The Armenian Genocide Memorial at Tsitsernakaberd Near Yerevan

With the political fallout of genocide denial rumbling on a century later, a visit to this Armenian genocide monument is recommended on a trip to Yerevan.

For a small landlocked country, Armenia has suffered more than its fair share of conflict with its neighbours, and a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Tsitsernakaberd just outside Yerevan commemorates the bloodiest part of its history, the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. It is well worth a visit.

Armenian Tourism: The Genocide Memorial

The Armenian genocide monument itself comes in two parts. There is a tall thin stone construction rather like a pointed obelisk and next to that a circular construction, consisting of thick stone pillars sloping inwardly, interspersed with steps leading down. The pillars do not meet at the top and there is no roof. Inside is an eternal flame in the centre, surrounded by simple flowers. Nothing else. No inscriptions. Nothing. There is nothing more to say. The only audible noise, apart from the rumble of distant traffic and an occasional dog barking, is the sound of fuel burning. It iss all the more striking as it is set against the backdrop of the majestic white Mount Ararat, symbol of Armenia, final resting place of Noah’s Ark and former Armenian territory. Today it lies just inside Turkey.

Close to the monument are the wreaths and the trees. Wreaths from the visiting Belarussian president and the Italian ambassador. And trees, so neatly planted by a variety of personalities: the presidents of Bulgaria, Greece and Lebanon, the FSU (successor to the KGB) and Senator Bob Dole among others, perhaps with an eye on the influential Armenian-American vote.

Kill with Impunity. Who Remembers the Annihilation of the Armenians?

While the alleged Armenian holocaust has not attracted the same level of international attention as the acknowledged genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and the Jewish population in Nazi Germany, lessons from the lack of public outcry were noted in some quarters, with Hitler using the justification in the header above as a reasoned argument why negative reactions to the extermination of the Jews could be ignored.

Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Turkey has always denied that the events of 1915 were tantamount to genocide. From a purely semantic point of view, the term did not exist at the time, having been coined in 1944 and defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” Books on the genocide are banned in Turkey and its government funds academic research programmes in America to counter balance the accusations of genocide.

Turkey has gone to extraordinary diplomatic lengths in an attempt to prevent the deaths from being classified as genocide, and it continues to be a hot political topic almost a century after the event. Turkey has its regional supporters, including those in Azerbaijan, where as recently as April 2010 Azerbaijani Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Bahar Muradova claimed that “there were not such events as the Armenian genocide in history. It has been made up by Armenian politicians.”

Countries that Recognise the Armenian Genocide

Recognising the Armenia Genocide despite the Turkish political pressure has been an emotive issue and several states within nations have recognised it at the federal level without national endorsement, including 43 states in America and New South Wales in Australia. Sovereign nations recognising the genocide include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece Italy, Lithuania, Lebanon, Holland, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and the Vatican.

Armenian Genocide Memorial Day is on April 24 and is a public holiday in Yerevan.

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