Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast Feature

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Spotlight on the Armenians

Armenians were once an integral part of the ethnic mix in Turkey's east, although today none remain in the region. What happened to them is a topic of sensitive debate in Turkey.

There were various Armenian kingdoms in the region starting in the 3rd century BC and lasting until almost the 11th century AD. After that, the Armenians—who adopted Christianity in AD 301—became the subjects of a succession of rulers, from the Byzantines, to the Persians, and finally the Ottomans. Armenians ended up living in Eastern Turkey throughout the Ottoman Empire, with Istanbul eventually becoming one of their main cultural centers.

During World War I, when the Ottomans came under attack by Russia and the other allied powers, some Armenians in the east saw this as a chance for independence and rose up in revolt. The Armenians claim that the Ottoman response led to the death of hundreds of thousands (some claim even 1.5 million) and have been trying to have the events of the time recognized as a genocide. The Turks, while admitting that large numbers of Armenians died at the time, say this was the result of war and disease, which also cost the lives of many others living in the region. Some 70,000 Armenians still live in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul.

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