From the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, Tallinn
Dear Mr Bahovski,
While I appreciate the time and effort Professor Ronald Grigor Suny puts into studying and lecturing on the Armenian relocation of 1915, I take exception to several of his statements mentioned in the interview published in the May 2017 issue of your periodical under the title “USA Researcher: Armenian Culture Will Survive”. Please allow me to address these in order.
Suny’s assertion that Armenians did not revolt against the Ottoman Empire and cooperate with Russia is wholly erroneous. During the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire was fighting for survival, many Armenians sided with the Russians. They were actively engaged in subversive activities and armed fight against the Ottoman army. The government had to secure its position by removing the Armenians from strategic zones where they were aiding the enemy and were attacking the civilian population.
Suny alleges that the Turkish government refuses to bring the subject of “genocide” into public discussion. That is not the case at all. In fact, it is the reverse. On 10 April 2005, the Turkish Prime Minister extended an invitation to the Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, to establish a joint commission consisting of historians and other experts to study the events of 1915, not only in the archives of Turkey and Armenia, but also in the archives of all relevant third countries such as Russia, France, Germany, Austria and the United States, and to share their findings with the international public. Scholars from other countries would be welcome to participate in this body. Turkey did not fear its past and was prepared to face the outcome of the proposed joint historical commission. The Armenian government has so far failed to accept the offer of the establishment of such a commission and the collection of all relevant documents, from whatever source, and for their analysis using accepted methods.
Lastly, the number of Armenians living in Turkey today is not 15,000 but 60,000. This community—whose members are free to speak their own language, have their own schools and practice their own religion—has tried to distance itself from the diaspora’s campaign to win recognition for the view that what happened in 1915 was attempted genocide.
Their representatives say that the issue should be left to historians in order for the sides to understand each other’s sensitivities. The Armenian patriarch in İstanbul, Mesrop II, publicly spoke out against the passage of genocide resolutions on the grounds that it would harm relations between Turks and Armenians. He strongly encouraged dialogue instead, saying that historical truths must be established through dispassionate research and debate, not legislation.
This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.