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THE ARMENIAN QUESTION AND THE WARTIME FATE OF THE ARMENIANS AS DOCUMENTED BY THE OFFICIALS OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE'S WORLD WAR I ALLIES: GERMANY AND AUSTRIA–HUNGARY

  • Vahakn N. Dadrian

Abstract

The wartime fate of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian minority continues to be controversial. The debate in the main revolves around the causes and nature of that fate. Some historians have alleged that what is involved is centrally organized mass murder—or, to use contemporary terminology, genocide. This school of thought maintains that the Ottoman authorities were waiting for a suitable opportunity to undertake the wholesale liquidation of the empire's Armenian population, and the outbreak of World War I provided that opportunity. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP, or Unionists), who controlled the Ottoman government, they argue further, did in fact undertake this liquidation under cover of the war.1 Others, however, dispute these assertions, especially that of genocidal intent. This group maintains that Armenian acts of disloyalty, subversion, and insurrection in wartime forced the central government to order, for purposes of relocation, the deportation of large sections of the Armenian population. According to this argument, apart from those who were killed in “intercommunal” clashes—that is, a “civil war”—the bulk of the Armenian losses resulted from the severe hardships associated with poorly administered measures of deportations, including exhaustion, sickness, starvation, and epidemics. In other words, this school of thought holds that the Ottoman Empire, in the throes of an existential war, had no choice but to protect itself by resorting to drastic methods; therefore, the tragic fate of the Armenians must be understood in the context of the dire conditions of World War I.2 These views are encapsulated in the formula that the noted Middle East historian Bernard Lewis has used—namely, the desperate conditions of “an embattled empire.”3

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Vahakn N. Dadrian is Retired Professor of Sociology and Director of Genocide Research, Zoryan Institute, Cambridge, Mass., USA.

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THE ARMENIAN QUESTION AND THE WARTIME FATE OF THE ARMENIANS AS DOCUMENTED BY THE OFFICIALS OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE'S WORLD WAR I ALLIES: GERMANY AND AUSTRIA–HUNGARY

  • Vahakn N. Dadrian

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