The Memory That’s Crippling Armenia

25/04/2015 12:27

The Memory That’s Crippling Armenia


Yerevan—An abundance of purple flowers has appeared on the streets of Yerevan: dangling on girls’ ears, hanging in shop windows, daubed on walls as murals, carved into hedges and plastered onto the menacing jeeps with tinted windows that race through red lights. They are forget-me-nots, and after the end of this week it is difficult to imagine how anyone could, or why anyone would, forget Armenia’s demand that the murder of their ancestors during World War I be honored, and recognized as a genocide.

It is a curious phenomenon to visit a country preparing to commemorate a massacre. Hotels are filling up, distant friends are reunited, stages are being constructed; it has all the hallmarks of the preparation for a festival. Yet any excitement is tempered by the unremittingly sad subject matter and made more poignant by the fact that the reason for the event is rejected by the same country that perpetrated the crime. It is an episode that speaks of torture, mass graves and a forced expulsion of a people who would end up in all corners of the world. The reason Armenians are so widespread, and indeed the very origin of the word genocide, lies in the events that unfolded from 1915 onwards—when, according to a large consensus of historians, the Ottoman Empire systematically killed up to 1.5 million Armenians.

On April 24th, Armenians around the world will mark 100 years since the Ottoman Empire began to expel and murder the Armenians living primarily in the eastern region of Anatolia. Armenia claims that they were already marginalized as a Christian minority in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, were murdered in clashes even in years prior to 1915 and that the Ottomans used the pretext of war to finally exterminate them.

Turkey has acknowledged massacres committed on both sides but claims that as its empire was disintegrating, being attacked on all sides by Europe, and Russia was fueling Armenian armed militants to rebel. It has also, at various times, claimed that Armenians escaped the borders of the empire themselves, despite the harrowing testimony of survivors who were forcibly marched into the Syrian deserts and either slaughtered or died of starvation and exhaustion.

Turkey’s insistence that these events were not an orchestrated campaign, Armenia’s insistence on recognition and the contribution to the debate of celebrities from the sacred to the profane, have raised the current profile of this issue more than ever before.

For Armenia, there can be no compromise on what is fast being accepted around the world as a historical fact, yet the absence of official diplomatic relations and a closed land border with Turkey has had severe economic repercussions for the country. Amongst Armenian diplomats, the delicate attempts to delink the demand to recognize the genocide and the need to solve other complex regional issues involving Turkey is at times overshadowed by a vocal campaign of genocide recognition led by diaspora communities around the world, all of whom are the descendants of the genocide.

It’s a delicate balance to strike.


Last May, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan invited Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the genocide centennial commemoration on April 24, 2015, an invitation admittedly unlikely to be accepted. The response from Erdogan was far from edifying. Turkey normally honours the WW1 Battle of Gallipoli, which resulted in a devastating loss for the Allied forces and heralded the construction of the new Turkish Republic, on the 25th. This year, Turkey decided to ahistorically move the events to the 24th—a day when no significant event related to Gallipoli occurred. It is, however, sombrely remembered as the night when the Armenian intelligentsia of Constantinople were rounded up, deported and murdered by Ottoman officials, instigating a campaign that would culminate in the mass extermination of those living in the country’s east. According to diplomatic sources, this crass move to overshadow the day that Armenia commemorates the genocide was a unilateral decision by Erdogan, much to the private chagrin of senior Turkish officials tired of his alienating, standoffish behaviour.

Though Erdogan’s condolences to the grandchildren of the Armenian victims last year, unprecedented by a Turkish leader, was progress of a kind, it fell far short of what is demanded by Armenians, and any perceived goodwill is immediately devalued by his subsequent graceless remarks.

At a special Vatican mass on April 12, Pope Francis strongly endorsed the interpretation of the World War I killings that emptied the Anatolian region of Armenians as a genocide. Rather than respond with a perfunctory “we disagree,” Erdogan rolled out his tedious tough guy routine and “warned” the pope “not to repeat this mistake.” His minister for European Affairs went one better and suggested that the Pope’s Argentinian citizenship—a country that “welcomed Nazi torturers”—was to blame.

It was breathlessly reported just this past weekend that Erdogan had gone so far as to threaten to deport Armenians from Turkey. In the Chinese-whispers media landscape of Turkey, quotations can be drastically manipulated; a more accurate version of his sentiments had him say: “We could deport those Armenians living here as guests, but we don’t.” If this was an attempt to seem welcoming to Armenians, it decidedly failed and is a somewhat sinister remark for a supposed statesman to make, particularly considering the timing.

Of the 2 million Armenians in present day Turkey, 60,000 reside in Istanbul, though many have been driven to assimilation in part due to the climate of uneasiness that pervades. Aside from the absence of a frank and sober assessment of events during World War I, Armenians are still viewed in the eyes of the state as an internal threat, a characterization which is reinforced to children in terrifying-sounding school textbooks which morbidly dwell on national security. Ironically it took the tragic assassination of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink in 2007 to create a surge of solidarity with Armenians and explode some taboos on talking about their grievances. The appointment of Armenian intellectual Eyten Mahcupyan six months ago as the chief adviser to the prime minister of Turkey was seen as a positive step forward. In an interview on April 10 he restated his long-held view that if one considers events in Bosnia and Rwanda as a genocide, then the Armenian killings must be deemed as such too. His abrupt “retirement” last week does not seem like a coincidence.

Of course, Turkey has been on the defensive this year, from pronouncements from an unlikely alliance of the Pope, the Kardashian clan, the European Parliament, Cher, Rob Lowe, System of a Down and more to recognise the genocide. In January, reality TV star and fourth-generation American-Armenian Kim Kardashian, purportedly on a journey with her husband rapper Kanye West, sister Khloe and cousins to discover the land of her forbears, toured Armenia with a TV crew in tow, and updated her 30 million Instagram followers with posts that incongruously oscillated between pouting selfies in a hotel room and stoic shots of the family laying flowers at the genocide memorial monument.

In case you have found a mistake in the text, please send a message to the editor by selecting the mistake and pressing Ctrl-Enter.


14/09/2019 14:04 Azerbaijan violates ceasefire regime over 95 times during past week 14/09/2019 13:56 Boy, 2,5, shows positive signs of improvement 14/09/2019 12:37 Issue of providing social assistance to needy, socially insecure families to be solved soon: minister 14/09/2019 11:41 Founder of Security Dream company released for bail: advocate 14/09/2019 11:20 Flash floods in south-eastern Spain kill at least five 14/09/2019 10:12 Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes 13/09/2019 18:00 Alex Chung to join Kim Kardashian West on a Panel at WCIT 2019 13/09/2019 17:30 Ucom Kicks Off Pre-Sales for the Latest iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max Smartphones 13/09/2019 17:00 Newly appointed head of EU delegation to Armenia passes to work 13/09/2019 16:33 ARF-D representative sees solution to Amulsar issue via referendum 13/09/2019 16:27 What takes place is not a revolution but degradation and distortion: Arstvik Minasyan on economic revolution stated by PM 13/09/2019 15:49 Government’s initiative on bank secrecy to result in serious explosion: ARF-D representative 13/09/2019 14:59 'Hit them!': Duterte tells Filipinos to shoot corrupt officials, promises no prison time 13/09/2019 14:07 Macron pension reform: Paris paralysed by massive strike 13/09/2019 13:02 Without Armenia’s consent voiced position to remain just a position: Armenia’s MFA responds to Russia’s statement about granting status of observer to Azerbaijan in CSTO 13/09/2019 12:52 Ceasefire violations do not reach worrying levels: Defense Ministry spokesperson 13/09/2019 12:42 New body to be created at Armenia’s Defense Ministry to deal with social, health issues of servicemen, veterans, freedom-fighters 13/09/2019 12:38 Armenian, Azerbaijani FMs agree to Minsk Group co-chairs’ proposal to meet 13/09/2019 12:09 Servicemen Insurance Fund pays compensations to almost 370 families of killed and disabled servicemen 13/09/2019 11:22 Yerevan mayor Hayk Marutyan to be summoned to National Assembly 13/09/2019 11:03 Hurricane Dorian: Number of missing drops to 1,300 13/09/2019 10:31 NSS declines Davit Sanasaryan’s petition to stop criminal persecution against him 13/09/2019 10:22 Contract serviceman commits suicide in Armenia’s Tavush region 12/09/2019 20:31 Violation of bank secrecy big mistake: economist on government’s initiative 12/09/2019 19:47 Trial turned into show: ex-president’s son dissatisfied with court’s decision to publish ruling on September 17 12/09/2019 19:22 Court to announce decision over Kocharyan’s preventive measure on September 17 12/09/2019 18:41 «Five Years of Eurasian Economic Union» collector coin is issued 12/09/2019 17:00 Apple's new iPhones shift smartphone camera battleground to AI 12/09/2019 16:14 Macron ally Ferrand investigated over financial misconduct 12/09/2019 15:26 Most shameful criminal case in Armenia’s history: Kocharyan about his case 12/09/2019 14:39 CSTO doors open to all but decisions are made via consensus: CSTO acting secretary general 12/09/2019 14:04 Russia not against granting status of observer to Azerbaijan in CSTO: Russian official 12/09/2019 13:32 March 1 trial kicks off, ex-DM urges change of Kocharyan’s preventive measure 12/09/2019 13:24 Accusation against my father lack any murder, the accusation is empty: Levon Kocharyan 12/09/2019 13:08 Oxford top of global university rankings 12/09/2019 11:53 Water detected in atmosphere of potentially habitable super-Earth 12/09/2019 11:27 Restaurant to open at Karen Demirtchyan sport and concert complex 12/09/2019 11:07 Oil gains on hopes for U.S., China trade war thaw, lower crude stocks 12/09/2019 10:47 Another Family from Gyumri to Leave the Metal Container 12/09/2019 10:29 Trump delays tariff hikes on Chinese goods ahead of talks 11/09/2019 19:50 Vitaly Balasanyan receives second writ to show up for interrogation in the sidelines of March 1 criminal case 11/09/2019 17:29 Finding the truth is our mission: Armenia’s PM on Amulsar 11/09/2019 16:23 Body of serviceman of Russian 102d military base in Armenia’s Gyumri found in apartment 11/09/2019 16:15 U.S. President is to decide further policy over Iran: political analyst 11/09/2019 15:10 Government to allocate over 35 million AMD for celebrating Independence Day on September 21 11/09/2019 14:43 Brexit: Scottish judges rule Parliament suspension is unlawful 11/09/2019 14:06 Amulsar issue Armenia’s domestic affair: Russia’s ambassador 11/09/2019 14:00 Being in Russia does not mean having political asylum: Russia’s ambassador about Mihran Poghosyan 11/09/2019 13:49 Russia’s president should be expected to visit Armenia: Ambassador 11/09/2019 13:25 My Step faction lawmaker does not share Zhirayr Sefilyan’s viewpoint about snap parliamentary elections in Armenia in 2020 11/09/2019 13:15 People are free to express non-confidence to authorities in Amulsar issue, initiate referendum: lawmaker 11/09/2019 12:52 Iran says sacking of Bolton won't lead to talks with U.S. 11/09/2019 12:23 No grounds exist for snap parliamentary elections: My Step lawmaker 11/09/2019 12:13 Issues raised before should not be forgotten after becoming part of ruling power: My Step faction lawmaker on Amulsar exploitation 11/09/2019 11:42 U.S. Ambassador to Armenia pays tribute to the victims of September 11 terrorist attack 11/09/2019 11:28 Parliament backs legislative initiative relating to traffic security at first reading 11/09/2019 10:45 U.S. President Trump fires national security adviser John Bolton 11/09/2019 10:30 Arab nations condemn Netanyahu's West Bank annexation plan 10/09/2019 17:30 VivaCell-MTS’ experience as a means of professional orientation 10/09/2019 17:06 Lawmaker Arman Babajanyan to keep his mandate 10/09/2019 16:41 Armenia’s PM’s statement over Amulsar result of thorough discussions: My Step lawmaker 10/09/2019 16:22 No grounds not to trust government: My Step lawmaker on Amulsar issue 10/09/2019 16:07 My Step faction supports PM in Amulsar issue: Lawmaker 10/09/2019 15:55 Artsakh’s processed pomegranate produce to be exported to world market: Artsakh agriculture minister 10/09/2019 14:59 Over 800 buses necessary for eliminating public collapse in Yerevan 10/09/2019 14:30 Armenia undertakes response measure against Russia 10/09/2019 14:14 Armenia Wine’s Gold Victory at Grand International Wine Award MUNDUS VINI 10/09/2019 14:11 Sanitek trying to lay its problems on municipality: Yerevan mayor 10/09/2019 13:58 Afghan peace deal: Trump says Taliban talks are 'dead' 10/09/2019 13:13 Armenia not to allow Azerbaijan gain status of observer or partner of CSTO: Ruben Rubinyan 10/09/2019 12:39 Armenia purchases exclusive weapon from Russia: deputy FM 10/09/2019 12:12 Armenia acquires weapons from CSTO member states with affordable prices: deputy FM 10/09/2019 11:51 Azerbaijan lacks any weight in the CSTO: deputy FM 10/09/2019 11:13 Kim Kardashian West to Visit Armenia and Participate in WCIT 2019 10/09/2019 11:10 Armenia’s parliament adopts number of legislative initiatives 10/09/2019 10:55 Brexit: Parliament suspension begins as Johnson's election bid fails 10/09/2019 10:29 Zhamanak: Sasna Tsrer-Pashinyan meeting took place thanks to Amulsar issue 10/09/2019 10:15 Consistent fight against corruption results in saving 3,8 billion AMD by Armenia’s Labor and Social Affairs Ministry: PM 09/09/2019 17:34 2,5-year-old boy who fell from sixth floor in Yerevan comes into consciousness, recognizes parents: spokesperson 09/09/2019 16:55 New garbage trucks reach Yerevan, garbage removal issue nears to logical end: Armenia’s PM 09/09/2019 16:31 Brexit: Parliament suspension to go ahead later 09/09/2019 15:45 PM’s statement over Amulsar not against people’s interests: Lilit Makunts 09/09/2019 15:10 PM’s urge to open roads to Amulsar must be grounded: Edmon Marukyan 09/09/2019 14:59 My Step faction head unaware what Mr Sefilyan talks about 09/09/2019 14:17 Summer heat killed nearly 1,500 in France, officials say 09/09/2019 13:51 Roads to Amulsar mine will not open, this page is closed: Jermuk resident 09/09/2019 13:40 Babajanyan’s decision to leave Bright Armenia faction expected: Edmon Marukyan 09/09/2019 13:20 Amulsar exploitation to result in inevitable consequences: geologist 09/09/2019 12:28 Construction works in Amulsar not to launch earlier than April 2020 09/09/2019 12:15 Armenia’s Prosecutor’s General Office refrains from commenting on CC’s ruling over Kocharyan’s case 09/09/2019 12:03 Most probable time for exploitation of Amulsar first quarter of 2021: Armenia’s PM 09/09/2019 11:38 Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urges Jermuk residents to open roads to Amulsar 09/09/2019 11:16 No legal grounding for banning exploitation of Amulsar mine exists now: Armenia’s PM 09/09/2019 11:02 Norway dogs die in mystery illness 09/09/2019 10:44 National Assembly starts works after long vacation 09/09/2019 10:30 Price growth in Armenia low and controllable: Armenia’s PM 09/09/2019 10:03 Candidate Davit Sargsyan wins at Stepanakert mayoral elections 08/09/2019 19:03 Disagreements with Armenia should not qualified as tragedy: Artsakh president 08/09/2019 18:45 Artsakh ex-DM Levon Mnatsakanyan to be glad to become member of Armenia’s NA’s investigative commission set up to study April 2016 war 08/09/2019 18:38 USA wants to see powerful and successful Armenia: George Kent