ON SOME TENDENCIES OF CONTEMPORARY TURKISH HISTORIOGRAPHY
For many decades Turkey has been struggling against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide not only on political but also on academic levels. It should be mentioned that the so-called Turkish official historiography, in its essence, is the same wrench of history, especially when it comes to the Armenian Genocide or the Armenian Issue. The Turkish historiography received the task of representing history in a new way, i.e. its falsification, from the founder of the Turkish Republic Kemal Ataturk and this issue was under his direct control. The assault of the Turkish historiography against the Armeniancy especially stirred up in 1965 and this process has been continuing till our days. Today the issue of the Armenian Genocide is a top priority for the Turkish historiography and in its regard it implements systematic policy.
In the context of all the aforementioned, rather interesting are the articles and interviews of the Turkish historians which defer from the official viewpoint. During discussions which were initiated after 2005 and, especially, after the conclusion of the Armenian-Turkish protocols some objective Turkish historians and analysts began publishing articles and interviews on the issue of the Armenian Genocide and in those articles sometimes you can meet interesting revelations and confessions. Let us also mention that those materials were mainly published in comparatively more free Turkish media. Below, in translation, we present some opinions of the Turkish researchers on the Armenian Genocide which demonstrate the developments in a small segment of the Turkish academic circles.
Taner Akcam (historian) – Halil Mentes, who occupied the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Speaker of the Parliament under the Young Turks, mentioned in one of the letters written from Malta that if they had not exiled the Armenians and Greeks they would not have been able to establish the state. The similar words were said in 1920 in the Turkish parliament by Hassan Fehmin: “Before carrying out the exile we knew that we would be called murderers”, - he said and asked: “Why did we take the risk of being called murderers?” And then he answered to his own question: “We were obliged to do that for the sake of our sacred motherland”.
The Turkish Republic was established also in consequence of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The fame and glory of the founders of the Republic of Turkey is an inseparable part of our national identity. Criticising or accusing them is like accusing yourself and it is very hard. But among the founders of the Republic of Turkey there were people who took part in the 1915 genocide or they knew about it and this is the reason why we have a difficulty while speaking about that.
According to the 1919 official Ottoman numbers about 800 thousand Armenians were killed. It is easy to say – 800 thousand Armenians were killed and it is obvious that the state is responsible for murdering so many people. Let us consider this issue in details: let’s assume 800 thousand people died “of hunger, miserable conditions, unknown reasons” and etc. Well, but in 1916, 1917, 1918 the Ottoman government resettled about 1.5 million Muslims without any problem. How could the state, which resettled 1.5 million Muslims without any problem, not avert death of about 1 million Armenians?
You know, we have an official lie: they say that “the Armenians would have delivered strike from behind and that was why we exiled them from the war regions and resettled them in more secure places so that they could not fight against us”. But it should be mentioned that the Armenians were exiled from all the regions of Anatolia – Ankara, Bursa, Kyutahia, Amasia, Tokat, Samsun, Edirne, Tekirdag. The Armenians were exiled from those vilayets to the deserts of Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, according to the Turkish documents Syria and Iraq were announced war territories. The Armenians were exiled from the centre of Anatolia, from the most secure vialayets, where no incident happened, and sent to the war zone, to the war with the Englishmen. Isn’t it queer?
We are tired of “Let’s leave this issue to the historians” sentence. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our diplomats, without any reason, has become big historians. And after this you say that we should leave this issue for the consideration of the historians? I.e. we will leave it to the historians only when they say what you want. Or the opposite – you don’t let the historians whose viewpoint defers from yours speak. This is entirely political issue and it is necessary for the statesmen of two countries sit and settle it.
Turkey cannot live covering up this crime. This is Turkey’s shame. With this shame Turkey can neither become a member of the European Union nor find its place in the modern world. They would simply not be allowed. Today we call this century the age of apology. Turkey is like a kind of boiler: the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs is the cover which can hardly “cover” Turkey. Now this boiler is going to blow up: it is no more possible to keep Turkey isolated from the external world. The boiler is bursting out from all the places.
Selim Deringil (historian) – They say: “Let the historians consider the events of 1915”, but have they really asked the historians? No, Turkish authorities have historians whom I call “A-team”. When saying “Let the historians consider” they mean those historians.
Those who established the Republic of Turkey were not estimated in thousands. They numbered hundreds who occupied different posts during the exile of the Armenians in 1915. They either knew about those events or were directly involved in them. On the large scale those were the same people. It is said: “Exile, massacres, genocide or whatever it was, were perpetrated by the Young Turks”. Very well, and who were those Young Turks? All the founders of the Republic of Turkey were Young Turks.
Halil Berktai (historian) – The issue of the Turkish state or semi-state stance is rather hard. Everybody knew about the massacres in 1915-1930s. That’s why when we study the historiography of those times we can never see such formulations as “nothing like that happened, this is all lie”. The reason is that the memories of those events were still fresh among the generations and everybody knew what had happened. There were people who were even proud saying “if we did not kill them, they would”. In 1926 in Los Angeles Examiner newspaper interview with Ataturk was published. By that time trial at some members of the Young Turks party was finished. Answering the journalist’s question Mustafa Kemal said: “People, whom we condemn today, are the perpetrators of awful violence and massacres in regard to the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire”.
Ayse Hyur (analyst-essayist) – According to the records made in 1914 there were 2538 churches, 451 monasteries and 2000 schools belonging to the Armenian community. The first thing the Muslims who settled in the Armenian villages and towns after the exile did was turning central and beautiful churches into mosques. The rest were used as storehouses, boiler houses. The representative of the radical nationalist wing in the Turkish parliament Riza Nur in his letter of May 25, 1921 to the commander of the Eastern front Kazim Karabekir wrote: “If we manage to wipe off from the face of the earth the ruins of the city of Ani, it would be a great service for Turkey”. He wrote about the capital city of the Medieval Armenian kingdom. In his memories Karaberkir wrote that he turned down the offer of Riza Nur, because the ruins of Ani occupy territory equal to the walls of Istanbul and it would have been very difficult to carry out such works.
While perpetrating the exile the Young Turks party made both wide people masses and most of the political, administrative and military staff of the Ottoman Empire accomplice. I.e. there was a collectively perpetrated crime. The ideology of the Young Turks has reached out days. Due to that very continuity, which can be called complicity, after about 90 years, it is still impossible to reveal the truth about the 1915 exile of the Armenians (which can be characterized as genocide”.
Another materials of author
- ABOUT THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS OF TURKEY’S ARMENIANCY[12.07.2012]
- ON MANIFESTATIONS OF SELF-ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMENIANS IN TURKEY[29.05.2012]
- THE ISSUE OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE AND MODERN TENDENCIES OF TURKEY’S POLICY[14.05.2012]
- THE STUDY OF THE ISSUE OF ISLAMIZED ARMENIANS IN TURKEY: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS[12.04.2012]
- THE ISSUE OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IN THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT [08.12.2011]