June 7, 2023

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The Armenian Genocide destroyed relations with Turkey. But in 2009, football reconciled the countries

7 greatest moments in the history of Russian sports

7 greatest moments in the history of Russian sports

Though not for long.

Relations between Armenia and Turkey have been marred by long-standing conflicts, so the Euro 2024 qualifier is sure to be a tough one. But sometimes football reconciles. So it was 15 years ago, when the game of these teams launched “football diplomacy”: the presidents watched the match together, agreed to establish contacts, and even approached the opening of the border. 

What came of it? 

Why are Armenia and Turkey at enmity? The main tragedy is the Armenian genocide of 1915

For many centuries in the Ottoman Empire, religious affiliation took precedence over ethnicity. To become a full-fledged subject (and, for example, pay less taxes), it was enough to change the confession. In the middle of the 19th century, reforms equalized the rights of Muslims and everyone else. But at the everyday level, the contradictions only increased, especially after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. Then the Ottoman Empire lost a significant part of its possessions in the Balkans, which provoked a flow of refugees to Asia Minor. The government offered them to settle in the eastern regions of the country, where several hundred thousand Armenians historically lived. In addition, the Kurds considered these lands to be their own, which only pushed for the aggravation of interethnic relations.

Dissatisfaction with the refugees provoked the rise of a national movement. The Armenians began to print newspapers in their native language and organized uprisings, and in 1887 a political party appeared in exile, which wanted to create an independent Armenian state. The Turks’ response to the growth of national self-consciousness was pogroms. The bloodiest events of the late 19th century took place in 1894-1896, when massacres of Armenians took place in different parts of the country. In 1909 there was a tragedy in Adana, where the Turks were an ethnic minority. In the massacre they provoked, several tens of thousands of people died.

And yet, the most terrible events for the Armenian people occurred a few years later. In October 1914, Turkey entered the First World War on the side of Germany. The war was not very successful for her, especially on the Caucasian front, where the Ottoman army was opposed by Russian troops and Armenian volunteers. They forced Turkey to retreat.

Failures prompted the search for internal enemies, and the Armenians, with their desire for independence, were ideally suited for this role. The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 were still fresh in my memory, when Turkey lost almost all territories in Europe. One of the reasons for the defeat was then called the disloyalty of the local population, who did not want to live under the rule of Constantinople. 

To prevent history from repeating itself, in the spring of 1915, the actual leaders of the country, the leaders of the nationalist movement of the Young Turks (the power of the Sultan was already nominal), decided to finally resolve the “Armenian issue”. Today, politicians Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Ahmed Cemal Pasha and Enver Pasha, as well as the head of counterintelligence Behaeddin Shakir, are called the main perpetrators of the genocide.