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MEHMET PERİNÇEK : WE BETRAYED THE TURKISH STATE


A document at the Russian Federation State Archive (GARF), which was
formerly called as USSR October Revolution Central State Archive (TsGAOR SSSR),
demonstrates the role of the Armenian masses in Turkey during the World War I
clearly, in addition to the activities of the Armenian voluntary units which
have even terrified the Russian officials. It is evident that the report that
was registered at “fond 1167 list 1 folder 1878 leaf 1-7, 1back-6” in the
collection of P. N. Milyukov, who was assigned as the Minister Foreign Affairs
at the Kerenski government following the February Revolution, was presented to
the Tsarist posts by an Armenian official in the summer of 1915.


Prior the relocation, the massacres and the lootings perpetrated by the
Armenian voluntary units at the regions invaded by the Russians, had prevented
an order to be founded, to an extent, which also disturbed also the Russian
authorities and led the Tsarist posts to take measures. On the other hand, not
being affirmative towards the “Great Armenia Project” that would be purified
from the Muslims, since it included her lands as well, the Tsarist Russia,
opposed the Armenian population to consist the majority by itself. As a result,
the promises that were given to the Armenians were left aside. So a report was
given to the Russian officials for expressing the disturbance of the Armenian
voluntary movement over the afore-mention situation in that era. The Armenian
official expressed that there were fanatical thoughts against the Muslim people
while indicating that they were in an evident betrayal against the Turkish
state to cozy up to the Russians. Of Course, the stance of the Tsarist Russia,
which was officially fighting against Turkey, towards the Armenian voluntaries,
who were working for her, called attentions.


The Armenian official started his report by indicating that the attitude
of the Russian powers against the Armenians at the military operation area was
incredible and disappointing. A mutual disagreement was being developed, which
was contrary to the interests of both the Russian armies at the Caucasus
fronts, and the Armenians. According to the writer of the report, the Armenians
wanted to be treated by the Russian officials in a definite way that would not
include personal attitudes. Later, the Armenian official indicated the
following two main facts that should be determined:


“The first fact: The Armenians were an unchanging loyal ally of Russia, at
this war. The second fact: The Armenians were not only loyal but also they were
the helpful ally of the Russia. These facts were so clear that repeating these
facts, was like knocking an open door. Despite these facts, you need to
conflict frequently with the judgments and efforts that cause main suspicions.
Can’t the Armenians be understood enough? That’s why, it would not be
unnecessary to explain our stance once again. The Armenians have determined
their stance without any hesitation, just like the Russians and the Turks,
until the eternity from the moment when the war between Russia and Turkey was
inevitable: NEXT TO RUSSIA AND AGAINST TURKEY”.


The writer of the report indicated that all the groups and layers of the
Armenian people from the social democrats to extreme nationalists and from
various political and social thoughts united around this slogan in such a
surprising way that could be coincide hardly ever. The Armenians demonstrated
their devotion to Russia not with words but with their definite actions, which
would require responsibility. And while Russia was forming its own voluntary
units, they had raised the flag of riots in Turkey.


According to the expression of the senior official, the Armenians had
determined their position against both sides of the war with the two activities
they had realized and had entered to a way that they would never be able to
return again even if they wanted to. That was the definite guarantee of their
commitment to the Russians. Their whole future was tied to the success of the
Russian weapon. In such a way that, if the Russians were to lose the war, that
would be their end and they had been waiting their victory with great
excitement.


At this point, the writer clearly confessed that Turkey had every reason
to give no quarter. He stated: “Forming voluntary units independent from their
quantity and roles at the war, was a challenge that was done against Turkey.
Turkey will not forget and forgive that since three quarters of the voluntary
forces were consisted of the Ottoman Armenians.


According to the writer, the Armenians had committed the greatest crime at
their home. They had betrayed, rioted against the country, and took side near
the enemy, when the existence of Turkey was put forward. This move could not
forgive and the outcome is evident: The Armenians were declared illegal, they
were sent to exile. However, the writer stated that this was not something
unexpected and added the following:


“We didn’t know where we were going to, and what kind of a horrible
examination we were going to take. However, we moved ahead at this way and we
saw that we can solve the national question of Turkey by giving many victims.
The Turkish Armenians could make a selection between Turkey and Russia, which
would present attractive perspective that could tempt itself, a year ago.


The Armenians, of course knew what these words meant; they knew very well
that if they simply were committed to the Ottoman regime, their lives and
existence would be protected during the great conflict of the nations, which
was approaching day by day. However, they gave up Turkey by risking everything
they possessed. They believed in the historical mission of Russia at the Middle
East sincerely and deeply; they believed that the Armenian lands would be
brought into life by shedding blood instead of taking the reward of their
loyalty. That was because they did not have any political prudence; it was a
romantic exaggeration which was put forward by a historical conjuncture.
However, they had made their choice, and there was no way back. From that point
on, the Armenians would not live in/ with Turkey. They had no choice but either
to found a separate state or to die.”


“A separate state could only be founded if the Russians gained a definite
victory at the war. That’s why, the Russian cause, was their own case and
that’s why, if they betrayed Russia, they would have betrayed to themselves
under these circumstances. In this vein, being doubtful about the loyalty of
the Armenians would be simply closing eyes to this evident fact. The Armenians
were the ROYAL ally of Russia and they would always be so, since every kind of
avoidance would be a national suicide.


Indicating that he did not have an intention for exaggerating the
historical collaboration hysterically, the Armenian official expressed that
also he did not wish to despise the collaboration by being too modest. Despite
the immense military power and its resources that does not exhaust,
particularly this kind of support, even though too modest in a war such as this
one, should not turned a blind eye. Five Armenian units, which was consisted of
more than one thousand volunteers at the war zone, and two units, which was due
to be formed in Yerevan, was nothing besides the size of the Russian army,
which had millions of soldiers. However, the role and the meaning of the
Armenian voluntaries under the special conditions of the Caucasus front could
not be compared with their quantity. Knowing the language and the region, their
ties with the population, the organic hatred they feed against Turkey and the
hopes that were nourished for the victory of the Russian weapon doubled the
power and the meaning of the Armenian volunteers, which created a special type
of a warrior.


Furthermore, the voluntary units in front of the Russian armies, made an
alive and firm connection between the armies and the people. While the
voluntaries, at the eyes of the public, symbolized the Russian- Armenian union,
it also supported and strengthened the military, political belief towards
Russia. The guerilla activities of the Armenian rebels were more significant.
Distracting Turkish armies at the back of the front by causing problems,
preventing the communication among the units, destroying barracks and depots
and seizing the supply materials, the rebels had simplified the movements of the
Russians. It would not be an exaggeration saying that without the uprisings Van
could not be seized so easily, in such a short period of time and with so small
quantity of losses.


Pointing out the role of the voluntary movement, the writer lately indicated
that an explanation was needed for the Russians’ view over the Turkish
Armenians. If the Armenians, who shed blood, risked its present day and future,
and was a loyal and functional ally of Russia, then their approach should be
different than of today. If they were regarded as a part of a population that
would live at the lands that were sized, then that means that for Russians the
Armenians didn’t have any difference from the Turks or Kurds.


This stance, which was not friendly, was observed mostly in the region,
where General Abatsiyev’s unit was situated. The Armenians, who were not
sheltered and protected at this region, were treated as criminals. The Armenian
immigrants, who were gathered at the Malazgirt and Dutah regions, were forcedly
sent to “Patnos” located at the South-east of the country. The Muslims in
“Arces,” and “Van” were not relocated. The local administration of the Russians
regarded all the Armenian population around the province of “Antep” as they had
come from outside. The Armenian assets in “Antep” were assessed as they did not
belong to them and those assets were confiscated by the administration.


The Second-lieutenant Yermolov confiscated an Armenian villager’s wheat in
village of “Mlan” on the 8th of June, saying that Armenians has never lived in
“Mlan” and dispersed all the wheat of the village to the Kurdish immigrants.
The other commissary officers thought and acted in the same way. Armenian
oppositional views were also reflected on the views over the Armenian
voluntaries. However, those people, who committed their lives voluntarily to
the Russians should be thanked and should be encouraged. While they were silent
over the service of the volunteers, some small incidents were exaggerated and
reflected as a crime. The instruction which was numbered as 6348 and dated 1
June, which was sent to A. I. Hatisov, the chief of the Armenian voluntaries,
was one of the examples of the many: “General Nikolayev informed that the
Armenian voluntaries in Van had opened fire against our armies…Despite that,
the Armenian volunteers had attended to looting activities at numerous times.
The Brigadier General Bolhovitinov stressed that these kinds of incidents had
never occurred, and these incidents were invented for accusing the Armenian
volunteers.


These attitudes towards Armenians, which are not friendly at all were,
unfortunately countless. There was no point to dwell upon this subject.
Nevertheless, the instruction of General Nikolayev should not be disregarded.
According to the instruction, permission was given to Kurds from Bergri Kale,
Arçak, Saray, Bas,akal and Norduz for returning to their villages. And the
Armenian population was prohibited from getting on and planting the fields and
gardens of the village and confiscating the cattle of the Kurds. It was also
said: “Every kind of bloody conflict that is based on economical causes or any
other reasons that would occur among the Armenian population and the Kurdish
population will be under the responsibility of the Governor of Van (Aram Pasha),
who is an Armenian.”


According to the writer, the Kurds were taken under the protection of the
Russia against the attacks of the Armenians. According to the official, who
wrote: “We thought that the side that suffered was the Armenians and Kurds in
Turkey until today”, Of Course, some extremist incidents had occurred at
various levels in some parts of the Van province by the Armenians,which
threatened the Kurds. However, the afore-mentioned situation does not acquit
the soul and the content of the instruction.”


These Kurds, who were under the protection of the Russian weapon and are
called on for returning their home, fought with the Russians armies at the
past. The Armenian official, who wrote that after the invasion there is no use
of expressing their commitment, indicated that the Kurds suffered hunger at the
mountains so, Of Course, they would wish to return home for taking their fields
back. The only opportunity for that was to present their commitment to the
Russian state. And so, they did. Then could it possible to think that Russia
was not an enemy to the Kurds any longer? Or was it possible to think them as a
friend or just they were impartial? Kurds regarded Russians as an “infidel”
whom it declared war against. And Kurd should know that “infidel” would bring
an order, and will put an end to the anarchy, which is rooted at the instincts
of Kurds. While it was possible for the semi-violent Kurds under the rule of
Turks to maintain their privileges for a long time, they had to obey the
system, which was new, foreign and which limited them, when the Russians came.
Even though they presented their commitment to the regime, this was how the
Kurds regarded the Russians. The only thing that should be done at the present
day is to spread terror amongst the Kurds. Nevertheless, General Nikolayev`s
instruction was to do just the opposite things.


Besides not being scared, also the Kurds were guaranteed on not giving
account for their pasts. And also an opportunity was given to them for
repeating the same things in the future as well. While they were fighting
against the Russians only yesterday, today they are just saying that they gave
in, and so the file closes down. The Kurds were not even considered as war
prisoners and regarded as native civilian innocent people, who were in fear,
and so, they were accommodated and fed.


While the Armenians had served Russia with great efforts, Kurds, on the
contrary had struggle against it. However, the Russians seemed to forget that
fact quickly; instead of punishing them, they attempted to comfort them. The
following can be judged from the instructions of General Nikolayev: The Russian
applied equal treatment to the Armenians and the Kurds, and they were at equal
distance to both of them. Nevertheless, it is possible to think the following:
The Russian government thought the interests of the hostile Kurds more than the
friendly Armenians. It is not possible to evaluate this instruction as a
reflection of the principles of equality-justice. Every kind of individual action,
intended for realizing justice with the threat of punishment, was prohibited to
Armenians. However, there was not even an implication about the responsibility
of the Kurds at the instruction. As if Kurds were the people who suffered the
attacks of the Armenians, and who were returning their home in hunger.


The Armenian official, who fiercely rejected the returning of the Kurds at
the report, wrote that if the Kurds were left on the mountains, the Armenians
would prevent them from going down the mountains by waylaying and holding the
passages. According to the writer of the report; returning of the Kurds and
their protection could not be explained by the circumstances of war. Since the
Kurds were not hostile only against the Armenians but the Russians as well. The
Kurds would brief nearest Turkish headquarters about the power of General
Nikolayev`s unit, their movements, positions, in other words, they would inform
all about their military movements. After they do the harvest, revive the
economical life and do the necessary preparation for the winter, they would
take their part in the Turkish armies again. That’s why, weakening of the
Kurdish tribes would be under the guarantee of the Russian weapon; or else,
encouraging or protecting them wouldn’t be so. The direct interests of the
Armenians and the Russians in the war, was to expel the Kurds to the deepest
point at the mountains that could be possible.


The official, who pointed out that the Armenians should know the
realities, underlined that they had caused the masses to revolt and organized
them in a certain direction as the leader of the masses. However, now they had
encountered with a horrible question: Have they done the right thing? Have they
committed a great crime by sending a populace to a way that is not possible to
go? That horrible sense of responsibility, forced them to find a respond to the
question and to raise their voices. The official, who wished the stance of the
Russians towards them to be enlightened, at present and in the future gave an
end to his report by indicating that the respond should be definite, which
would not leave any question marks in the minds. These lines, which reminded
the expressions at the report , which was written in 1923 of Kaçaznuni, first
Prime Minister of Armenia and the founder of the Tashnak Party, is important
since it points out that the Armenian movement was not the subject of the war,
but the object of the imperialist plans.


i. See “Mehmet Perinçek, The Armenian Issue in 100 Documents from the
Russian State Archives, Dog(an Books, March 2007” for the examples regarding
the massacres and looting policy of the Armenian voluntary units that was
reflected to the Tsarist documents.


ii. See “Ovanes Kaçaznuni, There is nothing that Tashnak Party could Do,
Kaynak Publications, November 2005” for the report.


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