[OPE-L] Armenian Genocide (book review)

From: Dogan Goecmen (dogangoecmen@AOL.COM)
Date: Tue Sep 11 2007 - 03:41:32 EDT

The Armenian Genocide: ‘A Shameful Act’


By Doğan Göçmen


Taner Akçam’s book (A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, Constable, London 2007) is the first lucid and comprehensive study of a historical fact – the Armenian Genocide in 1915. This is a highly controversial and emotionally contested topic, and one of the taboos of Turkish polics: there is no such thing called Armenian genocide. Akçam is the first courageous Turkish scholar to call the massacre of Armenian people ‘genocide’. By calling the massacre of Armenian people (figures ranges from 300,000 to 600,000) ‘ethnic cleansing’ or even ‘genocide’ he puts his live at risk. And not surprisingly during the last few weeks he declared many times that his live is threatened because he permanently receives hostile posts and phone calls. This is one of the high prices honest intellectuals often have to pay in Turkey to bring the truth to the fore.


The question which Akçam examines in his book is not so much whether there took place ethnic cleansing of Armenian population. The historical evidences, Ottoman and foreign sources and documents disposed almost all over the world (and oral history) show this clearly. In fact the phrase ‘A shameful Act’ he uses in the title of the book had been spoken out by Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, to refer to the massacre of Armenian people in Anatolia. Rather, in his book, he attacks the official Turkish position that the death of the Armenian people was not intended; rather it was, say, a by product of the war. Based on Ottoman documents Akçam argues otherwise and shows convincingly that the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenian people was centrally planned and carried out cold-bloodedly. It was in fact part of pan-Islamic ideology of Ottoman Empire at that time and later that of pan-turkist ideology of Young Turks who established modern Turkey.

Akçam goes on and analyses accurately international political constellation at that time and shows that foreign forces involved in this matter were responsible for worsening the situation. Above all Russian and British imperialism while following their imperialist aims in the region they misused the aim of Armenian people to become independent. But they were never in favour of an independent Armenia. Akçam does not say that openly. But his analysis of this tragic historical fact confirms Lenin’s statement again, which he also made many times in his analysis of the Armenian question: ‘a peaceful coexistence among people in Caucasus is impossible under imperialism’.


It might therefore be appropriate to make a comparison between the establishment of modern Turkey and Soviet Union. The soil populated by Armenians was separated between Russian and Ottoman empires. The aim of Turkish nationalist movement was to establish a capitalist republic. Therefore, they saw nationalities and minorities other than Turkish always as a threat. The Soviet Union which was an outcome of the war, too, went another way in solving the Armenian question. While Armenian social democrats were establishing socialist Armenia British (and French) imperialism tried this time to use non-socialist forces within Armenians to stop the establishment of an Armenian republic.

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