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Armenian Genocide
Part of the persecution of Armenians
Armenian civilians, escorted by armed Ottoman soldiersa, are marched through Harput (Kharpert), to a prison in the nearby Mezireh (present-day Elâzığ), April 1915
Location Ottoman Empire
Date 1915[note 1]
Target Armenian population
Attack type
Deportation, mass murder
Deaths 1.5 million[note 2]
Perpetrators Young Turk government
Committee of Union and Progress
Turkish National Movement

The Armenian Genocide[7] (Armenian language: Հայոց Ցեղասպանություն Hayots’ Ts’yeghaspanut’yun), also known as the Armenian Massacres and by Armenians as the Great Crime (Armenian language: Մեծ Եղեռն Mets Yegherrn)[8][9] was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. It took place during and after World War I and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert.[10][11] The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.[12][13][14]

It is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides,[15][16][17] as scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out to eliminate the Armenians,[18] and it is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.[19] The word genocide was coined in order to describe these events.[20][21]

The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day when Ottoman authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople.[22][23] Thereafter, the Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace.[24] The majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of the Armenian genocide.

Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, denies the word genocide is an accurate description of the events.[25] In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the events as genocide. To date, 22 countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, and most genocide scholars and historians accept this view.[26][27][28][29]


Armenians under Ottoman rule

Armenia had come largely under Ottoman rule during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The vast majority of Armenians, grouped together under the name Armenian millet (community) and led by their spiritual head, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, were concentrated in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire (commonly referred to as Turkish Armenia or Western Armenia), although large communities were also found in the western provinces, as well as in the capital Constantinople. The Armenian community was made up of three religious denominations: the Armenian Apostolic to which the overwhelming majority of Armenians belonged, and the Armenian Catholic and Armenian Protestant communities. With the exception of the empire's urban centers and the extremely wealthy, Constantinople-based Amira class, a social elite whose members included the Duzians (Directors of the Imperial Mint), the Balyans (Chief Imperial Architects) and the Dadians (Superintendent of the Gunpowder Mills and manager of industrial factories), most Armenians – approximately 70% of their population – lived in poor and dangerous conditions in the rural countryside.[30][31] Ottoman census figures clash with the statistics collected by the Armenian Patriarchate. According to the latter, there were three million Armenians living in the empire in 1878 (400,000 in Constantinople and the Balkans, 600,000 in Asia Minor and Cilicia, 670,000 in Lesser Armenia and the area near Kayseri, and 1,300,000 in Western Armenia itself).[32]

There, the Armenians were subject to the whims of their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors, who would regularly overtax them, subject them to brigandage and kidnapping, force them to convert to Islam, and otherwise exploit them without interference from central or local authorities.[31] In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the dhimmi system held up in Muslim countries, they, like all other Christians and also Jews, were accorded certain limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were in essence treated as second-class citizens and referred to in Turkish as gavours, a pejorative word meaning "infidel" or "unbeliever".[33] The British ethnographer William Ramsay, writing in the late 1890s after having visited the Ottoman Empire, described the conditions of the Armenians:

Turkish rule... meant unutterable contempt... The Armenians (and Greeks) were dogs and pigs... to be spat upon, if their shadow darkened a Turk, to be outraged, to be the mats on which he wiped the mud from his feet. Conceive the inevitable result of centuries of slavery, of subjection to insult and scorn, centuries in which nothing belonged to the Armenian, neither his property, his house, his life, his person, nor his family, was sacred or safe from violence – capricious, unprovoked violence – to resist which by violence meant death.[33]:43

In addition to other legal limitations, Christians 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 were severely circumscribed (e.g., the ringing of church bells was strictly forbidden).[34] Violation of these statutes could result in punishments ranging from the levying of exorbitant fines to execution.

Reform implementation, 1840s–80s

German ethnographic map of Asia Minor and Caucasus in 1914. Armenians are labeled in blue. The majority of the Armenian population was concentrated in the east of the Ottoman Empire.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, 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 (known as the Sublime Porte) to extend equal rights to all its citizens. Starting in 1839 and ending with the declaration of a constitution in 1876, the Ottoman government implemented a series of reforms, known as the Tanzimat, to improve the situation of minorities, although these were all largely abortive. The Muslims of the empire were loath to consider the Christians as their social equals. By the late 1870s, the Greeks, along with several other Christian nations in the Balkans, frustrated with their conditions, had, often with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule. The Armenians remained, by and large, passive during these years, earning them the title of millet-i sadika or the "loyal millet".[35]

In the mid-1860s and early 1870s, things began to change as an intellectual class began to emerge among Armenian society. Educated in the European university system or in American missionary schools in the Ottoman Empire, these Armenians began to question their second-class status in society and initiated a movement that asked for better treatment from their government. In one such instance, after amassing the signatures of peasants from Western Armenia, the Armenian Communal Council petitioned to the Ottoman government to redress the issues that the peasants complained about the most: "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, though no meaningful steps were ever taken.[34]:36

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.[34]:35ff Under growing pressure, the government of Sultan Abdul Hamid II declared itself a constitutional monarchy with a parliament (which was almost immediately prorogued) 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.[34]:37

After the conclusion of the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War, the Armenians began to look more toward the Russian Empire as the ultimate 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, stipulating that the Russian forces occupying the Armenian-populated provinces in the eastern Ottoman Empire would withdraw only with the full implementation of reforms.[36] Great Britain was troubled with Russia's holding on to so much Ottoman territory and forced it to enter into new negotiations with the convening of the Congress of Berlin in June 1878. Armenians also entered into these negotiations and emphasized that they sought autonomy, not independence from the Ottoman Empire.[34]:38 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 periodically to inform the Great Powers of the progress of the reforms.

Armenian national liberation movement

As it turned out, the reforms were not forthcoming. Upset with this turn of events, a number of disillusioned Armenian intellectuals living in Europe and Russia decided to form political parties and societies dedicated to the betterment of their compatriots living inside the Ottoman Empire. In the last quarter of the 19th century, this movement came to be dominated by three parties: the Ramkavar (Constitutional-Democrat; Armenakan), Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun). While the parties differed somewhat in ideology, they were all committed to the same goal of seeing the social status of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire improve. Parallel to their efforts, another group of Armenians, seeing the futility of asking for reforms and the unwillingness of the European powers to pressure the Ottoman government to implement reforms, were convinced that the only possibility of improving the plight of the Armenians was through self-defense.[37][38]

Hamidian Massacres, 1894–96

Since 1876, the Ottoman state had been 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 its 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 they wished".[33]:40 As Ottoman officials intentionally provoked rebellions (often as a result of over-taxation) in Armenian populated towns, such as in Sasun in 1894 and Zeitun in 1895–96, these regiments were increasingly used to deal with the Armenians by way of oppression and massacre. In some instances, Armenians successfully fought off the regiments and in 1895 brought the excesses to the attention of the Great Powers in, who subsequently condemned the Porte.[34]:40–2

The Powers forced Hamid to sign a new reform package designed to curtail the powers of the Hamidiye in October 1895 which, like the Berlin treaty, was never implemented. On 1 October 1895, 2,000 Armenians assembled in Constantinople to petition for the implementation of the reforms; but Ottoman police units converged on the rally and violently broke it up.[33]:57–8 Soon, massacres of Armenians broke out in Constantinople and then engulfed the rest of the Armenian-populated provinces of Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Erzerum, Harput, Sivas, Trabzon 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 at between 100,000 and 300,000 Armenians.[39]

Although Hamid was never directly implicated in ordering the massacres, it is believed that they had his tacit approval.[34]:42 Frustrated with European indifference to the massacres, Armenians from the Dashnaktsutiun party seized the European-managed Ottoman Bank on 26 August 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".[33]:35,115 While the Great Powers vowed to take action and enforce new reforms, these never came to fruition due to conflicting political and economic interests.

Prelude to genocide

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908

Armenians of Constantinople celebrating the establishment of the CUP government.

Two of the three leaders of the Young Turk triumvirate, Enver Pasha, middle, accompanied by Djemal Pasha, right, in a visit to Jerusalem in 1915, then a part of Ottoman Syria.

On 24 July 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 Abdul Hamid from power and restored the country to a constitutional monarchy. The officers were part of the Young Turk movement that wanted to reform administration of the (in their opinion) 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 were more democratic and accepted Armenians into their wing whereas the latter group was more intolerant in regard to Armenian-related issues and their frequent requests for European assistance.[33]:140–1 In 1902, during a congress of the Young Turks held in Paris, the heads of the liberal wing, Sabahaddin and Ahmed Riza Bey, partially persuaded the nationalists to include in their objectives ensuring some rights for all the minorities of the empire.

One of the numerous factions within the Young Turk movement was a secret revolutionary organization called the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). It drew its membership from disaffected army officers based in Salonika and was behind a wave of mutinies against the central government. 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, Assyrians, Arabs, Bulgarians and Turks alike rejoiced in his dethronement.[33]:143–4

The Adana Massacre of 1909

An Armenian town left pillaged and destroyed after the massacres in Adana in 1909.

A countercoup took place on 13 April 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 Young Turk government, it spilled over into pogroms against Armenians who were perceived as having supported the restoration of the constitution.[34]:68–9 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.[40] 15,000–30,000 Armenians were killed in the course of the "Adana Massacre".[34]:69[41]

The Balkan wars

In 1912, the First Balkan War broke out and resulted in a defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the loss of 85% of its territory in Europe. Many in the empire saw their defeat as "Allah's divine punishment for a society that did not know how to pull itself together".[34]:84 The Turkish nationalist movement in the country gradually came to view Anatolia as their last refuge. That the Armenian population formed a significant minority in this region would figure prominently in the calculations of the Young Turks who would eventually carry out the Armenian Genocide.

An important consequence of the Balkan Wars was also the mass expulsion of Muslims (known as muhajirs) from the Balkans. In fact, beginning in the mid-19th century, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, including Circassians and Chechens, were expelled or forced to flee from the Caucasus and the Balkans (Rumelia) as a result of the Russo-Turkish wars and the conflicts in the Balkans. Muslim society in the empire was incensed by this flood of refugees and overcome by a desire for revenge. A journal published in Constantinople expressed the mood of the times: "Let this be a warning ... O Muslims, don't get comfortable! Do not let your blood cool before taking revenge".[34]:86 As many as 850,000 of these refugees were settled in areas where the Armenians were resident from the period of 1878–1904. The muhajirs resented the status of their relatively well-off neighbors and, as historian Taner Akçam and others have noted, the refugees would come to play a pivotal role in the killings of the Armenians and the confiscation of their properties during the genocide.[34]:86–87

World War I

On 2 November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I became the scene of action. The combatants were the Ottoman Empire, with some assistance from the other Central Powers, and primarily the British and the Russians among the Allies of World War I. The conflicts at the Caucasus Campaign, the Persian Campaign and the Gallipoli Campaign[citation needed] affected where the Armenian people lived in significant numbers. Before the declaration of war, at the Armenian congress at Erzurum, the Ottoman government requested the Ottoman Armenians to facilitate the conquest of Transcaucasia by inciting a rebellion among Russian Armenians against the tsarist army in the event of a Caucasus front.[34]:136[42]

Battle of Sarikamish

On 24 December 1914, Minister of War Enver Pasha implemented a plan to encircle and destroy the Russian Caucasus Army at Sarikamish, to regain territories lost to Russia after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. Enver Pasha's forces were routed at the Battle of Sarikamis, and almost completely destroyed.

In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units had been established under the Russian Armed forces. As the Russian Armenian conscripts had already been sent to the European Front, this new force was uniquely composed of Armenians who were not Russian or who were not obligated to serve. An Ottoman representative, Karekin Bastermadjian (Armen Karo), was also brought into this force. Initially they had 20,000 men, but it was reported that their number subsequently increased. Returning to Constantinople, Enver Pasha publicly blamed his defeat on Armenians in the region having actively sided with the Russians.[33]:200

Labor battalions, 25 February

On 25 February 1915, 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". Traditionally, the Ottoman Army only drafted non-Muslim males 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 would ultimately be executed.[43]

Transferring Armenian conscripts from active combat to passive, unarmed logistic sections was an important precursor to the subsequent genocide. As reported in The Memoirs of Naim Bey, the execution of the Armenians in these battalions was part of a premeditated strategy of the Committee of Union and Progress. Many of these Armenian recruits were executed by local Turkish gangs.[33]:178

Events at Van, April 1915

Armed Armenian civilians and self-defense units holding a line against Ottoman forces in the walled Siege of Van in May 1915.

On 19 April 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, but in fact to initiate wholesale massacres.[33]:202 The Armenians offered five hundred soldiers and exemption money for the rest in order to buy time, but Jevdet Bey accused the Armenians of "rebellion" and asserted 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".[44]:298

The next day, 20 April 1915, the Siege of Van began when an Armenian woman was harassed, and the two Armenian men who came to her aid were killed by Ottoman soldiers. The Armenian defenders protected the 30,000 residents and 15,000 refugees living in an area of roughly one square kilometer of the Armenian Quarter and suburb of Aigestan with 1,500 ablebodied riflemen who were supplied with 300 rifles and 1,000 pistols and antique weapons. The conflict lasted until General Yudenich of Russia came to their rescue.[45]

Reports of the conflict reached then United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, Sr. 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.

Arrest and deportation of Armenian notables, April 1915

Armenian intellectuals who were arrested and later executed en masse by Ottoman authorities on the night of 24 April 1915.

24 April 1915, Red Sunday (Armenian language: Կարմիր Կիրակի ), was the night on which the leaders of Armenians of the Ottoman capital, Constantinople, and later those in other Ottoman centers were arrested and moved to two holding centers near Ankara by then minister of interior Mehmed Talaat Bey with his order on 24 April 1915. Following the passage of Tehcir Law on 29 May 1915, the leaders were deported. The date 24 April is today commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day, by Armenians around the world.

Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, who ordered the arrests.

In his order on 24 April 1915, Talaat claimed Armenian communities "have long been pursuing to gain an administrative autonomy and this desire is displayed once more, in no uncertain terms, with the inclusion of the Russian Armenians who have assumed a position against us together with the Daschnak Committee in no time in the regions of Zeytûn (Zeitun Resistance (1915)), Bitlis, Sivas, and Van (Siege of Van) in accordance with the decisions they have previously taken (Armenian congress at Erzurum)". 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:

In order to justify this enormous crime the requisite propaganda material was thoroughly prepared in Constantinople. [It included such statements as] "the Armenians are in league with the enemy. They will launch an uprising in Istanbul, kill off the Committee of Union and Progress leaders and will succeed in opening the straits (of the Dardanelles)".[35]:220

On the night of 24 April 1915, the Ottoman government rounded up and imprisoned an estimated 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders.[33]:211–2 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.

Reaction of the Triple Entente

On 24 May 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".[46]


Mass burnings

Of this photo, the United States ambassador wrote,[44] "Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation".

Eitan Belkind was a Nili member, who infiltrated the Ottoman army as an official. He was assigned to the headquarters of Kamal Pasha. He claims to have witnessed the burning of 5,000 Armenians.[47]:181,183

Lt. Hasan Maruf, of the Ottoman army, describes how a population of a village were taken all together, and then burned.[48] The Commander of the Third Army Vehib's 12-page affidavit, which was dated 5 December 1918, was presented in the Trabzon trial series (29 March 1919) included in the Key Indictment,[49] reporting such a mass burning of the population of an entire village near Muş:[50] "The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was to burn them". Further, it was reported that "Turkish prisoners who had apparently witnessed some of these scenes were horrified and maddened at remembering the sight. They told the Russians that the stench of the burning human flesh permeated the air for many days after".[citation needed]


Trabzon was the main city in Trabzon province; Oscar S. Heizer, the American consul at Trabzon, reported: "This plan did not suit Nail Bey ... Many of the children were loaded into boats and taken out to sea and thrown overboard".[51] The Italian consul of Trabzon in 1915, Giacomo Gorrini, writes: "I saw thousands of innocent women and children placed on boats which were capsized in the Black Sea".[52] The Trabzon trials reported Armenians having been drowned in the Black Sea.[53]

Hoffman Philip, the American chargé d'affaires at Constantinople, wrote: "Boat loads sent from Zor down the river arrived at Ana, one thirty miles away, with three fifths of passengers missing".[54]

Use of poison and drug overdoses

The psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton writes in a parenthesis when introducing the medical experiments during the Holocaust, "Perhaps Turkish doctors, in their participation in the genocide against the Armenians, come closest, as I shall later suggest".[55]

Morphine overdose: During the Trabzon trial series of the Martial court, from the sittings between 26 March and 17 May 1919, the Trabzons Health Services Inspector Dr. Ziya Fuad wrote in a report that Dr. Saib caused the death of children with the injection of morphine. The information was allegedly provided by two physicians (Drs. Ragib and Vehib), both Dr. Saib's colleagues at Trabzons Red Crescent hospital, where those atrocities were said to have been committed.[56][57]

Toxic gas: Dr. Ziya Fuad and Dr. Adnan, public health services director of Trabzon, submitted affidavits reporting cases in which two school buildings were used to organize children and send them to the mezzanine to kill them with toxic gas equipment.[58][59]

Typhoid inoculation: The Ottoman surgeon, Dr. Haydar Cemal wrote "on the order of the Chief Sanitation Office of the Third Army in January 1916, when the spread of typhus was an acute problem, innocent Armenians slated for deportation at Erzican were inoculated with the blood of typhoid fever patients without rendering that blood 'inactive'".[60][61] Jeremy Hugh Baron writes: "Individual doctors were directly involved in the massacres, having poisoned infants, killed children and issued false certificates of death from natural causes. Nazim's brother-in-law Dr. Tevfik Rushdu, Inspector-General of Health Services, organized the disposal of Armenian corpses with thousands of kilos of lime over six months; he became foreign secretary from 1925 to 1938".[62]


Map of massacre locations and deportation and extermination centers

In May 1915, Mehmed Talaat 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 Talaat Pasha called "the Armenian riots and massacres, which had arisen in a number of places in the country". However, Talaat 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.

The remains of Armenians massacred at Erzinjan.[63]

On 29 May 1915, the CUP Central Committee passed the Temporary Law of Deportation ("Tehjir Law"), giving the Ottoman government and military authorization to deport anyone it "sensed" as a threat to national security.[33]:186–8 The "Tehjir 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:

It is unlawful to designate the Armenian assets as "abandoned goods" for the Armenians, the proprietors, did not abandon their properties voluntarily; they were forcibly, compulsorily removed from their domiciles and exiled. Now the government through its efforts is selling their goods ... If we are a constitutional regime functioning in accordance with constitutional law we can't do this. This is atrocious. Grab my arm, eject me from my village, then sell my goods and properties, such a thing can never be permissible. Neither the conscience of the Ottomans nor the law can allow it.[64]

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.[35]:224

An article by the New York Times dated 15 December 1915 states that one million Armenians had been either deported or executed by the Ottoman government.

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.[65]:329–31[66]:212–3[67] 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".[68]

Historian Hans-Lukas Kieser states that, from the statements of Talat Pasha[69] it is clear that the officials were aware that the deportation order was genocidal.[70] Another historian Taner Akçam states that the telegrams show that the overall coordination of the genocide was taken over by Talat Paşa.[71]

Death marches

An Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in field "within sight of help and safety at Aleppo", an Ottoman city.

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.[72] 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".[73]

Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians not only allowed others to rob, kill, and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves.[72] Deprived of their belongings and marched into the desert, hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished.

Naturally, the death rate from starvation and sickness is very high and is increased by the brutal treatment of the authorities, whose bearing toward the exiles as they are being driven back and forth over the desert is not unlike that of slave drivers. With few exceptions no shelter of any kind is provided and the people coming from a cold climate are left under the scorching desert sun without food and water. Temporary relief can only be obtained by the few able to pay officials.[72]

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".[35]:350

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".[33]:326 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:

The Turks have embarked upon the "total extermination of the Armenians in Transcaucasia ... The aim of Turkish policy is, as I have reiterated, the taking of possession of Armenian districts and the extermination of the Armenians. Talaat's government wants to destroy all Armenians, not just in Turkey but also outside Turkey. On the basis of all the reports and news coming to me here in Tiflis there hardly can be any doubt that the Turks systematically are aiming at the extermination of the few hundred thousand Armenians whom they left alive until now.[35]:349

Extermination camps

It is believed that 25 major concentration camps existed, under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right-hand men of Talaat 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-'Ayn were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days.[74]


Fundraising poster for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East – the United States contributed a significant amount of aid to help Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East is a relief organization established in 1915, just after the deportations, whose primary aim was to alleviate the suffering of the Armenian people. Henry Morgenthau played a key role in rallying support for the organization. Between 1915 and 1930, ACRNE distributed humanitarian relief across a wide range of geographical locations. ACRNE eventually spent over ten times the initial estimate, see original estimate, that amount and helped an estimated close to 2,000,000 refugees.[75]

In its first year, the ACRNE cared for 132,000 Armenian orphans from Tiflis, Yerevan, Constantinople, Sivas, Beirut, Damascus, and Jerusalem. A relief organization for refugees in the Middle East helped donate over $102 million (budget $117,000,000) [1930 value of dollar] to Armenians both during and after the war.[76][77]:336

Teshkilat-i Mahsusa

The Committee of Union and Progress founded a "special organization" (Turkish language: Teşkilat-i Mahsusa) that participated in the destruction of the Ottoman Armenian community.[78] This organization adopted its name in 1913 and functioned like a special forces outfit, and it has been compared by some scholars to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen.[33]:182, 185 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.[79] According to the Mazhar commissions attached to the tribunal as soon as November 1914, 124 criminals were released from Pimian 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.[80] Vehib Pasha, commander of the Ottoman Third Army, called those members of the special organization, the "butchers of the human species".[81]


Turkish courts-martial

In 1919, Sultan Mehmed VI ordered domestic courts-martial to try members of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) (Turkish: "Ittihat Terakki") for their role in taking the Ottoman Empire into 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 Court Martial taking into consideration the above-named crimes declares, unanimously, the culpability as principal factors of these crimes the fugitives Talat Pasha, former Grand Vizir, Enver Efendi, former War Minister, struck off the register of the Imperial Army, Cemal Efendi, former Navy Minister, struck off too from the Imperial Army, and Dr. Nazim Efendi, former Minister of Education, members of the General Council of the Union & Progress, representing the moral person of that party; ... the Court Martial pronounces, in accordance with said stipulations of the Law the death penalty against Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim.

The term Three Pashas, which include Mehmed Talaat 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 US 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".[19] 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 transferred 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.[82] 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 15 March 1921, former Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha was assassinated in the Charlottenburg District of Berlin, Germany, in broad daylight and in the presence of many witnesses. Talaat'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". The term "genocide", created in 1943, was coined by Lemkin who was directly influenced by the massacres of Armenians during World War I.[83]:210

Armenian population, deaths, survivors, 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 600,000,[84] to 1,500,000 (per Western scholars,[85] Argentina,[86] 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 1915–16.[87][88]

Justin McCarthy calculated an estimate of the pre-war Armenian population, then subtracted his estimate of survivors, arriving at a figure of a little less than 600,000 for Armenian casualties for the period 1914 to 1922.[89] In a more recent essay, he projected that if the Armenian records of 1913 were accurate, 250,000 more deaths should be added, for a total of 850,000.[90]

However, McCarthy's numbers have been highly contested by many specialists. Some of them, like Frédéric Paulin, have severely criticized McCarthy's methodology and suggested that it is flawed.[91] Hilmar Kaiser[92] another specialist has made similar claims, as have professor Vahakn N. Dadrian[93] and professor Levon Marashlian.[94] The critics not only question McCarthy's methodology and resulting calculations, but also his primary sources, the Ottoman censuses. They point out that there was no official statistic census in 1912; rather those numbers were based on the records of 1905 which were conducted during the reign of Sultan Hamid.[95] While Ottoman censuses claimed an Armenian population of 1.2 million, Fa'iz El-Ghusein (the Kaimakam of Kharpout) wrote that there were about 1.9 million Armenian's in the Ottoman Empire,[96] and some modern scholars estimate over 2 million. German official Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter wrote that fewer than 100,000 Armenians survived the genocide, the rest having been exterminated (German language: ausgerottet).[97]:329–30

Armenian population, deaths, survivors
Prorportions des populations musulmanes grecques et armeniennes en AsieMineure d'apres la statistique du livreJaune.png 1921, Armenian population values 1914, Armenian population. 1921, Armenian population values
1893–96 Armenian population in Ottoman Empire: 1,003,571 (Ottoman Turkish statistics) 1912 Armenian population in Six vilayets of Ottoman Empire According to Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople :1,018,00 1914 Armenian population in Ottoman Empire: 1,219,323 (Ottoman Turkish statistics) 1921 Armenian population in Turkey: 281,000 (US estimate)

Contemporaneous reports and reactions

Workers of the American Committee for Relief in the Near East in Sivas.

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.[16]:177 On 24 May 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".[46]

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.[98] The organization was championed by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Morgenthau's dispatches on the mass slaughter of Armenians galvanized much support for ACRNE.[99]

The U.S. Mission in the Ottoman Empire

A telegram sent by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr. to the State Department on 16 July 1915 describes the massacres as a "campaign of race extermination".

The United States had consulates throughout the Ottoman Empire, including locations in Edirne, Elâzığ, Samsun, İzmir, Trebizond, Van, Constantinople, and Aleppo. It was officially a neutral party until it joined the Allies in 1917. In addition to the consulates, there were numerous American Protestant missionary compounds established in Armenian-populated regions, including Van and Kharput. The events were reported regularly in newspapers and literary journals around the world.[33]:282–5

On his return home in 1924 after thirty years as a U.S. Consul in the Near East, and most of the preceding decade as Consul General at Smyrna, George Horton wrote his own "account of the Systematic Extermination of Christian Populations by Mohammedans and of the Culpability of Certain Great Powers; with a True Story of the Burning of Smyrna" (1926 subtitle, The Blight of Asia).[100][101] Horton's account quoted numerous contemporary communications and eyewitness reports including one of the massacre of Phocea in 1914, by a Frenchman, and two of the Armenian massacres of 1914/15, by an American citizen and a German missionary.[101]:28–9,34–7. It also quoted U.S. businessman Walter M. Geddes regarding his time in Damascus: "several Turks[,] whom I interviewed, told me that the motive of this exile was to exterminate the race."[102]

Many Americans spoke out against the genocide, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, rabbi Stephen Wise, Alice Stone Blackwell, and William Jennings Bryan, the U.S. Secretary of State to June 1915. In the U.S. and the United Kingdom, children were regularly reminded to clean their plates while eating and to "remember the starving Armenians".[103]

Ambassador Morgenthau's Story

Audio recording of Chapter 24, "The Murder of a Nation", from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story.

As the orders for deportations and massacres were enacted, many consular officials reported to the ambassador what they were witnessing. In memoirs that he completed during 1918 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 ..."[44]:309 In memoirs and reports, their staff[Clarification needed] vividly described the brutal methods used by Ottoman forces and documented numerous instances of atrocities committed against the Christian minority.[104]

Allied forces in the Middle East

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

The battalion left Aleppo on 3 February and reached Ras al-Ain in twelve hours ... some 12,000 Armenians were concentrated under the guardianship of some hundred Kurds ... These Kurds were called gendarmes, but in reality mere butchers; bands of them were publicly ordered to take parties of Armenians, of both sexes, to various destinations, but had secret instructions to destroy the males, children and old women ... One of these gendarmes confessed to killing 100 Armenian men himself ... the empty desert cisterns and caves were also filled with corpses ...[65]:327

Winston Churchill described the massacres as an "administrative holocaust" and noted that "the clearance of the race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act, on a scale so great, could well be. [...] There is no reasonable 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, cherishing national ambitions that could only be satisfied at the expense of Turkey, and planted geographically between Turkish and Caucasian Moslems".[65]:329

Arnold Toynbee: The Treatment of Armenians

Arnold J. Toynbee published a widely studied book The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1916. It was a collection of documents. Reacting to numerous eyewitness accounts, British politician Viscount Bryce and historian 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.[105]

The book has since been criticized as British wartime propaganda to build up sentiment against the Central Powers, but Bryce had submitted the work to scholars for verification before its publication. University of Oxford Regius Professor Gilbert Murray stated, "... the evidence of these letters and reports will bear any scrutiny and overpower any skepticism. Their genuineness is established beyond question".[35]:228 Other professors, including Herbert Fisher of Sheffield University and former American Bar Association president Moorfield Storey, came to the same conclusion.[35]:228–9

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. Germany's diplomatic mission at the beginning of 1915 was led by Ambassador Baron Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim (who was later succeeded by Count Paul Wolff Metternich following his death in 1915). Like Morgenthau, von Wangenheim began to receive many disturbing messages from consul officials around the Ottoman Empire detailing the massacre of Armenians. 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.[33]:186 In June 1915, von Wangenheim sent a cable to Berlin reporting that Talat had admitted that 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".[66]:213

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".[106]

Turkish official teasing starved Armenian children by showing bread, 1915

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 the German chancellery. His final report noted that fewer than 100,000 Armenians were left alive in the Ottoman Empire: the rest having been exterminated (German language: ausgerottet).[65]:329–30 Scheubner-Richter also detailed the methods of the Ottoman government, noting its use of the Special Organization and other bureaucratized instruments of genocide.

The Germans also witnessed the way Armenians were burned according to Israeli historian, Bat Ye'or, who writes: "The Germans, allies of the Turks in the First World War ... saw how civil populations were shut up in churches and burned, or gathered en masse in camps, tortured to death, and reduced to ashes".[107] 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".[66]:212 Other Germans openly supported the Ottoman policy against the Armenians. As Hans Humann, the German naval attaché in Constantinople said to US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau:

Children taken in by Near East Relief

I have lived in Turkey the larger part of my life ... and I know the Armenians. I also know that both Armenians and Turks cannot live together in this country. One of these races has got to go. And I don't blame the Turks for what they are doing to the Armenians. I think that they are entirely justified. The weaker nation must succumb. The Armenians desire to dismember Turkey; they are against the Turks and the Germans in this war, and they therefore have no right to exist here.[44]:375

In a genocide conference held 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.[65]:331 In his reports to Berlin in 1917, General Hans von Seeckt supported the reforming efforts of the Young Turks, writing that "the inner weakness of Turkey in their entirety, call for the history and custom of the new Turkish empire to be written".[108] Seeckt added that "Only a few moments of the destruction are still mentioned. The upper levels of society had become unwarlike, the main reason being the increasing mixing with foreign elements of a long standing unculture".[108] Seeckt blamed all of the problems of the Ottoman empire on the Jews and the Armenians, whom he portrayed as a fifth column working for the Allies.[108] In July 1918, Seeckt sent a message to Berlin stating that "It is an impossible state of affairs to be allied with the Turks and to stand up for the Armenians. In my view any consideration, Christian, sentimental, and political should be eclipsed by a hard, but clear necessity for war".[108]

Photographs exist that may also suggest the Germans participated in the mass killing and some of the German witnesses to the Armenian holocaust would go on to play a role in the Nazi regime. Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath, for example, who was attached to the Turkish 4th Army in 1915 with instructions to monitor "operations" against the Armenians, later became Hitler's foreign minister and "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" during Reinhard Heydrich's terror in Czechoslovakia.[109]

Armin T. Wegner

German military medic Armin T. Wegner enrolled as a medic at the outbreak of World War I during the winter of 1914–15. He defied censorship in taking hundreds of photographs[110] of Armenians being deported and subsequently starving in northern Syrian camps[65]:326 and in the deserts of Der Zor. Wegner was part of a German detachment under von der Goltz stationed near the Baghdad Railway in Mesopotamia. Wegner was eventually arrested by the Germans and recalled to Germany.

Wegner protested against the atrocities perpetrated in an open letter submitted to US President Woodrow Wilson at the peace conference of 1919. The letter made a case for the creation of an independent Armenian state. Also in 1919, Wegner published The Road of No Return ("Der Weg ohne Heimkehr"), a collection of letters he had written during what he deemed the "martyrdom" (German: "Martyrium") of the Armenians.[111] A documentary film depicting Wegner's personal account of the Armenian Genocide through his own photographs called "Destination Nowhere: The Witness" and produced by Dr J Michael Hagopian premiered in Fresno on 25 April 2000. Prior to the release of the documentary he was honored at the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan for championing the plight of Armenians throughout his life.

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 as they advanced.[112] In March 1916, the scenes they saw in the city of Erzerum led the Russians to retaliate against the Ottoman III Army whom they held responsible for the massacres, destroying it in its entirety.[113]

Swedish Embassy and Military Attaché

Sweden, as a neutral state during the entire World War I, had permanent representatives in the Ottoman Empire, able to continuously report on the ongoing events in the country. The Swedish Embassy in Constantinople, represented by Ambassador Per Gustaf August Cosswa Anckarsvärd, along with Envoy M. Ahlgren, and the Swedish Military Attaché, Captain Einar af Wirsén, closely followed the development throughout the empire, reporting, among others, on the Armenian massacres. On 7 July 1915, Anckarsvärd dispatched a two-page report to Stockholm, beginning with the following information:

The persecutions of the Armenians have reached hair-raising proportions and all points to the fact that the Young Turks want to seize the opportunity, since due to different reasons there are no effective external pressure to be feared, to once and for all put an end to the Armenian question. The means for this are quite simple and consist of the extermination (utrotandet) of the Armenian nation.[114]:39

During the remainder of 1915 alone, Anckarsvärd dispatched six other reports entitled "The Persecutions of the Armenians". In his report on 22 July, Anckarsvärd noted that the persecutions of the Armenians were being extended to encompass all Christians in the Ottoman Empire:

[The deportations] can not be any other issue than an annihilation war against the Greek nation in Turkey and as measures hereof they have been implementing forced conversions to Islam, in obvious aim to, that if after the end of the war there again would be a question of European intervention for the protection of the Christians, there will be as few of them left as possible.[114]:40

On 9 August 1915, Anckarsvärd dispatched yet another report, confirming his suspicions regarding the plans of the Turkish government, "It is obvious that the Turks are taking the opportunity to, now during the war, annihilate [utplåna] the Armenian nation so that when the peace comes no Armenian question longer exists".[114]:41

When reflecting upon the situation in Turkey during the final stages of the war, Envoy Alhgren presented an analysis of the prevailing situation in Turkey and the hard times which had befallen the population. In explaining the increased living costs he identified a number of reasons: "obstacles for domestic trade, the almost total paralysing of the foreign trade and finally the strong decreasing of labour power, caused partly by the mobilisation but partly also by the extermination of the Armenian race [utrotandet af den armeniska rasen]".[114]:52

Wirsén, when writing his memoirs from his mission to the Balkans and Turkey, Minnen från fred och krig ("Memories from Peace and War"), dedicated an entire chapter to the Armenian genocide, entitled Mordet på en nation ("The Murder of a Nation"). Commenting on the interpretation that the deportations resulted from the purported collaboration of the Armenians with the Russians, Wirsen concludes that their subsequent deportations were nothing but a cover for their extermination.: "Officially, these had the goal to move the entire Armenian population to the steppe regions of Northern Mesopotamia and Syria, but in reality they aimed to exterminate [utrota] the Armenians, whereby the pure Turkish element in Asia Minor would achieve a dominating position".[114]:28

In conclusion, Wirsén made the following note: "The annihilation of the Armenian nation in Asia Minor must revolt all human feelings ... The way the Armenian problem was solved was hair-raising. I can still see in front of me Talaat's cynical expression, when he emphasized that the Armenian question was solved".[114]:29

Bodil Biørn

In 1905 the missionary nurse Bodil Biørn (1871–1960) was sent to Armenia. First based in the town of Mezereh (now Elazig) and later in Mush, she worked for widows and orphaned children in cooperation with missionaries from the German Hülfsbund. She witnessed the massacres of 1915 in Mush and saw most of the children in her care murdered along with Armenian priests, teachers, and assistants. She barely escaped after 9 days on horseback but stayed on in the region for another 2 years under increasingly difficult working conditions. After a period at home she again went to Armenia and, until she retired in 1935, worked for Armenian refugees in Syria and Lebanon. Bodil Biørn was also an able photographer. Many of her photos are now in the WMF archive, which since the organisation was dissolved in 1982 has been preserved in the National Archives of Norway. In combination with her comments, written in her photo albums or on the back of the prints themselves, these photos bear strong witness of the atrocities that she saw.[115]

Ottoman Empire and Turkey

According to Mehmet Celal Bey, the former governor of Halep Province, the governor of Konya Province at the time, explained him the situation and said:

Mehmet Celal Bey

Blood flowing instead of water in the river, and thousands of innocent children, blameless elderly, helpless women and strong youths were flowing towards death in this blood flow.[116]

In 1919, Ahmet Refik (Altınay) wrote "the Unionists (Committee of Union and Progress) wanted to remove the problem of Vilâyât-ı Sitte with annihilating Armenians" in his work entitled İki Komite İki Kıtal.[117]

At a secret session of the National Assembly, held on 17 October 1920, Hasan Fehmi (Ataç), deputy of Gümüşhane at the time, said:

As you know, the issue of relocation was an event that made world to yell blue and made all of us to be considered as murderer. We knew, before we done it, the Christian world won't tolerate it and they would direct anger and hatred toward us. Why did we impute the title of murderer to our race? Why did we enter into such decisive and difficult struggle? That was done just for securing the future of our country that we know as more precious and sacred than our lives.[118]

Halil Pasha (Kut), uncle of Enver Pasha wrote "The Armenian nation, which I had tried to annihilate to the last member of it, because it tried to erase my country from history as prisoners of the enemy in the most horrible and painful days of my homeland, the Armenian nation, which I want to restore its peace and luxury, because today it takes shelter under the virtue of the Turkish nation. If you remain loyal to the Turkish homeland, I'll do every good thing that I can. If you hook on several senseless Komitadjis again, and try to betray Turks and the Turkish homeland, I will order my forces which surround all your country and I won't leave even a single breathing Armenian all over the earth. Get your mind." in his memory.[119]


Due to the weak central government and Tehran's inability to protect its territorial integrity, no resistance was offered by the mostly Islamic Persian troops when, after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the extreme northwest of Persia, Islamic Turks invaded the town of Salmas in northwestern Persia and tortured and massacred the Christian Armenian inhabitants in the cruelest possible manner.[120]

Study of the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide is widely corroborated by the international genocide scholars. The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), consisting of world's foremost experts on genocide,[121] unanimously passed a formal resolution affirming the fact of the Armenian Genocide. According to IAGS, "Every book on comparative genocide studies in the English language contains a segment on the Armenian Genocide. Leading texts in the international law of genocide such as William Schabas's 'Genocide in International Law' cite the Armenian Genocide as presursor to the Holocaust and as a precedent for the law on crimes against humanity. Polish Jurist Raphael Lemkin, when he coined the term genocide in 1944, cited the Turkish extermination of the Armenians and the Nazi extermination of the Jews as defining examples of what he meant by genocide. The killings of Armenians is genocide as defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 126 leading scholars of the holocaust including Elie Wiesel, and Yehuda Bauer placed a statement in the New York Times in June 2000 declaring the "inconstestable fact of the Armenian genocide" and urging western democracies to acknowledge it. "The Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide (Jerusalem), and the Institute for the Study of Genocide (NYC), have affirmed the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide".[122]

For Turkish historians, supporting the national republican myth is essential to preserving Turkish national unity. The usual Turkish argument is that the deportations were necessary because the Armenians had allied themselves with the Russian army in wartime and that around 600,000 Armenians perished during the marches, largely due to isolated massacres, disease, or malnourishment.[123] "There was no genocide committed against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire before or during World War I".[124] Genocide scholars Roger Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton wrote in Professional Ethics and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide (Holocaust and Genocide Studies): "Where scholars deny genocide in the face of decisive evidence ... they contribute to false consciousness that can have the most dire reverbrations. Their message, in effect, is ... mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over".[125] Some dissident historians and scholars in Turkey, including Yektan Türkyilmaz, have been trying to reclaim the Armenians as part of Ottoman and Turkish history and acknowledge the wrongs done to the Armenians as a condition for reconciliation with them on the basis of confidence in Turkish national unity.[126]

Defining genocide

Hebrew University scholar Yehuda Bauer suggests of the Armenian Genocide, "This is the closest parallel to the Holocaust".[127] He nonetheless distinguishes several key differences between the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, particularly in regard to motivation:

[T]he Nazis saw the Jews as the central problem of world history. Upon its solution depended the future of mankind. Unless International Jewry was defeated, human civilization would not survive. The attitude towards the Jews had in it important elements of pseudo-religion. There was no such motivation present in the Armenian case; Armenians were to be annihilated for power-political reasons, and in Turkey only ... The differences between the holocaust and the Armenian massacres are less important than the similarities—and even if the Armenian case is not seen as a holocaust in the extreme form which it took towards Jews, it is certainly the nearest thing to it.[127]

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".[128] Lucy Dawidowicz also alludes to these earlier massacres as at least as significant as World War I era events:

In 1897, when the Dreyfus Affair was tearing France apart, Bernard Lazare, a French Jew active in Dreyfus's defense, addressed a group of Jewish students in Paris on the subject of anti-Semitism. "For the Christian peoples", he remarked, "an Armenian solution" to their Jew-hatred was available. He was referring to the Turkish massacres of Armenians, which in their extent and horror most closely approximated the murder of European Jews. But, Lazare went on, "their sensibilities cannot allow them to envisage that". The once unthinkable "Armenian solution" became, in our time, the achievable "Final Solution", the Nazi code name for the annihilation of the European Jews.[129]

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".[130] 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 1915–16".[131] 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.[131][132] One public figure who objected to the use of the term "genocide" was Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who was subsequently rebutted by Dr Israel Charny, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem.[133]

In 2002, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) was asked by the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission to provide a report on the applicability of the Genocide Convention to the controversy. An independent legal counsel drafted memorandum for the ICTJ stated that in the opinion of the independent legal counsel "legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe [the events as genocide]"[134] and further that the Republic of Turkey was not liable for the event.[citation needed]

In 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars affirmed[135] 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". The IAGS also condemned Turkish attempts to deny the factual and moral reality of the Armenian Genocide. In 2007, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity produced a letter[136] signed by 53 Nobel Laureates re-affirming the Genocide Scholars' conclusion that the 1915 killings of Armenians constituted genocide.[137][138]

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.[139][140][141] 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",[142] he later came to believe that the term "genocide" was distinctly inaccurate, because the "tremendous massacres"[143] were not "a deliberate preconceived decision of the Turkish government".[144] This opinion has been joined by Guenter Lewy.[145]

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.[146][147]

Audio recording of Section 3 of Martyred Armenia, by Fa'iz El-Ghusein. The section describes methods of massacre adopted by the Turkish Gendarmes and authorities.

Bat Ye'or has suggested that "the genocide of the Armenians was a jihad".[148] Ye'or holds jihad and what she calls "dhimmitude" to be among the "principles and values" that led to the Armenian Genocide.[149] This perspective is challenged by Fà'iz el-Ghusein, a Bedouin Arab witness of the Armenian persecution, whose 1918 treatise 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 ... [I]t 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".[150]:49 Arnold Toynbee writes that "the Young Turks made Pan-Islamism and Turkish Nationalism work together for their ends, but the development of their policy shows the Islamic element receding and the Nationalist gaining ground".[151] Toynbee, and various other sources, report that many Armenians were spared death by marrying into Turkish families or converting to Islam. El-Ghusein points out that many converts were put to death, concerned that Westerners would come to regard the "extermination of the Armenians"[150]:49 as "a black stain on the history of Islam, which ages will not efface".[150]:51 In one instance, when an Islamic leader appealed to spare Armenian converts to Islam, El-Ghusein quotes a government functionary as responding that "politics have no religion", before sending the converts to their deaths.[150]:49

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".[152] Taner Akçam'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.[34]:125–8

On 10 October 2009 in Zürich, despite overwhelming opposition by Armenians in Armenia and in the Diaspora, the Armenian government signed the Armenia-Turkey Protocols, one of the provisions of which stipulates the establishment of a research commission "to study the two country's historical grievances".[153] The agreement must still be ratified by the parliaments of both countries in order to take effect.

Just a day before, on 9 October 2009 in London, Geoffrey Robertson QC, eminent jurist, barrister and judge, published a detailed legal opinion[154] which comprehensively and methodically countered the British Government's reasons for not formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Republic of Turkey and the Genocide

According to Kemal Çiçek, the head of the Armenian Research Group at the Turkish Historical Society, in Turkey there is no official thesis on the Armenian issue.[155] 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 nor were governmentally orchestrated. The killings were justified because Armenians posed a Russian-sympathizing threat[156] as a cultural group; the Armenians merely starved, or any of various characterizations recalling marauding "Armenian gangs".[157][158][159] 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.[160]

Volkan Vural, retired ambassador of Turkey to Germany and Spain, says that the Turkish state should apologize for what happened to the Armenians during the deportations of 1915 and what happened to the Greeks during Istanbul Pogrom.[161][162] He also states that, "I think that, the Armenian issue can be solved by politicians and not by historians. I don't believe that historical facts about this issue is not revealed. The historical facts are already known. The most important point here is that how this facts will be interpreted and will affect the future".[161]

Turkish governmental sources have asserted that the historically demonstrated "tolerance of Turkish people"[163] itself renders the Armenian Genocide an impossibility. One military document leverages 11th century history to cast doubt on the Armenian Genocide: "It was the Seljuq 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".[163] A Der Spiegel article addressed this modern Turkish conception of history thus:

"Would you admit to the crimes of your grandfathers, if these crimes didn't really happen?" asked ambassador Öymen. But the problem lies precisely in this question, says Hrant Dink, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Istanbul-based Armenian weekly Agos. Turkey's bureaucratic elite have never really shed themselves of the Ottoman tradition — in the perpetrators, they see their fathers, whose honor they seek to defend. This tradition instills a sense of identity in Turkish nationalists — both from the left and the right, and it is passed on from generation to generation through the school system. This tradition also requires an antipole against which it could define itself. Since the times of the Ottoman Empire, religious minorities have been pushed into this role.[164]

In 2007, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a circular that calls the government institutions to use "1915 Events" (in Turkish, 1915 Olayları) phrase instead of the "so-called Armenian genocide" (in Turkish, sözde Ermeni soykırımı) phrase.[165]

Turkey has started an "Initiative to Resolve Armenian Allegations Regarding 1915", by using archives in Turkey, Armenia and other countries.[166] Armenian president Robert Kocharian rejected this offer by saying, "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".[167] Additionally, Turkish foreign minister of the time, Abdullah Gül, invited the United States and other countries to contribute to such a commission by appointing scholars to "investigate this tragedy and open ways for Turks and Armenians to come together".[168]

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


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 used 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 (most of these cases have been dismissed).[169] These prosecutions have often been accompanied by hate campaigns and threats, as was the case for Hrant Dink, who was prosecuted three times for "denigrating Turkishness",[170] and murdered in 2007. Later, photographs of the assassin being honored as a hero while in police custody, posing in front of the Turkish flag with grinning policemen,[171] gave the academic community still more cause for pause with regard to engaging the Armenian issue.[172] The leading lawyer behind the prosecutions, Kemal Kerinçsiz, is accused of plotting to overthrow the government as being a member of the alleged Ergenekon network.

In 1973 Turkey recalled its ambassador to France to protest the Genocide monument erected in Marseilles "to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenian victims of the genocide ordered by the Turkish rulers in 1915".[173]

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.[174] This charge was "categorically denied" by Turkey;[175] 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".[176]

In the same year (1982), the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington, D.C. (ITS) was established by a $3 million grant from the Turkish Government. Israel Charny identifies ITS and some of its foremost deniers of the Armenian genocide, such as Stanford Shaw, Heath W. Lowry, and Justin McCarthy, as the Turkish government's principal agency in USA for promoting research on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, but also denial of the Armenian Genocide.[177]

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 United States Navy visits to Turkey and suspending some US military training facilities on Turkish territory. The American scholar who assembled the US archive documents for publication went into hiding after a series of anonymous threats.[178]

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 W. Lowry, advising the ambassador on how to prevent mention of the Armenian Genocide in scholarly works.[179] In 1996, Lowry was named to a chair at Princeton University that had been financed by the Turkish government, sparking a debate on ethics in scholarship.[125][180]

In 1993, Ragıp Zarakolu a Turkish human rights activist published the Turkish translation of the book called History of the Genocide written by Yves Ternon. The book was the first to be published in Turkey that openly acknowledged the event in 1915 as Genocide. Soon after its publication, he started to receive threats and eventually in 1994 the publishing firm of Ragıp Zorakolu was the target of a serious bomb attack.[181]

During a February 2005 interview with Das Magazin, novelist Orhan Pamuk made statements implicating Turkey in massacres against Armenians and persecution of the Kurds, declaring: "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it". Subjected to a hate campaign, he left Turkey, before returning in 2005 to defend his right to freedom of speech: "What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation; it was a taboo. But we have to be able to talk about the past".[182] However, when asked about his speech on CNN TURK television, Pamuk stated that "I did not estimate the number of killed Armenians, I did not use the word genocide, I did say Armenians were killed, but I did not say Armenians were killed by Turks".[183] Lawyers of two Turkish ultranationalist professional associations led by Kemal Kerinçsiz then brought criminal charges against Pamuk.[184] However, on 23 January 2006 the charges of "insulting Turkishness" were dropped (for formal reasons without finding it necessary to judge on the essence of the case), a move welcomed by the EU. That the charges had been brought at all was still a matter of contention for European politicians.

According to some newly discovered documents that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, more than 970,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916. These documents have been published in a recent book titled The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha (aka "Talat Pasha's Black Book") written by the Turkish journalist Murat Bardakçı. The book is a collection of documents and records that once belonged to Mehmed Talat, known as Talat Pasha, the primary architect of the Armenian deportations. The documents were given to Mr. Bardakçı by Mr Talat's widow, Hayriye Talat Bafralı, in 1983. According to the documents, the number of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire before 1915 stood at 1,256,000. The number plunged to 284,157 two years later in 1917.[185]

After a meeting with then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Turkey's PM announced that the Turkish Government might order the expulsion of all illegal Armenian immigrants from Turkey. The statement came after recent US House Committee and Swedish Parliament resolutions over the Armenian Genocide affirmation. He repeated the statement in a BBC interview immediately afterwards, declaring that there were 100,000 illegal Armenian citizens living in Turkey and that:

If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don't have to keep them in my country.[186][187]

The answer to Erdoğan came from the Armenian Prime Minister; he said that this kind of threat reminded Armenians of the Armenian Genocide and neither did they improve relations between the two countries. The exact number of illegal Armenians in Turkey is unknown, but the estimation is only 12,000 – 13,000[188] contrary to number used by the Turkish prime minister.

Armenia and the Genocide

Armenia has been involved in a protracted ethnic-territorial conflict with Azerbaijan, a Turkic state, since Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union 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 portray the modern conflict as a continuation of the Armenian Genocide, in order to influence modern policy-making in the region.[83][189]:232–3 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".[189]

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.[190][191] 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.[83]:232–3

The worldwide recognition of the Genocide is a core aspect of Armenia's foreign policy and overarching grand strategy.[192]

Recognition of the Genocide

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution, 24 April 1998

"Today we commemorate the anniversary of what has been called the first genocide of the 20th century, and we salute the memory of the Armenian victims of this crime against humanity".[15]

Armenian genocide monument in Larnaca, Cyprus. Cyprus was among the first countries to recognise the 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. 22 countries and 42 U.S. states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event. On 4 March 2010, a US congressional panel narrowly voted that the incident was indeed genocide; within minutes the Turkish government issued a statement critical of "this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed". The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) and the single largest organisation with the AAA the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) have as their main lobbying agenda to press Congress and the President of the United States for an increase of economic aid for Armenia (already the second largest per capita after Israel) and the reduction economic and military assistance for Turkey. The efforts also include reaffirmation of a genocide by Ottoman Turkey in 1915.[193]

Despite his previous public recognition and support of Genocide bills, as well as the election campaign promises to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide,[194] the U.S. President, Barack Obama, although repeating that his views on the issue have not changed, has thus far abstained from using the term "genocide".[195] On 24 April commemoration speeches President Obama has yet referred to the Armenian Genocide only by the Armenian synonym Metz Eghern ("Mec Eġeṙn").

Cultural loss

The premeditated destruction of objects of Armenian cultural, religious, historical and communal heritage was yet another key purpose of both the genocide itself and the post-genocidal campaign of denial. Armenian churches and monasteries were destroyed or changed into mosques, Armenian cemeteries flattened, and, in several cities (e.g. Van), Armenian quarters were demolished.[196]

Aside from the deaths, Armenians lost their wealth and property without compensation.[197] Businesses and farms were lost, and all schools, churches, hospitals, orphanages, monasteries, and graveyards became Turkish state property.[197] In January 1916, the Ottoman Minister of Commerce and Agriculture issued a decree ordering all financial institutions operating within the empire's borders to turn over Armenian assets to the government.[198] It is recorded that as much as 6 million Turkish gold pounds were seized along with real property, cash, bank deposits, and jewelry.[198] The assets were then funneled to European banks, including Deutsche and Dresdner banks.[198]

After the end of World War I, Genocide survivors tried to return and reclaim their former homes and assets, but were driven out by the Ankara Government.[197]

In 1914, the Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople presented a list of the Armenian holy sites under his supervision. The list contained 2,549 religious places of which 200 were monasteries while 1,600 were churches. In 1974 UNESCO stated that after 1923, out of 913 Armenian historical monuments left in Eastern Turkey, 464 have vanished completely, 252 are in ruins, and 197 are in need of repair (in stable conditions).[199][200]

Armenian Genocide reparations

The grounds of the International Law

The United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law provide in part, that reparation may be claimed individually and where appropriate collectively, by the direct victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, the immediate family, dependants or other persons or groups of persons closely connected with the direct victims.[201] According to Henry Theriault, while current members of Turkish society cannot be blamed morally for the destruction of Armenians, present-day Republic of Turkey, as successor state to the Ottoman Empire and as beneficiary of the wealth and land expropriations brought forth through the genocide, is responsible for reparations.[202]

Particularly important are Principles 9 and 12 that state, that civil claims relating to reparations for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law shall not be subject to statutes of limitations (article 9), and that restitution shall be provided to re-establish the situation that existed prior to the violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. The restitution requires, inter alia – return to one's place of residence and restoration of property.[201][203]

Professor of International Law of Geneva School of Diplomacy (J.D. – Harvard, Dr.phil. – Göttingen), former Secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee and former Chief of Petitions at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Alfred de Zayas stated, that because of the continuing character of the crime of genocide in factual and legal terms, the remedy of restitution has not been foreclosed. Thus the survivors of the genocide against the Armenians, both individually and collectively, have standing to advance a claim for restitution. Whenever possible complete restitution or restoration to the previous condition should be granted. But where is not possible, relevant compensation may be substituted as a remedy. [204]

In an article published in European Journal of International Law, Vahagn Avedian, rather leaving the limitations of the UN Genocide Convention, emphasizes the applicability of the then and now prevailing international laws, e.g. the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, more specifically the Martens Clause, pertaining to the protection of civilian population, but also existing international laws on unlawful confiscation etc. Thus, the actions of the Turkish governments (the Ottoman, the insurgent nationalist movement as well as the succeeding republic), should be viewed from the perspective of Internationally Wrongful Acts. Avedian argues that:

the Republic not only failed to stop doing the wrongful acts of its predecessor, but it also continued the very internationally wrongful acts committed by the Young Turk government. Thus, the insurgent National Movement, which later became the Republic, made itself responsible for not only its own wrongful acts but also those of its predecessor, including the act of genocide committed in 1915–1916.[205]

Sèvres Treaty

Although there are different opinions on the legitimacy of the Treaty of Sèvres and its relativity to reparation claims, there are specialists who claim that some of its elements retain the force of law. In particular, the fixing of the proper borders of an Armenian state was undertaken pursuant to the treaty and determined by a binding arbitral award, regardless of whether the treaty was ultimately ratified. The committee process determining the arbitral award was agreed to by the parties and, according to international law, the resulting determination has legal force regardless of the ultimate fate of the treaty.[202]


In July 2004, after the California State Legislature passed the Armenian Genocide Insurance Act, descendants of Armenian Genocide victims settled a case for about 2,400 life insurance policies from New York Life written on Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.[206] Around 1918, the Turkish government attempted to recover payments for the people it had killed, with the argument that there were no identifiable heirs to the policy holders. The settlement provided $20 million, of which $11 million was for heirs of the Genocide victims.[206]



Over 135 memorials, spread across 25 countries, commemorate the Armenian Genocide.[207]

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 44 metres (144 ft) 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 24 April, hundreds of thousands of people walk to the genocide monument and lay flowers around the eternal flame.

Another memorial, in Alfortville, France, near Paris, was bombed on 3 May 1984, by a hit-team headed by Grey Wolves member Abdullah Çatlı and paid by the Turkish intelligence agency (MİT).[208]

Representation in culture

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.[209]

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,[210] and his books were burnt by the Nazis.[211] 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.[47]:302–4

"Ravished Armenia" (sometimes called "Auction of Souls") is based on the narrative account of Aurora Mardiganian that was produced by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief in 1919, through which runs the story of the Armenian girl who survived the Genocide. This newly restored 24-minute full segment of the movie includes music, an introduction, 125 subtitles and a slide show of black and white production stills.

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 titled Ravished Armenia. It resonated with acclaimed director Atom Egoyan, influencing his 2002 Ararat. There are also references in Elia Kazan's America, America and 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).[212] Richard Kalinoski's play, Beast on the Moon, is about two Armenian Genocide survivors.

The paintings of Armenian-American Arshile Gorky, a seminal figure of Abstract Expressionism, are considered to have been informed by the suffering and loss of the period.[213] In 1915, at age 10, Gorky fled his native Van and escaped to Russian-Armenia with his mother and three sisters, only to have his mother die of starvation in Yerevan in 1919. His two The Artist and His Mother paintings are based on a photograph with his mother taken in Van.

Arshile Gorky's The Artist and His Mother (ca. 1926–36)

In 1975, famous French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour recorded the song "Ils sont tombés" ("They Fell"), dedicated to the memory of Armenian Genocide victims.[214]

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.[215]

The American band System of a Down, composed of four descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, has promoted awareness of the Armenian Genocide through its lyrics, including P.L.U.C.K. and in concerts.[216]

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".[217]

In 2008, Armenian-American composer Andrey Kasparov premiered Tsitsernakabert, an original work for modern dance and six musicians: alto flute, bass/ contrabass flute, violin, two percussionists, and mezzo-soprano.[218] The work opens with eight dancers posed in a circle – inclined toward the circle's centre – in a tableau reminiscent of the eponymous memorial to victims of the Armenian Genocide, situated in Yerevan, capital of Armenia.[219][220]

Julian Cope's 2013 album Revolutionary Suicide includes a song over 15 minutes long, "The Armenian Genocide", memorializing the event.


See also

  • Armenian Genocide denial
  • Armenia–Turkey relations
  • Confiscated Armenian properties in Turkey
  • Historiography of the fall of the Ottoman Empire
  • Press coverage during the Armenian Genocide
  • Racism and discrimination in Turkey


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  39. The German Foreign Ministry operative, Ernst Jackh, estimated that 200,000 Armenians were killed and a further 50,000 expelled from the provinces during the Hamidian unrest. French diplomats placed the figures at 250,000 killed. The German pastor Johannes Lepsius was more meticulous in his calculations, counting the deaths of 88,000 Armenians and the destruction of 2,500 villages, 645 churches and monasteries, and the plundering of hundreds of churches, of which 328 were converted into mosques.
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  92. Hilmar Kaiser, a German expert on the Armenian genocide, also criticizes McCarthy's calculation techniques in an interview with Dirk van Delft published in the NRC Handelsblad, p. 51, Amsterdam, Saturday, 27 May 2000
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  209. Sarkisyan, Henry (1975). Works of the State History History Museum of Armenia. IV: Armenian Theme in Russian Medallic Art. Yerevan: Hayastan. p. 136. 
  210. Document: Armin T. Wegner's Letter to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Berlin, Easter Monday, April 11, 1933 – Gerlach and Templer 8 (3): 395 – Holocaust and Genocide Studies
  211. "Autorenseite Wegners" (in German). Aktion Patenschaften für verbrannte Bücher. 
  212. Wolfgang Höbel and Alexander Smoltczyk. "Armenian Genocide at the Berlin Film Festival: "The Lark Farm" Wakens Turkish Ghosts". Spiegel Online.,1518,466427,00.html. Retrieved 6 September 2007. 
  213. "Arshile Gorky and the Armenian genocide". Find Articles. 
  214. Mari Terzian. "The status of Armenian communities living in the United States". Azad-Hye. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007. 
  215. "Gospel Artist Given Standing Ovation By Armenian Government Officials". ANS. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007. 
  216. Line Abrahamian. "Talking With Turks and Armenians About the Genocide". Reader's Digest Canada. Retrieved 23 April 2007. 
  217. Galás, Diamanda. "Defixiones: Orders from the Dead". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2007. 
  218. Old Dominion University (18 March 2008). "Old Dominion University Calendar | Diehn CREO Concert: The Synergy of Dance, Art and Music". Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  219. Rutherford, Laine M. “Composer and troupe pay tribute to Armenia.” Virginian-Pilot 15 March 2008: E5.
  220. Rutherford, Laine M. “Tsitsernakabert: Original piece makes a powerful statement.” Virginian-Pilot 19 March 2008: E5.


  1. The Armenian Genocide is generally associated with 1915, when most of the atrocities took place. The span varies from source to source: 1915–1916, 1915–1917, 1915–1918, 1915–1923, 1894–1915, 1894–1923
  2. 1.5 million is the most accepted number,[1][2][3] however, estimates vary from 600,000 to 1,800,000[4][5][6]

Further reading

Historical overviews

  • Akçam, Taner. A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007.
  • Akçam, Taner. The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.
  • Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
  • Bloxham, Donald. The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1995.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. Warrant for Genocide: Key Elements of Turko-Armenian Conflict. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2003.
  • Kévorkian, Raymond. The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Specific issues and comparative studies

  • Bobelian, Michael. Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-Long Struggle for Justice. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. "Genocide as a Problem of National and International Law: The World War I Armenian Case and its Contemporary Legal Ramifications", Yale Journal of International Law, Volume 14, Number 2, 1989.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. Key Elements in the Turkish Denial of the Armenian Genocide. Toronto: Zoryan Institute, 1999.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. "Patterns of Twentieth Century Genocides: the Armenian, Jewish, and Rwandan Cases". Journal of Genocide Research, 2004, 6 (4), pp. 487–522.
  • Güçlü, Yücel, "The Holocaust and the Armenian Case in Comparative Perspective", University Press of America, Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Plymouth, 2012. (ISBN 978-0-7618-5782-2 / eISBN 978-0-7618-5783-9)
  • Hovannisian, Richard (ed.) The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
  • Hovannisian, Richard. Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998.
  • Hovannisian, Richard. The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and Ethical Legacies. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2007.
  • Hovannisian, Richard G. and Simon Payalsian (eds). Armenian Cilicia. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2008.
  • Melson, Robert, Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Harper Perennial 2003.
  • Sanasarian, Eliz (1989). "Gender Distinction in the Genocide Process: A Preliminary Study of the Armenian Case". pp. 449–61. Digital object identifier:10.1093/hgs/4.4.449. PMID 20684116. 

Survivors' testimonies and memory

  • Balakian, Grigoris. Armenian Golgotha. Translated by Peter Balakian with Aris Sevag. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
  • Bedoukian, Kerop. Some of Us Survived: The Story of an Armenian Boy. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1978.
  • Hartunian, Abraham H. Neither to Laugh nor to Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide. Translated by Vartan Hartunian. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Armenian Heritage Press, 1986.
  • Jacobsen, Maria. Diaries of a Danish missionary: Harpoot, 1907–1919. Princeton: Gomidas Institute, 2001.
  • Lang, David Marshall. The Armenians: A People in Exile. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981.
  • Miller, Donald E. and Lorna Touryan Miller. Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
  • Odian, Yervant. Accursed Years: My Exile and Return from Der Zor, 1914–1919. Translated by Ara Stepan Melkonyan. London: Taderon Press, 2009.
  • Peroomian, Rubina. Literary Responses to Catastrophe: A Comparison of the Armenian and the Jewish Experience. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993.
  • Svazlyan, Verzhine. The Armenian Genocide and Historical Memory. Translated by Tigran Tsulikian. Yerevan: Gitutiun Publishing House, 2004.

Former Armenian communities

  • Hovannisian, Richard. Armenian Van/Vaspurakan. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2000.
  • Hovannisian, Richard. Armenian Baghesh/Bitlis and Taron/Mush. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2001.
  • Hovannisian, Richard. Armenian Karin/Erzerum. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2003.
  • Hovannisian, Richard. Armenian Sebastia/Sivas and Lesser Armenia. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2004.

World responses and foreign testimony

  • Anderson, Margaret Lavinia. "'Down in Turkey, far away': Human Rights, the Armenian Massacres, and Orientalism in Wilhelmine Germany", Journal of Modern History Volume, 79, Number 1, March 2007, pp. 80–111. in JSTOR
  • Barton, James L. Turkish Atrocities: Statements of American Missionaries on the Destruction of Christian Communities in Ottoman Turkey, 1915–1917. Ann Arbor: Gomidas Institute, 1997.
  • Bryce, James and Arnold Toynbee. The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Falloden, Uncensored ed. Edited and with an introduction by Ara Sarafian. Princeton: Gomidas Institute, 2000. complete text
  • Dadrian, Vahakn N. Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in Turkish Sources. Jerusalem: Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, 1991.
  • Davis, Leslie A. The Slaughterhouse Province: An American Diplomat's Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915–1917. ew Rochelle, N.Y.: A.D. Caratzas, 1989.
  • Hovannisian, Richard G. "The Allies and Armenia, 1915–18". Journal of Contemporary History 1968 3(1): 145–168. ISSN: 0022-0094 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Libaridian, Gerard. "The Ideology of the Young Turk Movement", pp. 37–49. In Gerard Libaridian (Ed.) A Crime of Silence, The Armenian Genocide: Permanent Peoples' Tribunal. London: Zed Books, 1985.
  • Morgenthau, Henry (1918). "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story" (Google Books excerpt and text search). .
  • Nassibian, Akaby (1984). "Britain and the Armenian Question: 1915–1923". St. Martin's Press. .
  • Peterson, Merrill D (2004). ""Starving Armenians": America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915–1930 and After". University of Virginia Press. .
  • Power, Samantha (2003). ""A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide". Harper. .
  • Severance, Gordon; Severance, Diana (2003). "Against the Gates of Hell: The Life & Times of Henry Perry, a Christian Missionary in a Moslem World". .
  • Safarian, Ara, ed (2004). "United States Official Documents on the Armenian Genocide, 1915–1917". Gomidas. .
  • Winter, Jay, ed (2004). "America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915" (Google Books excerpts and text search). , 325 pp.

Memory and historiography

External links

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