On April 24, 2015, Armenians around the world solemnly remembered the great tragedy that befell their people in 1915. In that year, more than 1.5 million Armenians—75 percent of the entire population of Armenians in the world at that time—were massacred by the Ottoman Turks. This was the first attempt at genocide perpetrated in modern times. Indeed, the very word “genocide” (denoting the destruction of an entire people) was originally coined in scholarly circles to describe the policy of systematic extermination which the Ottoman regime used against the Armenian population.
The sad event is remembered by Armenians around the world in religious and cultural observances every year on April 24: the date when the first onslaught, which targeted Armenian elites and intellectuals, began. This year marks the 100th anniversary of this dark episode. Elderly survivors of the 1915 Genocide can be found living in cities across the United States. Many take part in the memorial services surrounding April 24, which is known as “Armenian Martyrs Day.” A typical service begins with the sacred mass of the Armenian Church (properly called the Divine Liturgy). Immediately following this, a Service for the Repose of Souls is conducted, in memory of the 1.5 million martyrs whose lives were lost during the Genocide. A special requiem prayer may be recited, in which the names of the six historic Armenian provinces which were lost in the aftermath of the Genocide are remembered. Finally, the “madagh,” or memorial meal, is distributed to the faithful, in accordance with Armenian Christian
BACKGROUND ON ARMENIANS IN THE U.S.
& THE GENOCIDE OF 1915 :
Background: The Genocide and Armenian Immigration to America
Today, Armenians can be found in every corner of the globe, creating a diaspora population numbering three million. Many such communities—such as those in the Holy Land and the Middle East—have ancient pedigrees; others are primarily the result of persecutions that have driven Armenians from their historic native lands.
The pioneers of Armenian immigration to the United States were young high school graduates who, beginning in 1834, arrived in small numbers in search of higher education at American universities. Larger groups began arriving in the 1880s and 90s to escape Ottoman Turkish oppression, especially the massacres of 1895-96. The influx of Armenian
immigrants to the New World reached its peak in the aftermath of the 1915 Genocide, when large numbers of Armenians living in Turkey were systematically persecuted, deported and exterminated by the Ottoman regime. The 1915 Genocide traces its origins back to the establishment of the revolutionary government known as “the Young Turks.” This was in 1908, and for a time—although they lived under an oppressive rule—Armenians in Ottoman Turkey made remarkable headway in commerce, industry, the arts and the professions. However, this prosperity only served to add to the jealousy and fears of the Turkish leadership.
At the outbreak of World War I, the Turks considered the time ripe to resolve the so-called “Armenian question” once and for all. Young Armenians who had been conscripted into the Turkish army were disarmed and murdered by their Turkish comrades; Armenian leaders were apprehended and ruthlessly murdered. The defenseless and leaderless people—mostly old men, women, and children—were then herded together and deported to the Syrian desert. As a traditional leader of the Armenian people, the Armenian Church suffered grievously in this period. The clergy were among the first to be massacred: of the 5,000 clergymen living in 1915, only 400 remained by 1923. Scandalously, despite copious historical documentation and nearly seventy years of scholarly study, the Armenian Genocide—like the Holocaust in recent years—has come under attack by “revisionist historians.” Although such studies are intellectually disreputable, they continue to distress Armenians and serious scholars of history and human rights.
~ January 2015