Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Facing our history ...

Nations and countries being able to confront with their past can take steps forward. Unless this is done, pain and identity issues hold nations and countries back from making leaps forward.

This is the state of Turkey today. But, of course, it is a progress even to discuss our history. However, we cannot say that this is confrontation.

The state of Turkey built an image and identity through a concept of modern history reflected in textbooks. We all are proud of our 1,000-year-old state experience and of our glorious Seljuks and Ottoman past. It’s good for our self-esteem to be proud of a glorious history. But the history also has "bloody pages"; therefore, "burdens," too.

And this is not just for us, Turks. This is the case for every nation and country, especially if they are coming from an imperial past. The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia had to deal with boring pages of their history. Still, no one can say that they came up all clean. And we haven’t made as much progress as they have. We haven’t beaten yet the narrow understanding of taking confrontations as insults.

If we cannot face our history, we cannot let go of the past and stumble. This is why the subject is crucial.

The 85-year-old social historian Professor Kemal Karpat helped us hash out the issue again. Two days ago, Milliyet daily’s Devrim Sevimay and Taraf daily’s Neşe Düzel interviewed him. The Milliyet’s Taha Akyol wrote an article complimenting the approach in Karpat’s latest book, "The Third Way."

I read the Karpat interviews very carefully. Aside from his extraordinary efforts and knowledge, I see that Karpat’s analyses are quite "problematic." We see now a subtle and distilled version of a "nationalist understanding of history" rather than the "Third Way." Since I have known him for a long time, I very well know that Karpat’s background of Romanian Babadağ and Turkish Tatar have an influence over his analyses.

The professor’s intuitions are as strong as his knowledge. While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was mayor of Istanbul, Karpat knew that Erdoğan would be a prime minister.

During our long walks by the oceanside, Karpat insisted that Erdoğan, who was in prison then, would be the prime minister of Turkey someday. Karpat was right. In short, I know what he thinks and how he thinks. I never am disrespectful to him. But the professor gives totally "defensive reactions" when the issue is our "historic burden."

His anger and his "Third Way" are revealed in the interview by Düzel: "My objection is É telling one-sided stories of the incidents and sentencing Turks all the time. I am from Rumelia. Since I am a Turk, I was subjected to insults. My properties were ripped away. And I came to Turkey to save myself. Why aren’t theirs [wrongdoings] being told?"

This is Karpat’s state of spirit leaving its mark in his analyses. The professor, as a Muslim Turk, deeply feels the agony of Turkish Muslims coming from Rumelia and the Caucasus through big immigration waves and the massacre committed against them.

But even Kamuran Gürün rejecting the Armenian thesis that "1.5 million Armenians were killed by Turks in the genocide" and says, "No, the number of Armenians who died during the deportation is 300,000," Karpat comes up with a brand new figure in the interview to Düzel: "about 100,000-200,000." He also claims that about a million Armenians ran away to Armenia with the Russian army.

These new theses are "problematic" because in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Armenian Democratic Republic was established by Tashnaks in 1918-1920. And the population of Armenia in 1918 was 500,000. To this, 300,000 "Ottoman Armenians" who escaped with the Russian army were added. After the Bolsheviks transferred the Eastern provinces of Kars and Ardahan to Turkey, the Armenian population rose to 1.3 million in 1919.

In addition to this figure, 300,000-350,000 "Ottoman Armenians" settled in Armenia. This inflation in population within a year was caused by Armenians living in Kars and Ardahan after they crossed the River Aras and settled in Armenia. (See: "Armenia, A Historical Atlas" by Robert Hewsen, Chicago University Publication, 2001 edition; the U.S. Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Report dated 1919.)

In the interview, Karpat says, "These are not the Armenians exposed to deportation. The political figure behind the deportation decision was Talat Pasha. The difference between the Armenian population before and after the deportation in Talat’s notes is 972,246 É about a million.

They have nothing to do with the Russian army withdrawing, or escape to Armenia or the battlefront. These are Armenians from Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Malatya, Antep, Maraş, Çukurova, Kayseri, Sivas, Tokat, Konya, Ankara, Kütahya, Bursa and even Tekirdağ, etc. Children, women, the elderly É That is to say, they are not included in the category of Armenian rebels or gangs."

All right, but what should we say about what happened to Muslims and Turks in Rumelia and Caucasus?

Big disasters prove the history is not "innocent" and "one dimensional." They are mostly examples of "ethnic cleansing."

The events in Rumelia caused "ethnic cleansing" in the end, but it was a big wave of immigration after the Russian-Bulgarian attacks in the 1877-78 war. I, as a Rumelian immigrant whose family was sent to Turkey through exchange, know very well the agony of ethnic cleansings.

But the "deportation" is something else. Even if no one is killed, it is a form of huge "ethnic cleansing." Besides, more than one was lost! If we use history as a tool for daily political debates, we cannot go anywhere.

But if we see everything as they are, we can have a key to the solution to many issues we face today.

If history is politicized, we have the wrong results. But it is "functional" in building a "modern state and society."

If we cannot get mature, we cannot face our history. And if we cannot face our history we cannot move forward.

The "Only Way" about history is being able to see it "as it is" without needing a "Third Way."
X