Editorial: A Reading List For Ambassador Ricciardone


Armenian Weekly
Aug 2, 2011

Responding to a question during a breakfast with the Diplomatic
Correspondents Association in Ankara recently, U.S. Ambassador to
Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone called on Yerevan and Ankara “to deal
with their history in a way that is open and honest and just.”

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone The comment,
eerily reminiscent of the “just memory” discourse of Turkish foreign
minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was preceded by the glorification of the
latter as “an eminent world class scholar and historian.” After
lavishing praise at Davutoglu, Ricciardone noted that he himself is
“an amateur” when it comes to history, and mentioned a World War
I book he is currently reading, titled The Berlin-Baghdad Express:
The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power. The book, by
Bilkent University professor Sean McMeekin, refers to 1915 as the
“Armenian massacres,” and considers genocide denier Gunther Lewy’s
The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide “by
far the best overview on the subject.”

This is not a book review where we discuss the merits-which are
many-and shortcomings of The Berlin-Baghdad Express. However,
as far as 1915 is concerned, the book clearly suffers from an
obsession with “Armenian atrocities,” “Armenian uprisings” sweeping
through the region, “Armenian partisans,” “Armenian guerillas,” and
“Armenian bandits.” On the other hand, the systematic deportation
and massacre of Armenians has received little if any attention,
and scholarly papers exploring the role the Berlin-Baghdad railroad
played during the Armenian genocide are not even considered worthy
of a mere footnote by the author.

Yet, Ambassador Ricciardone cites this book as an example of how, in
the context of 1915, “[t]here’s a lot of great scholarship that wasn’t
possible 15 years ago. And it’s now coming out because Turkey is more
confident of itself and more willing to have scholarly examination
of the records of the past.”

Below, we present a short list of books published in recent months
that might help Ambassador Ricciardone’s deal with 1915 in a way that
is more “open and honest and just.”

1-Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian
Property by Ugur Ungor and Mehmet Polatel (Continuum, 2011)

The book’s title is self-explanatory. The authors summarize thusly
the theft of Armenian property during the genocide: “The Young Turk
political elite played the decisive role in the subjugation of the
Ottoman Armenian economy to an ideologically legitimized process of
mass pillage. Local elites collaborated in this endeavor by assisting
the militias that came to deport and murder Armenian shopkeepers,
manufacturers, craftsmen, peasants. Moreover, ordinary Turks, such
as direct neighbors, bazaar merchants or refugees from the Balkans,
profited from the confiscation policy in different ways. Altogether,
these classes and groups contributed to the economic destruction of
Ottoman Armenians and the construction of a Turkish national economy.”

2-The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History by Raymond Kevorkian (I.B.

Tauris, 2011)

This 1000-page monumental book is the most comprehensive history of
the Armenian Genocide ever written. The author examines the genocidal
process by zooming in on Armenian-populated towns and villages across
the Ottoman Empire.

3-A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the
Ottoman Empire edited by Ronald Grigor Suny, Fatma Muge Gocek, and
Norman Naimark (Oxford University Press, 2011)

In this book, 15 experts on the Armenian genocide and Ottoman history
delve into the history and historiography of the genocide, and discuss
the continuities between the Young Turks and the Turkish Republic.

4-The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia,
1913-50 by Ugur Ungor (Oxford University Press, 2011)

The author examines the violent destruction of the multi-ethnic fabric
of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. He notes that these
provinces “became an epicenter of Young Turk population policies and
the theatre of unprecedented levels of mass violence.”

From: Baghdasarian

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