The twentieth and twenty first centuries witnessed some of the most brutal losses of life in the form of mass killings, genocides, and wars. The number of events that would be classified as genocides or institutionally sanctioned mass murders is estimated at twelve. Other sources may list more or less of these events as some countries and people deny the act of genocide entirely. These centuries also saw significant loss of life due to war, including but not limited to the First and Second World Wars, the Korean wars and the Vietnam war. Though all is not bleak for after World War II, genocide and major mass killings have been on a downward trend (Roser and Nagdy). The point of discussion of this paper will be the Armenian genocide, one of the deadlier genocides of the time and a horrible tragedy brought up by political and religious tension released during the First World War.
Merriam-Webster states the definition of genocide as The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group. This seems to be the general consensus as it is very similar to the United Nations’ definition of genocide. With this in mind it should be relatively simple to define what an action of genocide is. Whilst understanding what a genocide may be, it is an even more difficult task of understanding why anyone would be driven to commit such an act against humanity. Individual killers in these groups believe that killing itself is wrong but it is a worse wrong to not kill. That subtle difference may be the key element in what separates the mentality of them and us. (Waller) In the case of the Holocaust it was the Nazis and for the Armenian Genocide it was the Young Turks. This group mentality can be used to explain many catastrophic events throughout history including religious divides, wars and genocide. This may be one of the leading factors in genocide as explained in the same article stated above …the first set of Nuremberg trials. 21 men were tried and both IQ and personality tests were administered in attempts to try and prove these perpetrators had a Nazi personality (or some part of their personality that made them commit such atrocities). Scores from both tests came back and showed nothing out of the ordinary (Waller). With this information now known a discussion on what truly happened in the Armenian genocide may be had.
At the start of the twentieth century in Eastern Europe and Anatolia there was one major nation known as the Ottoman Empire. Before this time, Armenians had a state of their own in which the state religion was Christianity. After the Armenian state was dissolved and absorbed by other countries the Armenian people constantly moved due to border changes and immigration. Eventually they landed under the control of the Ottoman. The empire was primarily Muslim, and as a minority in the population Christian Armenians were taxed more than Muslims, had few political rights, and few legal rights. Even under these harsh conditions the Armenians still thrived and tended to be more educated and richer than other Turks, which lead to resentment of the Armenians (History.com Editors). This resentment continued to grow, as Armenians began to push for more rights, until the Young Turks took power. The nationalistic Young Turks wanted most of all was to Turkify the empire. According to this way of thinking, non-Turksand especially Christian non-Turkswere a grave threat to the new state (Ottoman Empire) (History.com Editors). Then after their defeat in the First Balkan War the Ottomans blamed the defeat on the treachery of Christians, mainly the Balkan Christians. This resulted in to even more hate towards Christians and with the mass immigration of Muslims into Anatolia resulting conflict between the two cultures and peoples broke out. This hatred continued to culminate until the start of the First World War. In 1915 the Ottoman army devised a plan to strike through the Caucasus into Russia. However their plan failed resulting in the worst Ottoman defeat of the war. This lead to the Young Turks blaming the Armenians for the defeat and because of this Armenian soldiers were transferred into labor camps. This then started the horrible campaign of mass killings (Suny).
Once the Armenian soldiers had been disarmed and put into labor camps they started to be killed while in the camps by guards and other Turks. While this was happening mass raids started in Armenian towns against civilians. The most afflicted towns were those near the Russian border as they were the main enemy for the Ottoman Empire. Armenian resistance, when it occurred, provided the authorities with a pretext for employing harsher measures. In April 1915 Armenians in Van barricaded themselves in the city’s Armenian neighborhood and fought back against Ottoman troops (Suny). This gave further justification to the crimes that were committed against the Armenian people and other non-Turks. Soon many Armenians were deported towards the front lines due to the government saying they were a threat to national security. These areas they had been sent to soon began to turn into the concentration camps that they would suffer in for the majority of the war (Suny). While many were kept in the Armenian camps, some were hunted and murdered by killing squads or butcher battalions. As for the children they were taken, converted to Islam, and then sent off to live with Turkish families to stay with them. These children would most likely never see their parents again. By the end of the genocide, which ended around April of 1922, it is estimated that over two million Armenians and other lesser races were systematically killed off by the Ottoman government and by the end of this genocide there was an estimated amount of only 388,000 Armenians left (History.com Editors).
Today many countries recognize the Armenian genocide as a true genocide perpetrated by the Young Turks. But to this day the government of Turkey, the Ottoman empire’s successor, still denies these claims. The Armenian Genocide, referred to as the ?Armenian matter’ in textbooks, is described as a lie perpetrated in order to meet these goals and is defined as the biggest threat to Turkish national security. Another threat to national security is missionaries and their activities.(qtd. Bulut). Here is one excuse given saying that they were a threat to national security. This is hard to prove as Armenians made up a part of the Ottoman army at the time and only once the mass killings began did they begin to rebel. Another excuse is that it was an action made in the context of war and that, again stated above, was a national security issue. While this genocide is still a major issue in the world it seems unlikely that a true apology will be given by Turkey (Suny). This major loss of life today is thought to be the first genocide of the twentieth century and was a precursor to what humans were possible of doing when they were filled with such hate. It is an important reminder that we must not forget or deny what happened to the Armenian people and other non-Turks. This genocide was a major loss of life and a tragedy that would impact the Earth forever.
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