A Land Unknown

  • Category: History
  • Words: 1748
  • Grade: 90
"A Land Unknown"

        Under Tigrane the Great, the Armenian Empire reached its height and became one of the most powerful in Asia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Seas. Throughout most of its long history, however, Armenia has been invaded by a succession of empires. Under constant threat of domination by foreign forces, Armenians became both cosmopolitan as well as fierce protectors of their culture and tradition. Armenians developed a sense of nationalism for their country and didn't want to give it up. We still, to this day, have a great sense of nationalism to our country even though our country is only a fraction of what ancient Armenia used to be before the Ottoman Turks took our land and killed millions of our people. This sense of nationalism is what holds all of us together in our new country, which is for me, The Untied States.
        From the 16th century through World War I major portions of Armenia were controlled by their most brutal invader, the Ottoman Turks, under whom they experienced discrimination, religious persecution, heavy taxation, and armed attacks. Turks were threatened by our power because we had the highest positions in the government and most of our people were held in high regard in positions like doctors and lawyers. But most of all, we were Christians. We were the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion. The Ottoman Turks were Muslim and they believed that they had to control us or get rid of us before we gained anymore power than we already had and also because we were Christians. In response to Armenian nationalist stirrings, the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in 1894 and 1896. The most horrific massacre took place in April 1915 during World War I, when the Turks ordered the deportation of the Armenian population to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were driven from their homes, massacred, or marched until they died. The western part of the historical homeland of the Armenian people was emptied of Armenians. According to the majority of historians, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were murdered or died of starvation. The Armenian massacre is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that a genocide ever took place, and claims that a much smaller number died in a civil war. This is such an outrage to the people of Armenia. Besides being murdered in a horrible way and dying a horrible death, we were denied ever even going through such a tragedy.
        I believe that this is a great example of how possibilism and probablism is more accepted than the belief of environmental determination. Possibilism and probablism is the viewpoint that people, not environments, are the dynamic force of cultural development (Getis, Getis & Fellman, pg. 233). The needs, traditions, and technological level of a culture affect how that culture both assesses the possibilities of an area and shapes the choices that it makes regarding them (Getis, Getis & Fellman, pg. 233). Environmental determinism, on the other hand, is the belief that the physical environment by itself shapes humans, their actions, and their thoughts. Environmental conditions alone cannot account for the cultural variations that occur around the world (Getis, Getis & Fellman, pg. 233). The Armenians would not have moved out of Armenia if it weren't for the Ottoman Turks taking over and changing the land. The Ottoman Turks now will make what was once Armenia, thier home and will change the landscape according to their culture and religion. Turkey is now a Muslim country when it used to be the first nation that accepted Christianity. This is how the people (in this example the Turks), and not the environment, forced the change or variations in the culture development of Armenia and changed the lives of the Armenians and their homeland.
Since the massacre and all the changes that were going on in Armenia, Armenians had to immigrate to other countries. My grandparents, for example, migrated to North Africa and settled in Egypt and Ethiopia and made it their new home. Now, there are Armenian communities in Egypt, Ethiopia and many other countries surrounding Turkey. My mother recently, on August 4-6, traveled to Los Angeles to see her old Armenian friends that she grew up with in Ethiopia about 40 years ago. They had set up a program for Armenians from Ethiopia to rejoin and get together after all the changes and the struggles that they and their ancestors had encountered.
Another dispute that is going on at the present time in Armenia and has been going on since 1988 is the territorial dispute with Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, to which both lay claim. Armenia declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on September 23, 1991. In the years that followed, Armenia successfully fought Azerbaijan for control of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority of the population of the enclave are Armenian Christians who want to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia. A cease-fire agreement was reached between the two countries in 1994, but the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. Azerbaijan has offered broad autonomy to the enclave in exchange for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azeri lands (Microsoft Encarta, 1995). But the enclave wants either full independence or annexation to Armenia. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution.
Another human impact on the environment and landforms, besides the Turks taking over Armenia and changing the landscape, are the environmental issues that surround present day Armenia. The soil pollution from the toxic chemicals such as DDT has made Armenia a harmful place to live. Energy blockade, the result of conflict with Azerbaijan, has led to the deforestation when citizens scavenged for firewood. The pollution of Hrazdan (Razdan) and Aras Rivers have had a negative impact on the ecosystem. The draining of Sevana Lich (Lake Sevan), as a result of its use as a source of hydropower, threatens drinking water supplies. The restart of Metsamor nuclear power plant, without adequate (IAEA-recommended) safety and backup systems has also had a negative impact on the ecosystem in Armenia. These are just examples of how the fuels we consume, the raw materials we use, the products we create, and the wastes we discard all contribute to the harmful alteration of the biosphere, the thin film of air, water and earth within which we live (Getis, Getis & Fellman, pg. 147).
The cultural context for the Armenian person is the result of upholding and defending a way of life and values that have been maintained for centuries. For that reason, although Armenians living in the United States today come from a variety of countries of origin, and may to some extent speak different dialects or even different languages, yet they have many cultural similarities due to centuries of commonality. The language, religion, culture, and memories (good and bad) are all what brings Armenians together and stay together in our hearts. The Armenians living in the United States, especially those who live in large communities tend to discover opposing trends between the culture in which they were brought up, and those of the dominant culture in which they have to live, work, interface, and survive. My father always says that I am Americanized and now I understand what he means when he says that. For one example, Americans put a great emphasis on material things while Armenians put more of an emphasis on family. Family is the most important thing to Armenians and myself, but sometimes when I can become very self-centered and ignorant I force him to think otherwise and that is when he reminds me that I am not American. I am an Armenian living in America. I am not sure if an "American" can understand what I mean. I have pressure from this world and pressure from my culture to live the way of my culture. Another example of the difference between Americans and Armenians is that when a father and son meet each other or part with each other, they always give a hug and two kisses. On the other hand, Americans usually just give handshakes. This is a very small, and some may say stupid example, but the little things are what count the most. Armenians have been able to adapt to all of the countries that they have traveled to. Once again, this has a lot to do with our culture.
        The massacres of Armenians demonstrated that genocide could be committed and remain unpunished. When a horrible crime against humanity goes unnoticed, ignored or unrecognizable, it gives monsters like Adolph Hitler the arrogance to say, before the massacre of the Jews, "who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of Armenians?" As you can see, my family and ancestors are full of Geography. We have suffered a great deal that most people don't even know about. That is why I called my paper "A Land Unknown." I always have to explain to people what I am, where I come from and why my parents came from Egypt and Ethiopia. At least, I feel the need to. This is one of the reasons why I thought Geography would be a very interesting course to take in my college years. I knew that it would give me a chance to learn a little more about what happened to my ancestors and be able to educate another person that may not know the struggle and history of Armenia. My paper shows how Armenia is a very good example of Geography. It shows what human impact can do to a landscape or environment. It also shows how different cultures, religions and ethnicity can make a place very hard to live in harmony with one another. In time, one ethnic group will feel threatened by the other ethnic group and seek more power than the other. In the end, Armenians may have lost most of their land, but they never lost their patriotism to their country or their people.

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