ArmInfo’s Interview with Victor Nadein-Raevsky, research fellow at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Science
by David Stepanyan
On the threshold of the 100th mourning anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, the process of international recognition of the Genocide seems to be losing momentum. Do you agree with such an assessment?
24 states of the world have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide at the level of Parliaments and Governments. Turkey seeks to join the EU, and the latter ranks the requirement of Ankara’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide among several dozens of conditions for Turkey’s EU membership. Actually, this requirement is not vividly reflected in the documents and is restricted to verbal statements of European officials. So, the issue of Armenian Genocide is always in the spare magazine of Europeans. In the United States the Armenian Genocide recognition issue has not gone further than the Senate Committee so far. Nevertheless, if the Senate adopts a relevant resolution, it will be of great significance to the whole process of the Genocide recognition. This is what Turks fear so much especially given President Obama’s rather harsh statements on April 24. The international community drew a line under the issue of the Armenian Genocide culprits long ago, but Turks did not. The fact of the Genocide was confirmed by the Ottoman leadership’s decrees and by Istanbul’s court martial of 1919. In those years the Young Turks annihilated not only Armenians, but also Greeks, Assyrians and to a smaller extent Jews who were comparatively fewer in Turkey. Turkey set up commissions to nationalize the “abandoned property” of the Armenians, Greeks and Jews whom the Turks exterminated or deported. And all the Turkish statements that only 300 thsd Armenians allegedly died in Turkey sound too awkward and absurd. Turkey itself does not officially recognize the fact of the Armenian Genocide yet.
What about the public? Does the Turkish Prime Minister’s recent address reflect the public sentiments?
One can observe an idea of repentance in the Turkish society. Even the leadership has changed its stance. Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu speak of “mass atrocities” and even apologize for that. This is already a step forward. Some 20 years ago Turkey propagandized hatred against Armenians. Some scientists are already speaking of the crime of the Genocide openly though some Turks cannot utter that term yet. This process is going on in a rather complicated manner, because several generations were brought up on hatred against Armenians. Therefore, the changes in the public consciousness are a fact that has become possible after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. It is the AKP that started speaking of the rights of national minorities, first of all, Kurds. All we can do is hope that the national courage of Turkey will prevail and clear the way for future relations with Armenia. After all, this crime clears the way for similar crimes as long as the Genocide remains unrecognized. I am convinced that Turkey should recognize the Armenian Genocide, because it will determine its future role in the world. It appears that Erdogan’s recent address contains new statements that were previously inconceivable.
Is this issue used in Turkey’s domestic policy?
It is used partially. There is a serious aspect concerning the discrepancies between Recep Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen. Even Nursists turned their back on the latter following his statements on Turkey's stance on Israel, for instance, condemnation of the Freedom Flotilla campaign. It is noteworthy that Gulen avoids making any statements on the Genocide of Armenians. At least, he has never used the term Genocide. Nevertheless, Gulen's supporters have faced a wave of criticism after the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution condemning the Genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. In Turkey they began to slam Gulen and his supporters for contributing to the resolution along with the Armenian lobby in the Congress. It must be admitted that Gulen bears no relation to that. However, the Armenian factor was used in the domestic political fights in Turkey. Incidentally, in Turkey they began digging into Gulen's roots to find any Armenian traces there. Earlier, they absurdly claimed that Gulen had Donme roots.
So, one should not expect any tangible progress in Turkey’s policy on recognition of the Armenian Genocide, even if the power is changed in the country…
One shouldn’t yet. Nevertheless, condemnation of the atrocities at the legislative level is not impossible. What scares Turkey most is the property restitution issue that will inevitable emerge if Ankara recognizes the fact of the Genocide of Armenians. It's no secret that the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey possessed huge property even for that period of time. Therefore, Turkey avoids the property claims by Armenians not to face huge financial problems.
By the way, Israel does not recognize the Armenian Genocide…
The position of official Israel, which does not recognize the Armenian Genocide, is not only unfair but also illogical and far from humanity. The key reason of Tel Aviv's such behavior is unwillingness to lose "monopoly" of the only nation that officially suffered from the genocide - Holocaust. Here the campaign that started in Turkey long ago also played its part. I mean the campaign during which some mass media and writers were trying to prove that those who organized the genocide - members of the "Unification and progress" party were the Jews who adopted Islam. Nevertheless, Israeli scientists recognize the Armenian Genocide. Taking into consideration the fact that the historical and political science is strong in Israel, it would be simply funny, if not profanation. I think that the Israeli residents are twisting round at the political level trying to restore relations with Turkey that does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. This is unworthy of the nation, which was hit by Holocaust. In a certain sense in the political bargain with Ankara the Western countries are trying to use the Armenian Genocide issue. In 1995 our State Duma adopted a statement calling this crime - the genocide.
The year 2015 will mark the 100th mourning anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Do you think any progress will be registered in the process of its international recognition?
I am confident that more attention will be drawn at the Armenian Genocide recognition problem in the world in 2015. We may expect the relevant steps from many states that do not depend on the political relations with Turkey. However, only the key countries of the world, which think they are the masters of the world, may finally settle this issue, for instance, the USA, although the recent events have demonstrated that not all the countries are ready to be vulnerable to the USA. Today Russia does not have another choice. Meanwhile, the Armenian Genocide has horrible consequences. I mean Hitler's words and other genocide actions, for instance in Africa and Cambodia. Only the timely taken measures against display of Nazism may stop such brutalities. For instance, young men in Ukraine, whose fathers and grandfathers were fighting Nazism during the Great Patriotic War, were dinned into head that Stepan Bandera is their leader. As a result, these grass-green young men are in fact destroying Ukraine under the nazi slogans of the "Right sector". The Americans do not want to see that. It is just a real politic for them and nothing else.
The impact of Islamism, particularly, the impact of Turkey in Russia’s North Caucasus is one of the trump cards of Turkish diplomats in the talks with Moscow. What is the situation like today?
At present, in its policy regarding Turkey Russia has been actively using the Muslim factor. In 2013, in Petersburg a big sector
of "Nurjullar" sect (250 people) and another one - 120 people were revealed. Both were headed by Turks, although Azerbaijanis and ethnic Central Asia residents, etc. were within the sect. All these people are being programmed not at harmless forms of Islamism. For this reason, the activity of this sect is forbidden in Russia and even the books by Said Nursi are also forbidden. As for the Caucasus, here there are many propagandists and various Muslim movements, first of all, Wahabi and Salafis, have been trying to infatuate the hearts of the young people. The authorities do not take enough measures to stop dissemination of such sects in Russia, although policemen have become rather active for the last period of time when suppressing terrorism. I’d say that traditional Islam is a serious obstacle on the way of dissemination of such radical movements. Big funds should be invested in the economy of North Caucasus to employ young people and hinder their joining radical sects. Islamist movements are being disseminated not only in the Caucasus but also in the Volga region, Bashkiria and Tatarstan, although the Turkish vocational schools were shut down here several years ago.
Would you specify the final goal?
The final goal of dissemination of the Islamist movements in Russia is creation of the new elite oriented not at the Russians and Russia but at Turkey. In Turkey they have already created such an elite, and we see what it has resulted in. The conflict between Gul and Erdogan is the conflict between the new elite brought up in the vocational schools and universities created by the Hizmet and the authorities. All these missionaries have been striving to split Russia through capturing the hearts of young Muslims. They want to split the multi-national state, which would make it possible to separate Russian Muslims from the rest of the country. This is categorically inadmissible to us. Neighboring Azerbaijan has found itself in rather a difficult situation resulting from the Turkey-sponsored Muslim currents. Turkey's pressure has even forced Baku to fire Gulen's Hizmet movement-friendly minister. The movement is based on the Sunni Islam, while Shia Islam is a traditional religion in Azerbaijan. Groups of Wahabi and Salafis are also a major threat to the traditional Shia Islam. All this constitutes threat to the incumbent authorities and the public in Baku. That is why Azerbaijan tries by all means possible to avoid differentiating nationality and religion and to keep integrity. They have even created a range of myths to that end. One of the myths, for instance, says that Azerbaijanis are just about to be the most ancient nation in the world. Scientifically, all this looks quite silly, indeed. All these efforts result from phobias and aspirations to create a nation from nothing. However, this young country that has borrowed from Iran even its name has no other way out.