In April 1915, the imperial government of the Ottoman Empire started a brutal campaign to eliminate the ethnic Armenian population. Their goal was to keep the crumbling empire intact by eliminating the biggest ethnic minority group; the Armenians. By 1915, the Ottoman Empire was participating in world war 1, on the side of Imperial Germany. Under the leadership of the radical-nationalist Young Turks, the Ottoman Empire replaced its tolerance of ethnic minorities with radical Turkish nationalism. This nationalism would then lead to mass murder of almost 1,5 million Armenians!
The Ottoman Empire was established after the collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire. The Turks captured the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople in 1453. With the collapse of the last Roman nation, the Islamic Turks now controlled what is today the Republic of Turkey. 100 years later they succeeded in capturing the Caucasus ( Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan )!
After the 19th century, European ideals such as ethnic nationalism were widespread among the different peoples of the Ottoman Empire. With the independence of Bulgaria, many believed that reforms were needed. Armenians demanded more rights, a constitutional government and an end to the discrimination of Christians in the empire. Sultan Abdül-Hamid rejected these demands and used brutal force, killing at least 4.000 Armenians in Pogroms between 1894 and 1896!
Although the Ottoman government was able to eliminate many critics, it was unprepared for the Young Turks revolt. These Young Turks were army officers who rejected the old ideals of Abdül-Hamid. In 1908 they carried out a coup and took control of the Ottoman government. Sultan Abdül-Hamid was forced to give up his absolute power over the empire. In 1909 he was replaced by his colorless nephew, who was a puppet of the Young Turks!
The Young Turks started with modernization. But their Turkish nationalism meant that minorities soon turned against them. The Young Turks were nationalists, who demanded Turkish culture and language to be forced down on minorities such as the Armenians. Although some Armenians had supported the Young Turks against the Sultan, it became clear that the new government was radical nationalist and hostile towards none-Turkish cultures. This ethnic nationalism is still a huge part of modern day Turkey and the reason for Turkish rejection of the Armenian Genocide!
In 1914, the Ottoman Empire under the Young Turks joined the Central European powers against Great Britain, France and Russia. This war became known as the first world war, a conflict that would last four years and result in the death of 25 million people. The war would not end good for the Ottoman Empire. In 1918 they capitulated and their capital Istanbul was occupied by British forces in 1920!
The Armenian Genocide started one year into world war one. Fearing a popular uprising of ethnic Armenians inside the empire, the Young Turks ordered the removal of all Armenians. They were to be deported to the Syrian desert. It started on 24 April 1915 with the murder of 250 Armenians in the capital and the rounding up of many families. The male Armenians were shot and their wives and children forced to walk in what became known as the Death Marches!
In just a few months the brutal Turks murdered between 800.000 and 1,5 million people, most of these were ethnic Armenians. During the marches into the Syrian desert, many died because the Turks did not brought food or water with them. Most died from starvation and dehydration!
Major General Otto von Lossow, head of the German military forces in the Ottoman Empire, spoke to a conference held in Batum in 1918 about the genocide. He and his German workers saw first hand what happened to the Armenians and how they were systematic rounded up and eliminated!
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 – Otto von Lossow
By August 1915, it was all over. Men, woman, children and elderly, all murdered, raped and starved to death. The Turks who had to guard the Armenians were told that they were free to rape and murder any Armenian they could see. Many girls were raped and then killed. Most guards were not soldiers, but ethnic Turks raised to hate all those who were not Turkish. Again the violent and brutal nature of the Turks can be traced back to ethnic nationalism, which laid the framework for today’s conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan!
The German Imperial High Command knew of the genocide. But they choose not to speak out. The Ottoman Empire was Germany’s ally and therefore needed in the war. We see the same thing happening in Turkey today. The western nations have never fully recognized or condemn the Armenian Genocide. American presidents have not spoke of it in public, because they do not want to anger their Turkish allies. American imperialism plays the same role as German imperialism did 100 years ago. They knew about it, but they choose silence to please the Turks!
After the genocide was completed, many Armenians feared that they would never recover. After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the local bourgeoisie took power and established the bourgeois; Republic of Armenia. The Ottoman Empire was gone, but a new nationalist Turkish government was fighting to rebuild the Turkish nation, under the banner of secularism and ethnic nationalism. The Armenians hoped for support from the western nations against Turkish imperialism, but no support came!
By November 1920, the weak bourgeois government faced a workers uprising as it lost popular support. When the Red Army of Soviet Russian invaded Armenia, it was greeted by many Armenians who hoped for Russian aid. Many joined the 11th Red Army when it enter Armenia. The new revolutionary government ruled very brutal and carried out needless acts of terror. This was exploited by former bourgeois leaders who organized the uprising. In February 1921, the Armenian ”Revolutionary” Federation ( ARF ), tried to overthrow the Armenian Socialist Soviet Republic. The ARF is a bourgeois-nationalist party that supported the Republic of Armenia. After Soviet Armenia was founded, they struggled for the overthrow of the soviets and a return to bourgeois rule. It was only thanks to the Red Army, the Armenian SSR was able to survive!
Turkey has never accepted responsibility for the murder of so many Armenians. They call it the Armenian Problem and refuse to call it a genocide. Because the Turks are very nationalist, it is not tolerated to speak in public about the Armenian Genocide. To do so is called a insult to Turkey and many journalists have faced intimidation from the Turkish government when they write about it. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code stated: “A person who publicly insults the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months to three years. Famous writer Ferit Orhan Pamuk was arrested ( and later found not guilty ) for violating this controversial law, when he spoke about the murder of 1 million Armenians!
When Armenians outside Armenia remember the genocide, ethnic Turks always try to demonstrate against it. In the Netherlands, many Dutch-Turks come together in the city of Almelo to denounce the Armenian Genocide. With huge Turkish flags and nationalist songs they called on the Dutch government not to recognize the genocide. The Netherlands did not fully accepted the Armenian Genocide until 2015!
It is ironic that the Ottoman Empire did accepted the Armenian Genocide in 1919. The verdict of the Turkish courts acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and sentenced the perpetrators to death. However in 1921 during the Turkish struggle against western imperialism, amnesty was given to those found guilty. The Turkish government under Mustafa Kemal which founded the republic in 1923, adopted a policy of denial. The Republic of Turkey remains in this denial as of 2015, while the Ottoman Empire who carried out the genocide had accepted its responsibility!