2980) A Brief Summary Of Armenian-Turkish Relations

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com (An open letter to righteous readers who are willing to explore the truth behind the tragic events of 1915)

A historical perspective: Armenians consider themselves to be descendants of Noah and assert that their legendary leader Haik was a great-great grandson of Noah. The first to write about Armenians was Xenophon in the 400's BC. Armenians over the centuries established many local kingdoms in the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia, these generally remained in the spheres of influence of the Persian, Roman and Byzantine Empires while Armenian dynasties occasionally rose to power and reigned in Persian and Byzantine courts. Armenians adopted Christianity in 301 AD and established their own church. They consider their well known aptitude for business, arts and crafts to be a special gift of God and believe that they have been singularly chosen. They take pride in belonging to a nation which was the first to adopt Christianity as the state religion. . .

Later history: In the 11th century AD, Armenians who had long endured the pressure of the Byzantine Orthodox Church established friendly relations with the Seljuk Turks who started to enter Eastern Anatolia after defeating the Byzantines at Malazgirt in 1071, they were helped by Armenians who had deserted the Byzantine army. In 1080 internal strife in the Armenian kingdom of Ani, near present-day Kars, caused a prince named Rupen to flee to Tarsus where he founded the Kingdom of Cilicia in Southern Anatolia. This kingdom established relations with Europe through the Crusaders and enjoyed considerable prosperity, it also had friendly relations with the neighboring Seljuk Kingdom in Konya, it was defeated by Egyptian Mamluks and ceased to exist in 1375. From the 12th century onward growing numbers of Armenians settled in Anatolia which they shared with Turks, Kurds, Greeks, Assyrians and other ethnic groups living there. Following the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, its Armenian population began to enjoy religious and social freedoms that had been denied to them during the Byzantine era, notably the Armenian Patriarchate was transferred from provincial Bursa to the capital in 1461 by edict of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. Armenians began to rise in government, in social and economic life as well as in the arts and crafts and were dubbed "the loyal people" by the ruling Ottomans who counted on them to offset the influence of the local Greeks.. This symbiotic co-existence which provided innumerable benefits to both sides continued until the Turco-Russian war of 1877-78. The defeat of the Ottomans in Pleven, Bulgaria was followed by the gradual loss of the Balkan countries, the subsequent treaty of Berlin made it clear that the Ottoman Empire was no longer a major power. The founding of an Armenian revolutionary committee in 1878 signaled the beginning of the end; the militant micro-nationalist movements inspired by the French Revolution had reached "the loyal people".

The Nineteenth Century:
The major powers of the time began to establish centers of influence in the weakening Ottoman Empire, they generally collaborated with minorities such as the Armenians. In this context the Russians trained and armed insurgents in Eastern Anatolia while the French did likewise in Cilicia (Southern Anatolia). Americans on the other hand adopted a more sophisticated approach, they started in the 1850's to establish colleges with adjoining hospitals and community centers that were run by Protestant missionaries in cities and regions which had sizable numbers of Armenians. These institutes were founded in Istanbul, Izmir Kizilcullu, Kayseri Talas, Tarsus, Antep, Amasya, Merzifon, Maras, Harput and Van, among other places. The schools were nominally accessible to all interested children, but most local Moslems kept their children away for fear of reprisals from religious fanatics. The result was that these modern schools were attended mainly by Armenians whose promising young members were encouraged to emigrate to America. Meanwhile the weakness of the Ottoman state precluded its taking decisive actions against separatist insurgents who continued to undermine the state. Armenians staged an armed uprising in Tokat in 1894, demanding the minority rights that had been promised them with the treaty of Berlin. This was followed by uprisings in Batman-Sason, Maras-Zeytun, Elazig-Harput, Mus, Bitlis, Van and Adana which were quelled by army units and local vigilantes. The armed attack in 1896 on the Ottoman Bank in Istanbul by Armenian terrorists and the attempt in 1905 to assassinate the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II (whose mother Virgine was an Armenian) further aggravated public opinion.

The Twentieth Century: In times of peace, the Ottoman state considered the numerous Armenian uprisings as isolated cases of local unrest and subdued them with local measures. In the fall of 1914 however peace was over, the Ottomans had entered war on the side of the Germans against Russia, GB and France. Early in the war, the Ottoman headquarters planned a surprise attack on the Russians in Eastern Anatolia to help relieve Russian pressure on German troops in the Romanian front. The plan involved encirclement of the Russian army in Erzurum by a surprise maneuver of the Turkish forces which were to arrive in the town of Sarikamis to the east of Erzurum after crossing a treacherous mountain range. The main premise for the plan's success was that it had to be completed rapidly before the onset of the worst winter conditions. This required winning over the local Armenian insurgents who had defected to the Russians and had the potential of impeding the plan. Acting commander-in-chief Enver Pasha attempted to convince renegade Armenian leaders to again support the Ottoman side with the promise of establishing an Armenian-run federation in six eastern provinces. Subsequent events revealed however that the Russians had succeeded in maintaining the active support of the Armenians at the expense of the Ottomans. This resulted in a dramatic turn of events for the Ottoman troops who were harassed and critically delayed by Armenian insurgents, as a consequence tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers perished in the unforgiving winter of the Allahuekber mountain range before engaging the Russians in Sarikamis. A few months later, early in April 1915, it was reported that Armenians had started to massacre the civilian population of the important eastern city of Van which they had occupied and declared independent. This gruesome news and other shocking episodes from numerous provincial localities, compounded by the frequent critical interception of army supply lines by Armenian villagers and the grossly negative role played by Armenian insurgents in the aforementioned Sarikamis debacle, all caused a fundamental shift in the Ottoman government's perception of Anatolian Armenians. The once loyal people were no longer viewed as an errant minority which, instigated by foreign powers, occasionally rose against the government. They were now charged with treason for fighting against the state on the side of the enemies. As for the common people, reports of massacres perpetrated by Armenians created strong emotions of hatred and revenge.

The spring of 1915 proved to be fateful for the Ottomans on all three fronts. In the East, Ottomans were fighting the Armenians and Russians while in the West, at the Dardanelles Straits, Ottoman troops were desperately attempting to thwart the British and French forces which, according to Winston Churchill's plan, were to push through the Straits to capture the capital city of Istanbul and rush supplies to Czarist Russia by way of the Black Sea ports. Meanwhile in the South, Ottomans were fighting British and Arab troops on a wide front which extended from Palestine to the Suez Canal. Against this dramatic backdrop the Ottoman government warned Armenian leaders early in April 1915 to stop all treasonable activities and massacres or face the consequences, but this was not heeded. The government then arrested 235 of them in Istanbul on April 24, which coincided with the Allied landing in Gallipoli at the Dardanelles Straits. Subsequently on May 27, 1915 the government decided to evacuate civilians from the war zones and to resettle in Syria Armenian villagers that critically intercepted military supply lines in the East, provided logistical support to the insurgents and carried out mass killings in neighboring Turkish and Kurdish villages. The resettlement was unfortunately marred by many deaths caused by epidemics, banditry and acts of revenge. The protection provided by government troops to the convoys proved to be inadequate, it reflected the limited possibilities of an overtaxed state which was engaged in three major battle fronts.

Conclusion: Some individuals in the West maintain that the resettlement was a state-organized mass killing that ought to be recognized as genocide. They would do well to consider the following:

-The Ottoman capital of Istanbul was occupied by the Allies from 1918 to 1922. The British authorities did not find any evidence of mass killings ordered by the Ottoman government, this conclusion was reported to London as well as to the U.S. State Department.

-In 1915-16 and again in 1919 the Ottoman government brought to court civilian and military administrators who were charged with negligence in following government orders of safe passage for the deportees and were consequently held responsible for losses suffered during the resettlement.

Many were indicted, some received the death penalty and a total of sixty seven were hanged.

-In times of war governments are by definition expected to defend their country against external and internal enemies. The question is how to treat subversive citizens caught in flagrant acts of treason, should they be executed or resettled? The Ottoman decision to move and resettle Armenians away from the war zone is to be considered in this light. It should be asked how the French would have reacted if separatist Corsicans had sided with the Germans during either world war, or how the British would have treated the Irish or the Scots had they engaged in mass treason in the same wars. The Armenians of Anatolia, led by foreign-provoked renegades, were involved in amply documented, treasonable activities starting from the 1890's, which in 1914-15 culminated in their defection to the Russian side. Their action resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish lives and led to Russian occupation of the Eastern provinces.

-Any comparison with the Jewish tragedy of World War II would be an unforgivable insult to a minority which did not commit treason nor rose against their country except in one desperate reaction of self defense in the Warsaw Ghetto. It would also be grossly illogical since it was the Ottoman side which reacted against repeated acts of treason and armed uprisings to defend the state.

Final words: Enumeration of civilian losses in Eastern Anatolia during the 1890-1919 period can not be limited solely to the losses suffered by Armenians unless one disregards the sanctity of human lives regardless of race, color and creed! A request to have the Turks express their grief for losses sustained by the Ottoman Armenians during the mass resettlement of 1915 would be grossly provocative and unfair if not accompanied by a request toward the Armenians to manifest repentance for the acts of treason and mass killings committed in Anatolia by their forefathers prior to and after May 1915. Failure to respect this modicum of intellectual fairness will only serve to further exacerbate relations between two peoples that in the past enjoyed long centuries of symbiotic coexistence. Accusations of genocide are typically formulated by ill-informed or ill-intentioned, mercenary academics and politicians who stand ready to pre-condemn without a fair trial and to pass so-called "anti-denialist" laws intended to punish those who assert that what took place was self-defense and not genocide. The racist, hate-mongering instigators who recruit and remunerate such "opinion leaders" secure their income by exploiting the unwarranted feelings of victimization that they foster among intimidated diaspora Armenians. However hard they may try, these ill-intentioned people will not help the Turks or Kurds forget the mass treason and killings committed by the once "loyal people". What is required is an honest, impartial investigation of all the facts by a committee of international scholars appointed, for instance, by the International Court of Justice with the consensus of both sides. This committee would base its conclusions on a thorough analysis of the Ottoman state archives along with those of Russia, the U.S., Germany, France, GB and Armenia, among others, with the hope of a return to normality by 2015!

Istanbul, November 2009 Fikret Semin
(B.Sc.in El.Eng.,Robert College, Istanbul; M.Sc.in Mech.Eng., Univ.of Mich. Ann Arbor)

PS: The above notes (with the exception of the "Final Words" which reflect my personal views) are mostly based on information which is readily available on the Internet. The following sources however deserve special mention:
-"Armenian Genocide Resource Center" run by Turkish Armenians who reside in the West, their website is: Armenians-1915.blogspot.com. Sincere thanks to the organizers for providing a rich source of balanced, updated information.
-"The Genocide of Truth", a monumental reference work of some 700 pages which is based entirely on "non-Turkish", Western and Russian sources. To the best of my knowledge this book is the first of its kind and is indispensable for anyone who desires to form an intelligent, unbiased opinion on the subject. It has been compiled and commented by Sukru Server Aya, Istanbul Commerce University published it in 2008. It may be accessed here .

-"The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnagzoutiun) Has Nothing To Do Any More", a booklet by Hovhannes Katchaznouni, the first Prime Minister of independent Armenia from 1918 to 1919. It comprises the report that he presented to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) congress of April 1923 in Bucharest. It may be reached at the above blogspot and includes such remarks as:

"In the years preceding the (First) World War, it was a gross mistake to allow the formation of armed volunteers that openly incited the Turks by massacring them, hoping that their retaliation would generate the sympathy of the West toward Armenians."

"The potential of the Turkish side was not assessed realistically whereas the capacity of the Armenians was overestimated. We were led to believe that the Western Powers would have run to our rescue."

"The Turks reacted in self-defence, their decision to resettle the Armenians should not be cause for remorse on their part."

Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Which Was To Be Demonstrated!


Sevgin Oktay said...

No wonder how innocent people can be deceived into believing something about which they know very little especially when they are buried under lots of disinformation and propaganda, and of course, when it comes to the politicians, buried under lots of money! The blatant Diaspora Armenian deceptions occurred to me once again while I was reading a description of the normal, business-like relations that existed between the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and Committe of Union and Progress (CUP)- the then administration of the Ottoman Empire during its declining days in early twentieth century- as has been reported by many historians before, but now described by none other than Dikran Kaligian who is the past chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern United States and written an article entitled ARF CUP Relations Under Ottoman Constitutional Rule. With all the self-serving conclusions that are drawn from his own study, what goes almost unnoticed with the wave of a quill, shall we say, is that which describes one of the sparks that started the whole carnage between the Turks and the Armenians, namely, "In Constantinople, Talaat expressed his disappointment in the party’s stance to ARF parliamentarian Armen Garo. The Bureau called a consultative meeting with its key members as well as Krikor Zohrab. The meeting was divided between those who expected a speedy Russian victory over the Ottoman armies and those who feared a lengthy campaign fought largely in Armenian- populated lands. In either case, volunteer units had to be ready to defend the Armenian population if massacres began, while somehow not appearing to be a fifth column and thus providing a pretext for such massacres." To repeat: "....while somehow not appearing to be a fifth column and thus providing a pretext for such massacres." This goes to the heart of not just what happened in 1915, but WHY? As there may be a "season to everything..." as the Bible teaches, one would agree that " to everything there is a reason... under the heaven." One of the brutal inescapable reasons has been the beastly planning done on the part of ARF to induce and start such massacres. (Not to mention the fact that Ottomans offered full autonomy to ARF in return for their services, but they kicked it out as also explained in the well-known Pastermadjian book. See also The Genocide of Truth by Sükrü S. Aya) No body knows that better than even the New York Times reporting such dastardly acts by ARF back then. It is true that even with such incitements, nobody can be excused for going for genocide. And the Turks have not. What happened was Armenians killed Turks, and Turks killed Armenians, in that order. Reading the whole article, it is clear, at least to me, that there were disagreements between legitimate representative parliamentarians of different groups in the Ottoman government (as has been in the annals of all countries- like the years of disagreements which led to the civil war in this country where more than half-a-million were killed between the Confederates and the Unionists), and when those disagreements could not be resolved, a civil war ensued due to all sorts of intrigues including providing a pretext for massacres. Jews of Germany did not do that. Having seen in their own words (as in above), I ask the rhetorical question to the Diaspora: am I missing something here? On the other hand, what you are missing is that you are the very descendents of your parents and grandparents who were not killed but sent to safe places like Syria- not that it was easy for those who could reach there, and my heart goes out to them and those who could not make it there. But it is another matter when it comes to those who provided a pretext for such massacres on both sides. If it weren't for the latter, we would still be brethren and sisters as we had been for many centuries. Let us hope that the latest rapprochement between the two countries will make that possible once again.

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