The Dark Prelude: Sultan Abdul Hamid II, Vizier Izzet Bey, and the Armenian Question

The closing years of the 19th century were marked by escalating tensions within the Ottoman Empire, particularly concerning the Armenian population. Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who ruled from 1876 to 1909, presided over a period of significant unrest and upheaval. His reign saw the rise of the Armenian Question, a term that encapsulated the complex socio-political issues surrounding the Armenian minority in the empire.

Vizier Izzet Bey’s Pronouncement 

Amidst this backdrop, a chilling statement attributed to Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s Vizier, Izzet Bey, emerged. Educated by Jesuits, Izzet Bey reportedly declared a “final solution” to the Armenian Question, stating: “The only way of eliminating the Armenian question is to eliminate the Armenians themselves.” This ominous pronouncement foreshadowed the brutal measures that would be taken against the Armenians in the following years.

The Context of the Armenian Question 

The Armenian Question referred to the debate and international concern over the treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians, who had been part of the empire for centuries, sought reforms and equal rights, leading to tensions with the Ottoman authorities. The situation was further complicated by the geopolitical interests of the European powers, which often used the plight of the Armenians to exert pressure on the Ottoman government.

The Prelude to Mass Violence 

The statement by Vizier Izzet Bey was indicative of the hardline stance taken by the Ottoman leadership. It set the stage for a series of repressive actions, culminating in the Hamidian massacres of the mid-1890s, where hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed. These events are considered a prelude to the more extensive atrocities that would occur during World War I, including the Armenian Genocide.

The words attributed to Vizier Izzet Bey encapsulate the dire situation faced by the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. They serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of intolerance and the importance of safeguarding the rights of minority populations. The legacy of the Armenian Question continues to resonate, reminding us of the need for vigilance against the forces of discrimination and persecution.

This article aims to provide an overview of the complex historical context surrounding the Armenian Question in the late Ottoman Empire. For those interested in exploring this topic further, a wealth of scholarly literature and historical documents are available for in-depth study.

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