From 1915-1923, a few massacres were committed against the Christians of Anatolia. There were three genocides: an Armenian genocide, an Assyrian genocide, and a Greek genocide.
I just did a significant amount of research on the events and numbers around these events. I did it because Turks on the Internet were claiming that Armenians started the fighting by slaughtering Turks.
There were also posts from Turks talking how if things got bad in Turkey, Armenians and Greeks would start slaughtering Turks. I work in mental health, and this is clear and naked projection. They’re accusing Armenians and Greeks of doing to Turks everything the Turks did to the Armenians and Greeks. Most Turks on the Net absolutely hate Armenians and use the word “Armenian” to mean something like “the worst enemies of the Turkish people ever.”
So I did some basic research on the events. I was especially confused by the Turkish claims that these events started when Armenians in Anatolia started massacring Turks, and Turks were just fighting back. Were they right? Of course I had always believed the Armenian side of the story, but what if they were wrong and the Turks were right? As I am extremely open-minded person (far more open-minded than most people), I had to find out.
First, the numbers. They’re wrong. Way off, all of them. The official figures run from 700,000 to 1.8 million. Simply by adding up all of the totals listed on Wikipedia, I got 2.5 million Armenian victims of the Turks in this period.
Now, I did include some massacres that occurred before the actual genocide because I felt that they were all part of some larger event, a slo-mo Armenian genocide that lasted from 1880-1923. I believe there was a slaughter of 300,000 in the 1880’s amidst similar Turkish recriminations as I outlined above: “The Armenians were killing our people, so we had to fight back.” And possibly another with 25,000 number of victims around 1908. And the killings absolutely extended to into the 1920’s until 1923.
I had previously thought that there were 40,000 Turkish civilians killed by Armenians in retaliation, but now I cannot find that data. What I did find what that Russian Cossaks killed 45,000 Turkish civilians in a Turkish river valley in 1916.
2.5 million Armenian civilians killed by Turks (as aggression).
0? Turkish civilians killed by Armenians (as retaliation).
I also checked on the Turkish claim that Armenians started it. No, they didn’t. Incidentally, it seems like most of the genocide occurred in maybe a couple of years – 1915-1916. The rest of the years were more like window dressing.
The Turks claimed that Armenians killed Turkish soldiers when Russia invaded Turkey in the east in 1914. This is correct. There were quite a few Armenians in that force. These were Armenian volunteer battalions that also included Assyrians and Greeks. They numbered 40,000.
They had been treated terribly by the Ottomans over centuries of land, food, and business theft, beatings, jailings, tortures, murders, pogroms, and massacres. So these were Christians living in Russia who were out for some paybacks due to Ottoman crimes. I had previously thought that Turkish civilians were killed in this battle, but now I can’t find any data.
This was during a battle in late 1914 in which the Turks were beaten badly by a Russian invading force in the East. The Turks blamed the Armenians for their loss in the battle, but the real cause was that the Turks fought the battle very poorly, and the Russians fought it in a much smarter way. It was a fair fight.
The loss of this battle was humiliating for the Turks, and they quickly accused Armenians in Anatolia of stabbing them in the back and causing their defeat.
This is exactly what Hitler said about Jews that set off the Holocaust – that German Jews had stabbed Germany in the back, causing it to lose the war. It wasn’t true and neither was the Turkish claim, but it worked. Turks quickly demonized Armenians and other Christians in Turkey and scapegoated them. Which is once again exactly what the Nazis did to Jews.
The Turks used the paranoia set off by this event to set off the genocide of the Armenians (and Assyrians and Greeks) in Anatolia on the grounds that they were some sort of infidel 5th Column in wartime and hence were dangerous traitors. There’s not a lot of evidence that this was true.
These massacres were committed by the Russian Army, not the Armenians of Turkey, and neither is there evidence that the Armenians sympathized with the invaders. Interestingly, around this time, many Turkish Armenians became patriots and either joined or tried to join the Turkish Army to fight the invaders. This is left out of many accounts.
I also looked into the Greek genocide and got a figure of 715,000, larger than most estimates. Greek retaliation killings were only 15,000, and all occurred years after the initial slaughter of the Greeks.
715,000 Greeks killed by Turks (as aggression).
15,000 Turkish civilians killed by Greeks (in retaliation).
Which number is bigger? Which represents the much larger crime?
I haven’t gotten to the Assyrian genocide yet, figures of which seem to be between the Greek and Armenian numbers.
Maybe in an upcoming post