Where do historians come down on the Armenian Genocide?
Irving Horowitz, an expert in the study of genocide at Rutgers University, says scholars agree on this much: In 1915 the government of the Ottoman Empire, caught up in the Great War against Czarist Russia and the Allied powers, saw the Armenians as an untrustworthy minority that might align with their cousins across the Russian border. (Armenia was divided in 1827 between the Ottoman Empire in the west and Russia in the east.) The predominately Christian Armenians tended to be wary of their Moslem rulers, who had encouraged a wave of religious pogroms in 1894-96 that left an estimated 200,000 Armenians dead.
Accordingly, the Ottoman government issued an edict in 1915 that all Armenians, of whatever age or condition of health, in the eastern provinces (Armenia) were to be deported into the empire’s southern deserts. Between 600,000 and 2 million Armenians lost their lives, many from starvation and exposure.
Says Horowitz: “It is widely accepted by historians that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred, arbitrarily removed from their historic homeland, and that all traces of their presence were eliminated. We have eyewitness accounts, diplomatic accounts, that huge numbers of people were liquidated, wiped out. De facto, you had a genocide. The bottom line is the Armenians got what they got because they were not a loyal minority.”
That widely held view is not universally shared. A dissenting group of 69 American academics with backgrounds in Turkish history signed a letter to Congress stating that “current scholarship does not support a charge of genocide” — that is, a premeditated attempt to annihilate an entire group of people.