Armenia Chronicles

First Part – Looking Turkey From the Viewpoint of Armenia or Not…

Political developments in Baku which I have been living in for a couple of years, have given a direction to my field of research and make me take a close interest in the geography on which I live… Caucasia, which affects Turkey’s strategic location and occasionally being Turkey’s soft spot in foreign policy, is kind of a composition of nations with its different elements reserved in it. The fact that I have continued my Caucasia research just on the Baku-Tbilisi and Ankara direction has made me realize my shortcomings in some points. Neglecting the most important ternary of the Caucasia with the information taken from an external source or any other person has prevented us from understanding most of the problems. It is not possible to work out Caucasia without taking Baku-Tbilisi-Yerevan ternary into consideration.

I have decided to take a Yerevan trip at the recommendation of the people whose characteristic and knowledge I rely on. When I compare the Yerevan stories told by people and the pictures on my mind, there were many points missing. First, we determined the route with the preparations made in Ankara. The most appropriate way to reach Yerevan for Turkey is to go Tbilisi from Trabzon, from there to Yerevan.

We went to Trabzon from Ankara. Since Tbilisi bus would set out in the evening, we stayed in Trabzon for almost 12 hours. After taking rest in a hotel near the station, we took a walk in city center. While walking, the question ‘’ what if Armenia will fall short of our expectations?’’ was always on our minds. Yes, What if we will be rejected on the border?, ‘’What if they will question us? ‘’ At least we had to accomplish this mission as Turks eager to do something for this issue.

We got on the bus Tbilisi bus with the presents that we bought for our friends in Armenia. The bus with a few passengers kept us waiting for a while at Sarp Border Gate. Having left Sarp at about 3 o’clock, we set out for Tbilisi. The moment we arrived at Tbilisi, we get on the Yerevan machine with the help of Bus Company. Of course, we had finished the important books written on Armenia and Armenian question on Tbilisi bus.

Erivan machine set out with delay. We started to make way through the direction of Georgia’s south. First Marneuli city, then Ahıska… After about 2 hours, we arrived at Armenia border gate. We started to walk to the Armenia door on the border formed on Dedeba River after getting out of Georgia. We arrived at border gate with a bit perturbation. With my friend Ismail, anticipating possible manners and behaviors, we were suggesting each other to be prepared for everything. At the border gate, officials lead people to another department for visa taking. The picture of ‘’happy border officer’’ in a book written by two people visited Yerevan came into existence there. Visa officer named as Artur spoke Turkish saying ‘’welcome to our country’’. After that he wanted to know where we had come from as a formality and asked us to fill up a form in English-Armenian. We explained why we had come with two sentences and introduced ourselves as researchers. Artur took necessary actions swiftly and sent us to another officer for approval. Without being object to any question, we took our passports and headed for the vehicle waiting for us.

Having set out from the border gate, we started to proceed to south. This land is really dominated by the green color. We passed over Spitak which went through a big earthquake in 1988, following meadows filled with many chalets and farms. Spitak seemed to have collected itself.

During the travel, the music played in dolmus reminded us Mahmut Tuncer and Bulent Serttas. It is like that Armenia music has derived from Turkish music. If there had not been Armenian lyrics, you can easily think the music is from Malatya or Urfa. After Spitak, we arrived at Yerevan having passed by Razdan, Aştarak, and Vanadzor. The picture of Yerevan on our minds was rather a small city. Yerevan is the mixture of a typical Anatolian city and Soviet cities having special architecture. Besides, there are many built up areas to evaluate. Our dolmus stopped at Yerevan Bus Station. As soon as I got out of it, I showed the address that Karine had given met to taxi driver. He said he would drive us to that address for 10 dollar. We tried to bargain, but the winner side was the taxi driver. Leaving the bus station with the taxi, we proceeded to Erebuni within 20 minutes away. The taxi driver asked us where we had come from in Russian language. We answered saying ‘’ we have come from Tbilisi’’. But he realized that we were not Georgian hearing our speaking accent and he asked us where we were from originally. I answered saying involuntarily that I was from Malatya in order to form a common language with him. The driver was shocked for a moment and said that he did not understand my answer. I found this nervousness as the opportunity and gave a different answer that time.

We waited for Karine in front of Star Market. After a while, my friend came and brought us to the motel which he had reserved before. The married couple who owned the motel learned our nations. They called our names with emphasize saying ‘’ Mehmet, İsmail, welcome…’’ Thanks to Karine, we rented a great room for a reasonable price and left our friend promising to meet in the evening and settled in our room. Motel owners speaking Russian said us to inform them if we needed anything.

We provided some food from a market near the motel and preferred to hide our Turkish identity by speaking English in the market.

In the evening, we met our friend Karina and went to famous Hanrapetutyun Hraparag (Republic Square) with the bus numbered 36. The square was filled with the tourists coming from different countries. Water show was made in the big pool every evening. This show was based on classical western music.

Until we went Square One, we talked about architecture and recent history all the way. In Square One, we brought up different subjects and comprehended that Turkish-Armenia common past was rather grate and sophisticated.

Heavy propagandas in Armenia, cover the fact that ‘’millet-i sadıka’’ was very important in Turkey in recent past. We talked about many different issues from the religious and social privileges Fatih Sultan Mehmet gave to Armenians, first chair of Turkish Language Society Agop Dilacar and from our Armenian agents during constitutional monarchy period to Armenian musicians who have important place in Turkish music.

Karine has succeeded in getting over the effects of much propaganda arranged in Armenia. He is the one who believes that there must be peace and friendship. We invited Karine to Turkey who said his ancestors had come from Mus and Van giving positive messages about the future.

The missing thing is that about Turk-Armenia relations, there have come out either excessive policies or some offers to force Turks to make some concessions neglecting the redline. But efforts to make both sides discuss their own problems have not been existent. From now on, both sides need to make some meetings and establish a dialog environment with each other…

Second Part – Genocide Talks Which Are Directed By Foreign Sides

We woke up late in the morning because we had got very tired the night before. The number of dreams we had seen for a couple of days increased dramatically. We were not yet fully relieved our tiredness. Until we met Karine at 13:00, we thought it is time to visit the internet world that we had neglected for a long time.

The morning in Yerevan is clear and brilliant. We are trying to find an internet café in Erebuni. Internet access in the café that we had gone the day before was a bit problematic. Watermelon sellers on the road, grocery stores under apartments and children playing on the puddles remind us the scenes from our own country. There is a map suspended on bus station. In the map the regions such as New Arapkir (Yeni Arapkir), New Malatya (Yeni Malatya), New Zeytun (Yeni Zeytun), New Maras (Yeni Maraş) draw our attention. In the country, foreign representation is highly valued. Whichever embassy building you come close on road, its existence is informed kilometers before. Moreover, in city maps on the bus stations designed by telephone operator firm Orange, embassy buildings are indicated.

We find a café on the road and sit there. After a while, the café owner turns the loud music and turns up sura in Koran. We are really surprised to experience such a situation. We wonder whether the café owner is Muslim. While going out of the café, we are again shocked to see the cross sign on his neck. The facilities that internet provides give interested people the opportunity to listen Koran suras and people are free to utilize this. Especially the Armenians who have lived in Syria are accustomed to this situation. While giving the internet pay, I accidentally take a Turk kurus out. The café owner says that that money is not valid there and I answered saying that is Turk money. With a smile on his face, he expresses his satisfaction: ‘’Welcome!…’’

Today we are going to see Tsitsernakaberd which underlies the Turkish-Armenian crisis and the commemoration of 1915. At the request of my friend Ismail, we scheduled this plan to an earlier time. We get in a taxi and proceed to the monument.

We have come to the monument. This monument is a place designed at one time conscientiously. The construction of the monument whose name means swallow nest started in 1966 to commemorate the 50. anniversary of 1915. 12 columns represent the 12 cities which Armenians migrated to from East Anatolia. The fire between the columns is designed in such a way that it never dies down. Under the monument there is a museum named as ‘’Genocide’’. Here, first we see ‘’1909 Adana Massacre’’ poster. There is an atmosphere created here to show as if Turkey, trying to cope with 31 March movement in 1909, stirred up the troubles in Adana. Our friend informs the officer the fact that we are Turks. With a look full of interest, he sends a translator to us. An attractive woman is trying to tell her national affairs to people who are members of the nation which carried out 1915 happenings to her own nation…

In the museum, in which there are some materials from the posters of Abdulhamit to the ones of Mustafa Kemal who is introduced as dictator and the main responsible of the Pontus genocide, and from the photos of Armenian kids with Cemal Pasha who killed many bandits to provide Armenians with comfort and facilities, to the German descriptions of Talat Pasha who is told as a killer, the translator goes on telling their national affairs with a great desire.

‘’Our ex-lands…’’ says the woman. ‘’Maras, Malatya, Diyarbakir, Mus, Van…’’ On these lands, Young Turks saw every kind of massacre as legal and were mobilized to kill Armenians for a reason that they did not even know. And they were successful…

The museum mirrors a humanitarian plight with the works of French and German painters  and writers. Moreover, the book ‘’The Confession of a Good Turk’’ written by a Turk who have fled from Turkey to Germany is still on sale in this museum. The expression ‘’ To sacrifice 4 million souls’’ makes us realize how much affected are the people by the heavy propagandas. As understood from the sources there, these propagandas supported by European countries and Russia is arranged to use at anytime with the aim of creating a manageable power in Caucasia. I call this an externally-guide conversation because neither a Turk nor an Armenian has been able to form the basis for a meeting to discuss these issues. The main problem is the inability to discuss our own matters.

We ask the translator whether England, France and Russia are responsible for this situation. She says: ‘’ They were the forces against the Ottoman Empire and by war’s nature, they were the enemies. The responsibility belonged to Turks.’’ ‘’And Germany?’’ we say, because most of the materials in this museum are originating from Germany.’’ Yes…’’ she says, ‘’ They are partially responsible. Moreover, did not they take the inspiration of the genocide carried out on Jews from Turks?’’

After leaving the museum, we go on to see the monument. This monument is a place consisting of 12 columns and a fire that never dies down. With the blood and tears music played on the background, the environment here is rather gloomy. After a man with tears on his eyes leave the monument, we also go out to see the surrounding area of the monument. In the further park, there is a tree park consisting of trees which have been planted by the leaders around the world. The children of American ambassador Henry Morghenthau, who has a place on our minds with reporting against Turkey, have planted trees here.

After a little talk, we go to Erebuni, feeling hungry find a restaurant and sit there. Our friend says the the women working there that we are Turks. The woman is surprised and says that until that time she has never had a Turkish customer. Being Turkish here causes a short-term shock among people and that’s all…

We are looking at the menu to choose something to eat. As we go on looking, our astonishment increases because in menu there are the same dishes as in Turkey.

We order chicken shish and ‘’tan’’( ayran) as a beverage. During the meal, we talk about the similarities between Turk and Armenian culture. In Armenian language, there are lots of Turkish word. But the fact that these words have come from Turkish are not widely known there. The words such as ‘’Yaban, meydan, chardak, charshaf, yahudi, hach’’ are used in the same meaning in both languages.

When we say that in Armenian culture there are abduction of girls, coffee fortune-telling and asking for the girl in a marriage, Karine becomes both shocked and happy. The same fortune-telling conversations are also existent in their culture.

Our friend asks why there are many claims in Turkey against Armenians. We emphasize the fact that the situation is not what is thought and political problems create social problems.  The family of our friend accepted our request to see them. They say after two days we can go to their country house. After leaving the restaurant, we are going towards the motel. All the way, we talk about Yerevan and the similarities between our languages.

I want to call some places with telephone. After telephone breaks down, the women working there goes and brings me another phone in a hurry. They are really warm and friendly people…

Third Part – Love Stories of Mountain and People

On Friday morning, with my friend İsmail, we want to see some places especially Republic Square. First, we go to places near the square. We go to the building of another friend who is journalist, but learn that he is on holiday and trying to find another address in Moskovyan Street. In this street which is on the west of Opera Square, we will meet Shushan, our friend from Sobesednik Newspaper. After a long searching process, we find the address but learn that the building is closed. In Armenia, media companies gives up most of their work when summer season comes. Sitting in the park opposite the building I text a message to Shushan and get the answer immediately. We will meet in Abovyan Street at 21:00…

Until that time, we want to see the amazing place Cascade, so deflect our way into Opera Square. When we go in front of Cascade, we see a giant structure like a pyramid from which you can see the whole Yerevan. In the entrance, there are a couple of sculptures placed on both sides. We visit the exhibition under the monument in which there are postmodern art works. A girl comes close to us and gives some information about the work we are looking at the moment. After that, opening a personal conversation, she asks us where we are from. When she learns that we are Turks, she smiles and says Turks are the people who are coming there least. The Lebanese Armenian girl with green eyes, is trying to share some things from the Armenian culture. She presents us some interesting anecdotes in the section in which there are lots of art works about the respected fruit, pomegranate. We become aware of the belief that a bride throws a pomegranate to the floor and she will have children in the number of pomegranate seeds, is also existent in Armenian culture. In the section where there are descriptions of Noah’s Arc and Agri – Ararat Mountain, it is mentioned that the mountain is the subject of a controversy. But the situation is the same for both sides: The mountain belongs to the all people who are sharing common lands.

After leaving the museum, we start to go up to the peak of Cascade. The place where lovers meet, others make marriage proposal or some others make peace with each other, reminds people The Love Fountain in Rome. Cascade, which homes four or five gardens with pools, of course is the main center of attraction for lovers. 

On top of Cascade we sit to relieve our tiredness and want to see Agri – Ararat Mountain which shows coyness and be invisible. Yerevan is in love with Agri – Ararat. This is indispensible and has a great importance for Yerevan. But unluckily, Yerevan cannot see Agri – Ararat because of the blurred atmosphere during summer time and the clouds during the winter season. We think this is the bad luck of Yerevan and start to watch the view of the whole city from that point.

The city, in general, shows a view in which the big cranes goes up to the sky, construction gains speed and new social and political ideas are reflected on the buildings.  In the life under Cascade, there is a struggle of people to keep up with the speed of life, but in the further scene there is Revan with its silence reflecting  history, just like a coy lover trying to say something.

It is time for us to leave the peak and go down. The luxurious, showy buildings below inform us the quietude to have before being retired.

While going to Abovyan, we see one more time how kind are the people. Whoever we ask the address, he tries to tell the address even if he does not know foreign language or even he brings us to address himself.

While looking at the interesting works in front of the Moscafe and Moscow Cinema, we see in the further away the hotel where the Turks, who tell their observations in Yerevan to Turkish media, prefer to stay. The fact is undeniable: The people coming from Turkey stay either in Mariott or Golden Tulip and try to observe people from there !

We think about eating pizza until we meet Shushan. When we go to pizza house and see Turkish dishes in menu, we are not surprised. On the walls, there are photos of Armenian cinema artists. The moment our orders come, Shushan and Mihran enter the pizza shop. After shaking hands as if we have known each other for a long time, we invite our friends to the table. I am trying to both eat the pizza and talk. But I do not like the taste of the pizza and start to drink my tomato juice. Our friends ask for permission for a better place and we accept it.  

We enter a book café. Ismail is sitting next to Shushan. But her boyfriend Mihran makes a request to sit near Şuşan. The conception of being with the person you love is also existent here.   

Shushan is a journalist. Mihran works in a private company as a computer engineer. During our conversation, Şuşan and Mihran make Turkish sentences and revive the environment. We tell them that the people in Armenia resemble the people living in Turkey cities Erzurum, Van, Malatya. Azerbaijani language becomes one of the subjects of our conversation. Armenia, having the opportunity to get closely acquainted with both countries, follows the countries’ policies closely. We mentioned many subjects from the similarities between languages to the common shares. During the conversation we talk about neither 1915 nor Karabakh conflict. New generation is more open-minded and supports the dialogue. They think that the problems can be solved with having mutual talk. I ask the current position of opponent communities, especially Tashnaks. Some groups from the opposite party blame the rulership for betraying government and create a common side for this. But the rulership attaches importance to the relations to be developed with Turkey. Political problems obstruct dialogues because there is a bleeding wound, Karabakh conflict.

With Ismail, we direct our way into Republic Square with the aim of going Erebuni. When we get in machine (dolmush), our impressions and observations make us have new ideas. Dolmushes here have night and day recipe. 100 dram during the day, 200 dram at night… An indispensible method to make profit. Just as I am thinking how this method can be applied in Turkey, my phone rings. First person to call me in Yerevan ! The person calling is Diana to whom I have been introduced by my instructor in Ankara. With her fluent Turkish she says ‘’Welcome to Yerevan Mehmet. Do you need something? The place you stay in is comfortable?’’ When I say that everything is okay, we decide to meet next day in Diamond Café…

Fourth Part – People Who Wait to Come Together Again

We leave Erebuni in hurry in order not to keep Diana waiting with whom we will meet at 12:00. Diana, waiting in Diamond, with her slanting eyes, speaking and gestures, resembles Central Asian people. Our friend is working in Turkish-Armenian coordination studies in a non-governmental organization and speaks Turkish fluently.

Non-governmental organizations came into prominence in Armenia. The relations that will be developed in internal and foreign policy are desired to be improved with the help of these organizations. Especially western organizations attach great importance to Armenian non-governmental organizations.  In order to see how operative Western countries are, it is enough to look at the USA Embassy’s building.  

The importance that Western countries give to Caucasia integration has a different meaning for Armenia-Turkey relations. These countries firstly try to work for the Baku-Yerevan-Tbilisi coordination. Turkey can obtain productive results from the studies that it arranged on its own. Diana says they have arranged a video conference with Baku on previous day. This initiation is very important to create dialogue environment and it must be arranged between Turkey and Armenia in order to improve the relations.

Diana says they support every kind of association and think that a great work should be done in a limited time. We agree on possible common programs together with Diana who says it is essential to arrange meetings in which young people from both countries can attend and provide every kind of facility to coordinate common education programs, brain storms in which they can state their own opinions. At that time a text message from Karine: ‘’We can see my family, be in Erebuni at 15:00.’’

When I receive the news that I have been waiting for a couple of days, we go back to Erebuni and get prepared. After meeting at 15:00, we proceed to a bus station near Nor Malatya. When we arrive at the station, we get in another vehicle to go Aragatsotn. After 40 minutes long way, we start to wait. After a couple of minutes, our friend’s father Vahan comes with his car and takes us.

Vahan, whom I have thought as a stern and serious man, gets out of the car and shake our hands. We say ‘’Barev!’’ to him.  After getting in the car and having some way, I filled bottles with water in this place which is just like a typical Anatolian village. When we go their homes, we meet big brother Sarkis and mother Anahit. The little brother Artur have come to take us with his father.

The structure of the house resembles our houses. Especially the manner of the family makes us feel at home. When we go to living room, Vahan says  that because we can be sensitive about meat, they have prepared fish and chicken meat. As he knows that Turks do not eat the fish with its head, he says that he have cleaned the fish thoroughly. ‘’You…’’ he says ‘’ …are my brothers!’’

Vahan, whose father and mother from Van and Mush, knows Turkish thanks to his mother who died ten years ago. He says ‘’ they are my precious’’ showing his children and says to us ’’you are my tovarish (yoldash).’’

On the terrace of the house, he establishes the brazier and prepares the meats and vegetables. After a short preparation we start to eat. During the meal, we talk about our countries, food cultures and common words. The Turkish word ‘’can’’ showing love is used also in their languages. Vahan, says ‘’Mehmetcan, İsmailcan’’ and we emphasize the importance of the suffix ‘’cik’’. When we say the Turkish soldier is called ‘’Mehmetcik’’, he states his sympathy for this word and mention some of his friends from Anatolia. Even though borders are closed, friends are able to meet and Vahan relieves his homeland longings. Vahan says with tears on his eyes he went to Van a couple of years ago and brought some soil from there. With this soil that he keeps under his pillow, he is able to revive his longing for his hometown. And he asks us to attend the religious ceremony in Akdamar for him.

After meal, we start to drink the important beverage for both countries, tee. It is called ‘’tey’’ in Armenian language. Vahan takes a deep breath and says ’’just like Mus, isn’t it?’’ showing the nature view.

When the evening came, it brought a chill with it. So we go into the house. Vahan says it is too late and we cannot go to Yerevan because there is no bus to Yerevan at that time.

Her wife Anahit is a rather shy housewife. She has such a strong body that she never get tired. We want to see her and sit with us. After a while, we present Turkish Delight with reference to her closing birthday. Turkish delight is not widely known by new generation, but Vahan is aware of the importance of it. Anahit thanks us for the present and we wish her a happy and healthy life…

Fifth Part – Historical Misunderstandings and Trying to Keep Reality

As an indispensible habit of Caucasian people, our table is always full. Some kind of sweets, biscuits, beverages… We talk about politics and history while sipping the Armenian tea. Our main subjects are who is responsible for the disagreement, who does not want the peace and the imprudent manners of politicians. Especially we think that it is important to give crucial information about Ottoman Empire.

Armenians think that the main responsible are Jewish politicians and businessmen because when millet-i sadika (loyal nation for Turks) is in an important position in Ottoman bureaucracy, it is believed that some factors provoked the quarrel. We wanted to show another extent of the situation telling how Ottoman geography; which had important patrol regions; was chosen a target for imperialist powers and that those imperialist powers wanted to use the minority nations living on this geography because European policy, unsatisfied with the constitutional monarchy system, was disturbed by that friendship environment created by this constitutional system. Constitutionalism, declared with the interference of Young Turks, cause the people from different nations living on Ottoman lands to create friendship environment.

The external sides, having doubts about that Ottoman Empire could solve the problems especially minority problems, provoked 31 March movement, after that stirred up the 1909 events in Adana. The events in Adana which pose a great problem for Armenians today destroyed the friendship environment and created hostility among nations. Armenians, who could not accepted losing their nation and being dismissed from their own place, became the enemies of Turks with the propagandas arranged. The countries that provoked the conflicts between both nations are most profited ones in a time when nation-state system gained power.

Vahan listens to us cautiously, most of the time he confirms us with his head. As an answer to my question ‘’Somethings have changed in a century. East Anatolia is not like before. You may feel strange. Do you still want to go?’’, he says’’ Of course, I make shepherding, still live and die there.’’ After that he starts to sing ‘’ Sari Gelin-Yellow Bride’’ folk song.

After finishing the song, he states that this song belongs to Turkey and nonsense polemics distract the public and hinder both sides to meet on a common ground.  I respect him now much more than before.

In our conversation late at night, we talk about military service. When we learn that in Armenia, the military service is served in two years, we are not surprised because we know that for young Armenians the most difficult thing is to serve their military service in Karabakh. This frozen conflict exhaust both Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. However, it is very important to give up stubbornness and to take steps for peace. In this way, young people from both countries will have the opportunity make good things for their own countries.

The cheer in our conversation is gradually increasing and we brought up new subjects. Anahit says she does not want us to be tired more and prepares our beds. After saying good night to family members, we go to our room to have rest.  Ismail is very tired… He sleeps quickly. But I cannot sleep quickly and start to think about the problems between nations.

Next day, after having breakfast, we leave the house. We thanked the family and take out to go to Yerevan. All the way, we think about the conversations that we have had so far and the satisfaction to know such people.

After asking Karine, we decide to go Ecmiadzin, the Vatican city of Armenia. First we go to Erebuni and then Ecmiadzin with a cab called ‘’private taxi’’. There are lots of gambling casinos on the way between Yerevan and Ecmiadzin. On such a way close to a religious region, these gambling casinos are not appropriate, I think.

We visit big churches in Ecmiadzin, listen to the conversations of o reverends and observe the tourists there. All the churches are structured with special stones and have an impressive appearance. Armenian art of architecture can be seen easily. I remember too many Armenian architectures in Ottoman time. The men of cloth both worship in church and have a conversation with tourists outside. Some of the tourists have come to worship, other for sightseeing. Karine says she cannot understand why the tourist come here with miniskirts or shorts. Saying that in our country there are precautions in mosques against this situation, I support my friend’s argument.

The fountains that have different structure, and monuments decorated by different symbols create a spiritual atmosphere and an environment in which one can listen his own soul. After visiting these spiritual places, we go back to Yerevan and eat our last dinner in Diamond.  At the request of Ismail, we invite Diana to our dinner but she says she will not be able to attend for different reasons.

At Dinner, we thank Karine for her help and supports. She states that this is the first stone of the peace and friendship bridge.

 It is sad for us to leave Republic Square…

In Monday morning, we will go to Yerevan bus terminal and get in Tbilisi bus. We say goodbye to Karine and take a photo with the motel owner woman. Yerevan sees us off just like a person who is not able to declare his love to her lover.


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