Everyone knows the Jewish Holocaust of World War 2, but not many know that there was in fact another holocaust that preceded it only a few years before. The Armenian genocide happened during world war 1 and spanned the years of 1915 through 1923. Like the Jewish holocaust is it still denied today by some skeptics but also has the bodies and survivors to prove it true. Unlike the Jewish holocaust, it did not have quite as large of a body count, perhaps why it is so often overlooked.
The Armenians were always treated as second class citizens in the Ottoman Empire, however the lived relatively peacefully with the Turks for years. The animosity between the Turks and the Armenians first started when the Russians invaded the Erivan province in 1828. The Russians began to persecute Muslims and forced them out. They gave the land of these Muslims to the Russian friendly Armenians. Because the Armenians has always been treated poorly they had heavy tax restrictions on their lands, so when the Russians came and gave them this land tax free, it was heavy encouragement for the Armenians peoples to side with the Russians. When the Russians invaded Anatolia in 1877, the Armenians again sided with them. They served as spies and police in conquered territories. However, Russia gave back much of the land they conquered back in the peace treaty of 1878. While the Turks did not take revenge on the Armenians that betrayed them, they knew that if they Russians came again they would cause problems. This was the start of the animosity between these two peoples. During the beginnings of the Armenian genocide, they used this event as propaganda against Armenians. Since the Ottoman empire was allied with the Alliance, naturally they would create this propaganda against the Armenian people as Russia and Entente were their enemies.
As The Ottoman Empire began to crumble a new found concept of nationalism began to sweep the land. Nationalism is essentially just the belief that their people are the best people. The Turkish people began to gain their independence and wanted to unite all the Turkish speaking people under one government. The problem with this is that the Armenian people lay in the middle of the Turkish majority. The Armenians wanted their independence like other christian minorities, like the Greeks, were gaining from the fall of the Ottoman Empire. However, Turkey wanted to build their country far into Central Asia, which included the Armenian homeland.
The Armenians were given a brief hope of better treatment when the Young Turks overthrew the Ottomans' Sultanate government in 1908. However, the new Young Turk government was completely overwhelmed by Turkish Nationalist who still wanted to connect the Turkish speaking lands.
While April 24th is memorialized as the day the Armenian genocide started, it actually happened in several stages. First the Armenians in the military were disarmed and put in brutal labor camps. Then the Armenian leaders and intellectuals were rounded up on April 4th, 1915 in Istanbul and brutally murdered before a firing squad. The third stage to the Armenian genocide was that they summoned the rest of the Armenian citizens under the guise of a “resettlement plan” and marched them towards the deserts of Syria.
During this long march into the deserts of Syria, the Armenian people were beaten, starved, and raped. Though the Armenians were very cooperative with the Young Turks in believing that they were being relocated for their own good, it became clear to them that they were not meant to survive these marches. Those who did not die along the way arrived at the bleak Syrian desert only to be murdered there.
While it is referred to as the Armenian genocide, Armenians weren't the only people that were targeted. While the Armenians made up 1.5 million of the losses about 300,000 Greek and 600,000 Assyrians were also executed during the death marches. Basically anyone who wasn't a Muslim of Turkish descent was targeted for this genocide. While it was the Turks who ordered the genocide, it was the native Kurdish people who carried out most of the killing.
After the end of World War 1, the three leaders of the Young Turks' government were executed for the genocide and the United States drew the borders for the Republic of Armenia. This did not mend the animosity between these two people. Still today Turkish people and Armenian people are bitter blood enemies. The Kurdish people have now apologized for their involvement, which Armenia accepted and they now live peacefully together and they even have Kurdish communities withing their country. However, the Turkish government still denies that the Armenian genocide happened and refuses to apologize for it.