April 24th: Remembrance Devoid of Inspiration and Commitment

The Armenian Weekly
April 2011 magazine

If there is one day during the year when all Armenians are united spiritually, it is April 24th, when we remember our martyrs of the genocide. However, it has become remembrance devoid of a compelling message that inspires and encourages us to participate in shaping the future of the Armenian nation.

The depravity of the Ottoman Turkish plan and the sadistic manner in which the killings were carried out is known to every Armenian and is an established fact of history. Although April 24th marks the beginning of this horrendous tragedy, with the arrests and executions of our leading intellectuals, its roots lay in the xenophobic mindset of the Ottoman Turkish leaders. Although Armenians may have prospered within the Ottoman Turkish Empire, they were a subject people who periodically endured government-sponsored pogroms or the rapaciousness of officials, as well as the Turkish and Kurdish overlords who ruled the rural interior.

The Meds Yeghern (Great Catastrophe), as it was initially referred to by our people, had ramifications far beyond the emptying of our historic lands of its Armenian inhabitants. It was a determined effort by the Young Turks to wipe out the Armenian nation. The resulting genocide represented an exceedingly virulent form of xenophobia by these Ittihadists. The impact of this Great Catastrophe shattered the political, economic, social, psychological, and geographic framework of the Armenian nation.

The determination to destroy the Armenian nation crystallized under the Young Turks or Ittihadists during the Great War. This visceral response to Armenians and Armenian culture became embedded in the mindset of every Turkish leader and has fueled the policies of every Turkish government that has succeeded the Ittihadist perpetrators of the genocide, from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Having succeeded in emptying the provinces of historic western Armenia, it then became necessary to obliterate every vestige of Armenia’s ancient culture from the landscape. The genocide never ended, but morphed into a more subtle and insidious attack on the Armenian nation.

Our message on this Day of Remembrance should not forget the thousands of children and young women who became the “lost” Armenians of the genocide. Whether accepted by compassionate neighbors or people along the infamous death trail to Der Zor, or taken in lust, these young Armenians were lost to their people and denied their birthright to grow up as Armenians. This should be a day when we pray for the progeny of these “lost” Armenians who are still our brothers and sisters living on the lands of their Armenian ancestors. And April 24th should remind us of the never-to-be-born generations of Armenians that the genocide forever took from us.

Not content with having shed the blood of some 1.5 million of our men, women, and children, Turkish forces mounted a final campaign to occupy what little remained of historic Armenia in their determination to complete the annihilation of our people. In the ensuing Battle of Sadarabad (May 1918) the Armenian forces were victorious. Within a few days following this epic victory, the first independent Republic of Armenia was established.

When the Treaty of Sevres was formulated the following year, an independent Armenia (Wilsonian Armenia) was created on our ancestral lands. Unfortunately, it was a country with few of its rightful Armenian inhabitants. The newly formed Armenian Republic, beset with overwhelming problems—refugees, shortages of food, medicine, clothing, and housing, and the trauma of genocide—was in no position to claim its historic lands.

The rump government of Kemal Ataturk seated in Ankara summarily rejected the Treaty of Sevres, which Sultan Muhammad VI in Constantinople had signed. With little effective opposition to his nationalist message, Ataturk protected his eastern flank by agreement with the Russian Bolsheviks, thus freeing himself to reestablish Turkish control over an Anatolia that had been partitioned by the allied powers. Ataturk’s ensuing military successes forced the scrapping of the Treaty of Sevres and its replacement by the the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). It was recognition by the European victors of the Great War of the new reality in Anatolia. The present-day country of Turkey, successor to the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire, was officially recognized as a sovereign state. The genocide of 1.5 million Armenians and the promised independent Wilsonian Armenia were forgotten.

The nascent Armenian Republic had collapsed earlier in 1920 under the combined burden of the socio-economic problems generated by the genocide and the political subversion of the Russian Bolsheviks. The boundaries of the newly created Bolshevik Armenian Republic were redrawn to place Javakhk in Georgia, and Nakhitchevan and Artsakh in the newly created Bolshevik Republic of Azerbaijan, and by treaty ceded Kars-Ardahan to Turkey.

In the decades that followed, the determination and resiliency of our people allowed them to overcome what should have been an insurmountable tragedy. Their fortitude and will to survive has brought us to this April 24th, which, symbolically, falls on Easter Sunday. In our desire to honor our martyrs the subtext of our observance continues to be the demand for recognition. We seem willing to ignore the fact that this is the 20th year of the second independent Republic of Armenia. We seem willing to ignore the fact that in Artsakh, our brothers and sisters were successful in their war for independence from a despotic Turkic-Azeri government. That during the nearly two decades of their freedom, they have developed a sustainable economy and a democratic government.

We are so fixated on the intransigence of Turkish leaders not recognizing the genocide that the miracle wrought by our survivors of the genocide is overlooked. Not only did they rebuild shattered lives, they created vibrant communities wherever good fortune or misfortune took them. Their efforts have made the diaspora a vital part of a resurrected Armenian nation. Through their efforts Armenia can no longer be viewed as a small, isolated, landlocked country, but a global nation whose people have created a web of vigorous and energetic communities in over 40 countries on every continent, linked emotionally and spiritually to the cultural hearth, mer Hayasdan (our Armenia).

April 24th should be an opportunity not only to remember our martyrs, but to honor them by dedicating ourselves to building a better and stronger mayreni yergir (motherland) and a better and stronger diaspora. Let us not devote this day to a lamentation of their deaths. That should not be the message of April 24th. We have become so obsessed emotionally with seeking recognition that we fail to accept the fact that the Enver Beys and Taalat Beys and the Ataturks who sought to destroy our nation have been defeated.

Today Erdogan looks to the east and sees an independent Armenia, while his Turkic brother in arms President Ilham Aliyev looks to the west and sees historic Armenian Artsakh resurrected. Today our Armenia is on the threshold of an exciting and challenging future. And it is up to each of us, if we care enough, to participate in shaping that future. That should be the message for this April 24th and every April 24th that follows.

Our martyrs would be proud of what their people have accomplished. And each of us, old and young alike, should be inspired as well. Genocide recognition is not the key to Armenia’s future. A strong and secure Armenia is the key to the justice we rightfully seek.

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Michael Mensoian

Michael Mensoian, J.D./Ph.D, is professor emeritus in Middle East and political geography at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a retired major in the U.S. army. He writes regularly for the Armenian Weekly.

6 Comments

  1. here is another “Hayorti”who should be commended for his brilliant article about the Armenian genocide. It creates an opportunity to look at the facts and evaluate them from a different perspective, stimulating positive thoughts about our nation’s current standing in our homeland and the diaspora. Well done! and thank you Michael Mensoian.

  2. I LOOK FORWARD TO HEAR DR. MENSOIAN’S VISION OF JUSTICE IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE OF “OUR ARMENIA”.

  3. Mr. Mensoian:

    Another excellent article in your series.
    One important correction though: 1.5 Million was from 1915 onwards.
    An estimated 2 Million were murdered starting with Sultan Hamid.

    There were probably many other ‘minor’ massacres  in the years up to 1894-1896,  and in-between years of the major ones – that unfortunately we have reliable records of.

  4. Very well composed  in beautiful English. If one more  or many more praiseful confirmations was  needed to add to above.you have mine as well.
    But please  note many others  have vloiced what you have dear Mr. Mensoian and they many more will do so.
    Republic(s) of Armenia and Artsakh are realities thanks to MILITARISM. Whether the  hastily made up JOGADS   that shaped  victory or….
    THE PRESENT ARMIES  OF R.OF ARMENIA  AND ARTSAKH.THESE ARE  THE GUARANTORS OF  ARMENIAN  NATIONHOOD. MAY IT BE KNOWN  THAT  NEITHER HAYAASTAN NOR ITS GOVT. WOULD EXIST  WITHOUT THE ARMENIAN ARMIES.
    What  will upset me and others who think likewise  is if  Azerbaijan keeps receiving more armament  and NOW TODAY  WORD  OF A SATTELITE,JUST  OUT…AND THAT  B Y MR. WOODROW WILSON´S  COUNTRY…IS ALARMING TO SAY THE LEAST.
    AS THOUGH IT WAS  NOT ENOUGH ARMING THE GREAT TURKISH ARMY TO THE TEETH..NOW THE LITTLE BROTHER ON THE OTHER SIDE…
    NO ARMENIA IS NOT COMPLETELY SHUT OFF THE OUTSIDE WORLD,THANKS TO IRAN TO SOUTH AND RRRRUSIA  TO THE NORTH. ARMENIA DOES  NOT NEED  BORDER OPENING WITH GREAT TURKEY, NOR WITH BLOODTHIRSTY-NEWLY- AZERBABOON,LIKE ONE ARFMENIAN LADY  RECENTLY CALLED THEM ON ONE  OF THSE THREADS.
    FOR THOSE  WHO ARE DIFFICULT  TO GRASP.WAS  THERE A FINAL TRUCE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT BETWEEN INDIA AND BAKISTAN…?  i ask  you??
    INDEED  NOT  AND NEVER WILL BE .SAME WITH US ARMENIANS ESPECIALLY, THAT  HAS SUFFERED  A  HUGE  G E N O C I D E    FROM TURCO AZESRIS.THE INDO PAKISTANI FADES  AWAY AS AGAINST  OUR AND TOIKISH NEIGHBOURLINESS?shall we say?
    PLEASE, LET US COME TO OUR SENSES.A RECENTL DELEGATION COMPRISED  OF ARMENIAN CLERGY IN ISTANBULLA,SUPPORTED BY LAY OF THEIR KIND HAS BEEN PURSUADED  BY THE AUTHORITIES  THERE TO GO FUND RAISE  FOR REPAIRS  OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH  IN DIARBAKIR(tigranakert) WHICH ACTUALLY IS  IN NOWADASY  HEARTLAND OF  K U R D I S T A N …NOT NAMED SO,BUT IT WILL EVENTUALLY FOR SO IS THE TURKISH  DIPLOMACY..YAVASH YAVASH…ONLY DO LET  US INTO EUROPE -SO AS WE CAN PROVE  THAT WE ARE EUROPEANS……
    I BELIEVE  I HAVE SAID ENOUGH.
    1.STRENGTHEN OUR ARMIES  SHOULD BE  AT BACK OF MIND  OR EVERY ARMENIAN
    2.RE-ORGANIZE  THE DIASPORAS  ,NO NOT AROUND THE 160 YRS OLD SAHMANATRUTYUN  DRAWN UP BY ISTANBULLA  CLERGY UNDER  OTTOMAN RULE.IT IS NOT  COMPATIBLE WITH A VIBRFANT  NEW GENERATION ARMENIANS ALL OVER THE GLOBE THAT CRAVE  FOR  NOVELTIES  .THAT THIS SERVANT OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE SUGGESTS. THROUGH…..PCA´S,,,PROF.COLLEAGUES  ASSOC. AND
    BY THEM A  HUGE  NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST  FUND.
    HAVE FUND THEN WE CAN COPE WITH THOSE  WARMONGERS…
    FOR ARMS CAN BE PURCHASED  FROM FAR AWAY TOO…

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