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Published: September 14th 2017
The ARMENIAN GENOCIDE...when the end becomes the beginning.
In 1991 the Republic of Armenia emerged from the fragmentation of the Soviet Union...ending a thousand years of subjugation of the Armenian people...lucky...but for their spirit of endurance...to be a people at all.
The Romans destroyed Caesaria in Israel "so that no stone stood upon another."
History is full of towns and cities and civilisations that have come and gone.
This is the story of the recent attempt to wipe any trace of the Armenian people from Eurasia...a systematic ethnic cleansing of everything Armenian...only a hundred years ago...to ensure that once proud people never emerged as a nation again...never ever...that so nearly succeeded...a history this new nation cannot and should not forget.
The photos are not pretty...but they are real.
Pictures from the Genocide Museum in Yerevan, Armenia.
The last stop in our Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia adventure with Dangerous Dave & Merry Jo Binkley.
Sometimes we need to reflect on the end before the beginning...sometimes we cannot and must not forget.
******* What is genocide?
According to United Nations Convention, a genocide is one of a number of acts
aiming to completely or partially exterminate a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
The word genocide was created by combining the Greek word ‘geno,’ for race or tribe and the Latin word ‘cide,’ for killing.
What is the Armenian Genocide?
The extermination of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and the surrounding regions during 1915-1923 is called the Armenian Genocide.
The First World War is seen as the opportunity taken by the Turks to eliminate Armenians from Turkish held territory for fear they would side with the Russians.
But life is never so simple.
The Armenian Genocide was a pot of hatred awaiting the boil since the latter part of the 19th Century...Islam versus Christian...Turkish Islam against the second class citizens they had despised for years as infidels...the Armenians.The implementation of government policy in 1911 "to turkify all non-Turkish nations of the Ottoman Empire." Why does this Aussie care?
These famous, heart-rending words, attributed to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934, a commander
of Ottoman forces at the Dardenelles during the First World War and later the founder of modern Turkey, grace memorials on three continents, including at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. "Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
There is doubt whether these are actual words of Ataturk who died in 1938, but they have become synonymous of an Aussie affinity with Turkey...embracing the bravery of the "Johnnies"...soldiers used as cannon fodder by the British in storming the beaches of the Dardanelles whereby 8,700 Aussies, heaps of New Zealanders, Canadians and English and about 80,000 Turks died.
Yet this Turkish nation that has embraced its Gallipoli enemies in the First World War ...has carried out
in that same war...a systematic and relentless massacre of a race that inhabited its shores for centuries.
An extermination of about 1,500,000 Armenians...a relocation of countless others.
That is why I care.
******* In the path of conquerers
When visiting the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan one cannot but marvel at the relics on show...from Neolithic, Iron Age, Bronze Age, the Van defeating the Assyrians...incredible BC innovative marvels of Armenian forebears and advanced cultures...then into AD the mighty empires of Greater Armenia...the world's first Christian Kingdom from 301 AD...against Arabs here...Persians there.
From about the seventh century Islam became the dominant religion in the region with the Christian Armenians tolerated but regarded as infidels thus inferior.
In the 11th century enter the Seljuk Turks...in the 13th the Mongols...in the 14th the Turkomens...Armenia occupied and ceasing as a state...Armenians dispersed and depopulated.
Then in the 16th century the Ottoman Turks settled a lengthy war with Persia by taking Western Armenia and the Safavid Persians taking Eastern Armenia. In 1604 the Persians ordered the removal of the Armenians from the Armenian highlands whereupon Persians, Turks and Kurds filled the void leaving
Armenians living as a dispersed people in enclaves under the subjection of foreign rulers.
The Ottoman Turks ruled by "the millet system"
whereby non-Muslims were allowed to practice their religions, use their language and engage in commerce but were second class citizens deprived of the right to bear arms even in self-defence.
As the Armenians persisted in their Christian faith they were seen as not conforming to the dominant class thus their presence was an affront to the social order...but as a stateless people the servility of the Armenians was of little consequence to the Turks when the Ottoman Empire was at full power.
But when the Ottoman Empire's power started to wane and its territories shrank in the 19th century...the relationship between the Turks and the Armenians dramatically changed.
The Armenians started through higher education to become a society elite.
European powers of England, France, Germany and Russia took Mediterranean and Middle East territories from the Ottomans.
In the Turkish-Russian War of 1876-1878 the Russians advanced to the outskirts of Istanbul. The Turks had to sue for peace. The result was the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 whereby the Russians agreed to
withdraw from Western Armenia in return for the Ottomans "immediately carry out improvements and reforms in the provinces, inhabited by Armenians, proceeding from the local needs. as well as to ensure the Armenians' security from the Kurds and Circassians."
The reforms were by the Treaty of San Stefano to be overseen by the Russians.
Freak out. Did that mean the Turks had to treat the Armenians as equals? The pot of hatred and contempt thus started to spill over.
The European powers could not let Russian power get too close to potentially affect their interests could they????
So England, Austria-Hungary and Germany convened the Congress of Berlin in 1891...reducing the power of the Russians so supervision of the reforms in Western Armenia reverted to the Turks...and the European powers' influence was confirmed.
The ruling Ottoman Sultan and the ruling clique then determined the solution to "The Armenian Question"
By eliminating the Armenians the ability of the European powers to meddle in Turkish affairs would thus be removed.
As a result the Sultan enlisted 30 regiments of Kurds that were not part of the Ottoman army (the Hamadie) who
slaughtered about 300,000 Armenians in the massacres of 1894 to 1896. A further 100,000 were forcibly islamised and a similar number exiled from their homes.
But movements were afoot to dethrone the bloodthirsty Sultan and his authoritarian regime.
In 1908 a nationalist movement known as the Young Turks founded their own party Ittihad ve Terraki or "Union and Progress."
On 23 July 1908 the Young Turks organised a coup.
Sultan Abdul Hamid II was deposed and dethroned in 1909.
Turks and Armenians wept and hugged in the streets.
Yet their euphoria was short lived.
The Young Turks were a Nationalist faction intent on assimilation of all the nations of the Empire to create a "Pure Turkish" nation...mass slaughters OK to achieve their goals.
Their aim to create a new and vast empire that extended into Central Asia.
The Armenians stood out as the Christian population in the Empire whose existence was anomalous to the ideal of a populace that spoke Turkic language and practiced only Islam.
Starting in April 1909 massacres of Armenians began as nationalist fervour resulted in the death of about 30,000 Armenians.
In 1910 the Germans
in building a railway across the Ottoman Empire tried to exert control over the Ottoman Empire and thus reduce England's position in India and Egypt and weaken Russian influence in the Caucasus. They suggested resettlement of Armenians out of Eastern Anatolia to strengthen the Turks and by using Armenians to build the railway this would remove Armenians from Western Armenia and in their place settle Muslims. In so doing the Armenians would be separated from Russia at once.
In 1911 the Young Turks made it official policy to exterminate the Armenians in the Salonika Conference and secret orders were signed and distributed among the Empire.
In 1912 to 1913 the Balkan Wars between the Balkan Alliance and Turkey resulted in the Russians demanding a re-think of the Armenian Question, the orders of the Young Turks then well known in diplomatic circles.
In July 1914 the Congress of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was held in Erzerum. The Young Turks sent two delegates who demanded that the Congress declare that both the Armenians of Turkey and the Armenians of Russia would stay loyal to Turkey in the event of war and form detachments to fight the Russians and cause
revolt in the Caucasus.
The Young Turks declared, "If Armenians were to hold such positions, after the war they would be given the right to establish an independent state on certain territories of Turkey and Russia."
The congress decided to effect that the Armenians of Turkey and Russia would be beholden to whichever country they were subjects of.
Shakir Behaeddin of the Young Turks declared this was "high treason" as the Armenian Russians refused to revolt against Russia.
In following years he was one of the principal drivers of the Armenian Genocide.
On 1 August 1914 the First World War began and lasted for 4 years involving 33 nations or states.
The principal powers on one side was The Entente: England, France and Russia and on the other The Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Turkey.
In February 1915 Doctor Nazim, one of the Young Turk leaders declared at a session of the party, "The Armenian nation should be entirely exterminated, so that no Armenian is left in our country and that their name is completely forgotten. Now we are at war and no such occasion will ever occur. The
intervention of the European powers and the protests of the World Press will remain unnoticed, and if they learn about it, they will face a fait accompli and the question will disappear. This time our operations should be directed at total extermination of the Armenians. It is necessary to eliminate them all, till the very last man...I want the Turk and the Turk only to live and rule impartially over this country. Let all non-Turkish elements go to hell, no matter what nationality or religion they belong to."
The Minister of the Interior, Talaat prepared the plan on paper overlooking no detail...and thus the Armenian Genocide began.
But as the policy was to turkify all non-Turkish peoples, two other nationalities were also exterminated or forcibly removed...the Greeks and the Assyrians...but as the Armenians were the intended majority victims, these exterminations are termed within the Armenian Genocide.
****** The Armenian Genocide
The second most researched genocide after the holocaust...probably the most reported at the time as the World powers and press had frequent reports of the atrocities...but as it was wartime felt powerless to do other than implore others to do something about it.
Systematic conscription of Armenian men into the Ottoman Army, removing their weapons, rounded up and executed in their tens of thousands...storekeepers, school teachers, farmers ordered to appear at designated places then executed or imprisoned...the adult male population systematically exterminated...public executions...deportation marches of women and children to Syria and Mesopotamia...brigands attacking the convoys...trains carrying human cargo...Turks encouraged to hate and assist atrocities...starvation aplenty.
An army of orphaned children wandering wastelands...European countries and press pleading with the Turks to stop...pleading with the Germans to get the Turks to stop but German leaders declaring they would not do so as they required the Turks to remain their allies.
Of 2,500,000 Armenians in Constantinople (Istanbul) before the genocide by 1922, 200,000 remained.
1,500,000 Armenians estimated to have been killed...2,500,000 Armenians displaced overseas...a total of about 4,000,000 either killed or displaced. What respite was the end of the First World War?
Not much as it turned out.
Western Armenia (that part within Turkish territory) had been totally cleared of Armenians.
Many fled to Yerevan Provence under Russian control, around the ancient religious centre of Echmiadsin.
By 1918 this was the only part of historic
Armenia still populated by Armenians.
Russian Armenia was their only hope to avoid the massacres of the Turks.
But following the Russian Revolution by the Bolsheviks, by 1918 the Russian army collapsed.
The genocide resumed.
In May 1918 the leaders of the Armenians gathered their people for their last stand...independence or die was the cry.
At Sandarapat near Yerevan (Armenia's present capital) the Armenians stood alone...like lions protecting their cubs...stopped the Ottoman offensive against all odds.
The Republic of Armenia like a phoenix rising from the bloody dust was proclaimed on 28 May 1918...by bravery from desperation...withheld the Turks until the surrender of Turkey to the Allies in October 1918.
But their expectation of a favourable territorial settlement was never met.
The Red Army of now Soviet Russia occupied the Republic of Armenia in November 1920 and reached a settlement with the Turks. The question of the genocide was suppressed as part of the Turkish-Soviet agreement for the Caucasus and Armenia.
The newly established Republic of Armenia lasted two and a half years...until it was declared the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and an independent state on 2 December 1920.
admitted as part of the Soviet Union on 22 December 1922.
To this humble dancer...I reckon that was the final saviour of the Armenian people...to my mind if not for the Soviets I would not have walked the streets of Yerevan in 2017...nor would any Armenians be living there today!!! Justice or Tribulation?
The Allies occupied Constantinople.
Trial for the war crimes of the genocide were held...perpetrators arrested...evidence of the atrocities aplenty...judgments made...findings of massacres made.
On 5 July 1920 sentences were handed down.
Of 31 trials, Taalat, Jemal. Enver & Nazim were condemned to death and the remaining 27 for terms of imprisonment.
But...as these trials were in Turkey...the new government blaming the Young Turks and absolving anyone else of blame...the Young Turk leaders tried in absentia...no one prepared to deal with the consequences of the decisions.
It remained for the Armenians to track down the Young Turk leaders. Operation Nemesis
named after the Greek goddess of Revenge went into action.
Talaat assassinated in Berlin in 1921...Jemal Azmi & Behaeddin in Tibilisi in 1922...Said Halim in Rome...Enver in Central Asia and Jemal Pasha in Tibilisi.
killer of Talaat, Teklirian was tried in Berlin of murder...and acquitted.
I reckon that's about the only justice the Armenians received as it turned out.
Did Ataturk right the wrongs?
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk..the leader of post WWI Turkey...the man who embraced the fallen Aussies at Gallipoli...on 27 January 1920 said of the Young Turks: "Those pashas committed unprecedented, unspeakable and incomprehensible crimes and for their personal interest they have brought the country to its present state. They have committed all kinds of violence, they have organised deportations and massacres, they have burnt infants with petroleum, they have raped women and girls in front of their husbands and parents, they have stolen children from their parents, they have confiscated the real estate and property of Armenians, they have exiled Armenians to Mosel in deplorable conditions, they have drowned thousands of innocent people in the sea, they forced people to change their religion, they made starving old men walk for months and work, and they have forced young women to submit to dreadful brothels never encountered in the history of any other nation." Yet...the end of atrocities was not nigh
Attaturk led a Nationalist movement that regarded it absolved of any responsibility...continued to drive out or annihilate all remaining Armenians from Asia Minor from 1920 to 1922...from Eastern Armenia...from Cilicia...from all of Armenia.
In one massacre 10,000 Armenians and 100,000 Greeks were killed. In others mainly Armenians.
The void was filled by another minority...albeit Islamic and used by the Turks in their armies...the present nationalist thorn of the Turks...the Kurds desiring their own independent Kurdistan, the north of which is the area once known as Western Armenia.
On 10 August 1921 the victorious states of WWI signed a treaty with Turkey at Sevres, France that provided "Turkey and Armenia , as well as the higher powers agree on leaving the border determination of Erzerum, Van and Bitlis between Turkey and Armenia to the decision of the US President Woodrow Wilson and accept his decision, as well as all the means he can suggest for Armenia to have sea access and on the mentioned territory any demilitarisation of the Ottoman territory...From the moment of adopting this resolution Turkey waives all right to these territories."
In 1922 there were various treaties with
Russia, France, Georgia, Azerbaijan...each giving the Armenians nothing.
It seems the end of the Armenian Genocide was marked by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 between the Western Powers and Turkey.
The borders of Turkey were defined...the Armenians denied return to their homelands.
Thus by the Treaty of Lausanne the territories to be delivered to Armenia by the Treaty of Sevres disappeared within the newly determined borders of Turkey.
In fact the Armenian Soviet Republic was not allowed to be a party of or present at the Treaty negotiations!!!
In September 1923 Turkey enacted laws prohibiting return of any Turkish lands to Armenia.
Thus "the Armenian Question" that had dogged Turkish politics since the mid 19th century was closed for good.
Contemplating one's navel
There are current newspaper cuttings from the Armenian Genocide aplenty...the World knew it was happening...books in numerous languages...images brooding in my mind.
We emerge from the Genocide Museum in silence...standing around the eternal flame of remembrance...walking towards the groves of trees with plaques of numerous World leaders who have expressed support and regret.
Young visitors however posing for selfies.
Are they laughing
in disrespect...or is it that easy to forget?
I think of this Christian nation that is 98%!p(MISSING)opulated by Armenians...probably smaller than Israel...most of its peoples scattered around the World...the minority here in their homeland...what future?
Their border with Turkey closed...patrolled by Russians...the border with Iran & Azerbaijan also closed.
Only the border with Georgia open...the only other Christian country within coo-ee.
Can't help thinking if not for the Russians they would not be here at all.
I think of Ernest Hemmingway at Smyna Pier in 1925 who saw and said these words: "You couldn't get the women to give up their dead babies. They'd have babies dead for six days. Wouldn't give them up. nothing you could do about it. Had to take them away finally...They were all out there on the pier and it wasn't at all like an earthquake or that sort of thing because they didn't know about the Turk. They never knew what the old Turk would do..."
I think of a German thinking of the future...who proclaimed to his armies heading to war on 22 August 1939: "I have placed
my deathhead formations in readiness for the present only in the East...with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians?"
And we all know the holocaust that followed that.
I think of Anzac Day in Oz...celebrating when our troops stormed the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915...and so valiantly were mown down.
The day before...250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up by the Turks in Constantinople thus starting the Armenian Genocide.
24 April 1915...Genocide Remembrance Day in Armenia every 24 April.
I cannot help but feel Australia and Armenia are thus linked in a tragic bow.
I hear the bugle call of the Last Post...I hear the sound of wailing...and of distress. "Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians?"
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