1542) Distortions Of Armenian History And The Armenian Genocide

- An Open Letter To Hershel Shanks, Editor, Moment Magazine By James Russell, Ph.D
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

13th November 1998.

I write regarding the article you published on Azerbaijan in your October issue. It contains numerous serious distortions of history, which, taken together, constitute a holocaust-revisionist attack on the Armenian people, a defamation of the worst kind.

A proper response would require an article at least as long as the one under discussion; and I have neither the time nor the intention to write one. A people who have suffered genocide and its continuing effects need not adopt a defensive stance in replying to mendacious calumnies. Nonetheless, the article you printed was so grave a distortion, so egregious an assault upon human decency and historical truth, that a reply of some length is necessary. I hope you will print it, in its entirety.

The article in Moment states (p.68) that during World War I Turkey “undertook a mass deportation of pro-Russian Armenians from areas threatened by Russian invasion.” Charitably, the authors cite the grudging Turkish admission that Armenians were massacred, but that this happened after “hostilities in which Armenian atrocities against Turks also occurred.” The fact is that no such massacre of Turks by Armenians occurred to provoke anything. The revolutionary Party of Union and Progress that controlled the Turkish Government had determined to exterminate the entire Armenian people in order to create a unitary state . . .

The massacres of Armenians at Adana, long before the War, were a dress rehearsal. The main event was carefully coordinated in advance: friendly Turks and some Armenian men doing military service were shot, or put in slave labor battalions under German supervision. Across the Anatolian peninsula, the Army entered Armenian towns and villages, and either killed women and children on the spot or sent them on death marches into the Syrian desert, hundreds of miles away. Some thousands were herded into caves and burnt alive. Thousands were pushed off cliffs at Kemakh; or herded onto barges which were then dragged out on the Black Sea and sunk. Most Armenians were villagers living hundreds of miles from any battle front who barely knew where Russia was. Most of those who did know, were loyal and peaceable citizens. They were no “fifth column.”

Nor, it grieves me to say, were the massacres a response to Armenian armed hostilities — any more than the Nazi Holocaust was an answer, say, to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I sincerely wish the Armenians had been able to foresee the Genocide, protect their homes and families, and to expel the alien Turkish government once and for all from their country. But they were a minority in the Empire, and unarmed; worse, they labored under the dangerous illusion that they were civilians and Ottoman citizens, and they can scarcely be blamed — for the premeditated, systematic extermination of an entire people by its own government had, till then, no precedent in human affairs.

The Armenians did have time to organize self defense in the city of Van, though hideous massacres were carried out in its environs; and, thankfully, the Russians conquered that region.

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