A Facebook group in Turkish called Once upon a time Armenians in Anatolia has photographs and postcards of new and old Armenian culture in eastern Turkey.
Archive for the 'Armenian' Category
The late 19th century Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II banned the use of the scientific formula for water. He thought that H2O might be interpreted as he (Hamid the second) being equal to nothing (zero). The reverse, unfortunately, was the case: even during his rule Hamid became a world-famous figure nicknamed the “bloody sultan” – for massacring almost quarter a million Christian Armenians in the late 1890s in lieu of introducing sought reform. A decade after the Hamidian massacres, the next Ottoman regime that replaced the sultan brought about the end of what is now eastern Turkey’s indigenous Armenian population.
Over a century after the Hamidian massacres and half a decade short of the centennial of the genocide that followed, a grandson of the “bloody sultan” says he is “on the side side of the truth.” One reason why Beyzade Bülent Osman admits, even as indirectly so, his forefather’s massacres and the genocide that followed is because his family “owed their lives” to an Armenian family in France that helped Mr. Osman’s family when they escaped from the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkey-based Hurriyet has the story:
The world knows Sultan Abdülhamit II as a key name related to the Armenian issue and the events of 1915, recognized as genocide by many countries, a claim Turkey rejects. “I am on the side of truth,” Osman said on the issue. “The French and the Germans had also slaughtered each other, came into conflict but still managed to establish dialogue. We have to leave history behind us and look ahead.”
Osman also said his family “owed their lives” to French-Armenians after their exile from Turkey. “We were penniless,” he told the Daily News. “Our Armenian friends helped us. There was an Armenian lady who welcomed us to her chateau and we lived there for a long time. I cannot deny the good deeds Armenians have done for my family.”
A month after Armenia’s districting of a new wildlife sanctuary, Zangezur, its ex-Soviet neighbor Azerbaijan has renamed a newly-expanded national park – not too far from the one in Armenia – Zangezur.
The environmentally praiseworthy move may prove politically dangerous. While a likely coincidence, the name-sharing of the two parks could increase the already sky-scraping atmosphere of mutual distrust and information wars. But the incident also has potential to help Armenia and Azerbaijan – technically at war over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and locked in so-far-unsuccessful negotiations – to acknowledge some of their overlapping history.
History is hotly (and hostilely) contested in Armenia and Azerbaijan, with both trying to delegitimize each others’ national claims. Azerbaijan, for instance, outright distorts Christian Armenia’s ancient roots in the region – often deliberately destroying distinct Armenian monuments (and later denying their previous existence in the first place) to support its absurd case.
Armenia, in turn, exclusively (and religiously) insists that the idea of “Azerbaijan” is a mere construction of 1918 when a Persian toponym (the northern part of Iran) was applied to a newly-established Muslim Turkic country in the Caucasus. While accurate, Armenia’s argument ignores Azerbaijan’s diverse ethnic composition which is not completely limited to colonizing Turkic tribes from the other side of the Caspian but also includes some native peoples who, on their turn, share blood with Armenians. This explains why native Armenians and largely-settler Azerbaijans are genetically more related than either would want to admit.
Instead of emphasizing commonalities, which hasn’t been limited t conflict, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been each demanding exclusive rights to geographic names. The name of the new sanctuaries in both countries, Zangezur, for instance, is the name of the mountain range that separates southernmost Armenia’s Syunik region – often called Zangezur itself – from Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. Instead of considering history-sharing, both Armenia and Azerbaijan regard Zangezur and Nakhichevan (and neighboring Nagorno-Karabakh) their exclusive historic lands.
The history dispute is a headache. But it may contain the key to solving the conflict. The Western and Russian negotiators of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict deliberately overlook (and wrongly so) the delicate issue of history and cultural protection. Instead, they should work toward an honest and straightforward address of historical disputes. If indeed a coincidence, the two Zangezur sanctuaries should remind Armenia and Azerbaijan (and the dithering negotiators) that “power sharing” – in this case the coequal right to using common historical names – maybe the road to sustainable peace.
Would a “sister” program between the Zangezur reserve in Armenia and the one in Azerbaijan help bring some change?
A higher court in Turkey has returned 44 of 100 acres to an Armenian family after decades of legal battle, an unprecedented act in a country where the indigenous Armenian population was wiped out during WWI, their ancient civilization destroyed, and their private property confiscated.
But while most of the land the Christian Armenians once owned is in rural (and poor) eastern Turkey, the 44 acres the France-based Agopyan family will recover is in Istanbul’s affluent Tarabya neighborhood, located on the European shores of the Bosphorus. Estimated at billions in value, the land houses luxurious villas, historic places, night clubs and restaurants.
Sources (in Turkish):
Via Tamara Azarian
“Who controls the past controls the future;” party slogan states in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, “Who controls the present controls the past.”
While hopes are high that – despite a hostile history – Armenia and Turkey will establish diplomatic relations and that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan may finally be solved, the problem of how to deal with the official Turkish/Azerbaijani factory of history is not being addressed.
Djulfa, Nakhichevan: the worst documented case of history fabrication; Azerbaijani soldiers destroying the largest Armenian medieval cemetery in the world (December 2005) – the site is now a military rifle range
It’s not merely Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s denial of the Armenian Genocide that makes the reconciliation quite difficult, to say the least, but also the official Turkish thesis, with its roots in the Young Turkish movement (that carried out the Armenian Genocide) and formalized by Ataturk, that Turks/Azeris are indigenous to their current homelands and that Armenians, in the best case, are unwelcome immigrants.
While the Turkish fabrication of history can be dismissed as an issue of “internal consumption” – meaning a convenient myth to boost Turkish/Azeri pride in their respective countries (with the dangerous slogan “Happy is the man who can say I am Turk”) – the implications of flip-flopping history are right there in the middle of the current developments in the region. Here is a most recent case.
Turkey’s ceremonial president Abdullah Gul is currently visiting Nakhichevan (or Nakhchivan as Azerbaijan prefers), the region of Azerbaijan which it got from the communist regime in Moscow as another gift at the expense of giving out Armenian lands. Moreover, a treaty that Soviet Armenia was forced to sign from Moscow made Turkey the “guarantor” of Nakhichevan in the 1920s.
Gul is visiting Nakhichevan with other heads of “Turkic-speaking countries” (most of them in Central Asia) to talk about common issues. Sounds like a normal political event, and nothing to protest about, especially since Armenia has no official claims toward Nakhichevan. But read the rest.
As there are no Armenians left in Nakhichevan (thanks to a Soviet Azerbaijani policy of nonviolent ethnic cleansing which attracted little attention at the time) and not a trace of the rich Armenian heritage (the most precious of which, the Djulfa cemetery, was reduced to dust by Azeri soldiers in December 2005 – see the videotape), Armenia has no claims to Nakhichevan and perhaps rightly so. Yet, apparently, the history factory in Nakhichevan is still cooking.
While Armenia restraints itself from claiming its indigenous lands, and particularly Nakhichevan, taken away from it without its consent, Turkey and Azerbaijan must discontinue their unhealthy fabrications of history. Instead…
According to Trend news agency based in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s visiting president has “noted that Nakhchivan, whose name means ‘world view’, is the native and valuable for both Azerbaijan and Turkey.”
Putting the “native” side aside for a moment, the distortion of not just basic history but of linguistics is sickening. Save for the disputed proposal that Nakhichevan comes from the Persian phrase Naqsh-e-Jahan (image of the world), every other explanation of the name of the region has to do with Armenians (see Wikipedia for the several versions), let alone that the word itself has two Armenian parts to it: Nakh (before or first) and ichevan (landing, sanctuary) – referring to Noah’s coming out of the Ark from (another holy Armenian symbol) Mount Ararat – next to Nakhichevan now on Turkish territory.
Ironically, and as almost always in history fabrication, the Azeri/Turkish distortion of “Nakhichevan” is inconsistent. According to an official Azerbaijani news website, there are discussions in Nakhichevan that admit that the word has to do something with Noah (of course after saying that it had to do with a mythical Turkish tribe that lived there thousands of years ago): “The Turkic tribes of nakhch were once considered as having given the name to it. Other sources connect Nakhichevan with the prophet Noah himself, as his name sounds as nukh in Turkic.” Moreover, as an official Nakhichevani publication reads, “There is no other territory on the earth so rich with place-names connected with Noah as Nakhichevan. According to popular belief, Noah is buried in southern part of Nakhichevan, and his sister is buried in the northwest of the city.” Hold on. Did you notice that the language uses (at least its official English translation) the Armenian taboo name of the region: Nakhichevan (as opposed to Turkified Nakchivan)? Maybe there is hope, but not really. Azerbaijan still denies that it didn’t destroy the Djulfa cemetery because, well, it didn’t exist in the first place.
A skeptic would ask what the fuss is about. The answer is that Nakhichevan’s distortion is not the first. The sacred Armenian places of Ani, Van, and Akhtamar in Turkey all have official Turkish explanations to their meanings, while those places existed for hundreds – if not thousands – of more years before Turks colonized the homeland of the Armenians.
More importantly, the changing of toponyms is not done to meet the social demands of Turks/Azeris and in order to make it easier for the locals to pronounce geographic names. Distortion is done to rewrite history in order to control the future. But it’s not the right thing to do. And both Turkey and Azerbaijan embarrass themselves when it comes to legal discussions.
Immediately prior to voting for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, for example, the Turkish delegation at the United Nations made it clear that its “yes” vote was cast with the understanding that there were no indigenous peoples on Turkey’s territory. If there were indigenous peoples on the territory, the Turkish representative stated, then the declaration didn’t challenge states’ territorial integrity. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, abstained from voting.
The reservation on the UN document came from both countries who claim that there are the indigenous heirs of the lands they occupy and that their main enemy, Armenians (and also Kurds) are not only indigenous but are recent immigrants.
One version of Azerbaijan’s ridiculous inidigenousness claim is written on the website of one Azerbaijani Embassy: “The ancient states of Azerbaijan, which maintained political, economic and cultural ties with Sumer and Akkad and formed part of the wider civilization of Mesopotamia, were governed by dynasties of Turkic descent. The Turkophone peoples that have inhabited the area of Azerbaijan since ancient times were fire-worshippers and adherents of one of the world’s oldest religions – Zoroastrianism.”
Armenians (and to a large extent the Kurds, Assyrians and Pontiac Greeks) have their share of fault in the debate. Constantly repeating their indigenousness in what is now Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenians have helped create the defensive Turkish/Azeri attitude that they, and not Armenians or others, are the indigenous peoples of the land. But when it comes to fabricating history of their own, there is little blame for Armenia.
As Armenia struggles to defend the victory it won over the Karabakh conflict, most Armenians use the Turko-Persian name for Nagorno-Karabakh (Karabakh meaning black garden, Kara – black in Turkish and bagh – garden in Farsi). While some Armenian nationalists prefer using the indigenous name of the region, Artsakh, many others indirectly admit that diverse history of Nagorno-Karabakh by keeping its Turkified name.
Like Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan must also defend what they see as their rights but not at the expense of unhealthy history fabrications. Moreover, Azeris and Armenians are genetically closer to each other than Azeris and their “brethren” (Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc.) in Central Asia. This means that, physically but not culturally speaking, both are interconnectedly indigenous.
While Turkey ad Azerbaijan must come to terms with history, Armenia must accept that Turks and Azeris are there to stay. All the nations in the region have equal rights to existence, but not so at the unhealthy price of fabricating history.
I hope this is an acceptable icebreaker to our long silence, but I just came across to reliable information on ArmenianAncestry.com on how to get free Armenian TV stations (and other international stations).
The administrator of the website, who is also a pen pal, details the ABCs of getting the equipment (he says it will all cost under $200) to have free (without subscription) international TV broadcasting, including several Armenian channels.
The largest international Assyrian organization has convened its convention in Australia. The result of Assyrian Universal Alliance’s (AUA) 26th World Congress is a declaration which, in part, calls on Iraq to create an Assyrian autonomous region, demands land return from the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq and calls on Turkey to recognize the WWI genocide against Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians.
Interestingly, the declaration calls for official recognition of Assyrians as Iraq’s indigenous peoples. The declaration, nonetheless, doesn’t claim the same in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, where modern Assyrians have previously claimed indigenous connection. It seems that AUA wishes to concentrate its efforts on a particular goal – mainly an autonomous region in northern Iraq. But given their small numbers (estimated at under a million), Assyrian’s righteous claim has little translation in Iraq’s realpolitik. Some even argue that Assyrian demands for autonomy in Iraq are a dangerous play in a region where Kurds and Sunni Arabs contest for power and control.
I don’t see a clear-cut solution for the Assyrian problem in Iraq, but I think a complementary relationship with both Kurds and Sunni Arabs is in the best interest of the Assyrians at this time.
Background on Assyrians: Known by different names, the indigenous peoples of Mesopotamia are often called Assyrians, Syriacs, Arameans, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Syrianis, Jacobites, and Phoenicians. Not all of the above choose to be called Assyrian, the general name often given to all these groups, and a more inclusive term, Chaldeans-Assyrians-Syriacs, has been emerging. The most active groups, nonetheless, consider the entire nation – Assyrians.
A small, stateless indigenous peoples spread between Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, Assyrians are a little known nation with a recent history of persecution and even genocide. The likely descendants of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, modern Assyrians are an ancient Christian people who have survived for centuries. Surrounded by not just states but also by other stateless groups such as the Kurds, the history and problems of Assyrians are little known, discussed, or talked about.
According to various estimates, there are roughly four million Assyrians around the world. Less than two million live in their ancestral lands of what is now northern Iraq. As a result of the two Gulf wars, the number might have actually dwindled to less than a million there. In Syria, there are an estimated of 800,000 Assyrians, 74,000 in Iran, and less than 25,000 in Turkey. The largest diasporas are in the US, Armenia, Brazil, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, and Australia.
Photo: The Armenian Reporter
Amid attempts to establish relations with Armenia and further its influence in much of the Middle East, Turkey has a new Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ahmet Davutoglu.
In the words of The New York Times:
In a major cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, Ahmet Davutoglu, the official who has shifted Turkish foreign policy toward a greater focus on the Middle East, was made foreign minister. Mr. Davutoglu previously served as a foreign policy adviser to the prime minister.
According to the Turkey-based Hurriyet, “Ahmed Davutoğlu advocates a foreign policy based on ‘zero problems with neighbors’ in line with what he terms the Ottoman identity of Turkey’s past.”
While ‘zero problems with neighbors’ suggests normalizing relations with Armenia – which has been blockaded by Turkey for almost all of its post-USSR existence – Davutoglu may not be the moderate some media make him to be.
In fact, Foreign Policy makes the claim that Turkey is attempting to become a cultural hegemon in the Islamic world and a regional power in the ancient Ottoman boundaries:
…Not only is Turkey sending emissaries throughout the region, but a new vogue for all things Turkish has emerged in neighboring countries. The Turkish soap opera Noor, picked up by the Saudi-owned MBC satellite network and dubbed in Arabic, became a runaway hit, reaching some 85 million viewers across the Middle East. Many of the growing number of tourists from Arab countries visiting Istanbul are making pilgrimages to locations featured in the show. In February, Asharq Alawsat, a pan-Arab newspaper based in London, took note of changing attitudes in a widely circulated column, ‘The Return of the Ottoman Empire?’
The article calls now-Foreign Affairs Minister Davutoglu the person behind “neo-Ottomanism:”
The mastermind of this turnaround—‘neo-Ottomanism,’ as some in Turkey and the Middle East are calling it—has been Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister’s chief foreign-policy advisor. In his 2001 book, Strategic Depth, he argued that in running away from its historical ties in the region, Turkey was also running away from political and economic opportunity. His strategy has paid off, literally, for Turkey. Trade with the country’s eight nearest neighbors—including Syria, Iran, and Iraq—nearly doubled between 2005 and 2008, going from $7.3 billion to $14.3 billion. And, from being on the verge of war with Syria a decade ago, Ankara is now among Damascus’s closest allies in the region […].
Nationalism is nothing new in Turkey. Yet for much of the last century, it has meant rejecting the country’s Ottoman history. Today it means claiming it.
Is solving the problem with Armenia – the darkest spot of the imperial heritage – the return to the future of Ottomanism for Turkey?
Whatever the case, the Armenian issue is a priority for “neo-Ottomanism.” In fact, it was Davutoglu himself who perhaps convinced President Obama, despite latter’s adamant stance up to that point, not to use the g-word while talking about the Armenian Genocide. As the Armenian Reporter detailed in March 2009:
Ahmet Davutoglu, senior foreign policy advisor to Turkish leaders, last week met with U.S. officials to discuss President Barack Obama’s visit to Ankara and Istanbul on April 5-7.
After meeting Mr. Obama’s national security advisor Jim Jones on March 19, Mr. Davutoglu told Reuters that he could not say what the Obama administration’s intentions were with regard to the president’s pre-election pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide […]
Mr. Davutoglu suggested that U.S.-Turkey relations were ‘in a historic era where our policies are almost identical on all issues,’ Associated Press reported him as saying on March 19. He added that the Armenian Genocide issue ‘could be debated from a historical perspective, but should not hijack the strategic vision of Turkish-American relations or Turkish-Armenian relations.’
During a visit to Washington shortly before the presidential elections, Mr. Davutoglu insisted that Turkey wants ‘to have best relations with Armenia,’ and ‘good relations’ with Armenians in the diaspora.
Davutoglu comes across as a moderate, but was he appointed to this position because he was able to convince Obama not to use the g-word?
Much of the discussion about the recent development of Turkish-Armenian relations has been about ‘strategic culture.’ That is, annalists look at foreign policy as a dynamics of internal and external developments: how societal moods – in this case nationalism – reflect or shape discussions, how leaders make decisions based on national interest as defined or contested by different groups, etc. More importantly, questions of whether Turks or Armenians are “honest” in the developments or whether a piece is “really possible” amid the history of genocide are often raised. Culture, and its implications on policy, are taken for granted.
It is common for foreign policy analysis to think of state actions as a “group” action, deeply reflective of domestic change or conflict. Much of this may be true for the Armenian-Turkish developments, given that more Turkish citizens seem to be open to dialogue, that Turkey wants to broaden its influence in the region, and that Armenia seeks a more economic viable future. All of the above, and other factors, are true, but strategic culture creates stereotypes, homogenizes governments, and leaves little room for change. Armenians talk whether they should trust “the Turks,” vice versa.
Individuals like Ahmet Davutoglu seem to be influential and leading the charge. He is, what researchers call, a goal-driven leader who clearly has a vision of making Turkey an uncontested regional power – even if such an attempt includes normalizing relations with ancient foe Armenia. But Turkish leaders, for that matter leaders of regional-hegemon-wanna-bes, are commonly instrumentalist – using nationalism to advance their often personal goals. It remains to be seen whether Davutoglu will be willing and able to broker an opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, which will hopefully open the door for Turkey to face its past in order to have a better future.
Perhaps it is in the interests of ‘neo-Ottomanism’ to recognize the Armenian Genocide?