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Armenian Genocide

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Armenian Genocide (also known as Armenian Holocaust or Armenian Massacre) refers to two distinct but related events first the campaigns conducted against the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II in 1894-96 and second to the deportation of Armenians by the Young Turk government in 1915-16.

The disaster is said by some historians to have begun as early as 1894, though it is usually marked by historians as taking place on April 24, 1915, when 300 Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers and professionals in Constantinople were gathered together by military officers and killed. At the same time, approximately 5,000 of the poorest Armenians were butchered in the streets and in their homes.

The most widely-stated reason behind the massacre is said to be the intent to remove the Armenian people from the country of Turkey, in order to create a fully Islamic, Turkish-dominated country. While the Muslim Ottoman dynasty had allowed various religious factions to exist in the Ottoman Empire since its foundation, the ruling body had become less tolerant and was seen as sliding into decline and corruption through the 19th and 20th centuries. The Armenians were primarily Catholic, and they had been more and more persecuted as changes came to the Middle East in the years before and during World War I.

At that time, identity in the Turkish-populated areas of the Ottoman Empire transformed from a primarily religious identity with pan-Islamic overtunes to a primarily ethnic identity as Turks. While other ethnic minorities such as Kurds resided in what is now Turkey, Armenians posed a special problem because they were not Muslim and because they occupied Eastern Anatolia, the region perceived by Turkish nationalists as the heartland of the Turkish enemy. Furthermore, the region straddled the border with Turkey's traditional enemy, Russia, which has a significant Armenian population of its own. Furthermore, the Turks argued that Russia shared the same basic Christian faith as the Armenians, so that the local Armenians posed a danger to Turkey in the event of conflict between the two countries.

By 1890 there were about 2.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire the vast majority of whom were Christian, primarily Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The Armenians were encouraged by Russia to push for autonomy. Russia for territorial reasons wished to weaken the Ottomans, ultimately hoping to take Constantinople. Although the movement for autonomy grew rapidly, Abd-ul-Hamid remained determined to maintain control. To counteract the autonomy movement the Ottoman government encouraged anti-Armenian feelings among Kurds who neighbored the Armenians. The resulting harassment by the Kurds and an increase in taxes lead to an Armenian revolt. In response Turkish troops and accompanying Kurdish irregulars killed thousands of Armenians and burned several villages (1894). Two years later, apparently in an attempt to gain international attention, Armenian revolutionaries seized Ottoman Bank in Istanbul. Mobs mostly of Muslim Turks then killed 50,000 Armenians. The level of Ottoman government involvement with the mobs is not well know and debatable.

During World War I Turkey came under the Young Turks[?] government. The Young Turks feared the Armenian community, which they had believed was more sympathetic to allied powers specifically Russia than to the Ottoman Empire. In early 1915 battalions of Russian Armenians organized the recruiting of Turkish Armenians from behind the Turkish lines. In response the Young Turk government executed 300 Armenian nationalist intellectuals and ordered the deportation of the 1,750,000 Armenians living in Anatolia to Syria and Mesopotamia. In the process several hundred thousand died from starvation, disease or exhaustion. Several hundred thousands more were massacred by Kurdish militia and paramilitary, giving a total of perhaps 600,000 Armenians dead.

The actions continued primarily for the next year, with further atrocities being committed through 1923. During this period, it is estimated that 1.5 million to 2 million Armenians perished. Many accounts have been documented of massacres, rapes, and forced marches resulting in deaths from exhaustion and dehydration among the Armenian people in this period. A similar number of Greek and Semitic Christians suffered the same fate.

The Ottoman Empire fell and the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923. Though the Turkish government officially enforces a separation of church and state that differs from the more theocratic Muslim nations, the government of Turkey has not acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Spokespersons for the Turkish government officially deny that there was any genocide, claiming that most of the Armenian deaths resulted from armed conflict, disease and famine during the turmoil of World War I. It is commonly claimed by Turks that the Armenians attempted genocide against them.

The Armenian Genocide has recently been highly politicized. It has been used by some to belittle the Jewish Holocaust or to defame the Turks. Some have (incorrectly) called it the first genocide of the 20th century. In 2000 the French Senate passes a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915-16. The Turkish government denies all responsibility for the deaths and tries to prevent similar resolutions by other countries.

Upon talking about the "Jewish Question", Adolf Hitler is said to have referred to the Armenian Genocide by saying "Who now remembers the Armenians?", as an example that nobody would remember actions taken against the Jews.

In a sense, one of the first Usenet spamming incidents can be linked to the Armenian Genocide. During the first few months of 1994, a person using the Internet name of Serdar Argic posted thousands upon thousands of messages to many different newsgroups; these messages contained long diatribes claiming that the genocide had never taken place. Similar campaigns on Usenet over this issue and others relating to attempted-genocide still continue today.

The Armenian genocide is the subject of a novel by Franz Werfel, Forty Days of Musa Dagh[?] and a 2002 film by Canadian director Atom Egoyan[?], Ararat.

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