My grandpa was Armenian. That makes my mom half Armenian, and me one-quarter. However, the Armenian people are a very unified people, and a very strong, proud people. I know more about and am more proud of this culture and this part of me, then the other 75% of what makes me. Let me tell you why.
A brief history lesson
(I get the following the information from www.history.com/topics/armenian-genocide)
Armenia was an independent entity for thousands of years, and was the first nation to make Christianity it’s official religion. By the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman rulers were Muslim. Those not of the same religion were subject to unequal treatment – higher taxes, and very few political and legal rights. “In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who i
n turn tended to resent their success. This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.” The
Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid II was infuriated by the Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights. Between 1894 and 1896 a state-sanctioned pogrom was carried out. (What is a pogrom? “Pogrom is a Russian word which, when directly translated, means “to wreak havoc.” Pogroms typically describe violence by Russian authorities against Jewish people, particularly officially-mandated slaughter, though the word has been extended to the massacres of other groups as well.”) Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered in their villages and cities.
In 1908 a new Turkish government came to power and the Armenian people hoped they would have an equal place in this new government. However, the Turks wanted to “Turkify” the empire. “According to this way of thinking, non-Turks-and especially Christians non-Turks were a grave threat to the new state.”
In 1914 the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany. At the same time, “Ottoman religious authorities declared jihad, or holy war, against all Christians except their allies.) Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy. As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. These events, and general Turkish suspicion of the Armenian people, led the Turkish government to push for the “removal” of the Armenians from the war zones along the Eastern Front.”
On April 24, 1915 the Armenian genocide began. “On April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water. Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.
At the same time, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.” These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.
Records show that during this “Turkification”campaign government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.”
Prior to the 1894-96 pogrom there were an estimated 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. When the genocide was over in 1922, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.
“After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. (However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide.) Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure. Today, Turkey is an important ally of the U.S. and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a U.S. Congressional panel at last voted to recognize the genocide.”
Asking for their help
As I have tried to do my family history on the Armenian side, I have hit the wall of language barriers, as well as lack of records (I think. I don’t know the language, so it’s hard to search for records). As I have discussed with family history specialists they have reassured me that there are records. When something as severe as a genocide happens to a people they become unified and determined to keep the records. I have been assured that the records will surface someday and they will be helpful.
At the same time, I have been feeling strongly that I need to look into my great-grandmother, Maritza Kapelian’s, family. Her mother was Rebeka Khandjian. Rebeka died when Maritza was young and her father re-married. His second wife, Vartouhi Shavekelian, was kind and the family loved her. I know that Rebeka is grateful to Vartouhi for caring for her children and family. I would like to find Vartouhi’s information to be able to do her temple work.
This topic has come to mind today because of one of my daughters. She is strong-willed, determined, and often defiant. If I tell her one thing, she does another. The more I enforce, the more she pushes back. Punishments don’t seem to bother her. The act of defying is more satisfying to her, than whatever punishment may be the consequence.
This morning we were at odds again, and it caused us to be late to church. I was very up
set and frustrated. I have taken parenting classes, read books, prayed, studied, put her name in the temple. As I was praying yet again today, I had the impression that I could ask my family for help. My family that have already passed on. My Armenian family.
The Armenians were (are!) strong, intelligent, hard workers. They were strong-willed, determined, and defiant. They were committed to their cause. They were Christian and would not deny Christ in order to keep the peace, or to survive. They were massacred because they would not deny Him.
And they can help me with my daughter. Because they understand. Because they are partly why she is who she is. Because those very same traits that I think are a ‘problem’ helped them survive and take a stand. Because they are the reason I am who I am.
From a General Conference talk in April 1980 (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/04/eternal-links-that-bind?lang=eng), Elder Tuttle said:
“Elder Melvin J. Ballard testified that “the spirit and influence of your dead will guide those who are interested in finding those records. If there is anywhere on the earth anything concerning them, you will find it” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1949, p. 230; italics added). And Elder Widtsoe said, “I have the feeling … that those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life” (“Genealogical Activities,” p. 104).”
I have been able to do the temple work for my great-grandma Maritza, and her mother, Rebeka, and was also present when we did the work for my grandpa who passed
away in 2011. I felt their spirit and know they accepted and are grateful.
As I continue to try to make headway to find more information in the Soghanalian and Kapelian family lines (and anyone who can translate for me!) I also seek their help to understand and nurture my daughter who needs to learn how to be a peacemaker in her home, but also needs to develop and nourish her strong, faithful attributes. And to help me to be patient, and have wisdom in my relationship with her.
I am proud of my heritage, I am proud to pass those traits on to my children so they, too, can stand for the cause of Christians. I hope Rebeka and Maritza and my grandpa can help my daughter and myself to be who we are meant to be.