The Armenian ethnoreligious elements in the Western Armenia

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29.09.2005

The Armenian ethnoreligious elements in the Western Armenia

   

Karen Khanlaryan

The Armenians inhabited in Turkey are quite heterogeneous from the standpoint of internal relationships and by the extent of assimilation and represent different characteristic traits.

Armenian patriarchy in Turkey, Archbishop Shnork Kaloustian, in 1980 said the following about provincial Armenians in Jerusalem: “I’ll present you four stratums of provincial Armenians as I have seen them:

  1. Armenians, who consciously and voluntarily became Muslims, have broken off from Armenians and live within Turks. These people are for about one million.
  2. Armenians, who were Islamized three generations ago, and live separately like Kurdish ashirets and don’t get mixed.
  3. Armenians who have gradually and willy-nilly became Muslims but have kept their Armenian spirit and while settled in Costantinapole they changed the word “Islam” in their passports into “ermeni” through the court.
  4. The innate provincial Armenians have remained Armenians in spite of all the difficulties and today constitute the majority of Armenians living in Istanbul”.

Though the situation is considered to have changed since the time when Archbishop Shnork provided this information, however on the ground of this the “Anatolian” Armenians were typologically divided into three ethnic groups.

“Official” Armenians

This type of Armenians lives in different states and settlements within the communities of Armenian Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelic churches. “Official” Armenians have more or less kept the relationships with the community formed in Costantinapole especially in historic Cilicia.

In comparison with the other groups of Armenians there is much information about today’s “official” Armenians. With some exceptions today it is also in inconsolable condition. The article in “The Тimes” newspaper in 1994 was a signal that a new campaign should be launched against the Turkey’s tough pressure on the Christians. “The Times” news mainly referred to the Christians living in Turkey’s Eastern states.

According to the brief encyclopedia “The Armenians in the world” published in 1995, there are for about 10 thousands “official” Armenians.

“Islamized” Armenians

This type mainly consists of small and large tribal groups of Pontian and Hamshenian Armenians Islamized in 17-18 centuries and inhabited in the regions situated from historical Zanik (Samsun) to the Armenian-Georgian boarders, along the coast of the Black See. The “Islamized” type in its comparatively wide circle includes also so called “Kes-kes” and “Haj-laz” groups.

Well-known specialist in the linguistic circles of Harvard and Columbia Universities, Bert Vaux, divides Hamshmenian Armenians into three groups.

  1. Western Hashenian Armenians scattered through Orduum, Trapizon and Rize, Turkish speaking and Islamized.
  2. Eastern Hamshenian Armenians, mainly inhabited in Ardvin, Hamshenian Armenians dialect speaking.
  3. Northern Hamshenian Armenians, inhabited in Georgia and Russia, Hamshenian Armenians dialect speaking, Christians.

The number of the first two types, Islamized and inhabited in Turkey, prevails over the last group inhabited outside Turkey.

“Wikpedia” internet encyclopedia calls the Western group of Hamshency or Hemshinly “Bash-hemshincies” and the Eastern group -“Hopa-hemshincies”.

According to the estimations of a candidate of political science in California University Hovhan Simonyan, there are for about 15-23 thousand Western Hamshenian Armenians inhabited in Reze. Here Simonyan also represents the estimation of Hopa’s (Historical Khopa) Eastern Hamshenian Armenaians-25 thousand.

It means that the obsolete majority of the population inhabited in Khopa is Hamshenian Armenians. This important fact is also confirmed by the authors of “Armeniapedia” internet encyclopedia.

The references to the number of the Hamshenian Armenians inhabited in Turkey are very contradictory.

According to the estimations of Dr. Tesa Hofman: “there are for about 20 thousands Muslim Hamshians whose native land is situated between Trapizon and Erzrum”.

It’s difficult to define more exactly the reasons of underestimating the number of Hamshenian Armenians. Under the circumstances of the lack of exact statistical facts, we think that in the governing circles of Turkey there is a tendency to represent Pontian Armenians as Pontian Greeks, Bas-hamshentcies as Lazes and a part of Eastern Hamshenian Armenians as Georgians, which is of course reasoned by the antagonism against the Armenians.

On the Islamic society’s secularization institute’s web-site, in his electronic letter written in September 16, 2002 an Islamized Armenian says: “there are villages inhabited with Armenian speaking Muslims. According to some estimations there are for about 2 million of them”.

According to a scientific worker in the Goethe University and Turkey’s ex Prime Minister Mesut Yelmaz’s relative, a native Hamshenian Armenian Alie-Alis Alti (Kostanyan): “Today more then one million of his compatriots are in the process of national self-consciousness and awake”.

In his interview Alie Alti’s son, German citizen Deniz Alti, describes the condition of Hamshenian Armenians implying for about 1,5 million Hamshenian Armenians inhabited in Turkey.

Though apostasy is an unwelcome reality for Hamshenian Armenians, but it is proved that their faith in Islam is far from fanaticism inherent to Sunnis. “Hamshenians are not very religious,-explains Hovhan Simonyan during one of his lectures,-they have got a few mosques and very few people pay any attention on them. Hamshenians also use alcoholic drinks”.

There has been a rise of national self consciousness awake among Hamshenian Armenians in Turkey during the last years. In this sense it’s worth mentioning their self-proclaiming appearances and articles in several web-sites and electronic forums.

“Crypto” Armenians

This group has been Islamized under the threat of physical extermination as a result of Armenians’ continuous pogroms and particularly the Armenian genocide in 1915 and lives in separate villages inhabited with Turks and Kurds. This group differs from the above mentioned “Islamized” type by the period and process of Islamizing.

The Armenians inhabited in today’s “Anatolia”, by their transformed ethnical types, remain mysterious and almost unrecognizable. At the same time, in comparison with the other types the study of “Crypto” Armenians must be considered to be the most difficult one.

The facts and evidences came to prove that today “Crypto” Armenians live in many regions of Central and Eastern Turkey, especially in Western and South-Western Armenia.

Starting with Kenan Evren’s military rule and especially during 1990s, Turkish army has destroyed or set on fire many villages in the Eastern regions of Turkey and has displaced the population of about three million.

This mass vandalism couldn’t but affect on Armenians. We don’t know yet the exact estimation of human and material casualties in Armenian villages. In a website on human rights protection it is said: “729 villages (both Kurdish and Christian) were devastated by the security forces”.

We have got too little information to assess the exact number of “Crypto” Armenians.

By the estimation of Tesa Hofman, there are for about 30-40 thousand crypto Armenians. We believe that this number is strongly underestimated.

On the other hand in the documents of the Kurdistan’s exile parliament there is information on overestimating the number of Armenians. According to this information, the number of Armenians and Assyrians inhabited in the territory of “Big Kurdistan” is estimated 10 % of the whole population. If we take into consideration the fact that the total amount of Kurds inhabited in Turkey is about 15 million, than according to the same arguments the estimation of Armenian and Assyrian population should be for about 1.5 million. In its issue in December, 1997 Kurdish “Ozgur politik” web-page also mentions of such a number, stating that there are two million “Kurds” of Syrian and Armenian origin in “the Kurdish territory”.

The existence of 1.5 million Assyrian and Armenian population is not well-grounded and checked, but it deserves serious attention. However taking into consideration the natality of the Armenian population still existing in Turkey, the number of “Crypto” Armenians can be estimated for about several hundred thousands.

During one of his interviews the progressive Turkish intellectual Kemal Yalchin describes today’s “Crypto” Armenians in the following way: “Such families live as Kurd and Turk Muslims, and their children don’t like their native language. Most of the crypto Armenians I have seen are 15-17 years old, and they have been warned by their parents not to speak about it.”

For having a clear idea about the “Crypto” Armenians political mode and orientation, it’s also worth mentioning the other facts concerning to existence of Armenian members in Kurdish organizations.

The Authors of “Grey wolves” research work S. Bram and M. Ulger say that PKK is often represented as a structure consisting of “Armenian slaves”. MeHePe former leader “Alparslan Tyurkesh let out a secret that Abdullah Ocalan was not Kurd, he was Armenian and his real name was Hakob Artinyan”.

Some Turkish sources represent Behchet Canturk, famous in trade circles, as PKK’s person in charge for financial operations and relations with Armenian terrorist groups and stress up that “he was born in Diarbekir, in 1950 from a Kurd father and an Armenian mother”.

The other fact refers to PKK Presidential council’s member Nuriye Kespir’s and its members of central committee Bekir Bakrchyan’s and Musa Haciyev’s Armenian origine first brought to light by “Turkiye” daily in November, 2002.

In the influential “Milliyet” newspaper military emergency state manager Ivnil Erkan has declared that: “In our computers we have recorded 800 PKK members of Armenian origin”. The armored subdivision commander and general Tagman from Bitlis in his interview given to Mass Media asserted that “Every seventh member of PKK is an Armenian. These members of PKK are the heirs of those who stabbed in the back of Osmanian Empire during the First World War”.

The same general Tagman, on the other occasion in 1995, said that during some hard battles given by that time “there were no Kurds. The ones who retreated to the mountains as a result of our subdivisions’ attacks were Armenians”.

From the interviews taken from some “Crypto” Armenians living in Europe at present we find out that some of them worked and struggled in the ranks of PKK and getting disappointed after Ocalan’s capture they decided to return to their country or went to Holland, Germany, etc.

In one of the electronic bulletins of PKK we can read about an Armenian young man Husin Sarichiyek, born in 1970 in Armenian, inhabited in historical village of Saylakkaya and killed during the battle against Turkish army in 1988.

In the website of one of the Turkish leftwing extremists TIKKO organization we come across the name, biography and political-economic articles of Karpis Artinoghlu, born in Amasia in 1946, here is often mentioned the fact of his being Armenian.

In the death-roll of TIKKO organization we come across the biographies of three Armenian young men who worked mainly among Zaza-Alevies and fought in Dersim Mountains.

Armenak Bakrchyan, born in Tigranakert in 1953, killed in Kharberd in 1980; Nubar Yalim, born in Mardin in 1957, killed in Amsterdam in 1982, Manuel Demir, born in the city of Bunyan in Kesarya in 1963, killed in Istanbul in 1988. It is interesting to know that a Turkish song was written to commemorate Manuel Demir’s heroism and feats.

Thus a large number of articles, statements and travel notes give us enough grounds to come to the conclusion that there are different types of Armenians in at least 80-90 Anatolian cities and villages.

Along with typological characteristics it’s not easy for us to decide the final number of Armenian population.

In its issue in 2005, February 17 “Jihadwatch” electronic newspaper says: “There are for about one million Armenians inhabited in Turkey”.

According to Goethe University’s scientific worker Alie-Alis Alti: “there are for about three million Armenians turned into Turks, they want to know about their origin after decades of silence…”.

In the report of the organization in support for needy churches of 1998 we can read the following about Turkey: “To the 20 thousands Baptist Christians must be added four and a half million Christians who live there but hide their identity and faith”.

Thus, we can come to the conclusions that in the geographical areal of our research the number of “Anatolian” “Official” Armenians is insignificant, less then 5.000, the number of “Islamized” Armenians excels the number of one million and reaches 1.300.000 and “Crypto” Armenians are more then 700.000.

In any case, the fact is that there are great numbers of Armenians inhabited in Turkey’s Eastern part, Western and Southern Armenians, Historical Cilicia, as well as in Armenia Minor (Pokr Hayk) and neighbor regions: a transformed ethnic element struggling for self-consciousness and for preserving national identity. “Don’t forget us,-urges a native Sasunian Armen Martirosyan, at present leaving in Mush,- in Vardo and other regions there are many Armenians, who till lately were afraid to speak about their identity but now they declare about it and struggle to remain Armenians”.

In the context of Turkey’s ethno-religious groups the problem of the Armenians inhabited in Turkey or reorganized Armenians need profound analyzing. This huge potential can develop whether spontaneously, become a subject of this or that global or regional political force’s speculation and finally die away or to turn into a national movement or rebirth.


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