The Armenian Genocide is a terrible page in the history of the Armenian nation. In the Armenian language, this genocide is known as the Great Crime. The genocide was organized and carried out in 1915, and it lasted until 1923 on the territories controlled by the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. The genocide was carried out by means of physical destruction and deportation, including the displacement of the civilian population under the conditions that led to certain death. The Armenian Genocide was carried out in several stages: the disarmament of Armenian soldiers, selective deportation of Armenians from the border areas, the adoption of the law on deportation, mass deportation, and murder of Armenians. Some historians also include the murder of 1890, the massacre of Smyrna, and the actions of the Turkish troops in the Caucasus in 1918 (Kévorkian, 2011). This paper will examine culprits and the reasons of the Armenian Genocide, world response, eyewitness accounts, and compare it to the Jewish Holocaust.
Culprits of the Armenian Genocide
The Ottoman Empire was virtually ruled by the Young Turks, a political opposition movement in Turkey in the late XIX – early XX century. In a narrower sense, the Young Turks was a group of officers, members of the organization Union and Progress founded in 1889. They had the goal to replace the sultan’s autocracy by the constitutional order. The Young Turks managed the revolution of 1908 that brought the Young Turks to power after they had overthrown the Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Later, they held liberal reforms in the country. With the outbreak of World War I, the triumvirate of Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha, and Jemal Pasha concentrated all the power in their hands (Kévorkian, 2011). It was they who had organized an act of genocide. They set their purpose to establish an independent state on the territory of the Ottoman Empire; and the methods of achieving this goal were simple and effective: seizure of banks, killing of the officials, bombings, and similar attacks. The Young Turks began the wide promotion of a chauvinistic theory of belonging to the Turks, “pureblood”, “superior” race. The Young Turks put forward the slogan of the submission of all Turkish-speaking people and the seizure of the Caucasus. The huge territory of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Iran was supposed to be attached to the Ottoman Empire. On the eve of the First World War, the Young Turks had practically taken total control of the government and plunged the country into World War I on the side of Imperial Germany. This act led the Ottoman Empire to the military defeat and total collapse in the autumn of 1918 (Kévorkian, 2011).
Basic Reasons of the Armenian Genocide
There were several reasons for the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. Ethnic minorities of non-Muslim religions felt increasing internal demographic and economic pressure. Thus, they began to compete for resources they had historically controlled (Totten, 2013). More to say, the new government turned out to be unable to fulfill the tasks and redress the iniquities. The Ottoman Empire showed its military weakness; therefore, the only one way to control the internal situation was to resort to violence. Armenians had increased expectations from the reform measures introduced in the 19th century to modernize the Turkish state. However, these expectations were met (Totten, 2013). Finally, there was some inconsistency between Armenian feelings of European concepts of progress through education with Turkish point of view on this question. The Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire expected Armenians be “more in line with countered they regarded as infidel than with the state ruling over them” (Totten, 2013).
Aid to Armenians during the Genocide
However, some groups of Turks and Kurds helped the victims of the Armenian Genocide. In written and published memoirs of survivors of the genocide, as well as oral histories, one can find numerous examples that show that ordinary Muslims helped Armenians individual or entire families sustain, though for a while. There were Turks who resisted the Turkish government’s policy, saving Armenians and hiding them, endangering their lives and the lives of other members of their families. It is known that under the special order of the Turkish army, any Muslim who was hiding Armenians in his house was to be hanged in front of his house, and his house had to be burned (de Waal, 2015).
Although, the Kurdish people helped Turks with committing genocide, some groups of them had saved Armenians. They secretly guided them through the mountain passes. Then, Armenians were able to find refuge in Russia. Without a doubt, it was a very dangerous mission due to the presence of the Turkish troops that guarded most of the ways. Arabs helped Armenians during the Genocide as well. They picked up Armenian orphans and hid them in their houses. Some of the Arabs shared food with victims of the Genocide and gave them shelter (de Waal, 2015).
In addition, foreign missionaries helped and saved Armenian families during the Armenian Genocide. British, Germans, Swiss, and French came to Armenia and saved tens of thousands of Armenian children; having saved the children, they kept the gene pool of the entire nation. Missioners created shelters around the world, including Constantinople, Gyumri, Beirut, Aleppo, Greek Corfu, and so on (de Waal, 2015).
The first international reaction to the violence was expressed in joint statement of Russia, France, and the UK in May 1915, where atrocities against the Armenian people had been identified as “new crimes against humanity and civilization” (de Waal, 2015). The parties agreed that the Turkish government had to be punished for the crime. However, Britain, France, and Russia offer of the international investigation was rejected. Later, Britain and France did not undertake practical actions to influence international society politically (de Waal, 2015).
In 1919-1920, the Turkish Military Tribunal was held. It considered legal proceedings on the participation of leadership of the party Unity and Progress in the killings of Armenians and violation of the constitution and speculation in wartime. The composition of the Tribunal was changed several times to allow the accused to escape punishment. The Turkish government did not adopt a proposal to include representatives of neutral countries in the tribunal. Despite support for organizers of the genocide in Turkish society, the Tribunal found the missing at the Enver, Jemal, and Talaat guilty and sentenced them to death. However, the sentence was not executed since the defendants had fled to Germany and became unavailable for the Turkish government (de Waal, 2015).
Sarkis Agojian was one of the survivors of the genocide. His story is terrible proof of the atrocities against his people. Sarkis Agojian was native Armenian born in 1906 in Chemeshgadsak. When the Armenian Genocide began, Sarkis was 9 years old, and he studied at school. One day, he went to school and found out that his principal and several teachers who were Armenian had been arrested and sent somewhere out of the village. When he returned home, he realized that his father and uncle, and all men from the village had been taken away. All members of his family were forced to leave their home and all the property and go to the Euphrates River. They had to leave Sarkis’ brother and sister and some other children from his family in the house of their landlord. It was the only one way to save them. Next, they went to Leloushaghen. There, a Turkish man secretly took Armenian boys away. Sarkis stayed with the boys and the Turkish man and his wife. That was how he had survived. The rest of his family went on to the Euphrates River. There, all of them were killed by the Turkish troops (Totten, 2013)
The Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust Comparison
The first difference between these two terrible pages in the history is that there were no speeches in the Ottoman Empire against Armenian nation promoting hate, while in Nazi Germany, there were numerous speeches against the Jewish population. Many soldiers and officers received orders to execute the Jewish directly from Hitler. Now, there are numerous evidences of these hate speeches on audio and video records. At the same time, the Young Turk government had never conducted such events. They had never expressed hate to Armenians in front of Turkish society until the Genocide began (Wilson, 2007).
Secondly, Armenians had many rebels while the Jewish had not. During insurrection, Armenians showed their certain power. Thus, the Ottoman government found out that they should decrease the Armenian population. However, Jews weakly resisted the Nazis (Wilson, 2007).
Thirdly, the Jews did not own guns. On the other hand, Armenians were able to get weapons from Russia and Iran and collect it. There is an opinion that Armenians collected weapons to protect themselves. They also set up the barricades and trenches. The Jews have always suffered from German aggression. Armenians had never lived as a free nation for 600 years and managed their own territories. They faced the aggression for the first time in 1915 (Wilson, 2007).
Finally, there is great amount of documentary evidence of Nazi crimes against the Jews. There is a huge amount of photos and videos. Many of the photos, which are considered evidence of the Armenian Genocide, depict unidentified bodies that are not related to the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, some photos have been tampered or edited in order to show murders; thus, most of them are fake. Therefore, the Holocaust is recognized by Germany, and crimes of the Armenian Genocide are denied by modern Turkey (Wilson, 2007).
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Mass extermination and deportation of the Armenian population of provinces of the Ottoman Empire was carried out by the ruling circles of Turkey in 1915-1923. The policy of genocide against Armenians was caused by several factors. The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the government of Turkey. They were the main perpetrators of the monstrous crimes of the first genocide of the twentieth century. Carried out in Turkey, Armenian genocide inflicted enormous damage of the material and spiritual culture of the Armenian people. Mass deportation and massacre of the Armenian population was aimed at its destruction. The real purpose of deportation was known by Germany and Turkey. The Young Turks were determined to put the end to the Armenian question in such a way. Armenians were expelled from their places of permanent residence and sent to the depths of the Empire, where special camps had been created for them. Armenians were killed in their places of residence, and on the way to exile; their caravans were attacked by the Turkish rabble and Kurdish robber gangs. As a result, a small part of the deported Armenians reached the destination. There were cases when the deported Armenians were removed from the camps and massacred in the desert. There were many eyewitness testimonies of the Armenian genocide. Sarkis Agojian’s story is one of such proofs of damage that the Young Turks had brought to The Armenian nation. Lastly, there are some common features and the ways in which the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust differ.