History, Russian Conquest and Ottoman Rule
Hunchak, Transcaucasia, worst atrocities, pro-Russian, time World War
In the early 19th century Russian expansionism extended into Caucasia. By the late 1820s the Russian Empire had gained control of Iran’s territories in Transcaucasia. The area of present-day Armenia thereby became part of the Russian Empire, while the rest of historic Armenia remained part of the Ottoman Empire. A large number of Armenians subsequently migrated from the Ottoman Empire to Russian-held territory.
During the late 1800s Armenian political groups formed and began agitating for greater levels of autonomy for Armenians, at times resorting to terrorism. One party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or ARF (commonly called Dashnaks), sought autonomy for Armenians within the Ottoman and Russian empires. The Hunchak (“Bell”) party called for an independent socialist Armenia. The Ottoman and Russian governments responded to the demands of Armenian nationalists with repressive measures. Ottoman forces systematically massacred hundreds of thousands of Armenians between 1894 and 1896. The Russian government, although not as repressive as the Ottoman government, closed Armenian schools and ordered the confiscation of church property. Armenian nationalists led an armed resistance against the seizure of church property until Russia put a stop to the practice in 1905.
The worst atrocities against Armenians occurred in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (1914-1918), when widespread deportations and massacres eliminated nine-tenths of the Armenians in Anatolia (present-day Asian Turkey). The Ottoman government accused the Armenians of being pro-Russian and cited the threat of internal rebellion as justification for the massive deportations and massacres. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were uprooted from their homelands in Anatolia and exiled to the deserts of present-day Syria. Many Armenians perished from starvation and disease or were killed by soldiers or civilians during the forced marches. Although the Russian government and the European powers protested the Ottoman atrocities, they did not intervene. By the time World War I ended, more than 800,000 Armenians had died. The massacres continued into the early 1920s, and many Armenians fled to other countries, including Russia and the United States. According to most historians, the Ottoman treatment of the empire’s Armenian subjects constituted the first great genocide of the 20th century. However, the present-day government of Turkey disputes the characterization of these events as genocide, arguing that the deaths were the result of civil war, disease, and famine.
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