‘Nobody talks about the Armenians anymore’

A view of the Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea occupied by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru)

A view of the Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea occupied by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru) 

2016/11/13 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

Adolf Hitler infamously observed that he believed that he could get away with killing the Jews of Europe because “nobody talks about the Armenians anymore” and the way that they were killed in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. If the world forgot that, he reasoned, it would soon forget his actions against the Jews.

David Low named his political cartoon describing the German-Russian invasion of Poland that started the WW2 - "Rendezvous." The cartoon depicts a meeting by the two allied Nazi-Soviet dictators over the corpse of a Polish defender. Hitler says to Stalin while lifting his hat and bowing: "The Scum of the Earth, I believe?" and Stalin responds to him "The Bloody Assassin of the Workers, I presume?" while bowing and lifting his in kind. The secret agreement on the division of Poland that was part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not yet known, but nonetheless, Low recognized what happened and drew it in this work. (Image: The Evening Standard (UK), September 20, 1939 issue)

David Low named his political cartoon describing the German-Russian invasion of Poland that started the WW2 – “Rendezvous.” The cartoon depicts a meeting by the two allied Nazi-Soviet dictators over the corpse of a Polish defender. Hitler says to Stalin while lifting his hat and bowing: “The Scum of the Earth, I believe?” and Stalin responds to him “The Bloody Assassin of the Workers, I presume?” while bowing and lifting his in kind. The secret agreement on the division of Poland that was part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not yet known, but nonetheless, Low recognized what happened and drew it in this work. (Image: The Evening Standard (UK), September 20, 1939 issue)

Fortunately for the world, almost no one has forgotten or forgiven Hitler’s Holocaust; and thanks to Armenians around the world, some people still continue to talk about what happened in 1915. But at a time when the attention spans of leaders and their citizens appear to be shortening at ever more rapid rates, the dangers that Hitler’s words point to are ever more present.

That is especially true when the world is divided between democracies where voters expect and leaders typically focus on what they define as current problems and dictatorships where rulers can outwait their counterparts, all too confident that if they wait long enough, the others will come around.

This bitter reflection is prompted by the remarks of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov that “we understand that time is required for our partners in Europe and the US to understand” that Crimea will always remain part of Russia and “we are sufficiently patient to wait” for them to “understand.”

Russian "green men" patrolling the airport in Simferopol, the capitol of Crimea, February 2014. Russian military occupied the peninsula almost a month in advance of the illegal "referendum."

Russian “green men” patrolling the airport in Simferopol, the capitol of Crimea, February 2014. Russian military occupied the peninsula almost a month in advance of the illegal “referendum.”

There are obvious reasons for his confidence and for this as Kremlin policy: Ever more people in the West say, using expressions like “there are more immediate issues” that must be addressed and that “the time has come to move on,” that the West should not hold Moscow accountable for its violation of international law.

Today, far too few people are prepared to remember Putin’s crimes. Few talk about his blowing up of the apartment buildings in Russian cities to boost himself to office and to restart a vicious anti-Chechen war. Few talk about his willingness to kill those taken hostage at Beslan or elsewhere.

Rescuers digging for survivors after bombing of an apartment building on Kashira Road in Moscow, Russia, 13 September 1999. This and other similar terror acts in Russia were used by Putin to start another war in Chechnya. According to former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko murdered by his former FSB colleagues in London and other experts, the FSB conducted the bombings on Putin's orders to boost his election chances. (Image: Wikipedia)

Rescuers digging for survivors after bombing of an apartment building on Kashira Road in Moscow, Russia, 13 September 1999. This and other similar terror acts in Russia were used by Putin to start another war in Chechnya. According to former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko murdered by his former FSB colleagues in London and other experts, the FSB conducted the bombings on Putin’s orders to boost his election chances. (Image: Wikipedia)

Few talk about his role in downing civilian aircraft carrying the Polish president or ordinary citizens of Malaysia and other countries. Few talk about his openly racist policies and his repression of civil rights in his own country. Few talk about his aggression against Georgia and his subversion of other post-Soviet states.

The ruins of the city of Grozny after Russian artillery shelling and airplane bombing in effort to exterminate the defenders of the capitol of rebellious Chechnya during the Second Chechen War. March 1995

The ruins of the city of Grozny after Russian artillery shelling and airplane bombing in effort to exterminate the defenders of the capitol of rebellious Chechnya during the Second Chechen War. March 1995

And so it is no surprise that the Kremlin expects that ever fewer people will remember his Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula or his continuing aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas and elsewhere.

It is tragically the case that media coverage of Ukraine and expressions of support for Ukraine against Moscow have declined sharply in recent months.

It is perhaps too much to hope that Western societies will come to their senses on all these issues, but it should not be too much to hope that Western governments will hold fast to the principles of the international order that Putin violated by his annexation of Crimea and not conveniently “forget” that continuing crime and threat to world peace.

Devastation in the Donbas - the product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)

Devastation in the Donbas – the product of Putin’s military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)

As American non-recognition of the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania shows, there are ways and means of doing that while talking about other things. If the US and the West more generally are not to fall into the trap Hitler talked about, Washington and other Western governments need to put in place a new non-recognition policy for Crimea.

Russian FSB secret police and paramilitaries suppress any open dissent in Crimea and actively search for any hidden resistence to the occupation. Beside using the judicial system to enforce the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula, they employ secret abductions and extrajudicial killings of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian activists. (Image: GordonUA.com)

Russian FSB secret police and paramilitaries suppress any open dissent in Crimea and actively search for any hidden resistence to the occupation. Beside using the judicial system to enforce the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula, they employ secret abductions and extrajudicial killings of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian activists. (Image: GordonUA.com)

It may not end Putin’s criminal occupation as quickly as those of good will and good sense would like, but such a policy would promise to hold Putin and his accomplices responsible for their actions there – and it would prevent the Kremlin leader from saying to Western leaders that “nobody talks about Chechnya, Georgia or Ukraine anymore.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Turtler

    Quick note: We don’t know that Hitler ever observed it (most of the sources claiming he did are apocryphal). Though it certainly fit with his mindset.

    Secondly: if anything one of the greater tragedies is that fewer people talk about the Asian Greeks, Assyrians, or the many others the Turkish government genocides at the same time. And many talk as if the problem started in 1915 or 1916, as this does.

    This is not true. The Turkish governments began to inflict genocide on their non-Muslim non-Turkish populations in the 1870’s, under the rule of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. The Young Turks later overthrew him but carried on doing what they did. And the current Turkish government has staked its’ existence on denying those ever happened. So I would say the problem is much worse than it seemed.

    But for the rest of it, very well said.

    • MichaelA

      russia now is very similar to ottoman empire near its end

  • Terry Washington

    As Dr King noted(and as barack Obama repeated), “the arc of the universe is long but in the long run it bends towards justice!”. aLL THE MORE REASON FOR uKRAINE TO SIGN AND RATIFY the Rome Statute of the ICC which would remind Putin and his cronies that there is NO statute of limitations for war crimes and crimes against humanity!