, of which the first copy was published in December 1917 and in an ordinary book size (TAH, December 1917), were generally published in 54-60 pages (TAH, September 1918). The last three copies were published together and in 120 pages (TAH, February-March-April 1919). The first 12 copies of TAH published from December 1917 until November 1918 formed the 1st Book (TAH, December 1917) and the last 5 copies published from December 1918 until April 1919 formed the 2nd Book. The first of TAH books, which covered a period of almost one and half years was 672 pages in length (TAH, November 1918) and the second was 240 pages in length (TAH, February-March-April 1919).

The director and editor of the journal published in Boston was Miran Svazlyan who was one of the founders of ANUA. There are the titles and writers of the articles within the journal on the front page and the curriculum vitae of the writers in that copy inside the front page. The emblem of ANUA is also put on the lower part of the front page of the journal (TAH, December 1917). These words of American President Wilson on the beginning of the second copy are attention-grabbing: “The interest of the weakest is as sacred as the interest of the strongest” (TAH, October 1918; December 1918). Armenians make the emphasis here on themselves, as a matter of course.

Mentioning the publication purpose and content of TAH after the basic information about it is important in terms of showing how Armenians in America have radical and strict opinions about Turkey and Turkish hostility. The borders of the colorful Turkey map in the cover of the first volume are interesting. This proves from the first page of the first volume itself that the only foundation of the journal is “Turkish hostility.” In this map, the whole of the east of Samsun-Adana line until Caucasia and Iran is called “Armenia” and illustrated in a different color (TAH, December 1917). When the editorial written by the editor (Svazlyan) is studied, the severity of the situation in terms of Turkey shows itself more clearly. This editorial titled “Our Reason of Existence” puts forth on what purpose TAH was published and the dimensions of Turkish hostility in its content. The main lines of this article of which the insult ratio is quite high are given below:

All of the various conditions caused Armenians and Armenian Question gain a special importance. The tragic events of the last twenty years, the bad treatment of Turkish soldiers against innocent women and children in all Armenia, the exile of a large part of Armenians to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia and the so-called methods adopted by Turkish statesmen and these were brought to a solution when Armenian Problem and historical, industrial, progressive and peaceful Armenian subject were eliminated with 1878 Berlin Treaty. All of these realities justify these words of reliable Prof. Freeman forty years ago: “There is nothing like Turkish government, there is only an organized banditry which has the same name.” Some liken Turkish government to hellish countries.

The fact that the Turkish governments following each other didn’t do anything else but criminal organizations of young and old Turks since Crimean war and their statesmen’s politics regarding massacring Armenians since 1854 Paris Congress were put forward with positive proofs. The great book of Lord Bryce (Blue Book) published under the protection of British government presents the exiles of the last period and the indescribable dreadfulness and the chains of behaviours by ‘great murderer Sultan Hamid’ and his valuable successors Young Turks between the years 1894-1896. We couldn’t believe in that it was allowed that Turkey turned the countries under its rule into destruction and ruins in the eve of World War. The report which was presented to the Congress by the president Wilson and marked an era called for armies for the freedom of oppressed humanity and nothing made a greater reflexion among Armenians exposed to ‘Turkish brutality’. Foreign Affairs Minister of Britain Mr Balfour repeated his speech about the need to immediately end “the Turkish dominion in Armenia” last week…

The main target of this journal neither is only to give a real perspective about American and British public opinion on indescribable brutalities that Armenians were exposed to nor is to fill the pages of the journal with the stories of massacre and blood. The purpose is to make especially American readers know the moral, mental and national wills of Armenians at this stage. Our target is also to put forth the information about history, literature and civilization of Armenians which are very little known and the great services of Armenians to freedom and humanity throughout their long history. We hope that this martyr but unbending nation will achieve a better future and progressive trends by reading some parts here carefully. The information they put forward through their history and liberal and democratic tendencies will increase the sympathy about Armenians. The claims of Armenians will be included not only in international treaties but also in the foundation of the principles of humanity, justice and nations”(TAH, December 1917). This article displays the primary target and main principles of the publication of the journal. The purpose is to bring the image of “brutal Turk-victimized Armenian” into the agenda in Western world and to keep it in the agenda. The fact that there are expressions defaming and humiliating Turks and Turkey in almost all sentences of the article confirms this opinion.

Giving a general inventory of the editorials, articles, letters to editor, poems, literal text, the texts about Armenian history taken from various books published before, and the articles about the developments of the month which all constituted the content of TAH will make it possible to reach to more clear information about the content of the journal and to understand its real identity in a better way:

  Book and Volume of the Journal Total number of articles Number of articles on Turkey The editorial is related to Turkey or not
I/1 12 10 related
I/2 11 9 related
I/3 11 9 related
I/4 7 7 related
I/5 8 7 related
I/6 9 9 related
I/7 8 7 related
I/8 7 7 related
I/9 7 7 related
I/10 9 8 related
I/11 7 7 related
I/12 9 9 related
II/1 7 7 related
II/2 7 7 related
II/3-4-5 17 15 related
General Total 15 136 125 15

When the table is studied, more clear information about the content and publication policy of TAH can be obtained. It is apparent that the real purpose of the journal is to conduct “hostility against Turks” rather than handling Armenian history, literature, civilization, etc. The administrators of the journal didn’t refrain from stating with a completely innocent attitude that Armenians were very innocent people, they didn’t have any guilty part in Armenian problem, Armenians were exposed to injustice even with the law of deportation and such a decision was taken with the arbitrary attitude of Ottoman government, and as a result of the thought of wiping off Armenian race and directing the Western public opinion to think the same way as they do. 125 articles published in the journal, which corresponds to almost all of the 136 articles, are about Turkey and hostility against Turks. This number is statistically 92%. The whole of the 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th volumes and 1st and 2nd volumes of the book II are reserved for Turkey and hostility against Turks. The situation in editorials is even more striking. All of these articles directly target Turkey and introduce Turkey and Turks to the Western public opinion in a defaming, targeting, and hatred-arousing manner.

On the editorial published under the title “The Only Solution of Armenian Problem” in the copy dated February 1918, it was emphasized that the solution was only within American President Wilson and an independent state of Armenia stretching from Caucasia to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea was demanded from him (TAH, February 1918). The fact that these lines were actualized almost the same as said in Sevres in August 1920, 2.5 years later, is a good example for the effects of opinions expressed through media and the propagandas on the USA.

The editorial of TAH in March 1918 is constituted of the message of James Bryce known for his book titled the “Blue Book.” Having introduced Armenians as victimized people to Western public opinion in the Blue Book, James Bryce maintained his support to them and advised Armenians in Trans-Caucasia to be temperate and cooperate with Georgians. Russia had withdrawn from the war and these regions were left alone with Turkey. It was understood that the only target of Bryce, who didn’t neglect to appease the United States of America in the meantime, was to defame Turkey as much as possible for the establishment of an Armenia in the east (TAH, March 1918).

The article “New Stage in Armenian Problem” in the copy dated April 1918 was full of reproaches. The Armenian offenses and resentments in this article were toward the Soviet government who had to withdraw from Trans-Caucasia because of Russian revolutions. They had left them alone. Now all hopes were committed to the West. It shouldn’t be a coincidence that the journal used the word “unspeakable” in defining the word Turk (TAH, April 1918). Meaning “indescribably horrific and disgusting,” this word is very thought-provoking and a good example for showing that the hatred in Armenians was obsessive.

In the article published with the title “Application to the Civilized World by Armenian National Delegation” in the copy of TAH in May 1918, the application of the Armenian delegation to the Western world in order for the rescue of Turkish Armenia exposed to Turkish danger with the withdrawal of Russians by the civilized world before it was too late was handled (TAH, May 1918).

One of the most strident articles for Turkey is dated June 1918. These expressions were included in summary in the editorial published with the title “The Unspeakable Turk”: “Never again the permission to pollute the sacred lands of Armenia will be given to the “unspeakable Turk.” We know that the United States of America and the Western public opinion support this opinion. Turkish hegemony should be left in the past… Some ignorant people in America and ally countries say that Armenian population should stay under Turkish rule after the war and the situation can be restored with some reforms. Fortunately, the number of those who think like this is quite low. After all, those with this opinion are people who don’t know Turkish History and who also don’t have the courage of evaluating it”(TAH, June 1918). By behaving in this way, Armenians were trying to prevent Armenia from being left alone before Turkey and to present Turks as “a nonhuman creature” to the world public opinion.

The article titled “Turkish Machiavellism” which was published in the copy dated August 1918 is one of the most attention-grabbing articles, which accuse Turkey and the Turkish Nation in the fiercest manner. It is also very significant in terms of displaying the point where Armenian propaganda reached in the United States of America. According to the editorial which explained the activities of Turkey within Caucasia in the summer of 1918 with a Machiavelist point of view, Turks saw every way permissible in order to obtain the authority in the region (TAH, August 1918).

The editorial of TAH published in November 1918 was “Armenian Freedom and Independence.” Written when the First World War was ending with the comfort of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, this article was as follows in summary: “The old world is dead and a new world will be born from the war which lasted for four years and destroyed the world. One of the important topics of the peace conference to be gathered in Versailles is Armenian independence. Armenian problem should be solved with the principles of Wilson. This problem being discussed since 50 years should be solved now. Allied Forces shouldn’t give up on their word they gave before at the end of the war. Armenia is also one whole and inseparable like Poland. The Armenian state in future righteously covers Russia, Iran, and Turkish Armenia from Caucasia to Iskenderun. This land is called Armenia for historical and ethnologic grounds”(TAH, November 1918). In this period when the end of the war was clear, Armenians were now in a festive atmosphere.

In the editorial titled “Autonomy of Armenia” dated January 1919, there are these interesting statements about “virtues of Armenians and vileness of Turks”: “There is no other nation which is more sympathised than Armenians in the world Some Armenians were massacred by Turks in different times before the war started. Even the most bloodied pages of the World History didn’t encounter such a nation left without aid” (TAH, January 1919). Armenians presented themselves as the most sympathized nation to the world public opinion and tried to bring their propagandas to the highest levels on the eve of the peace conference.

The article titled “Turkey Should Die” in the copy dated November 1918 was written by Diana Agabeg Apcar and crossed all limits in insults and courtesy concepts against Turkey. This article, which argues that Turks didn’t make any contribution to civilization, didn’t engage in any activity other than destruction in their geography, their most important characteristic was massacre and looting, they always showed this on Christian communities, Christian governments always remained silent before these behaviours of them, and for all of these reasons, Turkey should die, holds the quality of a “masterpiece of Turkish hostility.”

It is understood from the study of The Armenian Herald journal that Turks and Armenians who lived together for centuries separated their ways and destinies as a result of political winds of Great Powers, which started to be artificially created in the last quarter of the 19th century. Armenians didn’t hesitate even for a moment in this separation and they left themselves to the secure arms of the Great Powers immediately. But they didn’t give up messing with Turkey by depending on them. After a period of around one-and-a-half century, if today Armenians are still remembered as a problem, the part of the success of the propaganda in this cannot be ignored. They effectively benefited from the power of media in displaying the play of a “victimized race” for the world and especially the American public opinion. TAH was only one of the media organs which reinforced the propaganda power of Armenians. It is indubitable that this journal made significant contributions to the recognition of Turkey’s bad image in a period of about 1.5 years when it was published.

Bibliography

Berkes, Niyazi, Propaganda Nedir?, Ankara, 1942.

İlter, Erdal, Ermeni Propagandasının Kaynakları, Ankara, 1994.

The Armenian Herald, December 1917, Volume: I, No. 1.

The Armenian Herald, January 1918, Volume: I, No. 2.

The Armenian Herald, February 1918, Volume: I, No. 3.

The Armenian Herald, March 1918, Volume: I, No. 4.

The Armenian Herald, April 1918, Volume: I, No. 5.

The Armenian Herald, May 1918, Volume: I, No. 6.

The Armenian Herald, June 1918, Volume: I, No. 7.

The Armenian Herald, July 1918, Volume: I, No. 8.

The Armenian Herald, August 1918, Volume: I, No. 9.

The Armenian Herald, September 1918, Volume: I, No. 10.

The Armenian Herald, October 1918, Volume: I, No. 11.

The Armenian Herald, November 1918, Volume: I, No. 12.

The Armenian Herald, December 1918, Volume: II, No. 1.

The Armenian Herald, January 1919, Volume: II, No. 2.

The Armenian Herald, February, March, April 1919, Volume: II, No. 3, 4, 5.

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