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Short History of Gurun

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  • Short History of Gurun

    (History of GURUN)

    This is an attempt to give the future historian the bases or the raw material which he might make use of when preparing his studies on the characteristics of the folklore, customs and norms of GURUN and its surroundings.

    In the compilation of the present volume we have referred to various sources, taken into consideration the latest theories formulated by authoritative and highly reputed historians of American, British, French, German, Russian and Armenian nationalities, like Frederich Bayern, J. de Morgan, E. Forrer, Nicholas Marr, C.F. Lehmann-Haupt, S. D. Eremian, Nicolas Adontz, Manandian, and others. First-hand reports, letters, statistics and other valuable documents originating from Gurun were also studied to give a clear picture of the everyday life that was lived there, and their desperate cries which fell on deaf ears.

    All of these now belong to the past.

    Despite all the miseries and misfortunes, our Compatriots have achieved posts of high renown. Working by night and studying by day, these sons of Gurun have become famous physicians, surgeons, engineers, opera singers, writers, have established commercial empires, and the once ragged orphans with a gloomy future, now are the employers of their executioners.

    In the few pages that follow, we have tried to stress the message of this resurrection to our English speaking generation.


    In the Third Millennium, B.C., during what the historians would call the Bronze Age, there have been many city-states scattered all over the eastern part of Asia Minor, extending from northern Mesopotamia to the south-eastern shores of the Black Sea.

    The most important of these states were those of Hatti (Hittites), Muski, Gimirri, (Cimmerians), Tegarama, Hayassa-Azzi, Isuwa, Alse, Urartu, Supri (Supria) Mitanni, and a host of other ethnic groups. The multitude of these groups eventually formed the basic ingredients of the Armenian people.

    During the course of the centuries that followed, one kingdom rose against the other, the rest of the neighbouring chieftains took sides with one or the other, according to the existing situation, so that a constant state of warfare perpetuated.

    At one time King Sargon of Assyria took up a punitive campaign against the state of TIL-GARIMMU, or, according to Hittite monuments, the state of TEGARAMA, known during the Ptolemaic era as GAURENA, or the present-day GURUN.*

    But this expedition failed due to the death of Sargon, in 705 B.C.

    Ten years later, in 695 Sennacherib sent one of his generals against King GURDI of Til-Garimmu (Tegarama = Gurun). King Gurdi was prudent enough not to face the superior Assyrian forces. Til-Garimmu was occupied for a short period, but due to the fact that it was very difficult to keep this country in servitude, they only ravaged it and returned. Thus Til-Garimmu was still able to maintain her independence.


    Til-Garimmu actually formed the territory of Armenia Minor, the first cradle of the Armenian element west of the Euphrates. They later crossed it and transformed Urartu into Greater Armenia. It could be assumed, therefore, that the inhabitants of Til-Garimmu were basically Armenians.

    The kingdom of Tegarama was not so ephemeral as could be thought of. The Bible has honoured it by inserting its name in the eponym of peoples enumerated in Chapter 10 of the Genesis. At present the masculine personal name Torgom is still used. There are further notions in Ezekiel Chapter 27; 14.

    It is not difficult to recognize the countries or the peoples represented by the above eponyms: Gomer (Gamer) is Gimirri or the Cimmerians in Cappadocia (Armenian Gamirk); Magog (land of the Gog) Gyges of Lydia; Madai is Media, south of the Caspian Sea, corresponding to north-west of Persia; Javan (Iovan) is Ionia ; Thobel is Tabal, a part of Cilicia south-west of Tegarama; Meshech is Muski or Phrygia; Tiras (Theiras), perhaps Thrax, Thrace.

    The sons of Gomer (Gamer) were Ascenaz (Iskuzi or Iskunzi), the Scythians; Togarmah (Thergama or rather Thegarma) is actually Tegarama or Til-Garimmu (Gurun), Armenia Minor ; Riphath, perhaps Arpad, is Rfad north of Aleppo.


    In Gurun, near the Shoughoul quarter in a narrow pass there still stands a huge rock, on which there are inscriptions, presumably in Hittite language the only living witness of the glorious past of historic Til-Garimmu.


    The mass movement of these ethnic groups towards east marked the beginning of the decline of Urartu, north of Lake Van, and the emergence of a new people the Armenians. Almost at the same time the frequency of appearance of Til-Garimmu on the stage of history started to ebb. Needless to say that during the following centuries Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and many other cultures have crossed Gurun back and forth. Many civilized and barbaric tribes and peoples have passed and gone. So much so that the Armenian physionomy had almost vanished from that area.


    There are good reasons to believe that as early as the 6th Century (A.D.), there has been an Armenian community in Gurun. This period coincides with the Arab expansion, and their penetration into Armenia through the south-east. The situation was later aggravated by the Seljuk and Tartar invasions from the far east. However, it is not known exactly from where did the Armenian population pour into Gurun. But one thing is known that any political turmoil or imbalance in the east (Greater Armenia) had its repercussions in the west (Armenia Minor). Attempts have been made to clarify or pin down the location of these emigrations, yet there is no proof whatsoever to substantiate any theory with documentary evidence. But it is clear that from the early 7th Century A.D. there has been a deeply-rooted family system whose economy depended mainly on agriculture and cattlebreeding. The proverbs, sayings and other cultural similarities tend to give us the hint that there had been migrations of families to Gurun from as far east as Gharabagh, an East-Armenian territory.

    In later years, excavations have been carried out by individual adventurers, who have brought to light old bridges, aqueducts, tombs, graves and other inscriptions on rocks, as well as spear heads, various sorts of arms and human skeletons with some parts missing. This has given some notion to the fact that periods of peaceful life and dreadful wars have followed each other. Archeologists of American, British, Swedish, German and other European nationalities have come to Gurun, taken the prints of these age-old carvings in Hittite and Greek languages, but it is not known whether or not these have been translated.


    First hand reports, letters, and other valuable documents pertaining to Gurun have been preserved after 1800. Furthermore, travellers passing through Gurun prior to that date, have published the account of their journeys. As such, fairly reliable sources of information and statistics have reached us. We could know the number of population, their habits, customs and occupation, number of churches and schools, their folklore and culture in general, as well as the insupportable life. In fact not only in Gurun, but all over Asia Minor the Armenian population was always in danger. Pillaging, wanton destruction, extortion, kidnapping and murder were part of everyday life.

    It might seem unbelievable or imaginary, but truly such was the situation until 1914.


    Before Gurun was deprived of its Armenian population, it was practically the centre of shawl weaving industry. It was famous for its top quality products. The artisans working on the looms were so ingenious that no competitor outside Gurun would dare challenge their handicraft. The most beautiful designs came out of Gurun. Moreover, all innovations were featured by Gurunians, so much so, that the first mechanized loom in the area was introduced by a dauntless and imaginative Armenian entrepreneur named Sarkis Minassian, who brought it from Manchester, as well as a weaving "Jagoire" machine from Paris.

    The raw material, wool, was partly produced locally, and the rest was imported from Kurdish shepherds in Syria.

    According to the report of the year 1911 by the French vice-Consul in Sivas, the yearly textile production on the export market was estimated at $600,000.

    There were several kinds of shawls. The most famous were the "Bademy", "Gogozuk", "Lafory or Lahory", "Chubukhlu", "Ajemy" and "that of the Sage Uncle". This latter was a very famous weaver, a genius, who would produce shawls with his special trade mark.

    Next to the weaving industry, the most important economic activity was trade. Merchants of Gurun were criss-crossing the whole territory of Asia Minor. All sorts of goods (shawls, cloths, dried fruits) were taken to big cities within a radius of 1000 miles. To stress this aspect people would jokingly add that "... a lame Gurunian trader has reached China". They had established big commercial firms in Constantinople, Izmir, Trabzon, Erzerum, Aleppo, and had trade relations with European countries. Armenian daily newspapers in Constantinople and Izmir published advertisements for the promotion of Gurunian products.

    Since the economy was not self-sufficient, industrialization was the only way out. However, until the introduction of the relatively modern weaving machines, demand was far exceeding supply.

    After the Armenians were massacred and forced to exile, these machines were broken into pieces and sold here and there.

    Today, in the Sivas museum, one can still see examples of "Shawls of Gurun", as last remnants of a lost profession.


    Family life in Gurun was strictly conservative, but never tyrannical. No matter how large the number, all the members of the family used to live in the same house children, grand-children, grand-grand-children and all. Needless to say, that all traditional customs and norms were strictly adhered to. Although the head of the family was the final authority in the house, yet other members too would take active part in the administration of the family economy. In certain instances, after the death of the father, it was not unusual to pass the financial management of the house to the third son, while his elder brothers would busy themselves with other activities. Women were also invited to participate in debates on important family affairs.

    Parents would carefully choose the bride for their son from among the young girls in the neighbourhood. They would take into consideration the reputation of her parents and herself, her education, her ability to do housework and other related matters. Sometimes they would give their consent to the young man's selection, and start establishing contacts with the girl's parents in elaborate and round-about ways.

    The divorce rate was nil.


    Gurun is situated in a long valley, with high peaks and caves all around. It is usually agreed that before the year 1914, the population did not exceed the limit of 15,000 with a 2/3 majority of Armenians. In residential quarters the houses were surrounded by orchards of sizeable area, which supplied the household with all the fruits needed. The surplus was dried and exported to other towns. The most abundant and famous were the apple, the apricot, the mulberry, the cherry etc. Various sorts of marmalades and jams were prepared and stored for consumption during the long months of winter.

    Some of the populous Armenian quarters were Shoughoul, Eoren, Tsakh-Tsor, Khasbagh and others, each of which had a parish church with an organized Diocese, headed by the Bishop of the Mother Church situated in the Market area. There were also Ferman and Terjan quarters, named after the inhabitants who were composed exclusively of Fermanian or Terjanian families. In certain areas, like Ashur quarter, the Turks were dominant in number.

    Besides the Orthodox Gregorians, there were also Catholic and Protestant Churches. Each of these three communities had its own schools adjacent to its churches. Special schools were established also for girls.

    General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.

  • #2
    Part II

    Came the year 1914. The Turkish government entered into the war alongside their allies, the Germans. The unique opportunity was now at hand to satisfy their hatred against the Armenians, and "solve the Armenian Question once and for all".

    The top secret plan was then executed.

    All the men between the ages 18-60 were recruited for military service, but only as "Labour Detachments". They were sent out to open roads and dig ditches only to be used as their graves.

    On the infamous day of 24 April 1915 the Armenian elite writers, journalists, priests, Members of the Parliament all over Asia Minor was arrested at the same time, and within a short time they were sent to their doom. Almost all of them were killed in cold blood and were left in the open air to decay.

    This operation was successfully completed and the exodus of the rest started, which was composed of women, children and the old.

    Their misery and suffering was beyond any imagination and belief, and could not be explained in words. Volumes have been written by American, British, French, German and other eye-witnesses, and pictures were taken to prove to the world these atrocities.

    The same procedure was followed in Gurun. So that, out of the approximately 10,000 Armenians of Gurun, less than 2000 only could survive this Calvary, a typical trade mark, which stands unique in the history of mankind.

    Today, after almost 60 years, the once flourishing and prosperous Gurun has become a lost village. Visitors in 1972 describe that all the houses, churches and schools have been destroyed. Themselves born in Gurun, they could only see traces of their ruined houses, unable to specify correctly which of the two had been their birth-place. The Mother Church was successively used as prison, stable, warehouse, and is now being used as a cinema.


    Outside their homeland, the Gurunians are now scattered all over the five continents. A sizeable number of them now live in the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Greece, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. In Turkey there are only a few of them.

    Shortly after their settlement in these hospitable countries, the Gurunians came together and founded Compatriotic Unions to encourage one another, help alleviate the burden of the poor, pay the tuition fees for the needy school children, support them through higher educational institutions. And from that wretched multitude of 2000 shipwrecked Gurunians came an army of scholars, doctors, engineers, artists, painters, singers, poets, writers, businessmen and artisans.

    We can truly be proud of these achievements, and look forward to seeing all of us united under one roof of the Fatherland.

    The Massacre and the Deportation of Gurun

    In April 1915, Sultan Reshad's birthday was celebrated. The prelate, Archbishop Khoren Dimaqsian went to present his wishes on this occasion. The government was on one side generously honoring the Armenian chief, on the other however, it was sending orders to everywhere to arrest Armenians.

    On the occasion of the holiday, the local authorities ordered that shops in the city not be excessively adorned. On the other hand, in an unexpected move for Armenians, the authorities invited them to the government house and jailed them there, depriving them of communication with the external world. In the same day, all the Armenians they needed were arrested. Without cross-examination, they arrested the other Armenians within 8 to 10 days in houses, roads and villages. Then they announced through town criers that all the Armenians and Turks should hand over their arms to the government. They collected Turks' arms during the day and returned them to their owners during the night, whereas to collect the arms belonging to Armenians, the authorities made them believe, with all sorts of deceptions, threats and by swearing on the name of the Sultan that according to an order stemming from the governor, honor, life and possessions would be secure, but arms should be delivered. The Armenians believed and handed over their guns.

    Meanwhile they had imprisoned all the men aged from 15 to 70, as well as some women. And every day, these savage people were holding meetings in the house of Roundouk Zade Mouhammed and there, they were deciding on and changing the tortures to which Armenians were going to be subjected to.

    * *

    Life in Prisons and Tortures: They had filled 100 persons in a room, where there was barely enough space to stand up, like they would fill animals in a cowshed. After keeping them hungry for 2-3 days, they took the imprisoned persons one by one to an isolated room in which the above mentioned officials were present as well as three of the big gendarmes who were especially trained and suddenly they started questioning prisoners by insulting and then beating them. The way the gendarmes were beating them was as follows: they were wrapping the head of the prisoner with his overcoat and it was allowed to these three gendarmes to hit the prisoners in the way they wanted and to knock them down. When the nose and the mouth of the prisoner was buried in dust, a gendarme sat on his head, while the two other gendarmes, grabbing two heavy and strong batons and standing on each side of the lying poor Armenians, hit them 50 to 100 times until the prisoner lost consciousness. After that they would stop. Later they made the prisoners regain consciousness and the gendarmes started beating them again by pouring water on their body below and above their waist and that treatment continued until the prisoners had lost consciousness twice or three times and awakened again and were unable to make any movement, like invalids. Then the gendarmes consoled cynically the prisoners, saying "Your Jesus too was tortured and recommended that you be tortured, to be admitted to the kingdom of the Lord. This is the instruction of your Gospels." All the prisoners, on their turn, were subjected to this torture every day. This lasted about a month. Let's not forget to mention that sometimes the gendarmes entered houses and beat the suspects with the same savagery, in the presence of their wives, mothers and children. It happened that a 5 year old young boy -Haroutyoun, son of Terdjan Tchouldjian- seeing the baton blows inflicted to his uncle and being unable to bear his screams, pulled out a big piece of burning firewood from the fire and went to hit the gendarme saying, "Why are you beating him?" Many died because of beatings. The color of people's bodies had changed to pitch black. The flesh of many people were rotten and big wounds appeared and even in that state, the beatings continued. To make these tortures perfect, they started to cauterize the bodies of the prisoners with metal sticks, to shoe them with horseshoes, to nail both of their hands to the floor, and to try to pull off their nails. One shouldn't forget that women too had their share of this savagery. In the presence of their husbands, they suspended the women upside down from their feet, beat and subjected them to other unimaginable treatments, after which their husbands, unable to bear those terrifying savageries, attempted to commit suicide.

    It was during that period that a man named Alay Bey came from Sivas and they said that after consultations on the organization of the massacres, he had gone to Darende and from there to the region of Malattia.

    They paused a few days, so that those of the prisoners who were invalidated under the impact of the beatings, recover and be able to walk again. Then splitting the prisoners up into groups of 90-100 people, they summoned them one by one and interrogated them and got their signatures saying that they were going to send those testimonies to Sivas and the prisoners themselves were going there and would be interrogated again and if found innocent, they would be released. Whereas all these were lies. They later tore these documents. In this way, they reassured them that they were really going for a cross-examination. Then the first group was slaughtered, like they slaughter sheep, with bayonets, after they were forced to wander in the mountains for 3 to 4 days, hungry and thirsty. They saved their bullets, saying "you are not worth the use of a bullet, you are unfaithful people that we need to slaughter." And every day a new group was sent and was exterminated by order. But the others were not taken as far as the first group and the prisoners were massacred in closer and closer places. The last group comprised 13 to 15 year old teenagers. They measured their height with a one meter long rope and those of the teenagers who were higher than that, were tied and taken to the outskirts of the town and slaughtered and the bloody ties were brought back. As for the Prelate, Archbishop Khoren Dimaqsian and the Protestant Reverend Petros Moughalian and the priests, they were sent with a carriage with the same refrain, that is, they were being sent to Sivas and an hour later the carriage returned and they claimed it was broken. Eye witnesses told that the clergymen were slaughtered while their heads were hanging out of the carriage, and they brought the head of the Archbishop back to the town, because an official who particularly hated him, had wanted absolutely to see it to be sure of his death. Henceforth there was no teenager over the age of 13 in town, with the exception of those who had succeeded in escaping to avoid being arrested. The government and the above mentioned committee summoned all teenagers aged between10 and 13, and also the women and proposed them to convert to Islam. Those of the boys who resisted were beheaded on the spot in the presence of everybody. The rest of them having seen that, went mad and became muslims by wrapping their heads with a white cloth(Sarek). There was no man left any more, their special massacre was terminated. Now it was the turn of the women.

    The Kaymakam with his entourage started wandering in the city, entering houses and seizing what he liked. It was also allowed to the villagers to start robbing the women left in that state of misery by visiting the quarters. The government sent the gangs formed to massacre Armenians and they also started torturing as it was ordered to them. The Armenians contacted the Kaymakam to alleviate these tortures, and he told them, "You will not stay here, you will migrate. If you want me to send you to Ayntab in a comfortable way, you have to pay." He required 2000 Ottoman golden coins from the first group and besides that, the golden coins of women used as finery. They split up this amount among the members of the committee. Besides that, they did not let people sell the remaining possessions, acting in a friendly manner and misleading the Armenians by promising to send them the equivalent value of these possessions one day, to wherever they go and they recommended that nobody bought them. The women, however, guessing what was being prepared, tried to resist, but the gangs arrived in the quarters, entered every house and removed the first group comprising 1500 to 2000 people and put them on the road. Thus, they successively removed other groups and in this way, women, teenagers, and girls were thrown into the mountains in 4-5 groups. Among these women were a few runaway males, who were separated from the group the very first day. Those males were slaughtered by an animal named Bahri in person, whereas he was meant to be sent by the Kaymakam and the government to guarantee the protection of the people. They kidnapped a few women and girls in the same night and raped them. The promise of a safe transfer to Ayntab in exchange of a huge sum was a lie. They accompanied the deportees for only one day and that day they returned to Gurin after unofficially robbing the Armenians. That caravan reached Albistan in a miserable state. Then it was the turn of the savages to act.

    The Turkish Kaymakam of Albistan, disguised himself and went to preach Islam by night among Armenian women. He returned home and went back with his official title. He bought by force all the valuable objects that he had earlier noticed there for a very low price. And in order to take the deportees safely to Ayntab he required 1000 golden coins and received that sum. So far those deportees were not officially robbed. Then the Kaymakam and his entourage received the money, and taking the belongings and finery with them, took to the road with the Armenians to accompany them up to Ayntab. The Kaymakam and other official figures traveled for 3 days. During these 3 days, they moved away teenagers and women who handed over all their belongings to the Turks to avoid being slaughtered. Three days later, they reached their destination place and they saw on the mountains, villagers, kurds who were firing time to time. They arrived in a rocky valley with a dense group of willows, from where it was impossible to escape. Then, two people from among the Kurds came to discuss with the Kaymakam. A few moments later, the Kaymakam whistled, upon which hundreds of Kurds started to rain down bullets onto the people. The muleteers from Gurin who had taken the caravan up to there, turned their horses in the reverse direction and took away all the transported merchandises with them, thus seizing them, for which the transportation fare was already paid ten times the normal. All the women abandoned then all their belongings and ran away. The Kaymakam and the other officials who had come to ensure the protection of the deportees, enjoyed, seeing the terror of the Armenian women, standing and watching shamelessly the horrible scene from a distance. And so many other things happened. The villagers coming from every direction attacked more and more the women without protection, by waving their axes and drawn swords in every direction, which were leaving inanimated the persons hit by them. That valley was located at a distance of 15 hours when going from Albistan to Ayntab. Under the shower of the bullets many already fell...the kids saw their mother lying on the ground, her head split in two parts by a blow from an axe...the mother saw her kid hit by a bayonet, who said "mom" and died.

    Many of the women ran away by abandonning their kids. The kids were shouting "mom" but the mother couldn't have turned back. These terrifying screams resounded in the mountains and valleys, while the mob went ahead with its savagery. Tieing teenagers and elderly people to trees, they burned them, they got mothers to slaughter their own children, and after having chopped off the members of some people, they left them there so that they do not die quickly. A human being cannot imagine and describe how they kidnapped girls and women and treated them. After having robbed people in that barbarian way and undressed women and girls, they took the loot away along with the girls and the women they liked. The Kaymakam and the other officials were still there to watch cynically the events. After the departure of that mob, the remaining deportees were accompained again by that same Kaymakam and the officials and after a journey lasting 4 to 5 hours, they spent the night on a river bank. Barely half of the deportees reached that place, where instead of beds there were stones and instead of bread, grass. The next day they made the deportees walk hungry and thirsty. Some of them who had survived the massacre, died from hunger. The Kaymakam already returned on the second day with his aids, to share the loot seized by the Kurds. While the journey from Gurin to Ayntab normally lasts 8 days, these women walked exactly for one month under tortures. Only a quarter of them arrived in Ayntab. Thus, Armenian women and teenagers died on the roads, on mountains and under rocks, because of tortures, malnutrition, and by the sword. Very few of them reached Ayntab and then Haleb.
    General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.


    • #3
      Thank you Joseph
      "All truth passes through three stages:
      First, it is ridiculed;
      Second, it is violently opposed; and
      Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

      Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


      • #4
        Originally posted by Gavur View Post
        Thank you Joseph
        You're welcome.
        General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.