2233) Relocations (Tehcir) of Armenians and the Trials of 1915–16

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by Yusuf Sarinay
State Archives, Ankara, Turkey

The ethnic and religious layers of Armenian identity, as well as the social and culturaltraits of the Armenian community, came to be preserved and, to a certain extent, flourishedunder the centuries-long Ottoman rule. However, by the second half of the nineteenthcentury, the currents of nationalism gained strength among the Armenians who foundsupport for their cause in American and European missionary circles and among Europeandiplomats. These nationalist notions were transformed into movements of autonomy underthe leadership of the Armenian Church.

After the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which put an endto the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, the Armenian question gained an internationalcharacter and the European states and Russia, each with vested interests in the region,came to play the Armenian card in all ventures against the Ottoman Empire. Having takenthe Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian independence movements as their role models, theArmenian nationalists, emboldened further by European support, first wanted to achieveautonomy and then independence in Eastern Anatolia. Unlike the Serbs or the Greeks,however, the Armenians lacked demographic concentration across Anatolia.

Thus, whatone could see as ‘the material bases’ for establishing an Armenia (e.g., a predominantpopulation in a region with defined boundaries) did not exist in the case of Armenians ineastern Anatolia. Accordingly, in order to realize the goals of a nationalist movement thatlacked such material bases, some Armenian nationalists chose ‘terror’ as their method forstruggling against the Ottoman state . . .



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