the defendant, is an ethnic Armenian
from Baku, the capital
of Azerbaijan. His mistreatment, as an minority, molded his development and can explain
his behavior and crime. Therefore, the often tortuous and painful
history of Alexander’s
Armenian people reveals the suffering and struggling that formed Alexander.
Armenians are a people with ancient origins in the Caucasus, a region situated at the crossroads of the two continents of western
Asia and eastern
Europe. Their homelands
were once much larger than the present-day state
of Armenia, covering
an area bounded by the
Caspian Sea in the east
and the Black
Sea and as far as
the Mediterranean Sea in the west. The fluid
ancestral homeland of the Armenians was also bounded by mountains; the northern
reaches were the Caucasus
and the southern reaches were the Zagros
Mountains (of Iran) and the Taurus Mountains. The largest
of the Artashesian or Artaxid
under Tigranes the Great covered areas now belonging to the modern
nation states of Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, eastern and southern
Turkey/Asia Minor, Syria, Lebanon, northern
Israel, and of course the official state of Armenia
(Jendian 2008, 39-40; Dagirmanjian 2005, 348; Hewsen 2001, 13).
once ruled their own kingdoms,
they were often
captured by foreign
empires. Persian rulers in the form of the Parthians, Medes, and Achaemenids dominated the Armenians before the invasion of the Persians’
great ancient foes of the
Alexander the Great and his Greek and Macedonian armies. These Greeks in the 300s
B.C.E. then established Hellenistic Kingdom of the Seleucids. These two conquerors, the Greeks and the Persians, provide
historians with the first documentation of Armenians
as early as the sixth century B.C.E. Romans, including the Second Rome of the Byzantine
Empire, ruled over Armenians.
Later empires introduced and sowed the seeds of ethnic and sectarian–which is religious-based–conflict between themselves as the latest
invaders and the Armenians. Arab and various
Turkic invasions and empires introduced a different
religion to the area, Islam. This infusion
or superimposition also introduced new ethnic groups to the region, the Seljuk,
Ottoman, and Azeri Turks.
Turks and their descendants later
attacked the Christian
Armenians in the 1800s and 1900s. The most recent domination was that imposed
by the USSR, which controlled Armenia or, more accurately, the Armenian
Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) from 1922 to
1991 (Jendian 2008, 39-41). Although, the Bolshevik Red Army had invaded and occupied the newly
independent nation-state of Armenia
Despite these incursions, their Armenian culture has survived
and shown remarkable resilience, but not without
damage and trauma.
Their culture revolves around two key touchstones of identity.
The first touchstone center on their Christian faith and their
Church. Armenians were the first nation
that accepted or embraced
Christianity in 301 or 314. The second
key touchstone of identity
is their alphabet, which inscribes the
unique Armenian language,
a tongue in an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. Armenians take pride in the endurance
of their language,
which has endured
and is extant
while many other
Indo-European languages have gone extinct
and disappeared in this often conquered region. Another formative historical development shaping the Armenian people is far more tragic, genocide.
Armenians, as a “dominated minority,”
have survived tremendous persecution, including mass murder,
rape, physical assault,
and dispossession of land (Mangassarian 2016, 375; Jendian
2008, 41-43). In the three decades between 1890 and 1920,
the Ottoman Turks massacred Armenians. First, the Sultan Abdul Hamid II massacred Armenians near Lake Van in the Hamidian Massacres, which bear
his namesake, in the 1890s. In 1909, Ottoman Turks killed as many as
at Adana. Despite
the ferocity of these massacres, none of these acts of violence
reach the scale of destruction as that of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1921/1922. Armenians and scholars often refer to this plan of murder
and removal as the Genocide, which they remember each April 24 as Armenian
Martyrs Day. This day marked the beginning
of the Armenian Genocide,
when the nationalist Turks of the Committee
of Unity and Progress
(CUP) expelled Armenian intellectuals from the imperial capital of Istanbul/ Constantinople and then murdered
them. Believing that Armenians
were a fifth column supporting the Allied Powers during World
War I, the Young Turks killed
all fighting-age adult males in the border
region with Russia. These Young Turks led by Ataturk and CUP espoused nationalistic pride
in their Turkish
race and culture;
their frenzied, jingoist
belief in Turkish superiority alienated all other cultures, especially the Armenian minority. The Turkish military and their Kurdish militias removed
the remaining women and children in a forced march that killed many more.
Approximately one quarter
(¼) of the Armenian
population perished, with a total or final death
toll of 800,000
to 1.5 million (Naimark 2001, 41;
Suny 2015, xviii,
After and, some scholars
argue, because of this tragedy, the international community granted
the surviving Armenians
their own independent nation-state after the Ottoman Empire
was officially dissolved in the aftermath of World War I. This nation-state was much smaller
than the historical range of Armenia and excluded Armenians
living in neighboring areas in Central Asia which Armenians had resided
in the past and present,
such as Nagorny Karabakh
and the Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait and Baku, which was the
young Alexander’s hometown and place
of birth. However, Armenian
independence did not endure long. The Soviet Union invaded Armenia and other lands that ethnic Armenians still inhabited, including
Azerbaijan, to the east.
Here tensions erupted
into violence between these eastern
Armenians living outside of Armenia and Azerbaijanis in the late 1980s
and early 1990s in the twilight
of the USSR’s control over the region and freezing
of ethnic and religious tensions during the Cold War. Azerbaijanis attacked Armenians over Nagorny
Karabakh, which means Mountainous Black Garden. A popular
alternative transliteration of the geographic term is spelled and appears
as Nagorno-Karabagh. Armenians
had called the northern highlands Artsakh
before the fourteenth century. This semi-independent island of the Nagorny
Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) surrounded by Azerbaijan held special
importance to Armenians
and included thousands of Armenian
(as well as Azerbaijani) residents.
Black Garden is a fertile mountainous area that has grown not only food–such as mulberries, silk, grapes,
and corn–but also sustained
revered and important Armenian poets, warriors, and monasteries in its forests and mountains
(DeWaal 2003, 8). Drawn
by both these material
and historic attachments, in February
1988, Armenians sought to unify this site within Armenia. Anti-Armenian (and also anti-Azerbaijani) violence broke out first in the actual region of Nagorny
Karabakh and then quickly spread throughout Azerbaijan,
including Alexander’s home town of Baku in the
The conflict spread in part by echoing the Genocide
decades before. Azerbaijanis, like the Turks, claimed that resident Armenians were disloyal
enemies who were plotting with foreign countries. In the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, Armenians there were conspiring with Armenians across the border
in the west in Armenia SSR to seize Azerbaijani soil and territory. This allegation is the old “fifth column” characterization reborn with tragic consequences for Armenians.
These recent killings and beating
have been called
pogroms and genocides interchangeably. A pogrom,
however, is an organized slaughter or massacre of a
ethnic group. Although
the term usually is used to describe violent
attacks on Jews of Russia, a pogrom can describe similar
attacks on other minorities, such as Armenians in Azerbaijan. Scholars and jurists
have called these pogroms
genocides. A genocide is different
from a pogrom
because it is a criminal law established and recognized internationally as the United Nations
Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
is defined under this international law as “any of the
five following acts committed with intent to destroy,
in whole or in part, a national,
ethnical, racial, or
religious group: (a.) Killing
members of a group; (b.) Causing
serious bodily or
mental harm to members of a group;
(c.) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part;” (d.) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within
the group; (e.) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Genocide, under this official definition, can take forms
of suffering short of outright or direct killing of a targeted
group’s members. Similar to the Genocide of 1920, is
the genocide in Sumgait and Baku between 1988 and 1990.
persistent persecution has inculcated or instilled “cultural trauma”
in Armenians. Some of this collective trauma stems from the Genocide of 1915.
Descendants of this
genocide’s survivors continue to manifest
symptoms. Decades later,
third- and fourth-generation descendants often
feel anger and resentment and surprisingly more hostility
than their ancestors.
Alexander undoubtedly shares this anger and resentment, as a member
of this fourth-generation. Alexander and the rest of his cohort
resent that the government of Turkey
and even the United States continue
to deny the Armenian
Genocide (Mangassarian 2016,
376-377, 373; Dagirmanjian 2005,
Moreover, as mentioned
above, Armenians have been targets
and victims of genocides
in Azerbaijan in the 1980s and 1990s that dominant majorities launched decades
after 1915. The more recent genocides
sparked in the Land of Flames,
which is a translation of the word Azerbaijan
into English, bare striking resemblances to the
Armenian Genocide. Armenians view their Azerbaijani perpetrators and attackers as similar to the Young Turks, who had perpetrated the earlier
Azerbaijanis, like the Turks, are Muslim.
They also speak Azeri,
which is a Turkic language.
Armenian victims of and refugees
from the February
1988 genocide in Sumgait,
a port city on the Caspian
Sea in Azerbaijan north of Baku, call the Azerbaijanis “Azeri Turks” (Shahmuratian 1989, 5).
The Azerbaijanis’ behavior of attacking Armenians,
moreover, is a shocking
reminder of the Young Turks and CUP decades before.
Direct victims and survivors
of genocide often have a hard time trusting outsiders. Alexander, as a victim of the genocide
in Baku, is undoubtedly and understandably prone to be hypervigilant and attack individuals whom they perceive as threats
(Staub 2006; 871; Dagirmanjian 2005, 437-441,
In part because of this violence,
many Armenians have been forced
to flee the Caucasus.
have immigrated to the United
States in the following distinctive groups or waves:
Hamidian Massacres and the Armenian
Genocide of 1915 post-WW
II, just before,
the iron curtain
fell across the Caucasus
1988-1990 following the most recent pogroms/genocide(s) (Bakalian 1994, 2, 9-
14; Jendian 2008, 45-59).
above chronology clearly shows,
each major or “big” wave was often
prompted by persecution and violence
at home. This last wave mentioned
is very important
and especially pertinent for the defendant because it carried
the ten-year-old Alexander
to the United States.
How the Genocides
Ottoman Empire (the Genocide of
1915) and Later in Sumgait
and Baku Impacted Alexander, Direct Trauma and Cultural Trauma
Alexander family immigrated to the United States during this 1988-1990 wave of immigration. which included Armenian
refugees who were forced
from their homes in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, where Azerbaijanis massacred Armenians
before and during Black
January of 1990. Alexander’s family of four, which included his mother,
father, and brother,
arrived in Arizona in 1990.
in America, however, his family temporarily fled to and resided in Russia.
They thus followed
the same path as thousands
of other Baku Armenians, as unwelcome
sojourners in this part of the USSR. Whole Armenian
communities, including young Alexander
and his family,
fled from and thus were brutally and utterly erased
from Azerbaijan, most notably
in Sumgait and Baku. The last or remnants
of the Armenian residents of Baku fled from Baku during the “Black January” of 1990, although
thousands, including Alexander’s family,
had already left the port. Alexander fled to avoid being killed or beaten,
all of his childhood
possessions. In sum, the ethnic violence of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict created hundreds of thousands
of Armenian refugees. As many as 353,000
Armenians were forced to leave Azerbaijan and the contested
autonomous region of Nagorny
Approximately 6,000 Armenians
died and many more bore scars of the
violence and disruption (de Waal 2003, 89-95, 285; Yunusov).
Alexander, at the age of seventeen, has been convicted
of the Labor Day Massacre
or Killings of September 7, 1998, in Aurora,
this massacre was not his first exposure
to horrific violence.
He and hundreds of thousands
in the late 1980s and early 1990s had been targets
and victims of massacres in their homes in the Caucasus, an otherwise
whose turbulent history echoed in the United States. Alexander, as an Armenian
refugee, brought this most recent distress
or trauma with him to the U.S.
The seven-year-old Alexander himself experienced traumatic events in Baku, Azerbaijan, in the 1980s.
As a child in Baku, he like fellow Armenians, felt increasingly alienated by his violent
Azerbaijani neighbors. Azerbaijanis threatened, attacked, killed,
and raped Armenians. Azerbaijanis killed at least ninety
Armenians in Baku alone (de Waal 2004, 90), including a member of Alexander’s family. Azerbaijanis viciously killed Alexander’s own great uncle with
a skewer. In 1989, they captured
mother Lilia, threatening to rape her. She had returned briefly to Baku in 1989 after the family fled in the summer of 1988 to Russia. Lilia later
shared the beating
rape with Alexander
and his brother
Roman, a horrific
story that traumatized the young boy, Alexander. This violence against his mother
Alexander witnessed the desecration of several Armenian historic architectural sites, such as Baku’s Armenian Church (Libaridian
1990, xi; Shahmuratian 1989, 5). As
Alexander’s father recalled, gangs
of Azerbaijanis collected
the addresses of Armenians at community
centers so that they could find and victimize
Armenians. Alexander was a target
of this violence.
The testimonies or oral histories of the survivors
from the Sumgait violence confirm this deliberate targeting and invading
of Armenians in their homes.
In this nearby town, Armenians
report that they were attacked
in their homes, where many had tried to hide.
was not identified
let alone treated by mental
health professionals anywhere, even once he and his broken
family arrived in the United States. Psychologists have commented
that Armenians living
in the United States are especially unlikely to seek psychological treatment from non-Armenians and
alike. Psychologist Steve Dagirmanjian confirms that Armenians
value their self-reliance, a trait that has helped them to maintain their cherished
cultural integrity. This sense of fierce
from seeking treatment. According to
Dagirmanjian, “Armenians are unlikely to see psychotherapy as a way of dealing
with their problems. The idea of paying someone for “advice”
runs counter to centuries of self-reliance individualism and may even be considered shameful
and dishonorable (447). He concludes
that “probably the single
most difficult obstacle
to achieving a successful therapeutic experience with Armenian families is getting beyond their
heightened wariness of outsiders, coupled with their reflexive
self- reliance” (449). Because of their repeated mistreatment
by an oppressive majority,
Armenians do not trust outsiders, including clinicians (Mangassarian, 2016, 376-379; Staub 2006, 871; Dagirmanjian 2005, ).
As an ethnic
Armenian, Alexander did not seek psychological treatment for his anger.
Alexander felt anger and even fury as an elementary-school student in Phoenix,
Arizona. Alex “would
get flipped off.” He was deeply frustrated by this persistent mistreatment, this time by Americans, who did not help the young boy and, later, adolescent assimilate or at least fit into U.S. culture, another
dominating culture that excluded
Alexander’s Harsh, Discriminatory Schoo ling and
other Experiences in Three Countries
and on Two
Alexander has experienced extreme prejudice
in school throughout his life.
Although he attended schools
in three different countries, each country’s school system failed to treat the young, displaced Alexander
fairly and discriminated against him as an outsider.
In Baku, the Muslim
him for his Christian religion. At times he was unable to attend school at all because
of the roving
gangs or police,
who prevented him from traveling
to school in safety. Radicals once shelled
In 1988 and 1989,
once again classmates mistreated him by (inaccurately) targeting him as Muslim because of his dark hair.
students behaved like his former Azerbaijani school mates
in Baku and Russian classmates in Moscow/Georgievsk.
students, he thought, disliked him because he
was a foreigner and spoke with an accent. He struggled
with basic tasks like opening
milk cartons. Although, indifference in U.S. schools
at first prevailed
over outright animosity and prejudice
against Armenians in schools in Azerbaijan. Elementary school teachers ignored
children mistreated him in the classroom.
However, high school
teachers exacerbated his struggles by forcing him into an alternative school, where he met the criminal
and gang-member Michael Martinez. These persistent or repeated
experiences created severe
resentment in school or, more accurately, multiple schools.
Alexander was also the victim
of racism outside
of school. The police in the United States, Alexander
felt, constantly and unjustly
accused him of crimes in the neighborhood. The Aurora County police continued a pattern
of harassment that had begun in Baku by Azerbaijani police and military. Stereotyping persisted among Alexander’s
neighbors in Colorado. A witness
of the crimes of which Alexander
was tried and convicted
labeled him as a Spanish American male, as recorded
in the affidavit for warrantless arrest.
Neighbors and landlords
in the United States
were also racist and cruel, not only in Colorado but in Arizona.
the age of twenty or even eighteen, was thus
betrayed not only by institutions in three countries but by his friend, Michael Martinez.
His traumatic experiences in Azerbaijan, Russia, and even the United
States engendered a fatal hypervigilance, a hypervigilance against enemies in misplaced loyalty
to his close friend, Martinez (Staub
2006, 871-872; Dagirmanjian 2005, 437).
He also lacked
the support of an Armenian community in the United
States. Dagirmanjian extolls the unity of Armenian-American communities in the United
Church, which usually
include and supports Armenian
immigrants. Yet, he also notices
that the 1988-1990 refugees, including the barely ten- year-old Alexander, were not often
welcomed by established Armenian-Americans.
Instead, a young Alexander
was cut off from much needed cultural comfort.
Neither could be find comfort within his nuclear family of his mother, father, and younger brother Roman. His parents, Lilia and Yuriy, divorced once in the United States,
breaking up even a semblance
of a stable household by separating the family.
Once again, Alexander
was arbitrarily moved to another
Altogether, Alexander was betrayed on numerous
levels wherever he sojourned. Government institutions in Azerbaijan SSR, Russia proper,
and various states in the United States failed to protect
him. His Armenian
ethnicity, with its persistent cultural trauma, molded his development, behavior, and his crimes
before he reached
his twentieth birthday.
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American. 2nd ed., New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Identifies waves of immigration to the
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