Amasya – Armeniak – Motherland of our ancestors

Amasya, an age-old city steeped in the Armenian tradition, is nestled on the Asian Minor peninsula. It flourished as the capital of the Greek Pontic Kingdom from 281 to 183 BC and later incorporated into the Armenian zone of the Roman and Byzantine empires.

By 1380, the Ottomans had annexed Amasya. Fast forward to the mid-19th century, the city’s population had surged to 105,000 with Armenians being the majority at 51% (53,400 people). The city was also home to Muslims representing 32% (34,000 people), including converts from the Armenian and Greek populations, Turks, Arabs, Circassians, and Greeks who accounted for 15% (16,000 people).

Throughout the Ottoman period, Amasya functioned as a section of the Sivas Vilayet, one of the Armenian provinces within the Ottoman Empire. Yet, the city experienced tumultuous times during the late 19th century when the empire’s authorities instigated pogroms against the Armenians. Regular troops joined forces with unscrupulous Muslim groups to loot and abduct young girls and children, converting them to Islam, for their selfish ends.

In the period spanning from 1876 to 1912, a substantial number of Muslims from the North Caucasus and the Balkans were relocated to Amasya by the Empire. However, the onset of World War I in 1914 saw the forced conscription of Armenian and Greek men into the army, where they faced systematic elimination by their superiors.

In the spring of 1915, the women, children, and elderly who were left behind were exiled to Baghdad in three separate groups. This journey of despair was marred by Muslim assaults at Sargyshla and Malatya, causing massive casualties. A further outbreak of the disease in Suruc led to more losses, leaving only 1,800 from an initial population of over 50,000 Amasian Armenians. The surviving individuals were corralled into the Deir ez-Zor desert, where an additional 300 were slaughtered.

The remaining 1,500 Armenians were interned in a camp until the French troops liberated Aleppo in the spring of 1918. Following the end of World War I, a mere 650 Armenians returned to Amasya, leading to the establishment of a National Council to manage the repatriation of survivors. However, the Council ceased to operate by 1923 when the nascent Turkish Republic expelled the residual Amasians.

Notably, Amasya has been the birthplace of several prominent individuals including Strabo, a renowned Greek geographer of the 1st century, Theodore Tyron, a 3rd-century saint of the Christian church, Amirdovlat Amasiatsi, a 15th-century Armenian scientist, and Selim I, an Ottoman Sultan from the 15th-16th century.

Vigen Avetisyan

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