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, and Part II dealt with the Russian-Ottoman struggle in the late 19th century. This part details the events that led to the Bulgarian Independence, which later inspired the Armenian political leadership for their own uprising.
Part III – Bulgarian Independence
As the two imperial powers of Russia and Ottoman Empire were scheming on its lands, Bulgaria was developing more humble ambitions. Bulgaria, like the rest of the Balkan countries, was no longer happy with the social system that the Ottoman Empire had organized in the past. In the classical Ottoman Administration, the Bulgarian church or the Bulgarian ethnic group did not exist, but was a part of the Orthodox millet and government by the patriarchate in Constantinopolis. In response to the efforts of the Bulgarian Nation, Abdülaziz established with a decree the Bulgarian Exarchate as a separate religious organization in 1870, and the Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinopolis reacted by excommunicating the Bulgarian Exarchate. This was the first cornerstone for the Bulgarian National Revival. It was actually a series of events that had led to this point, and the Revival was fueled by artists and clergy of Bulgarian descent and language, possibly going as early as the late 18th century. Between 1853 and 1856, Bulgarian volunteers from Ottoman Empire had allied with Russia against the Allied Powers, including the Ottoman Empire itself.
Six years later, the April Uprising in Bulgaria started, but like the Bosnian uprising of 1875, it was suppressed by the Ottoman Empire. This suppression soon turned into a matter of political dispute for the British Empire, between Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, and became a matter of public interest. Gladstone was advocating Bulgarian independence with an emphasis on religious morality – he was saying that Bulgarian Christians were being massacred by Muslims. However, Disraeli was skeptical about Russia's intentions: That Russia was using the alleged massacres as a groundwork to separate Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire and then annex it. If that was the intention of the Russian Empire, it would not have been a first: The same fate had already happened with the dominantly Muslim Crimea in the 18th century; it was separated from the Ottoman Empire in 1774 by the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, and annexed by Catherine I in 1783. The Muslims were subsequently deported to Ottoman Empire. To this day, Crimea, whose name is Turkic origin, (K?r?m) remains part of Ukraine. A de facto alliance had existed between Bulgarian Nationalists and Russia, dating back to the Crimean War. Such an annexation would have its ideological basis in the Slavophile movement, later turning into the pan-Slavic movement.[8,9] It would have its geopolitical consequences as well: Occupying Crimea had meant that Russia gained access to the Black Sea. Taking Bulgaria would bring Russia close to Mediterranean coast and the Straits, effectively handing him over a port to control trade and to plan naval campaigns into the Mediterranean. Knowing the history of Russia and Ottoman Empires, Disraeli had every reason to be skeptical: It was only thirty years ago that the British had fought alongside the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War to keep Russia from reaching the Mediterranean.
However, Russia had been experimenting with a new, innovative method of warfare for a while: Secret Police. “Third Section of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery” was a secret police organization was created in 1826 to oppose anti-Tsarist activities. Eventually, in 1880, the Third Section would be combined to the infamous Okhranka, the probable originator of the Elders of Zion Hoax. However, during the time of the Russian-Ottoman war in 1877-1878, it was still called the “Third Section,” and it was being run by Nikolai Mezentsov, veteran of the Crimean War who had fought against an alliance of British an Ottoman forces. Whether or not he had a hand in the Bulgarian War, he was definitely pleased with the outcome, as it matched the Pan-Slavic ideals of Russia and reclaimed some of the honor lost in the Crimean War to Anglo-Turkish forces.
The eventual outcome was that Russia intervened in 1877, and the British Empire chose to remain neutral in this conflict. The Alliance that had existed in the Crimean War and had given birth British Hospital of Florence Nightingale in the Ottoman capital was broken and Disraeli lost to Gladstone. This was mainly due to the reports in the newspapers about atrocities by the Ottoman Empire. These atrocities were actually reported by a group of correspondents: Eugene Schuyler, Januarius MacGahan, and Prince Aleksei Tseretlev. Schuyler was the American Consul in Istanbul, but he was acting on his own accord, almost resulting in his withdrawal. Overall, he was favorable of the Russian Empire, and he claimed that Russian presense in Central Asia was beneficial to US interests as a counterpoint to the British Empire. MacGahan was Schuyler's friend from Russia from back in 1873. MacGahan had been in Russia for two years at the time; he spoke Russian and had been “mingling with the Russian military and nobility.” Both MacGahan and Schuyler had been critical of Russian policies at times, but overall, they were disposed favorably towards Russian rule, seeing it as a good alternative for USA as opposed to British rule. Prince Aleksei Tseretlev that joined them was a Russian diplomat. Therefore, the reporters had incentive to bias their reports towards Russian political agenda.
Without a doubt, the Bulgarian uprising was suppressed brutally by the Ottoman Empire. However, it is doubtful that their actions are any more cruel or harsh than the suppression of January Uprising in Poland between 1863 and 1865, just twelve years prior, or the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion between 1850 and 1864 by the Qing Dynasty, or the suppression of the Indian rebellion in 1857 by the British Empire. The civilian casualties in the uprising were not more numerous in scale than the American Civil War. Even in 1878, the muslims were being slaughtered by the same Qing Dynasty. However, the public reaction against the Ottoman Empire was much larger in scale than these events, and this was mainly due to the reports by the three correspondents, one of them a Russian diplomat, and the two others pro-Russian by self-declaration.
Eventually, the Russian Army defeated the Ottoman Army and Bulgaria was declared an independent country in 1878 in the Berlin Conference. Although the initial uprising had failed, like the Polish Uprising against Russian Empire or the Indian Uprising against British Empire, the intervention of Russia and the neutrality of Britain had caused Ottoman Empire to lose its soil to the newly founded Bulgarian State. The importance of MacGahan's reports in the Bulgarian independence is venerated until today by giving his name to streets and squares. An unexpected guest of the Berlin Conference was Mgrdich Khrimian, Armenian religious leader. He announced after the conference that armed struggle was necessary for Armenian independence.