Thoughts as We Approach the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide

 

By Ara Caprielian

“Mass meetings on behalf of the Armenians amount to nothing whatever if they are mere methods of giving a sentimental but ineffective and safe outlet to the emotion of those engaged in them.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

 

It has been our centuries-old quest to live as a sovereign nation in our historic Homeland. Our contemporary demand for a free, independent, and united Armenia is a relatively modern political formulation of the above.

Centuries of foreign subjugation and a division of Armenia by powerful empires made the desire for freedom and independence a dream of visionaries and patriots, while most Armenians, languishing under the suppression of foreign despotism, were primarily concerned with their physical survival.

There was an important realization that despite our comparatively limited numbers and strength, we were indeed a nation possessing a long history, rich culture, and our Apostolic Church. All of those national attributes acted as a counterweight to the ever-present threats of assimilation and even eventual disappearance from the world stage.

During six centuries of Ottoman domination, Armenians, as a religious community (millet), felt that their Christian faith and membership in the autocephalous Apostolic Church constituted the basic prerequisite for sustaining their national identity. The idea of an independent homeland and the preservation and development of a native culture, constituting the most effective way to assure the survival of the nation, gradually gained wide acceptance in modern times.

The eventual internationalization of the Armenian Question in the 19th century became possible following the 1878 Russo-Turkish War and the subsequent treaties of San Stefano and Berlin. Moreover, the interest of the European Powers in the plight of Armenians, although assuredly for the sake of their own state interests, politicized the Armenian Question. Finally, the creation of the first independent Armenian Republic in 1918, following the Armenian Genocide, solidified the basic mindset of Armenians that as a nation they are entitled to nothing less than a free, independent, and united state. This objective would have become a reality were it not for a resurgent, aggressive Kemalist Turkey, a perfidious Soviet Russia, and the complacency of the leading Western powers. From then on, the unwavering champion of free, independent, and united Armenia by word and deed has been the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Since the forced Sovietization of Armenia, it became the task of the diaspora to keep reminding the world that the Genocide of Armenians (1915-23) and the loss of Western Armenian territories despite the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) and President W. Wilson’s Arbitral Award meant that there existed an unresolved Armenian Question that had to be addressed. Armenia, as part of the Soviet Union, understandably could not pursue its legitimate claims—a task that fell upon the shoulders of the diaspora and, in particular, of the ARF and its network of Armenian National Committees worldwide.

Today, the first two components of the Armenian Question—a free and independent Armenia—have been realized, although admittedly much needs to be done to ensure that the citizens of Armenia enjoy the full and equal protection of their lawful rights and that the country is able to formulate a foreign policy, enabling it to reduce an overwhelming political and economic dependence on any one country. Consequently, what essentially remains to be achieved is the eventual territorial unification of Armenia and the acquisition of adequate compensation for the astronomical losses it sustained as a direct consequence of the genocide and deportation of Armenians.

We have every legal, historical, and moral right to demand a border rectification between Armenia and Turkey. The Treaties of Moscow and Kars, delineating the present border between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey, are blatantly illegal, considering the conditions under which these treaties were signed. It is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty the circumstances under which long-overdue justice will prevail. Notwithstanding the overwhelming odds that currently prevent a change in the status quo, as we approach the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, it is incumbent upon all of us as a unified nation to clearly, resolutely, and unequivocally press our demands for restitution.

Indisputable facts and solid evidence concerning the tragic events of 1915-23 conclusively prove the veracity of the genocide. Objective studies of reputable scholars have affirmed beyond a doubt that what occurred between 1915 and 1923 was nothing less than a premeditated and methodically perpetrated genocide by the Ottoman state. And with genocide recognition by a growing number of countries, we have, for all intents and purposes, moved well beyond the stage of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Starting with the Centennial of that event and every year thereafter, our task is to muster our human and material resources for a unified struggle for justice.

As April 2015 rapidly approaches, it is well within reason to expect a statement by the Turkish government expressing regrets and maybe even an apology for the genocide. To demonstrate an enlightened attitude, Turkey might even agree to return a few churches to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as some properties to individuals in possession of supporting deeds to legitimate their claims. Any statement or even acknowledgement by Turkey regarding the genocide can only be considered guardedly as a first step on the long road toward eventual reconciliation and closure. In the absence of concrete steps or action involving territorial restitution and material compensation, mere words of regret or apology are totally inadequate as gestures to compensate for the consequences of genocide and the deportation of Armenians from their millennial Homeland.

A case must be prepared by a group of eminently qualified experts (international law attorneys, historians, etc.) clearly stating all relevant historical arguments and moral principles and foremost, our legal claims based on the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, President W. Wilson’s Arbitral Award of large parts of Western Armenia to its rightful owners. Needless to say the Republic of Armenia must become proactive and take the initiative in seeing that such a document, representing the combined claims of 10 million Armenians in Armenia and throughout the world, be prepared. The Pan-Armenian Declaration on Genocide Centennial, adopted on Jan. 29, 2015, is a decisive step in that direction.

Publishing scholarly studies and translating the most significant ones into English, Russian, and other major languages; organizing forums, seminars, marches, demonstrations, concerts, and art exhibits; producing documentary and feature films; erecting monuments; recognizing the individuals and organizations that played a major role in helping the survivors; and placing messages in leading mass media outlets will all assuredly serve to publicize and keep alive our cause. But these commendable, worthwhile activities must be a part of an overall strategy designed to contribute to a larger, all-encompassing objective, which is the eventual return of our lands.

This brings to mind a statement made by none other than Theodore Roosevelt, one of the illustrious American presidents: “… Sympathy is useless unless it is accompanied with indignation, and that the indignation is useless if it exhausts itself in words instead of taking shape in deeds.” All statements regarding the Centennial ought to be measured by the thought expressed in the above quotation.

Hopefully, beginning—yet not ending—with the Armenian Genocide Centennial, we will demonstrate to friend and foe alike our unwavering pursuit of justice by channeling our intellectual and material resources toward that end. No matter how long and painstaking the struggle, we will persevere, for our Cause is just and our commitment is forever.

 

Dr. Ara Caprielian is one of the founding members of the New York Hamazkayin chapter.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles written and submitted by members of the community, which make up our community bulletin board.

7 Comments

  1. Dr. Ara,
    Thank you very much.
    A very thoughtful article that is timely, factually accurate,
    relevant and forceful.
    There is a major effort by the Armenian nation, in the Homeland and the Diaspora to commemorate the Centennial of the Genocide. There also is a valiant effort by the various organizations (i.e. ANCA in the USA)on the political front. All these events, petitions, papers, sponsored resolutions should be supported by all Armenians regardless of what political party , or church they are affiliated with, because the cause is the one and only, and in it’s purpose we should be unified.
    I am hopeful that all these actions/events will have an effect and a tangible result. However, I personally mentally am prepared to be disappointed due to several political factors and considerations.
    And yet, I totally agree with you. The Centennial is not the end game, nor the final chapter. There is still work to be done.
    Vart Adjemian

  2. Great article.

    I think all this non-recognition by the US of the Armenian Genocide is an organized scam by un-American politicians in the USA. Up until now, “American” politicians have insulted our people and nation with the biggest lie: that the US “needs” Turkey and thus it is not an appropriate time given that the US is “battling terrorism” (which of course its policies and actions created).

    So let me get this straight. Those foreign spy neocons of the State Department and other government agencies, do not hesitate for one second to threaten and take action against the world’s number two super power, Russia, the result of which could end up in a catastrophic nuclear war, but they act like “Turkey the all-powerful nation” cannot be angered FOR COMMITTING THE BIGGEST CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY of all things, or else “the US will suffer”!?

    I would bring into question the loyalties of these foreign spies working as “American politicians”. How can an “American politician” have the audacity to claim that the world’s number one superpower can’t upset a country like Turkey, which is totally and completely dependent upon American military and other aid? What an insult to not only the USA itself, but to all principles of reason and logic.

    On top of that, Sultan Erdogan of the new wannabe-Ottoman empire comes out and barks at every European nation and the US with “threats” if they recognize a mere truth, The Genocide, and he is allowed a free pass. Russia has recognized the Genocide, yet Turkey remains one of Russia’s biggest trading partners. When was the last time Sultan Erdogan barked at Putin and told him what to do? This can only mean that western politicians are either complete idiots, or they are behind all those “threats” themselves using their favorite puppet dictator. I’m inclined to think the latter even though the former has merit too.

    Iran, according to these same insane neocons, is an “evil country” and therefore all countries associated with the US must engage in sanctions against Iran… but wait, of course the west’s darling Turkey is exempt, it can deal with Iran all it wants. War crimes must always be punished, but of course, Turkey is again exempt from committing the biggest war crimes throughout history. All those Middle eastern countries will “pay the price” for dealing with terrorists. But wait, even though everyone knows ISIS and Turkey are pretty much the same thing, and Turkey has been hosting those terrorists since day one and though the US is spending millions to “fight ISIS” – once again darling Turkey is exempt from any accountability for being a state sponsor of terror.

    When will all this insanity and hypocrisy of the west end, I wonder.

  3. Dr. Ara Caprielian

    Thank you for this well written article. I just would like to mention a new threat to our Nations survival.

    It is a well known fact that since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of our third republic the numbers of the population of our homeland is alarmingly decreasing, people are leaving the country for economical reasons, yet neither the administration of the republic nor our main stream political parties are seriously addressing and trying to seek a solution for this problem.

    Hrad Poladian

  4. Sometimes when I read articles like this about the Armenian Genocide I can do nothing but groan in despair.
    Is Ara Caprielian actually claiming that the Genocide was a Turkish response to an Armenian “centuries-old quest to live as a sovereign nation in our historic Homeland”? Maybe he believes in that Turkish denialist thesis – but most historians do not.

    Is Capelian actually claiming that the millet system sustained Armenian identity? Most historians would hold that it effectively rendered Armenian identity moribund, that the Ottoman authorities created the millet system to suppress and control its subject peoples, and that the Armenian Church within the Ottoman empire (as the Ottoman-appointed leader of the Armenian millet) was required to suppress ideas of an “independent homeland and the preservation and development of a native culture”.

    The modern Armenian state has no “legal, historical, and moral right to demand a border rectification between Armenia and Turkey”, nor has it ever presented any such claims. To suggest otherwise plays directly into the arms of Turkish denialists. The Armenian Genocide had NOTHING to do with preventing the birth of an Armenian state, and had NOTHING to do with the creation of the borders of that state. Caprielian’s gross distortion of the real history of the Armenian Genocide actually places him side by side with those Turkish denialists who claim that the “relocations” were a justified Turkish wartime response to traitorous Armenians who were rebelling to create their own state by carving territory out of the Turkish state.

    • “Sometimes when I read articles like this about the Armenian Genocide, I can do nothing but groan in despair.” Actually, Turk denialists groan in despair whenever they read any kind of article about the Armenian Genocide.

      “The modern Armenian state has no legal, historical, and moral right to demand a border rectification between Armenia and Turkey.” This is actually the very same claim that Turk denialists persistently make. Anyway, as a result of the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s annihilation of its Armenian population in which the Western Armenian provinces became completely emptied of its Armenian inhabitants, the Republic of Armenia therefore has every legal, historical, and moral right to demand a border rectification between Armenia and Turkey. As a matter of fact, in its Pan-Armenian declaration from January 29th, the Republic of Armenia leadership revealed its plans for legal claims against Turkey. A legal team headed by Gagik Harutyunyan (the president of the Constitutional Court of Armenia), is currently in the process of finalizing a thorough analysis of claims against Turkey.

  5. Tonight the Armenian nation lost one of its greatest patriots and ceaseless workers on behalf of our Cause. RIP Ara Caprielian.

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