The Armenians themselves changed dramatically in the midnineteenth century. An intellectual awakening influenced by Western and Russian ideas, a new interest in Armenian history, and an increase in social interaction created a sense of secular nationality among many Armenians. Instead of conceiving of themselves solely as a religious community, Armenians--especially the urban middle class--began to feel closer kinship with Christian Europe and greater alienation from the Muslim peoples among whom they lived.
Lacking faith in reform within the empire, Armenian leaders began to appeal to the European powers for assistance. In 1878 Armenian delegates appeared at the Congress of Berlin, where the European powers were negotiating the disposition of Ottoman territories. Although Armenian requests for European protection went largely unanswered in Berlin, the "Armenian question" became a point of contention in the complex European diplomacy of the late nineteenth century, with Russia and Britain acting as the chief sponsors of Armenian interests on various issues.
The Armenian independence movement began as agitation on behalf of liberal democracy by writers, journalists, and teachers. But by the last decade of the nineteenth century, moderate nationalist intellectuals had been pushed aside by younger, more radical socialists. Armenian revolutionary parties, founded in the early 1890s in Russia and Europe, sent their cadres to organize in Turkey. Because of the self-destruction of one major party, the Social Democratic Hnchaks, and the relative isolation of the liberals and the "internationalist" Social Democrats in the cities of Transcaucasia, the more nationalist of the socialist parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, also known as the Dashnak, a shortened form of its Armenian name), emerged by the early twentieth century as the only real contender for Armenian loyalties. The ARF favored Armenian autonomy in both the Russian and the Ottoman empires rather than full independence for an Armenia in which Russian- and Ottomanheld components would be unified.
In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Armenians' tendency toward Europeanization antagonized Turkish officials and encouraged their view that Armenians were a foreign, subversive element in the sultan's realm. By 1890 the rapid growth of the Kurdish population in Anatolia, combined with the immigration of Muslims from the Balkans and the Caucasus, had made the Armenian population of Anatolia an increasingly endangered minority. In 1895 Ottoman suspicion of the westernized Armenian population led to the massacre of 300,000 Armenians by special order of the Ottoman government.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Russian border, Armenian churches and schools were closed and church property was confiscated in 1903. Tatars massacred Armenians in several towns and cities in 1905, and fifty-two Armenian nationalist leaders in Russia were tried en masse for underground activities in 1912.
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