THE ATTITUDE OF TURKISH SOCIETY – 2012-2

Towards the Problem of Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey

Summary

Anush R.Hovhannisyan
In the last ten years, steps aimed at reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia has considerably increased. But it is obvious that real reconciliation between the two nations and between the two societies is impossible without the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

“Denialism” is the term commonly used to characterize the positions of both the Turkish state and society towards the Armenian Genocide. Although the arguments of Turkish state denialism were widely discussed scholarly, the motivations for public denial are still less investigated. Why has Turkish society chosen simply to forget, to ignore or deny the crimes committed by their ancestors or as Taner Akcam said “wish to forget history?”

Some scholars explain it by the lack of historical consciousness in Turkey. According to them, the public sphere has been totally dominated by the imposed official state narrative and to be critical of the official text, publicly oppose and contradict it means to question the very existence of the state and Turkish identity. Society was unable to question this narrative, so ignorance, amnesia and fear became part of their survival strategy. In our article, we argue that in such collectively committed crimes as genocide and its denial there must be a kind of “solidarity” between the state and society: society must be hostile towards the target group to allow the genocide and it’s denial to occur. Whatever the motivations for this are, society cannot move forward without confronting and acknowledging the crimes of the past.

In the last years “the desire to not remember the past” or the “Armenian Genocide taboo” is losing ground; part of Turkish society wants to know what really happened in 1915 and is demanding open discussion of the Armenian Genocide. This group of historians, journalists, intellectuals and common people still comprise only a small part of Turkish society and cannot considerably influence state policy. But the process of the further democratization of Turkey could change the attitude of society towards this issue that is that the genocide will stop being viewed as rational and acceptable policy.

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