The Role of Armenians Schools in Armenian Rebellions

The first official school within the Armenian education system was opened by Amira Shinork Mighirdich Mirijanyan in Istanbul Kumkapi in 1790 by obtaining permission from the state. The fact that grammar was taught in Kumkapi school made it different from the other schools. In the first half of the 19th century, new Armenian schools opened almost everywhere in the Ottoman Empire, starting with Istanbul. In the same period, Armenian youth started to go to foreign countries in order to get a better education. Young Armenian people were sent to the Living languages School, which was opened in Paris in 1810 with the support of the missionary organization, the Lazaryan Institute, which was established in Moscow in 1816 and the Nersesyen Seminary, which was established in Tbilisi in 1823 (Vahapoğlu, 1997: p.24).

At the beginning of the 19th century, a program composed of the same classes was being applied in all of the Armenian schools in Istanbul. The classes that were in the program were Armenian, religion, writing, and mathematics. The number of people who knew grammar among the Armenians was very small until the year 1825. Grammar was only being taught at the Kumkapi school in Istanbul and apart from the classes mentioned above, classes such as Grammar, Public Speaking, and Logic were being taught. In 1824, Patriarch Karabet became the patron of the school in Kumkapi and he reformed the curriculum. Turkish was given more weight among the classes and the school became Âli Mektep (school of Higher Education) (Ergin, 1977: 752-753; Tekeli-İlkin, 1999:36). Starting in 1840, it was seen as necessary to introduce some new practices in the old curriculum as the students who completed their studies in Europe began to return to the country. In the same year, a girls’ school named Lusavirich was opened in Kumkapi for the first time. In this period, Armenian Grammar and Writing; Handwriting in Armenian, Turkish and French; Scientific, Political and Natural Geography; Arithmetics; Algebra; French Grammar, Writing and Speaking; Art; Turkish Grammar and Composition; History; Geometry; Logic; Method and Trade classes were taught.

Aynı yıl ilk defa Kumkapı’da Lusaviriç isimli Kızlar Mektebi açılmıştır. Bu dönemde Ermeni okullarında Ermeni Grameri ve yazısı; Ermenice, Türkçe ve Fransızca Hüsn-i Hat; İlmî, Siyasî ve Tabiî Coğrafya; Hesap; Cebir; Fransızca Gramer, yazı ve konuşma; Resim; Türkçe Gramer ve Tahrir; Tarih; Hendese; Mantık; Usul-i Defterî, ve Ticaret dersleri okutulmuştur.

The Armenian youth who had studied in Europe made great contributions to the modernization of the schools in the Ottoman State. The modern education system and techniques were applied in the Armenian schools, which were constantly developing. They opened the Seven Churches Armenian Agriculture School in Van in the 1860s. This school made a great contribution to the development of modern agriculture in Van and provided the possibility of education to the poor children in the region. Therefore, the state supported the Seven Churches Armenian Agriculture School financially (BOA. DH.İD. nr.190/22).

Almost all of the 146 books that the Armenian Patriarchate prepared and the Ministry of Education approved to be studied in the Armenian naitonal schools were written by Armenian writers in their own language (BOA. Y.PRK. TKM. nr. 30/50).

The Armenian schools that were built in the gardens of churches or next to them were composed of big buildings that were made of stone, had multiple stories, and they could provide various services. For example, the school that was built next to the Armenian Church in the Balıkesir Karaoglan neighborhood was a stone structure of 30m length, 14m width, 10.5m height, 3 doors, and 106 windows. One block of the building was allocated to girls and one block of it was allocated to boys. There was a side way that provided access to the church from the basement. The top floor of the two-story additional building that was built next to the school was used for education and the ground floor was used as a store (Öntuğ, 2008: 355-357).

Catholic and Protestant Armenians also opened their own schools. The girls’ section of the Armenian Catholic school, which was in the Hasırlı neighborhood in Diyarbakır, had 100 students and it only provided education in the day-time. The total period of education in the primary school and secondary school was 6 years. The director, teachers, and other staff, which formed the administrative cadre of the school, were from the Armenian Catholic community.

Except for the books Reading French and Ottoman Language from among the 18 books that were taught at the school, all of the other books were written by Armenian authors and in Armenian. The fact that almost all of the books were published at the beginning of the 20th century shows that their content was updated and written according to modern education methods and techniques.

Rebellious and Divisive Activities at the Armenian Schools

Activities of Teachers:

Those Armenian teachers who had studied at foreign schools and who were members of revolutionary organizations were making propaganda to the Armenian people in order to realize the idea of an idependent Armenia. Haçin Armenian School teacher Jirayir (Mardiros Garip Boyacıyan) openly encouraged the Armenian people to rebel by saying the following in the speeches he gave to the communities in the Armenian churches of Yozgat and its villages: “We will now leave the Ottoman State administration and achieve a comfortable life by becoming independent. All the Armenians everywhere and even our Armenian brothers in Russia have agreed with us. I receive orders from Istanbul. I make the Armenians in our Yozgat sanjak reach an alliance.” Some Armenian teachers were also organizing sinister things like provoking the Armenian community to rebel in order to start a revolution against the Ottoman government, recruiting soldiers and collecting money for soldiers (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994: 4-25). Those teachers who were working to establish Armenia were creating secret support funds and collecting money. Mihran and Ohannes, who were from among the Izmit Ortaköy teachers, were caught while collecting money in this way. The teachers were reading the works such the newspapers and booklets that had been banned from being brought into the country and they were smuggling these into the schools where they worked.

Some teachers received sentences for crimes such as publishing newspapers without a license and distributing them, making provocative speeches to the people, manufacturing weapons and bombs, and killing people (Öntuğ, 2009: 281). On 22 September 1896, 3 bombs that were in the form of a soap bar and that were different from the ones that had been produced before, 2 revolvers, and the newspaper Troshag were found in the drawer in the room of Dogramaciyan Karabet Effendi, who was a teacher of the Armenian school in the courtyard of the Galata Armenian Church (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994: 401).

Hinchak and other committees were easily intervening in the Armenian schools. The revolutionary committees provoked the people against the state by saying things like “You should progress in the art of weapons production and do not send Armenian children to Ottoman schools…” in order to gain them in the cause of an independent Armenia. As a result of this intense propaganda, many pupils of schools joined the revoltionary organizations and took part in various actions (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994: 48,55,72).

In these schools, classes against the state were taught to Armenian children and they were also taught secessionist songs. The state had banned such harmful lessons. Secessionist ideas were taught in the “Armenian Church and History” class. Although the government abolished this class and introduced the Ottoman History class instead of it (Öntuğ, 2007: 322), the teachers continued to teach it with the same content (Somel, 2003: 395). They were instructed that the provinces in which the Armenians lived would be united, an independent state named Armenia would be established, and revenge would be taken from those Turks and Kurds who had killed the Armenians. During the search that was conducted at the Sansaryan Armenian school, a map of Armenia was seized among the school books in addition to documents and photographs regarding the Armenian revolutionary movement (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994:43,65- Öntuğ, 2009:282).          

The songs that the teachers taught in the music lessons had the same content. A teacher named Toros in the town Divrigi was punished for teaching such a song to children (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994:40). Again, songs that were written to be taught at schools were found among the documents that were found at the house of Armenian teacher Debbagyan Ebkar Effendi in the town of Başkale. After this incident, an official letter was sent to the Hakkari sanjak to ban absolutely the teaching of songs at Armenian schools (BOA. DH.MKT, nr.1424/32).

Secessionist-destructive opinions spread quickly among the students, who were influenced by the attitudes of the teachers and the contents of the lessons. The Armenian students started to produce weapons and bombs and to kill fearlessly those Armenians who were loyal to the Ottoman State. Hamporsum Boyaciyan, who was the brother of Jirayir, who was mentioned above, had his fellow Armenian Hachik killed by hiring a poor Armenian pupil of 18 years of age for five liras. Karabet Chalikyan of Hachin, who was a pupil at the Galata Armenian school, and his fellow Armenians produced Winchester cartridge to be used for assasinations (H. Nazım Paşa, 1994:4,5,14,15).

At the end of the 19th century, most of the Armenian schools that were especially in Istanbul and in Eastern Anatolia region ceased to be places of education and turned into places where weapons and explosives were manufactured and hidden. The reason why the rebellion started by the Armenians in Erzurum on 20 June 1890 was that the authorities wanted to search the Armenian Church and school. A group of Armenians fired on the government forces after they revolted with the excuse of the search that was conducted with a court decision and under the supervision of the priest and school director. 8 Armenians died and 2 Muslims were martyred in the incidents. In addition, 60 Armenians and 45 Muslims were injured. Although the Armenian gangs who fired on the soldiers were caught and delivered to the judiciary, they were released after the ambassadors of foreign countries intervened (H.Nazım Paşa, 1994:.XVIII).

During the inspection of the schools, many materials used in the production of explosives, weapons, and bombs were found. In the search that was conducted on 22 August 1896, a total of 53 bombs were found, of which 3 were found at the Sulumanastır Armenian Church and 36 were found in the cupboard of Agoni, who was a teacher at the girls’ school. Apart from this, 7 boxes of capsules, 4 boxes of revolver cartridges, and 1 bunch of dynamite capsules were found in the cupboard of Agoni. In the search that was conducted at the Hasköy Armenian school on 10 September 1896, 6 bombs, 11 revolvers, and 200 cartridges were found. Husein Nazim Pasha presented in detail the list of explosives and weapons that were seized in various schools. In conclusion, those who were equipped with revolutionary ideas in Europe indoctrinated the pupils in the Armenian schools and used the educational institutions both as headquarters and for weapons production.

Bibliography

Ergin, Osman (1977), Türk Maarif Tarihi, C. 1,2, İstanbul.

Hüseyin Nazım Paşa(1994), Ermeni Olayları Tarihi, 1994 I, IIAnkara.

Öntuğ, M. Murat (2007), “Osmanlı Devleti’nin Ermeni Mektepleri Üzerindeki Denetimi”, Hoşgörü Toplumunda Ermeniler, C.III, Kayseri, s.311-328.

Öntuğ, M. Murat (2008), “Balıkesir’deki Ermeni Kilisesi ve Mektep Açma Faaliyetleri”, OTAM, S.19, s.343-364.

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