Turkish-Armenian Relations in the Republic Period

The relations of Turks and Armenians living together for about 1000 years was not completely established on uprising, betrayal, deportation, and hostility, but the Armenians even received Turks as their deliverer as they got rid of the Greeks. The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were governed within the “nation system.”

With the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, Turkish-Armenian relations gained a different dimension. The republic established a “unitary” state understanding as “an indivisible whole with its country and nation” and tried to make the principle of equality of all Turkish citizens dominant, instead of different governmental regions. While evaluating Turkish-Armenian relations, this period should be handled within this perspective.

The Eastern Operation of Kazım Karabekir Pasha succeeded towards the end of 1920 and this turned the expectations of the Allied Forces on the issue of the Armenians upside-down. The Armenians fought side-by-side with the Russians in First World War and with the French in the Southern Battlefront in the National Struggle against the Turks. They have been one of the parties fighting against the Turks both before and after the deportations. The fact that they fought against the Ottoman Empire side-by-side with the Allied Forces was the most significant point Armenians depended on in Lausanne.

While these demands were being expressed by the Armenians in the international sphere, “Turkey Armenians,” on the other hand, paid attention to establishing good relations with the TBMM government and Mustafa Kemal Pasha. They established a society called the “Society for the Rise of Turkish-Armenian” in order to maintain the relations. The purpose of the society was stated in its regulation to establish closeness and friendship between the Turkish and Armenian people and raise real Turkish Armenians loyal to TBMM.

“Turkey Armenians” must have been unsatisfied with the results of the Lausanne negotiations that the Turkish delegation, under the chairmanship of Ismet Pasha, coming from the Treaty, was met by the Armenian community representatives in Çatalca. Among the Armenian representatives, Turkish Armenians Patriarch Governor Archbishop Kevork Arslanyan and Material Assembly Chair Harutyun Mostiçya were also present. The delegation expressed the happiness and loyalty of the Armenian community and celebrated this great success.

While Armenians were trying to keep the relations good in general terms as stated above, some groups didn’t give up their habits from the past. An example of this took place in 1922. There were harsh accusations about Atatürk and the Ankara Government in the book called “Les Atrocites Kemalistes” “Kemalist Massacre” published by the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul in 1922.

Some Armenians outside Turkey also were involved in assassination attempts against Atatürk. 6 assassination attempts were prepared against Mustafa Kemal Pasha between the years 1924-1927. According to the information we have, the leader of the first assassination attempt against Atatürk planned by Armenians was Artin Karabet. A group of three people, whose leader was Manok Manokyan, was busted by the police when they were planning the assassination against Atatürk in 1925. Manokyan was sentenced with the death penalty with the decision on 5 May 1925 after the trials.

The citizens loyal to their country and the guerrilla Armenians rooted outside the country were separated from each other in this period. The Armenians in Turkey reacted strongly. Armenians showed great reactions when people who wanted to assassinate Atatürk from Syria were arrested on 21 October 1935. In this period, Armenian citizens wished long life to Atatürk with their religious ceremonies and prayers. The Patriarch governor Kevork Aslanyan did the biggest ceremony. They made sacrifices opposite the church and wished Atatürk long life with their prayers.

There were also Armenians who were present beside Atatürk and worked for him in the Republic period. One of these is Agop Martayan Dilaçar who made contributions to the Turkish language. It was proposed to Dilaçar to stay in Ankara and work in the administration of the Turkish Language Institution after the First Turkish Language Congress and then was made the chief-expert of the Turkish Language Institution.

The minorities believing in the sincerity of the equality politics The Republic gave up on their privileges given to them with Lausanne. It has been the Jewish community who first gave up on the rights in the relevant articles of Lausanne. The decision to give up on the minority rights came from the Armenians as the second group.

Armenians continued their studies in art freely in Turkey and the two communities became inspiration for each other. One side of this interaction was Turks. In this way, Armenian artists had significant contributions to Turkish art life in all branches of music, painting, architecture, performance arts, and literature.

There are Armenian artists who contributed to Turkish music both in the period of transition of Ottomanism to to the Republic and in the Republic of Turkey. Some of these who come to the mind first are: Nikoğas Ağa, Astik Ağa, Kemani Tatyos Efendi, Udi Arşak Çömlekçiyan, Kemani Kirkor Çulhayan, Hanende Bimen Şen, Levon Hancıyan, Kemani Arzaki Terziyan, Udi Hırant Emre, Hanende Yeğyazar Garebetyan, Kanuni Artaki Candan, Kemani Nubar Tekyay (Çömlekçiyan), and Udi Nevres (Orhon). In the branch of classical music: Edgar Manas, Piyanis Koharik Gazarosyan, and Siryat Karamunuykan, Bow instruments orchestra director Harutyan Hanesyan, Soprano in the State Opera Alis Manukyan, Tenorlar Agop Topuz, Bedros Kuyumcuyan, Kevork Boyacıyan, Garo Mafyan, Jrayr Arslanyan, Onno Tunç, and Hovannes Çekiçyan.

It is seen that Armenians carried out activities in Turkish performing arts as well in the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic. Some of these are: Arusyag Bezirciyan, Mardiros Mınakyan Efendi and Mınakyan Theatre, and Şiranuş Nigosya (Mehrübe Kantarcıyan). Many Armenian artists carried out their activities freely also in painting, sculpture, and photography, like other art branches.

In the last period of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians not only were in the service of various offices, including the ministry, but also were represented in the assembly in a significant number of deputies. Non-Muslim minorities were also in TBMM both as deputies and in different positions.

We can list these people as:

  • Berç Keresteciyan Türker – Afyon Deputy (TBMM 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th Period Deputy);
  • Münib Boya – Van Deputy. (TBMM 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,6th, 7th Period Deputy);
  • Dr Zakar Tarver – 10th-11th Period Istanbul Deputy. (1954-1957 Mıgırdıç Şellefyn – Istanbul 11th Period Istanbul Deputy. (1957) Berç Sahak Turan- Istanbul Deputy (Republic Senate Member (1961-1964));
  • Hermine Agavni Kalüstan (National Unity Committee Member).

Many newspapers and journals in the Armenian language were published in the Ottoman Empire. The activities of Armenians in media were maintained freely in the Republic period as well. According to a report prepared for the Internal Affairs Ministry on 19.7.1932: 85% of the owners of printing houses in Istanbul were Armenians, 5% of them were Greeks, and 10% were Turks. Armenian newspapers in press in the Ottoman Empire continued their publication life in the Republic period as well.

Some Armenian periodicals can be listed as:

Jamanak (g) (Time): Daily newspaper started to be published on 28 October of 1908 when the Second Constitutional Monarchy was declared. It was published every day except for Sundays (BCA, 9.8.1946/86104/

Nor Marmara: Started to be published by 31 August 1940. The newspaper published twice in a week before started to be published daily, except for Sundays and festival days, after a short amount of time.

Agos: The newspaper Agos is the newest newspaper of the Armenian community. It started its publication life as in Turkish and Armenian in April of 1996. The newspaper of 12 pages is published as Turkish in 9 pages and Armenian in 3 pages. Published weekly, the newspaper aims to engage the community, coming from Anatolia and now knowing Armenian, in social life. It has a more leftist and opponent identity as compared to Marmara and Jamanag.

Kulis: A theatre, art, and literature journal which started to be published as weekly and of 16 pages by theatre artist Hagop Ayvaz in 1946. It is the oldest art journal published in Turkey. It was published until 1996 with the offset press system by Nork Yayınevi in the latest times. More than one thousand volumes of the journal were published until 1996. There was news about painting, sculpture, theatre, cinema, and music activities which were carried out in the country and that also interested the Armenian community.

Surp Pırgiç: The monthly media organ of Surp Pırgiç the Armenian Hospital in Zeytinburnu. It maintained publication, even if in intervals, since 1946. There are issues about the hospital and medical articles in the journal.

In the journal, which was also published yearly, there was important news of interest to the community in recent years, opinions of important people, and names and addresses of individuals completing their university education and starting their career.

Soğagat: It means “Ray Drops.” It is a monthly religious and literary journal which started to be published in 1951. It is the media organ of the Turkey Armenian Patriarchate. Publishing only special volumes on certain days before, the journal started to be published regularly in 1991. Also, a church bulletin titled ‘Lraper’ (Messenger) is being published by the Turkey Armenians Patriarchate.

Jıbid(t): It means “Smile.” It is the publication of the Turkish Armenian Minority Schools Teachers Aid Foundation established in Istanbul by Şahnur Şahiner, Jozef Saboyan, Hayguni Hıdıryan, Agop Sivaslıyan, and Astik Çavdar in 1965 (Vahaboğlu, Ankara, 2990, p. 146). It started its publication life in 1992. It is published every three months.

Hobina: The Journal of Association of People from the Armenian School Getronagan Mektebi, which is published every 3 or 4 months in the last two years. It is prepared by the youth. It is a continuation of Hantes Mışaguyti (Periodical Culture) which started to be published in 1948.

Nor San: It was released as the continuation of the journal titled “San” which started to be published in 1948 by the Association of People from the Panganlı High School. It started its publication life again by taking the name “Nor San” in 1992. This journal, which was published every 3 or 4 months, was not able to be released regularly and it was closed in later years.

The only statistical information about the Armenian population left in Anatolia in the first years of the Republic is the Turkey census on 28 October 1927, and it didn’t determine Armenians as an ethnical community and didn’t take it under record. This caused some speculations to appear about the Armenian population in the Republic period. According to this census, the population of Turkey is 13,648,000. Although this census was done in an atmosphere of almost civil mobilization, some people avoided being counted due to some worries. Therefore, there has been a error ratio of around 7% in the 1927 census results.

In the booklet published by the Turkey Armenian Community in December 1998, it is stated that a total of 80,286 Armenians lived in Turkey with 52,576 of them in Istanbul and the rest in Anatolia, by taking the 1927 census as the reference.

When it came to the 1935 census, the number of those who answered the question “native language” as Armenian is given below:

The Number of Those Whose Native Language is Armenian in the Republic Period Censuses
Census Year Native Language 2nd Language Total Turkey Population %o (per mille)
1927 67.745 67.745 13.629.488 4.97
1935 57.599 9.782 67.381 16.157.450 4.17
1945 47.728 12.354 60.082 18.790.174 3.18
1950 52.776 9.322 62.098 20.947.188 2.96
1955 56.235 6.084 62.319 24.064.763 2.59
1960 52.756 19.444 72.200 27.754.820 2.60
1965 33.094 22.260 55.354 31.391.421 1.76

There has been a decrease in the number of Armenian schools transferred from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey. The fundamental reason for this is the gradual decrease of the Armenian population and that the Armenians living collectively in certain neighborhoods of Istanbul changed their residence addresses. When it was the 1930s, the Greeks had 43 primary schools, 3 secondary schools, and 1 high school; the Armenians had 34 primary schools, 1 secondary school, and 3 high schools; and the Jews had 6 primary schools and 1 high school in Istanbul. According to a statistics, the number of Armenian primary schools in Istanbul was 31 and there were 4522 students. 1593 students studied in 5 Armenian high schools. By 1993, there were 47 Armenian schools 5 (1 Armenian-Catholic) of which were high schools, 9 (1 Armenian-Catholic) of which were secondary schools, 17 (4 Armenian-Catholic) of which were primary schools, and 16 (4 Armenian-Catholic) of which were nursery schools. Some sources show the total number of schools as 45, all of which are in Istanbul by the 2003-2004 education year. When the number of schools is being determined, the nursery school, primary school, and high schools under one school roof are counted separately. Armenian sources, on the other hand, count them based on the schools under one name and this number is said to be 19 or 20.

The schedules of Armenian schools today are the same as the government schools. Armenian language is studied, in addition in the same number of hours as Turkish, and Turkish Language and Literature in Armenian schools. Armenian schools consist of nursery schools, primary schools, and high schools and work under the control of the National Education Ministry and are private schools in quality.

The Armenian Patriarchate and churches maintained their existence without any interval in the Republic period. In 1985, the Surp Sarkis Chapel in the Balıklı Armenian Graveyard and the Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church in Karaköy were reconstructed.

Armenians were represented at the level of the Patriarchate in Republic period as well as in Ottoman times. The Patriarchs, which conducted activities in order to especially arrange the religious matters of the Armenian community, can be listed as: Zaven-Der Yağyayan (1913-1922), Kevork Arslanyan (Governor) (1922-1927), Mesrob Naroyan (1927-1944), Kevork Arslanyan (second time, Governor) (1944-1951), Karekin Hoçaduryan (1951-1961), Şnork Kalustyan (1961-1990), Karekin II. Kazancıyan (1990-1998), and Mesrop II. Mutafyan 1998-…


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