University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • The Armenian Genocide

    The Armenian Genocide

    A sequence of preconditions necessarily leads toward genocide. The following sequence was as true of the Armenians in Turkey as of the Jews in Nazi Germany and the intelligentsia in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

    1. The victim group must be defined as "alien" by the politically dominant group, and thus beyond legal protection.
    2. The society's status must be reduced by defeat in war or decline of empire, and the status of the traditional political elite eroded.
    3. A new elite must adopt a political formula justifying the society's domination/expansion and idolizing the dominant group.
    4. An opportunity allows the perpetrator to adopt emergency wartime powers and exterminate the victim without outside intervention or sanctions. Extermination is seen as a rational choice that benefits the dominant group.

    The Armenian Genocide

    The genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government during World War I represents a major tragedy of the modern age. In this first genocide of the 20th century, almost an entire nation was destroyed. The Armenian people were effectively eliminated from the homeland they had occupied for nearly three thousand years. This annihilation was premeditated and planned to be carried out under the cover of war.

    In the spring of 1915 the Turkish government ordered the systematic deportation of the Armenian people. In fact, deportation was a thinly disguised form of extermination. Village by village, town by town, according to a precise plan, the able-bodied Armenian men were taken away and murdered. Then, the remaining people - women, children, and the elderly - were herded south in long columns, exposed to hunger and thirst, attacked by their Turkish "guards" or by roving brigands, and subjected to every form of humiliation and torture. Most suffered horrible deaths along the way or, if they survived the long march, died alone in the Syrian desert. Thus an entire nation was destroyed and the Armenian people were effectively eliminated from their homeland of nearly 3000 years.

    Over one million Armenians died and their traditional homeland was depopulated. A homogeneous Turkish state - one people, language, and religion - was created by exterminating the original Armenian inhabitants. Despite overwhelming evidence of this methodical extermination, the atrocities were quickly overshadowed by political expediency. It became "The Forgotten Genocide."

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