Armenia: First Christian Nation in the World, First Genocide in the 20th Century
Armenia was the first nation to become Christian during the Roman era.
According to ancient tradition, Noah’s Ark rested on Mount Ararat in the Armenian mountain range.
Armenia’s coat of arms has Mount Ararat with Noah’s Ark on top.
Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (410-490 AD) recounted the tradition that Noah’s son Japheth had a descendant named Hayk who shot an arrow in a battle near Lake Van c.2,500 BC killing Nimrod, builder of the Tower of Babel who was the first powerful tyrant of the ancient world.
Hayk is the origin of “Hayastan,” the Armenian name for Armenia.
Ancient Armenians may have had some relations with the Hittites and Hurrians, who inhabited that area known as Anatolia in the 2nd millennium BC.
Armenia’s major city of Yerevan, founded in 782 BC in the shadow of Mount Ararat, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Armenia was first mentioned by name in 520 BC by Darius the Great of Persia.
Borders reached their greatest extent under Armenia’s King Tigrane the Great, 95-55 BC, reaching from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, pushing back the Parthians, Seleucids and the Roman Republic.
Armenia was the first nation in the world to officially adopt Christianity as its state religion around 301 AD, with the conversion of King Tiridates III.
Armenia’s thousands of years of history include independence interspersed by occupations by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Soviets.
Armenia’s medieval capital of Ani was called “the city of 1,001 churches,” with a population of 200,000, rivaling Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus.
In 1064, Sultan Alp Arslan and Muslim Turks invaded and destroyed the city of Ani. Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi recorded:
The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins… Dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls… I was determined to enter the city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses, but that was impossible.
Muslim Turks made conquered Christians, Jewish, and non-Muslim populations into second-class citizens called “dhimmi” and required them to ransom their lives once a year by paying an exorbitant “jizyah” tax.
Sultan Murat I (1359-1389) began the practice of “devshirme” — taking boys from the conquered Armenian and Greek families.
These innocent Christian boys were systematically traumatized and indoctrinated into becoming ferocious Muslim warriors called “Janissaries,” similar to Egypt’s “Mamluk” slave soldiers.
Janissaries were forced to call the Sultan their father and were forbidden to marry, giving rise to depraved practices and the abhorrent pederasty of the Turks.
For centuries Turks conquered throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Spain and North Africa, carrying tens of thousands into slavery.
Beginning in the early 1800s, the Turkish Ottoman Empire began to decline. Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania won their independence.
When Armenia’s sentiments leaned toward independence, Sultan Abdul Hamid put an end to it by massacring 100,000 Armenian Christians in the 1890s.
President Grover Cleveland told Congress, December 2, 1895:
Occurrences in Turkey have continued to excite concern… Massacres of Christians in Armenia and the development… of a spirit of fanatic hostility to Christian influences…have lately shocked civilization.
President Grover Cleveland told Congress, December 7, 1896:
Disturbed condition in Asiatic Turkey… rage of mad bigotry and cruel fanaticism… wanton destruction of homes and the bloody butchery of men, women, and children, made martyrs to their profession of Christian faith… Outbreaks of blind fury which lead to murder and pillage in Turkey occur suddenly and without notice…”
President Theodore Roosevelt described to Congress, December 6, 1904:
…systematic and long-extended cruelty and oppression…of which the Armenians have been the victims, and which have won for them the indignant pity of the civilized world.
When Sultan Abdul Hamid II was deposed in 1908, there was a brief euphoria, with citizens naively hoping that Turkey would have a constitutional government.
The government was taken over by the “Young Turks,” led by three leaders or “pashas”: Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Ismail Enver Pasha, and Ahmed Djemal Pasha.
They appeared as if they were planning to enact democratic reforms while they were clandestinely implementing a genocidal plan to rid the land of all who were not Muslims Turks.
The first step involved recruiting all the Armenian young men into the military. Next they made them “non-combatant” soldiers and took away their weapons.
Finally, they marched them into the woods and deserts where they were ambushed and massacred.
With the Armenian young men gone, Armenian cities and villages were defenseless. Nearly 2 million old men, women and children were marched into the desert, thrown off cliffs or burnt alive.
Entire Armenian communities were deported to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia where hundreds of thousands were killed or starved to death.
Russia came to Armenia’s aid against Turkey, because the Russian czar was the protector of the Christian Armenians, but then the strength of the czar and his armies was being depleted by Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution, which eventually took over Russia and murdered the czar and his family. This is how a communist revolution brought persecution to Russian Christians and hindered them from helping Armenian Christians.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote in Fear God and Take Your Own Part (1916):
“Armenians, who for some centuries have sedulously avoided militarism and war… are so suffering precisely and exactly because they have been pacifists whereas their neighbors, the Turks, have… been… militarists… During the last year and a half… Armenians have been subjected to wrongs far greater than any that have been committed since the close of the Napoleonic Wars… Fearful atrocities… Serbia is at this moment passing under the harrow of torture and mortal anguish…”
Theodore Roosevelt continued:
Armenians have been butchered under circumstances of murder and torture and rape that would have appealed to an old-time Apache Indian… Wholesale slaughter of the Armenians… The crowning outrage has been committed by the Turks on the Armenians… I trust that all Americans worthy of the name feel their deepest indignation and keenest sympathy aroused by the dreadful Armenian atrocities.
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote:
The Turks draft the criminals from their prisons into the Gendarmeri to exterminate the Armenian race… In 1913 the Turkish Army was engaged in exterminating the Albanians… Greeks and Slavs left in the territory… The same campaign of extermination has been waged against the Nestorian Christians on the Persian frontier… In Syria there is a reign of terror…
Turkish rule… is… slaughtering or driving from their homes, the Christian population… Only a third of the two million Armenians in Turkey have survived, and that at the price of apostatizing to Islam or else of leaving all they had and fleeing across the frontier…
President Woodrow Wilson, addressed Congress, May 24, 1920:
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered… deplorable conditions of insecurity, starvation, and misery now prevalent in Armenia… Sympathy for Armenia among our people has sprung from untainted consciences, pure Christian faith and an earnest desire to see Christian people everywhere succored in their time of suffering.
Perhaps the most astonishing testimony about the Armenian genocide was told by Demos Shakarian (1913–1993), who was an American Christian businessman of Armenian origin, based in Los Angeles, and who founded the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI), a Christian organization to bring the Gospel to businessmen.
Demos was named after his grandfather, who left Armenia for America due to the 1855 prophecy of the Russian “Boy Prophet,” Efim Gerasemovitch Klubniken, that an unspeakable tragedy was to soon come upon Armenia. His grandfather and Efim were part of a large group of Pentecostal Christian Armenians who moved to Los Angeles years before the Azusa Street Revival.
Efim’s family was Russian and they were the first Pentecostal Russians to move to Armenia. From earliest childhood Efim had shown a gift for prayer, frequently going on long fasts, praying around the clock.
In the 1850s, when the illiterate Efim was eleven years old, he had heard the Lord calling him again to one of his prayer vigils. This time he persisted for seven days and nights, and during this time received a vision.
But what Efim was able to do during those seven days was not so easy to explain.
Efim could neither read nor write. Yet, as he sat in the little stone cottage, he saw before him a vision of charts and a message in a beautiful handwriting. Efim asked for pen and paper. And for seven days sitting at the rough plank-table where the family ate, he laboriously copied down the form and shape of letters and diagrams that passed before his eyes.
When he had finished, the manuscript was taken to people in the village who could read. It turned out that this illiterate child had written out in Russian characters a series of instructions and warnings. At some unspecified time in the future, the boy wrote, every Christian in Armenia would be in terrible danger. He foretold a time of unspeakable tragedy for Armenia, when hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children would be brutally murdered. The time would come, he warned, when everyone in the region must flee. They must go to a land across the sea.
Although he had never seen a geography book, the Boy Prophet drew a map showing exactly where the fleeing Christians were to go. To the amazement of the adults, he drew the Atlantic Ocean! There was no doubt about it, nor about the identity of the land on the other side: the map plainly indicated the east coast of the United States of America.
They chose Los Angeles, where many Pentecostal Russians settled before the Azusa Street Revival. There, the boy wrote, God would bless them and prosper them, and cause their seed to be a blessing to the nations.
Many Armenian Christians were not convinced that the prophetic message was not genuine.
And then, a little after the turn of the century, Efim announced that the time was near for the fulfilment of the words he had written down nearly fifty years before. He said, “We must flee to America. All who remain here will perish.”
Armenian Pentecostal families packed up and left the holdings that had been their ancestral possessions time out of mind. Efim and his family were among the first to go. As each group of Pentecostals left Armenia, they were jeered by those who remained behind. Skeptical and disbelieving folk — including many Christians — refused to believe that God could issue pinpoint instructions for modern people in a modern age.
But the instructions proved correct. In 1914 a period of unimaginable horror arrived for Armenia. With remorseless efficiency the Turks began the bloody business of driving two-thirds of the population out into the Mesopotamian desert. Over a million men, women and children died in these death marches. Another half a million were massacred in their villages, in a pogrom that was later to provide Hitler his blueprint for the extermination of the Jews. “The world did not intervene when Turkey wiped out the Armenians,” Hitler reminded his followers. “It will not intervene now.”
The few Armenians who managed to escape the besieged areas brought with them tales of great heroism. They reported that the Turks sometimes gave Christians an opportunity to deny their faith in exchange for their lives. The favorite procedure was to lock a group of Christians in a barn and set it afire: “If you are willing to accept Mohammed in place of Christ we’ll open the doors.” Time and again, the Christians chose to die, chanting hymns of praise as the flames engulfed them.
There are those today, especially Muslims and Turks, who deny the Armenian genocide, just as they deny that Nazi Germany committed a Holocaust against the Jews. And there are also those who deny God speaks and warns today through prophecies, visions and revelations.
Yet, those who had heeded the prophecy of the Russian boy headed to Los Angeles, U.S. and were saved.
With information from American Minute and The Happiest People on Earth, by Demos Shakarian.
Portuguese version of this article: Armênia, o primeiro país cristão do mundo, e o primeiro genocídio do século XX
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