Losing the narrative of the 1915 Armenian events in Turkey - İSMAIL KILIÇARSLAN

Losing the narrative of the 1915 Armenian events in Turkey

When U.S. President Joe Biden branded the events in Turkey surrounding the Armenians as a genocide, an older colleague of mine, brother Selim, shared the results of a study with the caption: “These things must be left not to the historians but to the movie makers.” 

In the research study, the question, “According to your perspective, which country has the biggest influence on France’s liberation from the Nazi regime?” is posed. In 1945, 57 percent of the French responded to this question with: the Soviet Union. The U.S. ranks second with 20 percent and the U.K. third with 12 percent.

The research study is repeated in 1994 and 2004 with a similar sample and method. However, in 2004, this time America comes in first place with 58 percent; the Soviet Union second with 20 percent; and the U.K. last with 16 percent.

History didn’t change, neither did the collective memory, then what do you think caused such a dramatic change in results to come about? What happened that changed the general perception that the Americans had liberated France instead of the Soviets?

The answer to this question is no walk in the park, to say the least. But it has an extremely general answer: “The power to change the narrative.”


Well, what does this mean? It means spinning the narrative in favor of oneself by highlighting “which parts of the events mattered” instead of explaining how it happened. If there is a relevant cultural industry that does its job well in addition to the ability to turn a situation into one’s advantage, then neither history nor the collective memory stands any chance at all. Sixty years will have passed, and your savior will turn from the Russians to the Americans, and you will be none the wiser. 

If I’m going to be frank, by keeping the wound open of the events surrounding the Armenians in 1915, I think Turkey has largely lost its power to “build a narrative.” It seems that we have been unable to put forth a calm, collective and consistent approach to the “1915 Armenian events.”

There are those of you who remember: The Turkish Republic, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian events, greatly supported the cause to tell the world the Turkish side of events with a substantial budget. Does any one of us remember saying, “Wow, this event turned out really well this year”? Apart from a few breadcrumbs, I don’t remember anything significant. The “open wound” of decades is still festering.

If we were to be objective, it’s hard to say that the Armenians also “built a narrative.” Theirs is also an open wound.

Well, then, the question begs: Who is building this narrative?

And the answer is: Whatever mechanism led the French to believe that America was their savior. The global culture industry that serves global imperialism.


We are in the very middle of such a dirty, despicable “narrative building,” that even if we pull out our hair all day long, and say, “Let’s leave this job to the historians,” neither our voices, nor our side of the story will be heard. 

If you were to ask: “So, what, were we supposed to produce movies, TV series and publish books to tell our side of the story?” my answer would be: “It’s not too late. It’s too little, too late. We haven’t even produced the movie of the foreign diplomats martyred by Asala. We haven’t written the book.”

That ship has long sailed. We can’t even deal with the sinister actions of the traitors in our midst, let alone the rest of the world’s smear campaigns. Moreover, we are faced with such a castrated mental plane that the biggest partner of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s party speaks of the issue as a "genocide," and not a single one of their supporters bats an eyelash.

“Losing the narrative completely” is only possible by becoming a slave to the global imperialist order and the "mental plane" that’s reached by referring to Atatürk’s words of "Independence is my character."

Whereas, what makes a nation truly a nation, is, primarily, the ability to “build a collective narrative.”


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