armenian genocide diaspora

Download Armenian Genocide Diaspora

Post on 20-Nov-2014




3 download

Embed Size (px)



The historical background of the Armenian Diaspora

Under King Tigran the Great1, the Armenian empire was one of the most powerful in Asia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Seas. However, throughout most of the

countrys long history, the Armenians have been invaded by a number of empires and have been subjected to mass emigration. This has resulted in establishment of different Armenian communities worldwide, which are known to us as a strong and powerful Diaspora. Under foreign rule, Armenians have become both cosmopolitan as well as strong defenders of their culture and tradition. Continuous life in foreign countries has led Armenians to develop traditions that accommodated the societies and cultures they lived in while preserving their ethnic and cultural identity. The emigration of Armenians from their country has been taking place for the last 1,500 years (Redgate, 01). At the beginning of the 11th century, continuous invasions and migrations reduced the Armenian population in the nations historic homeland on the Armenian Plateau, resulting in a large number of Armenians moving to Russia, Europe, and India. While most Armenians remaining in historical Armenia under the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century were peasant farmers in eastern Anatolia, others resettled in Constantinople, Smyrna, and other cities in the empire (Country Studies, n.d.). In the 19th century, the political tensions in the Ottoman Empire put the security of the Armenians at a higher risk. After a short time, the Young Turk government massacred and removed the vast majority of Armenians from the eastern Anatolian provinces. The Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks is the primary reason why todays majority of Armenians live outside their homeland.


Tigran the Great was a king that ruled the largest Armenian Empire in its history. Ruling just before the time of Christ, his empire stretched from the Caspian shores of todays Azerbaijan, to the Mediterranean shores of todays Israel (The Armenia Encyclopedia, 05).

3 An Armenian Diaspora has existed throughout the nation's history and has been rather influential since the countrys independence from the Soviet Union. There are a total of ten million Armenians living in the world, of whom only about 3,000,000 live in Armenia, about 120,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh2, and sixty percent live outside the country. Significant Armenian communities are located in the United States, the Russian Federation, Georgia, France, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Canada. There are also a number of Armenian communities in other parts of the world. In this research paper I am going to investigate the causes of the establishment of the Armenian Diaspora, how it spread throughout the world, and present-day Armenia-Diaspora relations. I will describe the efforts that the Armenians make to preserve their heritage by educating and motivating younger members of the Diaspora. I will also investigate how the Armenian Diaspora maintains its unity through churches, schools, political parties, charitable organizations, and publications in the Armenian communities of different countries. A. Causes of Diaspora before World War I - Migration of the Armenians from their country occurred in variety of forms, being either voluntary or forced, by way of deportation and extradition, across states and continents. Emigration was caused by economic, religious and political factors. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians conquered Armenia over the centuries. Already in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, during the reigns of Persian Sassanian Kings Ardashir and Shapur II, the first recorded mass deportation of the Armenians took place (Melkonian, 02). The mass migration increased significantly in the 7th-14th centuries, due to the fact that the country was invaded by Arabs, Seljuk Turks and Mongols. Following the migration to Cilicia3 in the 10th-11th centuries, Armenians were able to settle and reach high levels in society, and thus laid a basis for the establishment of the strong2

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan that declared itself an independent Republic on 10 December 1991. The region is predominantly populated by Armenians and is under ethnic Armenian military control (Wikipedia, 06). 3 Cilicia is an independent Armenian Kingdom during the early second millennium with a large Armenian population until the Armenian Genocide. The final expulsion of Armenians from this Mediterranean coastal region was carried out by Mustafa Kemals forces (The Armenia Encyclopedia, 06).

4 Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. In later centuries, the economic, political, and cultural influence of the Armenians increased in the Ottoman Empire. Also, Armenians realized that by uniting their efforts they would have a stronger say in the society. Because of this, the Turkish population started to feel that soon the Armenians would outgrow them. Therefore, during the First World War, the Ottoman Turkish authorities made a decision to permanently end the activated national liberation movement which had grown among the Armenian people. To uproot this movement, the Turkish authorities during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II 4 commonly known as "the bloody Sultan" organized massacres resulting in deaths of 300,000 Armenians in Western Armenia and other parts of the Ottoman Empire in 1894-1896 (Melkonian, 02). As a reaction to anti-Armenian tensions within the Empire, Armenians sought to start strong political movements. The three influential political parties of the late 19th early 20th centuries, that played a strong role in everyday life of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, were the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), the Hunchakians, and the Armenian Democratic League (Mouradian, 95). The Dashnaktsutiun party was formed in 1890 in Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), Georgia and later moved its headquarters to Trepizond5. The main goal of this party was to liberate Armenia from the Turkish domination. The Hunchakian political party was established in 1887 in Geneva, Switzerland. Although the Headquarters was based in Geneva, this party (being the first socialist party in Turkey and Persia) played a strong role in the local defenses of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Being secretive in their activities, the Hunchakian party believed in revolt against the Turks, and in having a free Armenian state (Mouradian, 95). Established in 1885, the Armenakan party later known as the Armenian Democratic League (Ramgavar) was established in Van6, whose members believed in the armed self-protection of


In 1876, Sultan Abdul Hamid became king of the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, he dissolved the national parliament and was set as the head of affairs. He was a very tricky despot and a blood-thirsty dictator, under whose rule the condition of Armenians became more deplorable and frightening than ever (Our Ararat, 05). 5 Trepizond is a city in northeastern Turkey. 6 Van is the capital city of Urartu (ancient country in southwest Asia) and an important commercial center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Mouradian, 95).

5 Western Armenians. Although these three traditional political parties had separate mandates, they had one common objective to ensure well-being of the Armenians. B. Causes of Diaspora - The Armenian Genocide The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century, organized by the Ottoman Turkish government against the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. The genocide was centrally planned against the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. It was the intent of the Turks to eliminate the Armenian Christian population. Additionally, various Turkish ideologists propagandized promotion of Pan-Turkism through the media that would lead to the establishment of a powerful empire stretching from Anatolia into Central Asia, populated exclusively by Turks.

Having very few civil rights compared with the Turks, Armenians lived under fear that massacres would break at any time for any reason. After the massacres of Armenians in 1895 by Abdul Hamid, the following decades of persecution and smaller rounds of massacres put the entire Armenian community in great jeopardy (Hartunian, n.d.). The Armenians were subjected to deportation, expropriation and starvation. A large Armenian population was forcibly removed to Syria, whereby the vast majority was sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger. The decision to carry out genocide against the Armenian people was made by the political party named the Committee of Union and Progress in the Ottoman Empire, known as the Young Turks. This government was mainly ruled by three powerful authorities, Mehmet Talaat, Minister of the Interior in 1915; Ismail Enver, Minister of War; and Ahmed Jemal, Minister of the Marine and the Military Governor of Syria (The Armenia Encyclopedia, 05).

When World War I broke out, the Young Turks gained an opportunity of the chaotic situation to fulfill their desire, which was freeing Turkey of all Armenians. About one and a half million Armenians perished between the years of 1915 and 1923. An estimated two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire before World War I, and over a million of them were deported in

6 1915. Hundreds of thousands were murdered, many died from starvation and epidemics in concentration camps. Those Armenians who lived along the periphery of the Ottoman Empire were able to escape to the central provinces of Turkey (Dadrian, 95). Those living in the East moved towards the Russian border as refugees. Also, in 1918, the Young Turk regime started a war in the Caucasus, where some 1,800,000 Armenians lived under the Russian command. Advancing through East Armenia and Azerbaijan, they also carried out systematic massacres, thus resulting in added tens of thous