The Armenian Pawn of Imperialism “Karabet Tomayan”

The incident took place in Merizfon county of the Amasya sanjak that is connected with the Sivas province in 1893. At that time, Merzifon was an important place of settlement with a population of 25,555 of which 6,216 were Armenian. Since they earned their living wih trade, only 141 of the Armenians lived in villages (BOA, Y.PRK.UM. nr. 29-35).

This period was also a process in which American missionaries wandered in Anatolia freely and colleges sprung up like mushrooms. England focused its interest on the oil regions of Iraq and Jerusalem and left Anatolia to the U.S.A., so to speak. Merzifon also took its share from the populatiry of colleges in the U.S.A., which opened its first missionary college in 1824.

Although the colleges were not inspected and there was no proper permit for construction, the Ottoman State was not interested with this subject. For example, on 18 April 1895, when the incident got bigger, an ineresting, tragicomic, and exemplary correspondence took place between Istanbul and Merzifon because Sivas governor Halil Pasha gave information on this one and a half years ago (BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 749-24). Because of the same attitude, the property tax of the college, which was in the shape of a big military barracks (BOA,Y.PRK.DH. 5-83), was 16 liras and 37 kurush (BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 749-24). Yet even Nishan, who was the watchman of the college, received a salary of 1 liras (BOA, Y.PRK.DH. 5-83).

There were about ten buildings on the college campus. The house next to it, which belonged to the Armenian Melkon, was set on fire by Armenians during the incidents and the state paid 500 liras because of this.

Karabet Tomayan

Karabet Tomayan

Karabet Tomayan, son of Ohannes, was born in Merzifon in 1853. When he was 12, he met some missionaries who had come from the other side of the Atlantic. This talented Armenian youth was sent to Switzerland and he was educated there. He published his first work in Lausanne when he was 26. He was also given a wife in Switzerland. He married Lucy, who was the daughter of a Protestant pastor. The couple of Karabet-Lucy returned to Merzifon having undertaken great hopes and a big mission.

Karabet Tomayan, who undertook the Protestant Revolutionary Mission when he was in Switzerland, carried out his mission in Merzifon and made sure that the efforts made for this were not in vain because important works and big responsibilites were waiting for him.

On the one hand, he taught at the American Anatolia Protestant College, and on the other hand, he established the Merzifon Revolutionary Committee and became the head of it (Karaca, 2005, s.106). The by-law of the Hinchak Association and the thoughts of Karabet Tomayan overlap with anarchism, which was the fashionable political movement of that period (BOA, Y.PRK.UM. 26-67).

Karabet Tomayan held meetings in Merzifon and its vicinity and tried to recruit people for the committee. The most important of these meetings took place on 25-27 September 1892 because the Hinchak Committee had taken a decision to have a wide-scale uprising (Karaca, 2005, p. 118). Revolts occurred in Amasya, Ankara, Çorum, kayseri, Sivas, Tokat, and Yozgat through the intermediary actions of the Merzifon committee (Karaca, 2005, p.117).

Collecting money to buy weapons for this purpose was not a problem because Turkish Armenians did not have a problem of money. Almost all of them worked in trade.

Karabet Tomayan conveyed what was said by James Bryce as the head of the Merzifon Revolutionary Committee:

“If Armenians want prestige, it cannot happen this way. They have to cause large-scale chaos. Some must be hanged and some must be slaughtered. One must start a fight with the Turks so that we can get involved and help them achieve their goals”

(Karaca, 2005, s. 118).

The committee first prepared posters that called the people to revolt against the government. The content of these posters was taken from the Hinchak newspaper that was published in Athens in July 1892. They were duplicated using the lithography machine at the Merzifon American College (BOA,Y.PRK.UM. 26-67, Karaca, 2005, pp. 121-124). These were stuck on the government work places, streets, and places where people would walk past in Yozgat, Kayseri, Çorum, Merzifon, and Gümüşhacıköy (BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 747-2). A call for jihad against the Armenians was made in posters in Turkish that were signed by the Patriotic Muslims Committee (Vatansever Islamlar Komitesi) (Karaca, 2005, s.118). A rebellion started because of the provocations, robberies, murders, and injuries which were experienced. In the end, 1800 people were arrested (Karaca, 2005, p.121).

After the first interrogation, a guilty verdict was given for 58 defendants. The first ones from among these were Karabet Tomayan and the committee secretary (BOA, A.MKT.MHM.733-28). The interrogation protocols and proofs were combined and sent to the Ankara High Court (Karaca, 2005, pp. 125-127) and the trials started on 20 May 1893. Three Armenians served as counsel for Tomayan. Those who did not have the attorney fee to pay were defended by the Armenian attorneys who were assigned by the court. The Ottoman State informed the American and British ambassadors and the Armenians gave information to the Istanbul Patriarch.

Meanwhile, there was an attempt to burn the house of Melkon, which was next to the college, in order to add an adverse meaning to the incidents (Koltuk, 2007, s.195-196). They could not achieve their objective since the state officials intervened in time. However, this attampt was conveyed to Europe as the burning of a church. The arguments of the Americans and British regarding this arson, which contradict each other, are ridiculous (BOA, HR. SYS. 54-5). However the Sultan paid 500 liras of compensation to put an end to this issue and in parallel to this, he was considered to have admitted to the crime (BOA, DH.MKT.41-1).

The failure of the revolt caused concern in the British Empire and the U.S.A. Since revolting against a legal state could not be defended, the defense in relation to this was made concrete in the person of Karabet Tomayan. The propaganda stating that he was innocent was carried out through politics and the press (Karaca,2005 s. 130-131).

Who didn’t jump in? Firstly the British and Italian ambassadors (BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 747-2). According to France, there was a misunderstanding. Karabet Tomayan was arrested inadvertently instead of Harutyan Tomayan, who was hiding in Anatolia (BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 747-2). 160 MPs from the House of Commons submitted a petition on 17 February 1893 (BOA, HR.SYS. 2825-81).

To note a truth here: the British Empire served the American interests. The American missionaries started a big attack with the support of the British consuls. They applied psychological pressure and expressed their concerns about the fairness of the Ankara court (Karaca, 2005, p. 129). A shining example of interfering with the judiciary was given by Ankara governor Abidin Pasha on 7 May 1893: “They are waiting for amnesty for Karabet Tomayan” ( BOA, A.MKT.MHM. 747-2).

The British Empire applied the same pressure in Istanbul. A Garden Party was organized at the British Embassy. There were the highest protocol members of the capital at this cocktail party. The host ambassador said that there was huge pressure from the British public opinion regarding the process of trial. He indicated that if he was granted amnesty, those who deemed protecting the Armenians their profession, such as Mr. Bryce and his friends, would shut up and he would be very pleased (BOA,Y.PRK.HR. 33-46).

The trial, which started on 20 May at the Ankara High Court was completed on 12 June. All of the defendants except a few admitted their guilt. The verdict was issued in accordance with Article 54 of the Penal Law: those who engage in actions with weapons in order to divide up the Ottoman country shall be executed. Karabet Tomayan and 16 friends of his were covered by this. The rest received sentences that varied among 7, 10, and 15 years (Karaca, 2005, s. 134). This verdict caused a big problem between the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire ( BOA, HR. SYS. 2819-30).


The British Empire was very determined about this issue. On 4 July 1893, it turned its political pressure into a threat. It declared that it would grant independence to Egypt, which had been under its occupation since 1882.

After this last showdown, the Sultan took a step back and announced his decision on 4 July 1893:

“The murderer named Tomayan has been allowed to leave the Ottoman country as an exile. He is not to return to it”

(BOA, HR.SYS., 2819-31)

The British charge d’affaires became very happy because he was able to make his wishes come true. However, there is no friendship between countries, only the interests of the countries. Especially if the country in question is the British Empire…

Karabet Tomayan was brought to Istanbul from Ankara on 7 July 1893 and he was met by a British person at Haydarpaşa. The same day he was taken to Zaptiye Administration (Police Headquarters), food was brought from a restaurant, a bed was brought from a hotel, and he was provided with comfort (BOA, Y.PRK.ZB. 11-85). He was paid sea fare to go to Europe through Brendizi and he was given 1500 kurush of travel allowance (BOA, Y.A.HUS. 277-72). He arrived at Victoria Station in London on 18 July 1893. He was met by journalists there, the first among them were the members of the Armenian Committee and Daily News (Koltuk; 2007, pp.202-203).

Karabet Tomayan continued his work in England. When he gave conference speeches under the name Prof. THOUMAIAN, the title of his speeches was the “Oppression of the Armenians.” Furthermore, the explanatory information given in the large posters that were hung on the walls regarding this subject was as follows: “Condemning Turkey, which Exiled the Armenians in Order to Kill Them” (BOA, Y.A.HUS. 329-70).

This small detail is the breaking point of the Armenian Genocide. First of all, one should ask this: What needs to happen so that the West can save (!) the Turkish Armenians? There needs to be a reason in order to send an invitation to the West. Otherwise, intervening in the Ottoman State out of the blue would make the West seem as the aggressor.

The name of this invitation: Armenian Genocide

The main subject: Filling it in

To look at the incidents:

Year 1892: From James Bryce to Tomayan:

If the Armenians want prestige, it cannot be like this. They have to cause a big chaos. Some must be hanged and some must be slaughtered. They must start a fight with the Turks so that we can get involved and help them reach their goals.

(BOA, Y.PRK.DH. 5-83)

Karabet Tomayan’ın Konferans Afişi

The Poster for Karabet Tomayan’s Conference

Year 1895: Between 29 September and 3 December, the Armenians started a rebellion with weapons in 23 separate places. 1,537 Turks and 6,448 Armenians died in the incidents (BOA, Y.PRK.ASK. 109-69). According to the American missionaries, 37,000 Armenians died and according to the Europeans, 300,000 Armenians died (Georgeon, 2006, p. 338).

Year 1915: the British Empire could not pass from the Dardanelles Strait and wanted to use the U.S.A. since it realized that it could not force Germany to surrender. So they fabricated the lie that the Turks killed one and a half million Armenians for that purpose. The U.S.A., which did not have a history in the Medieval Era, which didn’t experience religious pressure and religious-denominational wars, helped the British cause with a romantic approach.

The proof they used in this subject was the Blue Book, which James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee published in 1916. The states that accuse Turkey based on this book are committing an unforvigable sin, to use a Christian term, because the British Empire published 25 Blue Books. France published 15 Yellow Books and the U.S.A. published 10 Red Books. The number that we could reach so far in the colored book series is 76 for now. According to this number, the Blue Book (1916) ceased to be the Sacred Reference Book of the Armenian Genocide, lost its charisma, and became an ordinary “almanac” (Aydın, 2008, pp. 38-40).

Karabet Tomayan published another book with Adolphe Hoffman, who was a relative of his wife, in the fifth year after he left Merzifon (Hilal’in Gölgesinde, Doğu Anlatısı 15 Resimli, i.e. In the Shadow of the Crescent, the Eastern Narrative with 15 Pictures).

After 21 years, that is on 19 January 1914, we see a Karabet Tomayan who was sad about having been a pawn of imperialism between the lines of a calm discourse. There is the deep point of view with common sense that were the result of being a child of Anatolia in his words:

“If the Armenians had followed a more orderly and serious path, this would not have happened. For God’s sake, for the Nation’s sake, please be cool-headed. Please act a bit seriously. Please do not provoke the fears and suspicions of the elements around you. An ounce of precaution is better than a pound of regret. Opening would not carry us into a country other than Turkey. Our future is together with the Turks and the Kurds. We must take into account their feelings and thoughts. Indiscretion causes great harm. It is in the interest of all of us to have empathy”

(Tanin Newspaper, 19 January 1914).


BOA (Ottoman Archive of the Prime Minister’s Office).

Tanin Newspaper.

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Hoffman, Adolphe – Thoumaian, Garabed (1898), A l’ombre de croissant: réecit oriental: avec quinze illustrations, Geneve.

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