- Yerevan, Armenia
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Nestled away from the bustling city center, atop one of Yerevan's verdant hills, stands the Museum-Institute of the Armenian Genocide, a place that immortalizes the memory of one of the most grievous crimes of the 20th century against the Armenian people.
This solemn edifice was inaugurated relatively recently, in 1995, and adjacent to the museum, a memorial was erected to pay tribute to the innocent victims. Although the atmosphere here carries a profound sense of sorrow, it adheres to the age-old adage: "If we forget the mistakes of the past, there's a great likelihood that we may repeat them."
About the Genocide:
During the tumultuous years of World War I, the forces of Ottoman Turkey perpetrated an enormous crime – the massacre of Armenians. The deliberate extermination of Armenians by the Turks commenced in 1915 and persisted for several years, with some records suggesting it extended until 1923. In this dark period, over 1.5 million Armenian lives were tragically cut short (out of a total Armenian population of around 2 million residing within the Ottoman Empire at that time). The remaining half a million Armenians sought refuge in other countries to escape the horrors.
The architects of these heinous acts were the Young Turks government. Eventually, the international community acknowledged this atrocity as "the most significant crime against humanity and civilization."
Causes of the Genocide:
As World War I dawned, the Young Turks government grew concerned about the Ottoman Empire's weakening and resolved to establish a vast Turkish Empire, stretching from China to the Caucasus, encompassing all of Central Asia. Their plan included subjugating smaller nations, converting them to Islam, and imposing their traditions. The Armenian population posed a significant obstacle to realizing this grand design.
The Turkish animosity toward Armenians wasn't solely due to the latter's Christian faith; it was primarily rooted in other events. During World War I, in the Battle of Sarikamish, the Turks suffered a defeat at the hands of the Russians, largely attributed to the fact that Armenians fought alongside the Russians, providing crucial support. Consequently, the Ottoman Empire branded Armenians as traitors and carried out the reprisals they had threatened.
About the Museum:
Established eight decades after the tragic events, the Armenian Genocide Museum is a two-story building perched on a hill, with a substantial portion below ground, somewhat evoking a burial site. Its circular internal structure symbolizes the circles of hell, while its rooftop offers a breathtaking view of the Ararat valley.
The first floor, partially underground, accommodates administrative and engineering facilities, a library, an archive of documents from the era, an exhibit storage area, and a conference hall with a capacity for 170 attendees.
The museum's exhibition unfolds on the second floor, spanning three halls and encompassing 1,000 square meters. Visitors encounter photographs, documents, publications, books, and other artifacts related to the genocide. This poignant site draws not only tourists but also locals who come to pay their respects to their ancestors.
The museum's mission is to acknowledge the Armenian genocide as an intolerable and abhorrent act, serving as a critical step in preventing the recurrence of such tragedies, not only in Armenia but throughout the world.