Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Armenian Issue: Inventing a Past

Armenians claim that The Ottomans consciously and systematically killed the Armenian citizens in 1915 and afterwards. This claim had been denominated as ‘massacre’ until the end of the World War II, it has been denominated as “genocide” since 1965. In this respect, the Jewish example has a significant role in skillfully transforming to be ‘genocide victim’ into political and monetary earnings. As it is known that, as the Jewish people have accepted that, the Jews who were died in the World War II left a loaded indemnity and a state to their sons and grandchildren. The more important than that, grievance also has prepared ground for an im
portant esteem in the world. So, this is the most important benefit which charmed the Armenians.

The Armenian side claims that approximately 1.5 million Armenians vanished in the Ottoman territory in 1915 and afterwards. This number is controversial and excessive but additionally, the numbers which are approved by the Turkish side also can reach hundred thousands. Except one difference, while the Armenian side claims that the state killed these people consciously, the Turkish side claims that most of these people died due to hunger, famine, epidemic diseases, the negative conditions of war, bad weather and some of them were killed in the local-ethnic disputes. The Armenian historians and who adhered to even some of the Turkish people claims that thousands of people could not die because of famine or epidemic disease in such a short period of time. According to them, the negative circumstances of the war, surely, led to death of some Armenians, but this number could considerably be limited.

The ones who claim in this way, unfortunately, know nothing about the conditions of the period. They do not know that in this period the epidemic diseases and famine could still totally destroy all population of cities or districts. They do not remember that even the thousands of Ottoman soldiers died in Sarikamis because of cold without shooting a single bullet. Above all, they also do not know about how thousands of Armenians died even in Armenia because of epidemic diseases and famine after 1915 under the Armenian rule.

Georgia and Azerbaijan declared their independence after the revolution in Russia. Hereon, after a short time, the Armenians established their state. Anyhow Tasnaks’ (nationalist Armenian armed group) also had a state. However, while establishing this state The Tas,naks were unwilling because they wanted a state (if it is not an empire) which could reach Mediterranean to Black Sea and Caspian (Hazar) Sea, ‘three sea sided’. As a matter of fact, their wishes partially reflected to Sevr Treaty. A French newspaper defined those wishes as ‘Armenian Empire’.1 (Sunny, p.129) Tasnaks and other Armenian groups found the pre-established state little, at this stage instead of establishing a micro state they planned to continue their struggle and obtain a bigger one. Young generation was filled with hatred against Turks, the leaders, primarily Europe and USA, were trying to draw the non-regional extraterritorial forces to Caucasia for their own purposes.

Whereas, the realities were hard and do not have relation with the fantasies of ‘Greater Armenia’. In the state which was established by the Tasnaks famine and epidemic diseases were patrolling. The famine has reached a very serious phase that a newspaper draws its portrayal as in the following:

“People were eating dead cats and dogs. Even there were incidents that a person could eat a hungry mother’s dead child’s kidney or lung…” (Sunny, ss. 127-128)2

According to an Armenian Historian, Richard Hovannissian, in this period Armenia lost 1/5 of its population. More than 200.000 Armenians died because of famine and epidemic diseases.

Robert Grigor Suny describes the picture in first Independent Armenian Republic under the Tashnak rule:

“Famine was widespread in Erevan (Yerevan), and the underfed population was susceptible to disease. As Richard Hovannissian tells us, ‘It was verily a land of death’. Approximately 200,000 people, almost 20 percent of the republic’s population, had died by the middle of 1919’. A newspaper account told the following story:

‘The populace is feeding upon the bodies of dead cats and dogs. There have been cases when a starving mother has eaten the kidney or the liver from the corpse of her own child.. The skeleton-like woman and children rummage in the refuse heaps for moldered shoes and, after cooking them for three days, eat them.” (Looking Toward Ararat, pp. 127-128).

Portrayal is really sad but one should ask that who is the responsible for that result? Whether the Turks came to Armenia and made ‘genocide’? Or they should look for the responsible ones who led to genocide or else among the Armenians themselves? Whether the Tasnaks are not guilty? Moreover, it should be asked that, the ones who do not accept that thousands of Armenians could have died in Anatolia because of famine, epidemic diseases or other natural reasons and conditions of war, how can they explain that thousands of Armenians died in heart of Yerevan.

The Armenians experienced a tragedy…Just like the Turks and other ethnic groups who shared the same geography under the WWI. However, Armenian ultra-nationalists do not want to take responsibility of this tragedy. Whereon, because of this reason, they can not take lessons from history. For this reason, the same situation occurred when they established their own state for the second time in 1991:

The leaders of the newly established Armenia again showed their citizens, who fight against famine, hunger, cold and earthquake, a ‘Greater Armenia’ map as ideal. For this time, Karabakh and its surrounding, Turkey’s eastern provinces, Georgia and Nahcivan were the target. More than that, ‘the claims about Turkey were heated and serviced again’. The Armenian people, who were even in need of wheat from Turkey, were filled with hatred towards the neighboring Turkish people. Again Armenia was in need of external help and again many Armenians died because of negative conditions and the war. This time the number of dead people was not so much as in 1919. However, the numbers of the ones who abandoned their homes and countries, who went to Russia, France and even to Turkey in order to work was more than one million. The ones who went were not coming back. It has been long time since the population of the Diaspora exceeded the population of the homeland. The greatest problem of Armenia, in the Tashnak administration, was the political and economical isolation. Armenia confided in Western states instead of its neighbors but it was disappointed by them, nowadays Armenia gets more and more isolated and disappointed with Russia’s and the West’s attitude. Armenia became the only Russian military base in the region against the neighboring countries. Almost all Caucasian countries perceive threat from Armenia and Russia. Naturally, the current perceptions threaten security of Armenia, and nourish Armenian mistrust towards the international community.

Nevertheless, even if the Armenians and Turks would never be friends according to the nationalist Armenians, at least Armenians should take the Turks as an example, so by this way they could have solved the important part of their problems:

While Mustafa Kemal and his friends were establishing the Republic of Turkey they did not only lean on gun power. Even when the war was continuing they did the preparations of the period of peace. Instead of rigid ideologies they preferred a realistic and pragmatic attitude towards the neighbors and the great powers. Externally and internally, they did not establish their policies on hatred and vengeance. Even they offer ‘olive branch’ to the Greeks who occupied Western Anatolia for a period of time, the friendship of Ataturk - Venizolos have opened a golden period in relationships between Turkey and Greece. In the same way, establishing good relations with all of the new neighbors was designated to be their basic target. Although the citizens had great reactions towards Armenians, Bulgarians, Russians, Greeks and Arabs, all these feelings were bridled and tried to be soothed because Turkey was conscious of compulsoriness of living with its neighbors. Moreover, they have never dreamed of a ‘Greater Turkey’, a greater Turkish world, regeneration of the Ottoman Empire or a Muslim Empire, even though it came from a tradition of great empires. They followed a defendable, constricted but homogeneous policy of territory. Above all, instead of taking revenge from the neighbors, first Turkish nationalists gave more importance to the economical and social problems. A development campaign was started and even this campaign has reached today.

When the Turkish and Armenian experience is compared, it should be clearly understood that the Armenian citizens do not have an ‘Armenian Ataturk’. The Armenians have followed unrealistic and unconscious leaders. However, in each time they always reach a disaster and great disasters instead of a greater Armenia. The saddest thing is that Armenian nationalists have always blamed the others for the tragic events they have experienced: Now, Armenians politicians accuse Israel, United States, European Union, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and even Russia for the current situation in Armenia.

Now it is time for Armenians to look at the mirror… It is right, reality hurts. However, it is better and beneficial to face realities than to live in a world of dreams and accuse those who could help us a lot.
Dr. Sedat LACINER: Chairman, International Strategic Research ORganization (USAK - ISRO) and member of TEIMK (Turkish Armenian Relations National Committee).

slaciner@comu.edu.tr

Source: http://www.turkishweekly.net/editorial.php?id=12

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