Recalling that it was for only 30 silver shekels that Judas betrayed the Lord
An excerpt from
by Levon Zekiyan
Persians ruled Eastern Armenia until 1828, when it was annexed by Russia. However, it was the Ottoman Turks who governed most of the Armenian land and population (Western Armenia). During the 19th century, Armenians under Turkish rule suffered from discrimination, heavy taxation and armed attacks.
As Christians, Armenians lacked legal recourse for injustices. They were taxed beyond their means, forbidden to bear arms in a country where murdering a non-Muslim often went unpunished, and were without the right to testify in court on their own behalf. During the late l9th century, the increasingly reactionary politics of the declining Ottoman Empire and the awakening of the Armenians culminated in a series of Turkish massacres throughout the Armenian provinces in 1894-96. Any illusion the Armenians had cherished to the effect that the acquisition of power in 1908 by the Young Turks might bring better days was soon dispelled. For in the spring of 1909, yet another orgy of bloodshed took place in Adana, where 30,000 Armenians lost their lives after a desperate resistance. World War I offered a good opportunity for Turks to "solve the issue." In 1915, a secret military directive ordered the arrest and prompt execution of Armenian community leaders.
Armenian males serving in the Ottoman army were separated from the rest and slaughtered. The Istanbul government decided to deport the entire Armenian population. Armenians in towns and villages were marched into deserts of Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia. During the "relocation" many were flogged to death, bayoneted, buried alive in pits, drowned in rivers, beheaded, raped or abducted into harems. Many simply expired from heat exhaustion and starvation. 1.5 million people perished in this first genocide of the 20th century. Another wave of massacres occurred in Baku (1918), Shushi (1920) and elsewhere.
The defeat of the Ottoman Turks in World War I and the disintegration of the Russian Empire gave the Armenians a chance to declare their independence. On May 28, 1918, the independent Republic of Armenia was established, after the Armenians forced the Turkish troops to withdraw in the battles of Sardarapat, Karakilisse and Bashabaran. Overwhelming difficulties confronted the infant republic, but amid these conditions the Armenians devoted all their energies to the pressing task of reconstructing their country. But due to pressure exerted simultaneously by the Turks and Communists, the republic collapsed in 1920. Finally, the Soviet Red Army moved into the territory (Eastern Armenia) and on November 29, 1920, declared it a Soviet republic. Armenia was made part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic in 1922, and in 1936, it became one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics.
The tumultuous changes occurring throughout the Soviet Union beginning in the 1980's inevitably had repercussions in Armenia. In 1988, a movement of support began in Armenia for the constitutional struggle of Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh) Armenians to exercise their right to self-determination. (This predominantly Armenian populated autonomous region had been placed under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan by an arbitrary decision of Stalin in 1923.)
That same year, in 1988, Armenia was rocked by severe earthquakes that killed thousands, and supplies from both the Soviet Union and the West were blocked by the Azerbaijani Government fighting the Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh. Both of these issues have dominated Armenia's political arena since the first democratic election held in Armenia during the Soviet era. In 1990, the Armenian National Movement won a majority of seats in the parliament and formed a government. On September 21, 1991, the Armenian people overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in a national referendum, and an independent Armenia came into being.
Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.