This is a brief, concise explanation of the Armenian Revolt and the subsequent suppression. Most material you read on this topic will present a one-sided argument that fails in providing a critical analysis of events. Generally, material is designed by authors to "lead" the reader to come to a pre-designated conclusion of an "Absolute Genocide" or an "Absolute Denial".
The series below intends to overcome such hurdles by giving a historical account of all related events predating the Ottoman-Armenian Tragedy, with the belief that understanding history is crucial in our grasp of bigger events that follow in the aftermath.
To be able to understand 1915, we need to start out in 1774, when Ottoman Empire yielded rights over Orthodox population to Russia. That was covered in Part I. Part II gives insight to the political struggle between Russian and Ottoman Empires in the late 19th century. This struggle proved to be instrumental in the Bulgarian Revolution, which later inspired the Armenian political leadership.
Part II – Alexander and Abdülaziz: Contenders to the Balkans
Alexander II was a learned Czar. He had studied European languages, and he enacted a series of reforms with a certain vision; and he lay ground for a parliament. He had reformed his navy and army in 1874, eleven years after Abdülaziz had done so. However, he also found it necessary to suppress national movements within Russian borders, notably the Polish and the Circassians, Chechens and other Muslim peoples of North Caucus. On the other hand, he was far less reactionary than his father Nicholas I, who had run a secret police called H.I.M. Own Chancellery and suppressed religious movements in Ukraine and Belarus. Nicholas I's regime had also seen the rise of the Panslavism, that held the position that Slavs of Balkans should be freed from the Ottoman yoke, and rules under the Czar. The first Pan-Slavic conferance was held in 1848, five years before the start of the Crimean War. Indeed, Alexander II's reign had opened during the Crimean War, where he had to fight against both Ottoman Empire and the British Empire, and where some hostilies took place in the Balkans. At the end of the Crimean War, Russia's right over the protection of Christian minorities of Ottoman Empire were given to the Western Powers with the treaty of Paris signed in 1856, and Russia influence in the Balkan region greatly diminished. At this point, Russia was forced to use a more subtle tactic when trying re-instate the influence it had lost in the Balkan region.
Abdülaziz was a man of firsts, and he was very similar in style to his older nemesis, Alexander II. He was the first and only Ottoman Sultan to travel to Europe except as a military campaign. He was the first and only Ottoman Sultan to be knighted by a British Ruler. He was also continuing with the reforms that were issued by his brother Abdülmecit. (See Part I) He had also welcomed the Armenian National Assembly and the Code of Regulations and approved it in 1863. (See Part I) He had managed to modernize and expand the Navy to the third largest navy in the world at the time – an act of modernization which was to prove a terrible mistake, since the Russian attack was to come not over the Black Sea, but over the land over Romania and then Bulgaria.
When the Bulgarian April Uprising of 1876 came about, Abdülaziz was 46 years old, remembering the Crimean War of 1853 when he was 23 years old and his brother Abdülmecit was ruling. Like Crimea, Bulgaria also had (and continues to do so) a Muslim population. Unlike Crimea, it was much close to Ottoman capital, only a hundred miles.
For Abdülaziz, this was a line of events that were eventually to lead to losing Balkan territory, and eventually, Mediterranean control to the Tsarist Russia. He had learned an Ottoman history of struggle with Russia going on for three centuries at the time. He had also known Crimea first freed from the Ottoman rule by Küçük Kaynarca Treaty in 1774, and then captured by Russia 9 years later. He was correct in judging Russia's intentions, but he the outcome was something that neither he or Alexander II was expecting.
Abdülaziz reacted to the April Uprising by military suppression, the same way his nemesis Alexander II had reacted to a French-backed Polish uprising thirteen years ago in 1863, or the same way Abraham Lincoln had reacted to the Confederate uprising two years before that in 1861. However, what Abdülaziz had never seen in his life was wartime propaganda. As soon as he started his military campaign, Russia used a new tactic that did not employ firearms or ammunition, but newspapers.