Date of Award

Fall 2006

Project Type


Program or Major

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Alynna Lyon


The events leading up to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 are similar to the events that led to the genocide that occurred in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Economic and political crises plagued both states, international pressures to democratize weighed on both states, and both states were subject to ethnic polarization. This project examines those common factors preceding the Rwandan and Armenian genocides; and looks at elite's perception of a threat to their power because of the existence of those factors. Furthermore, the paper examines the relationship between the perception of a threat to elite power and the subsequent adoption of a genocidal policy. This comparative, most similar systems case study of the Rwandan and Armenian genocides provides a model that suggests a trajectory for the adoption of a genocidal policy. Recognizing precursory factors that are perceived to threaten elites and lead them to adopt a radical policy of genocide may enable the prevention of the most horrific atrocity still afflicting the twenty-first century.