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Between 1915-1923, an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians, approximately half the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire, were killed in massacres or died as a consequence of military deportations, forced marches and mass starvation in one of the first genocidal campaigns of the 20th century.
The Armenians, natives of Asia Minor, are an ancient culture dating back to more than 2000 years. This minority population has experienced a long record of persecution and second-class citizenship, including a series of massacres between 1894-1896 under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, followed by the outbreak of World War I, escalated racial and nationalist ideologies, and persecution of the Armenians reached unprecedented levels. The political party in power, the Young Turks, began a campaign of marginalization, forced conversion, and expulsion of the Armenian population. At the start of the war, Armenian men were conscripted into the military. By 1915 these men were forced to disarm and then assembled into labor battalions where they were starved, beaten and often worked to death.
On April 24, 1915, the government arrested over 300 prominent Armenian political, community and intellectual leaders in Constantinople. All were sent to prison and summarily executed. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred and drowned in the Euphrates River and Black Sea. The vast majority of the Armenian population was deported to the Syrian desert; many Armenians died during these forced marches from thirst, starvation, and exposure. Survivors faced dispossession, the loss of a centuries-old heritage, and a scattering of people. Writing in Red Cross Magazine in March 1918, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., American Ambassador to Turkey from 1913-1916, wrote that: "None of the fearful horrors perpetrated in the various zones of war can compare with the tragic lot of the Armenians."
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Lessons and Activities
These lessons support the California Reading-Language Arts and History-Social Science Frameworks and are aligned to the California Content Standards for English-Language Arts and History-Social Science, grades 7-12.
These are selected resources for teaching about the Armenian Genocide. Search the bibliography for resources.
Guides and Curriculum