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What happened to Armenians in 1915?

Topics Covered: World History.

What happened to Armenians in 1915?


U.S. President Joe Biden has officially recognised the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-16 as “an act of genocide”.


Up to 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed in the early stage of the First World War within the territories of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey’s response:

Turkey has acknowledged that atrocities were committed against Armenians, but denies it was a genocide (which comes with legal implications) and challenges the estimates that 1.5 million were killed.

  • The Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a strong statement to Mr. Biden’s announcement saying it doesn’t not have “a scholarly and legal basis, nor is it supported by any evidence”.

What were the reasons behind?

  • Armenians were victims of the great power contests of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • When the Ottoman Empire was in decline in the 19th century, Armenians were seen by the rulers in Constantinople as a fifth column.
  • The resentment started building up after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 in which the Turks lost territories.
  • In the Treaty of Berlin, big powers dictated terms to the Ottomans, including putting pressure on Sultan Abdülhamid II to initiate reforms “in the provinces inhabited by Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Circassians and Kurds.
  • The Sultan saw this as a sign of strengthening ties between the Armenians and other rival countries, especially Russia.
  • Later, in October 1914, Turkey joined the First World War on the side of Germany. The Ottomans suffered a catastrophic defeat in the Battle of Sarikamish by the Russians in January 1915.
  • The Turks blamed the defeat on Armenian “treachery”.

Following this, there were a series of attacks on Armenians.


Prelims Link:

  1. Key events during world war 1.
  2. Who are Armenians?
  3. Where is turkey?

Mains Link:

Turkey has acknowledged that atrocities were committed against Armenians, but denies it was a genocide. Comment.

Sources: the Hindu.