Context &
 & Atrocities
& Demands 
The Aftermath

he defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its allies at the end of 1918 raised the possibility of enacting the numerous pledges concerning the punishment of the perpetrators and the rehabilitation of the Armenian survivors. After the Young Turk leaders had fled the country, the new Turkish prime minister admitted that the Turks had committed such misdeeds "as to make the conscience of mankind shudder forever." United States General James G. Harbord, after an inspection tour of the former Armenian population centres in 1919, reported on the organise nature of the massacres and concluded: "Mutilation, violation, torture, and death have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveller is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all ages." The Paris Peace Conference declared that the lands of Armenia would never be returned to Turkish rule, and a Turkish military court martial tried and sentenced to death in absentia Enver, Talaat, Djemal and Dr. Nazim, the notorious organisers of the genocide. No attempt was made to carry out the sentence, however, and thousands of other culprits were neither tried nor even suspended, and even accused and imprisoned war criminals were freed and sent home.

The release of the perpetrators of the genocide signalled a major shift in the political winds. The former Allied Powers, having become bitter rivals over the spoils of the war, failed to act in unison in imposing peace or dealing with the stiff resistance of a Turkish nationalist movement. They concurred that the Armenians should be freed and rehabilitated but took no effective measure to achieve that objective. They hoped that the United States would extend a protectorate over the devastated Armenian regions, but the United States was recoiling from its role in the world war and turning its back on the league of Nations. Unable to quell the Turkish nationalist movement, which rejected the award of any territory for an Armenian state or even unrestricted return for the Armenian refugees, the Allied Powers in 1923 made their peace with the new Republic of Turkey. No provision was made for the rehabilitation, restitution or compensation of the Armenian survivors. Western abandonment of the Armenians was so complete that the revised peace treaties included no mention of "Armenians" or "Armenia". It was as if no Armenians had ever existed in the Ottoman Empire. The 3,000 year presence of the Armenians in Asia Minor came to a violent end. Armenian place names were changed, Armenian cultural monuments were obliterated or allowed to fall into disrepair. Attempts to eliminate the memory of Armenia included change of the geographic expression Armenian Plateau to Eastern Anatolia . The Armenian survivors were condemned to a life of exile and dispersion, being subjected to inevitable acculturation and assimilation on five continents and facing an increasing indifferent world. With the consolidation of totalitarian regimes in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s memories of the Armenian cataclysm gradually faded, and in the aftermath of the horrors and havoc of World War II it virtuall became the "forgotten genocide".

In recent years, growing awareness of the Holocaust and the commitment to the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide has again raised the Armenian Genocide to the level of consciousness among educators, scholars and defenders of human rights. The trans-generational trauma of the Armenian people is beginning to be understood, and various official and unofficial bodies have called on the present government of the republic of Turkey to recognise the injustice perpetrated against the Armenians by previous Turkish governments.

Why remember?

n a thoughtful essay, Terrence Des Pres, the author of The Survivor: An Anatorny of'Life in the Death Camps and member of the United States Holocaust Council, has captured the importance of remembering:

Milan Kundera, the exiled Czech novelist, has written that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." This single remark, in my view, sums up the human predicament today and puts the burden of responsibility exactly where it falls--on writers, and now more than ever on scholars . . . National catastrophes can be survived if (and perhaps only if) those to whom disaster happens can recover themselves through knowing the truth of their suffering. Great powers, on the other hand, would vanquish not only the peoples they subjugate but also the cultural mechanism that would sustain vital memory of historical crimes.
When modern states make way for geo-political power plays, they are not above removing everything - nations, cultures, homelands - in their paths.

Great powers regularly demolish other peoples' claim to dignity and place, and sometimes, as we know, the outcome is genocide. In a very real sense, therefore, Kundera is right: against historical crimes we fight as best we can, and a cardinal part of this engagement is "the struggle of memory against forgetting".

(Extract from Prof. Richard G. Hovannisian, in "Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide", California State Board of Education, 1988.)

(Armenian Genocide Studies: Resources - Macquarie University, Sydney 1997)

The Armenian Genocide: Context and Legacy

By Dr. Rouben Adalian

etween 1915 and 1918 the Ottoman B Empire, ruled by Muslim Turks, carried out a policy to eliminate its Christian Armenian minority. This genocide was preceded by a series of massacres in 1894-96 and in 1909, and was followed by another series of massacres beginning in 1920. By 1922 Armenians had been eradicated from their historic homeland.

There are at least two ways of looking at the Armenian experience in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Some scholars regard the series of wholesale killings from the 1890s to the 1920s as evidence of a continuity in the deteriorating status of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. They maintain that, once initiated, the policy of exposing the Armenians to physical harm acquired its own momentum. Victimization escalated because it was not countermanded by prevailing outside pressure or attenuated by internal improvement and reconciliation. They argue that the process of alienation was embedded in the inequalities of the Ottoman system of govemment and that the massacres prepared Ottoman society for genocide.

Other scholars point out that the brutalization of disaffected elements by despotic regimes is a practice seen across the world. The repressive measures these govemments use have the limited function of controlling social change and maintaining the system. In this frame of reference, genocide is viewed as a radical policy because it reaches for a profound alteration of the very nature of the state and society. These scholars emphasize the decisive character of the Armenian genocide and differentiate between the periodic exploitation and occasional terrorization of the Armenians and the fmality of the deliberate policy to exterminate them and eliminate them from their homeland.

Like all empires, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational state. At one time it stretched from the gates of Vienna in the north to Mecca in the south. From the sixteenth century to its collapse following World War I, the Ottoman Empire included areas of historic Armenia. By the early part of the twentieth century, it was a much shrunken state confined mostly to the Middle East. Yet its rulers still governed over a heterogeneous society and maintained in stitutions that favored the Muslims, particularly those of Turkish background, and subordinated Christians and Jews as second-class citizens subject to a range of discriminatory laws and regulations imposed both by the state and its official religion, Islam.

The failure of the Ottoman system to prevent the further decline of the empire led to the overthrow of the government in 1908 by a group of reformists known as the Young Turks. Formally organized as the Committee of Union and Progress, the Young Turks decided to Turkify the multiethnic Ottoman society in order to preserve the Ottoman state from further disintegration and to obstruct the national aspirations of the various minorities. Resistance to this measure convinced them that the Christians, and especially the Armenians, could not be assimilated. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Young Turks saw it as an opportunity to rid the country of its Armenian population. They also envisioned the simultaneous conquest of an empire in the east, incorporating Turkish-speaking peoples in Iran, Russia, and Central Asia.

The defeat of the Ottomans in World War I and the discrediting of the Committee of Union and Progress led to the rise of the Turkish Nationalists. Their objective was to found a new and independent Turkish state. The Nationalists distanced themselves from the Ottoman government and rejected virtually all its policies, with the exception of the policy toward the Armenians.

. This essay focuses on three aspects of the Armenian genocide that have broader applicability to any study of genocide: 
(1) Distinctions between massacres and genocide 
(2) Use of technology in facilitating mass murder
(3) The legacy of genocide.
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