ON MANIFESTATIONS OF SELF-ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMENIANS IN TURKEY
Expert at the Center for the Armenian Studies, “Noravank” Foundation; Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, YSU, Candidate of Science (Philology), Associate Professor
Over the recent years new processes, which has been developing in rather interesting way, can be observed among the Armenians in Turkey who has appeared in rather difficult situation. It should be mentioned that the ongoing ideological and political struggle in Turkey provides ethnic and religious minorities with some restricted possibilities and besides the rise of the self-consciousness can be observed among the minorities. All of this brings to the situation when new and remarkable phenomena of self-organization among the Armenians in Turkey are coming forward. It is remarkable that the self-organization tendencies can be observed among both Christian and converted, as well as re-converted Armenians. As for the latter the issue has several layers and we can state that individual attempts to reevaluate backgrounds today tend to obtain more institutional shape.
The associations of fellow countrymen, which have been formed spontaneously, sometimes even on sufferance of the Turkish authorities, can be considered as manifestations of such self-organization. It is known that the associations of fellow countrymen are rather widespread phenomenon in Armenia and Diaspora, but according to the members of Istanbul community such associations are to some extent novelty for them1. The process, which was initiated several years ago, today has been developing and one may state that associations of fellow countrymen have been acquiring more serious role among the Armenians in Turkey. Thus, several years ago “Association of Musa Dagh”, then “Association of Armenians of Malatya” were established. These organizations include Christian Armenians, i.e. the members of the so-called official Armenian community.
Establishment of “Sasun Association” can be considered as rather remarkable in the context of formation of the associations of fellow countrymen as it includes both Christian and many converted as well as re-converted Armenians. This is probably the first non-governmental organization including converted Armenians. Let us also mention that this organization and its president Aziz Dagcin came forward with several rather brave public statements and steps in the direction of protection of the Armenian historical and cultural heritage in Sasun and neighboring districts.
The association of Sasun fellow countrymen was followed by the “Union of Armenians from Dersim” headed by the reconverted Armenian Mihran Prkich Gultekin. This association was broadly referred to by the Turkish media, Armenian media and Armenian media in Istanbul. The Armenians from Dersim considered issues of preservation of the Armenian historical and cultural heritage crucial either, but they state more resolutely that their association includes forcedly Islamized Armenians and Armenians who converted to Alevism. It should also be underlined that particularly among the Armenians from Dersim most of the cases of reclaiming their Armenian identity and voicing it has been registered and those cases are broadly covered by the Turkish and international media. Let us mention that the associations which include Christian Armenians are also interested in the issues of the Islamized Armenians and, e.g. “Association of the Armenians of Malatya” has recently stated that alongside with many other events they were preparing to carry out comprehensive work about the Islamized Armenians2.
Recently another association joined the rank of the Armenian associations of fellow countrymen in Turkey – the first association of Hamshenis with rather expressive name “HADIG” (Armenian for “Grain”) was established. By the way the name caused bewilderment of the appropriate Turkish services and the founders presented it as a Turkish acronym. The association includes both the Hamshenis who accept their ethnic Armenian origin and those who outwardly reject it. The most prominent activists of the association of the Hamshenis are the founder of Hamsheni “Vova” musical band Hikmet Akcicek and lawyer Kyamil Muti. The association includes Hamshenis from Istanbul, Hamshen, Ardvin, and Ankara3. According to the founders the goal of the establishment of the association is preservation of Hamsheni culture and language in order not to allow “Hamsheni language and culture to disappear gradually alongside the process of urbanization” 4. It is rather remarkable that the Hamsheni Armenians by themselves consider establishment of the association behindhand, because other ethnic groups living in the Black Sea region, e.g. Muslim Georgians (Gyurjyu), Lazes have had such organizations for quite a long time. Like other associations of fellow countrymen Hamshenis also mainly emphasize preservation of the language and culture, but, nevertheless, they cannot avoid identity and history issues. If this association becomes ground for studying Hamsheni dialect, culture, this will surely bring to the discussion of the issue of the ethnic origin of the Hamshenis. On this matter one of the founders of the association Kyamil Muti says: “We should firstly save my disappearing culture and language in order to study the history” 5. It is not a secret that the Hamshenis in Turkey, being under the pressure of state machinery and propaganda, mostly avoid speaking about and accepting openly their Armenian origin. Moreover, alongside with the Hamshenis who accept their Armenian or “Hamsheni” origin there are people who state that they are Turks. But they all regard Hamsheni culture and dialect the same way and do their best to preserve them. “HADIG” association of fellow countrymen, which states among its primary goals preservation of Hamsheni culture and language, can unite all the aforementioned groups and in this aspect, formation of such an association can really be considered as serious progress. It should also be mentioned that the bearers of the Hamsheni culture and language, getting acquainted with separate elements of the Armenian culture and Armenian language, will surely face the issue of their ethnic origin and the answer will be much clearer for them in this case.
We think that different ethnic groups doomed to assimilation in consequence of ethnic policy carried out by Turkey tend to oppose, sometimes even subconsciously, Turkish pressure by establishing such associations. It can be supposed that associations of fellow countrymen created by different groups of the Armenians pursue goals on reclaiming or grasping at their national identity by means of reviving issues connected with the preservation of language, historical and cultural heritage. Such manifestations of self-organization among the Armenians in Turkey are inspiring and they may serve as a ground for preserving national values in the “official” community and for reclaiming ethnic identity among the assimilated Armenians.
1«Կը լսէ՞ք, մենք հոս ենք…», (“Will you listen to us, we are here...”), Agos, 14, 10, 2011:
2«Կը լսէ՞ք, մենք հոս ենք…», (“Will you listen to us, we are here...”), Agos, 14, 10, 2011:
3HADIG Hemşin kültürünü koruyacak, Agos, 14, 10, 2011.
4Interview of the founders of HADIG to “Akounq” (interviewer Meline Anumyan), “Dzayn Hamshenakan”, Yerevan, #11-12, 2011
Another materials of author
- ABOUT THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS OF TURKEY’S ARMENIANCY[12.07.2012]
- 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]
- ON SOME TENDENCIES OF CONTEMPORARY TURKISH HISTORIOGRAPHY[17.11.2011]