Genocide and Identity

The following piece is an excerpt of Nina-Nevart Minassian’s Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) entitled ‘How The Armenian Genocide Of 1915 Affected The Identity Of The Armenian Diaspora Today’. Nevart will commence her university studies at University College London from 2015, reading for a degree in History.

Every nation has an identity, a distinct set of characteristics which define and divide a people from others. Coined as ‘genocide’ in the 1930s, by Raphael Lemkin, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians are said to have perished in the Genocide of 1915 under the Turkish Ottoman regime. Today, it is evident that the sense of identity in the Armenian Diaspora has evolved, as certain aspects have been strengthened or weakened.

In order to create a Turkish Bourgeoisie, the catastrophic events of 1915 began with the systematic annihilation of the most educated and professional members of society and resulted in the attempted slaughter of the rest of the nation. According to a variety of sources, as many as 80,000 Armenians were killed in 1898 by the Ottomans, which acted as a prelude for the atrocities that were to follow less than 20 years later.

The terrors that occurred haunt the Armenian people today who live in the memory of their ancestors who were forced to flee their homeland in search for refuge. However, what appears more haunting is that one-hundred years later, the Turkish government has gone to great lengths to deny its existence. Instead, the noted fatalities were attributed to the effects of the First World War, such as the wide spread disease and famine in the Caucuses. In order to escape the terror, the people were faced with no choice other than to build a new a life on foreign soil, increasing the number of Armenians living in the Diaspora- the umbrella-term given to the collection of her communities all over the world. Due to various influences including their geographical distribution, every community displays a set of differences and similarities. Today, less than half the Armenian population live in the Republic of Armenia and are with the Jews the only entities that have more individuals living in diaspora than in their homeland.

When exploring the change in identity, the Armenian Genocide has clearly impacted the following aspects: religion, language, social-interactions and national pride, to name a few.  However, the degree of change appears to differ in each community- with some undergoing greater change in language and religion whereas others in their innate sense of pride. The following essay examines a wide range of Armenian Diasporas, from Eastern to Western and presents the degree of change in the noted aspects of the Armenian identity following the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

Nevart’s full EPQ will be on our website in the near future.

— Nina-Nevart Minassian

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