Armenia


"...It is April 24, and the crowd has gathered to commemorate the genocide that began on that date in 1915, in which 1.5 million Armenians living in Eastern Turkey were killed by order of the Ottoman government...

"After eighty-nine years, April 24 rituals in Armenian communities around the world have become as reliable as time itself... a response to the Turkish government's persistent refusal to acknowledge the crimes of its predecessors... the first genocide of the twentieth century -- an atrocity whose rigorous planning and execution inspire Hitler... Turkey has hidden documents, blackmailed universities (including elite U.S. schools) and filled library shelves worldwide with fraudulent histories...

"...Turkey has thus far managed to prevent any U.S. administration from passing an official resolution calling the events of 1915 genocide by threatening to cut access to strategic border zones. Meanwhile, Canada, France, and other countries have ignored such threats and recognized the Armenian genocide...

"... Peter Balakian's book The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, an unlikely bestseller...

"In Armenia itself, Turkish denial of the genocide barely registers as a concern among the citizens of the tiny republic, who are lucky if they get through each day with enough running water and electricity to put dinner on the table. Armenians are not indifferent toward the genocide, or to Turkey's denial of it, but the historical tragedy has been supplanted in their imaginations by the demands of day-to-day life. Since 1988, when a terrible earthquake killed 50,000 Armenians and left one in ten citizens homeless, the country has endured relectless suffering. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in food and power shortages during the harsh winters of the early 1990s, and simultaneously the war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karahakb felled many, severely drained resources and sparked a refugee crisis...

"...neighboring Georgia, an equally rocky country that is larger than Armenia, almost as ancient and at least as poor. Eighty-five percent of Armenia's possible ground access to the outside world is closed due to blockades imposed by Turkey on the west and Azerbaijan on the east. The small gap in the precipitous mountain border that Armenia shares with its friendliest neighbor, Iran, is best traversed in a tiny Niva, Russia's answer to the Jeep...

"... Armenia's economy is.. effectively strangled by the Turkish and Axeri blockades... The World Bank estimates that these blockades have an impact of up to $1.1 billion a year on Armenia...

"Azerbaijan closed its border with Armenia in 1991, when Armenia and Azeri forces began fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory geographically encompassed by Azerbaijan but historically populated by Armenians. A bloody ground war ensued, and Armenia won control of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as several surrounding districts. A cease-fire in 1994 ended the fighting, but a real solution has yet to be reached. As Azerbaijan's next of kin, Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to protest the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh" (Meline Toumani. "The Burden of Memory." The Nation, Sep. 20, 2004: 39-42).


Colby Glass, MLIS