Turks and Armenians, who met in Anatolia about ten centuries ago, displayed an example of co-existence until the last quarter of the 19th century. Their having different religions and ethnic identities did not prevent them from living together. They lived together in the cities, towns and villages. Everybody kept their own identity but they shaped the social life together. They experienced joy and sadness together. Armenians did not feel like a minority even though the Muslim Turks constituted the majority. The Muslim Turks engaged in agricultural work and the Armenians became masters of trade and art. The Armenians became an indispensable group in many areas of the village and city life and the Muslim Turks provided their security at the frontiers, fronts and everywhere that was necessary. They wrote poems together and composed music together.
However the crises that descended on the Ottoman State like a nightmare in the 19th century opened the door for foreign interventions on the one hand, and disrupted the harmony of the Ottoman society on the other. Wars, losses of territory and international pressures led to new compulsory arrangements. The equilibrium, which increasingly turned into a disequilibrium, caused the distrust among the different religious and ethnic groups. The territories of the Ottoman State, which controlled a large geography with a high geopolitical value, increased the appetites of the Great Powers, which had adopted expansionist and competitive policies, for dividing up these territories. The Great Powers wanted to materialize their expansionist wishes through the ethnic and religious groups that had lost their trust towards their own state because of the process that had been experienced. The measures that the Ottoman State took against the threats that were posed towards it both from outside and from inside proved insufficient. Of course as a state reflex, the developments were firstly viewed from the security point of view. However those groups that had become open to external influences started to be engaged in actions that evolved into huge anarchy by getting worried about their future instead of ensuring the balance with the state of which they were citizens.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Ottoman State faced destruction numerous times. It lost all its sovereignty in the Caucasus and the Balkans especially after the wars with Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims who lived there were either killed or forced to emigrate. Anatolia was already experiencing economic troubles at that time and these new immigrants led to more problems. The Panslavist activities of Russia in the Balkans had an effect and led to the process which resulted in the Balkan Wars. The Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians found patrons from other states and Russia was the primary one among them, they seceded from the Ottoman State and established their own states. This situation became a source of inspiration for the other minorities that lived in the Ottoman State.
The Ottoman State experienced this big trauma and faced bigger disasters during the First World War. Especially the advance of the Russians in Eastern Anatolia caused concern in the Ottoman Government. Finally the government passed the law of “Dispatch and Settlement” on 27 May 1915. The government took the decision to force the emigration of the Ottoman Armenians to the other Ottoman provinces where it was safer and where there was basically no possibility of “cooperating with the enemy and providing logistical support to the enemy”.
This decision is still debatable today not in terms of its intentions but in terms of its consequences because the Armenians, who lived in many places in Anatolia, were affected by this decision in many ways. Naturally, the big picture in the thousand year old Turkish-Armenian relations, which had been in memories for centuries, got lost. This was replaced by the events of 1915 and the consequences of the Dispatch and Settlement Law in relation to that. In our view, the purpose was never to prepare the result that emerged after that. However, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were displaced as a result of this decision. Many Armenians died as a result of reasons such as malnutrition, health problems, epidemics, inability to ensure the road safety and the inadequacy of the means of transportation. Of course this situation is worth remembering and being subject of historical research. However, it is not right to take hostage the future of the two nations by taking only these events as a basis.
We also feel sad about the tragedy that the Armenians, who are among the most important colors of Anatolia, experienced and we commemorate it. However, one should look at history with a rational perspective. Whatever the consequences or whatever painful events take place must be mentioned together with their reasons. Therefore, we have aimed at showing the Turkish-Armenian relations as a whole throughout history.
Our goal is to appeal to the witnessing of history with at least a hundred articles 100 years after the events by mentioning the memories of the two societies. In this project we have chosen to include the work of historians rather than propaganda makers. Our purpose is to put those experiences on the just scale.
We present the articles that we have received from the historians and scientists that have accepted our call to our readers by separating them into certain categories. The articles that were collected were not in any way subject to a preliminary definition or preference. We have tried to put forward the available knowledge on this subject by publishing almost all of the articles that we have received except for those articles that were not accepted for technical reasons. Of course this work that we have carried out is not complete yet. The subject needs to be shed light on in may aspects. Therefore, we will continue to add those articles that we receive on our web site. With this project, we invite the parties to see the whole picture and to face history.
Our project was completed in several phases. The articles were requested in the first phase. The articles that we received were then subjected to scientific redaction and then Turkish redaction. The completed texts were translated into English and French and the same procedure was applied. A chronology that makes it easier to follow the issue was added to our site. This chronology aims at reminding of some turning points that shaped the relations instead of addressing the Turkish-Armenian relations as a whole. There are pictures and documents related to the topic in the gallery section. These have been collected from visual materials, various periodicals and especially the Ataturk Library collections of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
Our project started out as a totally personal initiative but many people have contributed to its realization. We would like to thank firstly the president of our university Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Arat, then the staff of Ataturk Library, all of those who provided technical support, the project team and our authors.