Armenian Genocide | World History | Free PDF Download



  • The western portion of historical Armenia, known as Western Armenia, had come under Ottoman jurisdiction by the Peace of Amasya (1555) and was permanently divided from Eastern Armenia by the Treaty of Zuhab (1639).
  • Thereafter, the region was alternatively referred to as “Turkish” or “Ottoman” Armenia.Under the millet system, the Armenian community was allowed to rule itself under its own system of governance with fairly little interference from the Ottoman government.
  • Most Armenians—approximately 70%—lived in poor and dangerous conditions in the rural countryside.In the eastern provinces, the Armenians were subject to the whims of their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors.


  • In addition to other legal limitations, Christians were not considered equals to Muslims and several prohibitions were placed on them.
  • In the mid-19th century, the three major European powers, Great Britain, France and Russia, began to question the Ottoman Empire’s treatment of its Christian minorities and pressure it to grant equal rights to all its subjects. From 1839 to the declaration of a constitution in 1876.
  • Led by intellectuals educated at European universities or American missionary schools in Turkey, Armenians began to question their second-class status and press for better treatment from their government.


  • Following the violent suppression of Christians during the Great Eastern Crisis, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Serbia, the United Kingdom and France invoked the 1856 Treaty of Paris by claiming that it gave them the right to intervene and protect the Ottoman Empire’s Christian minorities.
  • Under growing pressure, the government of Sultan Abdul Hamid II declared itself a constitutional monarchy with a parliament and entered into negotiations with the powers.


    • Moreover suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.
    • Between 1894 and 1896,In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.


  • On 24 July 1908, Armenians’ hopes for equality in the Ottoman Empire brightened when a coup d’état staged by officers in the Ottoman Third Army based in Salonika removed Abdul Hamid II from power and restored the country to a constitutional monarchy.
  • The officers were part of the Young Turk movement that wanted to reform administration of the perceived decadent state of the Ottoman Empire and modernize it to European standards.
  • The former were more democratic and accepting of Armenians, whereas the latter were less tolerant of Armenians .


  • In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared jihad, or holy war, against all Christians except their allies.)
  • Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors.
  • As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. These events, and general Turkish suspicion of the Armenian people, led the Turkish government to push for the ―removal‖ of the Armenians from the war zones along the Eastern Front.


  • On the night of 23–24 April 1915, known as Red Sunday, the Ottoman government rounded up and imprisoned an estimated 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders of the Ottoman capital, Constantinople.
  • The date 24 April is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians around the world.


    • After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.
    • Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.
    • At the same time, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.”
    • These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.


  • Records show that during this ―Turkification‖ campaign, government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families.
  • In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish ―harems‖ or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.
  • Though reports vary, most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.


  • After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. (However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide.)
  • Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure.


  • Today, Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a U.S. Congressional panel at last voted to recognize the genocide.
  • However, little has changed in Turkey: Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it’s still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during that era.

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