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Rare Historical Pages: Mass Killing of Armenians in Erznka (Erzindjian) in 1895

Rare Historical Pages: Mass Killing of Armenians in Erznka (Erzindjian) in 1895

On October 4, in the city prison, the Kurds got a word that in a few days the Turks would launch an attack on the Armenians. Having learnt this news, the Armenian community held a meeting led by deputy and spiritual leader Markhas Ter Gevorg. A delegation was formed at the meeting. The fourth Commander-in-Chief of Mushir Zeki Pasha was sent to meet with the Armenians. However, when he met with the members of the delegation, he said that nothing extraordinary was happening and everyone could return to their business and everyday life. 

Many citizens believing his words, went back to the market, however they were concerned and bent upon this. Yet at 9 o’clock in the morning the armed people surrounded the market and were trying to rob the Armenian shops. Some of the Armenians put up a resistance but were shot.

After two hours of plunder and robbery the Commander-in Chief of Mushir Zeki Pasha intervened. He came with his patrons and hundreds of soldiers. He was able to suspend the attacks on the villages, before things ventured too far. In 1894 there was a brutal massacre in Sasun, however back then Zeki Pasha did not intervene. Therefore a question arose, why Zeki Pasha, if not immediately but defended Erznka. Given that, it was obvious that the attacks should have been prevented.  Apparently, he wanted to keep control over the city. For this purpose he decided to put a scare into the Armenian population, allowing the attack only partially and then preferred to show himself as the “savior” in the eyes of the Armenians. 

As a result 95 people became victims of the massacre in the market.   After the funeral service ceremony in the church they were all buried in a common grave. During the attack the largest detriments were caused to the villages of Meghutsik (Մեղուցիկ), Tachrak (Տաճրակ) and Kyolntsik (Կյոլնցիկ). They were completely plundered. Only in the village of Meghutzik (Մեղուցիկ) the number of victims was 45.

Led by Muhamed Ali Turks attacked the village of Bzvan (Բզվան) that was the closest to the town.  Armenians tried to defend themselves by hiding in one of the churches. But it did not help; 42 people died.

The lower and upper villages were also captured and blown to smithereens. The village of Guliche (Գյուլիջե) suffered the least damage. Yet, 15 Armenians were killed following the predatory raids. Mahmutsik (Մահմուտցիք) and some other villages were able to defend themselves and survived from the atrocities.  

In the two villages the attackers were shown a serious resistance. Pastor Mashtots Bznuni gathered a group of young men and carried out armed defense of the village Mtnni (Մթննի).  People who were under the fire also tried to join the defense and protect the village. On the order of Zeki Pasha the cavalry led by Cherkes Ali intervened and the village finally got rid of the aggressors.  During the resistance there were losses from both sides. Valuing the courage of the monk, Ali Bey freed him. But Ter Mashtots could not stay in the village any more. He continued his religious service abroad.

One more resistance was shown in the monastery of St. Lusavoritch in Charcharanats (Չարչարանաց). The monastery was attacked by a crowd of Kurds. One of the churchmen Hovhannes together with a churchgoer built a wall to defend the monastery. However, the attackers chopped down a tree and throwing it against the wall tried to get inside this way. There is some evidence that Hovhannes's wife was experiencing emotional distress when she realized that he was wounded and unconsciously opened the door to the attackers. The rebels fought bravely, till the last breath.  

The government reports disclose information about other similar events. So, for example we learn from the documents that eight monasteries in the suburbs of the town were attacked.  Furthermore in the villages of Kհndzorik (Խնձորիկ) and Gharatush (Ղարաթուշ) the attackers breaking the door open, killed 30 people hiding there; mainly women and children. In the village of Meghutsik (Մեղուցիկ) they forced to convert and forcibly emasculate the boys. The head bishop of Erznka Ter Gevorg Ezegilian was arrested with other Armenians and was tortured in jail.  

Gevorg Haladjian told young Armenians how their ancestors faced violence and outrage. 16 Armenians from the villages of Vidjan and Khndzorik (Խնձորիկ) were killed in a dreadful way. And for the attackers it was a way to have fun. They were tied up and thrown to the stream. 

Sourse: Hovsep Hayreni, "Armenians of Upper Euphrates, 1915 and Dersim"

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