Genocidal Thoughts

There seemed, this past week, to be a common theme that arose from a historical anniversary, a current crisis, and an ignored tragedy.  And all three are linked by a word and a concept that was not formulated until the 1944, even though the action was known if not labeled.

The historical anniversary was the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, during World War 1.  An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed and died during that year and the subsequent ones.  While condemned at the time, it gradually faded from public conscience until the last few years.  In fact, while I had always heard of the phrase “like a flock of starving Armenians” used by my grandparents and my parents, I had no idea that a genocide was the origins of it.  Interestingly, and I hope significantly, the PM of Turkey, while not apologizing formally or acknowledging it as a genocide conducted by the Turkish government, did acknowledge it in a way no previous government statement ever has.

A friend in a Bible study reminded me of something I knew, but had forgotten, that tied to the current crisis in Ukraine.  The reason for the split in that country, why the eastern provinces are so pro-Russian, is that they were repopulated by Russians under Stalin after he had depopulated them by waging genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932-33.  Stalin feared that the independent minded Ukraine would leave the Soviet Union (they had experienced brief freedom between the Tsar and Lenin), and so began a systematic campaign of killing intellectuals (similar to the Armenian experience) and then collectivizing the land and all the food in it.  Crops were sold overseas to bring in money, while the peasant kulaks were left to starve to death, literally.  Over 7 million people died during the famine, most of them Ukrainian.  The countryside, thus depopulated, became home to ethnic Russians, who are now in the news again.


Finally, another genocide is going on in Tibet.  A beautiful land, of formerly independent people, is being exterminated by the Chinese Communists.  The land mass of Tibet is enormous, but the population small.  Although invaded by the Chinese in 1951 and occupied by them since then, it is only in the past decade that an active campaign of ethnic genocide has occurred.  All things Tibetan, from monasteries to language to schooling to religion, are being systematically erased by the Chinese government.  And, much like Stalin’s work in the Ukraine, the mass settling of the region by ethnic Han is designed to eliminate the popular, cultural, and distinct properties of the Tibetan people.

We keep saying “never again”….but it has happened in Cambodia, Rwanda, Serbia, and Tibet.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  I wonder what seeds have been sown in the current crops of genocide, that will bring forth new trials for the world like the past ones have





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