Paris Peace Conf. 867.00/48: Telegram

The American Commissioner at Constantinople ( Heck ) to the Ambassador in France ( Sharp )

No. 1. Political. At the present time ordinary government activities of country are badly disorganized. Tewfick Pasha cabinet contains [Page 281] no prominent or really able men and has no real hold on country, great majority of officials being still members of C. U. P. organization.11 Army officers are also in the main commanded by men [sic]. Orders issued by Constantinople therefore often receive but scant consideration in the provinces and public safety is very poor throughout Asia Minor.

Supported by Sultan, the Cabinet last week dissolved Parliament and promised to soon arrange for new elections, but in present circumstances the C. U. P. would be almost certain to succeed, as they have the only political organization covering the entire country and elections are considered improbable for immediate future. Dissolved Parliament had a great majority of Committee members, and its continual attacks on the Cabinet rendered the latter’s task impossible, so that in general dissolution was favorably received. Government has taken over several of the banking and commercial enterprises established by the Committee and has seized some of its archives, thus indicating intention of endeavoring to maintain political control. So far, Allied representatives here have strictly observed terms of armistice, but with steady weakening of Governmental authority, more drastic measures will soon be required and a military occupation within the next few weeks is not unlikely.

Cabinet has adopted some measures to aid and to repatriate deported Christians, but their situation is very bad in all parts of the country. It would be advisable for most Armenians to remain where they are until spring, or until future status of Armenian State is defined, but they are already beginning to return to their homes, only to find these destroyed or occupied by Napa [sic] immigrants. The Fuller [Barton? 12] Expedition expected from America is anxiously awaited. This expedition should be self-contained as to all transportation, as railway traffic has entirely stopped on account of lack of coal. Suggest for a consideration, whether some of Army automobiles now parked at switching [?] could not be turned over to this relief expedition.

Food situation of Constantinople continues uncertain, but main problem here is coal. With all importations of German coal stopped, and Black Sea mines badly wrecked, local public service has at times been entirely suspended for lack of fuel. Conditions here November slightly better, and production of Turkish mines is slowly being increased. Trains are now moving for transportation of [disbanded?] soldiers and to bring food to Constantinople, as plentiful supplies of grain are reported to be along the Anatolia railway. Reports from [Page 282] some interior districts, especially Black Sea littoral indicate precarious food conditions.

Conditions of Armistice are being gradually executed and German and Austro-Hungarian troops under Von Sanders are interned on the Princes Islands in the launches [sic].

There is a large mushroom press in all languages but a political censorship has been established on the ground that it is necessary to curb conflicting political propaganda. The Armenians have on the whole behaved well and have been moderate in their claims avoiding all agitation which might provoke further trouble in the interior. Such prudence is essential in view of poor public security and danger of further outrages. The landing at Mersine of a large number of Armenians with French troops is claimed by the Turkish Armistice Commission to be a direct provocation and very likely will lead to troubles in the Asia Minor district where Turkish population is much aroused. If an independent Armenia is to be established, official announcement should be kept in abeyance until either a firm Allied Military Control is established in Asia Minor, or until a large number of the persons guilty of the previous massacres have been placed under arrest in order show to the Turkish population the danger of indulgence in further massacres.

On the other hand, the Greeks are very extravagant in their claims which include the city of Constantinople. They have sent here Naval and Military forces, and local Greek population has been provocative towards the Turks, although so far, there have been no serious disorders between the two elements.

General attitude among Turks is one of hopeless[ness], waiting the outcome of the Peace Conference. They resent permission accorded to Armenians and other racial elements to send representatives to Paris while such permission has been refused to them. As publicly expressed, their chief hope is in the application of the President’s principles of nationality and self-determination, as they feel that other Allied Powers are likely to be more severe than the United States. An Armenian delegation of two members is about to proceed to Paris, consisting of Archbishop Tourian and Professor Hagopian of Robert College. At present Turks are trying to create friction between British and French by praising the former, and criticizing latter at every opportunity. However large French investments and financial interests in the country are counted on in some circles to secure French support for the future maintenance of independent Turkish Government.

Financially, the situation is becoming more and more critical as the revenues of Government are decreasing and paper money is no longer issued. Exchange value off Turkish paper money has been [Page 283] going lower every day since the removal of Government control over foreign exchange, and absolute uncertainty as to the future of this currency, based upon German credit, still prevails here. All business and industries except a few essential trades and the supply of foodstuffs are at entire stand-still, but with lifting of blockade there will be great demand for foreign goods as old stocks are entirely cleared out, British, French and Italians are planning to take advantage of opportunities, representative of the British Trade Corporation having just arrived here.

Nothing new to report concerning American interests in Turkey, but we are cut off from Syria and Palestine, so that the situation there should be followed from Egypt. The institutions here and Smyrna have not been seriously molested at any time, and have maintained their activities. Certain institutions which were seized by the Turkish authorities at Marsovan, Cesarea, Konia, are now being vacated by the Turks.

Please repeat to Washington as my number 7.

  1. i. e., Committee of Union and Progress.
  2. Possibly a reference to Dr. James L. Barton, director of the American Commission for Relief in the Near East.