Issue 39 – Great Catastrophe Great Crime: After 100 Years

Editor: E. Attila Aytekin

The Armenian Genocide Historiography on the Eve of the Centennial: From Continuity to Contingency
Bedross Der Matossian

One of the outstanding issues in Armenian Genocide historiography has been the inability of historians to come to a consensus regarding the causes, the aim of the perpetrators, and the processof the genocide. This is due to the fact that the field of genocide studies by its nature is contentious. While most Western and some Turkish scholars agree to the fact that the events that happened to the Armenians during World War I constitute genocide, they tend to disagree on critical issues such as the causes, motives, premeditation, and the actual process itself. Over the course of the past two decades, the historiography of the Armenian Genocide has evolved through the introduction of new methodologies, approaches, and more complex analyses of the Genocide that venture beyond rudimentary and essentialist arguments and representations. These approaches range from arguing that religion and/or nationalism were the main factors that led to the Armenian Genocide, to the argument that the genocide was a contingent event that took place during World War I, represented by a rapid radicalization of the government’s policy towards the Armenians. The article discusses the development of the historiography of the Armenian Genocide by concentrating on some of the major trends in the historiography and assess their contribution to the understanding of the different dimensions of the genocide. Furthermore, it provides suggestions about strengthening certain areas in the historiography that still remain in their infancy.
Keywords: Historiography, Armenian Genocide, World War I, Ottoman Empire, Turkey.

The Absence of Class Analysis in the Historiography of Provincial
Ottoman Armenians
Yaşar Tolga Cora

Studies on the nineteenth-century Ottoman Armenian communities in the provinces have examined the Ottoman Armenians as if they constitute a monolithic body. These works, which have overlooked the multi-layered and complex class structure of the Armenian nation, have generally reduced history of Armenians in the Ottoman provinces into a history of ethnic-conflict culminating with the Genocide during the World War I. As this article shows, Ottoman Armenians just like any other community in the Ottoman Empire were made up of various social-economic groups including land-owner and landless peasants, sharecroppers, middle-peasants, and artisans and merchants in small towns and cities. The article both examines the differences within the Armenian nation based on class differences and their relations with other ethnic groups by focusing on the political-economy of the period. Alongside primary and secondary sources in Armenian language, documents from the Ottoman archives are used in the article. The primary goals of the article are to put forward differences among Ottoman Armenians in the provinces based on class, to draw attention to problems in the current historiography on the topic, and to propose directions for future research.
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, provinces, Armenians, Armenian-Kurdish relations, class.

The Question of Primitive Accumulation and Non-Muslims during
the Formation of the Turkish Nation-State
Pınar Kaya Özçelik

The relationship between non-Muslim citizens and political power in the Ottoman Empire radically changed after the Balkan Wars and subsequently the outbreak of World War I. When the economic
conditions met with the government’s state rescue mission, the Union and Progress government found the only way of remedy in the capitalization process. In order to accelerate this process, the war struggle was turned into an opportunity, capitulations were dropped, the privileges of foreign companies were abolished, customs duty reorganized, the establishment of national banks and
corporations was encouraged, the Turkish-Muslim traders, peasants and artisans were safeguarded as far as possible to maintain a national accumulation of capital. However, the collapse and destruction of the state’s traditional economic base largely due to the integration with capitalist imperialism resulted in a lack of economic and financial power which has also greatly complicated the realization of this accumulation In the creation process of this national bourgeoisie, both Ottoman Empire and the republic of Turkey took an active role in providing all the necessary facilities to the Muslim-Turkish entrepreneurs for capital accumulation notwithstanding the limitations. To this end, many political, economic and socio-cultural policies were implemented. In this context, as a significant leverage, primitive accumulation through dispossesion was chosen to create a rapid accumulation of capital by forming a national ‘bourgeoisie. And as the target of this process, NonMuslim citizens that dominated the commercial life and financial markets, those long thought of as prospered due to capitalist integration of Ottoman Empire with its increasing commercial relations, were selected. In the history of the Republic of Turkey, the first accumulation process that targeted Non-Muslim citizens -similar to the Committee of Union and Progress- found its the legitimacy in the ideology of nationalism while blending with it as both the founding moment of capital accumulation and its intrinsic feature, emerging again in a different historical conjuncture.
Keywords: Primitive Accumulation, Non-Muslims, National Bourgeoisie, Union and Progress, Imperialism.

Denialism, Abandoned Properties and State Capacity in the Early Republican Period

Ömer Turan  – Güven Gürkan Öztan

This paper analyses the denialism in the early republican period, and regulations concerning liquidation of the abandoned properties, formerly belonging to the Ottoman Armenians. The main argument of the paper states that the benefit of the republican regime, obtained through liquidation of the abandoned properties, is a key factor explaining the denialism established by the new regime with respect to 1915. The raison d’état, establishing the republic, had instituted the new regime in a war context, and had implemented the extraction and resource reallocation processes. The paper outlines different elements of undoing the Unionist policies during the Armistice period and then discusses why the new regime in Ankara had to take the atrocities of 1915 as a shameful act. The paper emphasizes that the international conjuncture was the main reason for this qualification, and after 1921, Mustafa Kemal and the new government had ceased to follow the shameful act discourse for 1915. Another argument of the paper is that the regulation concerning the liquidation of the abandoned properties provided a contribution to state capacity. The paper also analyses the Speech by Mustafa Kemal with its role in establishing the denialism and its function in depicting the Turks as oppressed and victims.
Keywords: The Armenian Genocide, Abandoned Properties, denialism, raison d’état, state capacity.

The Return of Armenians & Their Abandonned Proerties: Kayseri (1918-1920)
Oya Gözel Durmaz

Upon the decision for the return of the deportees in October 1918, Armenian deportees began to repatriate. The return process was not problem-free and raised some issues; such as the delivery of Armenian women and children to their community, the rise of insecurity resulting in the flight of the Armenian population to coastal areas, and the restitution of the abandoned properties. This article analyzes the last subject that emerged as a controversial issue for the Armenian population since their properties had been liquidated and most of the deportees lost their lives during the deportation. The analysis of the restoration process in Kayseri sanjak demonstrates that this topic has to be examined considering variations in different localities. The attitude of the local authorities, security issues and the number of refugees and immigrants who had settled in the properties that had been abandoned by Armenians all had definitive impacts on the restitution.
Keywords: Armenian deportation, abandoned properties, Kayseri Sancak, return of Armenians.

In Search of Truth and Identity through Memory: The Armenians of Dersim
Mehtap Tosun

The homogenization of society in the formation of Turkish national identity has been an application area of both political and cultural projects. This process can be observed as the suppression of collective identities, cultural values and semantic world of individuals that exists in Turkish society. Examined in terms of collective history, Armenians who has settled in diverse areas of Turkey and has a tradition of living together with other peoples had a long history in Dersim which has a majority Alevi Zaza/Kurdish population. The collective memory of Dersim Armenians can be considered to have started in 1915 when Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres.

This research, together with available data, aims to examine in what way the stories of selfidentification of Armenians who had been rescued/protected or taken refuge in Dersim has gotten into circulation in daily life after 1915. These rescue/protection/refuge stories are often accompanied with seeking the “cleanliness” and “pureness” of Armenian identity. However, choosing one of the “safe” Zaza-Kürt-Alevi identities which compose Dersim’s local ethnic and religious identities and which have had a problematic relationship with the central authority does not completely provide purification. In this context, this study can be seen as an attempt to understand the experiences of Armenians of Dersim throughout the process of formation of identity and sense of belonging. Thereby, the study hopes to a modest contribution to social history through the collective memory and oral history of Armenians of Dersim.
Keywords: genocide, Armenians of Dersim, collective memory, identification, ethnicity.

Cafe, Pub and Restaurant Entrepreneurship in the Economic
Environment of Dersim/Tunceli
Ercan Geçgin

This study aims to understand the social context of the service industry sector that plays a key role in Dersim/Tunceli’s economy. The analysis focuses on the social networks involved in the management of cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants by using a two dimensional approach: (1) Understanding what kind of economic relations were inherited from the previous social structure
by historical aspect, (2) following heritage clues in order to identify links within the social relations of the current economic structure in Dersim. Dersim’s economic structure was investigated through first hand observations: surveys with owners, workers, and customers at selected cafes, pubs, and restaurants. This study strives to investigate the economic relations in the city in the context of its unique historical and social structure. It demonstrates that different types of management contribute to the reproduction of economic relations. The fragmentary and fragile nature of the economy in Dersim, strongly influenced by cultural, religious, and political capitals, has left broken habitus in the context of objective and subjective structures.
Keywords: economic sociology, service industry, symbolic capital, broken habitus, Dersim/Tunceli.