Ruben Safrastyan, Mustafa Kemal; The Fight Against the Republic of Armenia in 1919-1921 – 2019-4


Gevorg S. Khoudinyan
Although, over the past 100 years, the Soviet, post-Soviet, and Diaspora Armenian historiography has repeatedly touched upon separate episodes of the life and activities of Mustafa Kemal – the founder of the republican Turkey, including the history of the irreconcilable struggle against Armenia in 1919-1921, for a number of objective and subjective reasons no scientific view on that prominent political and military figure has been formed within us. The reason is that in the Soviet era we faced political barriers fed by the traditions of the Lenin-Ataturk friendship, and in the post-Soviet years the reality of insufficient study of sources and the lack of a certain concept of perception of historical-political processes in us. Almost the same superficiality and one-sidedness has been observed among Diaspora Armenian scholars, who have relied mainly on limited information about Mustafa Kemal in western sources.

Since the restoration of independence of Armenia, our historiography in assessing the life and activities of Mustafa Kemal should not continue to be guided by reconciliatory characterizations of the Soviet era, or merely a damnatory’s propagandistic mental pattern based on moral principles. In the process of building our own independent statehood, the scientific study of Turkey’s rich state-political traditions becomes paramount, leaving aside the starting points of worldviews on reconciliation and moral condemnation stemming from their concealed belief of the impossibility of achieving and surpassing them. Today we need to know, recognize, and understand the great and small secrets of our adversary’s successes over the last two centuries, so that tomorrow we can find the tools to counter them. On the basement of all this first of all lies the scientific task of comprehensive study of the life and activities of politician and statesman Kemal Ataturk.

In this regard prof. Ruben Safrastyan’s brochure entitled “Mustafa Kemal. The Fight Against the Republic of Armenia in 1919-1921” though not of a large volume, however is quite full of extensive questions and statements of issues and is in fact the first bold attempt. The author has succeeded in finding a clear inheritance link between the Young Turks responsible for the Armenian Genocide and the new Turkish leader who appeared in the political stage concealing their crime after the Armistice of Mudros. This has revealed one of the most essential principles of Turkey’s state policy to distinguish itself from the crimes committed by previous administrations and those already uncovered, but at the same time continuing to act with new methods under new conditions.

Therefore we think that in just a few months Mustafa Kemal’s conversion from the word “fazahat” condemning the Armenian Genocide to the genocidal vocabulary of the Young Turks on the eve of the 1920 autumn attack on the Republic of Armenia was not an expression of ordinary hypocrisy, as the author claims, but a shift in the toolkit of permanent expansionism characteristic of Turkish state policy. In the political statements of the past and present state officials of Turkey it is pointless to seek political principles with their western understanding; the latter have served and serve as instruments appropriate to this particular milestone of expansionism. In this context, criticism does not stand up to the assessment of the Turkish National Covenant carried out by Soviet scholars at the time as an attempt to cross the broad borders of the Ottoman Empire to the narrow boundaries of national statehood. The nation-state model adopted by Mustafa Kemal was, in fact, an attempt to modernize traditional forms and methods of Turkish expansionism, at the first destination of which its kernel was formed, with the unification of Anatolia and Western Armenia, but at the same time they mined the next zones of expansion outlined around it towards Syria, Cyprus, Thrace, Iranian Atrpatakan (Iranian Azerbaijan), Eastern Armenia and Western and Southern Georgia.

In this context, the author was able to reveal the secret instruction of Foreign Minister Mukhtar Bey on November 8, 1920 to the Commander of the Turkish Army Kâzım Karabekir on the “elimination” of the Republic of Armenia, which was one of the tangible manifestations of this process. The gradual demolition of Armenia inwardly and putting into game the existing Turkic ethnic enclaves for the purpose of its occupation had already been successfully completed in Kars and Nakhijevan, but had failed in Zangibassar and Vedi. In the Soviet period too, Turkey adopted a similar policy towards Armenia, which continued until the Karabakh movement. It is no coincidence, therefore, that they were not as angry in Baku about the departure of Azerbaijanis from Armenia as they were in Ankara. This policy continues today, with Turkey’s prompting to Azerbaijan concerning the latter’s manifested pretensions towards Zangezur, “Gökçe” and even “Irevan”.

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