Sources and Additional Reading

History


Armenia, or Հայաստան in Armenian, is a small democratic country bordering Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.  In the past, it was a kingdom with territory in many of its modern-day neighbors.

map Modern Armenian Borders

The kingdom fell in 428 CE, and constant invasions from many foreign powers including the Persian, Greek, and Mongol empires continually weakened the nation.  The Armenian culture and religion has lasted throughout its tumultuous history and has proven that it is here to stay.
In 301 CE, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity.  Throughout history and many invasions, Armenians maintained their Christian faith setting them apart from their Muslim neighbors.  Their religion and culture is a catalyst for a tight knit community.

The Precursor

From the 1400s to the 1800s, the eastern portion of modern day Turkey, then occupied by the Ottoman Empire, was largely populated by Armenians who had stayed through centuries in this land, known as Anatolia or Historic Armenia. Though the empire gave Armenians the right to practice Christianity, Armenians had to live under discriminatory laws and taxes.  Armenians protested to live under equal standards as Turks after enduring constant discrimination.  The Turks responded with brutal massacres of protesters as well as blocking the food supply in the Armenian quarter causing mass starvation among the Ottoman Armenians.  In 1894, 250,000 Armenians were brutally killed by the army and local gangs.  [2]

map of historic armenia

The areas outlined in red are Historic Armenian territories, wherea vast majority of Armenians lived within the Ottoman Empire.

In 1908, the Young Turk movement emerged in frustration of the weakening state of their nation.  Their main goal was to glorify Turkey again through extreme nationalism, which was called “turkifikation” [3].  This meant that under their new rule, there would be no minority rights or multiculturalism.

The Ottoman empire drastically weakened after the Balkan Wars, and Armenians asked the European countries and Russia to negotiate their equal taxation among other rights with Turkey.  As they saw their empire fall apart, Turks “fueled their distrust and dislike [at] their Christian subjects”, “notably the Armenians” with massacres that lead to the planned extermination of the ethnicity [4].

The empire entered World War I and their main fear was a Russian invasion.  Throughout history, the Turks hated the Russians, and even more so when they tried to give Armenians rights in Turkey. A Russian invasion was simply not an option for the Turks.  

The Beginning

The Young Turks used Ottoman Armenians as an excuse for the weakened Empire, convincing the nation that Armenians were now siding with Russia, constantly plotting against the Turks.  Citizens were convinced, and there was little protest when the Turkish military deranked Ottoman Armenian soldiers to unarmed labor ranks and later executed them all.  The army was given orders to kill Armenians, and within 48 hours, there were 2,000 murdered Armenians and another 15,000 without access to food.[2]  The army carried out such tasks as burning down houses and buildings and shooting whoever tried to escape.

Thus begins the Armenian Genocide: the Young Turks, led predominantly by Mehmet Talaat, Ismail Enver, and Ahmed Jemal, begin systematically exterminating the race of Armenians living in the Empire.

Talaat Pasha Talaat Pasha

April 24th, 1915

On April 24, 1915, Turkish officials with orders from Talaat gathered all Armenian notables including intellectuals, writers, artists, doctors, and civil leaders.  They were all slaughtered to ensure that the rest of the Ottoman Armenians would have no organization and leadership to fight back.  

This date symbolizes the start of the Armenian Genocide as well as the day the Genocide is commemorated.

genocide

Armenians being led on a march by Turkish Soldiers on April 24th

 

The Result

Instantly, Armenian men all over the Ottoman lands were quickly executed.  Women and children were rounded up and forced on death marches through the Syrian Desert and denied food and water.  On these marches, women and children were sexually harassed, kidnapped and sold in the human trafficking industry, or simply murdered.  If someone could not continue to march, or refused, the Turkish soldiers shot him or her.  The water from rivers near the desert were polluted from the many Armenian bodies dumped in it, and therefore undrinkable.  The small number of survivors who were not killed by Turks or by starvation ended their death march through the deserts of Syria and Iraq at concentration camps.  Some where gathered in boats and brought out in the water and drowned; others were forced in caves and asphyxiated by brush fires, a primitive form of gas chambers.[2]
Many orphans were given to Turkish families and raised as Turks, no longer knowing their heritage.

woman and child walking through the desert

A woman holding her child on a dearh march

death map

The larger the red circles, the more deaths happened in that area. The lines with arrows indicate death march routes

grave A mass grave for killed Armenians

dead children Dead children

 

By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians, out of the 2.5 million living in Ottoman lands were dead, all their possessions and culture gone with them.  This means around ⅔ of the Armenian population was exterminated.  
2 million Armenians were exiled/displaced.
In 1915 alone, 800,000 to 1,000,000 Armenians were murdered.
In 1916, the 200,000 who survived the death marches were executed.
10,000 women were abducted to harems or Muslim families.
10,000 children were kidnapped and given to Turkish families to be brought up Muslim. [2]

The Genocide killings ended in 1923, but it is frequently argued that since the last step of genocide is denial, Turkey is still commiting the Armenian Genocide.

For a complete analysis of the 8 Stages of Genocide, visit: http://www.genocidewatch.org/images/8StagesBriefingpaper.pdf

map of deaths

The colored regions symbolize deaths of Armenians at different times of the Genocide

 

Armenians Today

After the Genocide, there was a diaspora of the surviving Armenian community.  Armenian survivors migrated all over the world, including Iran, Greece, France, the US, and other countries.  There are still large Armenian communities in Lebanon and Syria, where survivors of death marches chose to settle.[5] The Ottoman Empire soon collapsed and Armenia became part of the USSR.  In 1991, Armenia attained independence.  Today, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, France, and the United States have large populations of Armenian inhabitants who have maintained their culture through language, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Armenian cultural centers and schools.  There is also a significant number of Armenians living in South America and other European countries.  There is an estimated 3 million Armenians living in Armenia and 8 million living in other countries by means of the diaspora. For a complete list of  countries with armenian communities visit: http://www.armeniadiaspora.com/population.html .  

 

Back to Top