What are Turkish State Intellectuals Afraid of?

1. Talaat’s report on the Armenian Genocide

In 2008, Murat Bardakci published a set of private papers from Talaat Pasha’s personal archives. He had obtained these papers from Talaat’s family, so that the documents had not been screened prior to their release by Turkish official historians. Bardakci pointed out one statistical document in these papers indicating that several hundred thousand Armenians were still in the Ottoman Empire at the end of 1916 [sic, 1917], while around a million Armenians had disappeared. He pointed out that the presence of several hundred thousand Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1917 disproved the Armenian Genocide thesis. He also insisted that those who had disappeared had probably fled or emigrated elsewhere sometime after 1914.

2. Initial analyses and debates

A number of Turkish commentators criticised Bardakci’s analysis of Talaat’s statistics, but they were not in a position to take their criticism further. Meanwhile, official Turkish historians attacked Bardakci and played down Talaat’s statistics on Armenians as unimportant. They cleary wished to muffle serious discussion.

3. Stating the Obvious

The first extended analysis of Talaat’s statistics was presented in April 2009 by Ara Sarafian in The Armenian Reporter,* where he argued that the Talaat’s statistical document looked like an estimate of the number of victims of the Armenian Genocide. Following further investigation in Ottoman archives, Sarafian took his analysis further : he showed that Talaat’s document was actually based on a survey Talaat had ordered in February 1917, as well as further Ottoman materials, to calculate the number of Armenians who had disappeared in the Ottoman Empire between 1914 and 1917. Sarafian called his analysis of Talaat’s untitled report “Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide” and placed it on the internet for further discussion.*

4. No response from Turkey

The publication of Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide enraged Bardakci, who did not rise to a debate. Instead, he embarked on a personal attack against Sarafian, while official Turkish historians remained silent. The Gomidas Institute responded by publishing a Turkish translation of the offending work and launching it in Istanbul. The Turkish translation, like the English translation, was also placed on the internet for free download. Once more, neither Bardakci, nor Turkish state intellectuals, rose to a discussion.

5. Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide completes a key void in Turkish archives today.

Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide poses a serious challenge to deniers of the Armenian Genocide. The document was found in Talaat’s private papers, and the authenticity of its content can be established with Ottoman records in Turkish archives today. This report puts the number of Ottoman Armenians in 1914 at over 1,500,000 people. This figure is significantly more than the number of Ottoman Armenians claimed by official Turkish historians. The report also finds over one million of these Armenians missing by 1917.

GOMIDAS INSTITUTE