SATURDAY, APRIL 24: Armenians around the world solemnly observe Genocide Remembrance Day to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923). In Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, hundreds of thousands of people walk to the Genocide Memorial to place flowers near the eternal flame and remember more than 1.5 million victims. (For more, check out the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s fact sheet on the Armenian Genocide.)
Despite centuries of peace in the Ottoman Empire, conflict arose as nationalism spread, fueling a desire for Armenian independence. Turks had other ideas and wanted to rid the Ottoman Empire of Armenians altogether so that they could establish a Pan-Turkic empire. Massacres were ordered by Sultan Abdul Hamid II and more killings continued to occur. (Wikipedia has a lengthy history.) WWI provided the ideal opportunity for Turks to quietly carry out their Pan-Turkic plans; the plans began on April 24, 1915, when almost 300 Armenian leaders were summoned and then killed. (For the latest news and more, visit the site of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.)
Last year, the State of Hawaii officially declared that its residents should observe the Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide. According to the State of Hawaii, which has a sizeable Armenian-American population, this series of tragic events represented the first instance of genocide in the 20th century. However, this genocide is still unrecognized by the Republic of Turkey, which blames the mass killings on an internal civil war.
Many historians credit the Armenian Genocide as a crucial event paving the way for the Holocaust in the mid-20th century. Since worldwide response to the Armenian tragedy was so muted, Nazi leaders regarded it as evidence that they could get away with their Final Solution. For more on the Holocaust, see ReadTheSpirit’s “Holocaust Educational Resources” page.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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