The Massacre Of Yerznka Armenians In 1895

On October 4, the Kurds at the Yerznka prison received the news that in a few days, the Turks would launch an attack on the Armenians. Upon learning this news, the Armenian community under the leadership of the spiritual leader and parliamentarian Father Gevorg held a meeting. It was decided to form a delegation to meet the Kurds and inquire about the situation.

The fourth commander-in-chief adviser Zeki Pasha was sent to the Armenians to tell them that everything was alright and that everyone could return to normal life and their affairs from Monday.

Believing this statement, many residents went to the city market, although they were worried. Already at 9 in the morning, armed men surrounded the market and began to rob Armenian shops. Those Armenians who resisted were shot dead.

After two hours of robbery, Commander-in-Chief Zeki Pasha intervened in the situation. He arrived with his patrons and a hundred soldiers. He managed to stop the attacks on the villages before things went too far.

Earlier, during the 1894 massacre in Sasun, Zeki Pasha hadn’t intervened, so everyone wondered why Zeki Pasha, although not immediately, defended Yerznka – it was obvious that the attack had to be prevented from the very beginning. It seems that he just wanted to keep the city under his control and for this decided to intimidate the Armenians and then appear as a “savior”.

Nevertheless, 95 people fell victim in the market clashes. After the funeral ceremony in the church, they were all buried in a common grave. During the attacks, the highest damage was caused to the villages of Meghutsik (Մեղուցիկ), Tachrak (Տաճրակ), and Kyolntsik (Կյոլնցիկ). These villages were completely looted. Only in Meghutsik, the number of victims reached 45 people.

The Turks led by Muhammad Ali also attacked the village of Bzwan (Բզվան), which was the closest to the city. The Armenians tried to protect themselves by hiding in one of the local churches, but this did not help them – 42 people died.

The upper and lower villages were also captured and razed. The least damage was done to a village called Gyulidzhe (Գյուլիջե), but 15 Armenians died during its capture. Only Mahmutsik (Մահմուտցիք) and some other villages were able to survive this storm and defend themselves.

In two villages, the attackers met serious resistance.

Pastor Mashtots Bznuni gathered a group of young people and carried out an armed defense of the village of Mtnni (Մթննի). People caught in a crossfire also attempted to join the defense and defend the village.

By order of Zeki Pasha, the cavalry led by Cherkes Ali intervened in the situation, and the village was liberated from the aggressors. During the resistance, both sides had losses. Ali Bey, appreciating the courage of the monk, freed him, but Father Mashtots could no longer remain in the village and would continue his religious service abroad.

Another site of resistance was the monastery of the Holy Enlightener (Surb Lusavorich) in Chаrcharanats (Չարչարանաց). A crowd of Kurds attacked this temple. One of the ministers of the monastery, Hovhannes, together with a parishioner built a wall to protect the monastery. However, the attackers attempted to get inside via a tree placed against the wall.

According to some reports, the wife of Hovhannes, seeing him wounded, went into emotional shock and, unaware of what was happening, herself opened the door for the attackers. The rebels fought bravely until their last breath.

Government reports disclose other similar events. In particular, the reports tell that eight more monasteries within the city have been attacked. In addition, in the villages of Khndzorik (Խնձորիկ) and Gharatush (Ղարաթուշ), the attackers, breaking into the local monastery, killed 30 people who took refuge there. These were mainly women and children.

In the village of Meghutsik, residents were forced to change their religion and circumcise the boys. Archbishop of Yerznka and parliamentarian Gevorg Yezekelyan and pastor of the Armenian church Konstantin Yerkhamjyan were arrested along with fifty other Armenians and were tortured in a high-security prison.

Gevorg Haladzhyan from the village of Khndzorik claimed that in 1860, the Armenians along with the Kurds from Dersim rebelled against the oppression.

Khalil Agha from Balaban was a very vengeful man. During the massacre of 1895, his son Gul Agha has massively killed young Armenians. Sixteen young Armenians were killed in Vinjan. Another 12 people were lured into a trap, tied up, thrown into a river, and shot. Later, in 1915, Gul Agha and his sons committed a massacre on the Kotur Bridge.

Russian original by Olga Borodina,

Originally translated from Turkish. Source: Hovsep Hayreni, “Armenians of the Upper Euphrates and Dersim”

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