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Historical Introduction

A public rally in Yerevan on proclaiming the Soviet rule in Armenia, November 29, 1920. Photograph from the U.S.S.R. Central State Archive of Cinematic, Photographic and Sound Recordings. RIA Novosti/TopFoto

Armenia, with its rich early Christian and Medieval history and culture, was in the 19th century divided between the Russian and Turkish empires. In the beginning of the 20th century, Armenians were inspired by national independence movement and freedom struggle but fell under ruthless repressions by the Ottoman Empire. Starting as small pogroms, the violence culminated in mass deportations, mass murder and genocide against Armenians on Turkish lands, claiming the lives of 600 000 - 1,5 mln people between 1915-1923. Independent Armenia existed during 1918-1921, but was annexed to the Soviet Union as Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic after being attacked by the Red Army and Ottoman troops. War-time crimes were followed by systematic Bolshevik repressions and terror, the first wave of which lasted from 1921-1930, followed by collectivization in agriculture and a hunt for kulaks and „enemies of the people". According to the archives of Armenia's Ministry of National Security, 14 904 people were repressed in Armenia during 1930-1938 and when the Great Terror ended in 1938, at least 4639 had been shot. Expropriation of Church property evolved to repressions against Church members and the execution of religious leaders in 1938.


Between 300-500 000 Armenians were later mobilized into the battles of WWII; almost half died. In 1936, 25 000 Armenians were deported into Central Asia; crimes continued in 1944 and 1948-49 with the deportation of more than 200 000 Armenians, many of whom perished. The lack of historical records and abundance of diaspora communities makes it impossible to establish precise numbers of Armenian victims of Communism, but at least hundreds of thousands suffered from repressions during 1917-1953. After proclaiming independence in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan continued a bloody territorial conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, populated mostly by Christian Armenians but divided in the 1920s during Stalinist reorganization. The 71-year-long Communist legacy is still haunting the society and economy of this once flourishing South Caucasian nation.