Taner Akçam, The Young Turks՚ Crime Against Humanity – 2022-2


The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic cleansing in the Ottoman Empire

Armen C. Marukyan
The value of Akçam’s work lies in the fact that a large number of Ottoman archival documents, which are difficult to access for non-Turkish professionals, corroborate information known from other sources and adding additional details. However, it should be noted, that the Turkish historian does not always interpret impartially, analyzing the Ottoman archival documents circulated by him, moreover, his judgments sometimes directly contradict the information in the documents quoted by him.

Criticizing the historians who promote the Turkish official version, Akçam tries to present himself as an impartial historian, but his adoption of a conventional stance on fundamental issues of the history of the Armenian Genocide shows that in practice he is acting as a secret suspect of the crime against the Armenian people. Akçam’s approach differs from the official Turkish denial historiography in that, instead of so-called “hard denial”, he promotes “cautious suspicion” or “unnoticed denial”. Using the term “Armenian Genocide” and condemning the crime, the Turkish historian casts doubt on the motives of the Armenian Genocide, noting that the policy was not racist or nationalistic, that the “state interest” of the empire was the basis of the Armenian Genocide.

Akçam tends to see Armenians as a “threat” to the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, to eliminate which the Young Turks resorted to so-called “social engineering”, which means elements of a policy of genocide against Armenians: extermination, forced deportation, Islamization and assimilation. Thereby, Akçam in fact repeats the approaches of the official Turkish historiography that denies and falsifies the Armenian Genocide, which justifies the criminal policy towards the Armenian people based on the nationalist ideology of pan-Turkism.

Akçam’s various judgments on the motives of the Turkish authorities for committing the Armenian Genocide suggest that either he has not yet made a final decision or in this way he tries to hide the real motives, at the same time raising doubts about the criminal intention to commit the Armenian Genocide, which is the main component of qualifying that crime. Is it a coincidence that Akçam concludes his work with the assumption that, regardless of how we qualify the extermination of Armenians from a legal point of view, it is first and foremost a moral recognition that it was not an unjust act worthy of moral reproach? The Turkish historian is thus trying to transfer the issue of the Turkish state’s responsibility for the Armenian Genocide to a purely moral field, as the discussion of this issue in the legal or political spheres will inevitably lead to processes of responsibility and compensation that are absolutely unacceptable for the Turkish state.

Assessing the works of T. Akçam published in different languages on some issues of the history of the Armenian Genocide, as well as his introduction into scientific circulation of unpublished Ottoman archival documents, nevertheless, we believe that Armenian specialists should have taken part in the process of translating and republishing these books in Armenia . Otherwise, it turns out that we share the biased judgments of the Turkish historian on fundamental-conceptual issues, as well as the approaches and conclusions that are almost identical with the views of the official Turkish historiography denying the given crime.