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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #251 - In 1915: Nationalism as a killing factory identity (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Fri, 24 Jul 2015 09:30:18 +0300

The genocide of the Armenians and Armenian is recognized as the first of the twentieth century [ 2 ]. Although this act to be internationally known, the context in which it took place is less the general public. This is the case in France, where until the 2000s, there was barely mentioned in the history curriculum. Centennial events and publications should partially remedy. ---- The Armenian Genocide has long been a fact more or less overshadowed by the historians of the First World War, because drowned in a very Eurocentric history. Denial of successive Turkish governments and both national and international pressure on the Turkish authorities have also played against the historical truth. This difficulty in imposing to the public the reality of the Armenian genocide is not however something unique.

Thus the Jewish community and historians working on the Jewish genocide were confronted es to such difficulties into the 1970s.

1.5 million deaths in three years

To bring out this story so difficult to say and write, it took the fury of the Armenian diaspora to safeguard his memory. Multiplying the work of historians has also played an important role.

But beyond the abundance of historical production, we must also emphasize the role of the way views of historians on the First World War and in particular about the wars in general. Thus we can see in the work of the past twenty-five years more interest paid to the plight of civilians, the trivialization of violence conveyed by a nationalism that glorifies war and the "brutalization of societies."

All these factors have contributed to getting the Armenian Genocide a horror those drowned in the First World War to a major fact of that war.

This is the fact of the Young Turk regime in power since 1908. This regime is carrying a turkicization nationalist project of the Anatolian area since its inception. It switches in a genocidal policy in a context of defeat of Ottoman armies particularly sensitive from January 1915.

Given the failure of the offensive of the Ottoman army opposed the Russian armies in the Caucasus, the government makes the soldiers of Armenian origin responsible for this defeat. While the genocide of the Armenian-do-s is not programmed at the beginning of the war, even if the persecution and massacres during early 1890. However we can say that the war plays an accelerator Of the history.

The military setbacks in addition to the humiliating defeat in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), after which the most radical tendency of the UPC (see box) came to power. The Ottoman Empire loses most of its territories in Europe and just keeps Thrace and Constantinople.

Emancipation scary to power

This debacle is experienced as trauma by Turkish nationalists who fear that the Eastern Anatolia, where large minorities (Armenian and Kurdish particular) follow a similar pattern. They then develop a paranoid discourse and stigmatize Armenian and Greek minorities. They are also influenced by racist theories or the present social Darwinism in Haeckel, Le Bon and Gobineau that contribute to radicalize their speech.

So it is these same nationalist authorities that drive the boycott campaigns of the Greek and Armenian businesses from 1912.

The Armenians are not the only minority in the Ottoman Empire and one wonders why it is more persecuted than others. Unlike the Greeks, Armenians can not count on support from no protective status. They and are pointed-es as a danger because living on the steps of the Empire and largely influenced by progressive art-currents, liberals and socialists who fight for emancipation affecting both Armenians and Muslims. The Armenians also form a vibrant community that participates in the economic and cultural development. Armenian nationalism that emerged in the 1890s and bears demands for equal rights and autonomy conflicts with the authoritarian Turkish nationalism and reluctant to see develop a particularism among minorities of the Empire.

Nationalism at work

However Turks and Armenians do not evolve in tight circles. Until 1914, the Armenians constitute a component of the Ottoman political class in which they intend to senior officials and ministers. Similarly, the arrival of the Young Turks in 1908 is viewed with hope by leading Armenian nationalist parties Hentchak and Dashnak.

So there was a conjunction between the action of ruling classes who want to unify the Ottoman Empire based on a nationalist and racist discourse and an international context marked by a succession of military defeats the Unionist government wants ward by the same ideology in order to stay in control. And so it is in this context that the Unionist power opts for the genocidal process.

In January and February the staff ordered the disarming of Armenian soldiers of the 3rd Army and the implementation of most of them. In late March Ottoman leaders decide to empty the Armenian historical settlements located in Eastern Anatolia. The first phase of the genocide begins then with the death marches that leave from Cilicia and the massacres of Armenian men. On 24 April 1915 the Ottoman rule arrested hundreds of intellectuals, political and religious Armenian in several cities including Constantinople.

The death marches and confinement in concentration camps continue throughout the summer and fall of 1915. The second phase of the genocide began in February 1916 with the execution of prisoners in the camps of the Syrian-Mesopotamian desert who survived. Massacres continue until 1918. To this must be added the plunder, forced conversions, family breakdown (including many children taken from their parents and placed with Turkish families). It should be noted that the Ottoman power implies the Kurdish minority on this genocidal venture.

Four centers of resistance

Throughout this period, an Armenian resistance exists and is expressed though the Armenian community is deeply weakened and destabilized. Four centers of resistance are located in the western part of historic Armenia. The best known is that of Van where the Armenian population rebelled and stands up to the Ottoman troops until the arrival of the Russian army. A fifth is located in Cilicia (former Little Armenia) of Musa Dagh [ 1 ] on the Mediterranean coast less than 100 km from Aleppo. Besieged for 53 days and running out of food as ammunition, 4,000 Armenians and Armenian-es are evacuated by the French navy.

This rescue operation stands out for its uniqueness. Yet the witnesses of the massacres - which abound, whether German or French-uniens states - and the Armenians themselves and themselves strive to alert international opinion. But they and they face a daunting indifference precisely because nationalism prevailing in each belligerent country, which grows to only consider its fighters and secondarily its civilian population, and by Eurocentrism. Moreover the mobilization against the massacre of Armenians is not considered a war aim of the Allies.

Genocide out of the shadows

This wall of silence is maintained after 1918. And the trial that the new Turkish government is implementing in 1919-1920 to try those most responsible for the genocide are akin to a travesty of justice. Provided they have the merit to reveal documents confirming the reality of that genocide.

The struggle for justice and memory is then based largely on the efforts of the Armenian diaspora, some members from the Armenian nationalist parties are responsible to execute the instigators of the genocide fled to Germany, Italy or Asia Central.

While all parties to the Genocide died, fighting for memory continues especially against the memory of assassins that are Turkish denialists. However, it is pleased to see that they are on the defensive on this issue and that Turkish society is moving more and more in recent years. In this context the battle for opening the archives is an important issue. The Turkish state is opposed on the grounds of "national security" because it fears that access to archives is entitled to claims for repairs and recovery of ill-gotten goods.

Laurent Esquerre (AL Paris-Northeast)

To go further, I can only advise reading the issue of the journal History February 2015 has a feature to the Armenian Genocide and lists number of recent historical work.


The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which dominated the Ottoman political life from 1908, was long the subject of a misunderstanding. And for good reason: he had a systematic double discourse. Outside, it was as modernist, secular and democratic - which is why it has received, in the beginning, the support of European Socialists and even Armenians. Internally, it conveyed the contrary, sectarian speeches, racist and authoritarian.

Trained young nationalist officers, mostly Turks from the Balkans, the CUP was the reactionary offspring said the reform movement of the Young Turks, opposed the absolutism of the Sultan. Were mingled influences, sometimes contradictory, which does homogénéisèrent gradually:

- The Ottoman imperialism, with the obsession to save an ancient empire of decadence;

- A pan-Islamism, which aimed to unite the Muslim empire (whether Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Albanian, Chechen...) to maintain the system of discrimination against the "dhimmi" (Jews and Christians , whether Arab, Armenian, Greek, Bulgarian...)

- Social Darwinism, which postulated that the survival of each "race" depended on its ability to crush the other;

- A pan-Turk nationalism, with the ambition to found a homogeneous nation-state which would be the heart of Anatolia, and including Azerbaijan;

- Operating a secret society modeled on the Serbian or Bulgarian revolutionaries;

- Militarism, with the idea that the army was the key lever of power, violence and his instrument.

Instead of breaking with the policy of ethnic cleansing of the Sultan, which led to the 1894-1896 massacres, UPC he enrolled in his footsteps, Aspiring to purge the country of the "enemy within" - Armenian, Greek and Assyrian-Chaldeans. The Great War in provides the opportunity.

Guillaume Davranche (AL Montreuil)


1878 After Greece in 1830, the Ottoman Empire loses Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. Armenia, last important Christian region of the empire, began to be perceived as a threat.

1889 Foundation of the Young Turks movement, opposed the absolutism of the Sultan.

1890 Start of systematic persecution in Armenia.

1894-1896 "Hamidian Massacres" pogroms supervised by the army of Sultan Abdülhamid II are 250,000 dead; tens of thousands forcibly converted; 50,000 women and children into slavery; 100,000 flee abroad. The sultan stop the massacres against the threat of an international military intervention.

1908 Coup in Istanbul: the Sultan was forced to accept a government dominated by the nationalist wing of the Young Turks, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).

1909 Adana Massacre: UPC reveals its true face by orchestrating the massacre of 19,000 Armenians.

1912-1913 The Ottoman defeat in the Balkan war is attributed to the "betrayal" Christian soldiers.

February 1914: The UPC is beginning to consider extermination.

November 1914 Entry into war on the side of Germany.

April 1915-February 1916 First phase of genocide execution of the Armenian intelligentsia in Istanbul; massacre of men mobilized into the army; deportation of women and children in "death marches" toward Syria concentration camps. Appraisal: 800,000 dead and 200,000 converts and enslaved.

February 1916-1918 Second phase of genocide: the survivors of the "death marches" were exterminated in the desert. Appraisal: 400,000 dead.

February 1918-October 1918 Third phase of genocide as the Ottoman army advances in the Caucasus, Armenian populations are exterminated there. Appraisal: 150,000 dead.

1919-1920 Dummy genocide trials by the imperial authorities seeking to dissociate itself from the CUP to the world.

1921-1922 Operation Nemesis: Armenian revolutionaries executed one by one, the leaders of CUP exiles in Europe.

Guillaume Davranche (AL Montreuil)

[ 1 ] The novelist Franz Werfel published in 1932, a novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh , which evokes the episode of the Armenian resistance and compares the Armenian genocide to the Nazi ideology.

[ 2 ] This characterization, however, is not entirely accurate since many historians-not-s believe that the massacre of the Hereros and Namas in 1904 by the German army in Namibia is genocide. 80% of the Hereros were killed in the repression under the leadership of Colonel von Trotta, who acted on the orders and under an extermination program.

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