Armenian Persecution Mounts

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 177th installment in the series.

April 8, 1915: Armenian Persecution Mounts 

Although many historians date the beginning of the Armenian Genocide to April 24, 1915, when 250 prominent Armenians were arrested and later murdered in Constantinople, in fact violent measures were already underway across Anatolia and the Caucasus region in February and March 1915, gathering speed in early April. 

The origin and order of events during this period remain hotly contested to this day, as partisans from both sides still try to shift blame for the horror that followed. Many Turkish historians assert the repressive measures only came in response to an incipient Armenian uprising, and there’s no question some Armenian militants, emboldened by the Russian victory at Sarikamish, were planning a rebellion to help the advancing Christian conquerors. On the other hand, many Armenian and Western historians argue scattered Armenian revolts during this period were themselves a response to the incipient genocide, rather than vice versa. 

Whatever the exact order of events, it’s clear what happened next, as Turkish army units and Kurdish irregulars unleashed a campaign of systematic violence against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Generally speaking they focused first on Armenian soldiers serving in the Ottoman Army, removing a potential source of armed resistance, before moving on to civilians. The killers were aided by the empire’s huge size and primitive communications, which slowed the spread of news. 

In February War Minister Enver Pasha laid the groundwork for the first step—getting rid of Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman armies—by ordering them to turn in their weapons and report for duty in labor battalions which would supposedly be employed building military roads. This provided an excuse to remove the disarmed soldiers from public view to remote areas, where they were then murdered en masse, usually by shooting. 

However some Armenian soldiers guessed what was coming and fled before they could be killed, sometimes engaging in armed resistance (contributing to the ambiguity about the immediate origins of the genocide). For example, according to the British diplomat Arnold Toynbee, on March 8, 1915, a group of about two dozen Armenian deserters ambushed a battalion of Turkish soldiers, stole their weapons, and then holed up in the ancient Armenian monastery near Zeitun (today Süleymanlı) an Armenian town of about 10,000 inhabitants located in the Taurus Mountains of southern Anatolia (top). 

On April 8, 1915, the Turks destroyed the monastery and began deporting the town’s inhabitantsthe first large scale-deportation to take place. The Turks claimed they were merely responding to the ambush and armed resistance, but Toynbee believed they had been planning crush Zeitun for some time beforehand, citing the movement of irregular units to the vicinity in preparation. 

Meanwhile reports spread of mass arrests targeting Armenian political leaders, while gangs of Turks and Kurds looted the possessions of Armenian civilians, especially in the provinces of Bitlis, Erzurum, and Sivas. To the east, in Van province stories of mass killings with victims in the thousands circulated along with fleeing refugees, while in the south deportations from Zeitun continued into the second half of the month. However all these incidents remained in the realm of rumor until April 24, 1915, when the Armenian genocide began in earnest. 

See the previous installment or all entries.

10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life was always an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time, Lee—who passed away on November 12 at the age of 95—became just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee.

1. HIS WIFE WAS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) revealed the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he wrote. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE CAME FROM HIS MOTHER.

Lee wrote that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read: “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He said that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (which became his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but according to Lee, the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee wrote, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he wrote. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He said that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

JK Rowling Reveals the Sweet Reason Why She Wrote Fantastic Beasts

Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images

With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald just a week away, ​JK Rowling is reflecting on her time writing the book that inspired the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and why she decided to expand on the Wizarding World she had created with the Harry Potter series.

While on the red carpet for the premiere of ​The Crimes of Grindelwald in Paris last week, Rowling spoke about how appreciative she is of the Harry Potter fandom that allows her to keep writing books and films. She also revealed the reason why she wanted to continue past the original series and write these movies: Potterheads!

"This fandom is the most remarkable in the world, for me, obviously," Rowling said. "Their loyalty and their passion for these stories really is the reason that I went back, because, without that, I don’t think I would have written these movies."

So there you have it, Potterheads: you really have yourselves to thank for the ​Potter universe's continued expansion. Keep it up and maybe Rowling will keep giving us more. In the meantime, Fantastic Beasts 2 hits theaters on November 16.

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