If I were to try to enumerate the number of problems which I found in this book, I would be reaching way over my head. Suffice it to say this book, which purports to be a history of the Armenians, the Ottoman Turks and the their interplay with the Allied powers during and after World War I, has not been written by a historian but by a former diplomat from the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C, Yücel Güçlü. What Mr. Güçlü proposes to do for the reader is to provide a history of these events and what led up to them from the "Turkish point of view", because he feels that their retelling has not been truthfully put down in writing by authors in the past. But as a former official whose job was once to deny and trivialize the events of the Armenian Genocide, he approaches it with a clear agenda in mind and his work suffers from a wide array of problems, ranging from selective sourcing, deceptive interpretation to outright lies and omissions. I apologize beforehand for writing such a lengthy review.
Güçlü begins his work by drawing a (distorted) picture of the historiography which has dealt with the Armenian Genocide to date and the current political relationship between diasporan Armenians, Armenia, and the Republic of Turkey, I will touch upon those topics later on in the review. After providing a geopolitical overview of Cilicia, the author proceeds to detail the history of Armenians in the region in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and it is from here that we start encountering serious mistakes which no serious historian would ever countenance. For the most part, Güçlü's narrative of Armenian-Turkish relations does not stray far from those individuals working in Turkey who spare no expense to downplay problems and pile all the blame on the ungrateful Armenians, who simply were incapable of grasping how good they had it in an empire where they were treated as inferior and second-class citizens by their Turkish neighbors. The book's narrative is littered from front to end with vile Armenian revolutionary societies whose sole objective was to destroy the fabric of the Ottoman Empire with the help of the European powers and carve out for themselves an independent Armenian state and fair, patient Ottoman officials and Turkish villagers who could no longer tolerate the perceived slights. Nevermind the fact that all Armenians were asking for were common civic rights to life and property and had expressed their fealty to the empire time and time again. The author never explores nor even concedes that the Armenians had legitimate grievances but continues to misrepresent the reality of the times by repeating the same canards put forth by discredited denialist historians. He categorizes the 1895-96 massacres, which swept away the lives of over 200,000 Armenians, as a series of rebellions that were agitated by Armenian revolutionary groups and, through the use of selective sources and heavy reliance on obviously pro-governmental archival documents, does not tell the reader that most of the "uprisings" which took place were acts of self-defense by the Armenians, who were no longer able to bear the over-taxation, pillaging and rapine exacted by the Kurdish and Turkish neighbors.
The book takes a nosedive when the author begins to speak about the 1908 Ottoman revolution and the massacres which took place the next year in the region of Adana, which resulted in the deaths of about 20,000 Armenians. Güçlü fails to mention that the Armenians were absolutely ecstatic about the re-establishment of the Ottoman constitution and had attached great hopes to the civil reform policies promised by the Young Turks. Instead, he resurrects the ungrateful Armenian caricature and claims that the Armenian people and the Armenian Church in Cilicia only took advantage of the benevolence of the Young Turks by importing weapons and behaving impudently among the Muslim population, which apparently took great offense at their supposed insolence. Of course, Mr. Güçlü does not tell the reader that the Young Turks themselves had encouraged the Armenians to arm themselves (for use against counter-revoluationaries) and he goes on to reduce the Adana holocaust as another Armenian revolt, whose goal was to establish an Armenian kingdom (!). The absolute absurdity of this thesis is only belied when one checks the notes and sees how the author simply chose which fringe sources to quote from (if they were foreigners) and to otherwise give full credence to the memoirs, reports and investigations carried out by the Young Turkish leadership, which virtually absolved the Muslims from any wrongdoing. Güçlü's unwillingness to see the Adana massacre for what it really was - a counterrevolutionary move launched by zealous Muslim elements loyal to the deposed Sultan which saw the opportunity to attack the more wealthier Armenians - just goes to undermine his own credibility and his glossing over of the disproportionate number of Armenian dead is covered within one sentence and not accorded with any level of significance - after all, those 17,000 dead Armenians brought the destruction upon themselves.
I need not dwell on Güçlü's description of the Armenian Genocide since it is nothing but a rehash of what denialist historians have been producing for years (stab the Ottoman armies in the back, Russian fifth columnists, Armenian deserters, rebellions, etc.). The only piece of information worth mild consideration is his insistence that the Armenians also revolted in the region of Cilicia, including those living in the region of Musa Dagh - the same Musa Dagh from Franz Werfel's celebrated novel. Once more, the same bland narrative is revived and we hear how the Armenians revolted against their Ottoman masters and not the other way around: that the Armenians took up self-defense in order to spare themselves from the same fate which awaited those other Armenians being deported to the Syrian desert. Güçlü's book is heavily reliant on sources from the Ottoman archives but apparently the author has not or does not want to differentiate and understand that a country that was bent on the destruction of a people and was wary of attracting too much outside attention was sending and receiving telegrams that set up an official cover - that it was doing its utmost to ameliorate the conditions of the Armenian deportees - to conceal its real intentions.
Throughout the book we are constantly reminded by Güçlü that the Armenians were nothing but pawns of the Entente powers in this game who were using the Armenians for their nefarious purposes. True, the Allies may have toyed with the idea in the first few months of the war of encouraging the Armenians of Cilicia to launch subversive attacks but by most accounts it seems that they gave up on such plans after realizing how impractical they were and how unresponsive the Armenians would be to their requests. And indeed the Allied navies never really took part in any heavy engagements in the Mediterranean region. The Allies of course had planned to partition the Ottoman Empire but even here Güçlü fails miserably to give a proper account of what transpired from 1918-21. His presentation of the Marash massacre (or the Marash Affair) in early 1920 is based solely on self-serving Turkish sources and is so one-sided and strewn with errors and half-truths that it begs comprehension. The entire section neglects to mention that it was Mustafa Kemal's cohorts who had launched the rebellion against French occupation and completely ignores the enormous body of evidence which attested that the Turks engaged in wanton pillaging and destruction of the city's Armenian quarter, leaving thousands of them dead. The blame is heaped once more on the over-zealous French authorities and arrogant Armenian soldiers and bandits run amok, who tested the patience of the the poor, defenseless Turkish population. Güçlü thus becomes an apologist for the Turkish actions. He claims that the Armenians who fled Cilicia after the war only had themselves to blame for being refugees; after all, hadn't the Allies assured them that Mustafa Kemal would protect the non-Muslim minorities? I guess the Armenians can be excused for not believing the assurances of the same Turks who had engaged in seizing their properties and violently expelling them from their homes.
The remainder of the book tries to vindicate Turkish foreign policy in the years leading to the Treaty of Laussane (1923). The Allies' attempts to secure a small Armenian homeland in Cilicia is dismissed as insincere and Kemal and the Turks are praised for taking such a principled stand against them and for embracing a constitution which would protect the rights of all minorities. Güçlü never does raise the more uglier parts of the history of the Turkish republic, like the imposition of the Capital Tax in World War II which economically ruined the non-Muslim minorities (Christians and Jews), the anti-Greek and -Armenian Istanbul riots of 1955, the closing down or destruction of churches and other historical monuments. Perhaps his most reprehensible attempts to exonerate the actions of the Turks stems from his desire to quote the Armenians themselves. Güçlü cannot read Armenian so it's obvious he has ignored the wide body of evidence about the Genocide and the other massacres but when he does quote individuals from Turkish or Western language works, he uses them to advance his own agenda. He quotes the Armenian patriarch of Constantinople after the war disavowing and denouncing the Armenian revolutionary societies which had brought ruin to the Armenian nation and presents this to bolster his previous claims. Apparently it never occurred to him that the patriarch's comments were made under duress and fear of retaliation from the country he was residing in. Such use of selective sourcing abounds: one of the most questionable sources he and other denialist historians rely on and enjoy quoting is Admiral Mark Bristol, the US High Commissioner to Constantinople after the war and an individual who expressed vehement pro-Turkish and anti-Armenian and -Greek views.
Which brings us back to Güçlü's second chapter which discusses current-day politics. The author paints the Armenian diaspora as the culprit and castigates it and the Republic of Armenia for failing to bring reconciliation to such a troubled past. He points to 60,000-strong Armenian community in Istanbul and seems to wonder why the other Armenians in the world cannot be as docile and cowed into submission as them. He parrots Turkish talking points and says that the Ottoman archives are open for everyone to read (which is incorrect) and says that the Armenian archives found in the United States and Armenia are closed (which is a blatant lie). He blames the diaspora for not extending its interest in having a commission study the events of 1915, which is perhaps akin to having scholars today study the events of the 1940s to determine whether or not a Holocaust truly occurred. He disparages Western scholars like Richard G. Hovannisian, Vahakn Dadrian and Peter Balakian for daring to challenge his viewpoints and reduces their works, backed by years of research, to mere "diatribes."
The list goes on but I will choose to stop here and reiterate my point that this book is perhaps as disingenuous as it gets. It wasn't even published by a mainstream academic publisher but by the University of Utah, which has published a number of denialist works in the past. It purports to present the truth but ends up doing the quite opposite. To the non-specialist, it might also sound convincing but the only thing this work will come in use for is for scholars to document the professionalism of the denial of the Armenian Genocide. If a reader is interested in learning more about this period, I would suggest that they turn to Richard G. Hovannisian's third volume of the "Republic of Armenia" (Berkeley, 1996) and his "Armenian Cilicia" (Costa Mesa, CA, 2008).