Armenian Genocide

Historical Synopsis

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."

For additional historical information:

  • Charny, Israel. Encyclopedia of Genocide. (2 vols) Santa Barabara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1999.
  • Dadrian, Vahakn. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Providence, RI: Berghahn Books, 1995.
  • Hovannisian, Richard G., ed. The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics. (New York: St. Martin's Press), 1992.
  • Miller, Donald and Lorna Touryan Miller. Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1993.
  • Winter, Jay and Baggett, Blaine. The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. New York and London: Penguin Studio, 1996. (Also companion video)

 

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.

 

Bibliographic Resources

These are selected resources for teaching about the Armenian Genocide. Search the bibliography for resources.

Guides and Curriculum
  • Apsel, Joyce and Helen Fein, eds., Teaching about Genocide: A Guidebook for College and University Teachers (3rd editions), (Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 2002.)
  • Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide (California State Department of Education. 1988.)
  • Payaslian, Simon, The Armenian Genocide, 1915-1923: A Handbook for Students and Teachers, Armenian National Committee, Western Region (Glendale, CA: Armenian Cultural Foundation, Glendale, California, 2001.)

 

Videos
  • Hagopian, J. Michael, The Armenian Genocide: Annihilation of the Armenian Population (Armenian Film Foundation)
  • Hagopian, J. Michael, The Forgotten Genocide (Armenian Film Foundation)
  • Voices from the Lake: A Film about the Secret Genocide (Armenian Film Foundation)

 

Books
  • Bagdasarian, Adam, Forgotten Fire, (Laureleaf reprint, 2002.)

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