In this article by a security analyst and a reader of this blog, who will remain anonymous per her/his request, the author deconstructs Turkey’s nationalist “survival” rhetoric.

The national discourse in Turkey that justifies the country’s current borders goes as follows, “European imperialists attempted to carve up the homeland, and the heroic Mustafa Kemal Gazi Pasha Ataturk stopped them.” This perception is not too farfetched when one considers the ulterior motives of the Sykes-Picot agreement, French ambitions in Cilicia, and the Greek invasion of Western Anatolia (although Greeks and Armenians comprised a majority of the city of Smyrna). However, when it comes to Turkey’s border with Georgia and Armenia, Turks usually tiptoe around the issue quietly, and may, if compelled to do so, mumble something unintelligible about Sevres’.

The 1920 Treaty of Sevres’ assigned to Armenia the provinces of Van, Erzurum, Trabzon, and a number of others. Turks justify their claim on this territory by citing demographics; Armenians constituted a minority in these areas. Made possible in part by the Armenian Genocide (aka “humane relocations”), this sly argument is indisputably correct. However, this rhetoric still does not account for present day borders, because it fails to account for the present day Turkish provinces of Ardahan, Kars, and Igdir (and also Artvin with respect to Georgia).

Turkey captured these provinces from the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) in the 1920 Turkish-Armenian War.  With regard to this particular swath of territory, the Turkish anti-imperialist thesis breaks down entirely, and its advocates are forced to mention the Ottoman-Russian border prior to the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. This is truly ridiculous and ad-hoc reasoning, because it would have also entitled Turkey to conquer Libya, Syria, Albania, Bulgaria, and many other countries. Moreover, it does not even apply to Igdir, which had previously belonged to Persia.[i] Turkey’s rationale is further tarnished because it is based on treaties made by the Ottoman Empire, which were repudiated by the Turkish Revolutionary Movement, and in addition would be an association that genocide deniers adamantly argue does not exist.

The capture of these territories also invalidates Turkey’s demographics argument regarding the Sevres’ territories, because Armenians constituted a vast majority in Kars, Igdir, and probably Ardahan.[ii]After hearing this almost universally accepted fact, some Turks will then say that Muslims once constituted a majority in those provinces, but Armenian immigrants swamped them, and that the Russians also exiled the Muslims. However, not only are Turks largely responsible for this demographic shift since many Armenian immigrants came as a result of the Genocide/“relocations,” but by using the principle of historical demographics, Turkey once again undermines its claims regarding the Sevres’ Treaty territories assigned to Armenia. As recently as the mid-nineteenth century, Armenians constituted a majority in the province of Van, and the Ottoman Empire purposely settled Circassian refugees in this area for the express purpose of diluting this majority; this similar to what China is doing to Tibet.[iii] If one wanted to go even further back in history, he would find that Armenians constituted a majority in the territories north of Van as well.

As a measure of last resort, Turks will cite the skirmishes between the DRA and the Turkish speaking tribes in Olti. The Turkish revolutionaries were justified in conquering this region, they will say, in order to liberate their ethnic and religious kin across the border. This argument has several fatal flaws however. First, Turks must acknowledge that the Otli tribes were armed insurrectionists, and in doing so, must either stop yapping incessantly about armed Armenian rebels in order to justify the Genocide, or they must accept that the Armenians would have been entirely justified in “relocating” the Olti tribes in the exact same manner that the Turks “relocated” the Armenians; ultimately ensuring the tribes’ destruction by rape, pillage, and massacre. Lastly, they must also retroactively accept as just, the Russian invasions of Anatolia over the previous century, as those incursions were also conducted under the pretext of liberating coreligionists from infidel oppression.

In essence the Turkish view regarding these three provinces can best be described by using a fortress as an analogy; where, in order to sure up one wall, a Turkish advocate must cannibalize stones from another wall from the same fortress. The conquest of these territories cannot be justified on the basis of demographics, as the Armenians would have equal claim to Van. Nor can it be justified on the basis of the 1877 border, as that links the Turkish Revolutionaries to the genocidal Ottoman Empire. And lastly, it cannot be justified using the Olti tribes, because that undermines their “arguments,” which deny the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. Instead, the truth of the matter is that the Turkish Revolutionaries invaded the DRA simply because they were superior in numbers and arms, because they still had imperialist ambitions, and because they had a deep seated hatred for Armenians; clearly evidenced by Kazim Karabekir’s yearning to obliterate the ruins of Ani purely out of spite. Present day Turks need look more objectively at the past, and stop seeing their ancestors only as innocent victims who fought a just war for survival against insidious imperialists and Gavourler.

[i] Ragip Zarakolu’s “Accusing Armena of denying Kars Treaty, does not Turkey provoke it to refuse recognizing Igdir as Turkish territory?”

[ii]  see page on Melville Carter, “The Land Of The Stalking Death: a Journey Through Starving Armenia on an American Relief Train.”

[iii] Van’s Armenian Majority found in Louise Nalbandian’s The Armenian Revolutionary Movement, and resettlement of Circassians found in Taner Akcam’s From Empire to Republic : Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide.