I will remember the Armenians

When the world had its back turned, an old evil burst on an ancient people. The mountain valleys of Karabakh were seized by those who tried to annihilate the Armenian people from them, within living memory.

It is more than a hundred years since the Armenian Genocide: while Europe was distracted by the Great War, the Ottoman Turks set out systematically to murder their Armenian population. The photographs we have of fields strewn with bones, of rotting bodies, of weeping mothers and widows, would be too distressing to include here – you have the internet, so go and look if you have the stomach for it. Two countries alone in the world actively deny the history:  Turkey and Azerbaijan – and now Azerbaijan has descended with deadly force on the Armenians of the mountains. And the world looked away.

The tale of Nagorno-Karabakh has been with me since I first heard Baroness Cox speak.  When many years later I ran into her she invited me to travel there, I was sorely tempted to (though my wife was less keen). I have kept a watch for the few grudging mentions the media has afforded. They are really not interested.

The unplanned dissolution of the old Soviet state which showed up the messy state of the Transcaucasus, and boundaries set at a whim by Stalin suddenly became international frontiers, and hundreds of thousands of Armenians on the wrong side of it were faced with rule by a new, nationalist tyranny which showed its face soon enough. The euphemism ‘Ethnic cleansing’ was first used by the Azeris who poured in to renew the Armenian Genocide. The land has indeed been ‘internationally recognised’ as part of Azerbaijan, but has not been in fact ever part of that state as it broke away in war at the moment Armenia and Azerbaijan broke from the Soviet Union, so what reality is there in recognition?

One would think that a state based on ethnicity would not want within its borders another population and would separate it, just as Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, but nationalism does not work like that.

Why though, with all the horror in the world, should the fate of that one community cut so deeply? It is because the Armenians have barely survived their neighbours’ murderous hate. They are an ancient nation, unique in language and culture, once mighty across north-eastern Anatolia and forming a strong community in Turkey and Persia. Their kingdom was ancient when Alexander rolled over these hills and they were a power to greet the Romans in later ages. Theirs was the first state to adopt Christianity as their official religion, and for all this, their distinctiveness and success, wedged between Turkish-speaking, Muslim nations, made them a target for jealous when  industrial warfare made their elimination a practical proposition.

The genocide began with local attacks. Before the war, the Armenians were eliminated from their second homeland in Cilicia, which had been an Armenian kingdom during the Crusades. Those who are left after the genocide are a precious people. In the Great War, millions were systematically slaughtered and exiled.

Now the world turns its eyes away as Azeri Turks turn on Armenians.

It is said that the Austrian Housepainter, as he prepared his own genocide, mockingly said ‘Who now remembers the Armenians?’  We should all remember the Armenians.  I will.

See also


Soveraigne Power: The Hurt Proceeds From Not Submitting Readily

But a man may here object, that the Condition of Subjects is very miserable; as being obnoxious to the lusts, and other irregular passions of him, or them that have so unlimited a Power in their hands.

And commonly they that live under a Monarch, think it the fault of Monarchy; and they that live under the government of Democracy, or other Soveraign Assembly, attribute all the inconvenience to that forme of Common-wealth; whereas the Power in all formes, if they be perfect enough to protect them, is the same; not considering that the estate of Man can never be without some incommodity or other; and that the greatest, that in any forme of Government can possibly happen to the people in generall, is scarce sensible, in respect of the miseries, and horrible calamities, that accompany a Civill Warre; or that dissolute condition of masterlesse men, without subjection to Lawes, and a coercive Power to tye their hands from rapine, and revenge: nor considering that the greatest pressure of Soveraign Governours, proceedeth not from any delight, or profit they can expect in the dammage, or weakening of their subjects, in whose vigor, consisteth their own selves, that unwillingly contributing to their own defence, make it necessary for their Governours to draw from them what they can in time of Peace, that they may have means on any emergent occasion, or sudden need, to resist, or take advantage on their Enemies.

For all men are by nature provided of notable multiplying glasses, (that is their Passions and Self-love,) through which, every little payment appeareth a great grievance; but are destitute of those prospective glasses, (namely Morall and Civill Science,) to see a farre off the miseries that hang over them, and cannot without such payments be avoyded.

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Hot.  Too hot. Hard to move with wonted vigour, nor willing to go far from the water tap. And in September too.

The bright sunshine impels me go out, to scale the nearest hill, or range out to the familiar mountains and clamber closer to the sun and her friendly beams – but now those beams feel less friendly –  a harsh, scalding scolding from the once-friendly Sun.

It is not really hot though, is it?  By the standards of most of the world, we are not really trying. Try telling a Nigerian that 30° C is unbearably baking and he will laugh in your face.  But here, it stops us in our tracks.

I have in the past been tempted to attribute the failings of other nations to their sweltering climate – there is no vigour in a people who live under temperatures that stop all work. Yet that cannot be the case – there is no lack of vigour amongst Australians of the same blood and frame as I have, or Indians or many, many others including all the great empires before our own. Meanwhile cool-dwelling Russians are best left to anecdote and overgeneralisation. It may have to join that long list of abandoned attempts to find a single reason why we are the Best Nation Ever.

The heat should not beat me down. Yet I am a son of the cold; born of ancestors who dwelt in midge-swamps and in sun-starved glens. This inherited flesh does not take well to this temperature.

I cannot always have been affected this way though.  A march through a far, tropical landscape was not a challenge in those days and many a young man in uniform is sent to the same whenever our politicians feel like playing with soldiers. An officer of my past acquaintance once recounted that when  in a tropical post, he turned the air-conditioning off,  because he found it worse to his health to move constantly as duty called from the cool office to the blasting heat and back to cold and then hot all day – the continual heat was better.

I still want to reach those mountains, but maybe later, when it has cooled.

Our Australia brethren manage it all their lives.  I just need a find a way to adapt. We do adapt. The whole history of mankind is of adaptation, or we would not last and thrive so.

I am aware that confined within the echo-chamber of the Internet (which I can hardly condemn as I am writing on the Internet) we will be told that it is all Global Warming, even though it is only happening in Britain, and when it is at last cold again in the winter, that too is Global Warming, and when next nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places; all these will be attributed to this same cause. It saves thinking. The reality is that of the day – it just hot.

There were once warmer ages, and colder ones, and the nation would thrive and be filled with its wonted vigour. I am coming to an uncomfortable suspicion in my own case that this heat-borne lethargy may be, after all, the way my body gives me a convenient excuse.