Prof. Dr. Hew Strachan
Prof. Dr. Hew Strachan is hoogleraar Militaire Geschiedenis aan de Oxford Universiteit in het Verenigde Koninkrjk.
"In 1914 both Sazonov, the foreign minister, and the governor-general of the Caucasus sketched out plans to foment revolt. At least 150,000 Armenians who lived on the Russian side of the frontier were serving in the Tsar’s army. Enver persuaded himself that his defeat at Sarikamish had been due to three units of Armenian volunteers, who included men who had deserted from the Ottoman side. The Ottoman 3rd Army knew of the Russian intentions and anticipated problems as early as September. Its soldiers began murdering Armenians and plundering their villages in the first winter of the war. On 16 April 1915, as the Russians approached Lake Van, the region’s Ottoman administrator ordered the execution of five Armenian leaders. The Armenians in Van rose in rebellion, allegedly in self-defence. Within ten days about 600 leading members of the Armenian community had been rounded up and deported to Asia Minor. [...]
Significantly, the first note of international protest was prepared by Sazonov as early as 27 April, although it was not published until 24 May. In it he claimed that the populations of over a hundred villages had been massacred. He also said that the killings had been concerted by agents of the Ottoman government.
This became the crux. On 25 May 1915, Mehmed Talat, the minister of the interior, announced that Armenians living near the war zones would be deported to Syria and Mosul. His justifications for the decree were rooted in the needs of civil order and military necessity, and it was sanctioned by the Ottoman council of ministers on 30 May. The latter included provisions designed to safeguard the lives and property of those deported. But three days earlier the council had told all senior army commanders that, if they encountered armed resistance from the local population or ‘opposition to orders designed for the defence of the state or the protection of public order’, they had ‘the authorisation and obligation to repress it immediately and to crush without mercy every attack and all resistance’.
It is impossible to say precisely how many Armenians died. Part of the problem is uncertainty as to how many were living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 in the first place. Calculations range from 1.3 million to about 2.1 million. The difficulty of dispassionate analysis is compounded, rather than helped, by the readiness of Armenians and others to use the word ‘genocide’. In terms of scale of loss such a word may be appropriate: estimates approaching a million deaths are probably not wide of the mark. In terms of causation the issue is more complex. The initial violence was not centrally orchestrated, although it was indirectly sanctioned by the pan-Turkish flourishes of Enver and others. Once it had begun, it did, however, provoke the very insurrection that it had anticipated. The violence of war against the enemy without enabled, and was even seen to justify, extreme measures against the enemy within."
Prof. Dr. Hew Strachan, The First World War (New York, 2004) p. 112-113
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