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Book Review: The Great War and the Tragedy of Anatolia

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamer KASIM*
Armenian Studies, Issue 3, September-October-November 2001

 .Eæ 0="justify">SALAH? SONYEL

Ankara: Turkish Historical Society Printing House, 2000. Index and Bibliography, 221 pages, ISBN: 975-16-1227-6.

In this book Salahi Sonyel examines the relations between Turks and Armenians in the light of the major powers’ designs regarding the Ottoman territories and the future of the Ottoman Empire. The author starts with the inception of the ‘Eastern Question’ and the Turco-Russian War of 1877-78. The author correctly pointed out that the enmity between the Armenians and Muslims had its root in the Russian expansion into the Caucasus. The Russian occupation led to the settlement of Armenians in Georgia, Karabakh and Erivan. During the Russian expansion, the Armenians fought on the side of the Russians against Persia and the Ottoman Empire. In this way an Armenian majority was established in the territories, which today is the Republic of Armenia. The author emphasizes that until the Russian invasion Erivan was a Persian province with Muslim, primarily Turkish majority. The author pays special attention to the great powers activities to hasten the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the author explains how the Armenians are being used in this process by the great powers. The author’s decision to start with the ‘Eastern Question’ in order to explain the tragedy of Anatolia and struggle between the Armenians and Muslims is proper and may be the only way to make readers understand the events, which led to the revolt of the Armenians and the Ottoman administration’s decision to relocate them. In this context the Berlin Congress and the Treaty of Berlin, article 61 was mentioned. With article 61, the Ottoman administration was obliged to make reforms in the provinces inhabited by Armenians. With this the great powers obtained the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire.

The author examined the Adana incident as one of the important uprisings, which affected relations between the Turks and Armenians. The author indicates that the greatest weakness of the Ottoman government was its principle of non-interference in the freedom of conscience and this led to anarchy. The Armenians’ revolutionary preparations and militias groups’ attempts to arouse the national sentiments of the Armenian people were not met any resistance from the Ottoman government.

After the chapter, which evaluates the process led to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, chapter 5, which is the most important chapter of the book, comes in which the author under the title of the Tragedy of Anatolia discusses the Ottoman entrance of the First World War and Armenian atrocities and rebellions during the War. The Van revolt was examined as one of the major incident. The scale of atrocities was immense that forced the Ottoman administration to take the decision to relocate the Armenians. The author discusses in detail the measures taken by the Ottoman administration during the relocation process.

The author mentions three books, which are the examples of how events are deceived by propagandists: Treatments of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story and Tepsius Sur les massacres d’Armenie. All these are criticized in chapter 6 by Sonyel. The atrocities committed by the Armenians in the last stages of the First World War were discussed in chapter 7. Chapter 8 is devoted to the examination of the claims of Armenians.

The author uses first hand sources very often, which indicate the credibility of the book. Many non-Turkish sources are used in this book to show that the Armenians’ claims are invalid. The main argument of the book is that both Muslims and non-Muslims became unwittingly, reluctantly, or voluntarily, the instruments and victims of the major powers, whose purpose was to disintegrate the Ottoman Empire. In the author’s words “These imperialist and colonialist Powers (of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) have been mainly responsible for the tragedy that befell the peoples of Anatolia”.

The author manages to discuss the issues from the start of the Eastern Question to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in just 221 book pages. But it would be better if more details had been given in chapter 4, particularly about the Armenian revolutionary organizations’ activities.

* -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 3, September-October-November 2001
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