Response to Critique: The Thirty-Year Genocide. Turkey's Destruction of its Christian Minorities, 1894-1924

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At the beginning of the period we wrote about, in 1894, there were close to five million Christians in the central Ottoman lands, some twenty percent of the population. At its end, only tens of thousands remained (less than two percent of Turkey's population in 1924). It is an undisputed fact, at least among honest researchers, that more than two million died at the hands of their Muslim neighbours, most of them massacred outright or slowly killed in endless death marches. Others were left to starve or were consumed by illness and maltreatment. Those who remained, and those who returned between bouts of genocide, were re-deported. (Of our critics, at least Levene acknowledges that the Turks and their Muslim helpers – Kurds, Circassians, Chechens – committed “genocide” against not only the Armenians but also the Greeks and Assyrians.)

This did not happen in a vacuum. There were wars along the Ottoman periphery, against Italians, Greeks and Slavs in North Africa and the Balkans and against Russians in the Caucasus before 1914, and against the Russians, British, French and Greeks during 1914–23 in the Arab lands south of Anatolia, in the Caucasus and in Anatolia proper. During these wars, Christians and Muslims were killed in large numbers and many thousands were expelled. And it is true that the great powers – Britain, France, and Russia, and Greece – used or exploited Ottoman oppression of the empire's Christian minorities to strengthen their own hand and perhaps gain footholds in Ottoman territory, and that some of these Christians, especially the Ottoman Armenians, were restive. But can any of this justify or excuse the serial genocide unleashed by three successive Turkish regimes in staggered fashion between 1894 and 1924?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-566
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


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