A Century Later, Slaughter Still Haunts Turkey and Armenia
Where Armenians once flourished, the 'great catastrophe' is an enduring reminder of pain and controversy.

National Geographic
April 2016
By Paul Salopek

One million Armenians—some say more, some say less—were killed a century ago in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.

A stone cenotaph in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, commemorates this tragic event: the Medz Yeghern, or “great catastrophe,” of the Armenian people. Each spring—on April 24, when the pogroms started—many thousands of pilgrims climb an urban hill to this shrine. They file past an eternal flame, the symbol of undying memory, to lay a small mountain of cut flowers. Just 60 miles to the northwest, and a few hundred yards across the Turkish border, lie the ruins of an older and perhaps more fitting monument to the bitterness of the Armenian experience: Ani.

What is Ani? Ani was the medieval capital of a powerful, ethnically Armenian kingdom centered in eastern Anatolia—the sprawling Asiatic peninsula that today makes up most of Turkey—and straddling the northern branches of the Silk Road. It was a rich metropolis that hummed with 100,000 souls. Its bazaars overflowed with furs, with spices, with precious metals. A high wall of pale stone protected it. Renowned as the “city of 1,001 churches,” Ani rivaled the glory of Constantinople. It represented the flowering of Armenian culture. Today it crumbles atop a remote, sun-hammered plateau—a scattering of broken cathedrals and empty streets amid yellow grasses, a desolate and windblown ruin. I have walked to it. I am walking across the world. I am retracing, on foot, the pathways of the first ancestors who abandoned Africa to wander the world. I have seen no place on my journey more beautiful or sadder than Ani.

“They don’t even mention the Armenians,” marvels Murat Yazar, my Kurdish walking guide.

And it is true: On the Turkish government placards erected for tourists, the builders of Ani go unnamed. This is intentional. There are no Armenians left in Ani. Not even in official histories. So just as Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan calls to remember, Ani is a monument to forgetting.

One of the oldest and most intractable political disputes in the world—a toxic standoff that has locked Armenia and Turkey in acrimony, in enmity, in nationalist extremism for generations—can be reduced to the endless parsing of three syllables: genocide. This word is freighted with alternative meanings, with shadings, with controversy. It is codified by the United Nations as one of the worst of crimes: the attempt to obliterate entire peoples or ethnic, racial, or religious groups. And yet when does it apply? How many must be slaughtered? How to weigh action versus intent? By what ghastly accounting?

The Armenian version of events: The year is 1915. World War I is nine months old. Europe is herding its young into the fires. The vast and multicultural Ottoman Empire—the world’s most powerful Muslim polity—has allied itself with Germany. A large Christian Armenian minority, once so peaceful and trusted as to be labeled by the sultans as the millet-i sadıka, or loyal nation, is wrongfully accused of rebellion, of siding with the Russian enemy. Some Ottoman leaders decide to resolve this “Armenian problem” through extermination and deportation. Soldiers and local Kurdish militias shoot Armenian men. There are mass rapes of women. Armenian villages and city neighborhoods are looted, appropriated. The dead clog the rivers and wells. Cities stink of rot. The survivors—ragged columns of women and children—straggle at bayonet point into the waterless deserts of neighboring Syria. (Today just three million Armenians live in Armenia; eight to ten million are scattered in diaspora.) The Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire drops from about two million to fewer than 500,000. Most historians call this subtraction the modern world’s first true genocide.

“I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this,” wrote Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the U.S. ambassador to Constantinople at the time. “The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”

Turkish authorities categorically deny this account. Their version of the “so-called genocide” goes like this: It is a time of supreme madness in history, a time of civil war. Armenians suffer, it is true. But so do many other groups trapped inside the Ottoman Empire as it splinters during the Great War: ethnic Greeks, Syriac Christians, Yazidis, Jews—even the Turks themselves. Blood flows in all directions. There is no systematic extermination plan. And the Armenian death tolls are exaggerated, fewer than 600,000. Moreover, many Armenians are in fact traitors: Thousands join the armed ranks of invading coreligionists, the imperial Russian Army.

Challenging this official view still carries risks in Turkey. Though prosecutions have eased, Turkish judges deem the term “genocide” provocative, incendiary, insulting to the nation. When speaking of the Armenian calamity, even such luminaries as Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize winner, have faced charges of denigrating Turkishness or the Turkish state.

“It is our hope and belief,” then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared in a carefully worded speech in 2014, “that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners, will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner.”

What is the special power of this word “genocide”?

The Armenian diaspora has spent decades funding lobbying campaigns to urge the governments of the world to deploy this term when describing what occurred under the Ottomans. In Diyarbakır, a Kurdish city in eastern Turkey, I am conducting an interview at a newly reopened Armenian church—a small, fragile gesture of Turkish-Armenian conciliation—when a man strides up to me.

“Do you recognize the genocide?” he demands. He is Armenian. He is agitated. He peers into my eyes.
I am startled. I’m working, I tell him.

“I don’t care,” he says. “Do you or don’t you recognize the genocide?”

I put down my pen. He repeats his question, over and over. He is telling me: I am not a ghost.

The question of memory: Never forget. But of course we do. Eventually we always forget.

“People have been making war for thousands of years,” observed the Polish journalist and writer Ryszard Kapuściński, “but each time it is as if it is the first war ever waged, as if everyone has started from scratch.”

In a town outside of Yerevan a shrunken old man slumps on a couch. His name is Khosrov Frangyan. He is bundled against the nonexistent cold—in blankets, in a pile jacket, in a knit cap, with socks pulled over his gnarled hands—because his heart and veins are antique. He is 105 years old. He is one of the last living survivors of the Armenian massacres. These frail elders, now mostly gone, are cherished as national heroes in Armenia. Because they are the last palpable links to the crime of 1915. Because they are a breathing rebuke to denial. They have repeated their stories so many times that their delivery seems dry, remote, rote—worn as smooth as well-rubbed coins.

“I was five when the Turks came,” Frangyan rasps. “They chased us up the mountain.”

He recounts his story in shards. It is a fabled incident from the genocide. Some 4,700 residents of six Armenian villages in what is now southern Turkey fled up a coastal mountain called Musa Dağ. They rolled rocks down on their Turkish pursuers. They held out for more than 40 days. The desperate survivors waved a handmade banner at ships steaming past along the Mediterranean shore. “CHRISTIANS IN DISTRESS—RESCUE.” By some miracle French warships saved them and carried them off to Egypt, to exile.

Frangyan’s brown eyes are watery and red rimmed. He does not dwell, as some Armenian witnesses do, on the horrors, on the summary executions of parents in front yards, on mass rapes, on decapitations. No. His voice rises as he recalls instead the fruits of his lost village: “The gardens! My grandfather had figs—each tree was 50 meters high! I want to eat those bananas now! I want to keep the memory of those bananas!” Frangyan’s middle-aged daughter shakes her head. She apologizes. The old man gets confused, she says. But he is not confused. I have been to his homeland in Hatay Province, Turkey. I have stood near his old village amid orchards lush with tangerines and lemons. It is indeed a subtropical paradise. And I have peered from a hilltop overlooking the same blue sea where the warships dropped anchor. His chance salvation reminded me, unreassuringly, of the conclusion to that novel of human evil Lord of the Flies: How adults finally splashed ashore on a remote island of innocent, castaway children—children who had devolved, unsupervised, into murderers—to save the day.

A century ago the French Navy rescued Frangyan and his family. But who will save the French sailors from human darkness? And who will rescue the rest of us?

I walk out of Africa. I follow the footsteps of our Stone Age ancestors. Wherever these pioneers appeared, other resident hominins disappeared. They vanished.

In eastern Turkey I walk by derelict Armenian farmhouses. Trees sprout from their rubble, their roofless rooms. I walk past old Armenian churches converted to mosques. I sit in the mottled shade of walnut orchards planted by the long-ago victims of death marches.

“We fought the Armenians, and many died,” says Saleh Emre, the gruff, white-haired mayor of the Kurdish village of Taşkale. He suddenly softens. “I think this was wrong. They belonged here.”

Muslim Kurds occupy a strange place in the violent history of eastern Turkey. From a frontier gendarmerie who did the Ottomans’ dirty work a century ago, they have become a besieged ethnic minority, demanding more political rights in modern Turkey. Victimhood now binds many Kurds to their long-departed Armenian neighbors.

Emre says his family acquired the land for his village from Armenians. It came very cheap. He lets this fact sink in. He ticks off the names of nearby towns that once were majority Armenian: Van, Patnos, Ağrı. Few or no Armenians live in them now.

When does a genocide officially end? At which point is the act of mass annihilation complete—finished, documented, resolved? Surely not when the gunfire stops. (This is far too soon.) Is it when the individual dead disappear from the chain of human memory? Or when the last emptied village acquires a new population, a new language, a new name? Or is it sealed, at long last, with the onset of regret?

My guide, Murat Yazar, and I inch northward. We trek across yellowing steppes where wolves run before us, pausing to gaze back over their shoulders in silence, then trot on. We pass Mount Ararat. The 16,854-foot peak shines to the east, smeared white with snow. The Bible links the mountain to Noah’s high-altitude anchorage. The beautiful volcano is sacred to the Armenians. (A popular misconception has it that Armenian Apostolic priests even wear caps shaped like Ararat’s cone.) In August 1834 the Russian meteorologist Kozma Spassky-Avtonomov climbed to the mountain’s icy summit. Ararat towers so high that he thought he might see stars twinkling during the daytime. His expedition was the perfect Anatolian quest: He was trying to discern what is always there yet invisible. This is a landscape haunted by absences.

“Chosen trauma” is how the political psychologist Vamık Volkan describes an ideology—a worldview—by which grief becomes a core of identity. It applies to entire nations as well as individuals. Chosen trauma unifies societies brutalized by mass violence. But it also can stoke an inward-looking nationalism.

I slog across the Lesser Caucasus Mountains from Turkey into the republic of Georgia. I throw stones to knock frozen apples from bare trees. Pausing in Tbilisi, I ride a night train to Yerevan. It is April 24, the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Billboards festoon the Armenian capital. One shows weapons—a scimitar, a rifle, a hatchet, a noose—arrayed to spell out “1915.” Another bluntly pairs an Ottoman fez and “Turkish” handlebar mustache with Adolf Hitler’s brush mustache and comb-over. The least combative symbol of mourning is the most poignant: forget-me-not flowers. Millions of violet petals brighten Yerevan’s parks and medians. The corollas are reproduced on banners, on stickers, on lapel pins: a blossom of genocide. “I remember and demand”—this is the slogan of the commemoration.

But demand what?
This is the key question that Armenians are asking themselves. Is the past a guide? Or is it a trap?

Apostolic Bishop Mikael Ajapahian, of the Armenian city of Gyumri: “In Armenia there is no enmity toward Turkey. We hold nothing against ordinary Turks. But Turkey must do everything — everything — to heal the wounds.”

Elvira Meliksetyan, women’s rights activist: “We don’t know what we want. If everything reminds us of our past burdens, then we lose the future, no? We have no strategy. All this victimization makes us beggars.”

Ruben Vardanyan, billionaire philanthropist: “A hundred years later we are the winners. We survived. We are strong. So saying thank you, giving back something to the people who saved us, including Turks, is the next step. A hundred years ago some of their grandparents saved our grandparents. We need to connect those stories.” (Vardanyan has funded an award, the Aurora Prize, to honor unsung heroes who rescue others from genocide.)

There is a torchlight march. There are photo exhibits. There is a concert by an Armenian-diaspora rock band from Los Angeles. (“This is not a rock-and-roll concert! To our murderers, this is revenge!”) The Tsitsernakaberd with its eternal flame—the hilltop monument to the dead—is crowded with diplomats, academics, activists, ordinary people. At a genocide-prevention conference, an American historian dryly lays out the case for Turkish reparations. It is “not an absurd or immaterial proposition,” he suggests, for Turkey to cede the six traditionally Armenian provinces of the Ottomans to Armenia. (Germany has paid more than $70 billion in compensation to the victims of Nazi atrocities.)

The most wrenching story I hear on my Armenia side trip comes from a young man with eyes like open manholes.

“I was just a baby, maybe one year old. I was dying in the hospital. I had pneumonia—I think it was pneumonia. The doctors could do nothing. A Turkish woman in the maternity ward noticed my mother crying. She asked my mother if she could hold me. She unbuttoned her dress. She took me by my ankles and lowered me down the front of her body. It was like she was giving birth to me all over again. She did this seven times. She said prayers. She shouted, ‘Let this child live!’ ”


“I got better.” He shrugs. “The Turk saved my life.”

Ara Kemalyan, an ethnic Armenian soldier, tells me that story inside a frontline trench about 150 miles southeast of Yerevan. There are pocks of distant gunfire. A dusty white sun. Rusty cans hang on barbed wire—a primitive alarm system against infiltrators. For more than 20 of his 38 years Kemalyan, a fighter from the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has been squared off against soldiers—his former friends and neighbors—from the central government of Azerbaijan, a secular Muslim state. Up to 30,000 people, mostly civilians on both sides, have died in the violence over Nagorno-Karabakh since the late 1980s, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. This poisonous little war, paralyzing the Caucasus, has virtually nothing to do with the older violence under the Ottomans. Yet Kemalyan still dubs the woman in the hospital, the Azerbaijani midwife who saved him with magic, an enemy “Turk.” The specters of 1915 have occupied his heart.

Before walking out of these ghost lands, I revisit Ani. The medieval ruin in Turkey. The monument to denial. This time I see it from the Armenian side of the frontier.

The closed Armenia-Turkey border is one of the strangest boundaries in the world. Turkey shut its land crossings in 1993 out of sympathy with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The Armenian side also remains sealed, owing in part to pressure from the diaspora against normalizing relations with Turkey. The result: Roads traversing a storied intersection of the globe—a fulcrum point between Asia and Europe—go nowhere. A train station on the Armenian side has not seen a locomotive pass in 22 years. A sleepy clerk sweeps the station office once a day while the rails silently rot. (A ghost airline does fly direct between Armenia and Turkey; it operates from a nondescript office in Yerevan.) As a result, the economies of both countries suffer. People on both sides of the line are cut off, isolated, poorer.

The Russian Army guards the Armenian side of the border with Turkey as part of a mutual-defense pact. This is how Moscow maintains influence in the strategic region. The sight is surreal: Strands of Armenian barbed wire, Russian watchtowers, and checkpoints face open fields in Turkey, which demilitarized its side of the border many years ago. Russian and Armenian troops face off against Turkish shepherds. The shepherds wave.

“I always keep my kitchen fire lit,” says Vahandukht Vardanyan, a rosy-cheeked Armenian woman whose farmhouse sits across the barbed wire from Ani. “I want to show the Turks that we’re still here.”

I climb an overlook by her home where Armenian pilgrims disembark from buses. These tourists come to gaze longingly across a fence at their ancient capital in Anatolia. I look too. I see exactly where I stood months earlier in Turkey. A ghost of my earlier self roams those ruins. Nothing separates any of us except an immense gulf of loneliness.

First Armenian Massacres

On August 26, 1896, a group of Armenian revolutionaries raided the headquarters of the Ottoman Bank in Istanbul after having shot the guards and seized more than 140 staff members, in an attempt to gain international attention to the plight of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Mobs of Muslim Turks then massacred tens or hundreds of thousands of Armenians. It is alleged by some that 50,000 Armenians were killed, and that there was a level of Ottoman government involvement with the mobs.

Armenian-sympathizing estimates of the total killed run from 100,000 to 300,000; one of the greatest pro-Armenians, Johannes Lepsius, estimated less than 89,000. Turkish estimates run from 20,000 to 30,000. These events are recalled by the Armenians as the "Great Massacres" and believe the Hamidian measures verified the capacity of the Turkish state to carry out a systematic policy of murder and plunder against a minority population. The formation of Armenian revolutionary groups began roughly around the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. As some diplomats observed, the aim of these groups were to commit massacres so as to incite counter-measures, and to invite "foreign powers to intervene," as Istanbul's British Ambassador Sir Philip Currie observed in March 1894.

The Armenian Genocide

Before World War I the Ottoman Empire came under the Young Turks government. At first some Armenian political organizations supported the Young Turks in hopes that there would be a real change from Abdul Hamid's policies towards the Armenian population. There were Armenians elected to the Ottoman Parliament, where some remained throughout the ensuing world war. However they were later to be disappointed. 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 1914 Ottomans passed a new law that required all adult males up to age 45, to either be recruited in the Ottoman army or pay special fees in order to be excluded from service. Most of the Armenian recruits were later turned into road laborers and some were executed.

On April 24, 1915, the Young Turk government executed 300 Armenian intellectuals, although a partisan source as Peter Balakian's "The Burning Tigris" tells us most were imprisoned and there were even survivors. The fact that most Armenian men were also butchered in the army and many influential figures arrested and killed, places a question mark over certain arguments that Armenians organized revolts and that there was a civil war, given that Armenians were outnumbered, outmanned and outgunned. On the other hand, there were articles in the New York Times as early as November 7, 1914, days after Russia had declared war, attesting to Armenian uprisings ("ARMENIANS FIGHTING TURKS -- Besieging Van—Others operating in Turkish Army's Rear"), and accounts from Armenians themselves, such as Boghos Nubar's 1919 letter in the Times of London stressing Armenian belligerence. In addition, there is evidence of Russian financial support (242,900 rubles, according to the Dashnak Party Military Minister, Armenian National Congress meeting in Tbilisi, Feb. 1915), testimony from even those such as Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to the effect of "...In the early part of 1915... every Turkish city contained thousands of Armenians who had been trained as soldiers and who were supplied with rifles, pistols, and other weapons of defense," and even accounts from Armenian newspapers hailing the rebellion. Chronology here is important and not incontestably established. Regardless of the chronology above, when the deportation orders were issued to Armenian villagers across Anatolia, the vast majority obediently followed orders, even when near certain death was obvious.

After the recruitment of most men and the arrests of certain intellectuals, widespread massacres were taking place throughout Ottoman Empire. In desperate attempts at survival, upon hearing of massacres of nearby villages, Armenians in Musa Dagh and Van organized their self defense. In Van, they handed over control of the city to advancing Russians. The Ottoman government ordered the deportation of over 1 million Armenians living in Anatolia to Syria and Mesopotamia though this figure has not been conclusively established. Indeed, there is another consensus this number did not exceed 700,000, and Arnold Toynbee reported in his Wellington House (British propaganda division) report of "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire" that 500,000 were alive in 1916. Although the word deportation seems pretty innocent (some would prefer the word "relocation," as the former means banishment outside a country's borders; Japanese-Americans, for example, were not "deported" during WWII), things were not, because the deportations themselves were a silent method of mass execution that led to the death of many of the Armenian population, by forcing them to march endlessly through desert, without food or water or enough protection from local Kurdish or Turkish bandits.

In the process several hundred thousand died in the resulting death marches from starvation, dehydration, disease or exhaustion. Several hundred thousands more were massacred by Kurdish militia and Ottoman gendarmes, giving an estimated total under certain counts of 1,500,000 Armenians dead. Then again, the Armenians contend one million survived, and even the Patriarch Ormanian provided a pre-war population figure of 1,579,000.

Mr. Hovhannes Katchaznouni, first Prime Minister of the Independent Armenian Republic, describes this part of history as follows in his 1923 Manifesto: "At the beginning of the Fall of 1914 when Turkey had not yet entered the war but already been making preparations, Armenian revolutionary bands began to be formed in Transcaucasia with great enthusiasm and especially with much uproar... The Armenian Revolutionary Federation had active participation in the formation of the bands and their future military action against Turkey... In the Fall of 1914 Armenian volunteer band organized themselves and fought against the Turks because they could not refrain themselves from fighting. This was an inevitable result of psychology on which the Armenian people had nourished itself during an entire generation; that mentality should have found its expression and did so....The Winter of 1914 and Spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for all Armenians in the Caucasus including of course the Dashnaktsutiun. We had no doubt the war would end with the complete victory of the Allies; Turkey would be defeated and dismembered and its Armenian population would be liberated. We had embraced Russia wholeheartedly without any compunction. Without any positive basis of fact we believed that the Tzarist government would grant us a more-or-less broad self-government in the Caucasus and in the Armenian vilayets liberated from Turkey as a reward for our loyalty, our efforts and assistance. "

Statistics of the Second Massacre

Statistics regarding the number of Armenians living in Ottoman Anatolia and the number killed are disputed. The lowest numbers are given by Turkish sources and the highest by Armenian sources.

In 1896 the Ottoman government recorded 1,144,000 Armenians living in Anatolia. Professor Justin McCarthy, U.S. historian and expert in Ottoman history, whose books are published by a Turkish organization as well as prestigious university presses such as the Oxford University Press, estimated that there were 1,500,000 Armenians in Anatolia in 1912. According to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, there were between 1,845,000 and 2,100,000 Armenians in Anatolia in 1914. Estimates range from 1,000,000 given by some Turkish sources to more than 3,500,000 given by some Armenian sources. Arnold J. Toynbee, who served as an intelligence officer during World War I, estimates there were 1,800,000 Armenians living in Anatolia in 1914. Encyclopaedia Britannica took 1,750,000 Armenians living in Anatolia as their estimate, in certain later editions. In 1911, the encyclopedia had figured 1.1 million, and Toynbee estimated less than one million in his 1915 book, "Nationalism and the War," before his services were enlisted in Wellington House.

Estimates for the numbers of Armenians who died during the Second Massacre vary even more. Some Turkish sources claim that 200,000 Armenians died, whereas some Armenian sources number the dead at well over 2,000,000. Talat Pasha, a prominent Young Turk and Grand Vizier from 1917-1918, claimed that the total was 300,000. Toynbee put the number at 600,000 in his 1916 "Treatment" propaganda report. McCarthy independently arrived at the same figure.

Later assessments

Armenians and others around the world recognize April 24 as marking the start of genocide at the hands of the Young Turks.

Some Turkish historians and foreign Ottoman history scholars deny that an event classifiable as state-organised genocide occurred, claiming a lack of evidence pointing Ottoman state involvement. Their claim is that the Armenian deaths resulted from armed conflict, civil war, disease and famine during the turmoil of World War I, when Armenian citizens of Ottoman Empire joined Russian armies to invade eastern provinces of Ottoman Empire. In the same period, 2.5 million other Ottoman citizens have perished as a result of civil-war and disease.

Some supporters of the Turkish version of event have been threatened by Armenian groups, with a wave of assassinations 1970s and 1980s by ASALA and Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide terrorist organizations.

The Armenian Genocide is the subject of a 2002 film, Ararat, by Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

The American rock band System of a Down, whose members are Armenian in ancestry, wrote the song P.L.U.C.K. (Political Lying Unholy Cowardly Killers), about the Armenian Genocide and its denial as genocide.

On April 21, 2004, the Canadian House of Commons voted to officially recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide. The motion passed easily by 153 to 68, however, the Liberal-controlled Cabinet was instructed to vote against it. The federal government, in opposing the motion, did not express a position on whether the genocide took place, but rather cited a desire to avoid reopening old wounds and to maintain good relations with Turkey.

In the past, many prominent American politicians have made statements in support of formal recognition of the Armenian genocide. While president Ronald Reagan publicly referred to the events of 1915 as a 'genocide', a major feat in and of itself, nonetheless to this day no formal resolution recognizing the genocide has been passed by the US government. The Armenian side speculates that fear of retribution from Turkey, a US ally and NATO partner, is behind the lack of formal recognition, whereas the Turkish side speculates that the only reason for the possibility of such a recognition would be the strength of Armenian lobby efforts within US rather than the genuineness of the claims.

On April 24, 2004, in marking the 89th Anniversary of the genocide, John Kerry issued a statement calling for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

President Bill Clinton issued a news release on April 24, 1994, to commemorate the "tragedy" that befell the Armenians in 1915, yet he bowed to political pressure and refused to refer to it as "genocide," despite referring to the massacre as such before being elected president.

Also breaking a campaign promise, the subsequent President George W. Bush refused to use the word "genocide" to describe the killings, though promising Armenian-Americans during his election campaign to recognize the "genocidal campaign" to which Armenians were subjected.

Several countries officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, including Canada, France, Italy, Argentina, Greece, Russia, Slovakia [1] (,Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vatican City. Many US states and cities also recognize the Armenian Genocide. Recently Sweden has changed its official position quoting the historical accuracy, and currently does not recognize Armenian genocide.

Certain countries, notable for their involvement in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire at this time and with substantial archival evidence of first rate importance, refuse to legislate recognitions of any deliberate, state-planned genocide. A major example is that of the UK, whose lawyers were eager to try alleged Ottoman War Criminals on the charge of crimes against humanity after the war (a policy announced during the war), but who released the accused on discovering that there was no conclusively safe evidence in British, Ottoman or American archives that could establish a sound verdict of guilt.

The Turkish government, in their new 2004 Penal Code, added a penalty of ten years in prison for any person that confirms that the Armenian Genocide took place.
( The U.K. Parliament suggests, however, that "There is no mention
( of ... the Armenian genocide" in this penal code.

A recent report on "The Applicability (\%20Memorandum\%20Feb.\%2003.pdf) of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to Events which Occurred During the Early Twentieth Century" by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ ( states that " least some of the perpetrators of the Events knew that the consequence of their action would be the destruction, in whole or in part, of the Armenians of Eastern Anatolia, as such, or acted purposively towards this goal, and, therefore, possessed the requisite genocidal intent." The report concludes that "...the Events, viewed collectively, can thus be said to include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the [UN] Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them" (p. 17). On the other hand, Prof. Justin McCarthy points out ( the ICTJ lawyers (not historians) who arrived at these conclusions relied almost wholly on pro-Armenian sources, and that their definition of "genocide" requires that only one person need be killed, which can describe any conflict.


Armenian Genocide memorial

Genocide memorial at the Tsitsernakaberd hill, Yerevan

The idea of the memorial arose in 1965, at the commemorating of the 50th anniversary of the genocide. Two years later the memorial (by architects Kalashian and Mkrtchyan) was completed at the Tsitsernakaberd hill above the Hrazdan gorge in Yerevan. The 44 metre stele symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians. 12 slabs postioned into a circle, represent 12 lost provinces in present day Turkey. In the centre of the circle, in depth of 1.5 metres, there is an eternal flame. Along the park at the memorial there is a 100 metre wall with names of towns and villages where masacres are known to have taken place. In 1995 a small circular museum was opened at the other end of the park where one learn about basic information about the events in 1915. Some photos taken by German photographers (Turkish allies during World War I) and some publications about the genocide are also displayed. Near the museum is a spot where foreign statesmen plant trees in memory of the genocide.

Each April 24th (Armenian Genocide Commemoration Holiday) hundreds of thousands of people walk to the genocide monument and lay flowers (usually red carnations or tulips) around the eternal flame. Armenians around the world mark the genocide in different ways, and many memorials have been built in Armenian Diaspora communities.

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