American Minute with Bill Federer
Armenia: Ancient Past to Aggrieved Present
According to ancient tradition, Noah's Ark rested on Mount Ararat in the Armenian Mountain Range.
Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat is even featured on Armenia's National Coat of Arms.
Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (410-490 AD) recounted the tradition that Noah's son Japheth had a descendant named Hayk who shot an arrow in a battle near Lake Van c.2,500 BC killing Nimrod, builder of the Tower of Babel -- the first tyrant of the ancient world.
Hayk is the origin of "Hayastan," the Armenian name for Armenia.

Ancient Armenians may have had some relations with the Hittites and Hurrians, who inhabited that area known as Anatolia in the 2nd millenium BC.
Armenia's major city of Yerevan, founded in 782 BC in the shadow of Mount Ararat, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Armenia was mentioned in the Book of Isaiah (37:38), when King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah around 701 BC.

King Hezekiah and the Prophet Isaiah prayed and Judah was miraculously saved. Sennacherib returned to Assyria:

"And it came to pass, as Sennacherib was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia."
Armenia was first mentioned by name in secular records in 520 BC by Darius the Great of Persia in his Behistun inscription, as being one of the countries he sent troops into to put down a revolt.
In 331 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but never conquered Armenia.
King Tigrane the Great, 95-55 BC, extended Armenia's borders to their greatest extent, stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, pushing back the Parthians, Seleucids and the Roman Republic.
In 66 BC, Roman General Pompey invaded Armenia during the Mithridatic Wars, but King Tigrane paid him to leave.

Pompey then marched into Judea and captured Jerusalem, but forbade his soldiers from damaging the Temple.
In the 3rd century AD, Roman Emperor Diocletian betrayed Armenian King Tiridates III and captured large areas of Armenia.
In this crisis, King Tiridates released Saint Gregory the Illuminator, whom he had imprisoned for 12 years for being the son of his father's killer.
Gregory preached to King Tiridates, then baptized him in 301 AD.

St. Gregory the Illuminator is credited with turning Armenia from paganism to Christianity.
Though other countries at that time had majority Christian populations, such as Syria, Cappadocia, and Egypt, Armenia was the first nation to "officially" adopt Christianity as its state religion when King Tiridates III converted in 301 AD.
A section of the Old City of Jerusalem is known as "The Armenian Quarter."
In 313 AD, Constantine the Great ended the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
Not long after Armenia, another kingdom became Christian.

King Ezana of the African Kingdom of Aksum (320-360 AD) converted to Christianity and adopted it as the official religion of his kingdom, which included:

  • Ethiopia, also called Abyssinia;
  • Yemen;
  • southern Arabia;
  • northern Somalia;
  • Djibouti;
  • Eritrea, and
  • parts of Sudan.
Aksum's King Ezana originally minted coins with a pagan symbol at the top of a star and crescent moon.

After he converted to Christianity, he replaced the star and crescent with a Christian cross, though pagans in the Middle East continued using the star and crescent symbol for centuries.
Armenia's thousands of years of history included independence, interspersed with occupations by:

  • Assyrians,
  • Medes,
  • Achaemenid Persians,
  • Greeks,
  • Parthians,
  • Romans,
  • Sasanian Persians,
  • Byzantines,
  • Arabs,
  • Seljuk Turks,
  • Mongols,
  • Ottoman Turks,
  • Russians,
  • Safavid Persians,
  • Afsharid Persians,
  • Qajar Persians, and again
  • Russians.
Armenia's medieval capitol of Ani was called "the city of a 1,001 churches," with a population of 200,000, rivaling the populations of the cities of the largest cities of the era, such as: Constantinople, Baghdad, Damascus, Florence, Rome, Paris, London, and Milan.
Islam emerged in the 7th century and quickly conquered throughout north Africa, Egypt and the Middle East.

In 704 AD, Caliph Walid tricked Armenian nobles to meet in St. Gregory's Church in Naxcawan and Church of Xram on the Araxis River.

Once they were all inside, he broke his promise, a practice called "taqiya." He had his soldiers surround the church, set it on fire, and burn everyone inside to death.
In 1064, Muslim Sultan Alp Arslan and his Seljuk Turkish army invaded Armenia and after a 25 day siege, destroyed the city of Ani.
Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi recorded:

"The city became filled from one end to the other with bodies of the slain ... The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins ...
... Dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls ...
... I was determined to enter city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses; but that was impossible."
Ottoman Turks reduced conquered Christians, Jewish, and non-Muslim populations to a second-class status called "dhimmi," and required them to annually ransom their lives by paying an exorbitant tax called "jizyah."
Sultan Murat I (1359-1389) began the practice of "devshirme" -- taking away boys from the conquered Armenian and Greek families.
These innocent boys were systematically traumatized and indoctrinated into becoming ferocious Muslim warriors called "Janissaries," similar to Egypt's "Mamluk" slave soldiers.
Janissaries were required to call the Sultan their "father" and were forbidden to marry, giving rise to depraved practices and abhorrent pederasty -- "the sodomy of the Turks."
For centuries Ottoman Turks conquered throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Spain and North Africa, carrying tens of thousands into slavery.
Beginning in the early 1800s, the Ottoman Empire began to decline.

Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania won their independence.
When Armenia's sentiments leaned toward independence, Sultan Abdul Hamid II put an end to it by massacring 100,000 from 1894-1896.

President Grover Cleveland reported to Congress, December 2, 1895:

"Occurrences in Turkey have continued to excite concern ... Massacres of Christians in Armenia and the development ... of a spirit of fanatic hostility to Christian influences ... have lately shocked civilization."
The next year, President Cleveland addressed Congress, December 7, 1896:

"Disturbed condition in Asiatic Turkey ... rage of mad bigotry and cruel fanaticism ... wanton destruction of homes and the bloody butchery of men, women, and children, made martyrs to their profession of Christian faith ...
... Outbreaks of blind fury which lead to murder and pillage in Turkey occur suddenly and without notice ...

It seems hardly possible that the earnest demand of good people throughout the Christian world for its corrective treatment will remain unanswered."
President William McKinley told Congress, December 5, 1898:

"The ... envoy of the United States to ... Turkey ... is ... charged to press for a just settlement of our claims ... of the destruction of the property of American missionaries resident in that country during the Armenian troubles of 1895."
On December 6, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt reported to Congress of:

"... systematic and long-extended cruelty and oppression ... of which the Armenians have been the victims, and which have won for them the indignant pity of the civilized world."
Sultan Abdul Hamid II made a league with Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, trading guns for access to oil.

When Sultan Hamid was deposed in 1908, there was a brief euphoria among the citizens of Turkey, as they naively hoped the country would adopt a constitutional government guaranteeing individual rights and freedoms.
Instead, the government was taken over by the "Young Turks" -- three leaders or "pashas":

  • Mehmed Talaat Pasha,
  • Ismail Enver Pasha, and
  • Ahmed Djemal Pasha.
They acted as if they were planning democratic reforms while they clandestinely planned a genocidal scheme called "Ottomanization," ridding the country of all who were not Muslims Turks.
The first step involved recruiting unsuspecting Armenian young men into the military.

Next they made them "non-combatant" soldiers and took away their weapons.
Finally, they marched them into the woods and deserts where they were ambushed and massacred.

With the Armenian young men gone, Armenian cities and villages were defenseless.
Nearly 2 million old men, women and children were marched into the desert, thrown off cliffs or burned alive.

Armenian cities of Kharpert, Van and Ani was leveled.
Entire Armenian populations were deported to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia where hundreds of thousands were killed or starved to death.

Similar atrocities have recently been experienced in the Middle East by populations of:

  • Iraqi Chaldean Christians,
  • Assyrian Christians,
  • Syriac Christians,
  • Lebanese Maronite Christians,
  • Egyptian Coptic Christians,
  • Aramaic Christians,
  • Melkite Christians, and
  • Kurds.

Concern is also growing over implementation of a fundamentalist agenda by recent leaders in Turkey.
During World War I, Armenia briefly received aid from Russia until that country's military was decimated by German artillery, followed by Tsar Nicholas II being killed during Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik revolution.
Theodore Roosevelt recorded the fate of Armenians in his 1916 book F ear God and Take Your Own Part:

"Armenians, who for some centuries have sedulously avoided militarism and war ... are so suffering precisely and exactly because they have been pacifists whereas their neighbors, the Turks, have ... been ... militarists ...
... During the last year and a half ... Armenians have been subjected to wrongs far greater than any that have been committed since the close of the Napoleonic Wars ... Fearful atrocities ...

Serbia is at this moment passing under the harrow of torture and mortal anguish ..."
Roosevelt continued:

"Armenians have been butchered under circumstances of murder and torture and rape that would have appealed to an old-time Apache Indian ...

The wholesale slaughter of the Armenians ... must be shared by the neutral powers headed by the United States for their failure to protest when this initial wrong was committed ...

The crowning outrage has been committed by the Turks on the Armenians.

They have suffered atrocities so hideous that it is difficult to name them, atrocities such as those inflicted upon conquered nations by the followers of Attila and of Genghis Khan.
... It is dreadful to think that these things can be done and that this nation nevertheless remarks 'neutral not only in deed but in thought,' between right and the most hideous wrong, neutral between despairing and hunted people -- people whose little children are murdered and their women raped -- and the victorious and evil wrong-doers ...

I trust that all Americans worthy of the name feel their deepest indignation and keenest sympathy aroused by the dreadful Armenian atrocities.

I trust that they feel ... that a peace obtained without ... righting the wrongs of the Armenians would be worse than any war."
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote:

"The Turks draft the criminals from their prisons into the Gendarmeri (military police) to exterminate the Armenian race ...
... In 1913 the Turkish Army was engaged in exterminating the Albanians ... Greeks and Slavs left in the territory ...

The same campaign of extermination has been waged against the Nestorian Christians on the Persian frontier ... In Syria there is a reign of terror ..."
Toynbee continued:

"Turkish rule ... is ... slaughtering or driving from their homes, the Christian population ...

Only a third of the two million Armenians in Turkey have survived, and that at the price of apostatizing to Islam or else of leaving all they had and fleeing across the frontier."
Armenia's pleas at the Paris Peace Conference led Democrat President Wilson in a failed effort to make Armenia a U.S. protectorate.
Woodrow Wilson, who was born DECEMBER 28, 1856, addressed Congress, May 24, 1920:

"The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered ...

deplorable conditions of insecurity, starvation, and misery now prevalent in Armenia ...
... Sympathy for Armenia among our people has sprung from untainted consciences, pure Christian faith and an earnest desire to see Christian people everywhere succored (helped) in their time of suffering."
In 2006, Director Andrew Goldberg produced a documentary film The Armenian Genocide.
In 2016, actors Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon starred in the film The Promise, depicting the Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

In some areas, entire Armenian populations were decimated.
Some heroic and caring Turks refused to carry out orders kill Armenians and were themselves punished, as represented in a scene in The Promise, where the character Emre Ogan (played by Marwan Kenzari) risked his life to rescue American journalist Chris Myers (played by Christian Bale.)
On August 29, 2014, the California Senate unanimously passed the Armenian Genocide Education Act mandating that among the human rights subjects covered in public schools, instruction shall be made of the genocide committed in Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century:
"The Legislature encourages the incorporation of survivor, rescuer, liberator, and witness oral testimony into the teaching of ... the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides ... teaching about civil rights, human rights violations, genocide, slavery ... the Holocaust ... and ... the Great Irish Famine of 1845–50 ...

For purposes of this article, 'Armenian Genocide' means the torture, starvation, and murder of 1,500,000 Armenians, which included death marches into the Syrian desert, by the rulers of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the exile of more than 500,000 innocent people during the period from 1915 to 1923, inclusive."
Hitler allegedly gave orders August 22, 1939, to brutally invade Poland, adding:

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Judge Learned Hand once wrote:

"The use of history is to tell us ... past themes, else we should have to repeat, each in his own experience, the successes and the failures of our forebears."
Harvard Professor George Santayana wrote in Reason in Common Sense (Vol. I of The Life of Reason, 1905):

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
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