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Tarsus Destruction, Armenian Genocide, 1918

General view of ruins of Armenian houses, Destroyed in massacre of April 16-17, 1909

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_5832
Document Description
A panoramic view of Tarsus during the Armenian genocide, 1918.
At what level would you assess the destruction of the city of Tarsus?
How is the destruction in Tarsus similar to that in Adana? (see the other pictures in the collection)
If you were an Armenian during this time, would you or could you ever return to this city? Why or why not?
What would this kind of devastation mean to the Armenian culture?
Historical Challenges
Research the history of Armenian/Turkish relations in cities such as Adana and Tarsus.
Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Write a newspaper article describing the scene to an uninformed audience.

Art: Create a poster depicting the events in Turkey during WWI.
Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris. Harper Perennial 2003.
Dadrian, Vahakn N. The History of the Armenian Genocide. Providence RI, Berghahn Books, 1995.


Historical Context
The city of Tarsus, and Adana twenty miles north, were the center of the last traditional Armenian state in the Ottoman Empire, Cilicia Armenia. It was an important commercial and farming community. Most of the people of the region were farmers although there was a population of wealthy Christian merchants.

By early spring 1909, ethnic tensions in Adana were on the rise as the “Young Turk” revolution swept through the Ottoman Empire and counterrevolutionary political groups espoused their own brands of nationalism.

Coinciding with violence in Constantinople, killings, looting, and burning began in Adana and spread throughout the region as far as Tarsus and into the mountains beyond. Some two thousand Armenians were killed in the first forty-eight hours as local authorities, plagued by corruption, did nothing to halt the violence. On April 25th a Regiment of regular Turkish troops of the “Young Turk” government arrived in Adana. Instead of defending the property and possessions of those being attacked, the soldiers aided the attackers. By the end of the spree nearly one half of the city of Adana was destroyed and portions or Tarsus were burned. Everywhere Armenians were driven from their homes and threatened with violence as Western aid workers helplessly watched or attempted to help while facing danger themselves.
Essential Question
How does destruction to civilian structures affect the course of a war?
Check for Understanding
Describe the destruction at Tarsus using evidence from the photograph.