samedi 29 août 2015

Résumé de "La Première Guerre mondiale et la question arménienne" (de Stéphane Yerasimos)

Here is an article by an Ottoman Historian, Prof. Dr. Stefanos Yerasimos (of Greek origin). Let me provide you a summary of his article published in a Turkish Armenian site, which is still available on the net:

WWI and the Armenian Problem

Dr. Stefanos Yerasimos interprets the Armenian events as one of the gradual processes that involved transition from a multinational and multireligious empire to various nation states as also occurred for the Austrian-Hungarian, and the Russian Empire.

Yerasimos believes that the Turks (as the ruling class of the empire) started to oppress their subjects in order to retain their dissolving state (as of 19th Century), and so, the Turks interpreted revolts as "rebels (or terrorists) against the state". On contrary, the Armenians ignores such motive and reduces the events to some racial-hatred or some final solution prespective that the NAZI applied on the Jews.

However, Yerasimos suggests, what happened to the Armenians was nothing but some tragedy related to this painful process rather than some planned killings. He states three pillars for each successful nation which established its national independence (from the Ottoman Empire) over time:

1. Intellectual and material background to support and finance the rebelions,
2. Some land that the revolting nation constitutes the majority,
3. External support of the dominating powers.

He insisted that the intellectuals and rich Armenians (due to lack of 2) did not support an independent Armenia truely. Therefore, he believes that the Armenian nationalism became marginal compared to its counterparts in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and so on. Furthermore, he also points emergence of Turkish nationalism and the Armenian nationalism at the same time and consequently feeding and crushing into each other.

Yerasimos points out some historical reasons for the removal of Armenian from Anatolia:

1. Ottoman land reform of 1830-1840 that involved issueing lands to the nomadic Kurds which escelated tensions between the Armenians and the Kurds living in the same regions.

2. Bulgar Independence as a consequence of the war of 1877-1878, in which the Bulgar rebels successfully organized revolts in areas that they did not constitute majority. By doing so, the Bulgars succeded to take attention of the dominating powers, and gained independence despite demographic disadvantage. Yerasimos believes that Bulgar experience led the Armenians to inflict same methods on Kurds (revolts of 1890s received identical response by the Kurds, and such response were supported by the central government), and later to Turks/Kurds/muslims during the WWI.

3. Balkan Wars and the consequences of Balkan War, which did clearly indicate the forthcoming demise of the Ottoman Empire. Yerasimos argues that Balkan War resulted in emergence of Turkish nationalism as well as the Armenian one. Consequently, the end of Turkish dominion in Europe motivated the Armenians for seeking the same fate in Asia. Similarly, he argues that the enormous number of Balkan emigrants also placed significant impact of late Ottoman policies.

4. The Armenian demands for autonomy during 1912-1914 in six vilayets (without constituting the mojority) highlighted the CUP's attention, particularly when the Russian and European support was conclusive to establish the Armenian autonomy that made them the majority of the assembly ruling those 6 vilayets as of 1914.

WWI and Deportation:

1. He dismisses the pre-war perperation of SO as some tool to establish genocide
by pointing out the ethnic conflicts of between 1913-1914, which only included some oppression and harrasment of the Greek population in the western parts of the country. Thus, he asserts that it was not possible to plan some extermination of the minorities, since even in Europe, it is forecasted that the forthcoming war would have been a short lasting one.

2. When the war broke out in Europe, the Ottoman army got alerted whilst the Armenian patriarch of Russia called all Ottoman Armenians to revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

3. Many Armenian males avoided the military service and escaped to the mountains particularly in Hacin, Zeytun ve Sasun areas.

4. Dashnak part members crossed the Russian border and formed military units with the help of Russians.

5. In November 1914, Russians moved forward by sending the Armenian units into Eastern Turkey. Those regiments started to kill Turkish and Kurdish peasants. Soon, the ethnic conflict amongst Turks, Kurds, and Armenians affected the whole region. Due to their demographic disadvantage, the Armenians withdrew to Van and continued to revolt.

6. In January 1915, British and French who were worried about a possible Ottoman campaign in Caucasus intended to open a second front to place pressure on the Ottoman forces. So, Lord Kitchener sent a letter to the Armenian leaders around Iskenderun and Adana. The letter ended up in Ottoman hands. So, first forced migration were started locally due to fear in Armenian revolts in the region.

7. Due to opposition raised by W. Churchill, the campaign targeting Iskenderun got cancelled and the navy headed for Galipoli to cross the straights and to put an end to the Ottoman Empire directly.

8. In Caucasus front, after the defeat of the Ottoman army in Sarikamis, the Russians were in preperation for counter strike, but they did wait until April 1915. In April, whilst the five Armenian regiments attacked, the increased number of Armenians in Van revolted in order to support the Armenian efforts penetrating the Ottoman territories.

Later, the famous order for deportation of Armenians were given by the government and then Armenians (excluding Istanbul and Izmir) were deported in masses. Yerasimos stresses that the deportation was not executed by the army, but SO and the local militas organized by the government to conclude the task. He suggests that it can not be concluded that the intention behind deportation was to exterminate since the toll during deportations vary from date to date and place to place. In order to raise his point, he notes that most of the Armenians who were subject to deportation from Central and Western Anatolia did not have high death rates though the ones who used to reside close the Russian border had far higher ratios compared to the rest.

Moreover, he points out that most who of the Armenians died as a consequence of cold, hunger and sickness rather than some planned extermination process. In that sense, he gives a 40% death rate for the Caucasian muslims who were deported (by Stalin) to Central Asia from Caucasus in 1944 (even though stressing that some of the Ottoman officials might have forecasted the death toll for the deported Armenians even in the begining).

Furthermore, he points out the role of bandits and burglars who attacked the Armenian convoys for money or valuables whilst stating an overall toll that is between 600.000-800.000 Armenians. In terms of crimes commited by the Armenians, he notes the crimes commited around Van region in 1915. Then, the crimes commited around Van, Mus, Bitlis, Erzurum and Erzincan regions back in 1916, and finally the mass killings of muslims between 1917-1918 that included the regions evacuated by the Russian forces.

Finally in his article, Prof. Dr. Stefanos Yerasimos evaluates the definition of genocide as occured during the WWII, and concludes that the death of Armenians as occured during the WWI can not be classified as a genocide. He strongly insists that the Bosnian-Serb ethnic conflict is more alike the Turco-Armenian conflict rather than some genocide applied to the Jews by Germans.

Recommendations by Prof. Dr. Stefanos Yerasimos

1. At a least a gruop (consisting at least several hundred) of historians should be studying the issue.
2. A mutual commision established by historians of Turkey and Armenia can not reach a consensus on this issue.
3. Such study must be independent and must not include government officials of state organizations.
4. There should be no concerns in relation to the concept of law.

5. Such study for historical interpretation of the events must be printed in Turkish and must be published by an independent Turkish publisher.

Summarized from the article published in Turkish (still available on the Internet site of the Turkish Armenians)
Source :

Ce texte de Stéphane Yerasimos est une allocution qui a été prononcée dans le cadre d'une conférence de l'Académie des sciences de Turquie, le 20 mai 2002.

L'intégralité se trouve en ligne à cette adresse également :

On ne peut que déplorer que cette communication n'ait pas été traduite en français, alors qu'elle a été publiée en turc sous forme de brochure : Stefanos Yerasimos, Birinci Dünya Savaşı ve Ermeni Sorunu, Ankara, Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi Forumu, 2002.

Citoyen turc et français, Grec et Stambouliote de naissance, urbaniste, géographe, ottomaniste, directeur de l'IFEA, Stéphane Yerasimos (décédé il y a 10 ans) était une personnalité hors du commun. Entre autres choses, il s'était penché sur la séquence historique 1912-1923 (c'est-à-dire les turbulences géopolitiques et militaires qui ont secoué l'aire géographique allant des Balkans au Caucase), sur laquelle il avait rassemblé une importante documentation. Il n'hésitait pas à écrire et à dire ce qu'il pensait, loin de tout dogme incapacitant, de tout tabou. Son approche critique du nationalisme turc (comme des autres nationalismes de la région) ne lui a pas valu d'être ostracisé par les autorités et l'ensemble de l'intelligentsia turques : Hommes et idées dans l'espace ottoman (1997) a été publié par la maison d'édition turque Isis par exemple. A méditer, quand on voit les pressions, les cabales, la censure et l'auto-censure si prégnantes en France : procès contre Bernard Lewis, violente campagne contre Gilles Veinstein en 1998-99, et même censure de la première version de la nécrologie que Le Monde a consacrée à ce dernier...

Claude Mutafian (professeur de mathématiques et accessoirement négateur de massacres) disait de lui qu'il était "l'un des plus virulents négationnistes qui soient" (sic). Gaïdz Minassian (politiste et journaliste qui croit maîtriser l'historiographie sur 1915) le considère comme un simple "relais du négationnisme". En vérité, Stéphane Yerasimos était un savant animé par un souci permanent de justesse et de rigueur, une volonté de connaître à fond son sujet et de le faire connaître au grand public. Ses articles sur le démantèlement des Empires ottoman et russe fourmillent de précisions détaillées, appuyées sur de nombreuses notes de bas de page renvoyant à des documents d'époque (en diverses langues). Il suffit de faire la comparaison avec ce que peuvent produire un Vincent Duclert ou un Hamit Bozarslan sur le "génocide arménien" (a priori et approximations, anathèmes sans véritable contre-argumentation, appétence pour les concepts creux, finalités idéologiques, flagornerie envers le faussaire Taner Akçam) : le constat est sans appel.

Dès lors, il ne fait pas de doute que S. Yerasimos était parvenu à ses propres conclusions après mûre réflexion, après de longues recherches personnelles. Le plus étonnant, c'est qu'il ait atteint, dès les années 80 (on en était alors aux balbutiements historiographiques), un niveau aussi élevé de connaissance et de compréhension. Pour parler plus clairement : il n'y aurait quasiment aucune correction à apporter à ses articles aujourd'hui, tant leur qualité est grande.

Quelques articles de cet auteur :

Ethnies et minorités en Turquie : quelques réflexions sur un problème insoluble

Caucase, la grande mêlée (1914-1921)

Article en intégralité : 

Les relations gréco-turques : mythes et réalités
La question du Pont-Euxin (1912-1923)

Avec les cartes et les notes de bas de page :

Voir également : "Génocide arménien" : le saviez-vous ?
Sources bibliographiques sur le contentieux turco-arménien
"Génocide arménien" : connaître les thèses contradictoires en présence

"Génocide arménien" : la parole aux historiens turcologues et islamologues