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Modern Armenia: People, Nation, State.

Modern Armenia: People, Nation, State

Gerard J. Libaridian

Transaction Publishers 2008

Many readers may tend to think of Turks as the indigenous occupants of Asia Minor, forgetting that they arrived as an intrusive conquering people from central Asia. Asia Minor, or Anatolia as it is sometimes called, had long been occupied by Indo-European-speaking people prior to the arrival of the Seljuk Turks and the later Ottoman Turks. These earlier occupants included Hittites, Greeks and even Celts. The Armenians can regard themselves as truly indigenous, with links to the ancient Hittites who once dominated the entire area, but Turks conquered the last Armenian state, Cilicia, overwhelmed the old Greek cities along the coast, and eventually stormed Constantinople. Nevertheless, under Imperial Ottoman Turkish rule, ethnic minorities were permitted to maintain much of their own culture and customs, provided they served the needs of the Ottoman Empire, and the Armenians did not suffer too seriously until tragedy struck when the Young Turk movement overthrew the Ottomans and established a new, secular Turkish nationalist government in 1908.

With the overthrow of the Ottomans, Armenians at first hoped to gain an even greater degree of freedom, and at first responded positively to Attaturk's government. But as disappointment grew, some of the more ardent Armenian nationalists attempted to take matters into their own hands, and the result was the infamous "Armenian Genocide" by the Turks--widely believed by Armenians to have been planned and systematically orchestrated by the Turkish government. Armenian historians report that in April 1915 a thousand educated intellectuals of Armenian descent were arrested and killed within a few days, and in the ensuing months 200,000 Armenian draftees in the Turkish army were massacred or worked to death in labor battalions. In total, it has been claimed, as many as one million Armenian inhabitants of the eastern part of Asia Minor (what the author calls Western Armenia) out of over two million, disappeared. Of the survivors, an estimated 400,000 fled to Russian-controlled Armenia in the East and another 400,000 took refuge in the Arabs' lands to the south, many of the latter migrating elsewhere in later years. Today, some 250,000 Armenians live in Europe, 450,000 in the USA and the Americas, 200,000 in Iran, 200,000 in Lebanon, and some 100,000 in Egypt, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and other Arab countries. Only a few Armenians survive in what Libaridian calls Western Armenia, and these are under heavy pressure to assimilate into the Turkish nation.

As is well known, after the British had driven the Turks out of Mesopotamia and the Middle East, excepting only Asia Minor, the Arabs were generally granted their freedom in a patchwork of new states that reflected the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire; but no sustained effort was made to grant statehood to the Armenians and Kurds, who were generally left to live as minorities under the rule of Turks, Arabs, Russians and Iranians. Even today, the Kurds have no independent state of their own, and the small state of Armenia (representing the eastern portion of the former Armenian lands) has to rely on Georgia for access to the sea.

Author Libaridian, who is professor of modern Armenian history at the University of Michigan, has detailed the recent history of the Armenians still living in their ancient homeland and has produced a most competent book that traces the history of the Armenian peoples, at least from the Nineteenth century through to present times. Most readers will know little of the internal politics within the present Armenian state as it moved from Ottoman through Turkish and Soviet control to finally gain its independence in the past few decades. During Soviet rule the Armenian state was governed by Armenian Marxists, although the Armenian diaspora was very business-oriented and retained a predominantly capitalist ideology. Wealthier than the Armenians in Armenia, the diaspora Armenians have nurtured their Armenian identity, and it is a tribute to Armenian ethnic consciousness and the strong sense of hayrenasirutiene or national loyalty that, with the collapse of the Soviets, the Armenians still resident in Armenia joined together to move away from ideological Marxism and adjust to a freer society with a minimum of political infighting.
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Author:McNish, Ian
Publication:The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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