"Pashinyan wants to break old stereotypes in order to achieve clarity"

It is reported that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave new instructions on the events of 1915. The Prime Minister wants to compile a list of Armenians who died during those events. Chairman of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly of Armenia Andranik Kocharyan told the Armenian service of Radio “Azatutyun” that Nikol Pashinyan wants to create real grounds for "genocide" and compile a more objective list of tribesmen who were subjected to "genocide":

"Pashinyan's goal is to lay the "real foundations" related to the genocide. This is a simple goal in order to find out the addresses and whereabouts of each of our 1.5 million tribesmen. It is also very important for building our relations with our neighbors in the future. It should be clarified in full - 1.5 million, 2 million or less. If we don't document it, the other side will always say that it never happened. Yes, it says," he said, adding that after compiling the list, the names of these people should be carved on the walls of the Genocide Museum.

However, there are people who call this government initiative "very dangerous." They say that this is a thesis of denial and that it has been put into circulation by the Turks since the 60s of the last century. There are many who even accuse the government of Nikol Pashinyan of taking this step on the instructions of Turkiye.

It should be noted that about 30 countries recognized the "Armenian genocide" in Ottoman Turkiye, including the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, etc. Switzerland even considered the denial of the "Armenian genocide" a crime. U.S. President Joe Biden described the killing of Armenians in the Ottoman era on April 24, 2021 as "genocide."

Elkhan Mehdiyev, a researcher on international issues and a conflict analyst, discussed this topic with ASTNA.

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Question: What is the point of compiling a list of Armenians who died during the events of 1915, as prescribed by Pashinyan?

Answer: In order to create a healthy society in Armenia, Pashinyan seeks to destroy many stereotypes that exist in the country and among people. The distorted representation of the events of 1915 to society is the source of major problems that hinder the Armenian society, its development and worldview. The propaganda that has been carried out over the past 100 years has been based on the works of art by Armenian and foreign writers and poets about the suffering and pain of the Armenian population during the migration period, and historians - on the military propaganda of the allied states that fought with the Ottoman Empire. No one denies the difficult situation in which the Armenian people found themselves at that time. But these events were so exaggerated by the Armenian propaganda machine that the true hardships of the Armenian population affected by the tragedy sometimes became the subject of controversy. This is due both to hardships and, most importantly, to the number of deaths. I consider this step in the context of Pashinyan's reform in Armenian society and in connection with stereotypes and way of thinking. This work is not limited to compiling a list alone, and it will probably require an approach that will require an investigation of all events that occurred before 1915 and in subsequent years.

Question: Can this step be considered as a rejection of genocide?

Answer: I think Pashinyan is trying to reveal as much truth as possible here, rather than statements about the genocide, and to reveal to society what happened in 1915 and how many people died of disease, starvation, as a result of natural death or were killed. Because if in the 1920s it was written that 300 thousand Armenians died during the First World War, then later this figure increased every decade and reached 1.5 million. And this figure is used by everyone in Europe and America, starting with the president of the United States. These figures are not at all the result of an extensive investigation, such as the one initiated by Pashinyan now, but the claims of individuals. However, at that time, hundreds of thousands of people died of typhus in the Ottoman state.

Question: What can making a list reveal?

Answer: Making a list is also not an easy task and requires many years of research. The Ottoman archives are open, the data is available. But they can be disclosed on a larger scale through a joint Turkish-Armenian commission. Because before the First World War, a population census was conducted in the Ottoman Empire and it indicates the number of all Christian minorities.  The number of Greeks and Armenians, as well as Assyrians, living along the entire Ottoman border is indicated. The Armenian Church of that time also has such lists. According to the statistics of that time, in 1914 there were not as many Armenians living in the Ottoman state as they are now listed among the dead. Moreover, in 1914, subjects of Armenian origin lived in the Ottoman state, starting from Jerusalem and ending with all the countries of the Middle East. Although, as a result of the "techchir" (resettlement), part of the population began to migrate to both the Middle East and Europe, and some returned. And here, of course, you should not jump to conclusions, extensive research is needed.

Question: Earlier, Nikol Pashinyan, speaking in parliament, stated the difference between historical and real Armenia, that the former poses a threat to the latter. Was this step also  related to this?

Answer: Various Armenian circles, by shifting the borders of the Armenian kingdoms that existed before our era and in the early Middle Ages from the plane of national pride to the political level accompanied by land claims, created a historical image of virtual Armenia over a significant part of Armenian society. In the last 100 years, by putting forward a plan similar to the "Treaty of Sevres" against the Ottoman state, which was defeated in the First World War, this idea was also "revived" by radical Armenian circles. Although the "treaty" did not have any effect, they tried to introduce "historical lands" into the public consciousness. In history, many states have disappeared, shrunk, lost their territories, and other states have emerged in a new form. In the modern world, the concept of historical lands is not accepted at the political level, and all states are created, developed and adopted in accordance with the post-war order. The expression of our historical lands is a territorial claim in a political sense, leading to hostility and war. This is what Pashinyan is talking about.

Question: Is this step by Pashinyan aimed at breaking stereotypes associated with Turks, a new approach to Turks, Turkiye and Azerbaijan?

Answer: Pashinyan intends to normalize relations with Turkiye and Azerbaijan and ensure Armenia's security by establishing normal neighborly relations with these two states. And this is the most correct approach. In relations with Turkiye, genocidal claims are an unacceptable topic. However, Turkiye recognizes that its subjects, the Armenian population, suffered and had losses in 1915, and as a Turkish state expresses its condolences. But it rejects that this tragedy was allegedly a systematic extermination of the Armenian population, that is, genocide. It also claims that the losses are exaggerated. Of course, Turkiye has the most information. As for the killings, tens of thousands of Muslim Turks were killed by armed Armenian detachments along with subjects of Armenian origin. Therefore, Turkiye calls for an overview of the overall picture, and not only the destitution of Armenian citizens.

If the commission of mutual investigation comes to a common conclusion on this painful and bitter issue and clarifies it, Turkiye will accept its conclusions. If both sides accept, then the path to historical reconciliation will also open. After establishing relations with Armenia, Armenia will benefit most from this cooperation. The Turkish and Armenian people share a common history and culture, and if relations are established, bilateral relations will soon deepen.  The probability that Turkiye will become a guarantor of Armenia's independence and territorial integrity in the near future is very high.

Question: How should the truth about the problem of "genocide" be made public?

Answer: Back in 2004, then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and  Deniz Baikal Chairman of the  Republican People's Party signed an agreement. In accordance with this agreement, Turkiye proposed to Armenia to create a joint commission consisting of Turkish, Armenian and foreign historians and draw a conclusion based on sources regarding the accusations of genocide. It was a very important agreement. The position of both the authorities and the leading opposition party on this issue was united. The essence of the agreement was that if these historians came to the conclusion that it was genocide, then the Turkish state would recognize these events as genocide.

In fact, it was an unprecedented decision, and accepting Armenia as a party directly was also a gesture of goodwill and a decision towards peace on the part of Turkiye. Because in 1915 there was no Armenian state, and the Ottoman state was not at war with non-existent Armenia. The affected Armenian population was also a subject of the Ottoman Empire. Now that a part of the Armenian population is former subjects of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Armenia could simply act as an interested party in this issue.

However, when Kocharian  was in power Armenia did not accept this proposal, saying that there was a genocide and it is immoral to discuss it.  Because then Kocharyan, together with the forces of the diaspora, managed to bring this issue to the very peak in the United States and the European Union. Despite the fact that in case of Turkiye's disagreement, there was no benefit for Armenia from the resolutions and approval adopted by Europe and the United States. But there was a huge benefit in one issue, and I myself witnessed this at all international events, mainly in the USA. Later, Kocharyan himself confessed why he did it. According to him, he sought to divert the attention of the international community and Turkiye from the issue of the occupation of Karabakh, bringing the issue of genocide to the international level. In my opinion, they have achieved this in a period of time measured in decades. Under the pressure of the genocide, they mainly kept Turkiye from openly supporting Azerbaijan in international forums…

The issue of genocide is the biggest obstacle to relations between Turkiye and Armenia. Although L.Ter-Petrosyan stated that this is a matter of history, Kocharyan raised it to a political level and worsened relations with Turkiye. Pashinyan wants to achieve clarity on this issue not as a prisoner of old stereotypes, but through open discussions and research.

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