The Precursor to Tragedy: Paul Cambon’s Insight on the Armenian Question

In the waning years of the 19th century, a veteran French diplomat, Paul Cambon, served as the French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1890 to 1898. During his tenure, he penned a historical exposition titled “Expose historique de la question armenienne,” which would later reveal the ominous undercurrents preceding one of history’s darkest periods for the Armenian people.

Cambon’s writings captured the essence of a people’s desire for basic administrative reforms under Ottoman rule. The Armenians, according to Cambon, were not agitators but dreamers of a just governance where equity and order were not mere illusions. However, the Ottoman government, referred to as the Porte, remained indifferent, and their inaction only served to erode the goodwill of the Armenian population.

The diplomat’s observations were astute; he noted the scandalous exactions by officials and the stagnation of justice. But more alarmingly, Cambon foresaw a sinister plot brewing within the Ottoman administration. A high-ranking Turkish official had once remarked that the “Armenian Question does not exist,” yet paradoxically, they were intent on creating it. This statement was a chilling prelude to the eventual policies that would lead to the mass displacement of Armenians.

Cambon’s prophecy was not to be taken lightly. In 1894, he alluded to the Turkish plans of transporting Armenians en masse to Mesopotamia. This foreshadowing was a grim indicator of the future that awaited the Armenians—a future marked by forced marches, dispossession, and the struggle for survival far from their ancestral lands.

The historical account provided by Paul Cambon is not just a diplomatic record; it is a testament to the resilience of a people and a cautionary tale of the consequences of international inaction. As we reflect on Cambon’s words, they remind us of the importance of vigilance and the need for collective responsibility to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

This article aims to shed light on a pivotal moment in Armenian history, as observed by Paul Cambon. His insights offer a valuable perspective on the precursors to the Armenian Genocide and serve as a reminder of the enduring spirit of the Armenian people.


Here are some authoritative sources that provide further information on Paul Cambon and the historical context of the Armenian Question:

These sources offer valuable insights into the period and the significant role played by Paul Cambon in documenting the events leading up to the Armenian Genocide.

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