From the book
...Once religion could no longer function publicly as common denominator of the nation, the state required a substitute as ideological cement. Kemal attempted to resolve the problem by generating a legendary essence of race and culture shared by all in the Turkish Republic.
The materials to hand for this construction posed their own difficulties. The first Turkish tribes had arrived in Anatolia in the 11th century, recent newcomers compared with Greeks or Armenians, who had preceded them by more than a millennium, not to speak of Kurds, often identified with the Medes of antiquity. As even a casual glance at phenotypes in Turkey today suggests, centuries of genetic mixing followed. A purely Turkish culture was an equally doubtful quantity. The Ottoman elite had produced literary and visual riches of which any society could be proud, but this was a cosmopolitan culture, which was not only distinct from, but contemptuous of anything too specifically Turkish the very term Turk signifying a rustic churl well into the 19th century. Reform of the script now rendered most of this heritage inaccessible anyway.
Undaunted by these limitations, Kemalism fashioned for instruction the most extravagant mythology of any interwar nationalism. By the mid-1930s, the state was propagating an ideology in which the Turks, of whom Hittites and Phoenicians in the Mediterranean were said to be a branch, had spread civilisation from Central Asia to the world, from China to Brazil; and as the drivers of universal history, spoke a language that was the origin of all other tongues, which were derived from the Sun-Language of the first Turks. Such ethnic megalomania reflected the extent of the underlying insecurity and artificiality of the official enterprise: the less there was to be confident of, the more fanfare had to be made out of it.
Observing Kemalist cultural policies in 1936-37, Erich Auerbach wrote from Istanbul to Walter Benjamin: the process is going fantastically and spookily fast: already there is hardly anyone who knows Arabic or Persian, and even Turkish texts of the past century will quickly become incomprehensible. Combining a renunciation of all existing Islamic cultural tradition, a fastening onto a fantasy ur-Turkey, technical modernisation in the European sense in order to strike the hated and envied Europe with its own weapons, it offered nationalism in the superlative with the simultaneous destruction of the historic national character.
Seventy years later, a Turkish intellectual would reflect on the deeper logic of this process. In an essay of unsurpassed power, one of the great texts in the worlds literature on nationalism, the sociologist Çaglar Keyder has described the desperate retroactive peopling of Anatolia with ur-Turks in the shape of Hittites and Trojans as a compensation mechanism for the emptying by ethnic cleansing at the origins of the regime. The repression of that memory created a complicity of silence between rulers and ruled, but no popular bond of the kind that a genuine anti-imperialist struggle would have generated, the War of Independence remaining a small-scale affair, compared with the traumatic mass experience of the First World War. Abstract in its imagination of space, hypomanic in its projection of time, the official ideology assumed a peculiarly preceptorial character, with all that the word implies. The choice of the particular founding myth referring national heritage to an obviously invented history, the deterritorialisation of motherland, and the studious avoidance and repression of what constituted a shared recent experience, rendered Turkish nationalism exceptionally arid.
Such nationalism was a new formation, but the experience that it repressed tied it, intimately, to the nationalism out of which it had grown. The continuities between Kemalism and Unionism, plain enough in the treatment of the Kurds under the Republic, were starker still in other ways. For extermination of the Armenians did not cease in 1916. Determined to prevent the emergence of an Armenian state in the area awarded it costlessly, on paper by Woodrow Wilson in 1920, Kemals government in Ankara ordered an attack on the Armenian Republic that had been set up on the Russian side of the border in the Caucasus, where most of those who had escaped the killings of 1915-16 had fled. In a secret telegram the foreign minister, later Kemals first ambassador to the US, instructed Kazim Karabekir, the commander charged with the invasion, to deceive the Armenians and fool the Europeans, in carrying out the express order: It is indispensable that Armenia be politically and physically annihilated. Soviet historians estimate 200,000 Armenians were slaughtered in the space of five months, before the Red Army intervened.
This was still, in some fashion, happening in time of war. Once peace came, what was the attitude of the Turkish Republic to the original genocide? To interested foreigners, Kemal would deplore, usually off the record, the killings as the work of a tiny handful of scoundrels. To its domestic audience, the regime went out of its way to honour the perpetrators, dead or alive. Two of the most prominent killers hanged in 1920 for their atrocities by the tribunals in Istanbul were proclaimed national martyrs by the Kemalist Assembly, and in 1926 the families of Talat, Enver, Sakir and Cemal were officially granted pensions, properties and lands seized from the Armenians, in recognition of services to the country. Such decisions were not mere sentimental gestures. Kemals regime was packed, from top to bottom, with participants in the murders of 1915-16. At one time or another his ministers of foreign affairs and of the interior; of finance, education and defense; and of public works, were all veterans of the genocide; while a minister of justice, suitably enough, had been defense lawyer at the Istanbul trials. It was as if Adenauers cabinets had been composed of well-known chiefs of the SS and the Sicherheitsdienst.
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Turkey: Replacing real history with fantasy falshood for idiots to believe in
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I keep hearing that "it is not the duty of politicians to write history of Turkey" in regard to the Genocide; but in reality it was the politicians in Turkey during the time of Ataturk that fabricated and encouraged the fabrication of a false history for Turkey in a country that apparently dumped Islam for secularism, making of a false mythical history a substitute for religious beliefs of its people thus giving a bust to nationalism at the expense of the truth; anyway the truth never mattered in Turkey1
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