28 November 2008

2662) Shall We Come To Terms With The Past?

Why Not?
Close to a hundred years have elapsed since the outbreak of the First World War. Armenian-Turkish relations during those four years are politicized that miscolour historical facts. Exclusively one-sided views, reflected in the sways of some third party parliaments, only convey rash pre-arrangements serving power politics instead of justice. In some Western mainstream media and legislative organs one perceives calls for “coming to terms with the past”. The presumption is that the Turks will have to do that.

Why not? However, the occasional discourse over the hastily-suggested and irresponsibly repeated phrase is misleading in several ways[1]. Coming to terms with the past needs to be, above all, an exercise in good faith, free from domestic and international politics. Befitting endeavour entails the establishment of a correct historical record, including the scholarly duty to question the validity of the mainstream ideas. The challenge is not a legal requirement, but a probe into history, and as such one ought to expect the same scientific methodology to be utilized in its analysis. One has to be clear, then, as to the aim, procedure and techniques of such a venture. To determine what actually occurred in the past commands independence of the past and present decision-makers. At stake are the legitimacy of arguments and the identity of the peoples involved. No historical truth can be treated justly if all of its parts do not come out. There is an ingrained bond between non-discriminative truth and non-selective . .
justice.

If we agree that only unbiased scientific research can bring out all historical facts. We should also concur that attempts to explain past events via political organs may eventually usher Orwellian “truth ministries”. If, for instance, some reliable third party publications publicly state that the Armenians had “slaughtered…120.000 non-Armenians” in Eastern Anatolia while the Turks were only mobilizing for war, and if there is reference to such facts even in some mainstream sources,[2] historical truth is being sacrificed on the pedestal of powerful pressure groups and/or political interests.

Do the parliamentarians always know who they are being lobbied by? Does the media display enough scrutiny of lobbying campaigns? Is the civil society provided with alternative explanations? The answer to these inquiries should be an emphatic “no!”. For instance, the register of lobbyists with full-time access pass even to the European Parliament only lists name and organizations, not who these people are lobbying for, or what issue and how much budget is involved.[3] Who can claim that this the way to write history?

Irrefutably, then, coming to terms with the past demands all-inclusive, meticulous, and accurate research based on solid evidence beyond reasonable doubt. It urges for scholarly effort, not political propaganda designed to mislead especially third parties whose public knows little or nothing about the issue. In case the ultimate intent is limited to imposing a selected interpretation on foreign decision-makers, such a scheme has obviously reached alarming proportions. The name of the commitment is, then, academic work, not prejudice entangled with half-knowledge and naivetè.

Initially, we must agree on dispassionate, non-partisan and open-minded treatment of the controversy. That guideline happens to be the indispensable criterion from which other imperatives follow. For instance, if one searches for “guilt history”, we should also agree

that legal or moral modus operandi does not allow for a concept called “collective responsibility”. Assuming that there exists a guilt, the accused may only be a person or a group related to an executed policy. The blame cannot be put on the shoulders of a whole people, or people, or on the future generations. Correspondingly, one cannot reactivate the out-dated theologian concept of “original sin” and deduce from it the obsolete assertion that the new generation are born with guilt for all.

Guilt is personal. It remains personal even in case of decisions made by a so-called central body, which is composed of individuals. However, no personal responsibility can be put, in ethical, rational or legal terms, on contemporary individuals for the behaviour of some of their predecessors. If present-day generations would be blamed for the misdeeds in the past, this would revive the so-called collective historical responsibility of a whole people, reintroducing the metaphysical and the irrational concept of perpetual guilt. A cumulative and everlasting accountability transceting ages would bring back the theoretical notion of guilt which some people may be unjustly accused to be born with. Doubtless it is absurd to entertain, even to tolerate such a primitive assumption.

There are no “good” and “bad” nations, then. To insist on hearing and propagation one version of events is accepting the Manichaean co-existence of God and Satan, or a division of world based on a belief that disappeared centuries ago. Personal responsibility was one of the bases of the Nürnberg and the Tokyo trials in 1945-46. The classification of international crimes and the individual responsibility of the person who might have received from superiors are the two outstanding principles relevant even in our day. Accusations were leveled at some individuals because they were alive then. No individual may be dragged to a court if the culprits are no longer alive. Concomitantly, in terms of measures of redress, compensation is also out of the question if the culprits are no longer alive.

Assuming that the accused are living, the instrument of justice should not be misused, however, as an opportunity for revenge. This is the case at the end of wars, when ruthlessness mixed with “getting even” is greater than ever with the cessation of armed hostilities. The defeated party that loses the war no longer enjoys sovereignty over public affairs[4]. Emotions prevent rational analysis. Only the privileged victors judge the behaviour of the defeated, moreover according to their own interests. Enjoying immunity from prosecution themselves setting up the tribunal, formulating the terms of criminal procedures, and drawing the list of indicted persons, the victors also become judge in their own cases, which has no place in justice. This privileged position may be appropriately labeled as “victor’s justice”. The Ottoman trials after the First World War, during which no Armenian appeared before the tribunal and only the Turks were punished, should be described as such.

Had the International Criminal Court (ICC)[5] based on the Rome Statue (1998) and formed (2002) after ratification, existed after 1918 and had both the Armenians and the Turks applied to it with their own documentation and witnesses, such a tribunal, with some inherent weaknesses and later encroachments on its jurisdiction, but enjoying considerable transnational qualities, would have probably ruled out genocide on any side, noting in the process armed revolts, occupation, secession, war casualties, losses on account of contagious diseases, migration and the like.

The ICC cannot prosecute crimes if they were committed before the entry into force of the Rome Statue ( 1 July 2002). Another question within the framework of time limits is the following: How far back may one look in order to come to terms with the past? If one stretches to far away periods in history, for instance to the founding days of some nations, one may meet myth that cover terrible barbarities. The experience of many powerful states. Including the days of old of the contemporary superpower, abound in monstrous atrocities. To bring all of them back will hardly serve the criterion of international understanding.

But Not Only the Turks:
Justice abhors double standards, and historical fact-finding demands balanced recording. Many safety measures are involved in thorough exploration. Probing into the past cannot be restricted only to a nation, region, date, or to an ethnic/religious group. No nation can demand from another to examine solely the past of the latter. No nation may be singled out by others and made a scapegoat. Moreover, no nation may be forced to serve the interests of another under the label of “coming to terms with its past”. If need be, the records of all countries, without any exception, and no veto privilege operating in favour of anyone of them, should be open for close scrutiny. Coming to terms with the past can only have a universal and comprehensive proportion, leaving no room for power politics.

Especially, when the legislative bodies of countries that have often undermined human rights in the past, and moreover continue to do so, insist on others to examine their past, their position may well be described as hypocritical. Among them, those countries that have never or not fully come to terms with their own past, even their present, cannot designate themselves as impartial decision-makers in others’ cases.

Can the histories of Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia be fully written without appropriate references to what happened to the so-called “Red Indians”, Chinese, Filipinos, the Maghribi Arabs, the South Africans, the Australian Aborigines, and the like. None of our contemporaries in the Western world are now collectively or individually responsible for what some of their forefathers might have done in all the continents. But world-wide criminal acts, one more brutal than the other, are nevertheless in the annuals of history.

The civilization peculiar to the soil were reduced to rabble with the coming of Cristobal Colon to the New World. The “American Indians”, who had previously scattered all over the land mass of the Western Hemisphere, were reduced by warfare and disease in the past, and are now very poor and discriminated against[6]. “Those pernicious creatures”, so described by the Puritan Cottton Mather, were hunted down mercilessly almost to the degree of total extermination. Colonel Chivington struck (1862) without warning a Cheyenne encampment that flew the Stars and Stripes, scalping even screaming women. Army fire (1890) on the Oglala Sioux dancers at Wounded Knee ended the armed conflict that had begun three centuries ago. If some in-group in the United States are still searching to commemorate a date for the inhuman treatment of fellow beings by other homo sapiens , one of these two occasions may well suit the land.

Nor are the present-generation Americans accountable for the slaves imported from Africa. It was this American state that developed an explicit ideology that crowned racism as a dominant force.[7] Some brutal men from Western civilization tore African blacks from their lands, stacked them in the unhealthy holds of ships, threw some into the ocean, and hurled them into a new hostile environment. They tilled the soil for the 2Lords of the Land” and served the “Boses of the Buildings”. Although they raised enough cotton to clothe the whole nation, they had no mattresses to sleep on, and their bleeding bodies were, at times, dragged through the streets.

Canada’s aboriginal peoples, who once owned that vast land, are discriminated against in the whole white society of English and French settlers, and now live in squalor amongst colossal wealth.[8] How this divergence came about is the topic of the historians. Moreover the image of the Amerindians in Canada’s textbooks risk instilling into young people prejudices against them.[9] Not only the native peoples and the Afro-Canadian, but the “Inuit” who are the Arctic dwellers of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and (Russian) Siberia, are placed at the very bottom of the social ladder. The Catholic French-speaking Canadians as well aspired for a society unlike the one created by the English Canadians.

The “Indians” in parts of Central and South America were treated as sub-humans from the very outset. Various indigenous (comunidad native) , Afro-Latin Americans and some immigrants are discriminated against. Neither the Zapatista movement, nor the Nicaraguan Revolution should be surprising. In some Latin American countries, massacres (Matanzas) were carried out of even those who wore indigenous dress. The “Rastafarians”[10] were inspired by Marcus M. Garvey, who advocated a total exodus from the cruel white world. In South America, the native people were exterminated, expropriated and enslaved. Economically helpless, politically impotent and culturally isolated, the natives have been marginalized even in countries where they are more than half of the total population.

The 197 forest-dwelling indigenous group in Brazil face extinction[11]. For the first time in 1972 in Colombian history, a group of white people was put on trial for the murder of natives. They were acquitted initially, on the grounds that they thought their victims were not humans; they were convicted only at the end of a retrial[12]. Argentina has been a pluri-ethnic country with numerically significant immigrants of European origin, against whom there has been manifestations of racism in different forms as ethnically, social class, occupational rank and religion. The Mapuche people in Chile, who now posses a little over 1% of the land they owned at the time of the initial European invasion, were repressed especially during the Augusto Pinochet regime. In Ecuador, indigenous peoples of the land, who had lived where Texaco dug its first oil well, have since then become extinguished. The French colonists threatened the life of the original inhabitants of the French Guiana. Human rights violations against Uruguay’s eighteen indigenous peoples have been shocking especially under general Alfredo Stroessner’s regime. Guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), eager to maintain its violent control over the lucrative cocaine traffic, made life for the Ashaninka, who strive to exist in the Peruvian rain-forests, even more difficult. Venezuela’s indigenous groups have been historically neglected[13].

Western Europe has three categories of minorities, some of whom have frequently been objects of discrimination. They are (a) the indigenous people such as the Sami[14]. (b) the so-called “historic minorities”[15], such as the Alsatians, and (c) “new” minorities such as the Magribi Arabs in France, or the Turks in Germany[16]. The Sami, who traditionally lived in the far North, are now outnumbered in those areas that were once inhabited only by them. The ten million or more Roma/Gypsies, originally from India and the first 2blacks” in Europe, are rejected almost in every part of that continent. Nazi Germany killed at least 300.000 of them.

The Alsatians, Breton and Corsicans have historically fallen behind the average French citizens. Resettled French people, formerly from Algeria (pieds noirs) since then dominated Corsican economy. Occitan, spoken in parts of southern France, never enjoyed public or official status. The war-time Vichy government had introduced anti-Semitic legislation deporting 47,000 Jews to the Nazi death chambers. The French extreme right is likewise anti- Muslim when it comes to the move than 3,5 million “new” minorities, the citizenship of whom even born in France were withdrawn in 1993.

In Belgium, an aggressive anti-immigrant Flemish Vlaams Blok (Our Own People First) grew in popularity. In the Netherlands, there is a rise in racist attacks against the new minorities from the Mediterranean and the former Dutch colonies. The grievances of the Basques and the Catalans in Spain go back to the pre-Civil War years, futher complicated by the Franco regime. The British had conflicts with the Irish Scots, Welsh, the coloured by the new minorities. The pan-Germanic voters increased their strength in Austria, where the historical Burgenland Croat minority is losing its identity, and the guest workers are under duress. The “neo-fascists” in Germany carry out attacks on foreign workers, more frequently on the Turks, and their children born there. They have set Turkish dwelling on fire, burning alive men, women and children. The so-called “skin-heads” acquired an identity mixed with the traditions of past totalitarianism or remnants of it in the present hate and enemy figures. The treatment of the Swiss of each other has been generally considered as the best handling of any minority anywhere. That country gives little or no protection, however, to fremdarbeiter (foreign workers).

To paraphrase an oft-quoted famous statement “ a specter is haunting Europe”, the specter of racism, ethnic cleansing and expulsion, the last victims being unarmed Bosnians and the families of guest workers, principally the Turks. Racism became more and more significant, not only on account of violent attacks on minorities and immigrants, but also by the power of extremist political parties which increased their influences on some mainstream parties that compete for the right-wing vote. Rising unemployment, coupled with waves of refugees from the former communist bloc, led large portions of the European electorate to search for scapegoats. While minorities and foreigners are denounced in various regions, the collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe unleashed ethnocentric feeling in the whole continent.

Recent history of Eastern Europe and the Balkans experienced wars, ethnic cleansing, exiles, population transfers and re-emergence of old feuds. One of the little-known facts of the histories of the Balkans. Crimea and the Caucasus is that the vast “Muslim land”, inhabited predominantly by the Turks among the Muslims, disappeared since the Greek revolt of 1821, leading (until 1922) to the loss of over five million Muslims and with the forced migration of 5,5 million more[17]. Only small pockets of Muslim (or Turkish) settlements were left in the new independent states founded on the suffering of the departed inhabitants. The Bosnian ethnic cleansing of much later date was only one of the last hoops of a long chain of events. The Bosnian case was “a slur on the face, not only of Europe, but the entire civilized world[18]. Pogrom were notorious in Russia and elsewhere.

The Second World War eliminated much of the European Jewry and the Roma, Poland has no pressing minority problem mainly because close to 2,5 million Jews were exterminated during that war. In Lithuania, Russians and Poles recurrently charge that the authorities discriminate against them. The Gagauz, who officially did not exist for a long time and generally but falsely considered “Turkish-language Bulgarians”, are culturally and linguistically… a Turkic people”[19]. In the 1980s, authorities in a Balkan state had forced the Turks to change their names and to abandon their ethnic and religious customs as well their language.[20] This particular discrimination is no longer enforced. Greece also claimed to be a country exclusively inhabited of Greeks. On may assert, however, that just before the Balkan Wars (1912-13) even only in Aegean Macedonia and Western Thrace there were ( in addition to Greeks) Macedonians, Muslim Turks, Muslim Pomaks, Christian Turks (the Gagauz), Muslim Cherkez (Circassians), Muslim Albanians, Christian Albanians, Christians Vlachs, (Aromanis), Muslim Vlachs, Jews, Armenians, the Roma, and other. The Muslim Turks of Western Thrace are the most numerous minority in Greece[21].

There is some struggle between the central authorities and the non-Russian territorial units in the Russian Federation. The Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, and the Meshkhetian (Ahiska) Turks have long stood out in a different category among the several nationalities forcibly resettled in Central Asia and Siberia during the Second World War[22]. Armenia and Azerbaijan brawled and fought over the Nagorno-Karebagh conflict, and the Armenian occupation of parts of Azeri territory, in addition to Nagorno-Karabagh, was criticized in strong terms by the U.N. Security Council[23].

The Armenians as Well:
Omission is the most virulent form of censorship. Many Armenian argument omit a mass of crucial facts. They cast aside the dimensions of their armed revolt, they count out the deaths that they have caused, they skip the frequent wars in which they participated, they overlook the memoirs oh their own commanders who admit Armenian carnage of non-Armenians, they ignore the destructive effect of contagious diseases especially in war conditions, and they withhold a series of facts that weaken their case. This ensemble of facts are indeed troubling for the Armenian version of events.

Foreign Christian missionaries, who entered the vast Ottoman territory, convinced at least some Armenians that the latter were superior to the Muslim. The circumstances of the imperialist are added fire to the religious/ethnic conflict that the foreign preacher/propagandists had started in the alluring target of the Ottoman East. Foreign interventions in the form of ascendancy of alien clergy, enforced legal adjustments new trading conditions privileges for the outsiders, diplomatic threats, and outright military expedition turned the Ottoman society into an engine of ethnic conflagration.

Imperialist mechanism favoured, not only different people or different classes, but also different ethnic groups[24]. The system rewarded some nations, hierarchies and ethnic/religious groups over other. The most privileged minority then was the Ottoman Armenians. The missionaries, the assessments then and some publications even today describe the Armenians as calm, weak, gentle, helpless, unprotected, unarmed, non-belligerent, good Christian, and totally vulnerable civilians, mostly old men, women and children, ostensibly upon whom well-armed regular Ottoman troops ascended with their full force, killing perhaps millions. This is a cock-and-bull story that many third party documents and certainly the Ottoman archives, even considerable Armenian confessions belie.

While the teachings of some foreign missionaries, willing or unintentionally, provided the mental ingredient of armed Armenian action, great power appetite over Ottoman territories supplied the memory, logistics, arms, and equipment even down to uniforms. The following Chicago publication on the very even of 20th century by an American Protestant missionary and the president of the Armenian Patriotic Union in New York is a case in point. It reflect a deep-seated racist attitude, which nevertheless pulled wool over the eyes of the forefathers of some present-day decision-makers equipped with such inherited misinformation. The book says that the Turks are “not members of the best or the second best human race” and as such “incapable of assimilating complex ideas” and further that their “mental inferiority” is matched with a “religion of a very low order” which has made them “worse than savages”. While the soul of Christians, like the Armenians, “grows race and strength” the Turks, the authors conclude, “is a wild beast to be caged”. The missionary and his Armenian colleague “beg pardon of the hounds, hyenas and… other wild beasts for using their names in simile or metaphor to describe the…ferocity of Kurd or Turk.”[25]

The weak affirmation of some Western writers, friendly to the Armenian cause to a degree inadmissible in academic research, that the Armenians “were not all angels”[26] should be rated as a shocking understatement. Published documents prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that they have committed armed terrorism, violent assaults, destruction, rape, assassinations, and wholesale murder of Muslim groups, all these misdeeds done for decades and especially at the beginning and the latter part of the First World War. They were outright participants in the armed conflicts, having formed battalions carrying heavy guns. Some Armenian writers, including their leading commanders, asserted that their use of weapons against the Turks had been the decisive factor in the winning of the war by the adversaries of the Ottoman state[27].

Several Armenian authors, including academics like Louise Nalbandian[28], or concerned Armeno-American citizens like K. S. Papazian[29], admit that the Armenian militants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were “terrorists”[30]. Notable Armenians such as the first Prime Minister of the independent Armenia (Hovhannes Katchaznouni), Britsh functionaries (Captain C. B. Norman) and men of letters (C. F. Dixon – Johnson, Bernard Lewis, Roderic Davison, Andrew Mango, Norman Stone), Russian officers (General Mayevski, Lieutenant- Colonel Tverdo- Khlebov, Captain Ivan Gokilevich Plat, Dr. Khoreshenov), contemporary American academics (Stanford J. Shaw, Justin McCarthy, Heath W. Lowry, Guenter Lewy), men from the legal professions (Samuel A. Weems), Armenians of first-hand knowledge (Edward Tashji) and others do not share the mainstream opinion about the innocence of the Armenians.

Armenian-American reports and publications admitted having formed an army of “200.000 men”[31], even “over 200.000 Armenians”[32] fighting in the war against the Turks. Allied leaders (including the Russian Czar, the French Premier and the British commanding general in the Sinai Front) praised their contributions, mainly in the Caucasus (with the Russians) but also in the Suez area (with the British) and in the Adana region of Eastern Mediterranean (with the French).

In all the armed conflicts, whether terrorist attacks, guerrilla warfare, underground fighting, regular battalions or civil war, the Armenians inflicted losses on their targets and suffered casualties in return. Neither such losses nor disappearance on account of voluntary migrations ought to be described as massacre or genocide. The Turks cannot be blamed for he deaths on the battlefields, for voluntary escape to Russia, Persia or other neighbouring areas, for the adverse war conditions and rampant epidemics that look many lives.

The very much neglected truth is that, at the beginning of war, some Armenians were guilty of unspeakable brutality against the Muslim , many of whom were Turks. The Muslim victims initially reached a six-digit figure. In spite of abundant evidence in several state archives, this crucial fact is little circulated and wickedly overlooked. But occasionally this truth comes up, as started above in a 2003 British publication that quoted an initial Muslim loss of 120.000 and later 50.000 more. In between, of course, lies the Armenian occupation of the Ottoman Van province and the proclamation of an independent Armenian state there with Russian assistance.

What is the Armenian role in concealing so much of the truth? It is obviously that scholarly search for the other side of the coin tremendously weakens Armenian arguments and moreover alters the framework of the controversy. In a few countries there also exist the threat of arrest and payment of fine for any expression of a Turkish view. There is also a psychological component in the Armenia attitude. Finally, there exists the hope as well of a political gain.

At times, individuals, groups, and even nations have need for enemies as well as for allies as an investment, initially psychological, but eventually political, in the continuation of a conflict. The enemy image may prove to be beneficial, at least as an additional component in terms of inner control and identity. A community may pick out an event among other choices and rank it as the “chosen trauma”[33], to epitomize a mental condition of “victimization” which is elevated to be a part of an identity. The event is associated, not only with feeling, but modifications and even mythologizing as it is related by one generation to another. As the “event” is moved upwards to graduate into a shared mental representation, historical facts are outdistanced. To “stabilize its own tent”, the community removes the so-called “foreign” elements, mainly the losses of the “other side”. The totality of historical facts, however, may point to a different direction. This is the main shortcoming in the presentation of Armenian opinion.

And the Turks:
Let all nations, including the Armenians, Turks, and the rest , come to terms, with their past. If all agree, without exception, to do so, I venture to state that the Turks will be among those with the whitest records, as much as possible, of all times gone by. The Ottoman administration implemented the millet (semi-autonomous religious communities) system, fair and progressive in those days, within its vast domain. When the Christian churches condemned the Armenian Monophysite (single nature of Christ) belief as a heresy, it was none other than the Turkish Sultan who in 1461 recognized this community giving it the basic freedoms of worship, the use of the national language, and the right to live, work, trade, and (later) to hold public office[34]. Ottoman Kindness towards the Jews during the notorious Inquisition era many parts of Europe should be common knowledge by now. The Turks rescued the Jews from almost total extinction then and opened their frontiers once more during the Nazi era in Germany and saved many from the Holocaust[35]. These were not isolated phenomena. The Ottoman society frequently became a haven for individuals or peoples, including the Russian Old Believers, and the refugees fleeing after the failure of the Calvinists and when the Jews faced all-out annihilation.

The Armenians as Ottoman citizens held high offices as cabinet members for such vital field as foreign and financial affairs), parliamentarians, provincial governors, ambassadors, consuls, teachers and other professionals[36]. The Ottoman Government appointed an Armenian (Gabriel Nouradungian) as the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the turbulent year of 1913 when the Turks faced the Balkan War. Could a Jew under any fascist regime come even close to any point comparable to such Ottoman fairplay?

Regarding the radio of the Armenians living even in parts of Eastern Anatolia that some of their leaders preferred to call “Armenia”, a prominent blood relative of this minority wrote: “As it is evident from Turkish, Russian and all other world statistics… there is no territory within the Ottoman borders where the Armenians form a majority”[37]

Armenians who lived near the borders in the east and south-east were relocated at a time when well-armed members of that community were active in the rear of the Ottoman forces and occupied the city of Van, severed it from the state and announced an independent state of their own there. As even the French commander M. Lancher noted, they had “openly made common cause with the Russians”[38]. These bloody events occurred when the Turks were experiencing serious military setbacks. Protestant and Catholic Armenians and those who lived in big cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Aleppo, or almost in the whole of Thrace were not moved. There was no government intent to kill them, or any portion of them , but to guide them, under strict orders of protection, to new cities in the southern Ottoman lands. One should concede the absence of Turkish documentary evidence to prove the responsibility of the government. The letters of biased missionaries and some foreign diplomats are no evidence that can substantiate a crime of genocide. It was a partially mismanaged war-time security measure, during which some corrupt escorts, civilians with vengeance, and some Kurdish tribesmen attacked those being displaced. The loss of life was not as huge as often asserted. But for the accuracy of historical record both Armenian and Turkish loss of life during the whole of the war period need to be known. There have been witnesses of assaults on both sides.

Natural causes such as famine and epidemics afflicted again both Armenians and Turks. In addition, the Armenians participated in about a dozen wars and armed conflicts between 1914 and 1922, in which they killed and got killed in return. Foreign government archives substantiate that 395.000 Russian, 188.000 German, 179.000 French, 120.000 British, 85.000 Italian, and 60.800 American soldiers died of contagious diseases only. Even the top Turkish, German and British commanders could not be saved. Armenian leaders, aware of this epidemics reality, resisted drafting their men into the Ottoman army. Moreover, a substantial part of the exiles moved southwards unmolested, reached their destinations and survived.

Apart from the general war conditions, epidemics and armed conflicts, some Armenians, Turks and other Muslims were lost their lives in the hands of guerrillas, escorts and tribesmen. However, only the Muslim were put on trial during and after the First World War. The Bulk of the Armenians minority that cooperated with the invading Russian forces were moved towards the southern portions of the Ottoman lands. For crimes committed during the dislocation, Ottoman courts had already passed, in 1915-16, verdicts, involving 654 individuals, 67 of whom had received capital punishment.

The post-war conditions lack, however, the fundamental requirement of due process. The victors and those who are powerful in any case determine the mode and the proceedings, including the place of the trials, the selection of judges, the lists of suspects to be drawn, and in most cases the final verdicts themselves. This was the case immediately after 1918, and it applied to the way the victorious powers evaluated Armenian-Turkish relations. The armistice provided for unconditional Turkish surrender and gave the victors and their allies the opportunity to conduct trials in the way they wanted. Although Armenian ”slaughter” of Muslims was recorded even in British sources, not a single Armenian was brought to justice. This applied to wholesale murders, destruction, theft and rape, all of which had been perpetrated by some Armenians mercilessly, repeatedly and systematically. Even the very leaders of the armed Armenian battalions, which had committed so many sanguinary acts, roamed freely on the streets of Istanbul. Some Turkish functionaries, who had no connection with any illegality, were sent to the gallows. The Armenians became judges in their own cases. Neither the formation of tribunals, nor their verdicts warrant the evidence of genocide. The Ottoman authorities were moved by the need to pacify the victors, whose soldiers cracked the whip virtually on all occasion. The court hearing consisted of one-sided exaggerations, or outright lies by false witnesses.

The end-product was not justice, but revenge on behalf of the Armenians, some of whom had started the assaults, destruction, pillage and bloodshed. But the victors later imposed their own version of justice and of history. They blamed their common enemies and exempted their partners from any accountability. Although the occupiers, desirous to achieve quick results, took 144 Ottoman high officials to the Crown Colony of Malta in 1919, the Turkish prisoners had to be released without charge or trial in 1921. Only a supranational court, equipped with independence of the prosecutors and judges, could have acted unreservedly and equitably towards the Turks.

The Turks knew, all along, what actually occurred. The government of the republican regime never intended to hide anything. The Turks still possess the vast Ottoman archives material that differ from the more popular assertions beyond their borders. If one really wants to know what the official Ottoman policies had been then, the answer lies in the official records of that government. The Turkish government presented, in the late 1980s thousands of such documents to the leading libraries and the research centres of the world. Moreover, many of them are already transliterated, even translated and published in book form. But the founding fathers of Republic did not want to educate the young generations in vindictiveness. If they had opened up the “old chapters”, the top of the agenda would be the popular desire to review the tragic experience of close to eleven million Muslims, half murdered and half refugees, in addition to those slaughtered in Armenian hands. The Turks became part of the discussion only when militant Armenian groups unleashed a new period of terrorism and assassinations.

By Way of Conclusion:
Every word of the assertion that “the Armenians were loyal citizens, deprived of their right, but living in their homeland, where they constituted a majority that became a target of genocide” is no more than orchestrated misrepresentations. The complete truth cannot be such a distorted simplification that may be carbon-copied by one spokesperson after another. Scholarship is like a building that requires perpetual repair.

Judgment should rest on unexpurgated collection of facts. Censoring of one side may only be described as a political game that serves the urge to revenge. Moreover, the question is not the agonies and grievances of some Armenian and some Turkish families in the past. There is no doubt that several families on both sides suffered. There are recollections of survivors on both sides. Eastern Anatolia is full of mass graves, recently unearthly, that covered the dead bodies of thousands of Muslims. There have certainly been some Muslim and American culprits. But to conclude that the loss of some Armenian lives is an incontestable fact of genocide on the part of the Turks is an outrageous contention. There exist absolutely no reliable documents that prove Ottoman Government complicity.

If popular organs, such as some Western parliaments, suppress the voice of full facts, who can the public turn to? If responsible institutions help certain crucial facts to be held back, what can be the value of the conclusions of the political decision-makers? If preconceived notions overwhelm fairness, what will be the effect of false ruling on the discriminated party? How trustworthy may an examination of Armenian-Turkish relations be if even the mere expression of Turkish views are prohibited?

Those who venture to ask a nation to investigate its past and moreover attempt to dictate to it the conclusions it should reach are demonstrating a monstrous partisanship. If need be, let no nation be exempt from scrutiny. Especially the imperialism of late 19th and the early 20th centuries was not a scheme of “crisis management” but the cause of that crisis and its escalation. Failure to recognize that role makes the issue only more complicated. The Turks also have their own case.

The fancy that the Turks may only be victimizers is a deceptive delusion; it is an unjust partiality; it is wrong to the core; it is a denial of the accumulated gains of human struggle for equity; it is a careless brush-off of justice for all. The past cannot be changed to suit the present interests of a party to a dispute. To give a categorical stamp of approval to Armenian presentation is to change history. It is a prejudice that needs rereading, re-examination, revaluation and revision.
[1] Hans Köchler. “Coming to Terms with the Past as a Problem of Justice: Philosophical Reflections”. Paper submitted to Bilgi University, Istanbul, 2007.

[2] For instance: Stephen Pope and Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, Dictionary of the First World War, S. Yorkshire, UK, Pen & Sword Military Classics (first published by Macmillan Reference Books, 1995). 2003, pp.34-35.

[3] Olliver Hoedeman. “Corporate Power”, Argumenta Against G8 eds. Gill Hubbard and David Miller, London and Ann Arbor, MI, Pluto Press, 2005, p.88.

[4] This was the case in the Ottoman trials(after1918), post-war Germany and Japan (1945-46), Yugoslavia(1990-2000), and Iraq( 2003).

[5] For the ICC as a supranational entity, the independence of the judge and of the Prosecutor, and assertion of authority; Hans Köchler, Global Justice or Global Revenge? International Global Justice at the Crossroads. Wien-New York. Spinger, 2003. pp.4,12-14, 24-26, 28-30, 45-49, 185-204, 208-229, 237, 245, 249, 250, 260-266.

[6] Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United States, Norman, Okla. University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.

[7] A classic: Gunner Mydal, An American Dilemma, New York, Harper Collins, 1962.

[8] From the pen of an activist: Charles C. Roach, Canada’s Aboriginals: The Struggle for Their Homelands, London EAFORD, 1983.

[9] Condesed version of the authors’ prize-winning study: Sylvie Vincent and Bernard Arcand. The Image of the Amerindians in Quebec Textbooks, London, EAFORD 1983.

[10] E.E. Cashmore, The Rastafarians London MRG, 1984; L. Barrett, The Rastafarians, London, Heinemann.

[11] Condensed English version of prize-winning study: Rosque de Barros Laraia, New Trends in Brazilian Indian Affairs, London EAFORD, 1985.

[12] Hugh O’Shaughnessy and Stephen Corry, What Future for the Amerindians of South America, London EAFORD, 1977, p.9.

[13] M.M. Colchester with F. Watson, Venezuelan Violation of Indigenous Rights, London, Survival International and World Rainforest Movement, 1975.

[14] H. Beach, “The Sami of Lapland”, Polar peoples and Self-Determination and Development, London MRG, 1994.

[15] C. Palley et al..Minorities and Autonomy in Western Europe, London MGR, 1991

[16] S. Collinson Europe and International Migration, London Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1974; D. Jolly with C. Nettleton and L. Kelly, Refugees in Europe, London MGR 1997. For the life of the Suryanis in Sweden: Ulf Björklund, North to Another Country, Stockholm University of Stockholm, 1981.

[17] Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile: the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1822, Princeton, The Darwin Press, 1995.

[18] Salahi Ramadan Sonyel, The Muslims of Bosnia: Genocide of a People, liecester, The Islamic Foundation, 1995, p.5

[19] Olga Radova, “The Problem of Gagauz Ethno-DEmographic Development in the 19th Century. “Südost Forsehungen, Munchen, 54 (1995) pp. 263-270: O.K. Radova, “Gagauzy Bessarabii: Rasseleniye I Chislennost bXIX v” Etnograficheskoye Oboreniye (Yanvar- Fevral1997) str.121-128.

[20] Türkkaya Ataöv The Inquisition of the Late 1980s: the Turks of Bulgaria, Washington D.C., EAFORD , 1990

[21] Hugh Poulton, The Balkans: Minorities and State in Conflict, London, MGR, 1992, pp.182-188.

[22] Ann Sheehy and Bohden Nahaylo, The Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and Meskhetians, London MGR, 1980.

[23] U.N. Security Council , Resolution 822 (1993), Resolution 853 (1993), Resolution 884 (1993).

[24] On the tensions resulting from “market dominant minorities” and the power behind them: Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Etnic Hatred and Global Instability, London, William Heinemann, 2004.

[25] A.W. Williams and M.S. Gabriel, Bleeding Armenia: Its History and Horrors under the Curse of Islam, Chicago, publishers’ Union, 1896, pp.423-440, 470-471, 490-491. For extensive quotation of these statements, see: Türkkaya Ataöv The British Blue Books:Vehicles of War Propaganda, 1914-18, New York, Okey Enterprises, 2006, pp.32-33.

[26] For instance: David Marshall Lang, The Armenians: A people in Exile, London, George Allen and Unwin, 1981, p. 7.

[27] G. Pasdermadjian, Armenia: A leading Factor in the Winning of the War, tr. A. Toroossian, New York. American Committee for Armenia, 1919. For the chapter on Armenian armed revolt in 1915 and other Armenian sources on their belligerency, see: Türkkaya Ataöv, What Happened to the Ottoman Armenians? New York, Okey Enterprises, 2006, pp. 27-35 and fn 62.

[28] Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties through the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley, Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1975.

[29] K. S. Papazian, Patriotism Perverted: Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Boston, Baikar Press, 1934.

[30] So were those Armenians who wantonly murdered Turkish Diplomats and some other nationals between 1975 and the 1980s.

[31] American Commitee opposed to the Lausanne Treaty, The Lausanne Treaty and Kemalist Turkey, New York, 1924, p.19

[32] American Committee Opposed to the Lausanne Treaty, The Lausanne Treaty, Turkey, and Armenia, New York, 1926, p.143

[33] Nmuk D. Volkan, The Need to Have Enemies and Allies: From Clinical Practise to International Relationships, Northvale, New Jersey and London, Jason Aronson, Inc.1994

[34] Stanford J. Shaw. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol.1, Cambridge, University Press, 1976, pp.58-59, 133-135, 315-316.

[35] Stanford J.Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust: Turkey’s Role in Rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi Persecution, 1939-1945, New-York, Palgrave Macmillan, 1993

[36] For an Armenian view: Mesrob K. Krikorian, Armenians in the Service of the ottoman Empire:1860-1908, London Henley and Boston, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.

[37] Papazian op.cit. pp.74-75.

[38] M.Lacher, La Guerre turque dans la guerre mondiale, Paris Etienne Chiron, 1926, pp. 395-396.


Türkkaya Ataöv, Professor of International Relations


‘The Committee of Union and Progress and the Armenian Question’

Thank you very much. Since this is the right place and the right time I want to start a confession. I have two major regrets in my life: one is that I am not able to play the piano, even though it's my favourite instrument. The other is that I cannot speak Italian, even tough I think it is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. You have a great country. You certainly have the most beautiful cities in the continent of Europe and you have a great language. I want to thank Quaderni Radicali and in particular Mr. Giuseppe Rippa for hosting this meeting as well as the Italia-Turkish Friendship association and I want to thank all the Italian citizens who are here to listen to this difficult subject.

The purpose of my presence here, and I am sure that (Inc) and my other colleagues , is to see whether we can open new windows of dialogue, new ways of reconciliation between the Turks and Armenian on this extremely sensitive, important and difficult issue. So I hope if this meeting as well as the one that was held before helps towards this purpose, we will all have accomplished our objective.

Now, I'm going to be very brief. I'm not used to being very long. I want to answer to your three basic questions: what is the state of Turkish-Armenian relation? The second is: what's happening today? Then, I'll answer the questions why there is no diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia? And finally I'll try to share with you some ideas about the future for Turkey and Armenia.

In terms of the first topic, let me begin with the fact that Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenian independence. This was in December 1991 and I think we were among the very first countries to do so. We came close to establishing diplomatic relations but we have not been able to do so and I'll explain why in a minute.

Though we do not have diplomatic relations with Armenia, well, Armenia is represented in Turkey. How is that possible? Well, when Turkey initiated the economic organization initiative and after it became a sound organization, we invited Armenia to join that organization, in its headquarters in Istanbul there is an Armenian diplomat who lives in Turkey, working in Turkey, flying to Istanbul. In terms of other relations between Turkey and Armenia, I would like to first emphasize the fact that the corridors between Turkey and Armenia are open, flights from other countries can fly the Turkish sky to Armenia and Armenian origin flights can cross Turkish airspace, in addition there are Turkish flights between Istanbul and the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, at least twice a week, during summer there are additional flights from Yerevan to the southern cities of Turkey. The land border crossing between Turkey and Armenia is closed and this has been the case since 1993. This was in response to the Armenian occupation of (inc), the disputed territory between the two states but also about 20% of Armenian territory (inc). As in response Turkey said: "enough is enough, so we are closing our land bord". So, since 1993 the land crossing between Turkey and Armenia has been closed.

However, the road transports from Armenia and to Armenia is still open, there's trucks that go and come through Georgia or by Iran, can pass through Turkey though there is no direct trail between Armenia and Turkey. There is an interchange and in 2006, for example, the amount of trail with Armenia amounted to 160 million dollars, so if you go to Armenia today you can have shops, consumer goods of different (inc), and in Turkey there are more than 40000 citizens of Armenia who live in different parts of Turkey, some near the Armenian border, some in Istanbul. They could make a living in Turkey in different areas of life and why is it so? Well, Armenian economic conditions and Armenia itself are extremely poor. Even though we don't have diplomatic relations, the two countries have very frequent and high level contacts. At the time of president Petroshn (?) there were regular meetings between the Turkish and Armenian presidents; after he lost power, there have been no meetings at the level of the president but Turkish and Armenian high officials meet yearly along the margins of different international meetings.

There are of course several society contacts between Turkey and Armenia. There is a continuous interchange between non governmental organizations in the two countries, particularly women, artists, journalists and academics. Sometimes Turks go to Armenia, other times Armenians come to Turkey. In 2004, for example, Armenian state orchestra gave a concert in Turkey and in 2005 the Armenian state ballet gave a performance in Turkey.

Today Armenia is the poorest country in the region at war with one of its neighbors, Azerbaijan, at short hands with another neighbor, Turkey. Its population is, it has a rather unhealthy relationship and of extreme dependence from Russia, in contrast with Turkey which is one of the bigger countries of the region, the 16th larger economy. And for a great deal there is a normalization of the relations between the two countries and to Armenia. Armenia unfortunately is excluding itself from almost every regional cooperation scheme that has come to life after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was ambassador in Azerbaijan and the (inc) , which is a major project, could have gone through Armenia with its structures, and the conditions at the moment and Armenia would have gained a great deal from this project.

Why then, if this is the state of the art (?) in the two countries, which is a lot of relationships, a lot of interaction, why there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries? And that's my second question.

Now, in 1991 we came close to establishing diplomatic relations. There were intense negotiations a lot of progress was made at the time but at the last minute, because of certain obstacles that Armenian side experience could not succeed in establishing full diplomatic relations between our countries. Problems where mostly related to territory, relating to the recognition of existing treaties and the genocide issue. I think that at the time a rare opportunity was missed because had it succeeded in establishing diplomatic relations at the time, we would have probably made a lot of progress both (inc) and regional cooperation efforts. Today, of course, the conditions are different, are different from those that prevailed in 1991. What are the conditions:

first, territorial claims by Armenia. In both the declaration of independence of Armenia and in the constitution of Armenia there are references to parts of Turkey, for example, there is a reference to Western Armenia, which happens to be in Turkey, there is a reference to mount Ararat, which is in the territory of Turkey, which is symbolic and very important to Armenia. I understand that, the symbolic importance of mount Ararat for Armenians but it happens to be in Turkish territory. And you make a reference to it in the constitution, it makes it a lot of problematic.

The second problem is the Armenian insistence on the recognition of genocide claims.

This is a state policy binding all Armenian governments. Again, I don't challenge the right on the Armenian side to make it a state policy. But if you make it a state policy, it makes normalisation of the relationships with Turkey difficult. That is the point.

A third problem is the Armenian efforts to gain recognition of their genocide claims in third countries, in third country parliaments. And they have done a good job, obtaining such decisions and resolutions and in the case of France even a recognition of Armenian claims of genocide. A similar resolution was adopted even though in some muted (?) form in Italy, in 2000. Now, the problem here is : every time a country adopts a resolution that recognises Armenian claims, the relation between those countries and Turkey becomes problematic. When Turkey experiences problems with these countries, whether it is France, Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia , whatever, it also reflects on our relationship with Armenia. The Armenians are doing this and so it's going to be even more difficult for us to normalise our relationship with Armenia.

Of course, an important point to understand this, the idea behind those resolutions adopted by third party parliaments, is that there is a step on the Armenian side towards further claims. This idea: Turkey, especially compensation, property claims, and territorial claims.

This is the strategy: they are trying to first create a political platform though the major missing link is a decision from the U.S. congress. They have not been able to do so.

Another problem of course if the Armenian refuse to recognize existing treaties between Turkey and Armenia which date back from the 1920s. Treaties which are still valid and which regulate the relations and the borders between the two countries.

Finally, what does the future hope for the two countries? Here the issue if very simple from the Turkey point of view: the future holds a great deal of promise, for the two countries, if they manage their relations, by managing their relationship which means the normalization of the relationship and establishing of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Now this happens very easily, even as I explained, we have the (inc) (inc), we have the occupation of (inc) territory by Armenia, we have this other territory, genocide, non recognition of existing treaties, but I believe that we can overcome all of these problems only if we can start a genuine engagement on the issue of genocide claims.

What is this, what created a good energy between these two very ancient people when they lived together and we want to see if we can go further in the normalization of ancient (inc).

In this regards, the proposal by the Turkish Prime Minister in April 2005 is still valid. This is a call for uncovering the truth about a mutual issue: if it's a genocide, it'll be accepted, if it is not genocide, it won't be accepted.

My final remark will be from an article that appeared on the International (Herald?) Tribune on Monday 25th February, written by Timoty (inc) (INc) and is says:

"Perhaps the time has come to take Turkey upon its author (?) and establish an international, independent historical coalition that can explore historical facts and (inc) the conditions in a neutral and sustained manner, and render an independet and informed opinion". Thank you.

Faruk Logoglu


Intervento di Feroz Ahmed

‘The Committee of Union and Progress and the Armenian Question’

(Draft Of The Talk, Rome, 27 February 2008)

The Armenian awakening began perhaps fifty years before the founding of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in 1889. The Armenian intelligentsia influenced by the forces of secularism following the French Revolution of 1789 began to recover the Armenian language from the clergy who used it only as the language of liturgy.

The awakening, initially cultural acquired the political dimensions during the second half of the 19th century when the intelligentsia began to seek the support of the Great powers in order to reform its situation in the Ottoman Empire. Thus the Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin of 1878 called for “improvement and reform in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians”.

The Armenian intelligentsia continued to become more political and radical, possibly influenced by events in Russia during the late 19th century. That resulted in the founding of movements like the Hinchak (socialist) and the Dashnaksutiyun (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation/ARF). The latter, in particular, hoped that the Great Powers would intervene on behalf of the Armenian community as they had on behalf of the Serbs, Greeks, and Bulgarians, leading to reform and autonomy

The ARF were convinced that if they could create disorder in the Empire, the Great Powers would be forced to intervene and coerce the Sultan to make concessions. But the massacres by Kurdish tribes (1895-6), the seizure of the Anglo-French Ottoman Bank in Istanbul by Armenian revolutionaries in August 1896 did not lead to the kind of GP intervention the ARF had hoped for. The GPs only forced the Sultan to permit the revolutionaries to leave Istanbul on a foreign ship.

By the turn of the 20th century, the ARF understood that with the unification of Germany and Italy the balance of power in Europe had changed. It was no longer possible to get a European consensus on gunboat diplomacy vis-à-vis the Sultan. So they decided to collaborate with the CUP to forces the Sultan to proclaim the 1876 constitution and carry out reform in the Empire.

That is precisely what happened in July 1908 when a military insurrection led by the CUP forced the Sultan to restore parliamentary government.

A few words about the CUP are in order.

Founded in Paris in 1889, other oppositional, secret groups were also set up throughout the Empire. Initially, it was a constitutional movement opposed to the Sultan’s autocracy, convinced that parliamentary government could save the Empire from the dissolution it seemed headed for.

When the constitution was restored in 1908, there was no recognized leader who could speak for the movement and what emerged was a collective, collegial, leadership with its HQ in Salonika and not the capital, Istanbul. It has been aptly called ‘a party of leaders’.

When Ahmed Riza, who had led the movement in Paris, returned to Istanbul, he was virtually marginalized and hardly played a significant role after 1908

Until 1912, the CUP continued to be a secret body with a Central Committee elected by a General Assembly in secret congresses held in Salonika. Only in 1912, after the loss of Salonika to Greece during the Balkan War, did the movement’s HQ move to the capital.

With the establishment of parliamentary government, the CUP emerged as a strongest party in the Assembly. Though it continued to rely on the old bureaucratic class to lead the government, it nevertheless tried to influence policy.

The CUP also played an important role in establishing a working relationship with the non-Muslim communities – the Greek, the Armenian, and the Jewish. Thus for example, before general elections community leaders bargained with the CUP for representation in the coming Assembly.

The Committee’s goal was to create a modern, constitutional Ottoman Empire without distinction of religion or race. That was welcomed by all the communities and that is why we read of joint, inter-communal celebrations throughout the Empire after the constitution was restored.

The Unionists were able to establish a strong relationship with the ARF. I rely on the doctoral thesis by Dikran Mesrob Kaligian on ‘The Armenian Revolutionary Federation under Ottoman Constitutional Rule, 1908-1914’ for much of my information. The thesis was written at Boston College in 2003 and Kaligian was given access to the archives of the ARF which are housed in Watertown, Massachusetts.

What we learn is that, despite their caution and suspicion, the ARF were able to reach a political understanding with the CUP. They agreed on parliamentary representation for the Armenian community, and later when the Law of Associations was passed forbidding associations that were based on religion or race, the government never enforced this law and communal association like ARF continued to thrive.

In fact, both the CUP and the ARF had difficulties in dealing with the Armenian Patriarchate which represented the ‘amira class’ of Istanbul, the wealthy urban Armenians, the bankers, money changers, etc. The constitutional regime wanted to curb the privileges of the Patriarch while secular Armenian bodies like ARF wanted to share in the power within the community. The Patriarch told the British embassy’s dragoman that the future of the community “…lay in working in loyal union with the Turks on the line of prudence and moderation and eschewing all extremist ideas in the way of autonomy etc.. He was counseling his flock in this sense and had let it be discreetly understood that he would resign the Patriarchate rather than countenance any advanced tendencies on the part of the Henchaq, Droshaq, or other Armenian societies....” 1

When elections were held in November, the British ambassador reported that the Armenian community was happy with the way the elections were conducted and showed their pleasure by sending a deputation to the Porte. 2

The CUP-ARF relationship was not even damaged by the events in Adana in April 1909 that led to the killing of local Armenians. The ARF understood that the Adana incidents – along with the counter-revolution in Istanbul - were part of the conservative plan to destroy the CUP and undermine the constitutional regime. The Great Powers were expected to intervene in order to restore stability and support the conservatives.

In the Assembly debated Nazaret Dagavaryan, the Armenian deputy for Sivas, noted that "These [massacres] did not happen on their own. Just as incidents began to take place here [in Istanbul] on 31 March [13 April], there too they began in the same way.[11]

“Who was responsible for the massacres?” asked Krikor Zohrab, another prominent Armenian. He blamed the governor of Adana, Cevat Bey. "What is the character of Governor Cevat Bey? This man is the product of the Palace. He is a man groomed by despotism...."[12[

The conservative opposition continued to attack the CUP even after the failure of the counter-revolution and Bedros Halacyan, a Armenian minister provided an interesting defence of the Committee: "It is stated that the Committee has been trying to incite religious animosity between the Crescent and the Cross. I defy anybody to prove to me the accuracy or this statement. The fact is that the party ought to be judged by its enemies. Who are the enemies of the Committee? The reactionaries, the followers of Hamidian rule, [and] those Levantines who seek above all things the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire...."[13]

In September 1909 the CUP and ARF concluded an agreement that that there should always be an Armenia in the cabinet. This agreement, commented The Times (23 September) “…may legitimately be regarded as a sign that the leaders of the new regime want to work in friendly cooperation with the Armenians”.

Apart from the fact that the Unionists saw the Armenians as progressive allies against the conservatives, they also saw the Armenian – as well as other Christian communities - as models of progress. They were to be emulated by the Muslims of Anatolia if Muslims were to advance into the twentieth century. The Committee saw non-Muslim institutions, such as their schools, as a model that Muslims ought to copy and try to improve upon them

The non-Muslims, and particularly the Armenians, were seen as agents of change even for urban, upper class, Muslims, the majority of whom were still steeped in tradition. The Unionists also regarded the Armenian business and professional intelligentsia as the group that could play an even more important role in helping to create an Ottoman bourgeoisie so vital for the revitalization of Ottoman economy and society. In fact, the Turks, lacking a developed technical intelligentsia, relied on Armenians to provide such skills in order to modernize Ottoman society. The Armenian community had been sending students to France and Italy to learn modern methods of farming, etc and the Unionists wanted to recruit such people in order to change the economy of Anatolia.

During the years before the World War, CUP-ARF relations were viable because the Unionists recognized the grievances of the Armenian communities in Anatolia and tried to address them. Thus the land question as well as protections from Kurdish tribes that preyed on the settled population, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

To resolve the land question the Assembly allotted money in the budgets to compensate Armenian peasants whose lands had been seized by tribes. But Istanbul found it impossible to establish state control, largely because of widespread brigandage and tribal anarchy throughout Anatolia. The insecurity in the east had become so grave and the government, unable to protect the Armenians, instructed them to buy arms in order to protect themselves against the Kurdish tribes. Thus Kiligian notes that the ARF took regular measures to arm Armenian peasants for their own protection.3

In early 1912, there was a fear of a Kurdish uprising fomented by Russian agents at a time when a Russian army was on the border and was in a position to intervene. By 1911-12 The government’s position became so weak because of war with Italy, that in September 1912 it was forced to accept Albanian demands for autonomy.

With the outbreak of the Balkan War in October and the rout of Ottoman armies, some Armenian revolutionaries saw the success of Balkan nationalities in achieving their goals as the right moment to fight for their own liberation. On 28 November 1912 Albania declared its independence. 4

On 27 October, the ‘Self-Defense Body of the ARF wrote to the Troshag Editorial Board: “The ARF saw that the Ottomans were being soundly beaten and expected that there would soon be a peace conference at which the Europeans would divided the spoils of war. This would provide an opportunity to obtain the essential reforms needed to guarantee security and a livelihood to the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia”. Earlier on 14 October Mikael Varantian, an ARF leader wrote to Simon Zavarian from Geneva noting that the ‘Armenians were dispersed on different sides’ in the war. ‘The young ARF members in the Balkans were enthusiastically forming battalions and going to fight against the Ottomans’. 5

Thus Armenians of the Balkans led by Antranik Pasha fought on the Bulgarian side against the Ottomans. Armenians in Istanbul and Anatolia on the other hand supported the Ottoman war effort. The Porte differentiated between the two and emphasized the loyalty of the latter, the Armenians of Anatolia. The press reported that the Armenians of Istanbul were enlisting and making financial contributions to the war effort. Their patriotism was much appreciated by the Porte. According to the Patriarch there were 8,000 Armenians in the army and he had appointed 15 priests “to provide for the spiritual needs of the Armenian soldiers”. 6

In order to prevent incidents in the east the Seyhulislam issued a proclamation to the provinces of Anatolia and Arabia calling for tolerance towards the non-Muslims and to treat them on terms of absolute equality, ‘as enjoined by the Sharia’, the holy law of Islam. They were also told the authors of the slightest incidents would be held responsible before God and would be punished by the government. 7

Writing about the situation in the Balkans in 1912, Leon Trotsky noted that the Ottomans faced a nationalities question that could only be solved by establishing a state on the ‘federal basis’ on ‘the pattern of Switzerland or the U.S.A.’ But ‘the Young Turks had rejected that path’. 8

Faced with colossal defeat, the Unionists abandoned their policy of ‘Union’ and opted for decentralization. They passed a new law for the provinces and modified the constitution of the Lebanon.

The situation in the east grew worse with increasing tribal lawlessness affecting Unionist-Armenian relations. Because of the government’s failure to protect the Armenian communities, the ARF bought arms for the peasantry and break off relations with the Unionists [July 1913].

In November 1913, ARF’s Western Bureau wrote to the U.S. Central Committee that because of the ‘upsurge in violence’ and the Porte inability to deal with it, the Dashnak decided to change their tactics and respond in kind ‘as was being done in the Van Vilayet. Kurdish Beys and aghas who oppressed Armenians would have to be intimidated and terrorized. Lands that had been seized by force would have to be taken by force. Thus it would be the Kurds who would have to protest to the government for assistance rather than the Armenians. Such revolutionary activities had been sanctioned by the prior world congress”. 9

In January 1914, the British vice-consul wrote that “the Armenians are now better armed than the Kurds…The Dashnakist party made the most of this opportunity, their policy being to put the Armenians in the province in a position to hold their own against the Mahommedans should the necessity arise…” 10

In their weakened position and under pressure from all sides, in February the Unionists signed the agreement to reform what Europe call the ‘Armenian provinces’ in Anatolia. These six provinces were to be divided into two zones, each to be ruled by a foreign governor. The Unionists had accepted foreign control, something they had promised never to do! That is where matters stood when war in Europe broke out. The two governors, Wesntennek and Hoff, were forced to return home.

With the outbreak of war the entire situation changed. Istanbul had signed a secret alliance with Germany on 2 August 1912, and though neutral, she was expected to play an active role in German strategy.

One of the principal weapons in the war was propaganda and both sides were determined to exploit it to the best of their ability. When the Russians expelled their Jewish population from the Pale, the Germans were quick to exploit that in the U.S. against Russia’s allies England and France, asking how parliamentary regimes could justify the alliance with a tyranny like Russia’s.

Berlin brought Georgian and Ukrainian nationalist movements to Turkey so as to subvert those regions of the Russian empire. That was also one of the reasons for the alliance with Istanbul: the Sultan-Caliph would be able to appeal to Muslims living under the rule of England, France, and Russia and that is what the declaration of Jihad in November was intended to do.

The Unionists (and the German) hoped that the Armenians would agree to play the same role. In mid-August the Unionists sent a delegation to Erzurum where the ARF had held its Eighth World Congress. The Unionists met the ARF leaders and had lengthy discussions. The Unionists “disclosed that the government had decided to take advantage of what they hoped would be the German defeat of France and Russia… should Russia be completely defeated, they would advance to the Caucasus to either conquer them or incite a revolution there. According to the Unionists, the Georgians and Tatars in the Caucasus were already preparing for a rebellion against Russian rule. They thought that the position of the Armenians would be vital to their success. This was because they were convinced that the ARF had the power and the ability to persuade the Russian Armenians to remain loyal to the Russian government until a critical juncture at which time they would shift their allegiance to the Turks. They assured their interlocutors that the Ottoman government had no interest in occupying the Caucasus, but merely wanted to pull it out of Russia’s orbit and then give it autonomy. And the extent of such autonomy would depend on the extent of the ‘dedication and service’ to the Ottoman Empire each of these peoples of the region displayed. Finally they stated that Germany was committed to helping the Ottomans execute the entire plan”. 11

“The ARF representatives responded that they did not have the authority to make a commitment at that time particularly as the World congress had been adjourned prematurely. Only the responsible bodies for the Caucasus could make such a commitment. But in any case, Russian Armenians no longer had the enthusiasm for Ottoman constitutional rule as they had had from 1908-1910. The errors the government and the CUP had made in regards to Ottoman Armenians would give Russian Armenians no confidence that support for the Ottoman government would improve conditions for their compatriots across the border. The Russian government had been using that lack of confidence to win the support of its own Armenian population. The Ottoman government’s stance towards the Armenian reform issue also was not encouraging. Before promising autonomy to the Armenians in the Caucasus, the government should help Ottoman Armenians. They concluded that Turkey should hurry and implement policies that would win over the Armenians just as the Russians were doing toward the Poles. The Unionists insisted that they should be told what the ARF wants. The ARF representatives answered that they were fully aware of ARF demands and that those in power knew better what they could and could not give the Armenians, especially during wartime. The Unionist delegates promised to convey the ARF responses to Constantinople by telegram. In spite of their assurances to the contrary, Vramian believed the Turks considered them Russian sympathizers. This came from their misunderstanding of conditions and what the real issues were as well as their political savvy”. 12

At this date, Istanbul was neutral and still did not intend to become a belligerent until the right moment. Let’s remember that the war was expected to be short, ending in a negotiated peace under German hegemony.

Even when Istanbul entered the war in November 1914, the war was expected to end by the spring of 1915. The Ottoman disaster at Sarikamis in the Caucasus and the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign changed that. For Istanbul, war had become a matter of its very survival.

The Entente fleet failed to break through the Straits in March 1915 and began to land troops in order to open the road to Istanbul. The Germans and the Ottoman decided that if Istanbul fell to the enemy, they could continue the war on two fronts: The Germans from Edirne, the Turks from Anatolia.

I believe the decision to relocate Armenians (and Greeks) was taken in order to make sure that the retreat into Anatolia could not be hindered by a fifth column. Remember that the Armenian communities of Istanbul and Izmir were not relocated because they were not judged a threat.

The day before that Entente landing at Gallipoli, only ARF leaders in Istanbul were arrested on 24 April 1915 and their organization closed down. 13

Armenian rebellion in Van began in 13 April 1915; local Armenians led by the Dashnak said to be collaborating with the Russian army. News was received in Tiflis on 6 or 7 May that Van “had been occupied by Russian troops under General Oganesov (really Ohanesian, an Armenian general in command of the Russian Caucasian Army). He was assisted by six Armenian volunteer regiments commanded by Andranig, the well-known Armenian revolutionary, who had already fought against the Turks during the first Balkan War, and had been given the rank and decoration of a general by Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria”. 14

At this point, the ARF made no secret of their collaboration with the Russian army. why should they? They believed that they were fighting to liberate their homeland. The Ottomans may have considered they as rebels and traitors but future historians of the war should not.

Under these circumstances the Tehcir/Relocation Law was passed in late April 1915. Its implementation was haphazard because the Government did not control the administration of Anatolia and therefore was not strong enough to enforce it. The Unionists were themselves divided.

In an Armenian memoir we are told that the governor of Kutahya, Faik Ali, refused to deport local Armenians despite pressure from the Unionists of Kutahya. They complained to Minister Talat Bey but Ali Faik refused to budge and offered to resign if Talat persisted in pressing to have the order fulfilled. Talat backed down and the Armenians of Kutahya were not relocated. 15

This event suggests a number of possibilities. Firstly, that the regime in Istanbul was not strong enough to have its orders carried out even if it wanted to. After all, Kutahya was not so far from Istanbul and its governor was in communication with the government. The government should have been able to force Faik Ali to carry out its orders or accepted his resignation.

Secondly, the CUP was divided on this issue and many in the Committee were opposed to the Relocation order. After all Faik Ali, though the brother of Suleyman Nazif, was not such a prominent Unionist as to stand up to Talat. But Talat lacked support in the movement.

The threat from Gallipoli ended in January 1916 when the Entente withdrew its forces. The relocation policy was also wound down and we hear of Armenians returning to their former homes or moving to the security of Istanbul.

Even the Russian advance into Anatolia in 1916 did not lead to a change of policy. In 1916, Russian armies had occupied a swathe of Ottoman territory from Trabzon on the Black Sea down through Erzincan to Van and then back to the Caucasus. This region was to be annexed and attached to Russian Armenia if Russia won the war.

While this was an important front for the Unionists, they did not see the Russian occupation as threatening the very existence of the Empire. They were depending on the final German victory that would be won on the Western front. This was especially true after the Bolshevik Revolution and the retreat of Russian armies from Anatolia. Right until the failure of the last German offensive in the West in July 1918, The Unionist war aims show that they were hoping to have an enlarged Empire that would include not only territories conquered by the British in Iraq and Syria, but the restoration of Egypt, occupied by the British in 1882, and even Cyprus, leased to London in 1878. At Brest-Litovsk, the Unionists had already regained territories annexed by Russia in 1878.

The Unionists were Imperialists not nationalists. They wanted to retain a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire that included not only Turks, but Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews.

Armenian nationalists had calculated on an Entente victory and such a victory was achieved even after the Bolsheviks made peace.

After the Ottoman defeat, Armenian nationalists hoped that they would have the support of the victorious Great Powers – England, France, Italy, and the US – to achieve an even greater Armenia with borders from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. They claimed to have the demographic strength – i.e. over a million people - to populate such a state if only they wee given this territory under a U.S. mandate. They said that there were hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees who had fled with the Russian armies, who were waiting to be repatriated in Anatolia. This suggests that the war had not take the toll on life that wartime and later propaganda claimed.

But the historical conjuncture had changed and the Great Powers were in no mood to consider Armenian territorial claims. Armenian nationalists, who the Powers admitted had made a considerable contribution to their war effort as belligerents, were not given any compensation they believed they deserved. Thus their bitterness then and today. 16

Feroz Ahmad
Yeditepe University
Istanbul
References



Quaderni Radicali” Jeo-politic Magazine, Nov. 2008 (Italy)
Minutes of Conference held on 27.2.2008 in the Italian House of Representatives on “Turkish-Armenia Relations”

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