A PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Armenian Representation in Turkey during the Post WWII period
Definition of minority alone falls short of explaining the position of Armenians remaining in Republican Turkey. For they constitute a society of survivors, living in a post-genocidal society within post-genocidal state structures. The loss of acquired rights of remaining ethnic groups was a constitutive part of the post-genocidal character of republican period. One of the most important issues was -and continues to be until today- the problem of representation. The legal impossibility of political representation as a community and the constant requirement of representation of the Armenian community in the Turkish public sphere was a key dilemma. The Armenian community of Turkey has lost its mechanisms of representation, which had been institutionalised in Armenian constitution (nizamname) of 1863 during the first 15 years of the republic. Ever since then, secular and/or political issues of the community could not be addressed by any institution, which was formed by elected representatives. The absence of institutional representation created two-fold problems. Firstly, each and every Armenian could potentially or actually be referred to as a representative of the community. Secondly, Armenian newspapers and intellectuals were put in the position of representing the community.
In situation of international crisis, such as during the post WWII period, when Armenians were accused of being a “fifth column” or pro-German, or pro-Soviet, both Armenian individuals and the Armenian newspapers along with public intellectuals were forced to react on behalf of the community. This enforcement mechanism was launched by the parliamentarian cumeditors-in-chiefs of Turkish newspapers, which were covering the biggest part of the Turkish press and who were representatives of the government at the same time.
Obliging community intellectuals to make political declarations was consequently paving the way of banning the newspapers or imprisonment of their editors. Impossibility of political representation and the requirement of representation in an anti-Armenian public sphere meant a special kind of silencing through a special kind of permission to speak.
In my paper, I will dwell upon this issue during the post WWII period in the context of USSR claims of territorial rights to eastern provinces from Turkey and the call for immigration the USSR issued to Armenians all over the world. I will use the Armenian newspapers (Marmara, Nor Lour and Nor Or) to understand the social and official pressures on the community and the responses given by the community intellectuals. Along with Armenian newspapers, documentation from the Prime Minister’s Archives will be utilized as complementary sources.