Friday, December 30, 2011

A history book on 1915, please – but put no genocide in it!

In his address to the Higher Council of Science and Technology on Tuesday, December 27, the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan laid down a historiographical project. Following on the footsteps of Mustafa Kemal, who had once said that “writing history is as important as making it,” Mr. Erdoğan asked the Turkish “scientific community, researchers, and universities” to focus on recent history. “We will pay attention to libraries, archives, and scientific studies –not to parliamentary votes– and thus share our counter theses with the world public opinion on firm foundations,” said Mr. Erdoğan. Mr. Erdoğan clearly wishes to read historical research that would support the “Turkish case” in the international discussions on the Armenian Genocide. His wishes may well be taken as orders by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the administration of which was very recently reorganized with a view to increase governmental control over it. The pressing question is how one will reconcile the archival evidence, which includes clear references to the secret orders of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) that unleashed the CUP gangs against Ottoman Armenians (see, for instance, Oral Çalışlar’s piece on Radikal) with Mr. Erdoğan’s wishes. Of course, the greatest irony is Mr. Erdoğan’s defense of the CUP, the ideological legacy of which is passionately attacked by him and his party in most other issues.