Harout Harry Semerdjian: Armenian Genocide and International Relations

Roundup: Talking About History

The writer is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. He holds advanced graduate degrees from The Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of California, Los Angeles.

While the modern-day Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, eight years after its Ottoman predecessors embarked on a massive and systematic undertaking to rid the empire of its Armenian population, the country today often finds itself in diplomatic spats with various Western nations over its history. Outside the periphery of geopolitics, it would be perplexing to most as to why an event that occurred nearly 100 years ago would impact relations between Turkey and the United States and various European countries. The answer lies in the annals of history.

During the First World War, while the Islamic Ottoman Empire was fighting the Allied Powers on the side of Germany, its native Christian Armenian population became a target of organized deportations and massacres. Long having suffered from discrimination and second-class citizenship, WWI provided the Young Turk government a cover to reach a "final solution" to the prevailing Armenian question.

Starting April 24, 1915, with the arrest and killing of the Armenian intelligentsia, an entire civilization was uprooted from its many-millennia-old homeland and outright massacred or driven to a slow death in the deserts of Syria. The material and cultural loss of the Armenians has also been enormous, with some 3,000 churches destroyed alone. It is estimated that out of a population of two million Armenians, one-and-a-half million were killed while another half a million survived and dispersed to nearly every continent, thus resulting in the creation of a large and dynamic Armenian diaspora.

This is where global power-politics unfolds...

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