731) Armenian Mass Media Role in Composing Social Memory Concerning / Armenian Image Created in Armenian Mass Media

The Role of the Armenian Mass Media in Composing Social Memory Concerning


The article analyzes the Armenian problem from a different perspective. It asks whether societies have memories just like individuals, and if such a social memory exists how it can be modified. Composition of social memory on the Armenian problem and the role of Armenian mass media are specifically explored by the writer in the context of the theoretical discussions on social memory.


Social Memory, Armenia, Armenian Problem, Armenian Mass Media, Armenian Social Memory

The discussion as to whether societies have memories like individuals has today led to the investigation of social memories. Discussions on the issue date back as long as half a century; however, the history of memory formation of societies is as old as the social life of humanity. This deduction arouses questions about storing knowledge in the memories of societies, saving the stored ones, the tools used for taking out this knowledge with a view to pass it down to the coming generations, amnesia, and the likelihood of deleting the present social memory and replacing it with a brand new one. This article focuses on particularly the last of these. There are highly diverse views on the issue of replacing social memory. Paul Connerton, handling it in an analytical method, says in “How Do Societies Remember?”, “Whatever the kind is, to ensure that a certain experience is reasonable, we must connect it to the experience formed by the previous ones.”[1] The whole world witnessed the failure of such an application in the USSR in 1991. The response of the Russian society to the political power trying to produce a new social memory was outstanding. The group refusing to untie itself from the past broke away from this process. Yet, those volunteering for a new future and a new memory were as equally voluntary to demolish the old memory, as they had been to establish it.

Turning to “the Armenian Problem,” it is evident that theoreticians of social memory, working for centuries to place that of Armenian society, reformulated their ideas in the 20th century under the title of the “Armenian Problem.” Towards the end of the 20th century, aided by technological advancements in mass media, they have found a speedy and vast area in which to maneuver, that even they could not have imagined.

I would like to mention two problems of the field in which I specialize: the first is that we should ask right questions in the right order to get the right answers.[2] The other problem that should be underlined is that available materials written in Armenian have not yet undergone scrutiny in Turkey. Therefore, the information in these documents cannot be evaluated.

In this study, ideas that have been adopted in line with the Armenian views in order to develop a prejudice in the readers will be compared with ideas from opposing texts. Moreover, much care is taken to choose ideas for comparison that derive mostly from texts in Armenian.

Due to technological developments of the 20th century, the mass media seem to have gained a function of not only storing, saving or transferring information, but also, potentially, of directing and composing completely new social memories – controversial though the subject may be. In this respect, the ethical values of those using mass media, and if proper to say, their objectives in using this power is of much importance. For example, the image of war in the minds of societies in the past was restricted to the memories and letters of soldiers, the explanations of military sources or the writings of a few writers who had had the opportunity to be in battlefields. Therefore, the discussion that the events belonging to that era may have been misevaluated and distorted is still a neverending matter of importance in our agenda. In his preface to “War and Peace”, Tolstoy makes crucial evaluations on this subject.[3] He states that in each minute following the end of the combat, the statements of the narrators begin to change, as their imaginative powers and feelings began to prevail. In our own day, although we can watch live combats audio-visually through television and internet, the reporter’s way of choosing among, using and presenting the available materials, may be done with the intention of disturbing one of the sides. This problem, rendering discussion on the reliability of the document, usually stems from deliberate attitudes. Even the apparent ‘reality’ of a photograph can be evaluated in different ways, as Özcan Yüksek explains:

Photography changed the way human beings see the world, and many things. This art or means of communication had the power of displaying naked reality. At least it had such persuasiveness. Such a power that would also hide the reality while showing! The reality that is presented to the people who think they see might be a reality whose reality is removed; a piece of the reality, a moment of it with no future or past, for instance.”[4]

These features of photographic texts are frequently exploited by the written texts dealing with the “Armenian Problem.” Very often this is done by presenting events belonging to isolated moments, which are torn away from their ties of the past and future completely. Like the photo-shots used for commercials, episodes effective in storing knowledge in the memories of societies and individuals without questioning are juxtaposed. What should especially be underlined is the discrepancy in the assertion that the written documents are not artistic, but considered realistic. However, this is highly controversial matter.

Austrian author Franz Werfel’s novel Forty Days on Mount Musa is a typical example of this issue. Werfel, 1890-1945, chooses the theme of his novel from Turkish history, and claims to have culled the materials from Syria and Antakya; he says:

This work was framed in Damascus in March 1929. The impetus was the desire for the revelation of the happenings in the country of the dead, the unbelievable fate of a people, and the misery of the perished immigrant children working in a rug factory.”[5]

This extract placed on the back cover of the book gives considerable information to the reader about the content of the book and the attitude of the writer towards the narration. Another claim of the work is that what was told is true. After a 70-year lapse following the first printing, some photos from a private archive are annexed to the end of the novel so as to make it more striking and enhance the reliability of its so-called realistic claims. It has also been filmed in order to reach a wider audience. The fact we must include in our object of discussion here is that Franz Werfel completed his novel in 1933.

To better assess this work, we must first consider how two other authors, who had lived, thought and debated in the same period, but in different places than the Austrian writer Werfel, interpret those days, and also look at how the events lived on Mount Musa in 1915 are handled in an Armenian encyclopedia.

The first example is the short story entitled “Hegnar Fountain,”[6] written in 1935 by a Soviet Armenian author named Mk�rtich Armen (1906-1972).

The topic Mk�rtiç Armen chose for his work is striking. While people in the story with Turkish, Armenian and Greek ethnic backgrounds lead their lives in a harmonious, peaceful and friendly way they witness a tragic end of a forbidden love. In the end of the story it turns out that a young Armenian woman, disguised under the veil worn by Turkish women in those years, betrayed her husband, her husband exploited people’s good will by tapping their superstitious beliefs. The events portrayed in the story take place around the end of the era of Tsardom and the first decade of Socialism. The topic is based on the author’s memories and daily lives of people.

Another example is a story by Ömer Seyfettin titled “Ashab-� Kehf” published in 1918. In the foreword the author stated his aim as follows; “I wrote this story five years ago. I did not set out to come up with a literary work. I just wanted to compare the odd thoughts of our intellectuals with social ideas.”[7] In 1914, �stanbul, being the capital of the Ottoman Empire, was the city where the events taking place in Anatolia were most deeply felt and discussed. Ömer Seyfettin chose as the hero of his story an Armenian youngster from that time and setting. The author views the nationalist ideas of this youngster named Hayk with respect and tolerance and showcases him to the Turkish intellectuals.

The question to pose here is, how could Turkish and Armenian authors, who should logically have shared the impressions that Franz Werfel saw from Austria and depicted, not do so?” Or is there the possibility of a kind of intolerance by Ömer Seyfettin and Mkirtic Armen? The information presented in the Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia can be an answer to this question.[8]

The encyclopedia depicts in Armenian the events in 1915 on Mount Musa. As the target reader audience has changed, the description techniques have changed too. Above all, instead of poor people placed as a visual object in the end of Werfel’s novel, children with weapons in their hands and a young girl with a weapon around her belt stand proudly.

There is further striking information in a text written in Armenian by Arzumanyan. That is the similarity between Gabriel Bagratyan, whom Werfel introduced as an Ottoman army officer on leave, and Tigran Andreasyan – the preacher of the Protestant church in Zeytun who had come to Yo�unoluk a few days before the events on Mount Musa took place.

Arzumanyan’s data state that Tigran Adreasyan was in Zeytun during the insurgency there. He comes to Yo�unoluk a few days before the insurgency on Mount Musa starts, and he paves the way for and participates in the insurgency.

In Werfel’s novel, as in data presented by Arzumanyan, a clergyman named Aram Tomasyan comes to Yo�unoluk, the place where he was born and raised, from Zeytun. Yet, Werfel, who was also a clergyman, does not have Aram unite the people whose religious service he is in and incite them into an insurgency. The author assigns Aram an inactive role, placing a figure from the civilian populace, Gabriel Bagratyan, in his fictitious world. In the web of events Bagratyan, just like Aram, came to his birthplace of Yo�unoluk before the insurgency on Mount Musa started. Bagratyan is described as a member of the richest family in the region. It is written that he went to France with his family at the age of 12, lived far from the Armenians for many years. Now he is 30, he is married to a French woman and has a 12-year-old child. In spite of long years away, this key figure of Bagratyan did not lose his loyalty to the Ottoman Army where he once served and finds himself an insurgent among other insurgents while he waited for his relief from service as part of his civic duty as a citizen.

Werfel, thanks to his key figure of Gabriel Bagratyan, has thus rid readers of all means by which they can question a clergyman like Tigran Andreasyan. Moreover, the author introduces Bagratyan as the person who has been compelled by external factors in inciting the insurgency. Data presented so far and to be presented below lead us to believe that through this novel Werfel had aimed at forming a prejudice in the world against Turkey.

On the other hand, in Arzumanyan’s article it is stated that, in line with views of the Ta�nak Party and after suppressing the inner opposition, six Armenian villages agreed to move to Mount Musa and initiate the insurgency. They engaged in many armed conflicts with the Ottoman Army, inflicted many losses in the Ottoman Army, and returned gun fire to every “Surrender” call by the Ottoman Army.

Arzumanyan describes how Mount Musa was transformed into a military camp by the Armenian insurgents as follows:

“... Isvendia Armenians led by Andreasyan and other leading activists moved at night to Mount Musa with their guns in their hands, food and animals. In a short time this place turned into a military camp. A special military organization was founded and Ye. Yagubyan became the administrator of the organization”[9].

Yet Werfel filled his novel with motives that would compel readers to forget that the event was an insurgency and foregrounded images of Christianity. Through this image Mount Musa is depicted as the symbol of the mountain where Jesus Christ was crucified. Paralleling that, while the big size of Armenians’ eyes is often repeated as a leitmotiv, a weird simile is made by the author. This is the analogy between the form of Jesus Christ’s eyes during crucifixion and the big size of Armenian eyes. Consequently Werfel intended to come up with a story to which no Christian could bear to remain indifferent.

Concerning this dimension of the problem, how Armenian intellectuals have interpreted Christianity in its own history is the aspect that has not been evaluated so far. Let us make a reference to Prof. G.H.Sarkisyan’s study for that:

It must be underlined that the restrictive structure of Christianity, at least its intolerance towards other ideas has made a very negative impact on the development of Armenian Culture. As mentioned before, pre-Christian Armenian culture had reached a very high level and had accumulated many material and non-material cultural values. Christianity spoiled many cultural traditions of the past.”[10]

The problem that must be considered here concerns the author’s / researcher’s approach. It is striking that so far no single author / researcher of non-Armenian ethnic background who has chosen “the Armenian Problem” as a topic to study and supported Armenian view, has directed his / her attention toward Armenian documents written in Armenian or in Armenian script. One of the many important reasons of this is the language problem. Today, as in past, the only way a non-Armenian researcher can reach documents in Armenian is through the help of an Armenian. Two important people from the world of Russian literature are worth mentioning about this topic. One of them is Valeri Bryusov. The famous Russian poet published in 1915 an anthology of Armenian poetry in Russian thanks to financial and informational support from Moscow Armenian Committee. The book was aimed at initiating a reaction among the Russian public against Turkey. In the preface of this anthology there is a survey by Bryusov of Armenian history. Noteworthy in this research is the fact that translations were made by Armenians and information was dictated to Bryusov.[11]

The second example is the contemporary Russian journalist Andrey Bitov. He was transferred to Armenia by his newspaper and assigned to write a paper about Armenia. No paper was written, but one year later Bitov published travel notes titled “Armenian Lessons.”[12] As is the tradition of such notes, the work is in the form of memories. These memories, which are alleged to be true, are translated into Russian and inserted into the text of the book by using montage or footnote techniques.

These two examples help enlighten another fact, namely, together with the political and academic circles in the West, the academic circles worldwide either display a consistent attitude to listen to and perceive the topic only from the Armenian point of view or provide a covert support by ignoring this attitude. However, the ethic of science is not to forgive such an attitude, deliberate or innocent, for ignoring one side.

To evaluate, let us return to the social memory issue. The dictionary meaning of the word “memory” is defined as “the power of storage and recall. The process in which the things, situations and experience leave trace in human memory and accumulate, and the ability to produce these again when necessary.”[13] In this paper, what is meant by the term “social memory” is the common memory of large or small human groups. To fulfill the main function of memory, that is, to bridge the past and present, it has to be remembered. Nevertheless, what individuals and societies remember about the past may drastically change in relation to psychological properties, interest, power of perception, level of education, aspirations, age, and environmental factors and may be misleading. In short, when a group of people who witnessed the same event are required to retell the event, there will be as many different retellings as there are people witnessing the event. The French author Marcel Proust, who is the indispensable reference on memory, relates the memory of little Marcel and other family members about their neighbor Swan in his book called “Remembrance of Things Past”.[14] The well-known result is of course quite colorful, as every member of the family keeps a different concept of Swan that they have created in their minds.

Archeologist Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdo�an has some remarks about the topic:

Thinking about the past is unique to human beings. We can perceive the past as “legendary past” and “scaled (measured) real past” in two different ways. The former one is a flat one in which reality, rumor, and belief get mixed and have no time scale (measure) and depth. From this point of view nothing has to be proven; it is enough to believe in what is told. Thinking about the past is a part of belief system. The opposite of this, examining the past with a concrete time scale (measure) is based on search and inquiry. Everything said has to be proven in a scaled (measured) time dimension and has to be connected with each other….[15]

As can be seen in the Werfel and Bitov examples, a past which has no scientific basis, written in the form of memory and presented as a proof (scientific document) in the materials about the “Armenian Problem,” has the features of a “flat past” and reflects uni-dimensional fiction. Moreover, the literary (artistic) value and guided aspect of these books have to be put on the agenda and presented to the world public opinion.

As a result, when the written, oral, and visual materials about the “Armenian Problem” presented to the world public opinion are examined, it can be argued that a systematic psychological war against Turkey has been carried out. What is aimed at by the Armenian society is to form a new social memory. For this purpose, the Armenian society tries to forget their common past with the Turkish society. Clearly, research on social memory should be included in strategic studies and has to be conducted via an interdisciplinary research and methodological approach. In particular, parallel to recent studies, research and evaluations carried out on social memory, a sharp increase in the number of theoretical studies has been observed. France and other countries like the USA, England, and Russia are leading on this topic. The transfer of the findings of the applied research and theoretical studies in the international arena, to the Turkish scientific circles, will help to facilitate the methodology required to reach a solution.

[1] Paul Connerton, How Do Societies Remember, translated by Alaaddin �enel, (�stanbul: Ayr�nt�, 1994), p. 14.
[2] For detailed information see Yu. M. Lotman, O poetah i o poezii, (Petersburg, 1996).
[3] Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, The War and Peace, translated by Atilla Tokatl�, (Istanbul:Sosyal Publications, 1985), Vol.1.
[4] Özcan Yüksek, The Camera Between The Reality and the Image, Atlas/the Book Of War, May, 2003, p.36.
[5] Franz Werfel, Forty Days in Mount Musa, trans. By Saliha Nazl� Kaya, (�stanbul: Belge Publications, 1997), back cover
[6] Armen Mk�rtich, Hegnar Fountain, (�stanbul: Belge Publications, 1998).
[7] Ömer Seyfettin, The Dairy of an Armanian Young Man, (�stanbul, Malazgirt Publications, 1972), p.9.
[8] M. Arzumanyan, Musa leran herosamart 1914, Haykakan sovetakan hanragitutyun, hator 8, (Yerevan, 1982).
[9] Ibid.
[10] M.G. Nersisiyan, �storia armyanskogo naroda, (Yerevan, 1980), p.89.
[11] Birsen Karaca, , V.Ya. Bryusov kak perevodçik armyanskoy poezii, dissertatsia na soiskanie uçyonoy stepeni kandidata, hauçh�y rukovaditel : Hal�k Guseynoviç Kor-ogl�, (Moscow, 1999) and Birsen Karaca, Almanac of Armenian Literary , Ministry of Culture,2001.
[12] Andrey Bitov, Voskresn�y den, (Moscow, 1980), pp. 265-393
[13] Pars Tu�lac�, Okyanus, Turkish dictionary, (�stanbul, 1995) p. 1.
[14] Proust, Marsel, Time Regained (Swan’s Ways), translated by Roza Hakmen, (�stanbul, YKY, 1999).
[15] Mehmet Özdo�an, “Tarih Öncesi Arkeolojisine Giri�”, Atlas/Arkeo, No. 1, 2002, p.10.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Birsen KARACA*
* Ankara University -
- Review of ARMENIAN STUDIES, Number 6, Volume 2 - 2004

The Armenian Image Created in The Armenian Mass Media

Abstract: The basic aim of most writers on the Armenian problem is to persuade others to think and behave as they themselves do about Armenian culture and history. Their workstyle is thus to present texts that are suitable to their aims, as often as possible, but with different methods. For this purpose they may turn to any kind of mass communication like statues, monuments, radio, TV, newspaper, graphic, maps, movies, photographs, coursebooks in different subjects, encyclopedias, even music and internet.

Because these activities often form the base of psychological operations against Turkey, the issue gains importance from the strategical point of view.

The Armenian image that is dealt with in this paper has many details, which may not easily be recognized at first sight. A detailed examination reveals, however, how Armenian writers, who tell the Armenian Problem to the world from an Armenian point of view, regard Armenian nation. This attitude of the writers shows that they regard these communication tools as easily coded devises to present messages to receivers who are not producers of ideas but acceptors of everything as it is without questioning.

Keywords: Armenian, Image, Mass Media, Communication, Culture


Image, in essence, is the envisaging of a person, object or appearance in our minds. The image becomes visible in our minds with the help of reminiscence and connotations.

Reminiscence and connotations are acts, which vary according to some factors, such as the background experiences of individuals and societies, their psychological structure, cultural origins, geography and even climate conditions in which they live. Consequently, for different individuals and societies, the same word, symbol, or image can take on very different connotations. When text writers[1] are trying to form new images suitable for their aims, they take into consideration this special quality of the memories of the focus individuals and societies. Advertisement texts are very appropriate examples to explore this approach. A writer can sometimes destroy traditional thoughts with the help of images he had constructed, he gives new meanings to old symbols or he may be striving to change the meaning of the symbol completely. Consider a new image created through cartoons: A harmful rodent mouse... the text writers were so successful when creating a particularly famous cartoon character, that it has become acceptable to bring mice into our houses as pets.

In this article, the Armenian writers who have been writing about ‘The Armenian Issue’ will be evaluated in this categorization as writers trying to give new meanings to traditional and original symbols and trying to change certain realities. The reason why the texts about the ‘The Armenian Issue’ have been chosen as an example is that in those examples, the writers’ attitudes can be seen to be supporting the Armenian view. These writers seem to be trying to make the Armenian society forget 600 years of common Turkish-Armenian historical background and instead drive them away from the Turkish culture.

What is ‘communication’? Emre Becer, while analyzing the relation between graphic art and communication, handles this subject describes communication as: ‘a connection of the senses, thoughts, behaviors and information between two individuals or a group ofindividuals/ mass who are named as sender and receiver.’[2] John Fiske, pictures a large-scale panorama and defines ‘communication’ as a face to face talk, television, publications, literary criticism, facial expressions, hair styles and so on.[3] In this sense, a sculpture, a painting, a map, a monument, a novel or a daily newspaper that we read every day, a TV series that we are addicted to or we don’t like, commercials or the perfume we wear, or every text which is directed towards our personal and social life, should be described as a means of communication.

A text writer’s language that reaches a defined address with different methods or aims is the subject of Stylistics, which is defined as ‘the knowledge of the style in a text or the knowledge about the art of using language’ In a research about mass media, the language instrument is a research subject that should not be considered secondary, because the style that the writer used in his or her text is key to determining the writer’s aim towards the target individual or mass. This aim can be sometimes in forms of being attractive or antipathetic to the receiver, or it can be to encourage or terrorize the target audience.

From this point of view, the texts of Armenian writers who claim that their works are literary, have the same characteristic features with their styles and always try to be on the agenda with ‘The Armenian issue’. These writers’ common aim is to try to convince others to think and behave as they do about the Armenian issue and history. Their workstyle is therefore to present texts that are suitable to their aims as often as possible, though with different methods. In order to present these texts they use various kinds of mass communication like statues, monuments, radio, TV, newspaper, graphics, maps, movies, photographs, coursebooks in different subjects, encyclopedias, even music and the internet. However we should also make clear that their most effective method is face-to-face communication with individuals.

While this may all appear normal activity, these actions in fact construct the backbone of the psychological operations of the Armenians against Turkey. Of course, this reality is outside my area of expertise that is ‘literature’; this reality should be discussed on a strategical basis.

It is very natural that the writer’s attitude be shaped by the text that is chosen parallel to the target audience and surely the text is completely about ‘the Armenian Issue’. Consequently, from a literary point of view, Armenian characters always depend on the writers’ political view and if the writer approves of the character, the character can be involved in a literary work. On the other hand, the same writers expend great efforts to show Turkish characters and everything related to Turks as ‘defective’. If the writer succeeds at this kind of writing style, the second step is to exaggerate this defectiveness in their writings.

For me the distinctive common feature of these texts is that the writers do not reflect the outcome of their one-to-one communication with Turkish people or Turkish culture, but their own personal cognitive conceptions. What is more interesting is that, after the product is released, both the writer and the target audience perceive and accept this kind of fiction as a reality.

When these texts are analyzed from a historical perspective, it can be realized that the Armenian writers are trying to break off cultural connections between the Armenian nation and Turkish people, as they did with the Persians, Arabs and Byzantines. In this procedure, the Ottoman Empire is reflected and symbolized as being ‘absolute bad’, on the other hand the Armenian nation is symbolized as in the condition of ‘misery’ and their personal rights are demoted to the level of slavery. We can formulate the common attitude of the text writers in situations like this where the Armenian public was chosen as the target audience: for the past to vindicate the Ottoman Armenians who colloborated with the countries which were the enemies of the Ottoman government and thus eradicate their guilt complex. Today, this ideal serves the idea that Turkey should have the image as a common enemy and the Armenians should come together under the light of this ideal. In this way, they try to keep the Armenian nation away from widespread cultural corruption all over the world.

The Armenian society, which will prevail as a consequence of this effort like a can of mixed food, anyway it’s like a can of mixed food in its present state, is the subject of another study on which different fields of study should come together and analyze this society.

In order to answer the question of why the Turkish nation was chosen for the ‘enemy’ image, first of all, the source of physical and moral supports given to the multi-purpose and multi-headed chain of studies carried out under the heading of the ‘Armenian Issue’ should be analyzed.

Let's start with some concrete examples about the matter and analyze the information given to Armenian children on page 59 of the 7th grade coursebook ‘Armenian History’ prepared by the editor V. Barhudaryan:

‘The Christian people together with the Armenians who were under the yoke of Turks were admitted as Reaya - the citizens who don't have any rights. They were deprived of all kinds of their fundamental rights; safety of lives and property. In the conditions of anarchy ruling the country, the Armenian peasant would one day lose everything that they had obtained working for years under difficult conditions.’[4]

In the coursebooks of the Ministry of National Education and encyplopedias, we can reach the information collected as a result of the research done by Turkish historians regarding the rights and responsibilities of Muslim or Non-Muslim Reaya during the historical period in which the Ottoman Empire continued its existence. At this point, let's mention a book ‘The Non-Muslims Under the Ruling of Ottomans’[5] written by Prof. Dr. Yavuz ERCAN. In this book, in the process starting from the foundation of the Ottoman Empire until the Tanzimat Period (when administrative and social reforms were made), the social, economic and juridical status of the Non-Muslims under Ottoman Rule were analyzed. In light of the information given in this study, we can easily see that the Ottoman State Institution is in the nature of contradicting the claim of Barhudaryan and his colleagues not only regarding the Armenians but also the other Non-Muslim societies. Moreover, at first not only Non-Muslim farmers but also Muslim farmers were ‘Reaya’.

The deliberately false and incomplete information that should be underlined here is the fact that Barhudaryan and his team concealed the truth about the terrorist actions done in the Ottoman Empire, which was shown to the Armenian students as a threat against the safety of Armenian lives and properties. These acts were performed by Armenian terrorists. Anyone concerned with the matter can find further information and documents about the terrorist actions of the Armenians in Anatolia in the book written by Hüseyin Naz�m Pasha in two volumes: ‘The History of the Armenian Events’ [6]

The third point to which we must draw attention, is related with the writing style of Barhudaryan and his team. The style suggests that the Armenian historians, scientists and artists have not yet reached a level of maturity of argument and lack the ethical values to have an argument in their own platform.

Another piece of information that Armenian sources are trying to clear from the minds of Armenian society is about the prestigious position named as ‘milleti sad�ka’ meaning ‘the faithful citizen of the nation’, extended by the Ottoman government to the Armenian citizens. In order to prove this reality it is enough to search about the Armenian citizens who worked in the Ottoman Palace.

About this matter, in the Armenian literary works there has been an interesting paradox. When the success of the Armenian citizens working in the Ottoman Palace was evaluated, the material and moral supports of the Ottoman Empire were always ignored and even annihilated or ulterior motives were looked for. A very distinctive example, about Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror's contributions for moving the Armenian Patriarchate to �stanbul and his support to strengthen it, was described in the ‘Armenian-Soviet Encylopedia’ as:

‘In order to protect and take apart the faithful Armenian citizens living on the Ottoman ruling lands, from the effects of Echmiadzin who had Persian originated political ideals, it was built in 1461 with the decree of Sultan Muhammed the Conqueror.’[7]

What is interesting at this point is that, even after a period of several centuries, while the Armenian Church is still under the authority of Echmiadzin, the author estimates that the aim of the foundation of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate is to break the Armenian people off from the Edjmiazin Church.


In line with these, there is still another imagery that has always remained in the background in articles on the Armenian community and that has always been neglected in evaluations made so far: This is the Armenian imagery aimed to appear in the minds of people all over the world. This imagery mentioned above creates a grotesque picture full of contradictions and complexities in the recipient’s mind.

I would like to start with a current example. This example is related to Armenian ancient history. Until a short time ago, Armenian historians were trying to overwrite their own names by wiping the names of the Haldis, the founders of the Urartu state, off the pages of history. They were so persistent on imprinting this idea on the minds of people in the world that world public opinion without hesitation (!?) accepted that Armenians were the real founders of the Urartu State.

Today, this period of history seems to have been thrown into an unknown time period until it is brought to daylight by the scientific authorities. A short while ago, Nikolai Harutyunian, a member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, put forth the following thesis: ‘Those who say that Armenians succeeded the Urartus are erring … They were here before the Urartus. Those who arrived later were the Urartus.’ [8]

Imagery can be studied under two categories: visual and mental. Visual images can be formed through photographs, pictures, statues and so on. Mental images can be created by way of linguistic elements. Professor Gursel Aytac, known for his valuable studies in the field of literature, discusses the terms of direct and indirect images by citing Bernhard Sowinski’s views on this issue. According to Sowinski:‘There is direct imagery when the author concretizes what is visible to the eye through language without using imaginary expressions.’ [9]

In the same study, what is meant by the term indirect images is the images that are created through the use of unusual methods of expressions such as personifications, similes and metaphors. Those images directly related to our study totally or partially connote or symbolize the implied meaning.[10]

Taking all this information into consideration, we can go back to the Armenian images created by the means of Armenian mass media.

According to data in the Armenian sources, from which I have made several extractions for my studies, Armenians adopted the written language in the 5th century when Mesrop Mashtot formulated the Armenian alphabet. Thus, Mesrop Mashtot becomes a symbol of the head teacher, marking the starting point of the introduction of the Armenian language to the written form. However there are some points unclear and open to debate about this information.

First of all, we cannot see Mesrop Mashtot’s name in the emergence of the symbols of the Agvan alphabet that was used by the Alban people in the Caucasus from the 5th century to the 9th century and whose symbols are the same as those of the Armenian alphabet. Likewise, there is no mention that there is a similarity between the written form of the Agvan language and the Armenian language. However, in the Armenian archives, there are documents showing the relationship between the Agvan language and the Armenian language.[11] The question is whether Mesrop Mashtot knew the Agvan alphabet before formulating the Armenian alphabet.

Second question: Departing from the assumption that the information in the Armenian sources is true, how come Mesrop Mashtot, as an ordinary clergyman, succeeded in making the whole Armenian people, who were then divided into two as the eastern and western peoples under the rule of Persians and Byzantines, adopt this alphabet under the circumstances of those times?

A third question evolves around the literary and philosophical articles that have been translated into Armenian immediately after the introduction of a written form of the Armenian language. How can a language that has never had an alphabet other than the one that is used today, that has never produced any original written literature and philosophy, and that still has no written original literature and philosophy, be ready for the translation of literary and philosophical articles right after its adoption of the written form? Here is an example: Russian philosophers are of the opinion that translations made under the current circumstances are far from able to transfer German philosophy thoroughly into Russian due to linguistic differences. The question becomes far more striking when we consider the depth of philosophy in the Russian literature, the eminent place that Russian literature holds in the world literature and the fact that the Russian language covers more than 300,000 words. In light of these facts, what is the comparability of the Armenian language that has recently adopted the written form to the classical Greek language, which has been the main source of translations?

On a platform where such questions are on the agenda, I am of the opinion that it would be equally interesting to hear the thoughts of the Greek philologists.

Now let’s deal with another aspect of the topic, the images that are aimed to be formed in favor of the Armenian folk and the peoples of the world, disregarding the Turkish readers and Turkish people.

Our example will be the state and country imagery. For this reason, let’s recall the particular role that was assigned during World War I to a number of Armenians of Ottoman citizenship. It is enough just to look at the history books published with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Science of the Republic of Armenia to learn the number of Ottoman Armenians fighting against Ottomans on the Russian, French and British fronts. In such a course book prepared for 9th and 10th grade Armenian students by the editor G. A. Avetisian, it is said that more than 50 thousand Armenians served the American, British and French armies. Still more important than this, the publishers of the book make such judgments that could put all Ottoman Armenians under suspicion: ‘The very thought of saving the country from the hands of Turks was good enough to excite all the Armenian people. To this aim, there were many Armenians ready to join volunteer troops not only in Russia but also abroad – in Egypt, France, Cyprus and the USA.’ [12]

In this extract, there are two highly important points to be underlined: 1) The country in question is the Ottoman Empire and it is clearly shown not only in the Turkish history but also in the world history who the founders of the Ottoman Empire were. 2) The majority of the founders of these volunteer troops were the citizens of the Ottoman Empire.

Going through the pages of history, we come across the following information relevant to this subject: The Volunteer Armenian Troops were made up of the Armenian gangs taking up arms against the Ottoman Empire. Russia backs the Armenian volunteers in the beginning to realize her aim of reaching the Mediterranean. However, upon realizing that they had begun to constitute a threat to Russia, it dispelled those gangs in 1915 in order to prevent their activities in Russia. Nevertheless, in Armenian documents, the activities of the Armenian volunteers within the Ottoman borders are said to have continued until 1918.

The information that was intentionally hidden from the Armenian youth was that the Armenian folk were only one of the numerous ethnic minorities constituting the Ottoman Empire; and this very group made up of Ottoman citizens was working for the benefit of the states that were at war against the Ottoman Empire.


Another dimension of the matter is that there are efforts to make people who are not related to the topic accept certain ideas and work actively in favor of the Armenian Issue. The group that organizes such efforts foresees the road to success in the assistance provided by the third-party countries. To receive this assistance, they picture the Armenians as a community who has sacrificed themselves for the sake of the Christian world and they most frequently present articles on this issue to the Armenian people and the world through different media. This is so significantly done that you can notice it in an article that is totally irrelevant to the topic. For instance: In the foreword section of the book ‘Armenian On Your Own,’ we all of a sudden come across this point of view in the article titled ‘The Importance of the Armenian Language and the Goal of Learning Armenian’[13] where the history of the Armenian Language is being presented. There are in addition such novels as Franz Werfel’s ‘40 Days on Mount Moses,’ which aims to create the notion that Armenians were the people sacrificed for the sake of Christians.

In documents prepared in the direction of this goal, it is possible to feel the effort to keep the western public opinion under continuous psychological pressure. In those documents, Armenians are presented as the cheated community. The western states are blamed in this way. We can formulate the basic thought that supports the accusation in this way: The western countries, just like the Roman Empire once did, did not fulfill the promises given to the Armenian folk, who have helped a great deal to accelerate the disintegration process of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. We can take as an example of this argument Fridtjof Nansen’s German work, ‘The Cheated Folk’.[14]

At this point, I would like to deal with some data that require this issue be discussed from a different perspective. During the 80th Anniversary of the Declaration of the Turkish Republic, held in the Ankara University Faculty of Language, History and Geography on October 22-23, 2003, important data were presented in the Symposium of Studies on Western Languages and Literature giving support to my studies. In one of these presentations, the Russian poet Pushkin’s travels to Erzurum during the Turkish-Russian War between 1828-29 were discussed.[15] The information worthwhile for my study was that Pushkin’s escort was an Armenian. The second presentation was about the book written by the Japanese author Ienaga Toyokichi’s about a ten-month visit to Anatolia at the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th centuries.[16] The striking point here was that the escort to the Japanese writer was also an Armenian. The negative Turkish image created through those books was common to both of these writers. We derive the third fact that supports the first two from the interview ‘The Armenian Dream and Talks from the Front,’ which I have translated from Russian to be used in my study ‘Means of Mass Media and the Paradoxes Created in Documents on the Armenian Problem.’[17] In this interview, an Armenian escorts the Russian journalist, F. Sibirski, during his journey in Anatolia in 1916. In short, we can come to the point that the Turkish image created in the works of those foreign travelers/writers with Armenian escorts is worth studying.


We must also consider the use of religion as a pressure tool on third parties. For this aim, the Armenian Christian is represented to the public as the first society to accept Christianity. However, while creating this image, one should keep in mind that at those times Armenians were not a free society and they could not be Christians unless the Roman Emperor Ist Constantin had accepted Christianity as the official religion of the Empire—a subject I mentioned in my paper ‘One of the three taboos in Armenian Culture: Armenian Language’.[18]

We can answer the question why and under what conditions the Armenians accept Christianity as their official religion by looking at a quotation from an Armenian man of letters, V.S Nalbadyan:

‘When Armenian seigneurs accepted Christianity in 301, as we have mentioned before, they put a lot of faith in Christianity. The great King Tiridat, as well as using Christianity in order to strengthen his political power, calculated that sharing the same religion with the Roman Empire would enable him to gain a strong ally in the war against the Persian tyrant. However the events of the IVth and Vth centuries showed that his hopes were in vain.’[19]

The information in this paper, which says that the Armenians accepted Christianity in order to be approved as a state, contradicts with the image of a nation that has sacrificed itself to Christianity.


Before reaching a conclusion, I have to mention the symbols that take the Armenian nation as their target. It is strange that the Armenians remain silent to these data targeting them.

A disobedient nation presented with uprising images: The most common information about Armenians in history books is on the Armenians rebellions that started in the Vth Century. It would be possible to compile a full book entitled ‘A History of Armenian Uprisings’ if the headlines of these riots were to be collected. When you look at the history of these uprisings, one can conclude that the Armenians played a major role in the collapse of all the governments that have governed them in Anatolia. In parallel to this, one of the characteristics of these texts is that the mere fact of having the riot is accepted as a success without considering its outcome. Recall the reward that the Armenian groups, who supported the Roman Army by rioting against the Persian Army under which the Armenians were the subjects, received after the Persian-Roman War ended with the treaty in 387. This ‘reward’ was in the form of the annihilation of the political existence of the Armenians within the boundaries of the Roman Empire since they found them dangerous. The writers that emphasize the disobedient Armenian image still can not solve the mystery (!?) of why Rome, which owed its success to those Armenian rioters, chose to end the political existence of the Armenians within its boundaries.

The vindictive enemy image that has been used by the Armenian terrorists and personalize to all Armenian nation. The most attractive example that can be given on this subject is the terrorist organization ASALA’s use of the Internet. From Armenians.com numerous links dealing this subject can be reached. On these sites as well as text pages, visual documents are can be seen.[20] However this article does not aim to consider the publishing of terrorist organizations because those groups announce themselves as terrorist organizations without any consultation to western world, and try to gain sympathy through these pecularities. What is worthwhile and does require research are the works of Armenian intellectuals and western humanists, known for their care for human rights, but who nonetheless ignore these activities.

I would like to give another example from the world of literature: the craziness image emphasized by William Saroyan in his works. Here is a quotation from the writer’s diary, which has been published:

‘When I observe the others, I mean the others’ children, I think of my own children and myself as being the fourth child of Armenak Saroyan and Takuhi Saroyan. The others’ children are wise, well behaved, skillful, efficient, and know what to do, but my nation’s children’s ability to bewilder surprises me. The other children know who they are, what are they doing in this world and are fairly comfortable in what they are doing. However, this is a great struggle for us Armenians from the very beginning.

Finally I decide that all of are lunatics, but not as crazy as those who should be put in a lunatic asylum. We know how to suppress our anger before society or the medical authorities come on to us. Only a few of us are not crazy. I am saying this in the meaning that it is more or less always like that; I mean do not think that past is better than today. We can find flaws in everything. We know that we live in a corrupt world, but even after we accept this reality we do not stop complaining; moreover we sometimes get furious about it. When I think about any branch of a family I cannot find any who is mild, ordinary, serious, amenable, ardent, respectful, keen, knows what to do, in short I can’t find any family which has the qualifications of a normal family.’[21]

In this quotation, Saroyan’s pen draws a discordant man image that has been dealt with in the Armenian literature quite often, and very successfully. It is strange, but this discordant man image, as well as the craziness image, is presented as one of the distinguished qualifications of the Armenian nation as if that makes them superior to other nations.


Finally, there are two important points that should be highlighted about the image that is created in the Armenian mass media. First of all, when it is generally considered, it can be regarded as a great success that none of these texts has received any opposition from the Armenian reader. This non-reactive behavior seems to support John Berger’s argument in his book ‘Ways of Seeing’: ‘What we believe and what we think affects what we see’.[22] The famous art critic explained his ideas by mentioning, ‘In medieval times when the people believed that hell really existed, fire, definitely, had a very different meaning than it has today.’[23] Now let’s think about the events from the other way round and try to imagine what would have happened if those Armenian Volunteer Groups, which have been operating since 1991 and using their Armenian National Status as a political existence, had performed the same actions that the same Armenians did between 1800-1900 inside the Ottoman Empire’s boundaries, and think about what would the reactions of the target countries would be.

About the second point that should be highlighted; Michel Foucault, in his book ‘Words and Things’[24] underlines important details that seemed to be lost in texts. Foucault, whom we know as a cultural and science historian as well as a philosopher, explains some important details of Velasquez’s painting ‘Lady-in-waiting’ which cannot be seen by inexperienced eyes. As a result we understand that this painting is not composed of only the images that have been painted up front.

The Armenian Image analyzed in the painting of the ‘Armenian Problem’, is just like the unnoticed details mentioned above. This detail reveals how the Armenian writers who express the Armenian Problem to the world with an Armenian point of view, actually regard the Armenian nation. These writers’ attitudes show that they regard the receiver not as a producer of ideas but as an acceptor of ideas without questioning.

Of course it is possible to broaden the list, which has been created and presented by the Armenian mass media to keep the Armenian problem on the agenda. These images at the same time provide data for researchers about the individual and communal habits of the Armenian Nation.

In recent years, extensive research on the topic of communal memory and cultural analysis by western universities do not elude observation. This can be thought of as handing in the high technology to capable hands in the social sciences. Finally: the experience on the ‘Armenian Problem’ should be regarded for the Turkish Scientific World as cognitive contributions to shape the arguments on such subjects.

[1] In this study, the term ‘text writers’ refers to the creators of the written, oral, and visual texts.
[2] Emre Becer, �leti�im ve Grafik Tasar�m�, (Ankara: Dost, 2002), p 11.
[3] John Fiske, �leti�im Çal��malar�na Giri�, çev: Süleyman �rvan, (Ankara: Ark, 1996), p.15.
[4] Hayots patmutyun, Hanrakrtakan dprotsi 7-rd dasarani dasagirk, Hmbagrutyam. Prof. V.Barhudaryani, ‘Luys’, (Yerevan, 1999), ec. 59.
[5] Yavuz Ercan, Osmanl� Yönetiminde Gayrimüslimler, (Ankara: Turhan Kitapevi, 2001).
[6] Refer to Hüseyin Naz�m Pa�a, Ermeni Olaylar� Tarihi, (Ankara: Ba�bakanl�k Devlet Ar�ivleri Genel Müdürlü�ü Osmanl� Ar�ivi Daire Ba�kanl���, 1994).
[7] Patriarkutyun hayots turkio. Kohstandnupolisi hayots patriarkutyun, haykakan sovetakan hanragitaran, hator 9, Yerevan, 1983.
[8] Agos, December 5, 2003.
[9] Gürsel Aytaç, Genel Edebiyat Bilimi, (�stanbul: Papirüs, 1999), p. 56.
[10] Gürsel Aytaç, Genel Edebiyat Bilimi, (�stanbul: Papirüs, 1999), p. 56.
[11] Yaz�kozhahie, Bo�laya russkaya entsiklopediya, (Moscow, 1998).
[12] Agayan, Ts.P., i drugie, �storiya armyanskogo naroda (1900-1983), ‘Luys’, (Yerevan, 1985), p. 32.
[13] Parnasyan, N.A. i Manukyan, J.K, samouçitel Armyanskogo yaz�ka, Luys, (Yerevan, 1990), p.11.
[14] Nansen, Fridtjof, Betrogenes Volk, F.A.Brockhaus, (Leipzig, 1928). For his help about this reference I would like to thank Assist. Prof. Dr. Osman TOKLU, the teaching staff of the University of Ankara, the Faculty of Language, History and Geography.
[15] Prof. Dr. Altan Aykut, Pushkin’s work named ‘A trip to Erzurum’, Statement, The Research Symposium of East-West Languages and Literatures, the University of Ankara, the Faculty of Language, History and Geography, October 22-23, 2003.
[16] Dr. Hüseyin Can Erkin, ‘The Turkish Image in Enlightenment Era Japanese Literature’, Statement, The Research Symposium of East-West Languages and Literatures, the University of Ankara, the Faculty of Language, History and Geography, October 22-23, 2003.
[17] Birsen Karaca, ‘Kitle �leti�im Araçlar� ve ‘Ermeni Sorunu’nu Konu Alan Metinlerde Yarat�lan Paradokslar’, See �dris Bal ve Mustafa Çufal�, Dünden Bugüne Türk Ermeni �li�kileri, (Ankara: Nobel, 2003), pp. 425—432.
[18] Birsen Karaca, ‘Ermeni Kültüründe Üç Tabudan Birisi: Ermeni Dili’, Ermeni Ara�t�rmalar� I. Türkiye Kongresi Bildirileri, Vol. 3, (Ankara: ASAM—Ermeni Ara�t�rmalar� Enstitüsü Yay�n�, 2003), pp. 137—142.
[19] Nalbandyan, V.S. i drugiye, Armyanskaya literatura, (Moscow: 1976), p. 9.
[20] For ASALA’s terrorist deeds against Turkish diplomats see Bilal SIMSIR, retired ambassador, ‘Our Martyr Diplomats (1973-1994)’ two volumes, Bilgi Yayinevi, Ankara, 2000.
[21] W. Saroyan, Paris-Fresno Güncesi 1967-68, (�stanbul: Aras, 2001), p. 57.
[22] John Berger, Görme Biçimleri, (�stanbul: Metis, 1999), p. 8.
[23] John Berger, Görme Biçimleri, (�stanbul: Metis, 1999), p. 8.
[24] Marsel Foucault, Kelimeler ve �eyler, (�stanbul: �mge, 2001).

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Birsen KARACA*
* Ankara University -
- Review of ARMENIAN STUDIES, Number 7-8, Volume 2 - 2005


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