The Relations of the Republic of Armenia and the Grand National Assembly Governments According to the Armenian Textbooks

In this study we will address the relations of the Republic of Armenia with the Grand National Assembly Governments and we will focus on how the Brest-Litovsk Agreement, The Armistice of Mudros, The Treaties of Sevrès and Gyumri are generally taught in the Armenian history textbooks. Within this framework, the Brest-Litovsk Agreement, which was one of the important agreements that is present in the Armenian history textbooks, was the first peace agreement that was signed when the war was going on. It was signed between Russia and the German Empire, the Austria-Hungary Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Bulgarian Kingdom on 3 March 1918. However, this agreement became void because the Central Powers were defeated (Hovannisian, 2004, s.288).

Ermenistan İlk Öğretim 8. Sınıf Ders Kitabı

Ermenistan İlk Öğretim 8. Sınıf Ders Kitabı

When we look at how the the Brest-Litovsk Agreement is narrated in the Armenian history textbooks, we see that it is as the sub-heading of the chapter “The Turkish-Transcaucasia Relations at the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918” (Թուրք-անդրկովկասյան հարաբերությունները 1917 թ. վերջին և 1918 թ. Սկզբներին – Turk-andrkovkasyan haraberutyunnerı 1917 t. Vercin yev 1918 t. Skzbnerin). It is seen that the Russian are almost accused for having signed this agreement with the Turks (8. Sınıf (8th grade), 2007, p.180).

It is seen in the narrations in the Armenian history textbooks that especially Article 4 of the agreement, which is related to the Armenians, is emphasized and the entire fourth article is present in the book. According to this article, the Soviet Union was to make efforts to evacuate the eastern provinces of Anatolia and to return them to the Ottoman State. The Ardahan, Kars, and Batum sanjaks were to be evacuated by the Soviet soldiers immediately. The Soviet Union was not not to interfere in the type of administration in these sanjaks in terms of general law and international law, and it was going to let the people there choose freely one of their neighbors or the Ottoman State (Özdal, 2006, s.178).

The Armenian history textbooks talk about this article as follows:

“The fourth article of the Brest-Litovsk Agreement was as follows: Russia shall ensure the evacuation of the Eastern Anatolia provinces and it shall do everything that it is required to do regarding the return of them [these provinces] to Turkey. The provinces of Ardahan, Kars, and Batum shall be cleansed of the Russian army immediately.” In other words, the border at the time of the 1877-1878 Russian-Turkish War was reached [with this agreement]”

(8. Sınıf, 2007, p.180).

It is also seen that in the narrations of the Brest-Litovsk Agreement in the textbooks, it is stated that Turkey saw this agreement “as a bargaining chip” and that Turkey had some “aggressive plans” (8. Sınıf, 2007, p.180).

It is possible to say that the Brest-Litovsk Agreement is seen as a significant gain for Turkey and a big loss for the Armenian side because with the Brest-Litovsk Agreement, not only the territories under the Russian occupation, but also the three shires, which had been lost in the Ottoman-Russian War, joined the homeland once again.

After the Ottoman Empire, being among the defeated states in the aftermath of the First World War, the Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918. This armistice, which the Ottoman Empire signed with the British Empire, which was representing the Allied States, at the Mudros Port in the Lemnos Island, has a very important place in the Armenian narration of history. As a matter of fact, it is seen that the Armenian history textbooks emphasize this topic frequently.

The articles that concern the Armenians and Armenia directly are Articles 4, 11, and 24 of the Armistice of Mudros. Article 4 stipulated that the prisoners of war and the detained Armenians would be gathered in Istanbul and then delivered to the Allied Powers without any conditions. In Article 11, it was stated that the order that had been given previously for the Turkish units in northwest Iran to be withdrawn behind the border as it was before the war was to be implemented. Perhaps the most important article in the Armistice of Mudros for the Turks and Armenians was Article 24. According to this article, the Allied Powers were given the right to invade any of the six provinces that were also known as “the six provinces” if any disorder emerged (Uras, 1987, p.651).

Before mentioning the chapters in the Armenian history textbooks in which the Armistice of Mudros is directly addressed, it will be useful to briefly talk about how the things that were experienced in the process that led up to the Armistice are reflected in the history textbooks. The things that are narrated on this subject are in the ninth grade history textbooks. According to this, it is seen that it is emphasized that the Armenians went through a difficiult period in the process leading up to the Armistice and that they had serious losses (9.Sınıf, 2008, pp.24-25).

In the chapter titled “The Armenian Delegations at the Paris Conference” (Հայկական – Haykakan patvirakutyunnerı Parizi konferansum), information is given on the importance of this conference for the Armenians and who participated in this conference (9. Sınıf, 2008, p.28). Chronologically, the chapter titled “The Armistice of Mudros” (Մու – Mudrosi zinadadar) is followed by information on the Treaty of Sevrès, which is deemed to be a very important treaty in terms of Armenian history and the Armenian Question (9. Sınıf, 2008, p.29).

As in the texts regarding the Brest-Litovsk Agreement, it is seen in the narrations of the Armistice of Mudros that the Eastern Anatolia region is called “Western Armenia” (9. Sınıf, 2008, p.28).

Within the contect of the Armistice of Mudros, as in the Brest-Litovsk Agreement, it is seen that the Armenian historians emphasized “independent and united Armenia.” In this respect, it is understood that they associated the solution of the Armenian question directly with the Armenians getting rid of Turkish rule:

“As it is known, the Armistice of Mudros was signed in a port in the Aegean Sea on 30 October 19189, Turkey accepted defeat and withdrew from the war. In addition to the four countries that were defeated, the other countries that were members of the alliance were deemed to be defeated and so the First World War ended…”

(9. Sınıf, 2008, p.28).

Another matter that came to the fore in the narrations regarding the Armistice of Mudros is the characterizations used with regards to the countries that took part on the side of the Allied Powers. Within this framework, there is an attempt to create a perception that although Armenia participated in the war as a “small partner” next to the Allied States, it “suffered great losses;” therefore, “it made great efforts” in the war:

“The Paris Peace Conference opened in January 1919. Here the victorious Allied States, British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, etc. were going to sign a peace agreement with four countries, which included Turkey. Armenia, which was one of the “small partners” of the Allied States, was also accepted at the [Conference], because it participated in the war and suffered big losses…”

(9. Sınıf, 2008, p.28).

When we look at the texts on the Armistice of Mudros in the textbooks, it is possible to say that Turkey is described with adjectives such as “loser, defeated, and vanquished,” and the Armenians are described wiht images such as “victorious and winner.” In addition, there are also excerpts that show that the Armistice of Mudros is seen as an important opportunity in terms of Armenian history to establish a united and independent Armenia.    

It is seen that the Treaty of Sevrès is covered quite extensively in the Armenian history textbooks. As a matter of fact, this treaty is examined in detail in the history textbook for the ninth grade and then those articles of the treaty that are related to the Armenians are included. Within this framework, Articles 88 and 89 of the treaty and Article 92, which is related to Azerbaijan, have been selected and all of those articles are quoted under the heading ”From the Treaty of Sevrès” (Սև Sevr Paymanagrits) (9. Sınıf, 2008, p.31). However, the fact that the other articles of the treaty or those parts that are related to the other countries are not included and that especially the sections related to Armenia and Azerbaijan are highlighted shows what the Treaty of Sevrès means for Armenian history and that they wanted to emphasize once again the bond between the Turks and the Azeris.

It is seen that in this narration that is presented in the textbooks regarding the Treaty of Sevrès, the treaty is attributed meanings such as “the Liberation of Western Armenia” or “the recognition of United Armenia by the Turks for the first time” (9. Sınıf, 2008, pp.28-29).

“…Armenia was given not only the provinces of Erzurum, Trebizond, Van, and Tbilisi, which had a surface area of 90 thousand kilometer squares, but also an exit to the Black Sea. This meant that the total surface area of the Independent Armenia would be 160 thousand kilometere squares together with the Republic [Eastern Armenia], which had a surface area of 70 thousand kilometer squares. The Turkish-Armenian state border that was formed as a result of this was drawn as the United Independent Armenia map…”

(9. Sınıf, 2008, 30-31).

After the presentation of these data on the Treaty of Sevrès, it is emphasized how the struggle for liberation that started under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal destroyed the gains of Sevrès (9. Sınıf, 2008, pp.30-31).

Another theme that is often emphasized within the section of the Treaty of Sevrès is that the Armenian territories would cover a quite extensive area with this agreement, that an exit would be obtained additionally, and that United Armenia would be recognized by Turkey. As a matter of fact, this subject has been included within the questions after the text as well and it is seen that questions are asked as to how much the Armenian territories would expand and how many square kilometers they would be. It can be observed that in this section, a test question is also asked to the students apart from the questions regarding the new borders of Armenia and there is an attempt to consolidate the subject in this way. In this test question it is asked how many square kilometers the territories of the Republic of Armenia would be with the Treaty of Sevrès. In the response options the first three options are 50, 70, and 80 thousand respectively, and the last option is 160 thousand square kilometers. Therefore, even in the test question, an attempt was made to emphasize the large size of the territories that Armenia planned to obtain through the agreement in question.

In conclusion, when we look at the images that are related to the Turks, the Armenian historians sometimes talk about the Turks as “Kemalists.” In this sense, it is stated in the chapter where the Treaty of Sevrès is addressed that “an armed and nationalist movement started” under the leadership of General Mustafa Kemal. In other words, it can be said that again a negative image is used for Mustafa Kemal or the Turks through the descriptions “nationalist and armed.” Furthermore, it can be said that Mustafa Kemal and the Turks who acted under his leadership are presented as an element that “took the hopes and acquisitions of the Armenians from their hands” and presented as “the other” by indicating that the Treaty of Sevrès, which was a very important agreement for Armenia, was abolished by the Turks who were under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal.

In the chapter on the Treaty of Sevrès, it is seen that there are some criticisms, namely that the Western states turned away from the Armenians once again, that they left them alone vis-à-vis the Turks, and that they did not keep their promises. The best example of this is the chapter in which the situation of the Cilicia Armenians is discussed. In this chapter, it is stated that France caused the death of thousands of Armenians by withdrawing from the region.

When we look at the descriptions that are used in this chapter regarding the Turks, it can be seen that images such as “serious danger, Kemalists who attacked the innocent people, Turkish vandals, and Turkish-Kurdish armed gangs, etc.” are used. The Armenian historians present the Kemalist movement as “the other” by using all kinds of negative adjectives for the element of “the Kemalist Turk” in the minds of the students, they also underline that both Turks and the other Western states had interest-based policies, and they emphasize that the Armenians do not have any friends other than themselves.

The Gyumri Agreement, which was signed between Turkey and Armenia in 1920, is the first international agreement that the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) made with a foreign country. This agreement did not enter into force because it could not be ratified due to the developments that took place in the Caucasus and it was replaced by the Moscow Agreement, which was signed on 16 March 1921. Nevertheless, the Gyumri Agreement is a very important agreement (Soysal, 2000, p.17).

The Ottoman army had to withdraw to the 1914 border in accordance with the Armistice of Mudros and then the Armenian forces started to organize some actions against the Turks in Eastern Anatolia. After the Armenian forces attacked the Turks in large scale in Oltu in Eastern Anatolia in June of 1920, the TGNA government decided to start an operation against Armenia and to shape the Eastern Anatolia border in accordance with the principles of the Misak-i Milli (National Oath). In the operation that was started on 28 September under the command of Kazim Karabekir, who was the Eastern front commander, the Turkish Army seized the Sarikamish area in a few days, liberated Kars by advancing towards the end of the next month, and invaded Gyumri on 7 November. As a result, the Armenians wanted to make peace, then a ceasefire was signed, and then the Gyumri Agreement was signed on 2 December 1920 (Soysal, 2000, p.17).

The Gyumri Agreement, which had very heavy provisions from the point of Armenia, is discussed in the history textbooks of the ninth grade. In the chapter where this subject is discussed, it is seen that there is a map that shows the territories of Armenia according to the Gyumri Agreement (9. Sınıf, 2008, 37). The Gyumri Agreement is deemed to be “a defeat” or “loss” for Armenia in the history textbooks (9. Sınıf, 2008, p.36).

In the texts on the Gyumri Agreement, negative expressions such as “cruel, lethal, ultimatum giving, and ending the Armenian existence” are used for the Turkish side. It is seen that the Armenian historians present this agreement as an agreement “that the Armenians were forced to sign in an environment of political crisis” (9. Sınıf, 2008, pp.36-37).

In conclusion, it is seen that the descriptions of the Turks/Ottomans in the narrations regarding the Gyumri Agreement in the Armenian history textbooks are similar to the ones in the previous chapters. This agreement, which is seen as an important gain for the Turks, is perceived and descrcibed as an agreement that closed off the Eastern Front and provided them with territory, and it is described as a big fiasco for the Armenian side. While this agreement is seen as the first political, military, and diplomatic success of the TGNA government in the international arena, the Armenian historians have used a description meaning “the end of Armenia” for this agreement. In this respect, it is useful to indicate that ironically, with the Gyumri Agreement, Armenia became the first country to recognize the TGNA and the National Oath.

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