1709) Turkish State Archives Are Open: Scholars From 80 Countries Have Already Conducted Studies There Since 2003

When the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923 over the remains of 623-year old Ottoman Empire, she inherited the glorious legacy of the empire that spread over three continents for more than six centuries. There were, as a popular Ottoman saying goes, “72 millets” in the empire. All religions (from Islam to Christainity to Budhaism to Shamanism and more) were represented; more than 100 languages and/or dialects were spoken. All of these nations were able to maintain their identity, religion, and traditions; basically rule themselves, and prosper, thanks to the little known “millet system”.

Those territories and nations that were ruled rather peacefully for many centuries under the Ottoman “millet system” seem to have plunged into an endless series of military and/or social conflicts since they became independent: the Balkans, the Cacasus, the Middle East, North Africa, central Asia... While the genie is out of the Ottoman bottle and cannot be put back in, and I am not advocating such archaic and obsolete ideas anyway, there is still something to be said about this “millet system”. Some Werstern writers even suggested recently that the millet system deserves another look as it could solve many of the problems and violent conflicts around the globe today, including but not limited Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel-Palestinian, former Yugoslavia and former Soviet republics, and others. (Armenian aggression and ethnic cleansing in Azerbajan must be stopped and the situation rolled back to achieve pre-war conditions first to benefit from the magic touch of the millet system.)

My intention here is not to propose the “Ottoman Millet System” as a cure-all remedy for all the current conflcts around the world (though that idea definitely deserves another look), but to share with you that the written archives of that magnificent empire are now maintained by The Turkish State Archives.

The Ottoman Imperial Archives is one of the richest in the world and, naturally, the most-frequently-consulted written sources collection with regard to the 1915 events. Any research that failed to consult the Turkish State Archives in matters relating to the common histories of Middle and Near East, Balkans, Mediterranean, North Africa, Arabic countries, Caucasus, and beyond, would simply be incomplete.

The General Directorate of State Archives under Turkish Prime Ministry, located in Ankara, Turkey, has taken measures to enable the fast and effective availability of documents to researchers. Also, Turkish State Archives have been brought in line with European Union regulations, which means relevant laws have been amended to enable the same-day-issuance of the research permits. A comprehensive web page (www.devletarsivleri.gov.tr) has been created to include digital copies of classified documents and their translation into contemporary Turkish. Inclusion of English translations of the authentic documents is underway. These initiatives have already resulted in scholars from 80 countries to engage themselves in the archives since 2003.


The Armenian lobby which pushes hard for the recognition of their claim of genocide continue to also allege that the Turkish State archives are “not open at all”, “not open fully”, “have been cleansed of certain documents”; or that the archives belonging to Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (Ottoman Intelligence Agency) or to the Ottoman Army are being hidden; or that Talat Paşa had sent to his officials, two conflicting orders at the same time, carrying the same document number, the “evil” one of which was to be destroyed upon reading... (Armenian imagination at work!!!)


The Ottoman Empire has one of the most developed and rooted archiving traditions in the world. This system, which is still being used, requires each and every document to have a distinct document and file number. Furthermore, a copy of the identical document is possessed by several government institutions and relevant bodies, as well as international interlocutors, depending on the content. In this system, it is almost impossible to fail to notice the absence of a particular document as the document numbers progress consecutively. Moreover, the same document would have to be removed from ALL institutions’ archives, with a hopefully-very-lucky prediction of which institutions, besides the actual addressee, might have received a copy a hundred years ago.

It is for this reason that the order of temporary resettlement (May 27, 1915) , order for the arrest of the leaders of Armenian revolutionary committees (April 24, 19915), orders regarding the measures taken for the protection of Armenian orphans and properties (throughout 1915 and 1916) , are to be found in matching copies in various different subarchives of the Ottoman system. It is simply impossible to carry out a “perfect cleansing” of hundreds of thousands of documents spread to thousands of known and unknown institutions over many years (1914-1923) to a degree that not one scholar, researcher, or historian in the past 90+ years was able to come up with a single evidence that shows the alleged Ottoman intent to exterminate Armenians.

In the absence of the possibility of the complete destruction of any particular document, a second option of “cleansing” would be to replace or revise a document, which again seems rather risky in today’s techniques of identifying the authenticity of any artifact.


The Ottoman Military archives’ documents are under the supervision of Turkish Chief of Staff and available, along with the Collection of First World War, including the correspondence of the TESKILAT-I MAHSUSA, to those interested researchers.


Allegations that “İttihat ve Terakki (Unıon and Progress Party in Power at the time) archives are not open”:

The correspondence by the leaders of the İttihat ve Terakki Partisi ( The Party of Unıon and Progress) from the dates of the party’s ascendance to power to the end of their rule, have been included and classified in the Ottoman Archives and made available with unlimited access to those interested sholars.


Allegations that “Talat Paşa had sent two conflicting orders under the same document number: the good one to be kept ın fıles for all to see, and the evıl one to be destroyed after enacted”:

This far-fetched argument can be held against any document of any archive in the world. It is indeed a challenge that would bring into question the validity of all archives in the world and the whole idea of archiving.

Furthermore, it would be unrealistic to assume that Talat Paşa, in 1915, predicted that some thirty years later, a crime called “genocide” would be invented and that he, himself, would be accused of it; and that for this reason he had to create a secondary system of communication, in the heat of a war when the very survival of the state was in question.

Leave it to Armenians, like Andonian, to fabricate, lie, distort, allege, and do everything else to defame, but still produce no evidence. There are sayings for just this kind of behavior:

“Throw the mud on the wall; even if it is washed away, there will still be a stain.”

“If enough people tell the same lie enough times, people will eventually start believing.”



In 1919, 140 of Turkish prominent figures of the time were arrested and deported to Malta by Great Britain, with 58 of these being charged with outrages to Armenians both in Turkey and Southern Caucasus. Upon the British government’s initiative to bring these officials before a tribunal, the Law Officers of the Crown, in a memorandum to the Cabinet dated August 4, 1920, documented that no material evidence existed about such “massacre” –although they had free access to the Ottoman archives in İstanbul that was under Allied occupation- and abstained from accusing any of the Turkish deportees. Attorney General refused to get involved in such a case, where he carefully avoided the usage of the term “massacre”, which was frequently referred to by Allied wartime propaganda machines. Consequently, all Turkish deportees in Malta were returned safely to Turkish soil October 31, 1921.

What is even more ironic is the fact that the British prosecutors had the “Blue Book” in their hands, a wartime propaganda book compiled by Bryce and Toynbee listing Armenian tall tales fabricated by Armenian nationalists, clergy and circulated by the U.S. Protestant missionaries, which book convicted and condemned the Turks in its first page and every page aftre that... Imagine that! The British legal experst would dismiss a British-written book, the main pillar on which the Armenian lobby base their claim of genocide even to this day! And the Armenian attempts to document such a grave accusation as “genocide”, to this day, remain in vain.

The permanent failure of the Armenian lobby to find any proof of their false accusations of genocide in the Ottoman Archives would understandably direct the partisans of the “official Armenian position”, to question the reliability of a centuries’ old tradition of state archiving, instead of the reliability of the Armenian accusations.

Yet, it is high time that somebody reminds the “archive-bashers” that the Armenian archives in Yerevan, and Tashnak and Armenian Republic Delegation Archives in Boston have been kept behind closed doors altogether. Talk about shameful double standards.

If information is power, then the awesome power of the Turkish archives still await their unleashing...

And those partisans who love to claim that the alleged Armenian Genocide is an open and shot case, might as well prepare for the ultimate humiliation. The truth is already bringing the Armenian house of cards tumbling down...

Ergun KIRLIKOVALI ergun@turkla.com


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