Advantages Important historical sight, easy to understand, dramatic architecture
Disadvantages Difficult to find on first visit
Although they can be very jovial indeed when it comes to a party, the Armenians are by and large a fairly melancholy people. There are two main reasons behind this melancholy. The first is that their sacred Mount Ararat, the mountain that symbolises so much of the nation's history, now lies in Turkey and they can only see its magnificent snow-capped peak from behind a closed border. The fact that the border is closed brings me to the second reason for the pervading sadness of Armenians: the tense relationship with Turkey is due to a massive event that few people are aware of. In 1915 over one and a half million Armenians were murdered in a genocide that took place within the Ottoman Empire at hands of the Turkish government. It is often referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century.
To this day the Republic of Turkey does not recognise the event as a genocide. The Turkish government has always maintained that Armenians were killed but that 'genocide' is not the correct description because the deaths were not planned as a programme of extermination of an entire race. Within Turkey it is a criminal offence to acknowledge the genocide though prosecution is not common - I expect the imagined outcome of such an act is probably enough to stop anyone from doing it. Even now there is a considerable movement within the European Union to withhold Turkish entry while the government continues to deny the genocide.THE BACKGROUND
For many centuries sizeable numbers of Armenians lived peacefully within the Ottoman Empire; however, while they were afforded to freedom to follow their own religion they were second class citizens in most other ways. However, by the nineteenth century there was a considerable movement for Armenian autonomy which was backed to some extent by the Russians and the British. They tired to use diplomatic means to have reforms imposed but in actual fact the treatment of the Armenian population deteriorated. At the same time, the power-mad Ottomans wanted to increase their Empire yet further, right across to central Asia where some Turkic tribes already lived. In the territory in between, however, were the Armenians and the Ottomans knew that they'd be unable to carry out their aims unless they dealt with the Armenians. In the final years of the nineteenth century thousands of Armenians were killed in the 'Hamidian Massacres' ordered by Sultan Abdul Hamid II but this was just the beginningIn 1908, there was a rebellion by the Young Turks, a strongly nationalist group who wanted to see the Ottoman Empire become more modern along the lines of a European country. At first the Armenians welcomed this but reforms failed to follow and in the ensuing upheaval, a group of three ultra-nationals took power of the Young Turks and World War One gave them an opportunity to advance their nationalistic aims.
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