We can call it whatever we want, we can call it massacre, deportation, genocide but why this happened. And here, I think there is hope, even at the political level because I will refer to what the former minister [IB] recently argued in terms of the need to have a just collective memory. Apparently, had he had the chance to give the talk in Zurich that he wanted to give, a declaration after the signature, he would have referred to the just memory [IB] concept in terms of remembering what happened in 1915, which essentially is code word for let’s remember the context. The Ottoman empire was disintegrating, the Ottoman empire was fighting in the Gallipoli war, [IB] war, the balcons, Turk’s loss basically three to five million people during this imperial disintegration process and you have to understand the trauma that Turkey experienced. So in that sense, if you want to understand the trauma dimension of the problem, you can easily empathize with Turkey as well along the lines of basically an empire disintegrating in 1915 and a sense of panic, a sense of, fear of survival, all these elements are there. What bothers me as someone who himself signed to this petition and tried to argue that this is the right policy is that this should not come basically as an excuse for what happened in 1915. In my opinion, and here we’re getting into the what should happen next, I think Turkey should find ways to really empathize with the Armenian diaspora, Armenian public and should not try to say, “Look, what happened in 1915 was terrible but try to understand where we were. Try to understand what kind of problems we were facing.” Because inherently, those are not the Armenian community’s problems. The Armenian community cannot be, cannot share the responsibility for what happened during the 19th century, during the Ottoman disintegration. Ottoman disintegration in the balcons, in the Caucasus, in the middle east, created a sense of survival, a sense of fear, a sense of panic. The victim of which became the Armenian minority of Anatolia and in that sense, to try to explain what happened to the Armenians based on what was happening in the late 19th century, early 20th century, I think would be, would not go very far in terms of creating empathy for Armenians themselves. In that sense, there are some limits to what, I think, professor [IB] and the Turkish narrative of just memory can accomplish. What is part of the common memory, I think, and what can be also emphasized is that the context involves Armenian nationalism. Armenians want to have they own state and this is something that I would like to refer again in the [IB] that I wrote. I argued, let me read the paragraph where I talk about the Turkish trauma first and then I’ll get to the Armenian trauma.
In order to fully understand the roots of the drama that unfolded in Zurich, we need to understand that the Turkish and Armenian psyche, we also need to ask what brings this two people to the negotiating table. Let’s start with the Turkish psyche. Turks have lost an empire in an agonizingly slow fashion. For 200 years, Ottomans lost war after war to modern Western enemies. The unraveling was even more traumatizing inside the empire. Unable to understand the power of ethnic nationalism, the ruling elites, Ottoman elite that is, came to the conclusion… The ruling elite came to the, came to hate Zurich and distrust ethnic minorities. The empire was at a loss as internal nationalisms led to separatism. Finally, Turkish nationalism emerged as the lost nationalism of the empire in reaction to all previous nationalisms and it emerged with a vengeance. Its main objective was to save what was left of the empire. Here I would like to emphasize one point, when I say the empire was at a loss as internal nationalisms led to separatism, I’m saying that it was at a loss in terms of identifying a kind of ethnic project for itself. Up until the [IB] movement, the unionist movement, the Ottomans still cling to the idea that there was an Ottoman identity, that you could save the empire based on a kind of Ottoman project and they were reluctant. The Ottoman sultan and the Ottoman bureaucracy, the ruling elite was reluctant in terms of adapting an ethnic identity for itself because it could have been counterproductive in terms of saving the empire. There was still this attachment to a kind of civic Ottoman identity, but of course it led to nowhere because the power of nationalism was too strong. Armenians, like Turks, were also late comers to nationalism.