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A street in the Christian quarter of Adana, photographed in June 1909.
An Armenian town left pillaged and destroyed, during the Adana massacre.

The Adana massacre occurred in Adana Province, in the Ottoman Empire, in April 1909. A religious-ethnic clash[1] in the city of Adana amidst governmental upheaval resulted in a series of anti-Armenian pogroms throughout the district. Reports estimated that the massacres in Adana Province resulted in 15,000 to 30,000 deaths.[2][3][4][5]

Turkish and Armenian revolutionary groups had worked together to secure the restoration of constitutional rule, in 1908. On 31 March (or 13 April, by the Western calendar) a military revolt directed against the Committee of Union and Progress seized Istanbul. While the revolt lasted only ten days, it precipitated a massacre of Armenians in the province of Adana that lasted over a month.

The massacres were rooted in political, economic,[6] and religious differences. The Armenian segment of the population of Adana was the "richest and most prosperous", and the violence included the destruction of "tractors and other kinds of mechanized equipment."[2] The Christian-minority Armenians had also openly supported the coup against Sultan Abdul Hamid II, which had deprived the Islamic head of state of power. The awakening of Turkish nationalism, and the perception of the Armenians as a separatist, European-controlled entity, also contributed to the violence.[2]



Bodies of massacred Armenians during the Adana massacre.

In 1908, the Young Turk government came to power in a bloodless revolution. Within a year, Turkey's Armenian population, empowered by the dismissal of Abdul Hamid II, began organizing politically in support of the new government, which promised to place them on equal legal footing with their Muslim counterparts.

Having long endured so-called dhimmi status, and having suffered the brutality and oppression of Hamidian leadership since 1876, the Armenian minority in Cilicia perceived the nascent Young Turk government as a godsend. Christians now being granted the rights to arm themselves and form politically significant groups, it was not long before Abdul Hamid loyalists, themselves acculturated into the system that had perpetrated the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s, came to view the empowerment of the Christian minority as coming at their expense.

The Countercoup of March 1909 wrested control of the government out of the hands of the secularist Young Turks, and Abdul Hamid II briefly recovered his dictatorial powers. Appealing to the reactionary Muslim population with populist rhetoric calling for the re-institution of Islamic law under the banner of a pan-Islamic caliphate, the Sultan mobilized popular support against the Young Turks by identifying himself with the historically Islamic character of the state.[7]

According to one source, when news of a mutiny in Istanbul arrived in Adana, speculation circulated among the Muslim population of an imminent Armenian insurrection. By April 14 the Armenian quarter was attacked by a mob, and many thousands of Armenians were killed in the ensuing weeks.[8]

Other reports emphasize that a "skirmish between Armenians and Turks on April 13 set off a riot that resulted in the pillaging of the bazaars and attacks upon the Armenian quarters." Two days later, more than 2,000 Armenians had been killed as a result.[9] The outbreaks spread throughout the district and by the end of the month as many as 30,000 Armenians were reported killed.[3][10]

At least one western historian has suggested that the origins of the Adana Massacre lie in an Armenian revolt.[11] Erickson has suggested that the April 14 massacre was a product of an Armenian "uprising", rather than the countercoup.

In those difficult times for the Ottoman Empire and its citizenry, the Armenians were also believed to be a target owing to their relative wealth, and their quarrels with imperial taxation.[6]


This page from a 1911 publication demonstrates the carnage in the Armenian quarter of Adana, juxtaposed with the peace in the Turkish district.[12]

The tension erupted into riots on April 1, 1909, which soon escalated into organized violence against the Armenian population of Adana and in several surrounding cities.

By April 18, over 1,000 people were reported dead at Adana alone, with additional unknown casualties in Tarsus and Alexandretta.[13] Thousands of refugees filled the American embassy in Alexandretta, and a British warship was dispatched to its shores; three French warships were dispatched to Mersin, where the situation was "desperate", and many Western consulates were besieged by Armenian refugees.[13] The Ottoman military was struggling to subdue the violence.

Similar violence consumed Marash and Hadjin, and the estimates of the death toll soon grew to exceed 5,000.[14] The British cruiser Diana was hoped to provide a "tranquilizing" effect at the port of Alexandretta, where violence still raged.[14] Reports surfaced that imperial "authorities are either indifferent or conniving in the slaughter."[14]

Some order was restored by April 20, as the disturbance in Mersina had abated, and the British cruiser Swiftsure was able to deliver "provisions and medicines intended for Adana".[15] A "threatening" report from Hadjin indicated that well-armed Armenians were held up in the town, "beleaguered by Moslem tribesmen who are only awaiting sufficient numerical strength to rush the improvised defenses erected by the Armenians."[15] 8,000 refugees filled the missions of Tarsus, where order had been restored under martial law, the dead numbering approximately 50.[15]

An April 22 message from an American missionary in Hadjin indicated that the town was taking fire intermittently, that surrounding Armenian properties had been burned, and that siege was inevitable. The entirety of the Armenian population of Kırıkhan was reported to have been "slaughtered"; the Armenian village of Deurtyul was burning and surrounded; additional bloodshed flared up in Tarsus; massacres were reported in Antioch, and rioting in Birejik.[16] At least one report praised the "Turkish Government officials at Mersina" for doing "everything possible to check the trouble", though "the result of their efforts has been very limited".[16] As Ottoman authorities worked to contain violence directed at the Christian minorities of the Empire, the Armenian population "look(ed) to the Young Turks for future protection."[16]

An American missionary at Adana during the period, Reverend Herbert Adams Gibbons of Hartford, described the scene in the days leading up to the 27th of April:

Adana is in a pitiable condition. The town has been pillaged and destroyed ... It is impossible to estimate the number of killed. The corpses lie scattered through the streets. Friday, when I went out, I had to pick my way between the dead to avoid stepping on them. Saturday morning I counted a dozen cartloads of Armenian bodies in one-half hour being carried to the river and thrown into the water. In the Turkish cemeteries, graves are being dug wholesale. ... On Friday afternoon 250 so-called Turkish reserves, without officers, seized a train at Adana and compelled the engineer to convey them to Tarsus, where they took part in the complete destruction of the Armenian quarter of that town, which is the best part of Tarsus. Their work of looting was thorough and rapid.[17]

The Ottoman government sent in the Army to keep peace, but it was alleged to have either tolerated the violence or participated in it. A newspaper report of 3 May 1909 indicated that Ottoman soldiery had arrived, but did not seem intent upon effecting a peace:

Adana is terrorized by 4,000 soldiers, who are looting, shooting, and burning. No respect is paid to foreign properties. Both French schools have been destroyed, and it is feared that the American school, commercial, and missionary interests in Adana are totally ruined. The new Governor has not as yet inspired confidence. There is reason to believe that the authorities still intend to permit the extermination of all Christians.[18]


Grand Vizier Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha indicated that the massacre was a "political, not a religious question ... Before the Armenian political committees began to organize in Asia Minor there was peace. I will leave you to judge the cause of the bloodshed."[19] While conceding that his predecessor, Abdul Hamid II, had ordered the "extermination of the Armenians", he did articulate his confidence that "there will never be another massacre."[19]

In July 1909, the Young Turk government announced the trials of various government and military officials, for "being implicated in the Armenian massacres".[20][21] In the ensuing courts-marshal, 124 Muslims and seven Armenians were executed for their involvement in the violence.[2]

In response to the counterrevolution and the Armenian massacres in Adana, the CUP and Dashnak concluded an agreement in September 1909 whereby they promised to "work together for progress, the Constitution, and unity." Both parties declared that rumor of Armenian efforts toward independence were false. The Unionists took care to have an Armenian minister present in the governments formed after 6 August 1909, which could also be interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate the CUP's distance from the Adana events.[2]


The government of Turkey, as well as some Turkish writers and nationalists, dispute this version of history, contending that the events of April 1909 were in fact an Armenian "rampage of pillaging and death"[22] targeting the Muslim majority that "ended up with about 17,000 Armenian and 1,850 Turkish deaths."[22]

Ruin in Adana.

Ottoman authorities denied responsibility in the shooting deaths of two American missionaries in the city of Adana, indicating instead that "the Armenians" killed Protestant missionaries D.M. Rogers and Henry Maurer while they "were helping to put out a fire in the house of a Turkish widow."[14] The Ottoman account of the killings was later contradicted by an eyewitness, American priest Stephen Trowbridge of Brooklyn.[23] Trowbridge indicated that the men were killed by "Moslems" as they attempted to extinguish a fire threatening to subsume their mission.[23]

The missionaries found themselves pinned down in their school amidst the pogrom. According to Elizabeth S. Webb, a missionary attached to the school, "It was a terrible situation, women and girls practically alone in the building, a murderous bloodthirsty mob outside, with knife and bullet for the Armenians and the torch for their homes."[24]

Mr. Trowbridge returned from the school to say that the only hope for safety to any Americans seemed to be to return to the school, staying there alone, separated from the Armenians. He declared that we were powerless to save the Armenians. It seems that after we left the school, Miss Wallace, Mr. Chambers, and a young Armenian preacher attempted to cross the street from Miss Wallace's to the school. Just at this time a mob rushed around the corner. The infuriated Turks recognized the preacher as an Armenian, and although Mr. Chambers threw his arms about him and did all in his power to save the man's life, they shot him dead. Not a single Armenian would they leave alive, the assassins shouted, as Mr. Chambers dragged the murdered preacher into the building.[24]

The British Consul, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-Wylie, is recorded in many sources as having worked strenuously to stop the massacres, at great personal risk. He was shot in the arm during the conflagration.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Creelman, James (August 22, 1909). "THE SLAUGHTER OF CHRISTIANS IN ASIA MINOR". The New York Times.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Akcam, Taner. A Shameful Act. 2006, page 69–70: "fifteen to twenty thousand Armenians were killed"
  3. ^ a b "30,000 KILLED IN MASSACRES". The New York Times. April 25, 1909.  
  4. ^ Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views By Samuel. Totten, William S. Parsons, Israel W. Charny
  5. ^ Walker, 1980, pp.182–88
  6. ^ a b "ARMENIAN WEALTH CAUSED MASSACRES". The New York Times. April 25, 1909.  
  7. ^ "ISLAM VS. LIBERALISM". The New York Times. April 15, 1909.  
  8. ^ Mantran, Robert (editor); Histoire de l'empire ottoman (1989), ch. 14.
  9. ^ AG Chapter 3 – The Young Turks in Power
  10. ^ Adana Massacre – Encyclopedia Entries on the Armenian Genocide
  11. ^ "Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War," by Edward J. Erickson (Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 2001, pp. 95–104)
  12. ^ Woods, H. Charles. The Danger Zone of Europe: Changes and Problems in the Near East. 1911.
  13. ^ a b "Constantinople, April 19". The New York Times. April 19, 1909.  
  14. ^ a b c d "MOSLEM MASSACRES TAKE 5,000 LIVES". The New York Times. April 21, 1909.  
  15. ^ a b c "Foreign Cruisers at Mersina.". The New York Times. April 23, 1909.  
  16. ^ a b c "AMERICAN WOMEN IN PERIL AT HADJIN.". The New York Times. April 23, 1909.  
  17. ^ "DAYS OF HORROR DESCRIBED; American Missionary an Eyewitness of Murder and Rapine.". The New York Times. April 28, 1909.  
  18. ^ "MASSACRES CONTINUE ADANA TERRORIZED.". The New York Times. May 5, 1909.  
  19. ^ a b Creelman, James (August 1, 1909). "THE VIZIER AT CLOSE RANGE.". The New York Times.  
  20. ^ "ADANA OFFICIALS TO BE TRIED.". The New York Times. July 14, 1909.  
  21. ^ "SINCERITY OF THE YOUNG TURKS.". The New York Times. July 29, 1909.  
  22. ^ a b [1] Page 59 (17 of 22), The Political Milieu of the Armenian Question, via Grand National Assembly of Turkey website
  23. ^ a b "BROOKLYN MAN SAW MISSIONARIES SHOT.". The New York Times. May 2, 1909.  
  24. ^ a b c "WOMAN DESCRIBES RIOT AT ADANA.". The New York Times. May 3, 1909.  

External links


Simple English

The Adana massacre happened in Adana Province, in the Ottoman Empire, in April 1909. A religious-ethnic clash[1] in the city of Adana amidst governmental upheaval resulted in a series of anti-Armenian pogroms throughout the district. Reports estimated that the massacres in Adana Province resulted in 20,000 to 30,000 deaths.[2][3][4][5][6]


  4. The Armenian Genocide, Arte France, The cie des Phares et Balises
  5. Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views By Samuel. Totten, William S. Parsons, Israel W. Charny
  6. Walker, 1980, pp.182-88

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