From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide


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The canvas on which the mass deportation and massacre of Armenians and Assyrians took place was a landscape that stretched from Istanbul almost 1, miles to the east, beyond the eastern ends of the Ottoman Empire into Persia and the Caucasus. Mountains, valleys, rivers, and deserts were the topographies through which hundreds of thousands of uprooted people moved in convoys. Driven to exhaustion, starvation, and suicide, hundreds of thousands would perish; others would be forced to emigrate or convert to Islam to save their lives. Men died in greater numbers; many woman and children were taken into the families of the local Muslims.

Tens of thousands of orphans found some refuge in the protection of foreign missionaries.

Armenian Genocide

It is conservatively estimated that between , and 1 million were slaughtered, or died on the marches. Other tens of thousands fled north, to the relative safety of the Russian Caucasus. Hundreds of thousands of women and children, we now know, were compelled to convert to Islam and survived in the families of Kurds, Turks, and Arabs. Those who observed the killings, as well as the Allied powers engaged in a war against the Ottomans, repeatedly claimed that they had never witnessed anything like it.

The word for what happened had not yet been invented. There was no concept to mark the state-targeted killing of a designated ethnoreligious people. What might have been rationalized as a military necessity, given the imperial ambitions and distorted perceptions of the Ottoman leaders, quickly became a massive attack on their Armenian subjects, a systematic program of murder and pillage. An act of panic and vengeance metamorphosed monstrously into an opportunity to rid Anatolia once and for all of the one people that stood in the way of the Young Turks' plans for a more purely Muslim Empire, dominated by ethnic Turks.

A whole category based on religion and ethnicity, the people of a particular millet religious community , were singled out as potentially dangerous to the state. The deportations of Armenians and Assyrians were rationalized at the time and later as a military necessity, framed by the imperial ambitions and distorted perceptions of the Ottoman leaders, though the government refused to take responsibility for the massacres, claiming that they were caused by local officials and excessive hatred of Armenians by common people.

The causes of what has come to be known as the first genocide of the 20 th century were both immediate and long-term. In the context of war and invasion, a mental and emotional universe developed that included perceived threats, the Manichaean construction of internal enemies, and a pervasive fear that triggered a deadly, pathological response to real and imagined immediate and future dangers.

Armenians were neither passive nor submissive victims, but the power to decide their fate was largely out of their hands. The purpose of the genocide was to eliminate the perceived threat of the Armenians within the Ottoman Empire by reducing their numbers and scattering them in isolated, distant places, and to replace them with Muslim refugees who had fled from the Balkans.

The destruction of the Ermeni milleti was carried out in three different but related ways: dispersion, massacre, and assimilation by conversion to Islam. A perfectly rational and rationalist explanation, then, for the genocide appears to be adequate: a strategic goal to secure the Empire by elimination of an existential threat to the state and the Turkish or Islamic people. Rather than being a struggle between primordial nations as imagined by nationalists inevitably confronting one another and contesting sovereignty over a disputed land, the genocide was the result of an accelerating construction of different ethnoreligious communities within the complex context of an empire with its possibilities of multiple and hybrid identities and coexistence.

The hierarchies, inequities, institutionalized differences, and repressions that characterized imperial life and rule, had for centuries allowed people of different religions, cultures, and languages to live together. Armenians and others acquiesced to their position in the imperial hierarchy and even developed some affection for the polity in which they lived. Shared experiences as Ottomans in some cases led to material prosperity and cultural hybridity, but always under conditions of insecurity and, often capricious, governance.

Religion, language, and culture distinguished the millets - the Muslim, Armenian, Greek, Catholic, Protestant, Assyrian, and Jewish - one from another, yet members of all of them could aspire to be Ottoman and participate in the cultural, social, and even political life of the Empire without ever achieving full equality with the ruling institution. Determined to save their empire, the Young Turks came to power at a moment of radical disintegration of their state that was threatened, in their minds, both by the great European powers and the non-Turkic peoples not only by Balkan Christians, Armenians, and Greeks, but Muslim Kurds, Albanians, and Arabs as well.

It would, in other words, be neither an ethnically homogeneous nation state like the paradigmatic states of Western Europe, nor a multinational state of diverse peoples equal under the law. It would remain an empire with some peoples dominant over others. We are supposed to be its gardeners! First, the bad shoots are to be cut. And then the scion is to be grafted. The Armenian genocide was not planned long in advance, but was a contingent reaction to a moment of crisis that grew more radical over time. Yet genocide became possible as a technique of state security only after a long gestation of a militant, deeply hostile anti-Armenian disposition.

The genocide should be distinguished from the earlier episodes of conservative restoration of order by repression the Hamidian massacres of or urban ethnic violence Adana, Although there were similarities with the brutal policies of massacre and deportation that earlier regimes used to keep order, the very scale of the Armenian genocide and its intended effects - to rid Anatolia and other parts of the Empire of a entire people - make it a far more radical, indeed revolutionary, transformation of the imperial setup.

Neither religiously motivated nor a struggle between two contending nationalisms, one of which destroyed the other, the genocide was the product of a pathological response of desperate leaders who sought security against a people they had both construed as enemies and driven into radical opposition to the regime under which they had lived for centuries. While an anti-Armenian disposition existed and grew more virulent within the Ottoman elite long before the war, and some extremists contemplated radical solutions to the Armenian Question, particularly after the Balkan Wars, the World War not only presented an opportunity for carrying out the most revolutionary program against the Armenians, but provided the particular conjuncture that convinced the Young Turk triumvirate to deploy ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Armenians.

From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide | Taner Akcam

As spring approached in , and the Armenians could be linked to the Russian advance as collaborators, the governing few believed that the circumstances were propitious to remove the Armenians. They stabbed us in the back, we stabbed them back. The choice of genocide was not inevitable.

Predicated on long-standing and ever more extreme affective dispositions and attitudes that had demonized the Armenians as a threat that needed to be dealt with, the ultimate choice was made by specific leaders at a particular historical conjuncture when the threat seemed to them most palpable. The catalytic moment that triggered the most brutal response to anxiety about the future came with the World War. There was no blueprint for genocide elaborated before or even in the early months of war, but the disposition to dispose of the Armenians had already been forming in the decade before Sarajevo.

Those who perpetrated genocide operated within their own delusional rationality. The great majority of Armenians had been willing to live within the Ottoman Empire if their lives and property could be secured.


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They clung to the belief that a future was possible within the Empire long after it seemed to some to be reasonable. Still, they had been socialized as Ottomans: this was their home, and what they knew. Only when their own government once again turned them into pariahs did some of them defect or resist. The Armenian genocide, along with the killing of Assyrians and the expulsion of the Anatolian Greeks, laid the ground for the more homogeneous nation state that arose from the ashes of the Empire. Like many other states, including Australia, Israel, and the United States, the emergence of the Republic of Turkey involved the removal and subordination of native peoples who had lived on its territory prior to its founding.

Estimates of the Armenians killed in the deportations and massacres of range from a few hundred thousand to 1,, The more conservative estimates of between , and , killed, with hundreds of thousands of others converted to Islam or surviving as refugees, appear most accurate. Whatever the actual number of those killed, the result was the physical annihilation of Armenians in the greater part of historic Armenia, the final breaking of a continuous inhabitation of that region by people who called themselves Armenian.

By the act of genocide, the Young Turks prepared the ground for the Turkish national state, the republic founded by Mustafa Kemal , that now occupies the Anatolian peninsula. Once the Greeks were driven into the sea at Smyrna in and Cilicia cleared of Armenians, the Turkish nationalists gained a homeland for the Turkish people.

Though they would have to share eastern Anatolia with Kurds who in time acquired their own political ambitions, the successive Turkish regimes were successful in gaining international recognition of their rights to the territory that once made up the heartland of Armenian kingdoms and the eastern marchlands of the Byzantine Empire.

Suny, Ronald Grigor: Armenian Genocide , in: online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. DOI : Version 1. Armenian Genocide.

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By Ronald Grigor Suny. Jahhundert bis zur Gegenwart, Paderborn et al. Regrettably, the article deals primarily with what cannot be said about the Special Organization rather than what it actually was. An early account still worth reading is Stoddard, Philip H. See, Hull, Isabel V.

Armenians and Turks mark anniversary of massacre during Ottoman Empire

Balakian, Peter: The burning Tigris. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure.


  1. From empire to republic : Turkish nationalism and the Armenian genocide.
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  6. Today, Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March , a U. Congressional panel at last voted to recognize the genocide. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Genocide is a term used to describe violence against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy the entire group.

    The word came into general usage only after World War II, when the full extent of the atrocities committed by the Nazi In April , the government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, perpetrated atrocious crimes against Bosniak Bosnian During the Rwandan genocide of , members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as , people, mostly of the Tutsi minority.

    Started by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and Gold from the American River! In March , during World War I , British and French forces launched an ill-fated naval attack on Turkish forces in the Dardanelles in northwestern Turkey, hoping to take control of the strategically vital strait separating Europe from Asia. The failure of the World War I began in , after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and lasted until Europe by Almost exactly a century before, a meeting of the European states at the Congress of Vienna had established an international order and balance of power that lasted for almost a century.

    By , however, a multitude of forces were threatening to tear it apart. This Day In History. Young Turks In , a new government came to power in Turkey. World War I Begins. Coman, M. Cotteret, J. Cottle, S. Mapping the field, in S. Cottle ed. Dadrian, V. The History of Armenian Genocide. Delage, C. Derderian, K. Duclert, V. Gueslin, D. Grigor Suny, F. Entman, R. Fairclough, N. Foucault, M. Gordon ed. Gauthier, G. Halen P. Walter eds. Hoffman, A. Hoffman Reliability and validity in oral history: The case for Memory, in J. Edwal eds. Jodelet, D.

    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide
    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide
    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide
    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide
    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide
    From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide

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