Armenia was first mentioned by name in 520 B.C. by Darius the Great of Persia in his Behistun inscription, as being one of the countries he sent troops into to put down a revolt.
Armenia’s borders reached their greatest extent under Armenia’s King Tigrane the Great, 95-55 B.C., stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, pushing back the Parthians, Seleucids and the Roman Republic.
Saint Gregory the Illuminator is credited with turning Armenia from paganism to Christianity. Though the populations of Syria, Cappadocia, and Egypt were largely Christian by the third century A.D., Armenia was the first nation in the world to “officially” adopt Christianity as its state religion when King Tiridates III converted around 301 A.D.
In 313 A.D., Constantine the Great ended the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Not long after, Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, became a Christian nation when King Ezana of Aksum, who ruled from 330 to 356 A.D., converted to Christianity.
Armenia’s thousands of years of history include independence, interspersed by occupations of Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and Russians.
Armenia’s medieval capitol of Ani was called “the city of a 1,001 churches,” with a population of 200,000, rivaling Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus.
In 704 A.D., Caliph Walid tricked Armenian nobles to meet in St. Gregory’s Church in Naxcawan and Church of Xram on the Araxis River and burned them to death.
In 1064, Muslim Sultan Alp Arslan and his Seljuk Turkish army invaded and destroyed the city of Ani. Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi recorded: “The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins. … Dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls. … I was determined to enter city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses; but that was impossible.”
Muslim Turks made conquered Christians, Jewish, and non-Muslim populations into second-class citizens called “dhimmi” and required them to ransom their lives once a year by paying an exorbitant “jizyah” tax.
Sultan Murat I (1359-1389) began the practice of “devshirme” – taking boys from the conquered Armenian and Greek families. These innocent boys were systematically traumatized and indoctrinated into becoming ferocious Muslim warriors called “Janissaries,” similar to Egypt’s “Mamluk” slave soldiers. Janissaries were forced to call the Sultan their father and were forbidden to marry, giving rise to depraved practices and the abhorrent pederasty – “sodomy of the Turks.”
For centuries Turks conquered throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Spain and North Africa, carrying tens of thousands into slavery. Beginning in the early 1800s, the Turkish Ottoman Empire began to decline. Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania won their independence.
When Armenia’s sentiments leaned toward independence, Sultan Abdul Hamid put an end to it by massacring 100,000 from 1894-1896.
President Grover Cleveland reported to Congress, Dec. 2, 1895: “Occurrences in Turkey have continued to excite concern. … Massacres of Christians in Armenia and the development … of a spirit of fanatic hostility to Christian influences … have lately shocked civilization.”
The next year, President Grover Cleveland addressed Congress, Dec. 7, 1896: “Disturbed condition in Asiatic Turkey … rage of mad bigotry and cruel fanaticism … wanton destruction of homes and the bloody butchery of men, women, and children, made martyrs to their profession of Christian faith. … Outbreaks of blind fury which lead to murder and pillage in Turkey occur suddenly and without notice. … It seems hardly possible that the earnest demand of good people throughout the Christian world for its corrective treatment will remain unanswered.”
President William McKinley told Congress, Dec. 5, 1898: “The … envoy of the United States to … Turkey … is … charged to press for a just settlement of our claims … of the destruction of the property of American missionaries resident in that country during the Armenian troubles of 1895.”
On Dec. 6, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt reported to Congress of: “… systematic and long-extended cruelty and oppression … of which the Armenians have been the victims, and which have won for them the indignant pity of the civilized world.”
When Sultan Abdul Hamid II was deposed in 1908, there was a brief euphoria as citizens naively hoped Turkey would have a constitutional government. Instead, the government was taken over by the “Young Turks,” led by three leaders or “pashas”: Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Ismail Enver Pasha and Ahmed Djemal Pasha. They acted as if they were planning democratic reforms while they clandestinely planned a genocidal scheme to rid the land of all who were not Muslims Turks.
The first step involved recruiting unsuspecting Armenian young men into the military. Next they made them “non-combatant” soldiers and took away their weapons. Finally, they marched them into the woods and deserts where they were ambushed and massacred.
With the Armenian young men gone, Armenian cities and villages were defenseless. Nearly 2 million old men, women and children were marched into the desert, thrown off cliffs or burnt alive. Entire Armenian communities were deported to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia where hundreds of thousands were killed or starved to death. Armenian cities of Kharpert, Van and Ani were leveled. Armenia briefly received aid from Russia until that country was overturned by Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution.
Similar to present-day headlines of the massacre of Christian minorities in Syria and Iraq, Theodore Roosevelt recorded the fate of Armenians in his 1916 book “Fear God and Take Your Own Part”: “Armenians, who for some centuries have sedulously avoided militarism and war … are so suffering precisely and exactly because they have been pacifists whereas their neighbors, the Turks, have … been … militarists. … During the last year and a half … Armenians have been subjected to wrongs far greater than any that have been committed since the close of the Napoleonic Wars. … Fearful atrocities. … Serbia is at this moment passing under the harrow of torture and mortal anguish. …”
Theodore Roosevelt continued: “Armenians have been butchered under circumstances of murder and torture and rape that would have appealed to an old-time Apache Indian. … The Wholesale slaughter of the Armenians … must be shared by the neutral powers headed by the United States for their failure to protest when this initial wrong was committed. … The crowning outrage has been committed by the Turks on the Armenians. They have suffered atrocities so hideous that it is difficult to name them, atrocities such as those inflicted upon conquered nations by the followers of Attila and of Genghis Khan. It is dreadful to think that these things can be done and that this nation nevertheless remarks ‘neutral not only in deed but in thought,’ between right and the most hideous wrong, neutral between despairing and hunted people, people whose little children are murdered and their women raped, and the victorious and evil wrong-doers. … I trust that all Americans worthy of the name feel their deepest indignation and keenest sympathy aroused by the dreadful Armenian atrocities. I trust that they feel … that a peace obtained without … righting the wrongs of the Armenians would be worse than any war.”
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Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote: “The Turks draft the criminals from their prisons into the Gendarmeri (military police) to exterminate the Armenian race. … In 1913 the Turkish Army was engaged in exterminating the Albanians. … Greeks and Slavs left in the territory. … The same campaign of extermination has been waged against the Nestorian Christians on the Persian frontier. … In Syria there is a reign of terror. …”
Toynbee continued: “Turkish rule … is … slaughtering or driving from their homes, the Christian population. … Only a third of the two million Armenians in Turkey have survived, and that at the price of apostatizing to Islam or else of leaving all they had and fleeing across the frontier.”
Armenia’s pleas at the Paris Peace Conference led Democrat President Wilson in a failed effort to make Armenia a U.S. protectorate. Woodrow Wilson, who was born Dec. 28, 1856, addressed Congress, May 24, 1920: “The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered … deplorable conditions of insecurity, starvation, and misery now prevalent in Armenia. …
Sympathy for Armenia among our people has sprung from untainted consciences, pure Christian faith and an earnest desire to see Christian people everywhere succored in their time of suffering.”
In 2006, Director Andrew Goldberg produced a documentary film “The Armenian Genocide.”
In 2016, actors Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon starred in the film “The Promise,” depicting the Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
On Aug. 29, 2014, the California Senate unanimously passed the Armenian Genocide Education Act mandating that among the human rights subjects covered in public schools, instruction shall be made of the genocide committed in Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century.
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