Deportations and Turkish-Armenian Relations During and After The Soviet Regime From the Armenian Perspective

Ermenistan İlk Öğretim 11. Sınıf Ders Kitabı

Armanian Primary Education 11th Grade Textbook

The 1915 Events have a special place and significance in Armenian collective memory. Armenian history course books present this process as the most dramatic and traumatic period. Just as it is in many national history narrations, the “us” image is put opposite the “other” image in Armenian history perception as well (8th Grade, 2007: 162-164 – 11th Grade, 2010: 126-137).

In the unit titled “Great Armenian Disaster” in an 8th grade course book, the 1915 Events are presented as conscious and organized “genocide.” It is claimed that Turks tried to Turkify the non-Turkish Muslim people and planned to wipe out the Christians. As it is seen in most of the course books, it is repeated here as well that expressions such as Western Armenia, Cilicia, and Asia Minor are used for places within Ottoman borders and these regions are claimed to be Armenian settlement areas and be taken from Armenians by force (8th Grade, 2007: 162).

Another prominent issue in the same part is that the events were organized by Young Turks within the framework of certain and planned politics. It is claimed that Young Turks carried out “Armenian Genocide” with the dream of Pan-Turkism and that the dream of establishing the “Great Turan State” was at the foundation of this (8th Grade, 2007: 162).

Turks are accused of massacring not only Armenians but also other ethnic groups within the borders of the Empire. This claim is repeated in the part where 1915 Events are handled and it is claimed that a special organization under the rule of Young Turks massacred different ethnic groups living in the Empire (8th Grade, 2007: 162). Turks are called with adjectives such as “slaughterer, killer, destroyer, dangerous, depriver, scary, butcher, banisher etc.” in this part. It is seen that the words which are anti-Turk or which otherize the Turks are used more in this part as compared to the other parts.

Another theme placed in the sub-conscious of the students is that Armenians tried to fight back against the Turks under very difficult conditions, they were alone in these fights, and the Ottoman Empire used disproportionate force. The plot that “Armenian intellectuals, Armenian women, children and elders were exiled by force and massacred” is often repeated (8th Grade, 2007: 163).

When the texts narrating the deportations are examined in terms of imageology, it is very apparent that the “negative Turkish image” is created as opposed to the image of “us” created by Armenian historians. The power of image which has a significant role both in creating a mutual conscious and in putting these emotions in action for the societies is clearly seen here. Turkish hostility is supported with images in this part and the image of “Turks who abused the innocence” is created, especially by using innocent child images.

Another emphasis related to Turks in the course books is that everybody was massacred regardless of children, women, and elders and that their properties were seized and looted. Other ethnic groups were also accused for the massacres along with Turks, and it was claimed that the massacres were carried out both by civilians and by officials such as soldiers and policemen (8th Grade, 2007: 163).

Another title in history course books of the 8th grade is “Collective Exile and Massacres of Western Armenians.” It is seen here that Turks are otherized by claiming that “Turks took Armenian women to their harems by force, Turkish and Kurdish bandits attacked Armenians, those not being able to continue the journey were killed and Armenians were sold in bazaars” (8th Grade, 2007: 163).

Among the visual images used, the map titled “Great Armenian Disaster” describing the deportation ways and those who lost their lives is quite attention-grabbing (11th Grade, 2010, p. 121). When this information in the history course books of the 11th grade is viewed, it is clearly seen that the stereotype of “guilty Turks” in opposition to “innocent Armenians” is repeated. While the explanation sentence “Armenian genocide was carried out in Western Armenia settlements in the years 1915-1923” in the map and the perception of “Western Armenia” are tried to be planted, the message that Turks seized the cannons of Armenians and these massacres and exiles continued during the eight years between 1915-1923 is attempted to be conveyed. The use of the image “Armenians who heroically made defence” as in opposition to the image of the “invader Turk” in the explanation sentence “the heroic defence places of Armenians during the years 1915-1923 and heroic war areas of Armenian victory against Turkish invaders in 1918” reinforces hostility and hatred and also the so-called Armenian innocence is clearly meant for influencing young brains.

The explanation that “it was a unique crime seriously committed and organized by Unionist slaughterers” in which a provoking tone is used is nothing else than planting hostility. As is known, the Armenian diaspora makes efforts to get it accepted that the “1915 Events are the first genocide of the twentieth century. It is known that Armenian and Jewish pressure groups often come face-to-face due to this claim. As the Jewish pressure group does not want to share the image of being the only nation exposed to genocide, they have always had a cautious attitude before the 1915 Events (Laçiner, 2008: 523-531). There is this idea as well behind that the Israeli government has not still recognized the 1915 Events as genocide.

The fact that there are various parts titled “Great Armenian Disaster” and “Collective Exile and Massacres of Western Armenians” in Armenian history course books inevitably brings this question to the mind. Is there any part talking directly about the Armenian massacres in the Republic of Turkey’s history course books? According to research about the history course books published between the years 1930-2000, even if there are not directly similar parts there are some parts titled “Armenian Uprisings” (Yıldırım, 2007: 73-132). Therefore, it is possible to say that Armenian history course books are different from history course books in Turkey. It is apparent that the history teaching in Armenia has an ideological point of view. It is clearly understood from the discourse in the books that political developments between Turkey-Armenia directly influence the content of the history books.

Besides, it is possible to say the most negative descriptions about Turks in Armenian history course books are included in the parts focusing on Armenian “genocide.” It is possible to base the fact that this attitude seen in the general of course books reached its peak point especially in narrations about the 1915 Events for several reasons. The fact that the military power of the Ottoman Empire or the Republic of Turkey is superior to Armenians’ is an important factor among these. On the other hand, the fact that Turkey is in a better position in terms of population, economy, geographical position, its place in international community as compared to Armenia both in the historical process and today can be influential in the otherization of Turks in history course books. When it is also considered that Western countries or stronger countries as compared to Armenia are also generally described negatively in history course books, the conclusion that countries are otherized in proportion to their powers appears. It is very apparent that the images chosen for Armenians are completely meant for reinforcing the Armenian psychology of victimhood.

When Turkey changed its politics of neutrality in the Cold War period and cooperated with Western countries and the Soviet Union couldn’t gain success, the demands of Armenians were cooled for a while. However, after the year 1965 when the 50th anniversary of the genocide claims was commemorated, there had been a crash in the Armenian problem branch of Turkish-Soviet relations. The Armenian problem came into a new phase when other countries also got involved after this date and the Turkish hostility started to be radicalized, especially among diaspora Armenians. This development also would widely be reflected on in Armenian history course books. Especially diaspora Armenians abroad started to relate the construction of their identities to the 1915 Events. The 1915 Events would be handled as genocide in courses and the reason for Armenian victimhood would be shown primarily as “genocide” and secondly as the Soviet Union.

The steps of Turkey to positively develop the relations between the two countries were also included in Armenian history course books. However, this issue is avoided by keeping it short and vague. For instance, the fact that the first country recognizing Armenia is Turkey is briefly mentioned, but the traditional tone of Turkish hostility was continued in the aftermath of this information. It is possible to say that Armenians especially avoided positive judgments about Turks here (9th Grade, 2008: 11-14).

Another message conveyed related to the relations between the two countries is that the people in the region suffered as a result of the First World War and Turkish invasion, and they had to migrate. Even the bad economic conditions of Armenia are related to the politics of Turkey (9th Grade, 2008: 14). It is stated that Tatars also helped Turks in the implementation of these politics and the two nations cooperated and attempted in “rapes, invasion, and looting” (9th Grade, 2008: 14). The Turkish hostility is also reflected in the parts where Armenian-Azeri conflicts because of Karabagh issue in the near future are narrated and it is seen that this historical past is once again brought forward (9th Grade, 2008: 155).

Consequently, when the information about Turkish-Armenian relations during the Soviet Union and after the Soviet periods in Armenian history course books is examined, it is seen that descriptions such as “aggressive, who use mercenaries, slaughterer, who try to capture the places they never had in history, who threaten with death, who have horrific demands, killer, enforcer, who have numerical superiority in terms of military, who suppress the minorities, invader, destroyer, devastator, dangerous and oppressor” are used for Turks. In opposition to this, for Armenians descriptions such as “who struggle for independence and freedom, who are made victims, whose lands are unrightfully taken from them, the weak country pressed between two strong countries, who don’t have enough military power and cannot obtain the desired successes for this reason, who are tried to be made Soviet by force, who are tried to be destroyed by Turks, who are under threat of death” are chosen to be used.

Bibliography

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