Regina A. Galustyan
A few Armenian and foreign researchers have mentioned the existence of social-Darwinism in the mainstream of the ideology of the Committee of Union and Progress (Young Turks). The aim of this article is to develop further this idea, mainly to show the possible ways social-Darwinism was implanted in the Young Turk nationalist ideology and its further manifestations. The article demonstrates that although not all high-ranking party members followed the philosophical school of Herbert Spencer, the main concept of the “survival of the fittest” was accepted by many Young Turk politicians at different levels of the party hierarchy.
In compliance with their social-Darwinist mindset, they saw war as a significant and inevitable stage in the development of the nation. Many politicians, including Mehmed Taalat, the Minister of Interior, saw the war as an opportunity to change the demographic, economic, foreign, and inner political situation of the empire. The government internalized Italo-Turkish (1911-1912), the Balkan wars (1912-1913), and World War I (1914-1918) to start a war against the Christian citizens of the empire, who were declared as “inner enemies” and “ulcers on the body of the state” endangering its existence. As a long-term goal this policy aimed at clearing the land from the non-assimilated national minorities, homogenizing the population, and establishing a national economy and a Turkish nation-state.
In the second part of the article, the intersection of the two ideas of socialDarwinism and Organicism is discussed. The basis of this philosophy is the belief that the laws of natural sciences identically operate in human society. From here derives the analogy of society and a living organism, and the conclusion that the healthier organism will win the struggle for existence. Starting from the Balkan Wars we encounter organicist terminology in Young Turk periodicals and in the lexicon of the party ideologues. With the outbreak of WWI and during the Armenian Genocide the medical justification of the killing took place, as according to the social-Darwinist mindset, the destruction of maladapted species is considered natural. In this ideological context the direct involvement in the killings of the Turkish doctors, and medical experiments on the Armenian victims are brought as an example.
In the end, the article attempts to analyze the relations of religion and socialDarwinism in Young Turks’ mindset, as well as their perception of morality.