2877) Art Of Living Together In The Ottoman Society: Opening Speeches: M Hulagu, C Utas, Mesrob II, B Simsir, Y Halacoglu, M Saray, N Kandemir

Art Of Living Together In The Ottoman Society: Opening & Protocol Speeches: Metin Hülagü [Chairman], Cengiz Utas [Rector], Mesrob II, Bilal SIMSIR, Yusuf HALACOGLU, Mehmet SARAY, Nuzhet KANDEMIR . .

Dear Rector,
Dear Patriarch,
Dear Commanders,
Dear Lecturers,
Dear Guests,
Dear Press Members,

First of all, I welcome you to Erciyes University’s 1st International Social Studies Symposium with my deepest regards.

This year the theme of the conference titled Erciyes University’s 1st International Social Studies Symposium was determined as The Art of Living Together in the Ottoman Society: the Case of Turkish-Armenian Relations.

Fields of literature, law, administration, trade, art, music, health and education, to express in short, the socio-cultural aspects of Turkish-Armenian relations will be dealt with in this symposium aiming to increase an exchange of ideas, collaboration and solidarity among academicians. As is appreciated, Turkish-Armenian relations have had a long history and a socially, culturally, politically and economically, rich background and, as well, productive interaction.

In the administration of the Ottoman Government, one of the most ingenious ones to put an art of living together into practice in the past, rather than recognizing and evaluating Turkish and Armenian societies as two different sides, that is to say, as the one who administers and the one who is administered, it is probably more accurate to mention that they integrated with each other, one mostly with its art, trade, and loyalty, the other, in contrast, with its military skills, administrative power, mercy, and justice.

However, after the 2nd Siege of Vienna in 1683, the beginning of the stagnation and, subsequently, the regression and dispersion periods that the Ottoman State underwent constituted the beginning of a new period in Turkish-Armenian relations. Finally, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, had become a separation of roads and a milestone of a series of disagreements. Because of these features, the Turkish-Armenian disagreement under consideration that has become a basic theme of a lot of meetings both national and international, it seems that it will continue for a longer term, thanks to its political structure, doomed by exploitation. This last period of Turkish and Armenian relations that can be remarked have been handled mostly in respect to their military and political aspects. The relationship between Turkish and Armenian societies has never been investigated systematically within the scope of “The Art of Living Together”. These aspects and characteristics of the Ottoman Government or Ottoman society, with a rich cultural inheritance and an experience of living together, have always been disregarded. This is why Turkish-Armenian relations have taken place among the matters of first priority for both the last period of the Ottoman administration and today’s modern Turkish Republic, heir of that administration. The traditional defensive approach in foreign politics, beginning as a result of the defeat of the 2nd Siege of Vienna and preserving its existence, has been maintained with the same attitude, basis, and characteristics in the Armenian issue. It has always been the others determining, accus ing, and executing. Turkish and Armenian nations have been the ones determined, accused, and convicted.

In this regard, this symposium has an objective of being different from national and international symposiums held so far. This objective also constitutes a first in the field of its kind in terms of its present structure and content.

Instead of the approaches presented to the Turkish and Armenian societies through activities on national and international levels so far, those unable to ensure a conclusion apart from augmenting the disagreement and animosity between two sides and circulating within a vicious circle, it has been aimed to remind Turkish and Armenian societies through the title, called The Art of Living Together in the Ottoman Society: the Case of Turkish-Armenian Relations, how they have both lived together for centuries within a friendly atmosphere and the cordial solidarity they have manifested, and that they are in and of themselves the heir of common culture that is on the point of being forgotten.

In this sense, as an organizing committee of the symposium, it has been our basic objective to allow the academicians to come together, regardless of their religious beliefs and identities, to introduce the findings over an art of living together in a multi-cultural Ottoman society to the world of social science. Furthermore, we wish to contribute to the development of good relations between Turkish and Armenian societies, and in this sense, to the continuation of intercultural tolerance and, thus, to world peace.

As understood from the introduced symposium program, the favour granted for this symposium, perhaps regarded as a first and unique in its own field in terms of its cost and objective, is considerable with regard to the manifestation of the necessity of such togetherness beyond our own contentment.

We are in hope of exhibiting a rich presentation, a comprehensive information-sharing and new attitudes in this symposium. The 125 participating prominent scholars from throughout the country will handle and evaluate various aspects of socio-cultural life, such as a historic togetherness of Turkish and Armenian societies in art, literature, law, trade, economy, health, education, faith, and administrative and bureaucratic structures.

This symposium in which bilateral relations will be investigated with an objective academic viewpoint in its broadest sense will scrutinize the administrative insight of the Ottoman Government as well as the social structure of Ottoman society. As an organizing committee, we hope that this activity is a new beginning for Turkish-Armenian relations and constructs a bridge of peace between Yerevan and Ankara.

While completing my words, I especially need to state that it will be an appreciation of merit to cite before you, the contributions, support, and encouragement of Prof. Dr. Cengiz Utas, Rector of Erciyes University, for the realization of this symposium. On behalf of the organizing committee, I would like to voice my gratitude to him, for he took a personal interest in the matter.

We express our heartfelt thanks to Prof. Dr. Coskun Onem, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, standing by us to see the fulfillment of the symposium and ensuring every support.

There is no doubt that there has been a considerable contribution by the members of the Council of Honour and Science. We owe a debt of gratitude to them on account of their contributions. It was courteous of Mesrob Mutafyan, the Patriarch of the Armenians in Turkey, to accept our invitation and participate in the opening ceremony in spite of his busy schedule; therefore, we would like to voice our deepest gratitude to him.

In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are grateful to Kayseri Governor’s Office, the Municipalities of Kayseri and Nevşehir, the Regional Directorate of Foundations, Eraslan Holding Company, and the Oz-Kar Group of Companies for their cordial attitude and profound generosity that they exhibited so that such a symposium could be accomplished.

Finally, I relate my thankfulness to the members of the organizing committee, Assistant Professors Gülbadi Alan, Şakir Batmaz and Süleyman Demirci, to the Research Assistants at the Department of History, and also to our students for their endeavours, self-renunciation, and efforts in taking the responsibility of the symposium with sincerity. Respectfully Yours.

Organizing Committee of the Symposium

Dear Governor,
Dear Patriarch,
Dear Participants and Guests,
Welcome to Erciyes University’s 1st International Social Studies
Symposium [EUSAS-I].

I am grateful to all of you for gracing our symposium with your presence. One of the most important characteristics of the Ottoman Government, constituting a basis for this symposium titled The Art of Living Together, is, doubtlessly, that it could administrate the nations belonging to three celestial religions, speaking different languages and owning distinct cultural origins for nearly six centuries. The Ottoman rulers gave the Muslim and the non-Muslim subjects a scope for their freedom of faith and religious exercises in a way that had not been encountered in many contemporary countries. As a result of this administrative attitude, they enabled the Christian and Jewish citizens to be able to maintain their lives in respect of what their own beliefs necessitate.

As Erciyes University, I would like to point out that I am really pleased about the organization of the symposium at international levels on Turkish-Armenian relations, the importance of which we strongly believe in, and which is frequently put on the agenda and turned into a matter of discussion whether in Turkey or in world public opinion. We are of the opinion that Turkish-Armenian relations should be assessed within a historical process. The more natural the agreements and disagreements are between the individuals, the more naturally the existence of the same situation between the nations and governments should be recognized. In such a circumstance, however, negotiation and mutual respect will be perhaps determining factors for the solution of the problem in a permanent and palatable way. Those who need to implement the factors of mutual respect, tolerance and negotiation must be, without a shadow of doubt, the Turkish and Armenian nations. For the purpose of initiating and developing the process without undue delay and contributing to putting an end to the disagreement between both nations, we implemented this symposium thanks to the participation of highly esteemed academicians. Legal, administrative, commercial, religious perspectives, in other words, social and cultural perspectives of “the art of living together” will be handled in their broadest sense. I voice my gratitude to all of you for your contributions to the fulfillment of this togetherness that we hope will make a positive contribution to the future of Turkish-Armenian relations. In addition, I express my heartfelt thanks to Reverend Mesrob Mutafyan, the Patriarch of the Armenians in Turkey, for his participation in the symposium. I hope that his participation will provide a positive contribution to reaching a solution for the current disagreements between Turkish and Armenian societies.

I hope that this positive step taken so as to put an end to these current disagreements between these two societies, and another case of “the art of living together” will be implemented in Yerevan via the cooperation of Turkish and Armenian academicians.

As a consequence, I relate my thankfulness to Professor Coskun Onem, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Metin Hülagü, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Symposium, and Assistant Professors Süleyman Demirci, Gülbadi Alan and Şakir Batmaz, lecturers in the Department of History, who are applauded by the executive committee for their unselfishness in implementing this event.

Giving my last words, I hereby relate my best regards and greetings to you.

Erciyes University
Kayseri, Turkey

Dear Rector,
Dear Participants,

I do not think that, as citizens of the Turkish Republic, our main reason for coming together here is to shower praise on the vast world empire of the Ottoman Dynasty. However, it is important to analyze the Ottoman system since it provided the possibility for people of different identities in the Ottoman Empire to live together and because in a shrinking world that requires people of increasingly different religions, languages, races, and nationalities to live together in the same cultural mosaic, crowded side by side, it will be no mistake to refer to the experience of the Ottomans.

I would like to share with you some of my personal thoughts about the event that is often called the “Armenian Issue” by some people and by the Turkish press.


The way we look at history is an ethical matter with universal consequences. Our way of presenting history to today’s generations is also an ethical matter. It often requires courage and freedom to convey the bare truth. If we are squeezed into a certain mold, if we are slaves to a certain ideology, and especially if we have a nationalist, racist, or militarist temperament, we will sometimes have difficulty in speaking the truth and communicating realities to the new generations. Our having a realistic historical viewpoint depends on whether we can be freed from the value judgments of the day and from subjective opinions.

It is not possible to idealize every phase in the history of Ottoman-Armenian relations and to say that Armenians never had any problems. However, we know that the first acquaintance between Turks and Armenians goes back at least 1300 years.

1 If the historian Elise actually did write his work on the Persian-Armenian War in the fifth century, then 1 C.J.F. Dowsett tr., Movsés Dasxuranci, The History of the Caucasion Albanians. Oxford, 1961, Book Two, Chapter 12.

this mutual acquaintance has a 1500 year history.2 In this long history of commercial and political interactions between neighbors, there are relatively few instances of exchanges of physical violence.

Just as the nationalist movement that started with the French Revolution in time affected all other governments, so all peoples connected to the Ottoman Empire came under its influence. Especially towards the end of the 19th century there was an increase in tension in relations, whether responsibility for this was due to the Ottoman Government, or the German, American, French, British and especially Russian governments, or Armenian political parties, or the Armenian Patriarchs of Istanbul of that period, who discharged their obligations under the close surveillance of the Temporal Affairs Council that then consisted of Armenian secularists in Turkey. Even if the various sides were not all equally responsible, it is not an moral approach in view of the painful aftereffects for any one of them to speak up and deny any accountability in the development of those events, or to place all responsibility on the other parties.


Both Turks and Armenians must leave aside their cliches such as, “We really used to love the loyal nation” and “We really did love the Turks”. In place of nostalgic expressions such as, “My grocer was an Armenian” and “My army officer was a really good Turk”, we must accelerate those historical and scholarly endeavors that offer concrete examples from the past of the fact that Turks and Armenians did coexist peacefully. Instead of wasting time and money in publishing books that only re-state in various ways the usual Turkish and Armenian claims that everyone has memorized by now, Armenian works that can make an important contribution to the history of Turkish-Armenian relations should increasingly be translated into Turkish and English for the consideration of academicians and the general public. What are fundamentally needed at this stage in the impasse are new primary sources, rather than new interpretations of what already exists.

For instance, the 2 Elise, “Vasn Vardana ew Hayoc Paterazmin”, Yerevan, 1957, p. 12, 141, 198. While some academicians state that this work is from the fifth century, others think it is from the 7th century.

minutes of the Armenian National Assembly which, according to the 1863 Constitution of the Armenian Millet, appeared in print with the approval of the Sublime Porte and were collected regularly from 1863 to the time of Sultan Abdulhamid are one of the black holes in Turkish history. These texts should be published urgently as a parallel text, with Armenian on one page and the corresponding Turkish translation on the opposite page. The writings of Patriarch Nerses II (1874-1884), the correspondence of Patriarch Madteos III (1894-1896 and 1908-1909), the three volumes of memoirs of Patriarch Magakya I (1896-1908), and the one-volume patriarchal memoirs of Patriarch Zaven I (1913-1915 and 1919-1922) should be available in Turkish. Instead of books about the Armenian Church and its culture, and books that are sometimes highly unscholarly, Patriarch Magakya’s three huge volumes of the history of the Armenian Church should be read in Turkish by university students. In addition, the archives of the Istanbul Patriarchate that were moved to Jerusalem in 1916-1918 must also be brought into academic circles by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In order to create the possibility of collegial work on a common platform by the next generation of Turkish and Armenian academicians, the teaching of the Ottoman, Armenian and Turkish languages and their literatures must begin without delay, whether in universities in Turkey or in Armenia.


To rescue today’s relations from a dead end, dialogue is inescapable, and for dialogue mutual respect is a must. It is difficult to bring together parties who belittle each other and engage in verbal assaults. Therefore activities between groups of academicians, young people, artists, and members of the press from Armenia and Turkey, in which they exchange visits, for acquaintance and mutual understanding, are very important.

Respect must also be shown to the other’s history. We have to change the mentality shown by some Armenian historians who still see Turks as uncultured barbarian emigrants from Central Asia and who belittle their ability to establish a Turkish state and ensure its continuity. We must likewise change the mentality of some Turkish historians who say, “Armenians never had a state, and they couldn’t found one,” and who even turn the Native American peoples into Turkish clans who crossed the Bering Strait. Both the Turks and the Armenians are peoples who, both in their own capacity have made a significant historical mark in politics and culture. In the museums of Anatolian Civilizations, the mentality that sees the historical Armenian Kingdoms as only vassal states or completely non-existent, even neglecting the mutual pacts between Armenian Kingdoms and western governments, can only deceive its own citizens, since it cannot destroy the documents in western archives and libraries.

However, when there is a mutually respectful approach to the histories of the two sides, where each other’s successes are praised, it will be possible to create mutual empathy.


Turks and Armenians are people of the same geographical area. Almighty God has put these people together. It will not be possible to change this, now or in the future. Turks and Armenians have to learn to live together, or side by side. Strategists sin by ignoring this reality and by turning the youth of the two countries against each other. People will either be enemies or friends. Is friendship not much better than enmity?


However, fanatical nationalism claims that its own country and race are chosen, that its language is perfect, and that its culture is unsurpassable, but this is nothing other than collective narcissism. These kinds of baseless claims serve no purpose other than to cause similar narcissism in others. To count the other as nothing, to see in the other a foreigner or enemy or potential saboteur not only creates a chaotic condition in the country but, because such an approach always needs to create windmills to fight, it also leads to uneasiness because it hatches speculation about which group of citizens will be the next victims. I think that the often-heard expression, “Turks and Kurds are the original elements of this country”, is also a sort of discrimination. If our Turkish and Kurdish brothers and sisters are the original elements, then in even the rosiest of definitions that puts the Armenians and others into second place. But the Armenians have a written history in this land since the sixth century BCE, and the Syriacs and Jews have even older records.


Today in our country of 70 million people, the number of Christian Armenians who are citizens of the Republic of Turkey has fallen to 70 thousand. According to some government departments, there are about 30 thousand people with Armenian roots living in Turkey who have come from abroad. In this situation solutions are needed for religious, charitable and social issues pertaining to minority communities, including the local Armenian community, whose total population is probably less than one in a thousand. These are matters that arise from the regulations for religious foundations, and matters that lead to the struggle for existence in the face of massive problems generated by a changing world. This is one of the clearest areas where abstract concepts such as “tolerance,” “living together,” and “pluralism” can be concretized and can turn from word to deed. Otherwise we shall this country’s multi-hued character gradually fading away, becoming pale and monotonous.


The normalization of relations between Turkey, to which we Turkish Armenians are bound by citizenship and the dialogue of life, and Armenia, where we have common ethnic and religious roots, is the goal of the Armenians in Turkey, where we find ourselves between two countries, between two loved ones, if you will. But unless there is mutual sacrifice, it is evident that it will be difficult to make progress in these relations.


We must think of what binds us together as human beings beyond religion, race, nationality, and so on.

In this context, what we leave behind for our children, for the future, is important. Thus in addition to scientific and technical education we must also see the humanities as of utmost importance and give this area the necessary encouragement. We must accept that studies of language and literature are also a significant bonding element.

No matter how much the secular form of government guarantees freedom of religion and conscience, it can be said that the implementation of so-called Jacobin secularism in our country, which we sometimes encounter, prevents the richness of the spiritual meaning of Islam’s ethical dimensions from contributing to analyses, and consequently this is also sometimes true of approaches to history.

I wish, as is done successfully in some countries, that pre-Ottoman civilizations could be considered as part of our historical heritage and that we could be enriched by the contribution made to Turkey by Byzantine, Armenian, Syriac, and Jewish cultures. In this context I see the Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s project to restore the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on the Aghtamar Island in Lake Van as a very positive step in the right direction.


Both Turks and Armenians must break out of the straitjacket of exclusive nationalism and racism. Otherwise it is clear what will happen. The harm and cost is evident wherever the practice of nationalism and racism predominates. The results are always bloody wars, tears, and hate campaigns that last for generations. I believe that for peace and wellbeing to obtain the upper hand, we must be able to escape from this straitjacket. Instead of nationalism and racism, it is much more in line with our religious and ethical values to practice a love and appreciation for our national cultures.


I congratulate the Rector of Erciyes University, Prof. Dr. Cengiz UTAŞ; the Head of the Symposium Organizing Committee, Prof. Dr. M. Metin HÜLAGÜ; and Assistant Professors Dr. Şakir BATMAZ, Dr. Suleyman DEMİRCİ and Dr. Gülbadi ALAN who worked to organize this symposium. It is my wish that this symposium, which is taking place in our historical city of Kayseri (Caesarea in Cappadocia) may set an important milestone on the road to peace and well-being, and I would express my deepest respect to all who are following the proceedings. I pray that peace and well-being may prevail in our country, for the happiness of all of our citizens, and for unity. Thank you.

Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and All Turkey



I relate my best regards to all of you. First of all, I would like to cordially congratulate Erciyes University. A very large-scale organization was held, an outstanding studies were carried out. I present all my thanks and appreciation to everybody who worked with such great effort on these studies.

I remember the state in which Erciyes University was 25 years ago. The late Turhan Feyzioğlu and I came to the university in 1982 and presented a paper. There were three buildings at this university. One of the buildings was half-built. I came here yesterday and I was really amazed. Quite a big university was now on the scene, so I was greatly impressed. We take pride in and are fascinated by the changes. I think about condition in which this university will be during the 100th anniversary of the Republic in 2023. Again, I am grateful to everybody. The origin of my interest is in diplomatic history. I have written a lot of books; moreover, I write books on Turkish-Armenian relations. However, the books I write deal with foreign affairs and the history of diplomacy; that is, nearly all of my books are political. The symposium today has a characteristic of being a symposium mostly highlighting cultural aspects. Some say that the symposium is socio-cultural, but it is a symposium highlighting the cultural aspects.

Papers will be presented by 125 researchers in this symposium. I would like to watch within great amazement. There is no limit to science and research. I have attentively observed how much considerable research we have done, and that a lot of research is carried out in quite a few different fields. As the Reverend Patriarch Mutafyan noted, Turkish-Armenian relations have a history of 1500 years. We lived together and close to each other in these 1500 years. The relationship, however, has gone awry over the last 100 centuries. We influenced each other in many ways during the period we lived together and close to each other. There cannot be any objections to this. Furthermore, I assume that it is useful and necessary to fulfill profound research on these matters. I do not want to talk a lot on these matters because I prefer listening. Therefore, I will call upon the lecturers to make their speeches. I would like to cut my words short in order to spare more time for the lecturers. I simply wish to give a concrete example of living together.

I was a chief clerk at the Turkish Embassy in Paris in Turkey in the 1960s. Among the staff of the Embassy were one Jew, one Greek (Rum) and one Armenian. The Jew was Mandil, the son of Mandil Pasha, a military doctor. He came to Paris to study during the War of Liberation. He fought hand-to-hand with the Greek students in the student quarter in Paris. He was under duty at the Turkish Embassy in Paris, actually not called an embassy as its exact name due to its having a diplomatic mission. He was known as a special attaché and he was still there as an attaché in the 1960s, even after 40 years.

The Greek was from Konya and served Atatürk during the Turkish War of Independence. Atatürk told him that his name was long and suggested calling him Bodo. Thenceforth, we called him Bodo. He took pride in saying that it was Atatürk who gave this name to him. I wanted to take notes of his memories, but because he was very old, I could not. Anyway, Bodo had to go to Greece in accordance with the article of exchange signed in Lozan. Mr. Behiç, Atatürk’s close friend, was appointed to Budapest and said to Atatürk: “If I say that they do not send Bodo to Greece in that case they will not separate Bodo from us. Charge him with a task within the staff of the Embassy in Budapest”. Mr. Behiç was transferred from Budapest to the Embassy of Paris, then he died, but Bodo was still there and was in charge of our tasks in accounting. We, three young clerks, used to borrow money from Bodo towards the end of the month. He suddenly rebuked us by saying that we were rather spendthrifts, and then he would calm down. We would become sad and he would ask how much we needed, and he would say that 500 francs were enough and tell us to be contented with this amount.

The Armenian, called Edvard Kalfayan, was a fairly light-hearted officer. He used to bring our letters to us in the mornings. We, three friends, used to sit at the embassy; then he used to come towards me, look at the letter, and then give me a fit by saying that the letter was not for me. Then, he would make a joke, saying that the letter was for him and that he could lend it to me. If he were alive now, we would get on very well with each other. We did not have any problems with each other and we even did not think of quarrelling. I was invited to the family of Edward Kalfayan’s family for dinner. When I left Paris, I was transferred to Damascus, so he held a testimonial dinner for me. They used to speak Turkish in the family. He even had a six-year-old grand-daughter who did not visit Turkey, but spoke Turkish without any difficulty.

This is very simple example of how three cultures lived and got along together in the Ottoman Empire. This occurred in a similar way for many people over the centuries. We lived together and close to each other at every level. Nobody can deny the culture of living together and a sense of tolerance in the Ottoman society. Lecturers and researchers will express this matter thoroughly and in many different ways.

I would like to call upon the lecturers to make their speeches. In respect of the list given to me, the Reverend Professor Yusuf Halacoglu needs to make his speech after me. Again as to this list with me, after him, Professor Mehmet Saray, and my friend and the Reverend Ambassador Nüzhet Kandemir will, in turn, make their speeches. Here you are, Prof. Halacoglu.


I welcome all of you with my best regards.

When we consider “the art of living together” and turn back to history, we notice that there have been big wars during different periods in the past. These were wars, especially world wars and religious wars, which had occurred for the purpose of satisfying ambitions and egos. These wars generally lead to enormous losses and sufferings of the societies. We have all learned about these incidents in history. Unfortunately, the history is full of sufferings and tragedies. However, it is not completely full of tragedies.

On another page of history, we behold an insight in which human beings and the humanistic feelings appear in the foreground. There have been several areas from music to art, from solidarity between people to the attitudes that we denominate and classify as good or bad. When we turn back to world history, we see that empires were established and then collapsed. Within this entire framework, we also become aware that some societies have been administrated by another society.

Some of these societies were under pressure within this administration and were not given the right to survive, and even forgot or were made to forget their languages, religions, and cultures.

According to the research carried out, among the big empires established in world history, an empire exhibiting the best attitudes towards its own subjects came into existence as the Ottoman Empire. No matter how many troubles were experienced during this period, it was the Ottoman Empire which caught the golden line best despite the experiences of some injustices, including tax surpluses. It is possible to find this information in nearly 100 million documents in the Ottoman Archives. Not only the Armenians but also the Romans, Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs, Arabians and more cultures lived together under one administration.

As I have just mentioned, the maintainability and the weakness in the administrative structure of the government had an influence on the society within this period. Therefore, I would like to stress some issues. The people that were not Muslim were first of all entitled as the Zimmis (Dhimmi) or Ehl-i Zimmet in the Ottoman Government. Ehl-i Zimmet means a promise, keeping it and providing security of a life. The origin of the word derives from the word, zimmet (debit). Within this framework, the Ottoman Government highlighted these matters strictly in local laws besides the central laws.

The system of a nation in the Ottoman Government was divided into two classes as being Muslim and non-Muslim subjects. Among them, in respect of providing justice and law between Muslims and non-Muslims, both local laws and central laws became valid in nearly every province and municipality. These laws, as a result, were determined according to denominational differences of the people in a district.

Tax is quite important in governments. For example, although the taxes levied on non-Muslims, such as cizye (jizya or poll tax) and sometimes ispençe, were mostly qualified as a pressure to or a different application of.

They were, in fact, related to the responsibilities of the classes of each society. For instance, cizye was levied only on the men able to work and the heads of the families. It was not a tax levied on the women and children. Thus, in return for this application, non-Muslims did not enter into war as soldiers, but instead it was the Muslims who fought in wars during the beginning periods of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, as to Islamic law, even though cizye was misnamed as a poll tax for non-Muslims in the Ottoman government, it was in reality a safety and security tax.

Regarding the other applications of all non-Muslim people whether they belonged to a a culture, we discovered and where of the applications we are not able to encounter in the Ottoman government. For instance, one thing I have come across in a register found in the archives which was kept until 1806 is that non-Muslim foundations maintained their own the existence from the period in which the Prophet Mohammed lived.

The foundations having been renewed during the period of each ruler is, indeed, an example of respect towards religious institutions. Likewise, regarding the taxes imposed in commercial life, in return for the requests made by non-Muslims that they give a certain amount of money, the government stated: “Do not exhibit so obvious signs of cruelty.”

In a general sense, there are some statements explaining that it cannot be this way or that a lower tax could be paid.

On the one hand, there are pleasing applications On the other hand, there are matters that needed to be underlined, especially the long-lasting wars and the wars which lasted for 16 years during the 2nd Siege of Vienna by the Ottomans. These resulted in the Treaty of Karlofca in 1699 and constituted a milestone in the Ottoman government. They also led to major problems. As a result of these wars, heavy taxes were imposed on the Muslims but not on the non-Muslims. These were Avarız-ı Divaniye taxes, which are called “extraordinary taxes” today. They were levied only in extraordinary situations. (As an aside, taxes imposed on the telephone after the earthquake in 1999 were called “temporary” but have became the continuous type of avarız.) We noted that the Avarız-ı Divaniye taxes were a heavy imposition on the public. These impositions damaged solidarity and harmony in the society. It is a fact that such incidents caused the harmony in the Ottoman society to be damaged due to several outside effects within the Ottoman society.

If we are to reduce the matter to the Armenians, I am not of the opinion that the matter hereby, can be perceived as the “Armenian Issue.” Indeed, Armenian is only a name in the Ottoman Government. It is not wrong for us to remark that other elements are under the same applications. Should you allow the matter regarding the Armenians to be related to an event of emigration in 1915, a problem may result. However, instead of evaluating the matter as the “Armenian Issue”, in my opinion, it would be better to evaluate it as the issue of the Hinchak Organization established in Geneva or the Tashnak Organization in Tiflis because the “Armenian Issue” comprises all Armenians, including those exposed to the emigration. Even if there have been some conflicts between the two societies, it is impossible to say that there were incidents appearing as a serious issues during the togetherness with the Armenians which lasted for nearly 600 years in the Ottoman Empire. Despite everything, people living together for 600 years conserved their own languages, cultures, and religions. All of this may even give us a positive idea of the relations between the societies or on the attitudes of those administrating the government towards the groups with its own citizens.

As for me, it is surely essential to draw our attention to the effects of environment psychologically and the strategic conditions of the period while evaluating history and to bring forth a piece of verse under the title of “the art of living together”. As a matter of fact, during the periods in which the issue was regarded as a problem, those causing the issue to appear as a problem are neither Turks and Muslims nor Armenians, that is to say, Ottoman Armenians. Until the Ottoman Government entered into World War I, European and Russian subjects were in Anatolia. When we investigate the reports of Temre, Proxy of the Russian Consul in Van in 1913, it says as follows: “There is, in fact, no problem between the Muslims and Armenians. They really live in unison with each other.

The committee, however, congregate the Armenians in the church every Sunday, harangue them, incite them against the Ottoman Government, attempt to raise money and threaten those opposing them with death.” This is one part of the report that he wanted to be burnt after being read in secret. Indeed, they too confirm this but as far as we know from their reports, people who were not Armenian but Russian subjects were among those caught during the forays the Ottoman security forces held regarding the committees.

Similarly, as you know, the first incidents in Istanbul broke out beginning in 1895. There weren’t such apparent and explicit rebellions and events in the previous period, in other words, prior to the Ottoman-Russian War in 1877-1878. An association named the Black Cross Association was established in Van in 1878. These groups declared that they intended to establish a state independent from Hinchak and Tashnak via a revolution and their attempts in Anatolia started. Tashnak was later founded in 1889. The first rebellious movements arose in 1895 in Van and Sason. Consequently, these events made an impact and also had an influence on “the art of living together”.

Of course, it is not possible to say everything in only 15 minutes, but I have to state one thing that we all know is that the Armenians dependent on the emigration were exposed to losses on the roads or in the places they had gone due to either famine or disease and beyond this some were slain during raids by several gangs. Most of their losses occurred for these reasons. In response to these events, I can express that the Ottoman Government sent 1,763 people to Martial Court through the signature of Talat Pasha and 67 out of these 1,763 people were sen tenced to execution, 524 were put in prison and 68 were sentenced to kalabent, “incommunicado” as it is called today.

The important thing is to evaluate this matter, indeed. Even while I was studying history at Istanbul University, I didn’t know enough about this issue; to tell the truth, we never studied this matter. Turkey had nearly forgotten or this matter had nearly been forgotten, but the Tashnak and Hinchak groups of Diaspora Armenians unfortunately initiated feelings of hatred between the two societies by bringing this matter into the world agenda. If we are to connect this matter with the speech of Reverend Patrick , I assume that it will be an important factor for us to act, discuss, and struggle together. However, I have to emphasize that although the Armenian community was regarded as Lozan in minority status, I personally cannot stand and accept this situation, for our Armenian citizens were born in this country just as we were and they are living in this country and doing their military services just as we are. They are, thus, essential people in this country. We will all continue to live fraternally in the Turkish Republic, so, in my opinion, it may be possible for us to solve this problem by acting together without being trapped just as it was in 1914.

I relate to all of you my best regards

Mehmet SARAY

Honorouble ladies and gentlemen, dear youth and press members,

I would like to draw the attention of the young researchers discussing these matters and presenting papers here on some historical facts in addition to the moderate speech of Professor Halacoglu who presented depending on remarkable facts. What are these facts?

Neither any society nor any nation could live in as much peace and comfort as the Armenians on Anatolian soil. This is a fact of Turkish administration including the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians had better living conditions than the Turks. I beg your forgiveness for my words, but at the beginning of the 20th century, it was mentioned in the speeches that our friends from the Russian, and British to the French, all shared the Anatolian soils as if their fathers had left them this soil as property. I again beg your pardon, but they released some communities,especially the Armenians, whether they are the Greeks having lived together and close to each other (Turks?) for centuries within the Ottoman society.

This is the case. In spite of its noteworthy sufferings and shortages of the last century, the Turkish nation struggled to survive and defended its survival against relentless attack. It also protected its country. It is this matter that is called Turkish War of Independence. Please do not forget this fact. Before these events started, there was a colossal campaign that the Muslim Turks slew the Christian communities and tyrannized them.

Atatürk reacted saying:

All these things told about our nation are entirely aspersions. It is a complete lie that our nation is cruel. No nation complied with the faith and traditions of foreign people much more than our nation. Moreover, it is remarked that it is only our nation complying with the religion and nationality of those belonging to other religions.

These are Atatürk’s words.

After I had read these, I wrote a book, titled Religious and Cultural Tolerance in the Turks. The Turks have a custom which highlights Turkish people’s point of views towards life and Turkish statesmen’s method of management and looks like the Magna Carta of the British. This Turkish custom reflects certain principles including justice, equality, tolerance, and a love of mankind. Within the framework of these opinions, the Turkish government and administrators of the government treated equally, equitably, and indulgently those of its own descent, a person from its society, and those people living on this soil together with us, whatever their religions and nations were. This situation, as Prof. Halacoglu stated while mentioning the Ottoman age, is the one starting many centuries before and continuing up to now. If you let me, I will quote a few words from the work by Prof. Dr. Downloop. It is said in the Khazar Khanate:

Hanbalık, the capital of the Khazar ruler, was a city located on the Etil River, which is now called the Volga River. The Mosque of the Muslims here was in the shape of a cathedral, and it had a lot of minarets and muezzıns. Places for religious exercises for the people belonging to other religions were available; therefore, they were able to practice their religious exercises freely. One day, in early 922, Khazar Khan, who was informed that the Muslims had devastated a synagogue belonging to the Jews, made them come to court, judged, and executed them. He also had one minaret of the mosques demolished. What’s more, he was unable to control his anger and said that the mosques of the Muslims would be demolished in the event that such an incident were repeated.

I conclude from this that this is the insight of state, respect, and love of the Turks towards people and other religions. I am not of the opinion that such a situation has changed from the beginning of the history to our day.

I have always spoken candidly and, again, to say rightly, the Reverend Mutafyan courageously says things that he knows to be true despite the oppression of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Armenian communities had difficulties, as well.

I am a person presenting the issue as a Ph.D. thesis on the sociocultural economic problems of our dearest friends today, the Armenian community. Cafer Ulu Bey, my student, must be here. The incident I will mention was that 10 years ago there was a papacy then. Mr. Mutafyan, I could not notice then your bold approach that you now manifest. I felt your distress, but you are telling the truth at the moment. I will swiftly continue to state my opinions. Why did such an emigration occur?

There was cooperation with the Russians, so I want to read some words of Atatürk:

The Tashnak Committee under the charge of Tsardom of Russia caused the Armenian community, who was behind our military troops, to rebel. Because we were obliged to retreat due to the superiority of the number and equipment of the enemies, we always regarded ourselves as if we had been between two fires. Our supply and injured convoys were barbarously slain, and the bridges and roads behind us were destroyed. In addition, terror prevailed in Turkish villages...

These words continue like this.

The Turkish Government could have planned everything in order and destroyed those carrying out these events, yet such an attempt had never been fulfilled. As a result, what happened? The lesser of two evils, that is to say, the event esteeming a person’s life, was that these people were transported to the surroundings of Syria and Lebanon, by the providence of the Turkish government taking security measures. This is the case. Of course, there were grief and deaths. The Turkish army had a loss of 500,000 people owing to the diseases, cold, natural disasters and other reasons. Our Armenian friends, too, had losses here. Nobody finds this situation strange or denies it. However, it is not necessary to exaggerate this. The Armenians returned to Kayseri, this beautiful land. Those coming back due to the emigration returned to Konya, but this did not stop. The French and the British, the Allies, took the people coming to these places and dragged them to an adventure in Cukurova telling them that they would establish the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. I wish they had behaved honestly, but this is not honesty. The British put forward cotton production in Adana in order to keep the French from the oil zones. The British suggested this idea by stating that this is an efficient place for the textile industry of the French and also recommended that they control that area. This is the case. I went to the provinces in the south. I witnessed the dramatic scenes experienced there. I do not want to mention about these incidents. The French realized the mistake they made and retreated.

Franklin Buyyon, who loved Atatürk, was an intellectual in that period. He said: “My respected pasha, you acted nobly. The French understood their mistake. The Ankara Entente was signed in the early 1921s. Please allow the Armenians to live in Anatolia.” In reply, Atatürk said: “Mr. Buyyon, they are our citizens, anyway. We cannot tell them to leave. They will certainly live here.” Franklin Buyyon, with great pleasure, went to the Armenian Community in Cukurova to apprise them of the good news and said: “This is the situtation. Mustafa Kemal Pasha wants you to live here. The leaders of the community replied: “Thank you. If you want to do a favour for us, please do not protect us henceforth. Had you and your generals, whom you sent to Adana, and your government officers not deceived us in this way and not given us this hope, and had not told us the words that encouraged us and causing us to go after several pleasant goals, we would have walked with our head high against the Turks, as well. You misled us so terribly and we treated the Turkish people in this region so badly that we feel ashamed and cannot dare to live on this land and say ‘hello’ to them.” It is concluded from this that there is a pride of humanity in our Armenian friends, who were deceived. They also added: “We leave this land with such grief.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Turkish government and nation caused our Armenian siblings and citizens to face neither genocide nor ethnic cleansing. All of the documents on this are clear-cut. I recommend that we take action by knowing these facts and assess as to these facts. While the young scholars studying this matter now had not yet begun, the late Kamuran Inan, one of the ex-ministers, and I together had invited a group of Armenian professors at the end of an international meeting in Ankara. Of these professors, Professor Maraşlıyan and of our group, Professor Selahil Sonyel and I, held a private meeting and discussed our opinions in this meeting. I tell my words as they are; “Give up the explanations of the incidents which make use by making use of the materials towards the propaganda of World War I. Let’s constitute a cooperative commission. Let this commission work in Turkish, Armenian, British, French, American, and German archives and collect the documents concerned. Whatever results these documents provide, we will be content with the result.”

Diaspora, nevertheless, exerted pressure on this young Armenian professor; as a result, he did not get in touch with us. Moreover, they similarly exerted pressure on those getting in touch with Prof. Halacoglu. We are always open to a dialogue. I would like to put an end to my words by telling about another event. I studied in England. There is a Lengister Gate Station over High Park. Behind this station is a dormitory called St. Linyang Person, where the Ph.D. students stay. There lived my Uncle Artin, who was our cook. His daughter, a Turkish-Armenian, had fallen in love with an English man. As a result, he came to England after his daughter. We developed a friendship with him. He was such a friendly and sincere person that he would come to me everyday and ask if he could do a favour for me. We had a good time together. When I returned to Istanbul on holiday or for my archive studies, the first thing I did was to buy raki for him and put it in my luggage, as he loved it.

Is it now possible to forget all these memories? Well, then, where is the mistake? Where did we make the mistake?

The Reverend Patriarch Mutafyan, the sources are available. We continue fulfilling these studies in the way that Prof. Halacoglu initiated.

I myself started and am continuing these studies at the Atatürk Research Center, and we will reveal all these studies, yet we want our Armenian friends to take steps, as well. We only want you to come and implement this work cooperatively, but our friends do not take any steps. Please forgive me for my words, but I have to point out that your courageous enterprise over the last years has made us hopeful. I hope that these studies will be repeated and we will maintain this cooperation together. I have four Ph.D. theses prepared. Furthermore, my associate professors and professors are implementing two more theses in Istanbul. The contributions of my Armenian compatriots to Turkish cultural life, art, architecture, local and foreign trade are full of “beauties” more so than I can explain.

We are talking about the case of emigration and fight. However, it is the Russians, British, and French who caused the fight to come into existence. In consequence, I am speaking my last words. The Russians had one fifth of our brothers in Azerbaijan occupied in their support of by supporting today’s Armenian government. This was carried out by transgressing international law. I went to Baku twice and saw that over 1 million people have been living in sheds for 13 years, and I left there in tears. Nobody mentions these issues.

Let’s be honest and settle all these issues together. Let’s tackle the problem as in the proverb: “Prick yourself with a needle before you stick a darning needle into others,” and prick the needle and the darning needle into each other. There is certainly a solution. I cannot think that the Turkish nation has any problems with the Armenians. I know that the Armenians, whom I consider as good-tempered and understanding, will think likewise. We nonetheless, need to halt the disaster of Armenian Diaspora. Moreover, we have to overcome the attitudes of Kocaryan and his men in which they reject peace. If we carry out these things I mentioned together, I believe that we will cover a great distance. I would like to thank you for listening to me.


My Revered President, first of all, I would like to begin my words by saying that I am quite pleased to be here today and share the same platform together with my school friend, classmate, and colleague. Dear Governor, dear Rector, dear Beatitude Patriarch and dear respected participants.

I cordially commend the respected rector and the university administration for being the initiators of organizing this significant research symposium towards living together amicably, when many-sided political propaganda and the so-called genocide claims intensified as it does this time every year. I would like to emphasize that valuable opinions and recommendations which have been put forward and will be put forward in detail in this symposium will, to a great extent, contribute to our national attitude and politics on a matter closely connected to the terror issue heading the very serious problems that our country is concerned about and we are faced with.

Starting from the 1960s and extending to our day, the terror issue making its area of influence widespread by gaining new forms and dimensions and resulting in the deaths of many innocent people, including plenty of my esteemed colleagues, is not a concept to which international societies are unfamiliar. The third world countries remained quiet until those using terror weapons from time to time harm them. Then so as to have their unreal claims and calumniation heard and adopted by the world public opinion wailed only when the terror struck them. Terror used as a means of sanction of various radical ideologies initially wrapped into an ethnic or a nationalist appearance and augmented its efficiency gradually in different regions of the world.

When we glance at the history, it is clearly seen that the Armenians led a life together with the Turks under the Ottoman rule for many centuries and often led a more prosperous life than the Turks. I will specify one issue that has occurred to me hereby, but first of all, I apologize to the Reverend Patriarch, for he suggested putting an end to nostalgia henceforth in his speech to which I carefully listened. However, it is not so easy for me to put an end to this nostalgia. For this reason, I would like to give an example. Hacik Zangocyan, whom we regarded as a member of our family and who is my grandfather’s dentist, and his esteemed wife would come to us at an unexpected time day or night. We even used to prepare a makeshift bed for them in case the trams from Besiktas to Sirkeci did not operate in the late hours at night. He used to stay, eat and live with us. I hereby would like to commemorate Mr. Artim, his assistant, with respect and yearning. Indeed, he was a member of our family and we considered him as a member of the family. There never occurred even a smallest dispute, disrespect and a reciprocal exchange of views between us for years.

It is seen that the relations between the Turks and Armenians began to be damaged as a result of the negative attitudes and treatment starting during the second half of the 1800s when foreign influences over the Armenians gained momentum and increased, owing to the incitements that foreign forces intensively maintained in the early 1900s. During the years followed by the signature and acceptance of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 for the purpose of conserving the Armenian community from the Kurds and Circassians and within the framework of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin including an adjudication in which a reform had to be carried out in the regions where the Armenians lived, in my opinion, the relations became gradually corrupted not only through the incitements of the Armenian committees established under the protection of, but also of these governments as a consequence of a direct involvement of the foreign forces.

A matter called the “Armenian Issue” did not take place in the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed after the Turkish War of Independence. The Turkish-Armenian border had been fixed with various treaties prior to Lausanne, and the claims of genocide put forward by the Armenian Diaspora and its demands for a land were not an item of the agenda until the 1950s. However, the Armenian Diaspora initiated its incitements again together with the problems emerging in Cyprus. In addition, the claims of genocide and the murders of the Armenian terror organization ASALA were in the foreground in the 1960s and 70s.

After the breakup of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics during the years followed by foundation of Armenia as an independent republic, even though it was intended to create an impression that a pro cess of improvement was on the point of starting through the demands of Armenia for improving the relations with Turkey as a result of an attempt of the diaspora to look for tactics for some time, this process unfortunately failed.

After a stage in which the relations between Turkey and the European Union became positive, the Armenian Diaspora tended to spread its political activities into much broader areas. The Armenian Diaspora is aware of the fact that its claims on legal grounds do not have a basis on fact. On the other hand, since it knows that these claims contradict historical facts, it does not tend to participate in cooperative studies of history because of a concern that these studies will overshadow their plausibility of their claims; so it also seems that the Diaspora will not be disposed to these studies. In this case, in the near future, the Diaspora may be expected to maintain intensively its activities of political activities that are their only alternatives at hand. It is necessary for everybody whether in Turkey or out of Turkey to understand and accept the wishes and endeavours of Turkey for membership to any society and in this context to the European Union do not mean that it will be able to accept the unreal claims and calamities stated in national cases.

Owning prestige and plausibility at international levels makes it an unavoidable necessity for the countries asserting a claim of civilization to respect reciprocal justice and law. I hope that this symposium will provide a useful opportunity on highlighting good-will and the value of friendship and on solving the current problems in this atmosphere. I relate my deepest regards and love to all of you for listening to me.


I tender my thanks to each of these three speakers for their enlightening speeches. Should the organizing committee not have any objection and should it not bring about any trouble, I would like to give an extra five minutes for the lecturers to make a speech if they like. I wish to add two things, too. I listened to the speech of Patriarch Mutafyan carefully, as well. I agree with his remarkable opinions, yet I would like to make some additions. The improvement of the relations between Armenia and Turkey and the conversion of these relations into their normal state are also our will. While the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were being broken up, I was a general manager in charge of these regions, and we became one of the first governments to recognize Armenia as an independent republic. In other words, we did not separate Armenia from other governments. Our Directorate General was the one defending Armenia, we recognized Armenia as an independent government. The government also accepted this opinion. Moreover, in our politics, there appears an application derived from the period of Atatürk in the application of foreign politics. While Atatürk was establishing relations with a government, he would come together with that government for the solution of some matters at first sight, and then sign a friendship treaty and a protocol for friendship. Afterwards, he would open an embassy, a consulate and so forth and enhance the relations. This enterprise, now, has come into existence together with fifteen countries from the Soviet Union and six governments from Yugoslavia 70 years later. We implemented the same politics. For instance, I signed the friendship treaty with Azerbaijan and a treaty of initiating diplomatic relations as well. We weren’t able to fulfill this with Armenia. You know, but I say this to the people here who do not know. Armenia appeared on the historical scene as the most interesting republic among the fifteen republics and disseminated a declaration of independence first.

This declaration of independence, as far as I could remember was in 1991, is a long text. It is stated in this declaration of independence: “West Armenia is our target.” West Armenia, as it is called here, is East Anatolia. Secondly, another thing touched upon in this declaration of independence is as follows: “Our objective is to introduce “genocide” to the Turks.” A lapse of four-odd years passed. The Republic of Armenia has established its new constitution. These principles, that is, the principles in this declaration of independence, exist as the principles of the constitution of The Republic of Armenia. I asked about this to an Armenian friend of mine coming from Armenia who was making a speech together with us at ASAM in Ankara: “Why did you establish such a constitution?” He replied: “We are inexperienced because we have been independent for the first time. We don’t know how to establish a constitution. Even the children do not believe in this.” Then I said: “We have professors mastered in constitutional law, so I can send two or three professors to you nearly everyday to help you so that you can establish a proper constitution”. Anyway, this is one of the matters to be dealt with.

Now, with the Reverend Patriarch, we have other matters to deal with. I do not want to talk about them so as not to disrupt the atmosphere here. The person next to me is my classmate, our colleague and we have been diplomats for forty years. We underwent a lot of experiences over the years. These events are the ones that no other organization of foreign affairs in the world has ever experienced. I don’t want to touch upon these matters superficially, but we always watch and give thanks to your extremely positive, constructive speech and attitude that you confirmed here again. I wish the Etchmiadzin Patriarchate and the Antilyas Patriarchate could think as constructively as you do, but I want to remind the audiences here once more that the beginning of a wave of assassinations broke out after the declaration that the Etchmiadzin Patriarch made on August 17, 1964 and the declaration that the Antilyas Patriarch made two days later. Firstly, a big campaign was started worldwide and this has continued and we have come to these days. I do not want to talk about these matters at the moment. I hope these patriarchs reflect on both your constructive attitude and positive approach.

Many mistakes have been made throughout history. Mr. Nüzhet told here that the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire until the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca in 1774 became the internal affairs of both the Empire and the government. For the first time, Russia had an article put into this treaty. Christian Armenian names were not used in those days. Russia acted as if it were the protector of the Christians. Then an article about the Islahat Fermanı (Firman of the Reforms) was put in the Treaty of Paris in 1856. The Islahat Fermanı was an issue of municipal law, but when a treaty was fulfilled, it was turned into an issue of foreign and international law. I read the telegram that the British Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote to his envoy in Istanbul. It said in this telegram that only Russia had been has been a protector of the Ottoman Christians so far. After Russia, seven big governments turned into a state of a protector. After that, the Treaty of Berlin appeared and they damaged relations between the Turks and the Circassians, the Circassians and the Armenians, and also between the Turks and the Armenians; therefore, there had been some grave historical mistakes. We should take lessons from these events. You also assist and have contacts. You are in touch with both Etchmiadzin and Antilyas Patriarchates. I ask you to explain these incidents to them. I again hope this symposium will be successful. I relate my deepest personal regards and thankfulness to the Reverend Governor, the Rector, commanders, and the audience here, and everybody.

(c) 2006 Erciyes University


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