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What are the differences between "Haigagan Hartz" and "Hay Tahd?". By Khachig Tololyan The responses which this straightforward query has elicited recently have often been confused and sometimes oddly heated. I'm prompted to comment on this and related questions by the nature of the debate and by the links people have made with other issues, on some of which I will touch. "Haigagan Hartz" is not so much an Armenian coinage as it is a translation of a western diplomatic term, "The Armenian Question" or, since French used to be the diplomatic lingua franca of the European powers, La Question Armenienne. In the 1870s, a few years after Abdul Hamid became Sultan, probably some time between the Berlin Conference and the establishment of the Hamidiyeh cavalry (so 1878-1881), the western powers took note of the increasingly immiserated state of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. It became an issue on some agendas and also in many newspapers. The involvement of the western powers in sporadic and almost always ineffective attempts to protect the Armenians prefigures, or offers a preview, of the difficulties western states encounter when trying to protect the minority subjects of a predatory state, such as the Ottoman Empire. Not that all, or even most, western powers were sincerely interested in doing that - but to the extent that anyone was, they encountered enormous difficulties; such difficulties continue to the present day for any western state or international organization that tries to protect minorities from their "legitimate" rulers. At any rate, Armenian newspapers and, after 1887, political parties, naturally picked up the term, and translated it as "Haigagan Hartz." That's a literal translation. "Haigagan Tahd", or Hai Tahd, which translates as "The Armenian Case" in the legal sense, not the Harvard Business School sense, may have been used before the Genocide, but became important after it. Soon after 1918, the ARF's North American daily, Hairenik, began to use the term sporadically, The same term was in widespread use throughout the Middle East, and not just by ARF-ers. For example, it was invoked by Simon Simonian, the pioneering founder of the weekly Spurk [Diaspora] in 1957 or 1958 - and he was barely on polite terms with the powerful Beirut ARF. The term gained the currency it now enjoys when the ARF began to use it systematically in all its media after 1965. Currently, it's my impression that it is used by all groups, but by the ANC and its Washington lobby more often than by the Armenian Assembly. Thus, to the eyes and ears of many, the term cries out "ARF," but nothing about its content dictates that. In effect, then, the Armenian Question was the one the western nations put on their own agenda (with some help from Kherimian Hayrig's delegation to Berlin) as they tried to protect Armenians and diminish the grounds for Russian intervention in the Ottoman Empire, to protect Christians. The Armenian Case involves much more than trampled rights - it has to do with the lost land, and the Genocide, and identifies an ARMENIAN effort to place all these issues on the agendas of western states and media. On to another issue, which has been linked to the first: the Suny-Dadrian debate (Armenian Forum, summer 1998). This issue is in turn linked to a wider debate in Armenia and diaspora that has been taking ominous shape since 1988, and has involved figures like Vazken Manoukian, Levon Ter Petrossian, Jirair Libaridian and far lesser figures. The genocide-related part of the issue has several elements: (A) to what extent was something resembling expulsion, total extermination, and elimination-by-any-means of the Armenians of the Ottoman empire Turkish state policy? And when did it become that? (B) Can we isolate the causes or "reasons" for the hatred of Armenians by the state and by the Kurds and Turks of the Ottoman Empire? Can we say with some certainty that religion, or ethnic/national feeling, or class/economics, was/were the "reasons" for hating the Armenian people to death? (C) Depending on how we establish the timing in question A, can we say what Armenian actions, if any, were "responsible" for the adoption of the Turkish state's policy? (D) Was there a particular organization which, acting in the name of the Armenian Nation but without, in fact, consulting the nation or being genuinely representative of it, committed rash acts which led to C, above, and thence to genocide? There is a more general question, which is (E) whether any action by a minority, subject, oppressed people like the Armenians "justifies" genocide. The moral imbecility of Armenians -- I can use no gentler word -- who think genocide of a people is justified by any rash political action performed by some of its members is beneath comment. But if the word "justifies" is put aside, we can still ask whether such rash acts occurred, and functioned as a factor in the inexcusable Turkish decisions. Of course, to decide this requires that we understand what the Ottoman leadership thought, and when it thought it, and that in turn requires a full knowledge of sources in Turkish archives (internal memos, etc). For example, did the Macedonian uprising of 1903 lead the Young Turks, not yet in power, frustrated, and heavily concentrated in the Balkan provinces of the Empire, to think of genocide? We don't know, but it's plausible that it might have done so. Did the loss of most of the Balkans after 1912-3 lead the Ittihad to focus any genocidal thoughts they might already have developed vis a vis the Macedonians - again, for example - on the Armenians? Or to develop the genocidal thoughts right then and there? Quite likely, but these are only plausible educated guesses. Most massive actions like genocide require the existence and build-up, over time, of (1) enabling conditions and structures, (2) the incubation of hateful attitudes and poisonous ideologies, (3) a contingent, triggering event; (4) a profit motive - the seizure of Armenian or Jewish wealth - never hurts, either. Another usual precondition is that (5) the the state's legal power be concentrated, not diffusely and broadly held. It must be held by a small political party that seizes the levers of the state - whether in Cambodia or the Ottoman Empire - and then hands them to a few people capable of taking a decision and implementing it through the rest of the party, the state appararatus and the populace at large. Usually, the murderous elites move towards a decision over time, in internal debate within their narrow circle. Did the Young Turks move in this direction even before they attained power, or after the disturbances of 1909, or the defeats of 1912-3, or the defeat of the winter of 1914? There is some evidence for several of these points of view, but no decisive documentation; to the best of my knowledge, even the knowledgeable Professor Dadrian hasn't seen such original documents; Professor Suny couldn't read them by himself if he saw them, since he doesn't read Ottoman Turkish. This doesn't incapacitate either from engaging in debate - because there are fragmentary and not always reliable statements by participants about how decisions were taken, and because both Professors Suny and Dadrian know how to think about cataclysmic events, such as revolution and genocide. My point is that even these two learned men aren't in a position to argue the issue to its limits, though of course they are in a better position than we are. They can argue persuasively or not, depending on the formulations they use and the inclinations of their diverse audience. They can't argue conclusively - they haven't the evidence. No one does, except perhaps the keepers of the archives. But I wouldn't be too sure. Mass murderers don't write everything down. The more important issue is that this question dates back some ninety years, and has been revived recently in Armenia. Here's how. When the Hunchaks and Tashnags or ARF were established (1887 and 1890), most Armenians were at first indifferent to them, and the old elites - wealthy, religious, jealous of their status and justifiably cautious in Istanbul, were hostile. The young who welcomed these organizations and joined them pointed out that since the Turks had arrived centuries ago, or at least since the accession of Abdul Hamid to the throne, Armenians were being killed with impunity, so it was time to start some form of self defense, protest, armed action. The Armenian traditional elites said "No, we're not powerful enough, things will get worse if you act", and they did, as 1894-96 showed. From that point on, we know that the more cautious Armenians grumbled about the new political parties. How do we know? Some indications are in the nineteenth century press which I know a little and Vahe Oshagan has actually read, volume after dusty volume. Mind you, these condemnations - "don't get rash, they'll kill us" - have to be read "between the lines," because the Sultan's censors didn't actually allow an Armenian paper in Istanbul to say "100 Armenians massacred in Van after ARF or Hunchak assassins shot extortionate tax collector." They'd have to say something like "after terrorist provocation, unfortunate bloodshed occurred at X." The point is that we can't DIRECTLY tell whether these were the formulae the censors allowed, or actually reflect the feelings of the Armenian elite as well. It is not out of the question that the Armenian elite, who felt their grip on ordinary people slip away, and resented the new parties for it, may have felt what their Ottoman overlords wanted them to feel. As Ara Baliozian, the much-quoted sage of Kitchener, rightly points out, the Ottomans had instilled a "sick" mentality among many Armenians - though I think he sometimes misdiagnoses the nature of that mentality. Be that as it may, there is, I would argue, a LOT of literary evidence that shows that the Armenian conservative elite was willing to condemn the Armenian political parties; there are a number of fictional characters, in works like Garmir Jamoots or Raffi's several novels, who are clearly veiled references to actual contemporary feelings. After 1908, and definitely after 1920, the Armenian organizations that would eventually form the core of the Sahmanatragans and the Ramgavar party criticized the ARF - by then, the Hunchaks had been marginalized - as THE group responsible for provoking the Ottoman state. However, and this is a big however, I can't tell you when these statements were first uttered. I grew up in the offices of several Armenian newspapers my father edited, and I overheard the post-deadline conversations over coffee and cigarettes he had with friends, conversations in which the names of those who said such and such in ephemeral newspapers decades ago were muttered. But I have no recall of the specifics. What is indisputable is that the charge of Hunchak and especially Tashnag rashness, irresponsibility, and political myopia has been part of the innuendo against the ARF for several decades (yes, Virginia, there was debate before the Internet) and that this was picked up in Armenia before and especially after 1995. Before 1995, Vazken Manoukian, Jirair Libaridian and Levon Ter Petrossian were variously concerned to emphasize that Armenia had no permanent friends or enemies. To Manoukian and Ter Petrossian, it seemed necessary to move Armenians to independence in 1988-1991, and Manoukian was especially insistent that Turkey could some day be a friend to Armenia (as Russia, he implied, was already an enemy, no longer a friend, if ever it had been). This necessitated, eventually, a revisionary view of the Genocide. EITHER the interests and attitudes that created 1915 still persisted in 1988, and Armenia was still in danger from Turkey, and so must stick close to the USSR, which Manoukian did not want, OR the motives that led the Ottoman State to genocide were contingent, and belonged to 1915, not to the present. This is a false dichotomy - it was the result of rhetorical and political necessity. Unfortunately, it obscured the CENTRAL question of the interests of the Ottoman state then, of the embryonic Turkish state, and of that state now - but that would lead me to a whole other piece. The heated and dangerous simplifications of 1988-1991 bring us to 1995. During the 80th anniversary commemoration of the Genocide, which was organized by the Armenian State and the Zoryan Institute (and in the planning of which I had some involvement), it began to be clear that the hardening of HHSH's and LTP's anti-ARF position (whatever its other dimensions) was beginning to extend to discussions of responsibility for the Genocide. The debate was really about Karabagh, of course: namely, is it rash to insist on K's staying outside Azerbaijani sovereignty, as many LTP opponents including the ARF did? Is doing so a way of only delaying the inevitable eventual loss of that independence, which the international community will never tolerate? And will that, in turn, result in the useless suffering and impoverishment of Armenia, to no gain? That was LTP's position, and a true and free public debate on the issue would have been worthwhile. It would have enabled many Armenians - the ordinary ones who were and still are asked to bear the pain of blockade and underdevelopment - to SAY how they felt about blood, sweat and tears. Sadly, the leaders of the people did not want to know what the people thought - LTP, because he might have found out, as I did, that a lot of people were willing to bear the burden; the ARF and others, because they were equally afraid to find out that many people were NOT willing to do so. In the meanwhile, a classic displacement happened. The debate about Karabagh was projected backward by LTP himself. Sadly, he decided to pour gasoline over the flames, by implying that of course the ARF was wrong about Karabagh, as it had been wrong before 1915. In both cases, he implied, it was rashly fanning popular passions for an unachievable cause, in a way that would lead ordinary people to die in thousands and suffer in millions. And, LTP averred, the ARF was doing so while its leadership was relatively safe overseas, or at any rate, if in Armenia, unrepresentative of the population, whereas he had won 85% of the vote and could represent the Nation. Combatting the ARF stance in Karabagh was important to LTP, a cause, a passion - he would be rational where the ARF leadership had not been, from Banque Ottomane on to Sevres and Stepanakert. I believe this was not just political posturing on LTP's part - it was that, but also a sincere belief he and Libaridian both held. I repeat, this is my belief. To return to the debate over the past that this rift over the present caused: neither LTP, nor Suny, nor Dadrian, nor I can argue in any definitive way about when the decision was made to exterminate the Armenians, and to what extent, if any, the ARF's actions were a factor in Turkish decision making. The young historian Armen Aivazian, who had a middle level position in LTP's government, has argued in writing that when Tavit Beg's uprising in Syunik defeated the Muslim forces in the 1720s (Tatars, Persians, Turks), the Ottoman State consciously adopted a policy of local, regional extermination, and never let go of that option afterwards. Given such points of view, and the absence of crucial documents, the debate itself can be interesting but not conclusive, and should be engaged in by all of us with the knowledge that we are engaged in educated guesswork - the full evidence just isn't there -- though of course courts can sometimes decide cases on partial evidence.... This issue is too long-lived, too complicated, and too serious and consequential for us all, to be settled by calling each other names in public forae or elsewhere, say in the english-language Armenian newspapers. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Prof. Khachig Tololyan is the Editor of DIASPORA: A JOURNAL OF TRANSNATIONAL STUDIES, and a professor of comparative literature at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.