Armenian Genocide Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson explores the Armenian genocide, which took place during World War I. Find out about the Armenian people, their place in the Ottoman Empire, and the tragedy that happened during this time.

What is the Armenian Genocide?

In history, there are many moments that show the good in people, where we helped one another. Sadly there are also terrible events, like the Armenian genocide, when people treated each other badly.

The Armenians are a group of Christians who lived for hundreds of years in the eastern part of where Turkey is today. During World War I, over a million Armenians lost their lives.

Genocide is the term used when there is an organized plan to get rid of an entire group of people from a certain background, country, or religion. Many people feel strongly that what happened to the Armenians was a genocide. The Turkish government says that they didn't have a plan to get rid of the Armenian people and other non-Muslims also suffered, so it's not genocide. When reading this lesson, ask yourself whether you think the word should be used.

Camps with Armenians during World War I
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Background

In the 1500s, the Armenians became part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Turks. The Armenians were a minority group since most people in the Ottoman Empire were Muslim. The Ottomans gave the Armenians certain rights, and some Armenians became wealthy. There were Turks who felt these Armenians were snobby. Others did not like that the Armenians were different. More and more Muslims in Turkey began to wonder whether the Armenians really supported the Ottoman Empire. There were times when Turks committed violent attacks against Armenians.

By 1900, around 2.5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. A group called the Young Turks took over the government. The Ottoman Empire had been very powerful but was getting weaker and lost a lot of land in 1912. Many blamed non-Muslims, like the Armenians.

When World War I began in 1914, the Young Turks fought with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, Russia, and France. Armenians living near Russia found themselves in the middle. The Ottomans worried that the Armenians would help Russia. The Young Turks moved Armenian and non-Muslim soldiers to work assignments, where many died.

Armenians marching
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1915-1916

On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans began arresting and using violence against hundreds of Armenian leaders. That day is seen as the beginning of the genocide.

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