964) Comment: M. Serdar Palabiyik ? IN HISTORY, DETAILS MATTER?

In his article, published in the latest issue of the Middle East Quarterly with the title of ‘Armenian Massacres: New Records Undercut Old Blame, Reexamining History’, Edward Erickson says that “In history, details matter” and focuses on a hotly debated but under-researched subject of the Armenian Question. Being a member of an American think-tank, International Research Associates, Erickson examines the role of the Special Organization (Teskilat-i Mahsusa) in the Armenian question in this article, which was mainly referred by those who argue that the events of 1915 was to be considered as a genocide. . .

Prominent historians and authors of the Armenian Diaspora aimed to establish a linkage between the Ottoman government and Armenian deaths by arguing that the Special Organization had been a paramilitary establishment playing a crucial role in the so-called Armenian genocide. For example, Armenian historian Vahakn Dadrian implied that Ottoman Empire was directly responsible for the Armenian massacres since he argued that it was a German artillery soldier serving in the Ottoman army, Captain Stange, that organized these massacres. The article of Erickson shows that this thesis is not in accordance with the historical realities; even archival documents prove quite the contrary.

The article starts with an introductory chapter in which the Ottoman military establishment in Eastern Anatolia during World War I is analyzed. Following this chapter, the author focused on the role of the battalion of Captain Strange in the clashes between the Ottoman and Russian armies at that period. Accordingly, the aim of the Special Organization was not massacring the Armenians but preventing Russian advance in Eastern Anatolia. Within this framework, it tried to disturb rear lines of the Russian army, to flick some revolts in Russian territories by organizing the Muslim community living in Russia, and to cut the logistic connections of the Russian army. The author writes that there is no authentic document that establishes a linkage between the Armenian deaths and Special Organization. The article concludes with an emphasis on the importance of details in historiography and the significance of careful archival study to surface these details from the dusty labyrinths of history.

As a result, the article of Edward Erickson is quite conspicuous because in enlightens a contested issue of the Armenian question. It is quite consistent and convincing since it rests upon archival documentation, unlike many articles written by Armenian academicians. The tables within the article provide the reader with significant information regarding the Ottoman military establishment in Eastern Anatolia. In sum, this article does not only correct a frequently made fault in the Western literature regarding the Armenian question, but also fills up a considerable gap; therefore it can be considered as a worthy contribution to the literature.

29 August 2006


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