Friday 17 November 2017 Last Update: 11:12 PM

French Historian Gilles Veinstein on the Massacres

Published: 10-27-2017


Please do not quote from the following English translation!

That's because I attempted a half-derriered translation, with my poor French and with the aid of Internet translators.

TAT is an English language site, and I couldn't very well solely present the French version, could I? I think I did at least a good job in conveying the meaning of the author, even if the style has been bastardized . But you can check with the original, which is also provided below.

At any rate, the author is Gilles Veinstein, and I commend him highly for analyzing the real history of the Armenians' so-called genocide. I commend him especially because he's French, and the French are hopelessly brainwashed when it comes to the Armenians. (Almost as much as my fellow Americans.)

Monsieur Veinstein is a director in Turkish and Ottoman studies at EHESS,  l’École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (The School of High Studies in Social Sciences).

The following appeared in Revue "L'HISTOIRE", no.187, AVRIL 1995 (History Review, No. 187, April 1995.) Thanks to the nifty home page of Arlindo Correia, from Portugal, where I got this from.

 

THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT A MASSACRE

Gilles Veinstein

Gilles Veinstein at a 2004 Harvard Univ.

conference honoring Prof. Halil Inalcik

Critical reflections of a specialist in the Ottoman Empire on the manner in which one wrote the history of the massacre of the Armenians.

 

There is nothing falser, to begin, than the presupposition that Turks and Armenians would have been hereditary enemies during the centuries. A people which had known many other foreign dominations were now under an empire that was multi-denominational and multi-ethnic. Admittedly this empire was dominated by a Moslem leading class, but the Christian subjects and Jews profited from the statute of dhimmi ("protected persons of different faith"). The Armenians were not an exception to this general situation at all. Any concept of racism was absent in the relations of governing their dhimmi, as true as if one of them converted to Islam, plus nothing did not distinguish them from the other Moslems.

 

Irreducible oppositions will not emerge from there, but they will be of a national nature, which implies besides that the hostility which will develop then, by nature, will not be unilateral but reciprocal. Moreover, this antagonism will appear only tardily: whereas the other Christian people of the empire began to revolt as early as the 17th century, the Armenians remained during this time for the Ottomans as the "faithful" community par excellence: they will be the last Christian subjects of the sultan to launch themselves in the nationalistic struggle, but they will do so at a time, the end of the 1870s, where the loss of the European possessions, following the Treaty of Berlin (1878) and of its extensions, is already largely advanced and where, consequently, the Asian territories have more and more the appearance of a last refuge of the power Ottoman. However it is on a substantial part of this "sanctuary" that the claims of the young Armenian nationalism carry. And if, at the beginning, the will of independence is not always expressly acknowledged (one speaks about "reforms" and especially about autonomy), it is obviously of that which is the matter in the final analysis.

 

This claim applies to the six vilayets of the Northeast of Asia minor corresponding to the historical "Greater Armenia,” as with Cilicia or "Lesser Armenia." No doubt these areas contained many Armenian peasants, present since time immemorial, but nowhere in Anatolia at this time did the Armenians represent the demographical majority. They coexisted with the Moslems who were in superior numbers: Turks, Kurds or refugees, brought by the Russian advances in the Caucasus or the withdrawal of the Ottomans in the Balkans. And when this national claim was expressed in the form of terrorism, it further widened the gap between the two communities (1).

 THE PROOF AND THE TESTIMONY

On June 1, 1915, the Ottoman government, which belonged then to the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which came to power by the "Young Turk" revolution of 1908, ordered the transfer of the Armenians of central and eastern Anatolia towards Syria, still a possession of the Ottomans at that time. All the Ottoman-Armenians were not included/understood in the measure: those of Istanbul and Izmir were excluded, in the same way, of course, as those of Syria. The "Young Turk" government was then plunged into the First World War; and it was in a very bad position. The Armenians had formed seven units of Armenian volunteers alongside the Russian army. In addition, the Armenian populations had risen in Anatolia, particularly in Van, to the Northeast, and Zeitoun in Cilicia (2).


It is during these transfer operations that an immense number of Armenians perished. This tragedy was the result of a multiplicity of events which proceeded in various places in 1915 and 1916, and in which the horror took very diverse forms. The tests, malnutrition, the conditions of hygiene, the epidemics give an account of part of the deaths (3), but it is necessary to equally (consider) the massacres which constituted crimes against humanity. Those were due to intercommunity payments of account in which it is necessary to announce an active share of the Kurds and not only of the Turks; with operations of plundering launched against the convoys, but also with the intrigues of the soldiers charged with the supervision; moreover, it is undeniable, in certain cases at least, that the crimes were perpetrated with the open or tacit co-operation of local authorities.


The reality of the massacres, and even their extent, are not questioned by anybody, including those in Turkey. In fact, the controversy relates to three principal points, of extremely different nature. Initially, the figure of a million and half of victims which is reproduced on the memorial of Marseilles, and which is ritually repeated, are rejected today by many historians, close relations or not of the official Turkish theses. Far from being the more minimalist, the American demographer Justin McCarthy, for example, estimates that the whole of the Armenians of Anatolia did not exceed a million and a half people on the eve of the world-wide conflict, and that, taking into account the figure of survivors, approximately 600 000 Armenians perished in Anatolia in 1915; that is to say, about half of the community (4).


Second point: there were also very many victims among the Moslems throughout the war, because of combat but also of the actions conducted against them by Armenians, in a context of ethnic and national rivalry (5). If there are forgotten victims, they are well these, and the Turks of today have the right to denounce the partiality of the Western opinion in this respect. Is this because they were only Moslems that they are neglected, or because it would be estimated implicitly that final success of their fellow beings deprives them of the statute of martyrs? Which view would we thus relate to with the same facts, if things had turned otherwise, if the Armenians had finally founded, on the soil of the Ottomans, a durable State in Anatolia?


But the last point, the crucial one of the debate, by its legal and political implications, is to know if the massacres perpetrated against the Armenians were on the orders of the Young Turk government, that is, if the transfers were only a (cover-up) for a systematic policy of extermination, implemented according to various methods, but decided, planned, and controlled at the governmental level, or if the Young Turks were only guilty to have started the displacements imprudently which finished in tragedy. The sole fact of asking the question can seem absurd and scandalous. It is true that the official implication is a precondition to the full application to the Armenian tragedy of the term of genocide, such as it was forged in 1944 and was defined by the Nuremberg process and the convention of the United Nations of 1948.


It is necessary nevertheless to admit that one does not so far have proof of this governmental implication. The documents produced by the Armenians, on the order of Talaat Pasha, Minister of the Interior, and of other official top ottomans explicitly ordering the slaughters of men, women, and Armenian children, designated as the "Andonian documents," after the name of their editor, were only forgeries, like historical research proved thereafter (6). Undoubtedly the ones in charge of the martial court indictments were those judging the governing Young Turks after their fall. In Istanbul in 1919, overwhelming accusations against their "special formations" of which the Armenians would not have besides been the only victims among of others, including the Turks themselves. One cannot be unaware of these precise denunciations, nor to take them either as (money in the bank), without having regard to the eminently political character of this process: it was filed against a revolutionary government that had driven the country to disaster, by its opponents succeeding them in power and ones who were moreover under the control of the Allies (7). McCarthy talks about two and a half million Muslim victims (principally Turkish) for the duration of the Anatolian war during 1914 to 1922, of which a million alone came from the zone of the "Armenian vilayet."


For lack of decisive proof, the historians who defend the Armenian theses put forward several contemporary testimonies, emanating from survivors, diplomats and of foreign missionaries of various origins. These are far from being negligible and are even in the better irreplaceable cases. For as much, any rigorous historian knows the limits of such testimony -- all the more likely to express a point of view “uncommitted" to a context of generalized conflict (8).

MORE THAN THOUSAND JUDGMENTS IN MARTIAL COURT

l'Histoire cover

The publication where this article appeared

Moreover, whatever the indices which one will estimate to be able to draw some in favour of an implication of the Ottoman government, it will remain to be explained how at the same time the authorities of Istanbul denounced the exactions made against the Armenians, prohibited the renewal of it, led the guilty ones in front of martial courts. One is informed of 1,397 cases of condemnations of Ottoman agents for crimes against the Armenians, which included death sentences (9). In the area of Harput in particular, where terrible violence was committed against the Armenians, according to the testimony of the American consul Leslie A. Davis, with the agreement of the governor which affirmed to act on order of the capital (10), 233 lawsuits in martial court were brought against Ottoman officials accused of crimes against the Armenians, followed by condemnations (11). The Dutch historian Erik Zürcher proposes an explanation to these apparent contradictions: while he is nearly convinced of the implication not of the government but of an internal circle within CUP in the extermination attempt, he notes nevertheless that it is difficult, if not impossible to prove it "beyond any doubt" (12).

 

A historian cannot underline the constant tendency of lawyers of the Armenian cause to isolate the drama of which they defend the memory of the whole of its historical context, to disembody it, to make it not what it was - a historic catastrophe with multiple responsibilities -, but a mythological scene, an attack of the forces of evil against the forces of good, outside (the reality) of time and space. This outline is received as such, without critical spirit, by the majority of our fellow citizens, including those in the media and the political community, often dispensing with thousand miles of realities historical and geographical, undoubtedly rather complicated and remote. Being grafted on ignorance and secular prejudices, this outline is generated from an authentic anti-Turkish racism, as inadmissible (should it be specified?) as all other racism.

 

Gilles VEINSTEIN, Director of Studies at the EHESS and historian, he devoted (himself to) many books and articles to the old history of the Ottoman Empire (15th-18th century). In particular “State and Society in the Ottoman Empire” (London, Variorum, 1994).

NOTES:

(1) The denouncing of the responsibilities of the leaders sometimes was done by Armenians themselves, as Arshag Tchobanian in "Badaskhanaduoutiunnere" (“Responsibilities"), in Anahid, 1, n°3, January 1899.

(2) Here is how the head of the Armenian national delegation, Boghos Nubar, presented the Armenian participation to the war at the peace conference in Versailles, in 1919: "since the beginning of the war (he said) the Armenians fought by the side of the Allies on all fronts. (...) The Armenians have been belligerents de facto, since they indignantly refused to side with Turkey..." (The Times of London, January 30 1919, p.10).

(3) All the population movements achieved under the conditions of Anatolia in war showed a very heavy assessment, even in the absence of any hostile intention: in the case for example of the retirement of Maras during the winter of 1920, where the French troops were accompanied by 5 000 Armenians, 2 to 3 000 of the latter perished on the way; cf George Boudière, "Notes on the Countryside of Syria-Cilicie. The Matter of Maras (January-February 1920)", Turcica IX/2-X, 1978, p.160.

(4) Justin McCarthy, Muslim and Minorities: the Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire, NYU Press, 1983. The same author wrote a significant article: "The Anatolian Armenians, 1912-1922" Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (1912-1926), Bosphorus University, Istanbul, 1984.

(5) Kara Schemsi, Turcs et Arméniens devant l'histoire, Geneva, 1919; documents relating to the atrocities committed by the Armenians upon the Moslem populations, Constantinople, 1919; Mayéwski General, The Massacres of Armenia, Saint-Petersburg, 1916; Christopher Walker, Armenia, the Survival of a Nation, London, 1981; while being resolutely pro-Armenian, this work is very revealing on the importance of the Moslem victims.

(6) Sinasi Orel and Sureyya Yüca, The Talât Pasha Telegrams : Historical Facts or Armenian Fiction ?, London, 1986 ; Türkkaya Ataöv, The Andonian "Documents" Atrributed to Talat Pasha are Forgeries, Ankara, 1984.

(7) To a high extent, the Armenian translation (published by Haigazn K Kazarian) of the Ottoman text of this indictment is highly tendentious, in several places. Another trial was organized two years later in Malta by the English against some 150 political prisoners and military Ottomans, but it ended in a withdrawal of the case. (Holdwater note: K[h]azarian was the Armenian appointed by the British to be in charge of the Ottoman archives, as soon as the British occupied Istanbul at war's end.)

(8) One showed thus how much a testimony, very often called upon and presented like "neutral," was suitable for a "criticism of passably instructive source": Heath W Lowry, The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, The Isis Press, Istanbul 1990.

(9) Kamuran Gürün, The Armenian File, Triangle, 1984; this aspect of the official Ottoman attitude, supported by many new documents unpublished of the most explicit ones, is a major contribution of this book which one cannot elude for the single reason that it would be about a "semi-official" Turkish publication.

(10) La Province de la Mort, Paris (“The Slaughterhouse Province”), Paris, 1994.

(11) The editors of the memoirs of this consul recently translated into French, take care not to announce this aspect which the Ottoman files reveal. It is true that, generally, the systematic partiality in the choice of the sources suffers unfortunately little from exceptions in the Armenian historians, still much less than the Turkish historians, as some testify, for example, the collection of studies referred to above published by the university from the Bosphorus, in Istanbul.

(12) Erik J Zürcher, Turkey. At modern history, New York, 1993.

THE ORIGINAL FRENCH VERSION

 


TROIS QUESTIONS SUR UN MASSACRE

Les réflexions critiques d'un spécialiste de l'Empire ottoman sur la façon dont on a écrit l'histoire du massacre des Arméniens.

Rien de plus faux, pour commencer, que ce présupposé tenace selon lequel Turcs et Arméniens auraient été des ennemis héréditaires au cours des siècles. Le passage sous domination ottomane d'une partie d'un peuple qui avait connu bien d'autres dominations étrangères avait signifié l'insertion dans un empire pluriconfessionnel et pluriethnique. Certes cet empire était dominé par une classe dirigeante musulmane d'ailleurs très cosmopolite, mais les sujets chrétiens et juifs y bénéficiaient du statut de dhimmi ("infidèles protégés"). Les Arméniens ne firent aucunement exception à cette situation générale. Toute notion de racisme était absente dans les relations des gouvernants avec leurs dhimmi, tant il est vrai que si l'un d'eux se convertissait à I'islam, plus rien ne le distinguait des autres musulmans.


Des oppositions irréductibles n'en surgiront pas moins, mais elles seront d'ordre national, ce qui implique d'ailleurs que l'hostilité qui se développera alors, par nature, ne sera pas unilatérale mais réciproque. Au demeurant, cet antagonisme ne se manifestera que tardivement : alors que les autres peuples chrétiens de l'empire commencent à se révolter dès le XVIIème siècle, les Arméniens restent pendant ce temps pour les Ottomans la communauté "fidèle" par excellence : ils seront les derniers sujets chrétiens du sultan à se lancer dans la lutte nationale, mais ils le feront à un moment, la fin des années 1870, où la perte des possessions européennes, à la suite du traité de Berlin (1878) et de ses prolongements, est déjà largement avancée et où, par conséquent, les territoires asiatiques font de plus en plus figure de dernier refuge de la puissance ottomane. Or c'est sur une partie substantielle de ce "sanctuaire" que portent les revendications du jeune nationalisme arménien. Et si, au départ, la volonté d'indépendance n'est pas toujours expressément avouée (on parle de "réformes" et surtout d'autonomie), c'est évidemment de cela qu'il s'agit en fin de compte.


Cette revendication s'applique aux six vilayet du Nord-Est de l'Asie mineure correspondant à la "Grande Arménie" historique, ainsi qu'à la Cilicie ou "Petite Arménie". Sans doute ces régions conservent-elles de nombreux paysans Arméniens, présents de temps immémorial, mais nulle part dans l'Anatolie de cette époque, les Arméniens ne sont restés démographiquement majoritaires. IIs coexistent avec des musulmans en nombre supérieur : Turcs, Kurdes ou réfugiés, amenés par l'avance russe dans le Caucase ou le retrait ottoman dans les Balkans. Et lorsque cette revendication nationale s'exprima sous la forme du terrorisme, elle creusa le fossé entre les deux communautés (1).

LA PREUVE ET LE TEMOIGNAGE

Le 1er juin 1915, le gouvernement ottoman, qui relevait alors du Comité Union et Progrès (CUP), porté au pouvoir par la révolution "jeune-turque" de 1908, ordonna le transfert des Arméniens d'Anatolie centrale et orientale vers la Syrie, encore possession ottomane à cette époque. Tous les Arméniens ottomans n'étaient pas compris dans la mesure : ceux d'Istanbul et d'Izmir en étaient exclus, de même, bien entendu, que ceux de Syrie. Le gouvernement "jeune-turc" était alors plongé dans la Première Guerre mondiale ; et il se trouvait en très mauvaise posture. Les Arméniens avaient formé sept unités de volontaires Arméniens aux côtés de l'armée russe. En outre, des populations arméniennes s'étaient soulevées en Anatolie, notamment à Van, au Nord-Est, et à Zeïtoun en Cilicie (2).

 

C'est au cours de ces opérations de transfert que périrent un nombre immense d'Arméniens. Cette tragédie fut la résultante d'une multiplicité d'événements qui se déroulèrent dans différents lieux en 1915 et 1916, et dans lesquels l'horreur prit des formes très diverses. Les épreuves, la malnutrition, les conditions d'hygiène, les épidémies rendent compte d'une partie des décès (3), mais il faut faire également leur part aux massacres qui constituent des crimes contre l'humanité caractérisés. Ceux-ci étaient dus à des règlements de compte intercommunautaires dans lesquels il faut signaler une part active des Kurdes et pas seulement des Turcs ; à des opérations de pillage lancées contre les convois, mais aussi aux agissements des militaires chargés de l'encadrement ; en outre, il est incontestable, dans certains cas au moins, que les crimes étaient perpétrés avec la coopération ouverte ou tacite des autorités locales.

 

La réalité des massacres, et même leur ampleur ne sont mis en question par personne, y compris en Turquie. En fait, la controverse porte sur trois points principaux, de nature fort différente. En premier lieu, le chiffre d'un million et demi de victimes qui figure sur le monument commémoratif de Marseille, et qui est rituellement répété, est aujourd'hui rejeté par de nombreux historiens, proches ou non des thèses officielles turques. Loin d'être le plus minimaliste, le démographe américain Justin McCarthy, par exemple, estime que l'ensemble des Arméniens d'Anatolie ne dépassait pas un million et demi de personnes à la veille du conflit mondial, et que, compte tenu du chiffre des rescapés, environ 600 000 Arméniens auraient péri en Anatolie en 1915, soit près de la moitié de la communauté (4).

 

Deuxième point : il y eut aussi de très nombreuses victimes parmi les musulmans tout au long de la guerre, du fait des combats mais aussi des actions menées contre eux par des Arméniens, dans un contexte de rivalité ethnique et nationale (5). S'il y a des victimes oubliées, ce sont bien celles-là, et les Turcs d'aujourd'hui sont en droit de dénoncer la partialité de l'opinion occidentale à cet égard. Est-ce parce qu'il ne s'agissait que de musulmans qu'on les néglige, ou bien parce qu'on estimerait implicitement que le succès final de leurs congénères les prive du statut de martyrs ? Quel regard porterions-nous donc sur les mêmes faits, si les choses avaient tourné autrement, si les Arméniens avaient finalement fondé, sur les décombres ottomanes, un Etat durable en Anatolie ?

 

Mais le dernier point, crucial, du débat, par ses implications juridiques et politiques, est de savoir si les massacres perpétrés contre les Arméniens le furent sur ordre du gouvernement jeune-turc, si les transferts n'ont été qu'un leurre pour une entreprise systématique d'extermination, mise en oeuvre selon des modalités diverses, mais décidée, planifiée, téléguidée au niveau gouvernemental, ou si les Jeunes-Turcs furent seulement coupables d'avoir imprudemment déclenché des déplacements qui finirent en hécatombes. Le seul fait de poser la question peut sembler absurde et scandaleux. Il est vrai que l'implication étatique est un préalable à la pleine application à la tragédie arménienne du terme de génocide, tel qu'il a été forgé en 1944 et défini par le procès de Nuremberg et la convention des Nations Unies de 1948.

 

Il faut pourtant admettre qu'on ne dispose pas jusqu'à présent de preuve de cette implication gouvernementale. Les documents produits par les Arméniens, des ordres de Talaat Pacha, ministre de l'Intérieur, et d'autres hauts officiels ottomans ordonnant explicitement le massacre des hommes, des femmes, et des enfants arméniens, désignés comme "documents Andonian", du nom de leur éditeur, n'étaient que des faux, comme la critique historique l'a prouvé par la suite (6). Sans doute trouve-t-on dans le réquisitoire de la cour martiale chargée de juger les gouvernants jeunes-turcs après leur chute, à Istanbul en 1919, des accusations accablantes contre leurs "formations spéciales" dont les Arméniens n'auraient d'ailleurs été que des victimes parmi d'autres, y compris chez les Turcs eux-mêmes. On ne peut ignorer ces dénonciations précises, ni les prendre non plus comme argent comptant, eu égard au caractère éminemment politique de ce procès : il était intenté contre un gouvernement révolutionnaire qui avait conduit le pays au désastre, par ses adversaires lui succédant au pouvoir et, qui plus est, sous la coupe des Alliés (7). McCarthy parle de deux millions et demi de victimes musulmanes (principalement turques) pour l'ensemble de la guerre en Anatolie de 1914 à 1922, dont un million pour la seule zone des "vilayet arméniens".

 

Faute de preuve décisive, les historiens défenseurs des thèses arméniennes mettent en avant plusieurs témoignages contemporains, émanant de rescapés, de diplomates et de missionnaires étrangers de diverses origines. Ceux-ci sont loin d'être négligeables et sont même dans les meilleurs cas irremplaçables. Pour autant, tout historien rigoureux connaît les limites d'un témoignage - d'autant plus susceptible d'exprimer un point de vue ''engagé" dans un contexte de conflit généralisé (8).

 

PLUS DE MILLE CONDAMNATIONS EN COUR MARTIALE  


Au demeurant, quels que soient les indices qu'on estimera pouvoir en tirer en faveur d'une implication du gouvernement ottoman, il restera à expliquer comment dans le même temps les autorités d'Istanbul dénonçaient les exactions commises contre les Arméniens, en interdisaient le renouvellement, traînaient les coupables devant des cours martiales. On a ainsi connaissance de 1 397 cas de condamnations d'agents ottomans pour crimes contre les Arméniens, dont des condamnations à mort (9). Dans la région de Harput en particulier, où de terribles violences contre les Arméniens étaient commises, selon le témoignage du consul américain Leslie A. Davis, avec l'accord du gouverneur qui affirmait agir sur ordre de la capitale (10), 233 procès en cour martiale furent intentés contre des officiels ottomans accusés de crimes contre les Arméniens, suivis de condamnations (11). L'historien hollandais Erik Zürcher propose pour sa part une explication à ces apparentes contradictions : s'il est intimement convaincu de l'implication non du gouvernement mais d'un cercle interne au sein du CUP dans l'extermination, il constate néanmoins qu'il est difficile, sinon impossible de le prouver "au-delà de tout doute" (12).


Un historien ne peut que souligner la tendance constante des avocats de la cause arménienne à isoler le drame dont ils défendent la mémoire de l'ensemble de son contexte historique, à le désincarner, pour en faire, non ce qu'il fut - une catastrophe historique relevant de responsabilités multiples - , mais une scène mythologique, un assaut des forces du mal contre les forces du bien, hors de tout temps et de tout espace. Ce schéma est reçu tel quel, sans esprit critique, par la plupart de nos concitoyens, y compris dans les médias et la classe politique, souvent à mille lieues des réalités historiques et géographiques, assurément assez compliquées et lointaines, dont il a été coupé. Se greffant sur des ignorances et des préjugés séculaires, ce schéma est générateur d'un authentique racisme antiturc, aussi inadmissible (faut-il le préciser?) que tout autre racisme.


Gilles VEINSTEIN

Directeur d'études à l'EHESS et historien, il a consacré de nombreux livres et articles à l'histoire ancienne de l'Empire ottoman (XVème-XVIIIème siècle). Notamment Etat et société dans l'Empire ottoman (Londres, Variorum, 1994).

NOTES :

 

(1) La dénonciation des responsabilités des meneurs fut parfois le fait des Arméniens eux-mêmes, comme Arshag Tchobanian dans "Badaskhanaduoutiunnere" ("responsabilités"), dans Anahid, 1, n°3, janvier 1899.

(2) Voici comment le chef de la délégation nationale arménienne, Boghos Nubar, présenta à la conférence de la paix à Versailles, en 1919, la participation arménienne à la guerre : "depuis le début de la guerre, disait-il, les Arméniens ont combattu aux côtés des alliés sur tous les fronts. (...) Les Arméniens ont été des belligérants de facto, puisqu'ils ont refusé avec indignation de se mettre du côté de la Turquie..." (The Times of London, 30 janvier 1919, p.10).

(3) Tous les déplacements de population accomplis dans les conditions de l'Anatolie en guerre se soldèrent par un très lourd bilan, même en l'absence de toute intention hostile : dans le cas par exemple de la retraite de Maras de l'hiver 1920, où les troupes françaises étaient accompagnées de 5 000 Arméniens, 2 à 3 000 de ces derniers périrent en route ; cf Georges Boudière, "Notes sur la campagne de Syrie-Cilicie. L'affaire de Maras (janvier-février 1920)", Turcica IX/2-X, 1978, p.160.

(4) Justin McCarthy, Muslim and Minorities : the Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire, NYU Press, 1983. Le même a écrit un article important : "The Anatolian Armenians, 1912-1922" dans Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (1912-1926), Université du Bosphore, Istanbul, 1984.

(5) Kara Schemsi, Turcs et Arméniens devant l'histoire, Genève, 1919 ; documents relatifs aux atrocités commises par les Arméniens sur les populations musulmanes, Constantinople, 1919 ; Général Mayéwski, Les Massacres d'Arménie, Saint-Pétersbourg, 1916 ; Christopher Walker, Armenia, the survival of a nation, Londres, 1981, tout en étant résolument proarménien, cet ouvrage est très révélateur sur l'importance des victimes musulmanes.

(6) Sinasi Orel et Sureyya Yüca, The Talât Pasha Telegrams : Historical Facts or Armenian Fiction ?, Londres, 1986 ; Türkkaya Ataöv, The Andonian "Documents" atrributed to Talat Pasha are Forgeries, Ankara, 1984.

(7) Au surplus, la traduction arménienne (publiée par Haigazn K. Kazarian) du texte ottoman de ce réquisitoire est hautement tendancieuse, en plusieurs endroits. Un autre procès fut organisé deux ans plus tard à Malte par les Anglais contre quelque 150 prisonniers politiques et militaires ottomans, mais il se termina par un non-lieu.

(8) On a montré ainsi combien un témoignage, très souvent invoqué et présenté comme "neutre", était susceptible d'une "critique de source" passablement instructive : Heath W. Lowry, Les Dessous des Mémoires de l'ambasseur Morgenthau, Isis, Istanbul, 1990.

(9) Kamuran Gürün, Le Dossier arménien, Triangle, 1984 ; cet aspect de l'attitude officielle ottomane, étayée sur de nombreux documents ottomans inédits des plus explicites, est une contribution majeure de ce livre qu'on ne peut éluder pour l'unique raison qu'il s'agirait d'une publication "officieuse" turque.

(10) La Province de la mort, Paris, 1994.

(11) Les éditeurs des mémoires de ce consul récemment traduits en français, se gardent bien de signaler cet aspect que révèlent les archives ottomanes. Il est vrai que, d'une manière générale, la partialité systématique dans le choix des sources souffre malheureusement peu d'exceptions chez les historiens arméniens, encore bien moins que les historiens turcs, comme en témoigne, par exemple, le recueil d'études cité plus haut publié par l'université du Bosphore à Istanbul.

(12) Erik J. Zürcher, Turkey. A modern history, New York, 1993.

Armenian Aggression Targets Gilles Veinstein

After preparing the above, I did a little surfing to find out more about Gilles Veinstein. I discovered tetedeturc.com,  the Turkish-French site, had already devoted a page to the courageous historian, which may be accessed here. It turns out — unsurprisingly — that M. Veinstein got into hot water because of the above article, thanks to France's huge contingent of genocide-obsessed Armenians. I'll provide only the battered English translations of some letters that appeared.

The site tells us:

In an article published by the review History (a reference in the field of historical research), in his edition of April 1995 (n°187), Mr. Gilles Veinstein, eminent French turcologist in 1999 with the prestigious College of France, estimated that the use of the term "genocide" to qualify the massacres of the Armenians during the black years 1915-1916, was not relevant insofar as the premeditation and the planning of these massacres by the Ottoman authorities were not established by historical research. However, to have delivered his opinion of history, Gilles Veinstein was the subject of the worst calumnies, sudden wretched attacks, victim of pressures, threats, and physical violence, on behalf of fanatics, in particular Armenian, alive in France; of aucuns were until calling into question its election to the College of France. The turcologist, who is of Jewish origin, was even described as a "negationnist" (sic)! It is advisable here to recall that Gilles Veinstein is a historian of reputation, a specialist in the Ottoman Empire, whose quality and serious body of work achieve the unanimity among his peers. His election with the College of France is a bright confirmation besides. It should be specified that at no time did Gilles Veinstein deny the massacres of the Armenians during 1915-1916 (moreover, Turkish historians do not deny them either, but dispute the estimate of the number of the victims carried out by the Armenian part). He challenges, on the other hand, their genocide character, which implies that there was a premeditation on behalf of the authorities Ottomans.

Vis-a-vis these attacks all the same, voices rose to take the defense of the historian. Thus, in an article of Nicolas Weill, published in the World of January 27, 1999, we learn that "(...) the researchers in Social sciences, to start with two consulted turcologists, Louis Bazin and Robert Mantran, as well as the orientalist Maxime Rodinson, on the other hand lined up as regards Gilles Veinstein." However, Messrs Bazin and Mantran are nothing less than the two éminences grise Turcologie Frenchwoman, and Mr. Rodinson, a great French orientalist. In the same way, Pierre Chuvin, member of the Editorial board of the review History and professor in Paris X-Nanterre, also gave to him his support for Gilles Veinstein in an article entitled "Bad lawsuit against a historian," published in the January 6, 1999 edition of the Libération newspaper. The great French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who is a director of studies at the School of the high studies in social sciences (Ehess), also took the feather in the World, in an article entitled "On the imaginary negationnism of Gilles Veinstein", to defend celebrates it professor. Lastly, Alain-Gerard Slama defends the turcologist in an article entitled "history taken as a hostage," in the Barber of February 1, 1999.

See also "the aggressions of Aix in Provence" and "Intimidation in Academia"

The site reproduces three letters appearing in response to Veinstein's piece. The first (Dec. 28, 1998)  is by what appears to be a "genocide scholar," Catherine Coquio. She blasts Veinstein, saying his views are opposed by many historians, both from France and from outside the country. (As examples, she actually cites extreme partisans R. Smith, R. Melson, and Israel Charny.) She goes on with the usual blather, like "the decomposition of hundreds of thousands stripped bodies, starved, torture victims, under the sun of the desert..." (where ARE all of these skeletons?), and mentions the offenses of Bernard Lewis. We've heard it all before, but this time it's in French.

Next, Michel Cahen takes a crack in a letter appearing three days later. He accuses Coquio of radicalism, weakening the fight against denialism (or I guess as the French call it, negationism.) However, he announces his dissent with Veinstein's views, as well as those of Bernard Lewis. The Armenians suffered genocide, as well as the Tutsis and others, and the list can be lengthened.

"Thus can one undoubtedly discuss the nature of the bombardments of Israeli aviation countering Lebanese villages or the whole of Palestine,  in 'punishment category' of a terrorist attack made the previous day, and I am not sure that the Institute of  Research on the Holocaust and the Genocide of the State of Israel is placed best, as C. Coquio proposes, to discuss this kind of business. But any war crime is not a crime against humanity, any crime against humanity is not a genocide and the concept of holocaust must certainly be even more restrictive." Well, that's an interesting tack.

He declares that contrary to Veinstein's conclusions, the Ottomans assaulted the Armenians systematically, and that he was "delighted" when the  French National Assembly declared the Armenian experience as a genocide. But then he faults Coquio for failing to make the distinction between malicious deniers and those like Veinstein who discuss the nature of what went on. "To pose Faurisson=Veinstein equations everywhere, it weakens the fight against the negationnism, a pathology which leads always and very quickly to the extreme right-hand side."

Prof. Pierre Chuvin next enters the fray with a Jan. 6, 1999 letter. He defends Veinstein, writing that after Veinstein wrote about this subject once and only one time, his detractors spoke in the plural "about the writings" of Mr. Veinstein. Further, he writes:

Is that enough to make of Mr. Veinstein the denier of the Armenian genocide? The cause should not have to be pled: it is enough to read his contribution to see that it contains neither negation of the drama nor called into question of its width. However, he is the object of a violent denigration campaign, founded very little on what is said and especially on the intentions that one lends to him: here he is suspected "to be sprinkled subsidies" by the Turkish government, by Mrs Coquio...

That Bernard Lewis was condemned does not imply that Gilles Veinstein is condemnable, and of the remainder Madeleine Rebérioux, president of honor of the League of the humans right, had protested against this judgment of a historian by a court (History, October 1995, p. 98).


The professor is unafraid to sock it to Mrs. Coquio, even though he, too, is a supporter of the genocide viewpoint. That's something; it's rare to encounter a biting criticism of the dogma of genocide scholars in the United States.