Özlem Belçim Galip. Turkish Studies. Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2019.
The Armenian Genocide has been a nagging issue for Turkey for a century and is still widely debated both inside and outside the country. The Genocide occurred between 1915 and 1918, when 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were eliminated from their historic homeland of Armenia and Anatolia through deportations and massacres, a consequence of the politics of the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti), also known as the Young Turks. The number of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire declined from 2,000,000 in 1915 to fewer than 400,000 after the First World War. Armenians were blamed for supporting the Russians when the Young Turks entered the war on the side of Germany. The Young Turks passed a set of measures to deport Armenians, who were considered to be a threat to the Empire, and to confiscate the abandoned Armenian property. Although the Armenian Genocide refers to atrocities, which occurred during the First World War, persecution, forced conversions to Islam, abduction and deportations of Armenians had started long before. There were massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1909. The atrocities were repeated between 1920 and 1923, during which period survivors of genocide experienced further massacres and expulsions.
In 2005, when Nobel Prize winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk said, ‘30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands’, protests ensued, and he was insulted and charged for violating Turkish law. However, just two years later, at Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s funeral, tens of thousands of people marched in Istanbul to condemn his assassin with the slogans ‘We are all Armenians’ and ‘We are all Hrant Dink’. This has been repeated on the anniversary of the assassination every year. On 12 December 2008 a ‘We apologise’ (Özür Diliyoruz) online campaign, launched by a number of intellectuals living in Turkey, was circulated widely, gathering over 30,000 Turkish and Kurdish signatures apologizing for the events of 1915. However, this demand for reconciliation has not changed the official state policy of denial, and the majority of the Turkish public tend to accept the discourse of the state’s official historians, who describe the issue as ‘sözde Ermeni Sorunu‘ (the so-called Armenian Question) and ‘1915 olayları‘ (the events of 1915).
However, one cannot blame the public for being blind to not only the events of 1915 but also other state crimes of the Ottoman and Republic periods. State and civil society actors have created mechanisms and discursive fields to build counter-discourses on the Armenian Genocide and to silence the voices of opponents. Turkish academia has been central to the application and dissemination of state denial and Ottomanist ideology.
Turkey’s official narratives have played a crucial role in shaping scholarship and literature on the Genocide. Even the limited number of sources used by Turkish researchers and writers in contrast to those conducted outside Turkey indicate the functionality of denialism by the Turkish state. Although anti-Armenian nationalist literary narratives have considerably increased in number in recent years due to the hundredth anniversary of the Genocide, it would be wrong to say that these have solely relied on the Turkish official discourse of the last few years. Nationalist literature developed gradually with the expansion of Turkism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was strengthened by the formation of the Turkish republic in 1923. Nationalism became an important ingredient in political literature in the Republic of Turkey. Subsequently the rise of the Islamically oriented Refah Partisi (Welfare Party), the dominance of the ultra-nationalist party Milliyetçi Haraket Partisi (MHP, Nationalist Movement Party) by the late 1990s, the influence of the Gülen movement [also called Hizmet (Service)] led by the preacher Fethullah Gülen, and finally the current governing Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP)have led to the creation of a new nationalist identity combined with an Islamic one, strengthening the voice of Muslim intelligentsia, and shaping the media and literature within a Turkish-Islamic synthesis.
Hence, Republican and Islamic ideology are combined within the nationalism which has become the common ground for denying the Armenian Genocide, and this is clearly reflected in Turkish literary texts. However, I do not propose to equate fictional narratives examined in this article with historical facts. Instead I approach the texts as reflecting representation of the novelists who incorporate the official nationalist paradigm on genocide with their own nationalist perspectives regardless of any republican or Turkish-Islamic synthesis. The power of ideology is inscribed widely within the texts. As Waller points out, ‘when a text is written, ideology works to make some things more natural to write … .’ Without doubt, there are different ideological levels produced by the texts. The novels examined here can be evaluated based on the three levels of ideology identified by Hollindale, who particularly studied ideology in children’s literature. In the first of them ideology is very overt or explicit, reflecting the social and political views of the writer. The second category is passive ideology, in which the ideology is implicit in the text. In the third category, ideology is identified as inherent, covering ‘the words, the rule-systems, the codes which constitute the text’. In the light of these three levels, this article argues that the novels examined, particularly those falling in the first category, provide examples of the process by which literature becomes an explicit institutionalized tool that legitimates the official narrative, in this case of national identity and denial of the Armenian Genocide, especially just before or after the hundredth anniversary, as a counterattack against those both within and outside Turkey calling for coming to terms with the Genocide. The inference of the writers containing their ‘conscious intentions and articulated messages’ is very clear. In other words, Turkish authors employ their texts as an institutionalized tool to advance their own national projects.
In addition to the role of ideology in the texts, the nationalism narrated in these texts is primordialist rather than modernist, claiming that nations and nationalism are rooted in ethnicity, and tracing the roots of nations back to primordium. In this perspective, ethnic bonds are regarded as natural, fixed and given. It builds on ethnocentrism as the ‘nation is a nation, is a state, is an ethnic group … .’ This monolithic concept of the nation, which was employed in the early days of the Turkish Republic, can be explicitly traced in the texts. The monolithic discourse in the novels can be considered a combination of the nationalist rhetoric in official Turkish historiography, such as Nutuk (Speech) delivered by Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later Atatürk) in 1927 or Zika Gökalp’s (1876-1924) discourses as a Turkish nationalist sociologist (see his book Türkçülüğün Esasları [The Principles of Turkism] published in 1923) advocating re-Turkification of the Ottoman Empire, and Pan-Turkism and Turanism relying on the Ottoman heritage, incorporating Islamic ideological rhetoric into Turkish nationalism. So the Turkish literary texts examined here reflect the shift in the official state discourse, which ’emphasize[s] the Muslim identity as the key element in defining Turkish.’ As noted earlier, as the hundredth anniversary approached, and discussions took place in the European Court of Human Rights about enabling the criminalization of the denial of the Armenian Genocide, there has been a dramatic increase in writing about the Armenian issue in Turkish literary narratives. Although the topic of Armenians in Turkish novels has been examined, particularly in a limited number of MA and PhD theses, there is no analysis of the novels published in recent years. In addition, there is a striking increase in both literary and non-literary works regarding Armenians after 2000s, which has not been explored and this article aims to fill in this gap. One of the reasons of this striking increase after 2000s is the discussion of the recognition of Armenian Genocide in a number of Parliaments, which has brought the issue to the attention of Turkish politics, media and public. For instance, when France passed a law recognizing the killing of Armenians as genocide in 2001, this was protested in every sphere in Turkey and the 1915 events became the central attention for media, literati and public. After France, many countries recognized the genocide. By 2017, 29 countries including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Russia and 47 states of USA have recognized the events as genocide. The other reason of popularity of 1915 events/genocide after 2000 is the 100th commemoration of genocide/1915 events, which was 2015, which urged the authors to touch upon this controversial topic. This explains the striking number of publications on it in 2014 and 2015. This is main reason why this article focuses on the novels after 2000s to reflect the support or reactions against the recognition of genocide by many parliaments and the 100th commemoration of it.
Armenians in Turkish Novels 1881 to 2000: An Overview
Armenians have generally been represented in Turkish literature with only small differences arising from the socio-political context of any specific period. Apart from a few exceptions, Armenians are attributed minor characterizations rather than leading roles in Turkish novels, which contain political and ideological messages deprived of the aesthetic and literary norms required for the creation of an art form. Overall, literary texts published before the First World War briefly touch upon Armenians as minor characters, such as neighbors or lovers, with no systematic hostility in texts. These include novels such as Müşahedat (Observations, 1891) and Karnaval (Carnival, 1881) by Ahmet Mithat, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpinar’s Metres (Mistress, 1898) and Mehmet Celal’s Küçük Gelin (Little Bride, 1893). Although little hostility towards non-Muslims is visible in such novels, stereotyping is quite common. For example, while portraying Muslims (Turks) and Armenians in Karnaval, there are stereotypical non-Muslim women (i.e. Madam Hamparsun, Maryanko and Küpeliyan), portrayed as carefree, loose and hussy. Armenians were generally believed to be deeply influenced by the degenerate lifestyle of the Western world, and to be good at increasing their wealth through trade, much more so than Muslims. Armenian female characters generally appear as prostitutes and Armenian men appear as swindlers, agents or money-minded people.
However, in the novels published after the First World War and Milli Mücadele (1919-1922, Turkish War of Independence) especially with the establishment of the Turkish Republic, Armenians came to be characterized as vicious, even by leading Turkish authors such as Halide Edip (1884-1964), Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889-1974) and Tarık Buğra (1918-1994). Other writers, such as Orhan Kemal (1914-1970) and Kemal Tahir (1910-1973), looked critically at the anti-Armenian policies of the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihat and Terakki Cemiyeti) during the First World War.
Most novels referring to Armenians from the beginning of the twentieth century through to the present time are full of detestation, portraying them as cunning, backstabbing enemies. One of the first, and most well-known, belongs to a very prominent Turkish nationalist and modernist writer, Ömer Seyfettin (1884-1920), who wrote a story entitled Ashâb-ı Kehfimiz, also published much later with the title Bir Ermeni Gencinin Hatıralar Defteri (The Diary of an Armenian Youth). It was written in 1918 but is set in 1909 with fictional narrative employing the ideology of İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti. It details the nationalistic features of an Armenian youth named Dikran Hayikya, through whom the policies against Armenians are justified, as the Armenians’ main target is to establish a Great Armenia by pushing the Turks back towards the Red River (Kızılırmak).
With very few exceptions, the novels published in any period since the First World War are set during the war period and deny or justify massacres against Armenians. Armenians are presented as an enemy, and the novels usually refer to Armenian cooperation with Western enemies, Armenians taking advantage of the weakened Ottoman administration, the rise of Armenian nationalism, killings of Turks by Armenians in Anatolia, and how Armenians occupied the properties of others and became wealthy. For example, Halide Edip Adıvar, a very well-known Turkish female writer representing the ‘National Literature’ (milli edebiyat) movement, worked under the authority of Cemal Pasha in 1916-17 as an inspector of orphanages in Beirut and Damascus, which were mainly populated by Armenian orphans who had lost their parents during the Genocide. She strongly defended the assimilation and Turkification of the Armenian orphans in her novels Ateşten Gömlek (The Shirt of Flame, 1923) and Yeni Turan (New Turan, 1912). While she does not deny the massacres, but implicitly justifies them by blaming Armenians for supporting enemies such as Russia and Great Britain.
In contrast to those mentioned above, which deny the massacres or justify them on the grounds of Armenians’ having revolted or stabbed the Turks in the back by collaborating with occupying countries during the First World War, Orhan Kemal, Yasar Kemal (1923-2015) and Kemal Tahir approach the Armenians with more compassion in their novels. In the context of the period, and the official discourse in which even the results of forced deportation are denied, these narratives are outstanding. For example, Kemal Tahir, who is known for his Marxist interpretation of Ottoman history, and spent 13 years in prison on political grounds, wrote Yorgun Savaşçı (Tired Warrior) in 1965 using a historical background to narrate his story of national resistance forces in Anatolia. This was an exceptional novel in 1960s Turkey, referring to the Armenian massacres, not very explicitly, but still he uses the terms ‘kırım‘ and ‘kıyım‘, both of which can be translated as ‘massacre’, in his novels. Orhan Kemal usually depicts poverty and deprivation in his works. In Gavurun Kızı (The Daughter of the Unbeliever, 1959), Baba Evi (Family Home, 1963) and Kanlı Topraklar (Bloody Lands, 1963), he refers to Armenian deportation, not in great detail, but frequently referring to the factories or other properties taken from Armenians or other non-Muslims such as Greeks by force. He describes the deportation as being intended to create a Turkish bourgeoisie, saying in Kanlı Topraklar, ‘Constitution. Committee of Union and Progress. The fashion of enhancing national wealth. And then Armenian deportation.’
The Anatolian writer Yaşar Kemal sets most of his books in Çukurova (Southern Turkey), and very implicitly references Armenians in works such as Demirciler Çarşısı Cinayeti (The Murder of Hammersmith Bazaar, 1973) in which he refers to an empty Armenian village and the escape of Armenians whose houses were occupied by Turks. In his well-known Ince Memed (Memed, My Hawk, 1955), based on the troubled feudal relations in the agrarian regions of Turkey, Kemal often refers to the lands and properties taken from Armenians by force. Yağmurcuk Kuşu (Rain Bird, 1980), the first book of his Kimsecik trilogy, in which he presents the relationship between the land and Anatolians, refers to the Armenians’ escape from Çukurova where the author grew up, but with few details. In the same novel he refers to the properties and lands left behind by deported Armenians. Here he uses the term ‘kırım‘ (massacre), which was ground-breaking in 1980s Turkey. In addition to these examples, there have been a few novels published since the 1950s which refer, very briefly, to the Armenian deportation, such as Hasan İzzettin’s (1909-1989) Öksüz Musa (Orphan Musa, 1973) and particularly Ayhan Büyükünal’s Nerede Kır Çiçeklerim?(Where are My Wild Flowers?, 1973) in which the influence of deportation on Armenians is narrated more thoroughly, but again Armenian komitadji (in Turkish komitacı, members of rebel bands) are blamed for cooperating with enemy powers and leading to the tragic events which befell innocent Armenians.
Even the literary texts written in more recent years are set at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the period of conflict between Armenians and Turks, with the aim of providing their own perspectives on the controversial historical events related to the Armenians. Zebercet Coşkun’s novel, Haçin (Haçin, 1975), written in nationalistic tone, tells of the year 1919, when some deported Armenians return to their town, Haçin (now Saimbeyli), in the Adana region. It normalizes the deportation as a requirement of war at the time, and tends to concentrate on the losses of Turkish soldiers. She claims on the back cover of her book that his own nation is not the criminal one, ‘ … it made me happy to find out that the real criminals in the events are not the people of my nation’. Again, Şemşettin Ünlü’s novel, Yukarışehir (Upper Town, 1986) reflects upon the last quarter of the nineteenth century, revealing the deteriorated relationship with the Armenians. The foreign missionaries supporting the Russians provoke the Armenians, resulting in the ruin of peaceful relations in a town called Yukarışehir.
In contrast to the hostile narrations on Armenians in all other texts written up to the 1990s, Ayla Kutlu’s story Can Kuşu (The Soul Bird, 1990 ), a fantastic and metaphorical narrative, refers to assimilated Armenians and addresses the topic with the term of ‘tehcir‘ (deportation) rather than the concept of ‘genocide’. Like many other Turkish authors she narrates the revelation of Armenian identity and the tragic experiences of deportation through an Islamized Armenian woman. In this story, the one-sided perspective influenced by the official discourse seems to be shaken a little, but a metaphorical language rather than realism is preferred, which can be regarded as a form of self-censorship.
Until 2000, two strands of literary works on Armenians are discernible. On the one hand, there are oral histories, semi-memoirs and biographical works on the experiences of Armenians during and after the Genocide, and on the other hand dozens of more nationalist fictional works confirming the ideology of official history and rhetoric. Ideology in these novels, as Culler observed, reflects the ‘range of cultural stereotypes or accepted knowledge.’ Within the first strand, memoirs and personal narratives recounting the Genocide have increased considerably recently, especially with the autobiographical account of Fethiye Cetin, the lawyer in the Hrant Dink assassination case, entitled Anneannem (My Grandmother: A Memoir, 2004) who discovered her Armenian ancestry much later through the confessions of her grandmother. This book was followed by Torunlar (The Grandchildren: The Hidden Legacy of Lost Armenians in Turkey, 2009), co-authored with Ayse Gül Altınay, on the narratives of Turkish and Kurdish people describing their Armenian roots, which contributed to revealing facts on Islamized Armenians. This book also followed a number of memories recounted through the biographies of Islamized Armenians. Best-selling Turkish writer Elif Şafak, in her book Baba ve Piç (The Bastard of Istanbul, 2006), focusing on the survivors of the Genocide, and intertwining the stories of two Armenian families in Istanbul and Los Angeles, makes only cautious reference to the Genocide itself. As it is the only text at the time of writing referring to the topic within the popular literary strand, it received mixed reactions, and the author was even accused by the Turkish government of insulting Turkishness, but the charges were dropped due to lack of legal grounds.
Those acknowledging the genocide, or having personal sympathy due to political affiliation or ancestral linkage, tend to write biographies or ethnographic research (mostly translated from other languages into Turkish) rather than fictional ones, which can be interpreted as the wish to record traumatic events and their reflections on them. On the other hand nationalists, either republican or Islamic-Turkish, tend to write fiction in a form which institutionalizes literature as a tool for nationalist discourses. This explains why the selected novels focusing on the massacres/genocide tend to comply with the official discourse and denial of the genocide. But it is worth mentioning that the authors in this group generally (in the prologue or back page of the novel) insert the claim that the events narrated are true or based on archives, but these are never specified, let alone referenced. The characters are fictionalized but the voice of author is heard overtly. As Bakhtin mentions, ‘the speaking person in the novel is always, to one degree or another, an ideologue, and his own words are always ideologemes.’ Again, with the emphasis on history throughout the texts, the author often attempts to strengthen the ideology in the narration to make it convincing for the readers.
Overall, nationalism as rhetoric reflecting hostility against Armenians (non-Muslims) runs through Turkish literary texts from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present, and escalated after the emergence of the Armenian militant organization Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) which functioned from 1975 to the early 1990s, the Nagorno-Karabakh war, the discussions on acknowledging the Armenian Genocide in Europe, and the approach to the hundredth commemoration of the Genocide in 2015. The examined ten novels in this article (listed as primary sources) are selected, especially in light of the conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the Islamic AKP-ruled government, show a marked tendency towards pan-Turkism and Islamism. Constructed on the textual and contextual readings of ten Turkish novels, discussions are arranged according to the themes rather than by the chronology of the publications.
The Reflections on Tehcir
In literary texts covering the main conflicts and atrocities or in those focusing on the Armenian issue, one expects to see references to the ‘deportation policy’ (tehcir), as it was officially called, passed by the Ottoman parliament on 27 May 1915, authorizing the forced displacement of Ottoman’s Armenian population, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and constituted the core of the Genocide. Turkish state and nationalist interpretations stand by the official position, explaining the deportation order as a temporary military solution necessitated by the war conditions, whereas many others perceive it as an attempt to solve the Armenian issue in a radical way by exterminating the Ottoman Empire’s non-Muslims and homogenizing Anatolia on an ‘ethno-religious basis.’ Despite the settings of the texts, thematic preferences of the novels, and the authors’ claims that they base their texts on historical facts, Tehcir is either absent or very vague in the novels examined in this article, although ‘Tehcir‘ is a publicly accepted term describing the events.
I suggest that narrating the period by excluding Tehcir or twisting its real results is another way of confirming the official line of the Turkish state. As mentioned earlier, although the most historic period (1894-1918) both for non-Muslims and the Ottoman Empire is the main timeline in the novels examined, only four out of ten refer to the mass deportation that occurred in 1915, and even these references are not credible, only serving the ideological pursuits of the authors. For example, in Sona, the word Tehcir is not even used, and the mass deportation is reflected as a voluntary migration of Armenians during which deaths occurred as a consequence of the harsh nature of the journey, but the responsibility is never put on any authorities.
Sona (1960), written by Eyyüp Altun, concentrates on a forbidden love story between a Turkish man, Gazi, and an Armenian woman, Sona, who is the author’s grandmother, as we discover from the book cover, a fact which increases our curiosity and expectations of the author. The narrator only refers to tehcir in this way:
with the withdrawal of the Russians, some disappointed Armenians found migration as a solution. They were planning to go to Iran through Bendimahi creek and were hoping to reach Armenia from there. However, thousands of those Armenians setting out died due to hunger and diseases on the way and got killed in attacks by armed tribes in the neighbourhood, and in this way they lost half of their population before reaching Armenia. (254)
This narration is compatible with the official discourse of the Turkish state. Again Umut (Hope) by Ayşe Kulin, a historical novel set just after the establishment of the Republic, narrates in parallel the stories of two families who are linked through a marriage during the First World War. It tells the story of the author’s great aunt, Sabahat, who had a love affair with an Armenian boy, Aram Balayan, whom she met at high school, and who became her and her siblings’ English teacher. In Umut, the Armenian issue is reduced to a personal level, focusing on the impossible love between her great aunt and the Armenian boy. Sabahat’s father stands strongly against their coupling due to his Armenian identity. Although the author gives an impression of historical veracity through referring to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan wars, she neither refers to Tehcir nor gives any details on the massacres taking place just before the period in which the novel takes place. She overtly refers to the internal conflicts as ‘there was too much pain, hatred in Anatolian lands’ (106), and while telling of Aram’s obligation to migrate to Istanbul from Merzifon, the narrator observes that ‘they [the Armenian family] had to go to a cosmopolis [Istanbul] where the hostility did not exist with the same level of violence’ (106). One naturally wonders whether it is a deliberate choice to not refer to massacres despite writing about an Armenian boy during that period, solely concentrating on the impossible love affair and other political events. Throughout the novel the author does not hide her admiration and love of Ottomanism, and one can trace the narrator’s criticism of the Republic for rejecting the nation’s Islamic and Ottoman past, with emphasis on the glory and victories of the Ottomans. The writer’s own views were made clear in a 2014 interview, when she said, ‘we have not started to butcher Armenians all of a sudden’. There was a strong and immediate reaction to her denial, as a petition to boycott her books was circulated in Turkey, mainly among intellectuals, and she had to apologize to the Turkish Armenian community.
Three other novels, Ağıt (Lament) by Müjgan Tekin, Anılarda Son Ermeni (Armenians in the Last Moment) by Abdullah Ayata, and Tehcirin Çocukları (The Children of Tehcir) by İrfan Palalı, while referring to ‘tehcir‘, see it as a necessary war measure, like the Turkish state holding Armenians responsible for the losses during the deportation and suggesting that deaths happened only during the forced exodus. For example, in the foreword to Ağıt, Tekin says, ‘if the Armenians had not taken up arms with the call of Czarism, the Tehcir Law would not have been issued. Many Armenians would not have died and these genocide discussions would not have been experienced’ (6). Similarly, Anılarda Son Ermeni, which starts with a group of Armenians getting ready to leave Tomarza in Kayseri after the deportation order, puts all the blame for their suffering on separatist Armenians supporting Russia. Gazer, the leading Armenian character, laments over the separatists having causing the tragedy.
On the other hand, Palalı’s novel Tehcirin Çocuklari, despite its title, does not address the facts about tehcir, but briefly refers to the memoirs of his Armenian grandmother, who was converted and married a Muslim. The author takes up his grandmother’s experiences as an individual case and explicitly rejects the discussion of genocide through the voice of the narrator as
it [genocide discussion] was the reaction of some known Western enemies who take advantage of every opportunity to prove that Turkey has committed genocide and the Armenian organizations which are partners of such Western enemies. In this known tehcir incident, both sides are equally at fault. Because the state has used its right to defend itself during wartime but, while using this right, they led some of our citizens to suffer and be subjected to inhuman incidents (…) It is a fact that neither the Ottoman Empire nor its Armenian citizens benefitted from these incidents, but the Western powers having attempted to misuse Armenians (…), this is not genocide. (58)
The narratives on the tehcir confirm official Turkish historiography and the denial policy, arguing that the persecution was not centrally coordinated and that killings were committed by both Turks and Armenians. Despite presenting themselves when first elected as ‘moderate Muslims’ with democratic credentials, the AKP government maintains the official ideology, including the denial policy, within its ‘neo-Ottomanist grand strategy and its regional ambitions.’
Turkey Belongs to the Turks
‘The indivisible unity of the Turkish Republic with its state and nation’, as Article 3/1 of the Turkish constitution puts it, can be considered a legal obstacle to recognition of diversity in Turkey. The claim that the nation cannot be divided assumes that it is monolithic in nature. Love of the land, its integrity, and the love of fidelity to serving and doing anything to uphold the nation is a common phenomenon in Turkish nationalism, which created the popular slogan of ‘Türkiye Türklerindir‘ (Turkey belongs to the Turks) in the 1980s and 1990s, notably adopted as its motto by one of the biggest Turkish newspapers, Hürriyet, and printed next to its logo. According to the official history thesis, Turks constitute humanity’s oldest community and have provided the first and greatest examples of civilization, the idea of which is reflected quite frequently in the novels. Turks are claimed to be the real owners of Anatolia, a point interated repeatedly in the novels.
Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış (An Escape Beyond Death, 2015) by Metin Yıldırım, is one of those serving the counter-argument against the hundredth commemoration of the Genocide. The author states in the foreword that if Armenians want peace, they should stop hating Turks and get their hands off Azerbaijan. The strong sense of the Turkish ownership of Turkey and Azerbaijan and pan-Turkic ideology is very evident throughout the novel. It is narrated through the eyes of a 14-year-old Turkish boy, Ekber, whose family were all massacred by Armenian gangs. Ekber manages to flee and swears to take revenge for his family and other Turks, and with other survivors he migrates barefoot to Iran. The novel ends with his return to his village after 19 years. Ekber declares ‘those in Alikamer village were mostly Armenians. In fact those places are Turkish, but the Armenians, having been brought from Beirut, were accommodated around Alikamer, Yayci and Oba villages’ (95). This claim to the ownership of the land reflects the slogan ‘Turkey belongs to the Turks.’
This also constitutes the main notion of the novel Figan (Cry), which takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century, and elaborates on the attacks by Armenian gangs (‘komitaci‘) with the support of Russia against local Turkish people. Esad, a Turkish judge, who is portrayed as a good character who manages the court against Armenian gang members, is killed, and then the novels focuses on Esad’s 12-year-old son, Burhan, who takes up arms and fights against Armenians despite his young age. Figan is a very popular novel, published in 1979 but reprinted 46 times, and circulated again in 2015 due to the hundredth anniversary. The title of the first part of the novel is ‘Hainler‘ (Traitors), referring to the Armenians in general, conveying a strong message about the real owner of the lands, specifically the Eastern and Central Anatolia. After Armenian gangs attacked local Turkish people, the narrator states ‘to whom did those holding more privileges [Armenians] than the real owners of these lands [Turks] give rein, cry for freedom, fight and seek help from world communities?’ (22). The narration is explicitly formulated to strengthen the ideology of ownership. It is reinforced through the notion of being attacked in one’s own country when the narrator claims, ‘it is enough to be wickedly and cruelly stabbed in our own country!’ (40). Ungratefulness and betrayal are usually identified with the Turkish idiom ‘köpek bile bal yediği kaba pislemez‘ (even a dog does not dirty the bowl from which it licks the honey), portraying the accused person as lower than a dog, traditionally seen as impure in Islam. The narrator in the novels declares, ‘they [Armenians] are so ungrateful that they even dirty the bowl from which they eat’ (49). The bowl of food before the Armenians is claimed to have been set by Turks.
Similarly, Nisan’ın İki Günü (The Two Days of April), first published in 2011, was reprinted in 2015 for the hundredth commemoration of the Genocide, and once again reinforces the notion of Turks as real owners of the land, offering prestigious positions to Armenians and treating them well. The novel, set in April 1915, contains two independent narrations, on the one hand the Gallipoli War period and on the other hand the period just before the Armenian deportation projecting the betrayal of Armenian intellectuals through the eyes of Armenian newspapers, Arevhad, editor Kevork Demirciyan. The novel ends with the arrest of Demirciyan before the adoption of the Tehcir Law on 29 May 1915. Demirciyan has two sons, but while one of them supports his father, the other opposes his father’s hidden agenda against the Ottomans. A character implicitly blames Kevork for being ungrateful:
You are so merciless that you poison your own son, you reject your son just because he preferred Ottomanism (…) Have you ever seen an Armenian slave? We did not make you a slave in these lands; we made you our neighbours, partners and traders. What mercilessness! (…) It is true that we converted Christian children but not to make them slaves but our viziers and begs. Those not wanting to be converted found a way and escaped anyway (…) See, we have been living together for thousands of years and you still believe in another religion. (149)
The notion of ‘Turkey belongs to the Turks’ is again strongly expressed in the previously mentioned novel Sona, which takes place in Van in 1915. Here, the attacks by Armenians are blamed for the migration of Turks from their own lands, as one of the characters states:
as you know, Armenians have betrayed us. They united with Russia and walk towards us. Due to this attack, we have temporarily abandoned our lands in which we have been residing for centuries (…) we escape in order to preserve our children and honour. (270)
In the novel, Sona voluntarily converts to Islam. She is portrayed as a good and loyal Armenian woman, reflecting another aspect of this and some other novels on the representation of Armenian women in a feudal perspective. While Armenian men are portrayed as traitors seeking ways to destroy Ottomans, their wives, lovers or sisters are not only represented as the victims of these Armenians’ wicked politics but they are also very innocent and loyal to the Ottomans. In this nationalist discourse, Armenian women are not involved in active fighting so they are harmless. They fall in love with ‘us’ and prefer ‘our men.’
A Manichean Dichotomy: The Construction of Turks and Armenians’ Image
Within a primordialist approach, the novels attempt to construct a linear narrative of Turkish national identity as formulated in Turkic-Turanist ideology and confirming the view that, as nationalist author Nihal Atsiz puts it, ‘the Turk is a person who comes from Turkish lineage’. This reality encompasses all of ‘us’ as positive and all ‘Armenians’ as others, as negative. A fixed and given set of characteristic features are attributed to the Turkish characters which can also be likened to traits of an epic hero, fulfilling many heroic deeds with bravery, honor, loyalty, physical strength and willingness to risk his life for a greater good such as protecting his nation and country. So the Turkish characters in the novels are glorified not only because of being Turks but also because of their deeds and accomplishments. Hence, the proud, capable and talented Turk who constitutes a heroic figure in the nationalist rhetoric of Nutuk by Atatürk can also be seen depicted in these novels. They also reflect the figure of the ideal Turk holding strong moral values informed by Sunni Islamic traits.
The protagonists in Figan and Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış, despite their young age, are portrayed as possessing greater strength than any adult Armenians, which is evidenced by their ability to beat Armenian enemies, and their extended capacity, skills and abilities elevate them to epic status. In Figan, after Esad, the Turkish judge, is killed, his son Burhan takes his place. Even when he is 12 years old, he takes up arms and fights against Armenians. A fight breaks out between Armenian and Turkish boys, seven Turkish boys beat 32 Armenians.
The characters are not only powerful but they are also good. Their goodness is exemplified through their ability to show mercy even towards enemies. When Esad, the ‘good’ main character, saves an Armenian boy who had fallen into a shaft, the Armenians around do not help Esad to get out, only a Turkish woman does so. This characteristic of mercifulness comes into play very often. In Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış, the narrator claims, ‘Turks do not point guns at the women, children and elderly people. They cannot’ (50). So being merciful is related to their ethnicity. Turkish characters are described as being honorable, virtuous and reliable. In Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış, the narrator states, ‘if Turks give promises, they keep them’ (80). Again in Figan, relying heavily upon Ottoman words from the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, the narrator says, ‘Muslim Turks never condescend to tell lies’ (54).
Ağıt narrates two different periods, the massacres against Armenians in 1914-15 by certain cruel Turks, and the 1991 massacres of Azeris by Armenians. It attempts to convey the message that both Armenians and some Turks are responsible for massacring each other. However, some leading Turkish characters are very positively depicted. For instance, Bedir, a brave young man from 1914, is a glorified Turkish youth who is good to non-Muslims and provides food to them, as non-Muslims were not allowed to shop with Muslim shopkeepers. Bedir is portrayed with heroic traits and deeds, and saves Naum (a Syriac) to who is blamed for raping a Turkish girl.
Ultra-nationalism and conspicuous pride in Turkishness are prevalent in Sona. A Turkish character addresses an Armenian:
Ottomans have ruled over them [Armenians] throughout history. However, they have never interfered with their beliefs and traditions or the way they have lived their lives. They especially never forced them to convert. Didn’t you, Armenians, reach the level you deserve? (…) You own the crafts, trade, and comfort … At least, it was like that until Tashnag and its like stirred up trouble. In the past, you have been a part of Russia and Britain’s plans to devastate the Ottoman Empire. You still have expectations from Russia. But this is useless … . (143)
Bozuk Oyun (Broken Game, 2015) by Mahmut Toprakçıoğlu is another example of the publications opposing the genocide commemoration. Subtitled the ‘Real Face of the 1915 Events’ (1915 Olaylarının Gerçek Yüzü), the author’s foreword claims that the plot is situated within an historical framework, yet there is no single reference to the history. The plot takes place in two periods in parallel, 1915 and 1897, and Western Powers are blamed for provoking the conflicts in Anatolia, and conflicts or massacres are referred to as ‘events’ (olaylar), a very neutral concept in Turkish. Bozuk Oyun (34-35) glorifies the central state and homogeneous Ottoman-Turkish identity, even through Armenian characters. Armenians are converted to Islam voluntarily and change their Armenian names to Islamic ones. Danyal becomes Yusuf; Aida becomes Ayşe, who starts to hate her Armenian identity and does not even want to see her real father, saying, ‘keep non-believers [gavur] away from me’ (92). Gülbenk is an Armenian character whose son Toros participates in Komitaci, and is portrayed as very cruel, killing Muslim Turks. The father defends Turks and criticizes Armenians severely, saying
Armenians were here before the Turks arrived, but if the Turks had not existed, Armenians would also have not existed (…) If there had not been the Seljuks, Armenians would have still been under the occupation of Latins (…) I mean both Seljuks and Ottomans have not invaded a centimetre of Armenian soil. They have never fought with Armenians; in contrast they have provided the conditions to let Armenians live their lives here.
Armenians’ explicitly criticizing other Armenians (provocateurs) is a common occurrence in these novels. Like Turks, Armenians also believe that some treacherous Armenians caused the deterioration in their relationship. For instance, in Anılarda Son Ermeni, the treacherous Armenians described as ‘harici bedhahlar‘ (foreign malicious people) (9) are blamed by even Armenians themselves, including Gazer, who says ‘this is also our country. We also love and want to protect and glorify it as much as you (Turks) do but we were made to fall out with each other. Damn those who caused a split between us’ (16).
Positive aspects of the Turkish national character are drawn as diametrically opposed to Armenians, who are attributed with very negative traits, particularly those of treachery and ungratefulness. This literary representation of characters is indicative of Manichean discourse; the binary vision of racial and cultural differences between, on the one hand, Turks as good characters, on the other hand Armenians as bad ones. The negative image of ‘other’ in Turkish nationalism also appears in these novels. Armenians, or Christians or Christianity in general, are defined by terms such as ‘yılan‘ (snake), ‘kara din‘ (black religion), ‘dinsiz‘ (nonbeliever), ‘kahpedölü‘ (the offspring of a whore), ‘kafir‘ (heretic), ‘korkak herifler‘ (cowardly blokes), ‘hain sürüsü‘ (the herd of traitors), ‘gavur kızı‘ (the daughter of a nonbeliever), and ‘putperest‘ (pagan).
The nationalist discourse reveals itself in the legitimization of all military and political actions against Armenians, who are portrayed stereotypically as the enemy and source of all the problems. Being dishonest, robbers, rapists, ungrateful, savage and violent, are common negative attributes of Armenians. For instance, in Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış, in which the propaganda of Pan-Turkism (especially between Azerbaijan and Turkey) is very prominent, Armenians are portrayed as very negative with extremely savage attributes, taking the Turkish lands by force:
Armenians do not have a sense of mercy (…) they filled a well with the living people from Oba village and they covered it. They filled a house with the people from Hakmehmet village and set it on fire by pouring gas from the chimney (…) Beautiful women have been taken to Yerevan. Ones not being taken were killed over there, others, hands tied, were taken by force. Again, those Armenian soldiers betting on the sexuality of the unborn baby of a pregnant woman determined its sex by incising her tummy. While the woman was dying in pain, Armenian soldiers drank a toast (…) Armenians have sworn not to leave a Turk alive in places such as Iğdır, Gulp, Nahcıvan, Başköy. (33)
Similar support for Azerbaijan against Armenia can be seen in Ağıt, in which Armenians take their revenge for the 1915 massacres by attacking innocent Azeris in the 1990s. The narrator states, ‘the mentality dictating that not one single Armenian would survive has changed its identity, and here, on the other side of Ararat, it vomits hatred, determined not to allow an Azeri to live’ (171). In Ağıt, in which different stories are narrated from two different perspectives and periods, 1914 and 1991, the author tries to underline the fact that nothing has changed. In 1914, events are narrated under the shadow of a love affair between Sirarpi (Armenian) and Bedir (Turkish). The people around them are not against their love because of religious differences, but the war splits them up. In 1991, Yetvart, Sirarpi’s grandson, reads her grandmother’s diary, and this is how we find out about the events in 1914. This novel, despite referring to massacres against Armenians, does not refer to the Genocide at all, but puts the past atrocities in the form of a war involving certain vicious Turkish characters provoked by outside powers or for the sake of their own self-interest. According to the author, political interests and traitors lead to the war and to tension between the communities.
The brotherhood and peace within different ethnic communities in Harput before the 1915 events broke out is emphasized throughout the novel. However, coverage of the war and hatred is limited, with only a few people involved, such as Godo Turan, who seems to be the only bad Turkish character presented in this period. On the other hand, Varteks, who is an Armenian in the 1914 narrative, is a traitor, cooperating with the Turkish authorities and blamed for the killing of hundreds of Armenians. Similarly, Unanyun, an Armenian militant fighting for the independence of Armenia in 1991, does not hesitate in killing hundreds of Azeris for the sake of independence. He is also very cruel towards Armenians who do not fight for independence. For instance, when the Hocali event is narrated in detail, we witness very brutal killings of Azeris by nationalist Armenians, their hatred even extending towards children. The narrator states, ‘they [Armenian gang members supporting independence] would come back for much more harm. Perhaps they would even take lives. The hatred of Armenians against Turks pushes its limits even with intolerance towards an Azeri girl’ (207). Yetvart, the Armenian youth from the same period, is ashamed of being Armenian and saves an Azeri girl whose parents are killed during one of the attacks organized by Armenian gang members.
The author of Figan employs a similar portrayal of Armenians, who are portrayed with savage features attacking innocent Turks, especially women and children:
those innocents taken for work were executed by firing squad. They caught a new bride and threw the baby in her lap into the fire. Then they took out the liver from the burnt child and forced the mother to eat it. (188)
Similarly in Sona, the narrator refers to Armenian komitacis who have been blocking the roads towards Van, killing those who had harmed their cause and, if they were non-Christians, they embargoed their assets and money (100). Armenians can be vicious towards Armenians too. For instance, in Anılarda Son Ermeni, Arsin, son of Gazer, who had to leave his lands due to the provocations of Armenian units, is killed by ASALA members in Marseille for refusing to donate to the organization.
The ungrateful and treacherous elements which are common features attributed to Armenians appear in Nisan’ın İki Günü. Armenians are portrayed as backstabbers for cooperating with Russia against the Turks, and kill people randomly, using the power they get from the Russians: ‘After hearing about the arrival of Russians, Armenians have taken up arms and occupied East Beyazid, killed whoever comes their way, and captured the city. They spilled the first blood of Turks, with whom they had lived for centuries’ (22). The main Armenian character, Kevork Demirciyan, is depicted as a traitor whose cover is running an Armenian newspaper, called Arevhad, while in fact being one of the leading militants of the Tashnag Party (18).
In other words, the dichotomy of good and bad characters can be twisted in the interests of Turkishness. For instance, Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları, narrating 1915 and 1980 in parallel, presents an internal look at the personal lives of Turkish pashas, particularly Enver Pasha and his love affair with Naciye Sultan, with the Armenia issue in the backdrop. Nurhan çavuş (sergeant), an Armenian in origin, attracts the attention of Enver Pasha for being very brave and patriotic, and being against Sultan Abdülhamid. Nurhan believes in Turan, glorifying Turkishness, and is not only a big admirer of Germany but also an enemy of Russia. In this case, being ethnically Armenian is an obstacle to praising Turkishness.
In Umut, in which the Ottoman past is acknowledged with its glory and victories, a Turkish girl falling in love with an Armenian boy is considered a catastrophe. Her father says:
You could not have given much more pain if you had hit my head with an axe or carved my heart with a sharp knife. Today, you dishonoured my honour and pride that I have tried to keep clean. You have broken my traditions, stretching back centuries, into pieces. (349)
External Powers and Armenian Unrest
There is a common argument in the novels that Armenians, not just the irregular units but the general public, cooperated with Russia, acting as an enemy of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Mass deportations or massacres are presented as having been necessary to protect Ottoman lands from external enemies. This argument can be closely associated with the official history discourse. For instance, Young Turks (Committee of Union and Progress) publicly blamed the defeat of the Ottoman army by Russian troops at the battle of Sarıkamış in January 1915 on supposed Armenian traitors.
There is much generalization about Armenian disloyalty and cooperation with enemies. In Figan, the narrator, claiming Turks to be the real landowner, blames Armenians for ungratefulness, observing that ‘the Armenians whom we have reserved in our inner world and grown up with our bread cooperate with Russian soldiers now’ (183).
The western world is also accused of supporting Armenia’s cause purely in order to oppose the Ottoman Empire and the Young Turks. For instance, in Ölüm Ötesinde Kaçış,
Armenians have asked Turks to migrate by claiming these places belonged to their ancestors. For the basis of their claims, they have argued that they have been notified that Russians, English and French people and Americans would acknowledge the Great Armenian State to be established in this region. (182)
Germany is seen as an ally of the Ottoman Empire and is praised. However, Britain, France and Russia are accused of provoking Armenians against Ottomans in Ölüm Ötesinde Kaçış, one of the characters stating that ‘I cannot believe how naïve Armenians could be! (…) They believe in the words of Russians, English and French people without question! … ‘ (196). The narrator points out that Armenian gangs attacking Turks get their power from Russia. The main character says, ‘according to what my father says, when Ottomans come to Igdir, Armenians become like sheep, but when Russians come, they act like lions’ (95).
Similarly, in Figan, Armenian irregular units are blamed for provoking ordinary people, and Europe and Russia are behind the Armenians’ hatred of Ottomans. The narrator states, ‘ … Komitacıs have spread one by one all around to provoke Armenian villages (…) They are defined as the toy of Europe and Russia (…) Armenian children learned how to kill and hate Muslim Turks at school’ (75). Anılarda Son Ermeni also emphasizes that the komitaci Armenians cooperating with Great Powers are the reason why the conflicts between Armenians and Turks broke out. Likewise, according to Bozuk Oyun, the hostility towards Turks brings Armenians and Europeans together. It states,
the Armenians adhering to different sects of Christianity such as Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestant and Gregorian have forgotten their hostility towards each other due to such differences through the skills of Western states, and have united in hostility to the Turkish, ending the conflicts with each other. (18)
In the same novel, the English ambassador says to the Patriarch ‘Be patient! May the Armenian community be patient! We will establish both Western Armenia and Small Armenia Cilicia on the basis of the Ottoman Empire’ (28).
Furthermore, in Sona it is claimed that the Dashnak Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), gets support mainly from Russia in order to create tension between Armenians and Muslims. It states,
according to Ferit beg, the Russians have been making claims to lead Armenians and Muslims to kill each other (…) It is advised that Armenian people should not be a tool for this and fall for Dashnak by holding views in support of Russian plans (…) You should not credit the lies of Dashnak, which divide the community into two parts. (99)
Ağıt is different from other novels in that it shows some sympathy towards those killed in the 1915 massacres, but it attempts to blame individuals rather than the authorities. Throughout the novel we come across two vicious people, the Armenian Varteks and a Turk called Turan, who provoke the tension and killings between Armenians and Turks. The narrator explicitly blames them,
Varteks and Godo Turan were like two brothers of two enemy communities. Turan preaches sermons to the Turks and Kurds on the street during the daytime, Varteks cultivates the idea of Independent Armenia at the American college. At night, they come together and exchange ideas about how to provoke the people against each other behind closed doors. (124)
In addition, it mentions that both these characters get support from western countries in order to destroy the integrity of the Ottomans. For instance, ‘Varteks gets help from the Russians, and Turan gets it from the Germans’ (145).
Apart from putting blame on western powers and Russia, it is noteworthy that Kurds are also despised for being wild, robbers, and murderous. Thus, the novels mainly targeting the Armenian Genocide discourse also attempt to demonize Kurds by attributing depraved features to them. For example, according to Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları, ‘occupying the villages, butchering the animals and kidnapping the girls anytime they want are considered as traditional for Kurds’ (45).
In Ölüm Ötesine Geçiş, the narrator explicitly states that Turks had no other choice but to ask for the support of the Kurds against the Armenians although they did not trust or like them. The narrator states: ‘it was much wiser to get support from the Kurds. It wouldn’t be a good idea to fight against them’ (73), and ‘in the case of Armenians, Kurds have always helped Turks’. But Kurds are not considered trustworthy or reliable, as the main character continues, ‘actually, we were aware that they were robbing people in the mountains but we didn’t have any other choice’ (73) and ‘the eyes of Kurds were constantly on the women’ (74). In the same novel, it is also stated that both Armenians and Kurds are a threat to the Turkish villagers as ‘those who managed to survive from the hands of the Armenians were falling into the hands of bandits [referring to the Kurds]’ (83).
Kurds are also being referred to for their active role in the killings of Armenians. This is quite ironic, as the novels examined both support the denial policies of the Turkish state in relation to the Genocide or massacres, and they blame Kurds for being responsible for the killings of Armenians. For instance, in Sona, in which the massacres of Armenians are not accepted, Armenian gangs and western powers being held mainly responsible for tension between Turks and Armenians, Kurds are accused of being a threat to Armenians as ‘it was impossible for an Armenian not to feel restless when the name of Kurds or the Hamidiye Cavalry was mentioned. Wasn’t Osman also part of the community which disgusts Armenians?’ (186).
The more critical approach to the denial of genocide among the Turkish intelligentsia is not reflected in Turkish literary narratives. On the contrary, these have been used to strengthen the voice of denial and the Turkish official discourse, especially after 2015, the hundredth anniversary of the Genocide. Armenians have always existed in Turkish literature directly or indirectly. After the 1920s and the establishment of the Turkish Republic, many authors felt the urge to write about the First World War period, especially 1915, and their narratives share a common approach in accusing Armenians of cooperating with the enemies of the Ottoman Empire. The number of novels set in these controversial years increased around 2015 in response to the Armenian diaspora’s claims of genocide, European legal discussions about the Genocide, and an advance counter attack against the hundredth anniversary commemoration. They contribute to systematic institutionalization and social reproduction of the denial.
For this article, ten novels were selected on the basis of their thematic focus. The selected novels solely concentrate on the 1915 events either narrating during the events or long after them to reveal the reflections of them on today. Thinking of all the ten novels examined in this article, they can easily be divided into two broad categories. The first category (Nisan’ın İki Günü, Ölüm Ötesine Kaçış, Anılarda Son Ermeni, Figan and Bozuk Oyun), which I call the counter-reaction novels and can be fit into first level of ideology identified by Hollindale, which is very explicit oppose the arguments of genocide by using a very provocative language imposing the idea that the lands on which the wars occurred belong to the Turks, and Armenians were just ungrateful and attempted to destroy the Ottoman Empire. These novels, mostly written during or just after the hundredth commemoration of the Genocide, reiterate the tone of accusations against Armenians written after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, indicating that the discourse, highly influenced by that of officialdom, has not changed. It is safe to say that these authors are familiar with the earlier narratives. There is an emphasis on Islamic and pan-Turkic ideology that can be called Turanism, supporting the Young Turks and the Committee of Union and Progress, in which there is a mythic glorification of Turkish identity. Nationalism appears as an explicit element in the narrations, disclosing the authors’ social and political beliefs. Looking at the background of the authors, it is also interesting to see that they are usually from the provinces which were heavily populated by Armenians, i.e. Igdir and Tokat, leading to a self-obligatory element to rewrite the history of their hometowns through presenting their own point of view. This article suggests that when it comes to the issue of Armenians, due to the element of religion, these texts contest with official nationalism and Kemalism, cooperating with westernization and secularization, but showing a clear tendency towards Islamic beliefs. The texts are compatible with the new Turkish identity created after the start of AKP hegemony, heavily influenced by their former ally the Gülen movement, based on Sunni Muslim values.
The second category (Umut, Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları, Ağıt, Tehcir Çocukları and Sona) fit into the second level of ideology of Hollindale, a passive and implicit level of ideology which can be described as more moderate in their approach to the issue. Such novels engage in narrating the sufferings from both the Turkish and Armenian side in the name of promoting peace between these two nations, but they fail to perform an authentic voice. There is an emphasis on Armenians being also at fault as some gave support to Russia against the Ottomans, so in a way the Ottomans were obliged to take precautions to stop this – a narrative which is compatible with this aspect of official discourse.
These novels also mainly utilize love stories between an Armenian girl and a Turkish boy. The fact that the Armenian who falls in love is female demonstrates the feudal perspective towards interreligious affairs. These Armenian women, who are loyal, are willingly converted to Islam due to the man they love. Approaching the issue through love stories might sound humanistic, but it might also lead to simplification of the past agonies and tragedies.
These novels, while categorized within two groups, also share many similarities. Overall it can be said that, according to the narratives, external powers, mainly America and Russia, have provoked the conflicts, and Armenians cooperated with them for their own self-interest. Komitaci‘s provocations and hidden agendas also served these interests, leading to the 1915 ‘incidents’, which is the term that the majority of authors use in their texts. Even when referring to unrest or conflicts which occurred in the early twentieth century, they fail even to refer to the Tehcir Law; they refer to the Genocide as ‘1915 olayları‘ (the 1915 incidents) and ‘1915 süreci‘ (the 1915 period). In addition, the Armenian diaspora is particularly blamed for creating and triggering the discussion of genocide. In these novels, Kurds’ role in the killings is underlined, itself a way of lessening the responsibility of governing perpetrators.