16 December 2006

1288) The Turkish-Armenian Relationship In National Struggle Novels

Assoc. Prof Dr. Esat CAN
Trakya University Faculty of Science and Letter / Edirne

Novels with the “Turkish National Struggle” as the main theme, while touching on many other subjects, tend to give particular importance to minorities. Although the subject of most of these novels focuses on the Byzantines, many include a great deal about the Armenians and their heroes. The “Turkish National Struggle” was a key factor in the dispersal of the races and nations, including the Armenians, which had been living together on the same land for hundreds of years. The Turkish novel writers considered the “Struggle” as central to formation of the Turkish Nation but acknowledge that, on the contrary, it was a negative event for minorities. Although generally, minorities were viewed in a negative light, the majority of Turkish novelists defended them or at least portrayed them in a positive way. .

Doctor Minas, one of the main characters of the novel Küçük Ağa,1 is a very remarkable example of a minority hero. Tarık Buğra, the writer of the novel, has represented a symbolic Ottoman person under the

1 Tarık Buğra, Küçük Ağa, Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Publishing, 1st Edition, İstanbul, 1992

name of Doctor Minas. The character is a devoted Christian Turkish citizen who has chosen to live on Turkish land despite the collapse of the Empire due to his gratitude toward the country. In the novel the relationship between Doctor Minas and Ali Emmi is a representation of the sort of respect the Turkish citizen showed to the minorities living in their country.

The humanity of the doctor is illustrated through his friendship with his patient, Ali Emmi. Emmi has a serious illness and is getting worse day by day.

While the doctor was looking for his pulse, Emmi half opened his eyes. Minas with an encouraging voice said:

“Hey, big boy! Why are you so hopeless, what a shame on you?” Ali Emmi tries to smile.2

The doctor finished checking his pulse, lungs, and heart and took out the thermometer. Sitting in the corner by the fireplace, neither Reis Bey nor Küçük Hacı dared to ask anything, they found it useless. But Minas whispered:

“He is not good at all. His lungs are bad. His heart has nearly stopped. The injection may help him to feel better. Maybe he will have something to say.”

Ali Emmi was an old man waiting for the triumph the Turkish national struggle by resisting his illness. He was insistently repeating:3 “I won’t die without seeing the enemy leaving our lands.”

The word of death was sometimes replaced with the saying:

“Nothing will happen to me before it”.4

The dialogue between the doctor and Ali Emmi highlights the sorts of friendships that developed between members of different nations and beliefs.

Minas asked as if he was talking to a child:

2 Buğra, ref, p. 492.
3 Buğra, ref. p, 493
4 Buğra, ref, p, 494

“How are you Ali Emmi?”
“So so” he whispered.
Minas with a wider smile:
“Don’t you recognize your enemy big boy?”
Reis Bey and Küçük Hacı were looking at them. Ali Emmi felt stronger:
“Hey, don’t call yourself enemy!”
Minas like a clown for a sick child spoke with a loud voice:
“Though I call or not call, Ain’t I an…Am I not an enemy? Don’t feel sorry, I am an Ottoman Ali Emmi, be sure I am an Ottoman. How about you?
How do you feel today?”
Minas was pretending as if he was injecting some medicine. He increased his voice:
“Look at him Reis. He understood that he became an old wolf at the end.”
Ali Emmi with a stronger voice:
“Right, I became a laughing stock to you, you dog” Minas burst into laughter:
“You understood after being a laughing stock? Nice. But let me tell you what I have known about the truth! What is more difficult for you is asking for help from your enemy.”

“I told you to shut up…why are you forcing yourself to be seen as our enemy? When I heal I will have you circumcised”.
He started coughing:

“Don’t tire yourself”.5

Minas himself went to get Ali Emmi’s medicine from the pharmacy.

He helped him to sit more straight by using a cushion from the sofa:

“I am going to get medicine. Don’t talk till I come back”.

5 Buğra, ref. p. 496.

Küçük Hacı was about to offer to go himself for the medicine, but Minas didn’t let him:
“I’m the youngest one. Also no one can stand to listen to the pharmacist as long as me”.
He left. Ali Emmi whispered with a trembling voice coming from his heart:
“He is one of our enemies--but what an enemy you see!”

And Reis remembered the tragedy of finding the miniature of him in Akşehir:

Once upon a time…All rights, every hello, every smile, water, air and every gift of God were shared by everyone with the same rate in the same ratio, equally. There was a lenient attitude towards every kind of tradition and custom, belief, clothing, lifestyle, or language. Every relationship was humanistic under the Ottoman rule which was directly based on Islamic tolerance.6

Before his death Ali Emmi mentioned the Armenian doctor first in his last speech:

Listen to me! Take care of this doctor. And my friends take care of my Leyla and her mother and treat them as you would your own grandchildren. I didn’t have enough time to take care of them.7

The Armenian doctor who was against separatists and who respected Ottoman values is one of the three positive minority characters mentioned in the novel. The other two were Eftim and Vasilaki. According to the writer, there were many minorities, Armenian and Byzantine, who were honest and loyal to the country and the government. Unfortunately, these poor people remained between two social groups, never being truly Ottoman or Armenian/Byzantine.

Tarık Buğra gave a special place to these types of characters among his rich cast of characters. There are no other “National Struggle” novels with this many positive minority characters. From this, we can infer the objectivity and humanity of the writer regarding his attitude toward the

6 Buğra, ref., p. 497
7 Buğra, ref. p. 501

minorities who had been living on the Ottoman land for hundred of years.
Behçet Necatigil, described Doctor Minas as “an example of the nicest Ottoman Spirit” and considered the writer very successful in his work.8 We can see the relationship between Turks and Armenians in the novel Saragöl9 which was written by Ömer Polat The subject of the novel is the conflict between urban and rural people, that is, country life versus industrial life.10 The relationship of Turks with minorities is a major aspect of the novel. This relationship was described in a positive way, where two nations are exchanging information, ideas, and their experiences.

The two are able to learn a lot from each other about their daily social lives. This novel is one of the best examples of a work that examines the Turkish-minority relationship.11 However, it also explores other minority relationships by recounting a love story between a Kurdish boy and an Armenian girl. Unfortunately, the ending is unhappy, but it offers valuable life lessons. There are several other “National Struggle” novels with noteworthy Armenian characters.

In the novel Esir şehrin İnsanları12 written by Kemal Tahir, Mığırdıç Efendi is an Armenian character who forms a close relationship with the main character, Kamil Bey.

Kamil Bey, after starting to work for the magazine Karadayı, has realized that there is a mysterious side of the press world which cannot be seen from the outside. He became more curious about it day by day. One of the people in this mysterious world was the Armenian pressowner, Mığırdıç Efendi. Mığırdıç Efendi is a complex character that

8 Behçet Necatigil, Edebiyatımızda Eserler Sözlüğü, 2nd edition., İstanbul 1979, s. 311
9 Ömer Polat, Saragöl, May Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1974
10 See,: Ramazan Kaplan, Türk Romanında Köy, Akçağ Publishingı, 3rd edition., Ankara 1997, S.329-331
11 Polat, Saragöl, p.71.
12 Kemal Tahir, Esir Şehrin İnsanları, Adam Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1993

must be analyzed in relation to Kamil Bey. The writer described him as
a weird man: 13

We are always coming face to face with many Mığırdıç Efendi’s, everywhere--on the boat, on the train, on the road--but we never have any suspicion about them and we continue to feel relaxed. Mığırdıç Efendi is a weird man. While Nedime Hanım was mentioning him one day: “The tears falling from his eyes are fresh…These tears are alone”, she said. It was actually like this. His faint black eyes behind the glasses with thick- lenses never as if blink, do not change their meanings at all. His black dress, giant feet had already passed away like his eyes. It is not also possible to encounter with Mığırdıç Efendi while shouting, laughing and walking around. Whenever he comes around, he finds this Armenian man whose age is not certain sitting breathlessly behind a table surrounded with a window. He does not write and calculate anything. If he did not rotate his yellow beads whose pieces had been lost and left 12 with his left hand, it would be assumed that he would be died and start to cry to his own sudden death. Even money was not so important for him. Therefore, he ignored the writings printed in the machines at all. The ones who wanted to print execution document about Mustafa Kemal, the ones who wanted to issue a revolution decree which dethrones the Sultan…

On the first day when he saw Kamil Bey, he assessed himself via a scale peculiar to himself, placed himself in a form and left himself peculiar to his personality. In this discrimination, Kamil Bey was only worth of cold but polite ‘Hello’… After some time, a smile expressed with the only below part of his face obligatorily was accompanied into this ‘Hello’. When all these were performed, his left hand continued to rotate the short beads with his three fingers ceaselessly. Mığırdıç Efendi was sitting by ignoring his tears falling down from his eyes and without cleaning them Pandikyan Efendi, a character in the novel Sırtlan Payı14 written by Atilla İlhan, was not only a fictional character but also was an historical personality. According to the writer’s description, Pandikyan Efendi was a middle-aged man with a huge moustache, frock coat, tied waist and shapeless fez. He was a true Ottoman gentleman and spoke with a real Ottoman accent.15 Pandikyan Efendi was the manager of the English

13 Kemal Tahir, ref., p..130.
14 Attilâ İlhan, Sırtlan Payı, Bilgi Publishing, 3rd edition. İstanbul 1992.
15 İlhan, ref.., p.357

Intelligence Bureau and was trying to help the members of Kuva-i Milliye (National Forces) by use of many secret documents; he was a genuine patriot.
Man, I’m Ottoman. I was born Ottoman and will die being an Ottoman, listen to me very carefully, OK? I’m working for the English, but I know that the Europeans will never care about us, they will use us. Haven’t we witnessed how they cheated the Byzantines, and now it is their turn to do the same thing to the Armenians.16

Turgut Özakman, the writer of Şu Çılgın Türkler,17 also featured the character Pandikyan Efendi in his book. Turkish soldiers followed Pandikyan Efendi. They arrested him and took him to their office. There was a dialogue between the soldiers and Pandikyan:

“Pandikyan Efendi, you are the guest of the Turkish National Army”. Pandikyan trembled:

“You were born on this soil as we were, you were brought up on this land and you attended the same schools as we did. You have never been attacked for being an Armenian or Christian. For centuries we ate together, we drank together, and we cried and laughed together. We are the citizens of this country. We have seen many unpleasant events. But we made it this far. This country is ours and we owe it much. Why do you work for those who have no respect or mercy for the people of this country? Please tell us.”
Pandikyan was about to cry.
“May I talk?”
He started to talk. 18
The author does not mention the rest of this dialogue. However, the reader understands from the flow of the context that Pandikyan has already cooperated with

16 İlhan, ref., p.360.
17 Turgut Özakman, Şu Çılgın Türkler, Bilgi Publishing, 14th edition., Ankara 2005.
18 Özakman, p. 108.

There are many historical documents that report on Ottoman Christian Armenians who were citizens of Turkey and contributed to the “Turkish National Struggle”.19 These citizens are represented in various “National Struggle” novels.

In the novel Sahnenin Dışındakiler,20 the writer presents us with a new type of Armenian character, Madam Elekciyan, who is a really beautiful Armenian woman in her forties. She is the owner of a pension where the main character Cemil stays. A lively woman with a motto of seizing the day, she is the mistress of Salih Kaptan, a member of Kuva-i Milliye. By being on the side of peace, she became a popular favorite character..

Another Armenian character, Margosyan Efendi, appears in the novel Var Olmak21 written by İlhan Tarus. He is an accountant and assistant to the main character Kamil Bey, keeping his affairs in order and arranging his appointments. After the start of the “National Struggle,” Margosyan Efendi and his family left for Istanbul. While he was not a direct supporter of the “National Struggle”, he was not against the Turks.

In another one of his novels entitled Vatan Tutkusu,22 the writer İlhan Tarus describes a very colorful atmosphere for his readers. The relationships of Muslim Turks, Byzantines, Armenians, and Jews are presented in all their complexity. He explores what happened to the peace they once shared living on the same land for hundreds of years. Osman Efe, a character in the novel, has difficulty understanding this loss.

19 “In the national Struggle it must be admitted that beside the Turkish citizen the Christian minority citizens also supported the struggle. Pandikyan Efendi was one of those whose contributions were really very important in the struggle process. He was a chief in the English Intelligence Bureau and he became a defender of the groups involved in the National Struggle.”(Mesut Aydın, Millî Mücadele Döneminde T.B.M.M Hükümeti Tarafından İstanbul’da Kurulan Gizli Gruplar ve Faaliyetleri, İstanbul 1992, p.275.)
20 Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Sahnenin Dışındakiler, Dergâh Publishing, 2nd edition. İstanbul 1990.
21 İlhan Tarus, Var Olmak, Varlık Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1957.
22 İlhan Tarus, Vatan Tutkusu, Ağaoğlu Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1967.

In yet another of his novels called, Hükümet Meydanı,23 Tarus writes of Armenians, Byzantines, and Jews who met the members of Kuva-i Milliye with great enthusiasm.

In Toz Duman İçinde24 by Talip Apaydın, the character Artin Usta exhibits the spirit of patriotism through his support of Kuva-i Milliye. He joined a group of Turks who traveled to Ankara in an attempt to secure guns for the Kuva-i Milliye attack. Even though he does not appear again in the novel after this event, it is clear that he was a real supporter of the “National Struggle” in action.

In Anılarda Son Ermeni25 written by Abdullah Ayata, Turkish-Armenian relationships are again examined. Ayata describes events that occurred during the years of World War I, as well as in the 1970’s, and considers the impact of the “Turkish National Struggle” during these years.

He writes about how under the influence and manipulation of the Russian and English, some Armenians opposed the Ottoman Empire and attempted to establish an independent homeland. They went against the Muslim Turks by joining with the Russians in South East Anatolia and the result of these actions was felt all over Turkey. Both Turkish and Armenian citizens were anxious about these events. Some of the Armenians attempted to migrate to Istanbul. In response to the growing crisis in the eastern part of Turkey the Ottoman government passed the Law of Techir in26 1915. After the passage of this law some Armenians moved to other cities of the Ottoman Empire, such as Halep, Şam, and Beyrut. After the war ended and the Turkish Republic had been established, the Armenian and Turkish characters in the novel desired to see each other again. In some of the scenes we encounter touching events such as friends of the two different nations not being able to see each other

23 İlhan Tarus, Hükümet Meydanı, Ak Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1962
24 Talip Apaydın, Toz Duman İçinde, Hürriyet Publishing, 1st edition., İstanbul 1974.
25 Abdullah Ayata, Anılarda Son Ermeni, Altın Kitaplar Publishing, 2nd edition., İstanbul 2005.
26 In the novel the “Law Tehcir” was indicated as relatively preferable but this doesn’t represent the historical reality. (p.87,89,141).

again because they were killed by Armenian terror militants before the had a chance to meet.

In conclusion, all the characters in the novels mentioned were very conscious not only of being human but also of being members of a society. They were against war, and they were against people who were forcing them to fight. Aziz Hüdai in Şu Çılgın Türkler offers the fitting name of a “land brother” to describe those of different nationalities who forged positive relationships despite negative political and social factors. They became unique representatives of land brotherhood.

Turkish National Football Team beat Senegal National Football Team on 22nd of June and had a part in the first four teams. Then, two Armenian citizens living in Turkey, Garo and Baret, came near Hadi Uluengin in Bruksel with the Turkish flags in their hands.

Let’s go to a Turkish street immediately to celebrate the victory. The Armenian characters of the novels are representation of those who really lived the experiences. They showed us “land brotherhood” and “country fidelity” with their sincere devoted feelings. These characters are an example for today; they remind us that brotherhood is possible. There can be peace in the country and peace in the world.

APAYDIN Talip, Toz Duman İçinde, Hürriyet Publishing 1st Edition, İstanbul 1974.
AYATA Abdullah, Anılarda Son Ermeni, Altın Kitaplar Publishing, 2nd Edition. İstanbul 2005.
BUĞRA Tarık, Küçük Ağa, Millî Eğitim Bakanlığı Publishing, 1st Edition, İstanbul 1992
İLHAN Attilâ, Sırtlan Payı, Bilgi Publishing, 3rd Edition, İstanbul 1992.
KEMAL Tahir, Esir Şehrin İnsanları, Adam Publishing, 1st Edition., İstanbul 1993.
öZAKMAN Turgut, Şu Çılgın Türkler, Bilgi Publishing, 14th Edition., Ankara 2005.
POLAT ömer, Saragöl, May Publishing, 1st Edition., İstanbul 1974.
TANPINAR Ahmet Hamdi, Sahnenin Dışındakiler, Dergâh Publishing, 2nd Edition. İstanbul 1990.
TARUS İlhan, Var Olmak, Varlık Publishing, 1st Edition., İstanbul 1957.
TARUS İlhan, Hükümet Meydanı, Ak Publishing, 1st Edition., İstanbul 1962.
TARUS İlhan, Vatan Tutkusu, Ağaoğlu Publishing, 1st Edition., İstanbul 1967.

Other works:
AYDIN Mesut, Millî Mücadele Döneminde T.B.M.M Hükümeti Tarafından İstanbul’da Kurulan Gizli Gruplar ve Faaliyetleri, İstanbul 1992.
CAN Esat, Millî Mücadele Romanında İç Cephe, Doctorate Theses (not published), Trakya University Institude of Social Sciences, Edirne 1998.
KAPLAN Ramazan, Türk Romanında Köy, Akçağ Publishing, 3rd Edition., Ankara 1997.
NECATIGIL Behçet, Edebiyatımızda Eserler Sözlüğü, 2.b., İstanbul 1979.
ULUENGIN Hadi, “Üç Futbol Notu”, Hürriyet (Daily Newspaper), 25.06.2002.

Source: © Erciyes University 2006


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