Killings back in focus

April 22, 2005

A new book has shed light on the role played by Britain in the 20th century's "forgotten genocide", which began 90 years ago this week and claimed the lives of an estimated 1 million Armenians.

The book by Donald Bloxham, an Edinburgh University historian, lays much of the blame for the atrocity on the imperial policies of Britain and other great powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dr Bloxham said: "Approximately 1 million Armenian Christians were murdered by the Ottoman-Turkish state in 1915. For nearly a century this genocide has either been ignored or has been the subject of outright denial by successive Turkish governments."

The Armenians suffered persecution within the Ottoman Empire, which both Britain and Russia attempted to manipulate in the interests of their trade routes, Dr Bloxham said.

Britain used the genocide as propaganda to bring the US into the First World War, but both these countries subsequently played it down in the interests of good relations with Turkey, Dr Bloxham said.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, last week wrote to Robert Kocharian, the Armenian President, proposing a bilateral commission of historians to look into this period using the historical records of "all relevant countries".

The Turks have mentioned such a commission several times in recent weeks.

But the Armenians fear the proposal is a cosmetic response to calls from the international community that Turkey should admit responsibility for the genocide as a condition of joining the European Union.

The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians by Donald Bloxham, Oxford University Press, Pounds 19.99.

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