Who was responsible for the Armenian Genocide and what were their motives?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The government of the Ottoman Empire was responsible for the genocide of the Armenian people. There existed an extensive history of persecution of the Armenians that was escalated by Sultan Abdul Hamid and continued by the Young Turks in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

The primary motive for the Armenian genocide was a religious one. The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim kingdom and viewed the Christian Armenians as 'infidels.' Armenians were not treated equally and had to pay higher taxes. The major motivation for the extermination of the Armenians was this religious difference.

Despite the persecution of Armenians, the minority population did relatively well under the Ottoman emperors. They were better educated and more prosperous than the general population. This led to resentment of this subgroup by the Turkish population. In the late 1800's, Armenian nationalism was a strong force in the Ottoman Empire. This was during a period when the empire was faced with political and economic instability. The resentment that already existed was heightened as Armenians wanted more political and economic rights.

When the Young Turks assumed power in the Ottoman Empire, they envisioned a renewal of the Turkish culture. They viewed the Armenians as a major obstacle to this cultural rebirth. It can be said that the government under the Young Turks escalated the persecution of Armenian Christians to the point of genocide. It is estimated that 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of the Ottoman government of the Young Turks.

Perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide:

  • Government of the Ottoman Empire, especially the Young Turks

Reasons for the Genocide:

  • Religious differences
  • Resentment due to their prosperity
  • Armenian demands for equality
  • Political and economic instability
  • Desire for cultural and ethnic purity