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The Events of 1915

The Relocation

In response, after second Van riot on April 15th 1915, the Ottoman Government decided that the Armenian population residing in the warzone or in the strategic areas nearby should be relocated to the southern Ottoman provinces away from the supply routes and transport lines of the advancing Russian Army. Some Armenians that resided away from the frontline but were reported or suspected of being involved in collaboration with the enemy were also included in this measure.

It is misleading to compare the appalling losses suffered by the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire with the destruction of Jews of the Nazi Germany...what happened to the Armenians is a result of their armed rebellion against the Turks that started long before the war and continued increasingly.

Bernard Lewis, Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian, 2012

Relocation had been a security measure of the time applied in similar conditions by other countries such as; between 1756-1763 the British expulsion of Acadians during the Anglo-French war, the US expulsion of natives to the south in 1830, Polish expulsion of the local Ukrainians to the all sides of the country from their homelands after WWII. Retrospective viewpoint would be highly misleading when it comes to interpreting historical events. The past should be evaluated in accordance with the conditions of the time.

Whilst the Ottoman Government had planned for the protection and nourishment of the dislocated Armenians, their suffering could not be avoided under the circumstances of the time. Wartime conditions exacerbated by internal strife, local groups seeking retaliation, banditry, famine, epidemics and the general lawlessness of a disintegrating Empire all combined to produce a painful tragedy that was beyond any expected contingency.

Archive documents reveal that there were some Ottoman officials who committed offences against Armenian convoys contrary to their orders. They were held responsible for the Armenian losses and were punished in 1916 including with capital punishment.

With the de facto dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, the constituent elements of the Empire fought the “War of Independence” and established the Republic of Turkey. In its struggle for life, this national movement that founded the Turkish Republic had to take on a war, especially between 1918 and 1920, with the Armenian rebels as well as with the occupying forces. While in 1923, as the successor of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Turkish Republic was claiming its role in the world with the founding principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world”, it buried the pain of the loss of millions of lives of its children and many hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land and focused on a future that was based on peace, tranquillity and amity.