The role of structure and institutions in the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi and the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire

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Abstract:

The twentieth century has been called "an age of politically sanctioned mass murder ... intended to serve the ends of the state" (Smith, 1987, p 22). It was a century that witnessed the deaths of tens of millions of men, women and children throughout the world due to war, forced starvation, and genocide, in addition to a host of other acts of mass violence committed on a lesser scale. In the twentieth century, it has been suggested that the crime of total genocide has occurred three times, with the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks during World War I, the genocide of the European Jews and Gypsies by the Nazis during World War II, and the genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutu majority in Rwanda in 1994. Due to the gravity of the crime a number of studies and investigations have sought to determine the "warning signs" or causes of total genocide. This study constitutes a further step in this direction and expands the work of past authors in an effort to increase the general understanding of (1) the types of events and/or circumstances that tend to contribute towards a state's inclination to commit genocide, as well as (2) how these events manage to accomplish this task. It is suggested by this study that, in pluralized societies, the occurrence of total genocide depends largely on the level of legitimacy acquired by governing institutions and the acceptance of these institutions by the dominant elite. The institutions in question are those that had been put into place for the purposes of improving conditions within the state which had been rapidly deteriorating due to economic decline and various other forms of crisis. In this respect, the institution of government acts as an intervening variable between the societal structure in place, as well as the particular crises which occur, and the outcome of genocide.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1462352032000149477

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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