Posted 14 September 2000 - 04:28 PM
Which view of the Turkish nation will prevail in the histories still to be written?
Will Ambassador Henry Morgenthau be right in his assessment of Turkish culture?
He wrote "Such graces of civilization as the Turk has acquired in five centuries have practically all been taken from the subject peoples whom he so greatly despises. His religion comes from the Arabs; his language has acquired a certain literary value by borrowing certain Arabic and Persian elements; and his writing is Arabic. Constantinople's finest architectural monument, the Mosque of St. Sophia, was originally a Christian church, and all so-called Turkish architecture is derived from the Byzantine. The mechanism of business and industry has always rested in the hands of the subject peoples, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, and Arabs. The Turks have learned little of European art or science, they have established very few educational institutions, and illiteracy is the prevailing rule," he wrote early in the 20th Century.
Yet Mehmet, born in 1433 and the third son of the Sultan Murad, and who was to eventually conquer Constantinople, is said to have been fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Latin, Persian and Hebrew, and at the age of 19 organized the building of the castle of Rumeli Hisar, which still stands.
Which view of the Turkish nation will prevail? Will the Turks of history be seen as scholars and builders, or a nation of murderers?
As this century closes Turkey has developed a nation which is strong in political and military terms. Its largely-borrowed culture has taken on distinctive Turkish aspects, just as the United States takes in elements of the world's cultures and makes them uniquely its own.
But in failing to admit, other than individually, their responsibility for the Armenian genocide of the late 1800s and the killing which began again in 1915, the Turks reveal a cultural failing which even the Germans have overcome.
What would be the implications of admitting to what they have done? Would Armenia immediately demand a return of stolen lands? Would legal actions to recover financial losses be inititated? Would shame attach itself to the Turkish nation even more than the shame and indignity that exists now with the world knowing of the Armenian genocide?
I don't understand all of the ramifications. But for some reason or reasons, the strategy of Turkey is denial, even in the face of written and photographic evidence. Just as unrepentant Nazis deny the Holocaust, and just as many Americans deny the genocidal policies of their government in eradicating Native Americans, the Turks deny the Armenian genocide. All suffer a cultural failing, an inability to face realities, an inability to accept responsibility.