The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire

The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire

The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire

The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire


Introducing new evidence from more than 600 secret Ottoman documents, this book demonstrates in unprecedented detail that the Armenian Genocide and the expulsion of Greeks from the late Ottoman Empire resulted from an official effort to rid the empire of its Christian subjects. Presenting these previously inaccessible documents along with expert context and analysis, Taner Akçam's most authoritative work to date goes deep inside the bureaucratic machinery of Ottoman Turkey to show how a dying empire embraced genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Although the deportation and killing of Armenians was internationally condemned in 1915 as a "crime against humanity and civilization," the Ottoman government initiated a policy of denial that is still maintained by the Turkish Republic. The case for Turkey's "official history" rests on documents from the Ottoman imperial archives, to which access has been heavily restricted until recently. It is this very source that Akçam now uses to overturn the official narrative.

The documents presented here attest to a late-Ottoman policy of Turkification, the goal of which was no less than the radical demographic transformation of Anatolia. To that end, about one-third of Anatolia's 15 million people were displaced, deported, expelled, or massacred, destroying the ethno-religious diversity of an ancient cultural crossroads of East and West, and paving the way for the Turkish Republic.

By uncovering the central roles played by demographic engineering and assimilation in the Armenian Genocide, this book will fundamentally change how this crime is understood and show that physical destruction is not the only aspect of the genocidal process.


The demise of the Ottoman state was a oneact drama that lasted a century, with a changing cast of players reenacting the same scenes over and over. As the great empire crumbled, a succession of ethnic and religious groups played out their struggles for independence on its shrinking stage against a backdrop of forced population exchanges, deportations, massacres, and ethnic cleansing.

As the last of the great early modern empires, the Ottoman state entered its long nineteenth century trailing the heritage of Byzantium but lacking the means of modernization. Without the requisite political and social structures and public consensus of a nation-state, "the Muslim Third Rome" could no longer bind together the diverse groups that peopled its vast territory.

"First one encounters the question of borders," wrote the French historian Fernand Braudel. "Everything else is derived from this. In order to draw a border, it is necessary to define it, to understand it, and reconstruct what that border means." The nineteenth and twentieth centuries of the Ottoman Empire were the centuries in which answers to these questions were sought—and the answers were bloody.

The reason is not difficult to understand. The logic of the nation-state utterly contradicts that of empire. Whereas an empire, by definition, encompasses a number of territories and diverse peoples, a nation-state is circumscribed by two clearly defined boundaries: geographical and social. Whereas geographical borders demarcate a physical territory, social boundaries delimit a collective identity, ideally homogeneous, that binds together all inhabitants within the geographical border. Thus the era of the nation-state ushered in a new period of defining the "other."

İiber Ortaylı, İmparatorluǧun En Uzun Yüzyılı (Istanbul: Hil Publications, 1983).

ilber Ortaylı, Son-İmparatorluk Osmanlı, 2nd ed. (Istanbul: Timas Publications, 2006), 44.

Quoted from Hagen Schulze, Gibt es überhaupt eine deutsche Geschichte? (Berlin: Corso, bei Siedler, 1989), 20.

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