Honors World History 22 March 2014
Genocides of the Twentieth Century
Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention of the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in a whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group; as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part: imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (un.org) Two factors that are necessary for genocide are, difficult times and a need for a psychological coping mechanism. Cultures that institute a policy of genocide normally do so in an effort to emerge from difficult times. The people within the culture blame the problems on a fraction of the population. The majority forms a belief that by eliminating this fraction they can reduce their problems. (www.discovery.com) These kinds of beliefs have lead to many genocides, most popular the Armenian Genocide of 1915, The Holocaust of WWII, The Cambodian Genocide of the 1970’s, and the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990’s. After the arrival of Christianity, Armenia became the first nation to accept it as the state religion. An era of peace and prosperity followed; this caused the invention of a distinct alphabet, the prosper of literature, art ,commerce, and a unique style of architecture. By the tenth century the Armenians had established a new capital at Ani, known as the “city of a thousand and one churches.” In the eleventh century, the first Turkish invasion of the Armenian homeland occurred, beginning several hundred years of rule by Muslim Turks. By the sixteenth century, Armenia had been added to the vast, and mighty, Ottoman Empire. By the nineteenth century the once powerful Ottoman Empire was in a serious decline.As the empire gradually ended, formally subject people, including the Greeks, Serbs and Romanians achieved their long-awaited independence. Only the Armenians and the Arabs of the Middle East remained stuck in the backward and nearly bankrupt empire, now under the autocratic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid. (United Human Rights Council) By the 1890s, young Armenians, educated in the universities of Europe began to press for political reforms in the Ottoman Empire, calling for a constitutional government, the right to vote and an end to discriminatory practices such as special taxes levied only against them because they were Christians. The despotic Turkish Sultan responded to their pleas with brutal persecutions and massacres. Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of Armenian villages were slaughtered during widespread pogroms conducted by the Sultan’s special regiments. In July 1908, reform-minded Turkish nationalists known as ‘Young Turks’ forced the Sultan to allow a constitutional government and guarantee basic rights. The Young Turks were ambitious junior officers in the Turkish Army who hoped to halt their country’s steady decline. Armenians in Turkey were delighted with this sudden turn of events and its prospects for a brighter future. Both Turks and Armenians held jubilant public rallies attended with banners held high calling for freedom, equality and justice. ( United Human Rights Council) However, their hopes were dashed when three of the Young Turks seized full control of the government via a coup in 1913. This new empire however, would have to come at the expense of the Armenian people, whose traditional historic homeland lay right in the path of the Young Turks’ plans to expand eastward. And on that land was a large population of Christian Armenians totaling some two million persons, making up about 10 percent of the Empire’s overall population. Along with the Young Turk’s newfound ‘Turanism’ there was a dramatic rise in...
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