Schwarzenagger proclaims April 20th- 27th for Armenians

April 18, 2008

The California governor has proclaimed 04/20- 04/27 as “Days of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide”. California, if you were unaware, has one of the largest Armenian exodus populations in the country; Massachusetts also has a large contingent. The Californian Armenian population has a significant and successful lobbying branch, which is partly why Speaker Pelosi is so fervent about bringing the topic to the forefront in Congress. There successful and determined attempt to make sure that the Armenian genocide is recognized resonates with politicians who are eager to get their vote.

For Schwarzenegger, the week of remembrance is a political movie– you must appease those who vote for you after all. As much as it is political, it also has larger ramifications for the Armenian population. A week of recognition is a huge step forward is asserting themselves as true victims of genocide. I question the thought that the former governor has put into studying the topic and wonder if there was lobbying against the Week by the other parties?

However, I am also curious to ask if the best way for the Armenians to discuss and remember their genocide is through political activity. Would careful scholarship and prolific teaching perhaps not be a better way? One of the problems with our political system is that once you make an issue political you are forced to stand behind the issue. Its hard to change sides, to really discuss the issue or to back track on your position. Such hard lines fail to leave room for scholarship and exploration. Perhaps, the Armenian community would be better served by finding brillant scholars to advance their position than lobbying politicians to claim they are right? I would welcome feedback on this position, because as has happened before I may have it all wrong…

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2 Responses to “Schwarzenagger proclaims April 20th- 27th for Armenians”

  1. Steve Douglas Jr. Says:

    I am a historian…

    Another attempt to legislate history…The events of 1915 has never been historically or legally substantiated.

    It was with the creation of two revolutionary Armenian committees, the Hinchag Committee formed in Geneva, Switzerland in 1887, and the Dashnag Committee, established in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1890, that Armenian national aspirations began to assume the more classical form which the Ottomans had come to know and worry in the previous half-century.

    From the outset, both the Hinchags and Dashnags adopted terror as a primary tactic in their struggle, the ultimate aim of which was the “liberation” of the Armenian “homeland” of eastern Anatolia from the Ottoman rule. They tried to alter the demographic structure of certain regions by massacring and harassing the Turks and other Muslims in these areas.

    The Great Powers of those days began to regard the Armenians as an important instrument that could be manipulated against the Ottoman Empire. These powers promised the Armenians a purely ethnic Armenian state in Eastern Anatolia where paradoxically they constituted only a minority.

    The start of World War I and the entry of the Ottoman State into the war against the Allied Powers were seen as a great opportunity by the extremist Armenians. They revolted against the Ottoman Government and collaborated with the invading Russian Armies and other foreign forces, launching attacks on the Ottoman army and Muslim civilians from behind the front and engaging in acts of sabotage.

    In March 1915, the Russian forces began to move toward Van. Immediately, on April 11, 1915, the Armenians of Van initiated a general revolt, massacring all the Turks in the vicinity to enable the city’s quick and easy conquest by the Russians.

    When there was no evident lessening of the Armenian attacks, the Ottoman Government finally acted. On April 24, 1915, the Armenian revolutionary committees were closed and 235 of their leaders were arrested for activities against the state. It is the date of these arrests that has been annually observed in recent years by Armenian nationalist groups throughout the world to commemorate the “massacre” which they claim took place at that time. No such massacre, however, occurred, at that or any other time during the war.

    The Ottoman Government, facing enormous internal and external threats caused by the Armenians, in May 1915, resorted to a defensive measure, which any country in a similar situation would not hesitate to take. It adopted the Relocation Law to transfer Armenians who lived in areas affected by war to southern provinces of the Ottoman State.

    The Ottoman Government instructed the local authorities to take the necessary security measures for the orderly relocation of the Armenians. The orders which were issued to this effect are available in the Ottoman archives. Despite these measures, war conditions, feelings of local hatred and revenge had prompted attacks towards the convoys during the transfer process. The Government tried to prevent them. Moreover, officials or civilians who disobeyed the instructions of the Government and committed offences against Armenian convoys were tried by the Military Courts (“Divan-i Harbi Örfi, 1915-1916).

    Despite these measures, scarcity of food and other means in the days of war, severe weather conditions, and outbreak of epidemic diseases like typhus, affecting the population in general, had also led to the increase in loss of human lives.

    There is no question that the heavy toll in human lives during that period was a dark chapter in the common history of the Turks and the Armenians. In fact, it was an era in which all the people of Anatolia shared the same fate. It should be noted that 3 million people, mostly civilian Muslims, died in Anatolia during World War I. Those who perished in the hands of Armenian bands reached 524, 000, between the years 1914 through 1922. This is the actual reality behind the false claims distorting historical facts by ill-devised mottoes, such as the “first genocide of the Twentieth Century”.

  2. Richard Says:

    There is of course much scholarship and teaching going on around the Armenian Genocide. Recently, for example, Turkish scholar Taner Akcam was appointed as a professor of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University:
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/29/turkish_historian_to_study_genocide/

    There is also a common body of historical research and interpretation being developed:
    http://www.armturkworkshop.org/home.html

    This article in Inside Higher Ed gives a good review of the scholarship on the issue:
    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/16/genocide

    Efforts continue on all fronts – political, academic, etc. so as to counter the type of revisionism pushed by the Turkish government and exemplified by the above post by “historian” “Steve Douglas Jr”.


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