ODAY BADDAR | MAY 19, 2016
The Armenian people are the descendants of Hayk (presumed ancestor) and the first-known inhabitants of Ararat - the name the first Armenians gave to their highlands once united into a kingdom in 860 BC, with Van as its capital city, and Aramu as its first king. When the Babylonians and Persian Medians formed an alliance to bring down the Assyrian empire in 626 BC, a few years later the Median conquest reached Ararat (in 590 BC), and they renamed it Armina (attributed to Aramu), turning it into a satrapy (province) of the successive Persian empires, and the name stuck ever since.
At the dawn of the Grecko-Macedonian conquest (333 BC), Armenia soon became part of the Seleucid empire. But when the Persians made a massive comeback, with the Seleucids gradually ceding more territory and retreating to the west, Armenia became independent once again in 190 BC, under the reign of the Armenian Artaxiad dynasty (190 BC - 12 AD). The mighty Persians signed a treaty of alliance with them in recognition of their growing power. By 69 BC, under king Tigran II, Artaxiad Armenia had become an empire that stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Black and Mediterranean Seas, encompassing most of Anatolia, northern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.
But only five years later, the Armenian empire shrunk back to the Armenian historical territories, as the invincible Roman empire advanced eastward.
And as the wars raged between advancing Rome and retreating Persia in the first century AD, the Armenian kingdom under the new Arsacid Dynasty (54 - 428 AD) made an alliance with the Persians (based on blood relations), to stand in the way of further Roman expansion.
But this Persian-Armenian alliance came to an end when the Sassanids rose to power in Persia in 251 AD. And in order to stop the Sassanid appeal to Armenian allegiance based on their common Zoroastrian faith, the Arsacid king (Terdat III) dictated Christianity as Armenia's national religion. That was in 301 AD, twelve years before the Romans even legalized Christianity, which makes Armenia the first independent kingdom to adopt Christianity as its official religion.
|405 AD ~ Present|
Etchmiadzin Cathedral - The first Armenian Orthodox Church, built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD. Located in Vagharshapat, Armenia
In 428 AD, the Armenian kingdom was finally dissolved, as the Persians conquered its eastern parts (eastern Armenia), and the Byzantine Romans conquered western Armenia. Although occupied by the two superpowers of their time, the Armenians - as a nation - retained their spiritual and ethnic identity by reconstructing their own unique alphabet, and by continuing to reject Zoroastrianism as well as rejecting the Roman version of Christianity in 554 AD, when the Armenian Church refuted the duality of Christ as asserted in the Roman Council of Chalcedon (451 AD). As Monophysite Christians, the Armenians were cut off from the Grecko-Roman Church (and sphere of influence).
After both Byzantine Rome and Sassanid Persia fell to the hands of the new Muslim-Arab empire, Armenia, too, fell under Arab conquest in 654 AD. It finally regained its independence from the Arabs in 886 AD, only to be annexed again in 1045 by the resurging Byzantine Romans, then taken over by the Turkic tribes invading from the East.
A bunch of Armenian royals managed to escape Armenia before it fell to Byzantine hands in 1045 (and soon after to Muslim hands), and established an Armenian kingdom in 1080 in the southwestern part of Anatolia - Cilicia (also known as Armenia Minor or Little Armenia)- where a majority of Armenians had already been residing. Then in the ensuing regional battles that involved Arabs, Turks, Persians, Greeks, Mongols, and European Crusaders; and following the "my enemy's enemy is my friend" rule, Cilician Armenia made an alliance with the Crusaders (the French in particular), and hence functioned as a transit and a depot of food and armaments for the Crusade campaigns coming from Italy and western Europe to fight against the Byzantine-Seljuk alliance. And when the Crusaders were finally eliminated, it was only a matter of time before French-ruled Cilician Armenia fell into the hands of the victors: the Memlukes of Egypt (in 1375 AD).
Meanwhile in historic Armenia, it would remain under Muslim rule for the next 700 years - with the western part under Turkic control and the eastern part under Persian control - until the Russians arrived.
Enter the Russians
|1828 ~ 1991 AD|
In 1828, the new and expanding Russian Empire replaced the Persians in their control of eastern Armenia, which then continued to be part of the Soviet Union (1917) until it gained independence in 1991 (today's Republic of Armenia), but not before having Stalin stifle a long-lasting conflict between Armenians and Azeris by carving out the Armenian highlands of Karabakh (a.k.a. Nagorno Karabakh) and making it part of Soviet Azerbaijan in 1923. The conflict ebbs and flows until this day, as the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh remains under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan, while its Armenian population is seeking union with the Armenian Republic.
The second largest community of Armenians today is in Russia, and Russian is still an official language in the Republic of Armenia. But despite their grave suffering under the Bolsheviks, something even more horrundous had befallen them before the Bolshevik revolution. In western Armenia, which remained under Turkic Ottoman control, an extermination program had long started.
Ever since the Russian Empire conquered eastern Armenia from the Persians in 1828, the Ottoman Turks (who had several wars with the Russians as well) were always suspicious of a Russo-Armenian alliance broiling against the Sultanate. The Sultan massacred over 100,000 Armenians between 1894 and 1896, then as the Sultanate was being swallowed up by European colonialism, coupled with Armenian calls for cessation and independence, the Armenian genocide began in 1915 to de-Arminize Anatolia (western Armenia) and hold onto a pure Turkish-populated land mass.
|April 24, 1915|
The fact that only three of the eight million Armenians in the world today live in the Armenian Republic is enough evidence that they had suffered from ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Armenian global community marks April 24, 1915, the day Ottoman Turks arrested and deported (and some say killed) 250 Armenian intellectuals from Istanbul, as the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which continued till the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917.
Of course, that the Ottomans were responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by execution and deportation is not controversial. On May 27, 1915, the Ottoman parliament had passed the Sevk ve İskan Kanunu (the Law of Relocation and Resettlement), better known as the Tehcir Kanunu (the Law of Deportation), specifically targeting the Armenians in what remained of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, all in the name of 'national security' after Armenian protests and calls for independence (cessation from the empire)) arose in several areas (followed later by similar protests by Arabs, Kurds, and Greeks). The deportation law was enacted from June 1, 1915, till February 8, 1916. The U.S. and its traditional Anglo ally, used to recognize the Armenian genocide back when the Turks were enemies. But ever since the Ottoman Empire's successor (modern-day Turkish Republic) turned into an Anglo-American ally in the Cold War and a key NATO member (since 1951), the U.S. and UK governments have refused to use the term "genocide" in describing the Armenian massacres, and adopted the official Turkish Republic's rhetoric: it wasn't genocide, it was war.
It's quite hypocritical, to say the least, to make denying the Jewish Holocaust in the EU a hate crime with up to a three-year prison sentence, while some EU members find denying the Armenian Genocide a geopolitical necessity.
As of 2015, the 28 countries that officially recognize the Armenian genocide (besides Armenia) are: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolovia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Uruguay, and Venezuela. That's only 17 out of 50 European nations. Notice also the absence of Israel (which criminalizes denying the Jewish Holocaust) and the entire Arab and Muslim Worlds (except for Syria, Lebanon, and Iran). It's also important to note that virtually all Kurdish political parties today
not only recognize the Armenian Genocide, but also admit their involvement in the killings, and had apologized officially for what their ancestors had taken part in.
Academically, 69 American historians and 125 Turkish historians signed petitions urging their governments to deny the Armenian genocide. Among the deniers was, unsurprisingly, Bernard Lewis.
|Regions with Significant Armenian Populations (conservative estimates from 2010)|
There are also tens of thousands of Armenians in Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, Spain, Germany, Abkhazia, Poland, Australia, Brazil, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UK, and Iraq. Thousands of Armenians live in Egypt, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Jordan, Azerbaijan, and Palestine.
In 1967, the Armenian-Palestinian population (mostly concentrated in East Jerusalem) numbered around 20,000. Today they barely reach 2000 due to Israel's suffocating occupation and racist regulations. As with all Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, they are denied Israeli citizenship and voting rights, yet they are required to pay taxes to the Israeli government. And whenever one of them leaves the Zionist state for a period deemed too long (anywhere between three and six months), their Jerusalem residency may be revoked under Israeli law, hence denied the right to return to their homes.
The Armenian connection with Palestine began with the Armenian conquest of the Levant only five years before the Roman empire conquered it. But it was religion that reconnected them once again (and permanently) ever since the Armenia became officially a Christian nation in 301 AD. Since Armenians had adopted Christianity as their national religion even before the Romans or the Greeks, many Armenian monks and merchants had moved to Jerusalem and built monasteries and churches, concentrated in the southwestern part of the Old City, today dubbed as "the Armenian Quarter." This makes the Armenian community in Jerusalem the oldest one outside of historical Armenia.
The current Armenian flag was adopted and recognized in 1918 when the first Armenian Republic was declared independent (at the end of the First World War) but failed to gain any world recognition, as it was immediately subsumed by the Soviet Union and the Republic of Turkey.
The Armenians of course chose this flag pattern because it was the last flag raised in an independent Armenian dynasty, namely Cilician Armenia (1080-1375 AD), only they changed the yellow rectangle with an orange one.