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AccueilNumérosXXVIIIWhy Was Waldemar Belck Shot?

Why Was Waldemar Belck Shot?

Bülent Genç
p. 89-96

Résumé

From the beginning of the 19th century onwards, researchers and travellers from various fields and occupations visited the eastern and southern provinces of the Ottoman State to carry out work related to their fields. Recognition of various archaeological remains and sites dating from different periods, along with the discovery of the East, the region of Mesopotamia and a deep-rooted past resulted in an increased interest by these people in these regions. With the rivalry among some museums in Europe to improve their displays and collections focusing on these regions, the eastern and southern provinces of the Ottoman State became the target of various excavations and surveys. However, these research and investigations that went on throughout the 19th century did not always end in a positive way in terms of the safety of the researchers. Vital problems that could potentially even result in death arose during the work of various researchers at various times in these regions. To give an example, Friedrich Eduard Schulz, a researcher in the region, was killed around Hakkari during his work (Potts, 2017, pp. 249-270; Ainsworth, 1842, p. 294). Waldemar Belck (Fig. 1) also encountered such a situation while he was carrying out research on the Kingdom of Urartu in the region of Van. Belck got injured and could survive only by chance. In this article, I will discuss this incident involving Belck and its consequences.

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Texte intégral

Fig. 1: Waldemar Belck, and Urartian pithoi behind, possibly in Van

Fig. 1: Waldemar Belck, and Urartian pithoi behind, possibly in Van

Schachner, 2009, p. 260, Abb. 248

1Belck was occupied with copper mining as a chemist for the German company Siemens in Transcaucasia before he arrived at the eastern parts of the Ottoman Empire and at the Van region (Belck, 1893, pp. 61-82). The discoveries of Belck including cemeteries, prehistoric burials, ancient ruins and cuneiform inscriptions caught the attention of ancient historian and linguist Carl Friedrich Lehmann. As the archaeological materials discovered by Belck coincided with Lehmann’s areas of interest, the two met and started to work together from the 1890s onwards (Lehmann-Haupt, 2015, p. 7). Henceforth, the names of these two men were often mentioned together in the history of Urartian studies.

  • 1 I would like to thank Dr. Vural Genç for the transcription of these documents.
  • 2 DH. MKT. 1824/16, 21 Şaban 1308/1 April 1891.

2Belck first obtained a permit from the Ottoman State for his initial research in the region of Van in 1891.1 A telegram sent by the Ottoman State to the provinces of Van and Trabzon states that Doctor Waldemar Belck of Prussia was to come from Russia to Van and then to Trabzon in order to carry out some physical research, and demands that he is shown due respect and his work facilitated properly.2 Within the scope of the permit he obtained, Belck, together with Lehmann-Haupt, started to publish data from his initial research in the region of Van in the journal Zeitschrift für Ethnologie on a regular basis (Virchow, 1891, pp. 810-811). Among the subjects of this initial work were the Minua Canal, one of the important construction activities of the Kingdom of Urartu, and the inscriptions on its walls, the Keşiş Lake and the Urartu stele and its base there, and Toprakkale (Belck & Lehmann, 1892a, pp. 477-488; Belck & Lehmann, 1892b, pp. 122-152).

  • 3 BOA. İ.HR. 358/45, 16 Zilhicce 1315/8 May 1898.
  • 4 BEO. 1122/84128, 20 Zilhicce 1315/12 May 1898.

3Belck travelled the region that roughly covered the Urartian borders from 1891 to 1898 for research and study, and continued to publish his results together with Lehmann-Haupt (Gen., 2018, pp. 12-17; Genç, 2019, pp. 35-54). The two researchers obtained another permit from the Ottoman State in 1898. This permit concerned the research to be conducted by Dr Lehmann and Dr Belck in Baghdad, Mosul, Van, Mamuretülaziz, Erzurum, Bitlis and Trabzon, and comprised the correspondences sent to 14 different provinces on 26 Mart 1314/7 April 1898 through the Interior, Foreign, and Education Ministries per telegram from the German consulate about the facilitation of Lehmann-Haupt and Belck’s work. Two other correspondences dated 21 Zilkade 1315/13 April 1898 and 21 Zilhicce 1315/13 May 18983 and another correspondence dated 17 Zilhicce 1315/9 May 18984 repeated the content about the facilitation of Dr Lehmann and Dr Belck’s research activities to be carried out in the aforementioned seven provinces.

  • 5 The only known photograph of the inscription found to the northwest of Lake Van at Muş-Bulanık-Yonc (...)

4Within the scope of this permit they obtained from the Ottoman State, Belck and Lehmann ventured on a very busy research in the Lake Van Basin and in the distribution areas of the Kingdom of Urartu from 1898 onwards (Belck, 1899a, pp. 236-275; Belck, 1899b, pp. 661-668). With Lehmann joining this research, they recorded various inscriptions of Urartian kings as well as the Yoncalı inscription of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I (Lehmann-Haupt, 1931, p. 762)5 and reported information on Urartian sites in the Lake Van and Lake Urmiyah basins (Belck & Lehmann, 1898b, pp. 522-527; Belck & Lehmann, 1898c, pp. 414-416; Belck & Virchow, 1899, pp. 99-132; Belck & Lehmann, 1898a, pp. 568-592).

  • 6 The Hamidiye Regiments were a branch of the Ottoman Army, which was formed by Sultan Abdul Hamid II (...)

5The travels of the two explorers could not be considered safe at all in 1898. Although gendarmerie was provided to escort them for their protection, the Hamidiye Regiments6 (Klein, 2016, p. 52) and some armed tribes were dangerous not only for foreigners but also even for local merchants and travellers. While Belck and Lehmann’s investigations continued under such conditions, Belck had a close brush with death when he got injured around Adilcevaz. Rudolf Virchow wrote about this incident in the introduction of the article in which Belck and Lehmann reported their research. According to Virchow, Belck was attacked by Kurdish robbers when he got separated from the Turkish gendarmerie and got injured. According to the latest news from the Foreign Ministry dated 28 October 1898 the injured were under medical treatment and were not at any risk of death. It is also reported that the Sultan would conduct the most heavy-handed investigation and the injured were given the utmost care (Belck & Lehmann, 1898b, p. 522).

6Like Virchow, Lehmann also described the incident that happened to Belck after having seen him: “While I was quietly walking to our room, thinking I would see a seriously injured man, my travel companion, fully dressed and lively, ran towards me, saying ‘You're seeing a man that the Kurds left on the ground as a dead man’. Small black spots over his ears and wounds showed that shots were fired at close range and missed their target by chance”. Lehmann mentioned that Belck wanted to climb Mount Sipan to measure its height, and while he was wandering by himself, he got separated from his friends and was forced to go towards a faraway mountain pass by some Kurds who were led by a man wearing a Turkish Hamidiye uniform. Then, this uniformed leader moved a few steps away from Belck, aimed his rifle towards him, and fired. At that moment Belck turned his head and the bullet skimmed him, but such a close-range shot knocked him off the ground, unconscious. When he regained consciousness, the robbers were gone. They had stolen his belongings, thinking he was dead (Lehmann-Haupt, 1926, pp. 55-56).

  • 7 DH.MKT. 2122/17, 7 Cemazeyilahir 1316/23 October 1898.

7Ottoman archival records also provide information regarding the details of this incident and its consequences. Studying these archival documents chronologically, the reason behind the shooting of Belck, becomes clearer. The first of these documents is a report sent to the Foreign Ministry on 23 October 1898. The report reads that the German Doctor Belck, who was in the district of Adilcevaz in search for antiquities, got separated from his friends and from the gendarmerie accompanying him for his protection, got injured on the ear by a bullet that was fired by two individuals, and his belongings, clothes, and money were stolen. As reported from Van, Belck, whose injury was not serious, was treated and the investigation conducted to catch the suspects was in progress. The gendarmerie, who left Belck unattended while they were responsible for his protection, which consequently caused him to be injured and his money and belongings to be stolen, were asked to be questioned. Belck was also asked to be interviewed in detail. The telegram received in return explained that Belck had separated from the gendarmeries, the interpreter and the servants accompanying him since the road was out of order, and the attack had taken place while he was talking to two individuals, a tribal chivalry captain and his servant. Thus, Belck appeared at the government office and reported that he did not suspect the gendarmeries and his injury was healed, and the necessary investigation to catch the suspects was underway.7

  • 8 DH.MKT. 2134/71, 1 Recep 1316/15 November 1898.

8Another report written to the Grand Vizier on 15 November 1898 repeats the same content and also includes a report received from the German embassy, which states that the incident concerning the injury of Monsieur Belck resulted from the thought that the German consul was a friend of the Armenians. According to the questioning before the governor, the perpetrator of the injury was Ahmet Bey, the son of Sultan Bey, who was the nephew of Hüseyin Pasha, the leader of the Haydaranlı tribe. Some of Belck’s belongings were found at the house of Hacı Temur Pasha, and Hüseyin Pasha Regiments (Klein, 2016, pp. 152-168) was also involved in the incident. However, the case was not closed; the pasha was asked to be sent to exile, the suspects to be disciplined, and the injured to be paid compensation; while the province of Van was also asked to inquire about the situation. The letter sent in response contained the identities of the suspects, which were Hacı Temur Pashazade Kasım Agha of the Haydaranlı tribe and his servant, and also remarked that a sufficient number of soldiers were sent to bring them to Van. Doctor Belck was also asked to help prove the suspicions about the pasha, and the truth would be revealed as soon as the suspects arrived at the province. In the letter it was also emphasized that Belck was a good person, he would not be an accessory to others’ agenda against Hüseyin Pasha, and no objections from Hüseyin Pasha would be allowed. Meanwhile, Belck and his friends were in the district of Çatak for exploration; they would return in a week and thus the result would be reported.8

  • 9 İ.ML. 30/76, 26 Şevval 1316/9 March 1899.

9An encrypted telegram from Van dated 4 Şubat 1314/26 February 1899 reads that 50 thousand liras and three medjidies, in addition to the money and belongings that were stolen and could not be taken back, would be paid from the provincial financial office.9

  • 10 Y.PRK.UM. 46/62, 28 Muharrem 1317/8 June 1899.

10A telegram dated 23 Mayıs 1315/4 June 1899 and sent to the Van province is also about this investigation. In response to this telegram, the governor of Van explains the situation briefly: Monsieur Belck wrote a telegram to the consulate as ordered. The trial has started but the British consul to Van whose presence was deemed necessary stated in his telegram from Muş in response that he would come tomorrow and thus the issue would be resolved within four days.10

11Archive documents make it clear that the investigation of the incident went on after the completion of Belck’s treatment. Belck continued his work during the investigations. When he was called for the trial of the robbers, Belck was studying the Topzava stele in Revanduz-Sidikan and its environs. However he returned to Van from Revanduz for the trials (Belck & Virchow, 1899, p. 99).

  • 11 Y.PRK.UM. 47/132, 18 Cemazeyilevvel 1317/24 September 1899.

12A telegram sent from the province of Van on 12 Eylül 1315/24 September 1899, states that an old map of Armenia produced by Kiepert and a book about the conversion of several churches into mosques during the conflicts were found among the belongings of Doctor Belck. In response to this, Belck stated that he brought the book with him in order to reveal that the claim toward the conversion of churches to mosques was unfounded and to refute it, and that he would proceed to Bitlis and Erzurum, and asked for the necessary actions to be taken.11

  • 12 Y.MTV. 207/57, 13 Cemazeyilahir 1318/8 October 1900.

13Another document dated 13 Eylül 1316/26 September 1900 includes details from the results of the investigation. It reads that the verdict on Captain Hacı Temur Pashazade Kasım Agha of the 24th Regiment of Hamidiye Light Cavalry and his friend Fermo for injuring German Doctor Waldemar Belck, who held a permit of research for ancient artifacts at Mount Sipan and for robbing his belongings, was sent to the Military Court. In this respect, the report and detailed documents of the Military Court held that the injury was perpetrated by Captain Kasım Agha and his friend Fermo, that the injured man was robbed as Kasım Agha admitted, and some of the robbed belongings were taken back from him. Therefore, the verdict held that, in accordance with the article 221 of the criminal code, Captain Kasım Agha would be dismissed from the military and put to hard labour in Van. As there was no record of his friend Fermo being a member of the Hamidiye Regiments, in accordance with the same article and as a partner-in-crime, he was put to hard labour for three years in Van if he was a member of the military, and was to be prosecuted by the court in Van if he was a member of the Hamidiye Regiments. As Kasım Agha’s crime corresponded with the addendum to the article 62 of the penal code, he was to be severed from the military and submitted to civil service to do hard labour in the Ergani quarries for three years. When members of the Hamidiye Regiments were not under arms at the time they committed a crime, they were ordinarily treated as regular people; therefore the legal procedure for Kasım Agha’s friend Fermo had to be carried out by the Van court even if he was a member of the Hamidiye Regiments, as the conduct of the judgment belongs to Local Government.12

  • 13 Y.PRK.BŞK. 63/24, 13 Cemazeyilahir 1318/8 October 1900.

14Another document dated 5 Eylül 1316/8 October 1900 mentions the dismissal of Captain Kasım Agha of the 24th Hamidiye Regiment who injured and robbed Belck and his submission to civil service to be put to hard labour in the Ergani quarry for three years and the transfer of the legal proceedings about his friend Amadon Fermo to the office of the prosecutor in Van.13

  • 14 DH.MKT. 477/52, 3 Muharrem 1320/12 April 1902.

15A telegram sent to the Foreign Ministry mentions that, in addition to the trial of and verdict on Kasım Agha and Amadon Fermo discussed above, a payment was to be made to Belck. This document records the order by the Sultan stating that Doctor Belck would be paid one thousand liras on 1317/1902 as compensation for his injury during his travels in Anatolia.14

  • 15 DH.MKT. 477/52, 3 Muharrem 1320/12 April 1902.
  • 16 İ.HR. 379/17, 20 Rabiulahir 1320/27 Temmuz 1902.

16Another document sent to the Foreign Ministry, which repeats the contents of the telegram sent to the Ministry of the Interior,15 is concerned with the compensation of the damage suffered by Belck. The document states that the Sultan ordered in 1902 that one thousand liras were paid to Belck as compensation, and that 1500 liras should be given to him to appease him as he was attacked by a person from the military, as the compensation was not given for three years, and as he was not in good health, all of which would increase the compensation.16

17Furthermore, Lehmann-Haupt stated that the Hamidiye responsible for this incident consisted of irregular Kurdish cavalry units similar to the Russian Kazaks (Lehmann-Haupt, 1900, pp. 96-97). He stated that these Hamidiye units meant only that 150.000 armed robbers were clothed and legitimized. Therefore, the perpetrator being a Hamidiye captain made it difficult to investigate and punish the crime. We also learn that Belck’s belongings and notebook were returned to him after a while. He also received a significant amount as compensation and the robber was not given a punishment that was proportional with his crime (Lehmann-Haupt, 1926, pp. 56-57). After this incident, the Ottoman government increased the number of gendarmeries that accompanied Belck during his research. We see that Belck, who survived by chance, continued his work without interruption after this incident. So much that, we see him traveling from the areas where he continued his research to Van to appear in the trials.

Conclusion

  • 17 DH.MKT. 2134/71, 1 Recep 1316/15 Kasım 1898.

18Archived materials give us information about the injury that Belck suffered in 1898 and the results of the trials. The accounts of the incident concerning the injury Belck suffered on the ear by a bullet shot by a Hamidiye commander, while he got separated from his friends as well as the robbery of his belongings, which we read about in the documents that cover the years between 1898 and 1902 correspond with the accounts of Belck and Lehmann. However, we see that the doubts about the identity of the people who fired shots at Belck were not completely cleared. The document dated 15 November 1898 includes the contents of a report from the German embassy. This report states that the person who caused the injury was Ahmet Bey, a son of Sultan Bey, who was a nephew of Hüseyin Pasha, the chief of the Haydaranlı tribe.17 However, Belck’s doubts about the perpetrators of the incident were ignored during the investigations and it was concluded that Haydaranlı Hacı Temur Pashazade Kasım Agha and Amadon Fermo were the perpetrators. Kasım Agha, a captain of the 24th Hamidiye regiment, and Amadon Fermo were heard and it was decided that Belck would be paid a compensation.

19To conclude, it is understood that Belck was attacked for murder and robbery. The targeting of Belck after he got separated from the gendarmeries responsible for protecting him indicates that he had been followed. Thus, it is possible to say that Belck’s research activities in the region were tried to be prevented through the Hamidiye Regiments. However, the Hamidiye troops are known to have acted independently in the region. Belck conducted research in the region between 1891 and 1898, and encountered such an attack in 1898, which is a harbinger of the socio-political changes in the region. The fact that this incident was realized by people from the Hamidiye troops, indicates that the aforementioned troops acted independently in the region. However, it cannot be said that such attacks are common and target other researchers who have also made investigations in the region. It is understood that this incident resolved quickly, especially in the context of Ottoman-German relations. As a matter of fact, we see that Belck continued his research where he left off.

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Bibliographie

Ainsworth, W. F. (1842). Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, and Armenia. London: John W. Parker.

Belck, W. (1893). Archäologische Forschungen in Armenien. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 25, 61-82.

Belck, W. (1899a). Aus den Berichten über die armenische Expedition. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 31, 236-75.

Belck, W. (1899b). Sitzung vom 18. November 1899. Schlussbericht über die armenische Expetidion. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 31, 661-8.

Belck, W., & Lehmann, C. F. (1892a). Sitzung vom 15. October 1892. Mittheilung über weitere Ergebnisse ihrer Studien an den neugefundenen armenischen Keilinschriften. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 24, 477-88.

Belck, W., & Lehmann, C. F. (1892b). Ueber neuerlich aufgefundene Keilinschriften in russisch und türkisch Armenien. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 24, 122-52.

Belck, W., & Lehmann, C. F. (1898a). Sitzung vom 17. December 1898. Entdeckungen in Armenien. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 30, 568-92.

Belck, W., & Lehmann, C. F. (1898b). Sitzung vom 19. November 1898. Armenische Expedition. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 30, 522-7.

Belck, W., & Lehmann, C. F. (1898c). Sitzung vom 22. October 1898. Armenische Expedition. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 30, 414-6.

Belck, W., & Virchow, R. (1899). Die Rusas-Stele von Topsanä (Sidikan). Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 31, 99-132.

Genç, B. (2018). Archaeology of Destruction: Toprakkale. Iraq, 80, 113-137.

Genç, B. (2019). Waldemar Belck ve Carl Friedrich Lehmann’ın Araştırmaları. Colloquium Anatolicum, 18, 35-54.

Klein, J. (2016). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Lehmann-Haupt, C. F. (2015). Carl Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt and the Lehmann Family Secrets. In S. Fink, K. Eisterer, R. Rollinger, & D. Rupnow (Eds.), Carl Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt. Ein Forscherleben zwischen Orient und Okzident (pp. 5-29). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Lehmann-Haupt, C. F. (1900). Armenien und Nordmesopotamien in altertum und gegenwart; vortrag. Berlin.

Lehmann-Haupt, C. F. (1926). Armenien Einst und Jetzt II/1. Berlin: B. Behr’s Verlag.

Lehmann-Haupt, C. F. (1931). Armenien Einst und Jetzt Reisen und Forschungen II/2. Berlin and Leipzig: B. Behrs Verlag/Friedrich Feddersen.

Potts, D. T. (2017). Achievement and misfortune: On the life and death of Friedrich Eduard Schulz (1799-1829). Journal Asiatique, 305(2), 249-70.

Schachner, A. (2009). Assyriens Könige An Einer Der Quellen Des Tigris. Archaeologische Forschungen im Höhlensystem von Bırkleyn und am sogenannten Tigris-Tunnel. Tübingen: Ernst Wastmuth.

Virchow, R. (1891). Sitzung vom 21. November 1891. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 23, 810-1.

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Annexe

Abbreviations

BEO - Babıali Evrak Odası, Babıali Evrak Odası Evrakı - Documents in the Document Room of the Sublime Port.

DH.MKT - Dahiliye Nezâreti Mektubî Kalemi - Ministry of the Interior, Office of Correspondences

İ.HR - İrâde Hariciye - Foreign Affairs Command

İ.ML - İrâde Maliye - Treasury Command

Y.MTV - Yıldız Mütenevvi Maruzât Evrakı - Yıldız Beneficiary Petitions

Y.PRK.BŞK - Yıldız Perakende, Başkitâbet Dairesi Evrakı - Yıldız Retail, Documents of the Chief Scribe

Y.PRK.UM - Yıldız Perakende, Umum Vilayetler - Yıldız Retail, General Provinces

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Notes

1 I would like to thank Dr. Vural Genç for the transcription of these documents.

2 DH. MKT. 1824/16, 21 Şaban 1308/1 April 1891.

3 BOA. İ.HR. 358/45, 16 Zilhicce 1315/8 May 1898.

4 BEO. 1122/84128, 20 Zilhicce 1315/12 May 1898.

5 The only known photograph of the inscription found to the northwest of Lake Van at Muş-Bulanık-Yoncalı was published by Lehmann-Haupt. The present location of the inscription, which looks like a limestone block or stele fragment, is unknown.

6 The Hamidiye Regiments were a branch of the Ottoman Army, which was formed by Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) starting from the 1890s and which consisted of tribes in the Eastern Anatolian region.

7 DH.MKT. 2122/17, 7 Cemazeyilahir 1316/23 October 1898.

8 DH.MKT. 2134/71, 1 Recep 1316/15 November 1898.

9 İ.ML. 30/76, 26 Şevval 1316/9 March 1899.

10 Y.PRK.UM. 46/62, 28 Muharrem 1317/8 June 1899.

11 Y.PRK.UM. 47/132, 18 Cemazeyilevvel 1317/24 September 1899.

12 Y.MTV. 207/57, 13 Cemazeyilahir 1318/8 October 1900.

13 Y.PRK.BŞK. 63/24, 13 Cemazeyilahir 1318/8 October 1900.

14 DH.MKT. 477/52, 3 Muharrem 1320/12 April 1902.

15 DH.MKT. 477/52, 3 Muharrem 1320/12 April 1902.

16 İ.HR. 379/17, 20 Rabiulahir 1320/27 Temmuz 1902.

17 DH.MKT. 2134/71, 1 Recep 1316/15 Kasım 1898.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Waldemar Belck, and Urartian pithoi behind, possibly in Van
Crédits Schachner, 2009, p. 260, Abb. 248
URL http://journals.openedition.org/anatoliaantiqua/docannexe/image/1376/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 724k
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Bülent Genç, « Why Was Waldemar Belck Shot? »Anatolia Antiqua, XXVIII | 2020, 89-96.

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Bülent Genç, « Why Was Waldemar Belck Shot? »Anatolia Antiqua [En ligne], XXVIII | 2020, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2022, consulté le 31 janvier 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/anatoliaantiqua/1376 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/anatoliaantiqua.1376

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Auteur

Bülent Genç

Mardin Artuklu University, Faculty of Letters Department of Archaeology, Turkey
bulendgenc@hotmail.com

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