Definitions

Armenian genocide Day

Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide (Հայոց Ցեղասպանութիւն, Ermeni Soykırımı), also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, by Armenians, the Great Calamity (Մեծ Եղեռն)—refers to the accussed and so-called by their propenents deliberate and systematic destruction (genocide) of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was supposed to have been characterised by the use of massacre, and the use of deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of Armenian deaths generally held to have been between one and one-and-a-half million. But, numbers seem to change as other more serious genocide take place in the world. Other ethnic groups are though to have been similarly attacked by the Empire during this period, including Assyrians and Greeks, and some scholars consider the events to be part of the same policy of extermination.

It is though by some to have been one of the first modern, systematic genocides, as many Western sources point to the sheer scale of the death toll as evidence for a systematic, organized plan to eliminate the Armenians.

The date of the onset of the so-called genocide is conventionally held to be April 24, 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities suppossedly arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The Republic of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, does not accept the word genocide as an accurate description of the events. In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the suppossed events occurring as genocide. To date, twenty-one countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, and most scholars and historians accept this view. The majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of the Armenian genocide.

Prelude

Life under Ottoman rule

In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Muslim dhimmi system, Armenians, as Christians, were guaranteed limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were treated as second-class citizens. Christians and Jews were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law. They were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses, their houses could not overlook those of Muslims, and their religious practices would have to defer to those of Muslims, in addition to various other legal limitations. Violation of these statutes could result in punishments ranging from the levying of fines to execution.

The three major European powers, Great Britain, France and Russia (known as the Great Powers), took issue with the Empire's treatment of its Christian minorities and increasingly pressured the Ottoman government (also known as the Sublime Porte) to extend equal rights to all its citizens. Beginning in 1839, the Ottoman government implemented the Tanzimat reforms to improve the situation of minorities, although these would prove largely ineffective. By the late 1870s, Greece, along with several countries of the Balkans, frustrated with conditions, had, often with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule. Armenians, for the most part, remained passive during these years, earning them the title of millet-i sadıka or the "loyal millet.

The Duke of Argyll called the Ottoman government ". . . a Government incurably barbarous and corrupt.

Reform implementation, 1860s–1880s

In the mid-1860s to early 1870s, Armenians began to ask for better treatment from the Ottoman government. After amassing the signatures of peasants from eastern Anatolia, the Armenian Communal Council had petitioned to the Ottoman government to redress the issues that the peasants complained about: "the looting and murder in Armenian towns by [Muslim] Kurds and Circassians, improprieties during tax collection, criminal behavior by government officials and the refusal to accept Christians as witnesses in trial. The Ottoman government considered these grievances and promised to punish those responsible.

Following the violent suppression of Christians in the uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Serbia in 1875, the Great Powers invoked the 1856 Treaty of Paris by claiming that it gave them the right to intervene and protect the Ottoman Empire's Christian minorities. Under growing pressure, the government declared itself a constitutional monarchy (which was almost immediately dissolved) and entered into negotiations with the powers. At the same time, the Armenian patriarchate of Constantinople, Nerses II, forwarded Armenian complaints of widespread "forced land seizure ... forced conversion of women and children, arson, protection extortion, rape, and murder" to the Powers.

After the conclusion of the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War, Armenians began to look more towards Tsarist Russia as the guarantors of their security. Nerses approached the Russian leadership during its negotiations with the Ottomans in San Stefano and in the eponymous treaty, convinced them to insert a clause, Article 16, that stipulated that Russian forces occupying the Armenian provinces would only withdraw with the full implementation of Ottoman reforms. Great Britain was troubled with Russia holding on to so much Ottoman territory and forced it to enter into new negotiations with the convening of the Congress of Berlin on June 13, 1878. Armenians also entered into these negotiations and stated that they sought autonomy, not independence from the Ottoman Empire. They partially succeeded as Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin contained the same text as Article 16 but removed any mention that Russian forces would remain in the provinces; instead, the Ottoman government was to periodically inform the Great Powers of the progress of the reforms.

The Hamidian Massacres, 1894–1896

In 1876, the Ottoman government was led by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. From the beginning of the reform period after the signing of the Berlin treaty, Hamid II attempted to stall their implementation and asserted that Armenians did not make up a majority in the provinces and that Armenian reports of abuses were largely exaggerated or false. In 1890, Hamid II created a paramilitary outfit known as the Hamidiye which was made up of Kurdish irregulars who were tasked to "deal with the Armenians as he wished. As Ottoman officials intentionally provoked rebellions (often as a result of over-taxation) in Armenian populated towns, such as the Sasun Resistance in 1894, these regiments were increasingly used to deal with the Armenians by way of oppression and massacre. Armenians successfully fought off the regiments and brought the excesses to the attention of the Great Powers in 1895 who subsequently condemned the Porte.

The Powers forced Hamid to sign a new reform package designed to curtail the powers of the Hamidiye in October 1895 but like the Berlin treaty, was never implemented. On October 1, 1895, 2,000 Armenians assembled in Constantinople to petition for the implementation of the reforms but Ottoman police units converged towards the rally and violently broke it up. Soon, massacres of Armenians broke out in Constantinople and then engulfed the rest of the Armenian populated provinces of Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Harput, Sivas, Trebizond and Van. Estimates differ on how many Armenians were killed but European documentation of the violence, which became known as the Hamidian massacres, placed the figures from anywhere between 100,000–300,000 Armenians.

Although Hamid was never directly implicated for ordering the massacres, he was suspected for their tacit approval and for not acting to end them. Frustrated with European indifference to the massacres, Armenians from the Dashnaktsutiun political party seized the European managed Ottoman Bank on August 26, 1896. This incident brought further sympathy for Armenians in Europe and was lauded by the European and American press, which vilified Hamid and painted him as the "great assassin" and "bloody Sultan. While the Great Powers vowed to take action and enforce new reforms, these never came into fruition due to conflicting political and economical interests.

Dissolution of the Empire

The Young Turk Revolution, 1908

On July 24, 1908, Armenians' hopes for equality in the empire brightened once more when a coup d'état staged by officers in the Turkish Third Army based in Salonika, removed Hamid II from power and restored the country back to a constitutional monarchy. The officers were part of the Young Turk movement that wanted to reform administration of the decadent state of the Ottoman Empire and modernize it to European standards. The movement was an anti-Hamidian coalition made up of two distinct groups: the secular liberal constitutionalists and the nationalists; the former was more democratic and accepted Armenians into their wing whereas the latter was more intolerant in regard to Armenian-related issues and their frequent requests for European assistance. In 1902, during a congress of the Young Turks held in Paris, the heads of the liberal wing, Sabahheddin Bey and Ahmed Riza, partially persuaded the nationalists to include in their objectives to ensure some rights to all the minorities of the empire.

Among the numerous factions of the Young Turks also included the political organization Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Originally a secret society made up of army officers based in Salonika, the CUP proliferated amongst military circles as more army mutinies took place throughout the empire. In 1908, elements of the Third Army and the Second Army Corps declared their opposition to the Sultan and threatened to march on the capital to depose him. Hamid, shaken by the wave of resentment, stepped down from power as Armenians, Greeks, Arabs, Bulgarians and Turks alike rejoiced in his dethronement.

The Adana Massacre, 1909

A countercoup took place on April 13, 1909. Some Ottoman military elements, joined by Islamic theological students, aimed to return control of the country to the Sultan and the rule of Islamic law. Riots and fighting broke out between the reactionary forces and CUP forces, until the CUP was able to put down the uprising and court-martial the opposition leaders.

While the movement initially targeted the nascent Young Turk government, it spilled over into pogroms against Armenians who were perceived as having supported the restoration of the constitution. When Ottoman Army troops were called in, many accounts record that instead of trying to quell the violence they actually took part in pillaging Armenian enclaves in Adana province. 15,000–30,000 Armenians were killed in the course of the "Adana Massacre".

The Armenian Genocide, 1915–1917 period

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Minister of War Enver Pasha developed a plan to encircle and destroy the Russian Caucasus Army at Sarıkamış, to regain territories lost to Russia after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Enver Pasha's forces were routed at the Battle of Sarikamis, and almost completely destroyed. Returning to Constantinople, Enver publicly blamed his defeat on Armenians living in the region actively siding with the Russians.

Labor battalions, February 25

On February 25, 1915, The War minister Enver Pasha sent an order to all military units that Armenians in the active Ottoman forces be demobilized and assigned to the unarmed Labour battalion (Turkish: amele taburlari). Enver Pasha explained this decision as "out of fear that they would collaborate with the Russians". As a tradition, the Ottoman Army drafted non-Muslim males only between the ages of 20 and 45 into the regular army. The younger (15–20) and older (45–60) non-Muslim soldiers had always been used as logistical support through the labor battalions. Before February, some of the Armenian recruits were utilized as laborers (hamals), though they too would ultimately be executed.

Transferring Armenian conscripts from active field (armed) to passive, unarmed logistic section was an important aspect of the subsequent genocide. As reported in "The Memoirs of Naim Bey", the extermination of the Armenians in these battalions was part of a premeditated strategy on behalf of the Committee of Union and Progress. Many of these Armenian recruits were executed by local Turkish gangs.

Events at Van, April 1915

On April 19, 1915, Jevdet Bey demanded that the city of Van immediately furnish him 4,000 soldiers under the pretext of conscription. However, it was clear to the Armenian population that his goal was to massacre the able-bodied men of Van so that there would be no defenders. Jevdet Bey had already used his official writ in nearby villages, ostensibly to search for arms, which had turned into wholesale massacres. The Armenians offered five hundred soldiers and to pay exemption money for the rest in order to buy time, however, Djevdet accused Armenians of "rebellion," and spoke of his determination to "crush" it at any cost. "If the rebels fire a single shot," he declared, "I shall kill every Christian man, woman, and" (pointing to his knee) "every child, up to here."

On April 20, 1915, the armed conflict of the Van Resistance began when an Armenian woman was harassed, and the two Armenian men that came to her aid were killed by Turkish soldiers. The Armenian defenders protecting 30,000 residents and 15,000 refugees in an area of roughly one square kilometer of the Armenian Quarter and suburb of Aigestan with 1,500 able bodied riflemen who were supplied with 300 rifles and 1,000 pistols and antique weapons. The conflict lasted until General Yudenich came to rescue them.

Arrest and deportation of Armenian notables, April 1915

By 1914, Ottoman authorities had already begun a propaganda drive to present Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire as a threat to the empire's security. An Ottoman naval officer in the War Office described the planning:

On the night of April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government rounded-up and imprisoned an estimated 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. This date coincided with Allied troop landings at Gallipoli after unsuccessful Allied naval attempts to break through the Dardanelles to Constantinople in February and March 1915.

The Temporary Law of Deportation (the "Tehcir" law)

In May 1915, Mehmed Talat Pasha requested that the cabinet and Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha legalize a measure for relocation and settlement of Armenians to other places due to what Talat Pasha called "the Armenian riots and massacres, which had arisen in a number of places in the country." However, Talat Pasha was referring specifically to events in Van and extending the implementation to the regions in which alleged "riots and massacres" would affect the security of the war zone of the Caucasus Campaign. Later, the scope of the immigration was widened in order to include the Armenians in the other provinces. On 29 May 1915, the CUP Central Committee passed the Temporary Law of Deportation ("Tehcir Law"), giving the Ottoman government and military authorization to deport anyone it "sensed" as a threat to national security. The "Tehcir Law" brought some measures regarding the property of the deportees, but during September a new law was proposed. By means of the "Abandoned Properties" Law (Law Concerning Property, Dept's and Assets Left Behind Deported Persons, also referred as the "Temporary Law on Expropriation and Confiscation"), the Ottoman government took possession of all "abandoned" Armenian goods and properties. Ottoman parliamentary representative Ahmed Riza protested this legislation:

On 13 September 1915, the Ottoman parliament passed the "Temporary Law of Expropriation and Confiscation", stating that all property, including land, livestock, and homes belonging to Armenians, was to be confiscated by the authorities.

The deportation and extermination process

With the implementation of Tehcir law, the confiscation of Armenian property and the slaughter of Armenians that ensued upon the law's enactment outraged much of the western world. While the Ottoman Empire's wartime allies offered little protest, a wealth of German and Austrian historical documents has since come to attest to the witnesses' horror at the killings and mass starvation of Armenians. In the United States, The New York Times reported almost daily on the mass murder of the Armenian people, describing the process as "systematic", "authorized" and "organized by the government." Theodore Roosevelt would later characterize this as "the greatest crime of the war.

The Armenians were marched out to the Syrian town of Deir ez-Zor and the surrounding desert. A good deal of evidence suggests that the Ottoman government did not provide any facilities or supplies to sustain the Armenians during their deportation, nor when they arrived. By August 1915, The New York Times repeated an unattributed report that "the roads and the Euphrates are strewn with corpses of exiles, and those who survive are doomed to certain death. It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people."

Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians not only allowed others to rob, kill, and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves. Deprived of their belongings and marched into the desert, hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished.

It is believed that 25 major concentration camps existed, under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right hand-men of Talat Pasha. The majority of the camps were situated near Turkey's modern Iraqi and Syrian borders, and some were only temporary transit camps. Others, such as Radjo, Katma, and Azaz, are said to have been used only temporarily, for mass graves; these sites were vacated by autumn 1915. Some authors also maintain that the camps Lale, Tefridje, Dipsi, Del-El, and Ra's al-'Ain were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days.

Although nearly all the camps, including the primary sites, were open air, the remainder of the mass killing in minor camps was not limited to direct killings, but also to mass burning, poisoning and drowning.

Teşkilat-i Mahsusa

The Committee of Union and Progress founded a "special organization" (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa) that participated in the destruction of the Ottoman Armenian community. This organization adopted its name in 1913 and functioned like a special forces outfit, or the later Einsatzgruppen. Later in 1914, the Ottoman government influenced the direction the special organization was to take by releasing criminals from central prisons to be the central elements of this newly formed special organization. According to the Mazhar commissions attached to the tribunal as soon as November 1914, 124 criminals were released from Pimian prison. Many other releases followed; in Ankara a few months later, 49 criminals were released from its central prison. Little by little from the end of 1914 to the beginning of 1915, hundreds, then thousands of prisoners were freed to form the members of this organization. Later, they were charged to escort the convoys of Armenian deportees. Vehib Pasha, commander of the Ottoman Third Army, called those members of the special organization, the “butchers of the human species.”

Contemporaneous reports and reactions

Hundreds of eyewitnesses, including the neutral United States and the Ottoman Empire's own allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, recorded and documented numerous acts of state-sponsored massacres. Many foreign officials offered to intervene on behalf of the Armenians, including Pope Benedict XV, only to be turned away by Ottoman government officials who claimed they were retaliating against a pro-Russian insurrection. On May 24, 1915, the Triple Entente warned the Ottoman Empire that "In view of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE, or "Near East Relief") was a charitable organization established to relieve the suffering of the peoples of the Near East. The organization was championed by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Morgenthau's eyewitness accounts of the mass slaughter of Armenians galvanized much support for ACRNE.

The U.S. mission in the Ottoman Empire

The United States had several consulates throughout the Ottoman Empire, including locations in Edirne, Kharput, Samsun, Smyrna, Trebizond, Van, Constantinople, and Aleppo. The United States was officially a neutral party until it joined with the Allies in 1917. As the orders for deportations and massacres were enacted, many consular officials reported to the ambassador what they were witnessing. In September 1915 the American consul in Kharput, Leslie Davis, reported his discovery of the bodies of nearly 10,000 Armenians dumped into several ravines near Lake Göeljuk, later referring to this region as the "slaughterhouse province".

Similar reports reached Morgenthau from Aleppo and Van, prompting him to raise the issue in person with Talaat and Enver. As he quoted to them the testimonies of his consulate officials, they justified the deportations as necessary to the conduct of the war, suggesting that complicity of the Armenians of Van with the Russian forces that had taken the city justified the persecution of all ethnic Armenians. In his memoirs, Morgenthau wrote, "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact…

In addition to the consulates, there were also numerous Protestant missionary compounds established in Armenian-populated regions, including Van and Kharput. In memoirs and reports, their staff vividly described the brutal methods used by Ottoman forces and documented numerous instances of atrocities committed against the Christian minority.

The events were reported regularly in newspapers and literary journals around the world. Many Americans spoke out against the Genocide, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, rabbi Stephen Wise, William Jennings Bryan, and Alice Stone Blackwell. The American Near East Relief Committee helped donate over $110 million to the Armenians. In the United States and the United Kingdom, children were regularly reminded to clean their plates while eating and to "remember the starving Armenians".

Allied forces in the Middle East

On the Middle Eastern front, the British military engaged Ottoman forces in southern Syria and Mesopotamia. British diplomat Gertrude Bell filed the following report after hearing the account of a captured Ottoman soldier:

Reacting to numerous eyewitness accounts, British politician Viscount Bryce and historian Arnold J. Toynbee compiled statements from survivors and eyewitnesses from other countries including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, who similarly attested to the systematized massacring of innocent Armenians by Ottoman government forces. In 1916, they published The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916. Although the book has since been criticized as British wartime propaganda to build up sentiment against the Central Powers, Bryce had submitted the work to scholars for verification before its publication. University of Oxford Regius Professor Gilbert Murray stated of the tome, "…the evidence of these letters and reports will bear any scrutiny and overpower any skepticism. Their genuineness is established beyond question. Other professors, including Herbert Fisher of Sheffield University and former American Bar Association president Moorfield Storey, affirmed the same conclusion.

Winston Churchill described the massacres as an "administrative holocaust" and noted that "the clearance of race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act could be… There is no reason to doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race opposed to all Turkish ambitions.

The joint Austrian and German mission

As allies during the war, the Imperial German mission in the Ottoman Empire included both military and civilian components. Germany had brokered a deal with the Sublime Porte to commission the building of a railroad stretching from Berlin to the Middle East, called the Baghdad Railway.

Among the most famous persons to document the massacres was German military medic Armin T. Wegner. Wegner defied state censorship in taking hundreds of photographs of Armenians being deported and subsequently starving in northern Syrian camps.

German officers stationed in eastern Turkey disputed the government's assertion that Armenian revolts had broken out, suggesting that the areas were "quiet until the deportations began.

Germany's diplomatic mission was led by Ambassador Baron Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim (and later Count Paul Wolff Metternich). Like Morgenthau, von Wangenheim received many disturbing messages from consul officials around the Ottoman Empire. From the province of Adana, Consul Eugene Buge reported that the CUP chief had sworn to kill and massacre any Armenians who survived the deportation marches. In June 1915, von Wangenheim sent a cable to Berlin reporting that Talat had admitted the deportations were not "being carried out because of 'military considerations alone.'" One month later, he came to the conclusion that there "no longer was doubt that the Porte was trying to exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish Empire.

When Wolff-Metternich succeeded von Wangenheim, he continued to dispatch similar cables: "The Committee [CUP] demands the extirpation of the last remnants of the Armenians and the government must yield…. A Committee representative is assigned to each of the provincial administrations…. Turkification means license to expel, to kill or destroy everything that is not Turkish.

German engineers and laborers involved in building the railway also witnessed Armenians being crammed into cattle cars and shipped along the railroad line. Franz Gunther, a representative for Deutsche Bank which was funding the construction of the Baghdad Railway, forwarded photographs to his directors and expressed his frustration at having to remain silent amid such "bestial cruelty". Major General Otto von Lossow, acting military attaché and head of the German Military Plenipotentiary in the Ottoman Empire, spoke to Ottoman intentions in a conference held in Batum in 1918:

Similarly, Major General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein noted that "The Turkish policy of causing starvation is an all too obvious proof… for the Turkish resolve to destroy the Armenians. Another notable figure in the German military camp was Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, who documented various massacres of Armenians. He sent fifteen reports regarding "deportations and mass killings" to Germany's chancellor in Berlin. His final report noted that fewer than 100,000 Armenians were left alive in the Ottoman Empire; the rest had been exterminated (ausgerottet). Scheubner-Richter also detailed the methods of the Ottoman government, noting its use of the Special Organization and other bureaucratized instruments of genocide.

Some Germans openly supported the Ottoman policy against the Armenians. As Hans Humann, the German naval attaché in Constantinople said to U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau:

In a genocide conference in 2001, professor Wolfgang Wipperman of the Free University of Berlin introduced documents evidencing that the German High Command was aware of the mass killings at the time but chose not to interfere or speak out.

Russian military

The Russian Empire's response to the bombardment of its Black Sea naval ports was primarily a land campaign through the Caucasus. Early victories against the Ottoman Empire from the winter of 1914 to the spring 1915 saw significant gains of territory, including relieving the Armenian bastion resisting in the city of Van in May 1915. The Russians also reported encountering the bodies of unarmed civilian Armenians in the areas they advanced through. In March 1916, the scenes they saw in the city of Erzerum led the Russians to retaliate against the Ottoman IIIrd Army whom they held responsible for the massacres, destroying it in its entirety.

The Aftermath

Turkish courts-martial

Domestic courts-martial were designed by Sultan Mehmed VI to punish members of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in Turkish:"Ittihat Terakki" for involving the Empire in World War I. The courts-martial blamed the members of CUP for pursuing a war that did not fit into the notion of Millet. The Armenian issue was used as a tool to punish the leaders of the CUP. Most of the documents generated in these courts were later moved to international trials. By January 1919, a report to Sultan Mehmed VI accused over 130 suspects, most of whom were high officials. The military court found that it was the will of the CUP to eliminate the Armenians physically, via its special organization. The 1919 pronouncement reads as follows:

The term Three Pashas, which include Mehmed Talat Pasha and Ismail Enver, refers to the triumvirate who had fled the Empire at the end of World War I. At the trials in Constantinople in 1919 they were sentenced to death in absentia. The courts-martial officially disbanded the CUP and confiscated its assets, and the assets of those found guilty. At least two of the three were later assassinated by Armenian vigilantes.

International trials

Following the Mudros Armistice, the preliminary Peace Conference in Paris established "The Commission on Responsibilities and Sanctions" in January 1919, which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Lansing. Based on the commission's work, several articles were added to the Treaty of Sèvres, and the acting government of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmed VI and Damat Adil Ferit Pasha, were summoned to trial. The Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920) planned a trial to determine those responsible for the "barbarous and illegitimate methods of warfare… [including] offenses against the laws and customs of war and the principles of humanity". Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres required the Ottoman Empire "hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914."

Various Ottoman politicians, generals, and intellectuals were transfered to Malta, where they were held for some three years while searches were made of archives in Constantinople, London, Paris and Washington to investigate their actions. However, the Inter-allied tribunal attempt demanded by the Treaty of Sèvres never solidified and the detainees were eventually returned to Turkey in exchange for British citizens held by Kemalist Turkey.

Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian

On March 15, 1921, former Grand Vizier Talat Pasha was assassinated in the Charlottenburg District of Berlin, Germany, in broad daylight and in the presence of many witnesses. Talat's death was part of "Operation Nemesis", the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's codename for their covert operation in the 1920s to kill the planners of the Armenian Genocide.

The subsequent trial of the assassin, Soghomon Tehlirian, had an important influence on Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent who campaigned in the League of Nations to ban what he called "barbarity" and "vandalism", and, in 1943, coined the word genocide.

Armenian deaths, 1914 to 1918

While there is no consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide, there is general agreement among western scholars that over 500,000 Armenians died between 1914 and 1918. Estimates vary between 300,000 (per the modern Turkish state) to 1,500,000 (per modern Armenia, Argentina, and other states). Encyclopædia Britannica references the research of Arnold J. Toynbee, an intelligence officer of the British Foreign Office, who estimated that 600,000 Armenians "died or were massacred during deportation" in the years 1915–1916.

The study of the Armenian Genocide

Hebrew University scholar Yehuda Bauer suggests of the Armenian Genocide, "This is the closest parallel to the Holocaust." He nonetheless distinguishes several key differences between the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, particularly in regard to motivation:

Bauer has also suggested that the Armenian Genocide is best understood, not as having begun in 1915, but rather as "an ongoing genocide, from 1896, through 1908/9, through World War I and right up to 1923." Lucy Dawidowicz also alludes to these earlier massacres as at least as significant as WWI era events:

Law professor Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term "genocide" in 1943, has stated that he did so with the fate of the Armenians in mind, explaining that "it happened so many times… First to the Armenians, then after the Armenians, Hitler took action. Several international organizations have conducted studies of the events, each in turn determining that the term "genocide" aptly describes "the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916." Among the organizations affirming this conclusion are the International Center for Transitional Justice, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and the United Nations' Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

In 2002, the International Center for Transitional Justice was asked by the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission to provide a report on the applicability of the Genocide Convention to the controversy. The ICTJ report ruled that it was a genocide, and further that the Republic of Turkey was not liable for the event.

In 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Turkey, affirmed that scholarly evidence revealed the "Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens – an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches" and condemned Turkish attempts to deny its factual and moral reality. In 2007, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity produced a letter signed by 53 Nobel Laureates re-affirming the Genocide Scholars' conclusion that the 1915 killings of Armenians constituted genocide.

While some consider denial to be a form of hate speech or politically-minded historical revisionism, several western academics have expressed doubts as to the genocidal character of the events. The most important counterpoint may be that of British scholar Bernard Lewis. While he had once written of "the terrible holocaust of 1915, when a million and a half Armenians perished", he later came to believe that the term "genocide" was distinctly inaccurate, because the "tremendous massacres" were not "a deliberate preconceived decision of the Turkish government. This opinion has been joined by Guenter Lewy.

Academic views within the Republic of Turkey are often at odds with international consensus: this may partly stem from the fact that to acknowledge the Armenian genocide in Turkey carries with it a risk of criminal prosecution. Many Turkish intellectuals have been prosecuted for characterizing the massacres as genocide, including Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who was prosecuted three times for "denigrating Turkishness" for his having criticized the Turkish state's denial of the Armenian Genocide. In 2007, Dink was murdered by a Turkish nationalist. Later, photographs of the assassin being honored as a hero while in police custody, posing in front of the Turkish flag with grinning policemen, gave the academic community still more pause in regard to engaging the Armenian issue.

Egyptian-born scholar Bat Ye'or has suggested, "The genocide of the Armenians was a jihad. Ye'or contends that the Islamic concepts of dhimmitude and jihad were among the "principles and values" that led to the Armenian Genocide. This perspective is challenged by Fà'iz el-Ghusein, a Bedouin Arab witness of the Armenian persecution, whose 1918 treatise on the events aimed "to refute beforehand inventions and slanders against the Faith of Islam and against Moslems generally ... [W]hat the Armenians have suffered is to be attributed to the Committee of Union and Progress, who deal with the empire as they please; it has been due to their nationalist fanaticism and their jealousy of the Armenians, and to these alone; the Faith of Islam is guiltless of their deeds.

Noam Chomsky has suggested that, rather than the Armenian Genocide having been relegated to the periphery of public awareness, "more people are aware of the Armenian genocide during the First World War than are aware of the Indonesian genocide in 1965". Taner Akcam's A Shameful Act has contextualized the Armenian Genocide with the desperate Ottoman struggle at Gallipoli, suggesting that panic of imminent destruction caused Ottoman authorities to opt for deportation and extermination.

The Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

The Republic of Turkey's formal stance is that the deaths of Armenians during the "relocation" or "deportation" cannot aptly be deemed "genocide," a position that has been supported with a plethora of diverging justifications: that the killings were not deliberate or were not governmentally orchestrated, that the killings were justified because Armenians posed a Russian-sympathizing threat as a cultural group, that Armenians merely starved, or any of various characterizations recalling marauding "Armenian gangs. Some suggestions seek to invalidate the genocide on semantic or anachronistic grounds (the word "genocide" was not coined until 1943).

Turkish World War I casualty figures are often cited to mitigate the effect of the number of Armenian dead. The website of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey currently features a section entitled Archive Documents about the Atrocities and Genocide Inflicted upon Turks by Armenians, suggesting that the Turks of Anatolia experienced a genocide at the hands of the Armenians. This report notes that there were many Russian Armenians serving in the Russian Army against the Ottoman Army, suggesting that "Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman army deserted with their arms and having joined the Russian forces they formed voluntary units or armed bands. It further suggests that the Russian Empire intended "to annex Anatolia by using Armenians", and characterizes several infamous massacres of Armenians in the pre-World War I era as "uprisings", "rebellions" or "incidents". The text suggests that accounts of the Armenian Genocide are anti-Turkish, and argues that the Turkish and Ottoman Archives are of overriding importance and the only source of "true historical information".

Turkish governmental sources have asserted that the historically-demonstrated "tolerance of Turkish people" itself renders the Armenian Genocide an impossibility. One military document leverages 11th century history to disprove the Armenian Genocide: "It was the Seljuk Turks who saved the Armenians that came under the Turkish domination in 1071 from the Byzantine persecution and granted them the right to live as a man should." A Der Spiegel article addressed this modern Turkish conception of history thus:

In 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited Turkish, Armenian and international historians to form a commission to re-evaluate the "events of 1915" (his preferred description) by using archives in Turkey, Armenia and other countries. Armenian president Robert Kocharian responded,

It is the responsibility of governments to develop bilateral relations and we do not have the right to delegate that responsibility to historians. That is why we have proposed and propose again that, without pre-conditions, we establish normal relations between our two countries.

The Turkish government continues to protest the formal recognition of the genocide by other countries, and to dispute that there ever was a genocide.

Controversies

Efforts by the Turkish government and its agents to quash mention of the genocide have resulted in numerous scholarly, diplomatic, political and legal controversies. Prosecutors acting on their own initiative have utilized Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code prohibiting "insulting Turkishness" to silence a number of prominent Turkish intellectuals who spoke of atrocities suffered by Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. These prosecutions have often been accompanied by hate campaigns and threats, as was the case for Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian intellectual murdered in 2007. The leading lawyer behind the prosecutions, Kemal Kerincsiz, is under investigation for complicity in the underground Ergenekon network.

In 1982, the Israeli Foreign Ministry attempted to prevent an international conference on genocide, held in Tel Aviv, from including any mention of the Armenian Genocide. Several reports suggested that Turkey had warned that Turkish Jews might face "reprisals", if the conference permitted Armenian participation. This charge was "categorically denied" by Turkey; the Israeli Foreign Ministry supported Turkey in this protestation that there had been no threats against Jews, suggesting that its misgivings as to the genocide conference were based on considerations "vital to the Jewish nation".

A 1989 U.S. Senate proposal to recognize the Armenian Genocide stoked the ire of Turkey. The proposal occurred in the context of the publication of internal U.S. documents which laid out a State Department official's eyewitness report that "thousands and thousands of Armenians, mostly innocent and helpless women and children, were butchered", in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey responded by blocking U.S. Navy visits to Turkey and suspending some U.S. military training facilities on Turkish territory. The American scholar who assembled the U.S. archive documents for publication went into hiding after a series of anonymous threats.

In 1990, psychologist Robert Jay Lifton received a letter from the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, questioning his inclusion of references to the Armenian Genocide in one of his books. The ambassador inadvertently included a draft of the letter, presented by scholar Heath Lowry, advising the ambassador on how to prevent mention of the Armenian Genocide in scholarly works. In 1996, Lowry was named to a chair at Princeton University, which had been financed by the Turkish government, sparking a debate on ethics in scholarship.

Armenia and the Armenian Genocide

Armenia has been involved in a protracted ethnic-territorial conflict with Azerbaijan, a Turkic state, since they became independent in 1991. The conflict has featured several pogroms, massacres, and waves of ethnic cleansing, by both sides. Some foreign policy observers and historians have suggested that Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have sought to affect policy-making in the modern Caucasus conflict, by suggesting that the modern conflict is a continuation of the Armenian Genocide. According to Thomas Ambrosio, the Armenian Genocide furnishes "a reserve of public sympathy and moral legitimacy that translates into significant political influence... to elicit congressional support for anti-Azerbaijan policies."

The rhetoric leading up to the onset of the conflict, which unfolded in the context of several pogroms of Armenians, was dominated by references to the Armenian Genocide, including fears that it would be, or was in the course of being, repeated. During the conflict, the Azeri and Armenian governments regularly accused each other of genocidal intent, although these claims have been treated skeptically by outside observers.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

As a response to the continuing denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish State, many activists among Armenian Diaspora communities have pushed for formal recognition of the Armenian genocide from various governments around the world. 21 countries and 42 U.S. states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event.

Commemoration

Memorials

In 1965, the 50th anniversary of the genocide, a 24-hour mass protest was initiated in Yerevan demanding recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Soviet authorities. The memorial was completed two years later, at Tsitsernakaberd above the Hrazdan gorge in Yerevan. The stele symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians. Twelve slabs are positioned in a circle, representing 12 lost provinces in present day Turkey. At the center of the circle there is an eternal flame. Each April 24, hundreds of thousands of people walk to the genocide monument and lay flowers around the eternal flame.

Another memorial, at Alfortville, Paris, was bombed on May 3, 1984, by a hit-team headed by Grey Wolves member Abdullah Catli and paid by the Turkish MIT intelligence agency .

Art

The earliest example of the Armenian genocide on art was a medal issued in St. Petersburg, signifying Russian sympathy for Armenian suffering. It was struck in 1915, as the massacres and deportations were still raging. Since then, dozens of medals in different countries have been commissioned to commemorate the event.

Several eyewitness accounts of the events were published, notably those of Swedish missionary Alma Johansson and U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. German medic Armin Wegner wrote several books about the events he witnessed while stationed in the Ottoman Empire. Years later, having returned to Germany, Wegner was imprisoned for opposing Nazism, and his books were subjected to Nazi book burnings. Probably the best known literary work on the Armenian Genocide is Franz Werfel's 1933 The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. It was a bestseller that became particularly popular among the youth of the Jewish ghettos during the Nazi era.

Kurt Vonnegut's 1988 novel Bluebeard features the Armenian Genocide as an underlying theme. Other novels incorporating the Armenian Genocide include Louis de Berniéres' Birds without Wings, Edgar Hilsenrath's German-language The Story of the Last Thought, and Polish Stefan Żeromski's 1925 The Spring to Come. A story in Edward Saint-Ivan's 2006 anthology "The Black Knight's God" includes a fictional survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

The first film about the Armenian Genocide appeared in 1919, a Hollywood production entitled Ravished Armenia. It resonated with acclaimed director Atom Egoyan, influencing his 2002 Ararat. There are also references in Elia Kazan's America, America or Henri Verneuil's Mayrig. At the Berlin Film Festival of 2007 Italian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani presented another film about the events, based on Antonia Arslan's book, La Masseria Delle Allodole (The Farm of the Larks). Richard Kalinoski's play, Beast on the Moon, is about two Armenian Genocide survivors. The works of Arshile Gorky, an Armenian expatriate whose mother starved to death in the genocide, were often speculated to have been informed by the suffering and loss of the period. Gorky was a seminal figure of Abstract Expressionism.

In 1975, famous French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour recorded the song "Ils sont tombés" ("They Fell"), dedicated to the memory of Armenian Genocide victims.

American composer and singer Daniel Decker has achieved critical acclaim for his collaborations with Armenian composer Ara Gevorgyan. The song "Adana", named for the province of a 1909 pogrom of the Armenian people, tells the story of the Armenian Genocide. "Adana" has been translated into 17 languages and recorded by singers around the world.

The band System of a Down, composed of four descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, has promoted awareness of the Armenian Genocide, through its lyrics and concerts.

In late 2003, Diamanda Galás released the album Defixiones, Will and Testament: Orders from the Dead, an 80-minute memorial tribute to the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek victims of the genocide in Turkey. "The performance is an angry meditation on genocide and the politically cooperative denial of it, in particular the Turkish and American denial of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Anatolian Greek genocides from 1914 to 1923".

Documentary films

  • 1975 – The Forgotten Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 1983 – Assignment Berlin (dir. Hrayr Toukhanian)
  • 1988 – An Armenian Journey (dir. Theodore Bogosian)
  • 1988 – Back To Ararat (dirs. Jim Downing, Göran Gunér, Per-Åke Holmquist, Suzanne Khardalian)
  • 1990 – General Andranik (dir. Levon Mkrtchyan)
  • 2000 – I Will Not Be Sad in This World (dir. Karina Epperlein)
  • 2002 - Ararat (dir. Atom Egoyan)
  • 2003 – Germany and the Secret Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 2003 – Voices From the Lake: A Film About the Secret Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 2003 – Desecration (dir. Hrair "Hawk" Khatcherian)
  • 2003 – The Armenian Genocide: A Look Through Our Eyes (dir. Vatche Arabian)
  • 2005 – Hovhannes Shiraz (dir. Levon Mkrtchyan)
  • 2006 – The Armenian Genocide (dir. Andrew Goldberg)
  • 2006 – Screamers (dir. Carla Garapedian)
  • 2007 - La Masseria Delle Allodole (dir. Taviani brothers)

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Akçam, Taner, From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zed Books, 2004
  • Akçam, Taner. A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. Metropolitan Books, 2006
  • Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: Perennial, 2003
  • Bartov, Omer, Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide and Modern Identity, Oxford Univ. Press, 2000
  • Dadrian, Vahakn, N. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus Berghahn Books, 1995
  • Dündar, Fuat, Ittihat ve Terakki'nin Müslümanlari Iskan Politikasi (1913–18), Iletisim, 2001
  • Fisk, Robert, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East London: Alfred Knopf, 2005
  • Gaunt, David. Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006. ISBN 1-59333-301-3.
  • Gust, Wolfgang, Der Völkermord an den Armeniern, Zu Klampen, 2005
  • Lepsius, Johannes. Deutschland und Armenien 1914–1918, Sammlung diplomatischer Aktenstücke. Donat & Temmen Verlag, 1986
  • Melson, Robert, Revolution and Genocide. On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, The University of Chicago Press, 1996
  • Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide. Harper, 2003
  • Wallimann, Isidor (ed.): Genocide and the Modern Age: Etiology and Case Studies of Mass Death, Syracuse Univ. Press, 2000
  • Graber, G.S. Caravans to Oblivion: The Armenian Genocide 1915. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996
  • The Armenian Genocide: A Bibliography. University of Michigan, Dearborn: Armenian Research Center. Retrieved on January 27., 2008.
  • The Armenian Genocide: A Supplemental Bibliography, 1993–1996. University of Michigan, Dearborn: Armenian Research Center. Retrieved on January 27., 2008.
  • Walker, Christopher J. Armenia: The Survival of a Nation, Revised Second Edition. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1990. 476 pp.

External links

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