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The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution encouraging Turkey to "come to terms with its past" and recognize the Armenian genocide:

They welcome statements by the President and Prime Minister of Turkey offering condolences and recognising atrocities against the Ottoman Armenians and encourage Turkey to “use the commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian genocide as an important opportunity” to open its archives, “come to terms with its past”, recognise the genocide and so pave the way for a “genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not impressed:

"We do not take seriously those who adopted this resolution by mutilating history and law," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, accusing the EU assembly of trying to rewrite history.

Why is Turkey still denying the Armenian genocide, a century after the fact? What do they stand to lose if they accept what the vast majority of the world accepts as historical fact?

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    Conversely, what do they really stand to gain if they accept it? Until recently, their economy was doing great, but it is now having some serious issues. Will changing their position here guarantee a reversal of that? The resolution uses pithy words about open borders and economic integration, but doesn't offer anything Turkey can use right now. – Geobits May 28 '15 at 16:57
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    Found it. history.stackexchange.com/questions/2676/… – user4012 May 28 '15 at 17:13
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    There was a similar question at this post but with other view. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/8131/… – nelruk May 28 '15 at 17:15
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    I would guess it's mostly about domestic politics. Similarly, you can find politicians fighting rearguard symbolic battles about colonialism in many European countries. A few extra contrite words here and there would not really cost much to the country but some people are not prepared to accept even that and will grasp at any straw to avoid fully facing that legacy. Conversely, the eagerness of other countries/institutions to pass judgment is just as odd, why do they care? Incidentally, it seems Turkish views on this have become increasingly diverse as of late. – Relaxed May 28 '15 at 20:17
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    @Relaxed AFAIK the events that sometimes are described as the "Algerian genocide" happened in 1945 (the Setif Massacres), there was no EEC back then. That said, "why the EU remains silent on the Setif Massacres" would be a good question, and from what I understand the Turkish parliament considered (formally) asking it at some point (but for some reason they didn't). It should be noted, however, that the French are taking (slow) steps towards recognizing the full extent of the event: france24.com/en/…. – yannis May 29 '15 at 12:07
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Turkey isn't exactly denying the events of 1915. They admit that Armenian died and they also admit that they are at fault, at least partly.

"The governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan deny that the Ottoman authorities attempted to exterminate the Armenian people. The Turkish government acknowledges that during World War I many Armenians died, but counters that Muslim Turks died as well, and claims that the number of Armenian victims has been inflated, and that massacres were committed by both sides as a result of inter-ethnic violence and the wider conflict of World War I."1

As you can read, Turkey acknowledges the death of all these people but aren't willing to admit that they were trying to exterminate the Armenians.

Turkey is afraid of a few things:2

  • reparations (monetary or territorial)
  • many of the statesmen involved with the establishment of the Turkish Republic were involved with the Armenian massacres
  • massacres and expulsions continued after the establishment of the Republic
  • damage to national pride and standing in the world
  • possible resettlement of an ethnic minority in modern Turkey

I think this answer describes it very well. There's absolutely no gain to accept it.

Let's just summarize they suddenly are saying that it was a genocide. Besides all the facts written in the paragraph before, the immediate question would be "Why now?".

"Why, Turkey, do you know decide to accept your past? There has to be something in your mind!" To understand it better, imagine that you have a friend who insists that he has never done this one crucial fault in your more youthful days but suddenly he says: "Okay, I've done it." What would you think about such behaviour?

The majority has an opinion and the minority doesn't want to accept it. However, even if the minority says that they fucked up, the majority will still stay sceptical. It just makes no sense to the majority why the minority is about to accept their past. Taking this into account, other high ranking politicians would lose their trust in Turkey as it's not obvious to them why they are doing it. (Especially if Erdogan accepts it who, as we all know, is absolutely against accepting it.)

Why is Turkey still denying the Armenian genocide, a century after the fact?

That's the best argument for Turkey. What lies in the past, should stay in the past. After a century, can you really say if it was genocide? Can you do proper research on something that occurred several decades ago? You can try but the opposing party will always say: "No, can't be. Your research must be wrong because we did the same and had another result. Your sources are wrong and can't be determined as trustworthy." You can do research on history but it always has to be objective, and they opposing party will say that the conducted research just isn't objective.

Let's wrap this up: There's no political or economic gain by admitting the Armenian genocide - they could even be harmed in a economic way: reparations. Accepting it could raise suspicion although they really mean it. The suspicion could harm political and economic relationships. In the end, if Turkey still denies it in 200 years, do you think that humanity will still be upset about it? No, because the real truth will be displaced by that what has been spread the most. Nobody will know if it was a genocide or not, especially not in 200 years if the real incident will then be 300 years old.

(Just some afterthoughts: you can read here why it's not possible to determine if the events of 1915 really were a genocide (out of a legal point of view). The legal situation is complex. If you can't fully determine if it was a genocide, can we, as people who say it's a genocide, judge Turkey? Our legal evidence (not scientific evidence) is contradictory. If we can't solve the legal situation, this will be unsolved forever, literally.)


1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide_denial 2https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/2676/what-would-be-the-problem-if-turkey-admits-armenian-massacre

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    There's absolutely no gain to accept it. Come on. Accepting it would greatly improve Turkey's reputation for the rest of the world, and they could be friends again with Armenia, which would be precious in a situation where they are enemies with most (if not all) of their neighbours, and are also enemies with 12% of their own poulation (the Kurdish minority). Also saying it wasn't a genocide because that word didn't exist back then is a non-issue - that implies admit it was a genocide. – Bregalad Aug 9 '15 at 19:02
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    @Bregalad "Accepting it would greatly improve Turkey's reputation for the rest of the world, and they could be friends again with Armenia" - no. The USSR admitted Katyn massacre of Poles, but the relations with Poland became worse and Soviet reputation either. – Anixx Aug 11 '15 at 9:26
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    @Anixx That's why I said could and not will. Denying the genocide guarantees awful relations with Armenia, recognizing it opens the doors to better relations (without guaranteeing them). – Bregalad Aug 11 '15 at 18:55
  • @Anixx but Poland were basically never "friends" with Soviets and/or Russia. OTOH, Armenia is aligned with Russia, that doesn't make good friend for Turkey. – el.pescado Sep 21 '17 at 7:45
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While this may seem unrelated, but Turkey doesn't even recognize Armenia. Although it did recognize Armenia's independence, Turkey sided with Azezbaijan in the subsequent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

While the mutal enmity persists, it is not realistic to hope that one of the warring parties would recognize past wrong doings against another warring party.

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    Your link directly contradicts your claim: Turkey does recognize Armenia, they just didn’t establish diplomatic relations. Those are two very different concepts. – Emil Jeřábek supports Monica Apr 4 '18 at 14:34
  • @ Emil Jeřábek, take a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. The sentence at the top of the article is a bit misleading. This link (to the specific point I made) elaborates more. – grovkin Apr 4 '18 at 14:44
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    The second link confirms what I wrote: the two countries recognize each other, but did not establish diplomatic relations. – Emil Jeřábek supports Monica Apr 4 '18 at 14:56
  • @Emil Jeřábek, no, the link confirms what I said and confirms that you are wrong. Turkey recognized Armenia's independence. Turkey did not recognized Armenia's status as a sovereign nation. – grovkin Apr 4 '18 at 15:07
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    No, the link does not say anywhere “Turkey did not recognize Armenia's status as a sovereign nation”, and what you claim does not make any sense. You cannot be independent without being sovereign. – Emil Jeřábek supports Monica Apr 4 '18 at 15:42

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