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It's tragic how many Armenians are so blinded by hatred that they prefer to live in the past, and deny themselves the joys of their roots. Not all Armenians are like that. Some Armenians prefer concentrating on their emotional attachments to the old country. These Armenians know Turkish music, food and language form as much a part of their identities as anything else, and don't appreciate being ostracized by the larger, more hateful Armenian group. They feel they are robbed of their precious past and cherished memories, and resent the domineering attitude of the other group.

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I'm a big fan of Edward Tashji, who has the guts and the love to come right out and declare where he stands. In his own words, this "Armenian-American has become 'famous,' (he said with all humility), within the Turkish community, while becoming "infamous", (he said with deep regret), within the Armenian community." Also, in his words... he is : "An American born of an Armenian mother and a Syrian-Orthodox father (.) He is the younger son of parents who had been born in Ottoman Turkey, became eye-witness to the conflagration of the First World War in their beloved homeland, and as a result, their destiny brought them to the land where millions had emigrated."

 Did the Turks and the Armenians Share a Common Culture?

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ONE ARMENIAN-AMERICAN’S PERSPECTIVE!

 

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By: Edward Tashji

 

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The above heading surely must be a misprint, or it must be an attempt by the editor to attract the attention of the readers of The Turkish Times. “Okay, I’ll take the bait and read this one; where’s the gimmick?” If this describes your initial reaction, read on, for you will find no “gimmicks,” no fraud, no subterfuge. In all its simplicity and honesty, this writer once again reaffirms his lifelong belief by responding to the above question with a resounding and irrevocable, YES!

Dear readers, the expressed opinions and years of effort on the part of the undersigned, have been revealed in these pages for many years. Once again I am privileged to have the opportunity of addressing myself to the readers of this newspaper, and I hope after reading these lines, you might extend your comments to The Turkish Times, either in support of or opposition to my stated position.

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Why should the question above be asked anyway? How is it pertinent to the Turkish-American community in 1996? Fully cognizant of my statements, it is my contention that no other question is so significant and so current in the historical and future history of the Turkish people. Anyone who has even a miniscule knowledge of Turkish-Armenian history and relations, must, most assuredly, be aware of the maniacal and eternal hatred as displayed by the Armenian community in the United States for all things Turkish. From time to time this writer has been politely chided by those whom I proudly serve, for my “negativism” on an issue about which most Americans remain regrettably uninformed.

But if negativism reveals irrefutable facts pertaining to Turkish and Armenian relations, it can not be harmful to people of goodwill. It can only hurt those whose fundamental philosophy is based upon hatred and bestows the legacy of hate upon its innocent children.

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In spite of the totally inaccurate interpretations presented by the Armenians relating to Turkish-Armenian culture and relations, the factual events of the harmonious relationship which has prevailed for over six centuries up to the present times in Turkey, have been described to me by my beloved parents. They were born and lived in Ottoman Turkey and they witnessed the darkest pages of Turkish history; the story is similar to my wife’s parents. Because of the First World War our families had come to the United States, bringing with them the traditions, languages, and culture. Because it serves the interests of the “hate merchants,” their attempt to eradicate our mutual culture continues in the United States. The media, politicians, and the public have for generations been fed a “diet” of falsehoods, such as: Turks and Armenians had no common interests or shared traditions. The Armenians continually describe the Armenians of Ottoman Turkey as well as the Armenians of the Turkish Republic, living as a subjugated and persecuted people. On and on the well orchestrated fraud continues, not the least of all the mythical “genocide.” But in the truth, in reality, in factual documentation, (such refreshing words, are they not?) — we find total harmony and a mutual participation in the administration and working for the prosperity of all the peoples of that land. In reality we find: an Ottoman Foreign Minister of 1912, named Gabriel Nordunkyan; Minister of the Treasury and Counselor to the Foreign Ministry, Ohannes Sakaz Pasa, (Pasha); Minister of Finance, Agop Kazazyan Pasa; Minister of Public Works and Communications, Garabet Artin Davut Pasa; and a long list of Senators and Members of Parliament, and other government officials. That the Armenians contributed to the prosperity of Ottoman Turkey is beyond dispute.

To this day classical Ottoman music pays tribute to the art and talent of many composers and musicians who were of Armenian, Jewish, and Syrian-Orthodox, (Süryani, in Turkish), backgrounds. Names like, Asdik Aga, Kemani Tatyos Efendi, and Udi Hrant, are but three masters of Turkish music and compositions. Space prevents the long list of names (in my possession), which were prominent during the Ottoman period up to more recent times. Included are the names of artists who had brought their talents to the United States and made countless recordings of their music: Turkish. Among these in my collection are many recordings of American born who had, and continue to perform in the art of the music they learned from their parents. - From the symphony orchestra to the rock band, the world recognizes the name: Zilciyan, to this day renowned family of cymbal manufacturers. The incomparable and magnificent beauty of Ottoman architecture was due, in part, to the architectural genius of the famous Balyan family. Indeed, the children of the one and the same homeland, in medicine, business, literature, and in every phase of human endeavor our peoples had thrived, and continue to thrive, in peace and harmony. Armenian schools, churches, press, and community functions had prospered for centuries in Ottoman Turkey, and yes, it continues to this day. I have evidence that Armenian braille was printed in Ottoman Turkey around the year 1910! In my possession is a three language dictionary dated 1908! Printed in the respective languages are, English, Osmanlica (Ottoman Turkish), and Armenian; what better example of coexistence between these peoples could there be??

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There is more evidence that Turks and Armenians share a common culture: idioms. There are countless examples of expressions spoken in Turkish and Armenian having the same meaning but when translated into English, in some instances, it might be difficult to rationalize. Here is one example: “Bas(h)imin üzerine yeriniz var”. This idiom is spoken verbatim in Armenian; its literal translation: You have a place on my head! No, not acrobatics, it is an expression of high esteem held for another person.

To the readers of The Turkish Times, as I say to each of you, “You have a place on my head,” I hope you will receive my expression of respect as it is intended to be.

Would you be interested in more truths? (Truths, has a nice sound to it, doesn’t it?) —An integral part of any culture is its cuisine; my favorite topic. To this day in the United States, the Armenians when referring to “Armenian” foods, speak and write the words IN TURKISH! To use the Armenian words for, “dolma,” “yalanci sarma,” “imam bayildi,” “s(h)is(h) kebab,” among many others, would create uproarious laughter. Quite humorous indeed, but at the same tine it displays their pathetic hypocrisy. - What is the culture of any people without its religion? In Ottoman Turkey, again, to this very day, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have been practiced by its respective adherents in harmony and mutual respect. The memories of my beloved mother, as related to me throughout my life, should have its place written in Turkish history. She, the daughter of Armenian parents, was born in the city of Balikesir, these are her words: “My son, in our Turkey during Christian and Muslim religious holidays, neighbors and friends would exchange holiday greetings, offer baskets filled with flowers, fruits, and pastries. We had no major problems, no animosity among the various communities.” This saintly woman who witnessed the ravages of war had no reason to relate untrue events which took place in her early life. It remains therefore, the supreme compassion of my parents, their wisdom and their respect for historical events, which have guided their son on this path which my wife and I have followed for many years. Our peoples remain inseparable!

In response to the question found in the heading of this offering, I believe an unequivocal affirmative has been presented. Until next time, the work continues…

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