Three Turkish Attempts to Destroy Armenians

Three Turkish Attempts to Destroy Armenians

At least three times in its history, Turkey has attempted to commit genocidal acts to implement the policy of mass extermination and deportation of the Armenian population of Artsakh (Karabakh).

The current position of Turkey and attempts to put forward preconditions for Armenia in combination with pressure cases in order to obtain the necessary concessions in resolving the Artsakh issue seem relevant from the point of view of historical context and appeals to historical facts to reveal the foundations of the “Turkish strategy” in the Artsakh issue.

First attempt

The expansion of the borders of the Ottoman Empire towards the Caucasus began in the 16th century. On the way to the shores of the Caspian Sea, Turkish troops met the stubborn resistance of the Armenians of Artsakh, suffering several defeats from organized self-defense.

In 1725, after the successful self-defense of the Armenians, Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) issued a special fatwa to exterminate the Armenians, ordering to kill them all for bringing the Russians to the Caucasus and blocking the route of the Ottomans in Baku.

The confessions of Saleh Pasha captured by the Artsakh Armenians testify that the aim of the Turkish Sultan was the extermination of the Armenian population in Artsakh. He noted:

“The Sultan ordered the extermination of Armenians and Persians (Shiite Muslims – note of Hayk Demoyan) in these countries. Since the troops of the Russian tsar had occupied this shore of the (Caspian) sea, we were to march against them.

Armenians, who are an obstruction between us, should be exterminated; (! – author) we should remove the obstacles on our path and thus open the way. If not for you (Armenians), we would have long entered Derbent and Baku that had belonged to us since antiquity” [1].

This 18th-century document traced the birth of Turkish policies toward “recalcitrant Armenians” who “wedged in between Istanbul and the Turkic East.”

Having lost thousands of soldiers and officers, the sultan eventually failed to achieve the annexation of Artsakh and the deployment of Ottoman troops in the region. The first attempt of the Ottoman genocide against the Artsakh Armenians failed, but this was only the beginning.

Second attempt

The second attempt to exterminate the Armenian population of Artsakh was made after the invasion of the Ottoman troops into the Caucasus during WWI and after the creation of an artificial state formation, which was established by the Young Turks who used the name of Iran’s northern province Azerbaijan with the aim of joining Iranian Azerbaijan to the Azerbaijan Republic.

But it was not the only instance of the Ottoman plan to create artificial Turkish states. The proclamations of the “Araks Republic” and the “Southwest Caucasian Democratic Republic” followed the creation of Azerbaijan and were intended to facilitate further Turkish expansion (the modern version of this policy was implemented after the invasion of Turkish troops in Cyprus in 1974 and the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).

The Ottoman army’s Caucasian campaign ended in September 1918 with the seizure of Baku and the terrible massacre of the Armenian population of the city.

After the capture of Baku, the Ottoman troops launched a new military campaign, this time to “pacify” the Armenian-populated Artsakh. The Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire Enver Pasha, one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, ordered his cousin Nuri Pasha, the commander of Turkish troops in Azerbaijan, “to free Azerbaijan of Russians and Armenians in order to ensure Turkish-Turkic territorial communication” (!) [2].

However, a week after this order, Turkey was defeated in WWI. The Ottoman army suffered the last defeat in the war precisely in Artsakh, when a large military unit of the Ottoman army during a punitive operation in the south of Artsakh was ambushed by local villagers, losing about 400 Turkish soldiers.

The end of World War I and the defeat of Turkey failed the Turks’ second attempt to commit genocide against the Artsakh Armenians. Later, in 1921, as a result of the Bolshevik-Kemalist conspiracy, Artsakh was annexed to Azerbaijan.

Third attempt

I wouldn’t want to claim that the third attempt was directly aimed at the extermination of the Artsakh Armenians, but the full support of Turkey in an attempt to deport Armenians from Azerbaijan and commit crimes against humanity makes it possible to state that Turkey was directly involved in a new attempt to commit a genocide against the Artsakh Armenians.

Suffice it to say that hundreds of soldiers and officers of the Turkish regular army, including 10 army generals, participated in military operations against the self-defense units of the Artsakh Armenians. Again, Turkey was the losing side, this time together with Azerbaijan, becoming a passive witness to the shameful defeats of Baku in 1992-1994.

Turkish intervention in the zone of the Artsakh conflict was expressed by the following main components – the threat of military invasion, transport and energy blockades of Armenia, the provision of military assistance to Azerbaijan, actions aimed at creating an anti-Armenian coalition of states and an information isolation of Armenia, and lobbying pro-Azerbaijani positions in international organizations [3].

The Turkish intervention in the Artsakh conflict and the overt assistance to Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh made Ankara a side of the conflict rather than a contributor to its resolution.

Permanent military threats and attempts of escalation, joint blockade, and attempts to isolate Armenia in regional and international politics created a direct threat to Armenia and Artsakh.

Summing up, it can be stated that the above historical facts and Turkish approaches to the resolution of the Artsakh problem in their historical and modern dimension in some sense turned Artsakh into a testing ground for genocides for sultans, Young Turks, and Kemalist Republicans.

Moreover, the Azerbaijani statehood created by Ottoman Turkey inherited the Turkish code of demographic engineering – that is, the resolution of issues related to national problems and minorities through deportation and mass extermination, thus creating a “safe” road for state-building.

Turkish and Azerbaijani national states were formed as a result of the extermination of entire nations, which is fraught with negative consequences for either state.

Based on the above, it can be argued that:

  1. Turkey is at the origin of the Artsakh conflict as a result of its active involvement with the formation of the state of Azerbaijan.
  2. Turkey is a side of the conflict due to its overt support provided to Azerbaijan.

The triple attempt to commit genocide and the defeat of Turkey in Artsakh from local Armenians should be a clear message for Ankara – Turkey should recognize the fact of the Genocide committed against Armenians and other peoples of “Pax Ottomanica” since rewriting one’s own history is necessary in order to, first of all, follow the principle of “zero problems” with its own history and memory, whereas Realpolitik is not a solution in overcoming the crisis of the national and state identity of Turkey.

For Turkey, there is no other alternative.

[1] “Armenian-Russian relations”, vol. II, Part II, document 315, Yerevan, 1967.

[2] FO 371/3388, file 1396, no. 173495, the Director of Military intelligence’s no. B. I / 565 (M.I.2), secretary of state for foreign affairs, dated 18 Oct. 1918 see Jacob Landau. Pan-Turkism. From Irredentism to Cooperation. London, 1995. P. 55.

[3] “Turkey and the Artsakh conflict”, Hayk Demoyan, Yerevan, 2005.

Hayk Demoyan

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