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Interpreting the Evidence

Tarsus Destruction

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Tarsus Destruction, Armenian Genocide, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A panoramic view of Tarsus during the Armenian genocide, 1918.

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 of 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.

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.