Tsar Nicholas II and the Armenian Massacres 1894-96

The late 19th century witnessed a series of harrowing events in the Ottoman Empire, notably the Armenian massacres of 1894-96. These events were not only a tragic chapter in Armenian history but also a complex period of international politics, where the responses and actions of global powers played a critical role. One such influential figure was Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, whose stance during this turmoil had significant implications.

Tsar Nicholas II’s Stance on the Armenian Massacres

Tsar Nicholas II, the ruler of Russia at the time, openly declared his support for Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s anti-Armenian policies in the Ottoman Empire. This endorsement was not merely a diplomatic gesture but a crucial factor that influenced the course of events during the massacres.

Russian Diplomacy and the Armenian Movement

The stance of Russian diplomacy was unambiguously hostile towards the Armenian movement resisting the sultan’s oppressive regime. Russian officials viewed the Armenian efforts to counter the sultan’s policy, which aimed at the extermination of the Armenian people, as a part of a broader “international revolution.” This revolution, in their view, needed to be “suppressed at the very beginning.” Such a perspective underscored the broader geopolitical interests that overshadowed humanitarian concerns.

Foreign Minister Lobanov-Rostovsky’s Directive

Adding to this complex geopolitical situation was the role of Russian Foreign Minister Lobanov-Rostovsky. His instruction to Sultan Abdul Hamid II was chillingly clear and direct: “Exterminate, Your Majesty, exterminate.” This explicit encouragement of violent suppression revealed the extent of Russian support for the Ottoman Empire’s actions against the Armenians.

Implications of Russian Support

The support of Tsar Nicholas II and his government for Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s policies had far-reaching consequences:

  1. Empowerment of the Sultan’s Regime: Russian backing gave the Ottoman Empire a significant diplomatic shield, enabling Sultan Abdul Hamid II to carry out his policies with less international interference.
  2. Dampening of Armenian Resistance: The Armenians, facing opposition not just from the Ottoman Empire but also from a major global power like Russia, found their resistance significantly hampered.
  3. Shaping International Response: Russia’s position influenced other countries’ responses to the Armenian massacres, as nations navigated the complex web of alliances and interests.

The events of 1894-96 and the response of Tsar Nicholas II highlight a grim period in history where geopolitical strategies overshadowed humanitarian crises. The Russian support for Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s anti-Armenian policies is a stark reminder of how international politics can play a decisive role in the fate of entire communities. This episode remains a critical point of study for historians, offering insights into the interplay of diplomacy, power, and human rights at the turn of the 20th century.


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