Swedish Archives Confirm: It was a genocide!
April 21, 2008
Swedish Archives Confirm: It was a genocide!
A recently conducted study at the Uppsala University has revealed highly interesting information in the Swedish Archives, which once again confirm the researchers' view of the events in the Ottoman Turkey during the First World War: the Christian minorities, the Armenians in particular, were subjected to genocide.
The massacres in Ottoman Turkey during the First World War claimed the lives of approximately 1.5 million out of a world population of four million Armenians, while over 250,000 Assyrians/Chadeans and equal number of Pontic Greeks. In 1923, for the first time in over 2,500 years, Armenians no longer lived on 85 % of their fatherland. Thus, the Armenian genocide was, in a sense, a successful genocide, acquiring the perpetrators an Armenia without Armenians.
The conducted survey covers the period between 1915 and 1923 and includes, among others, reports which the Swedish Ambassador, Cosswa Anckarsvärd, and the Swedish Military Attaché, Einar af Wirsén, both stationed in Constantinople, sent to the Foreign Department (found in the National Archive) and the General Staff Headquarters (found in the War Archive) in Stockholm, respectively. In total, about eighty documents were found with direct relevance to the so-called Armenian Question, of which some are over-explicit in their message: the Turkish Government conducted a systematic extermination of the Armenian Nation.
On July 6, 1915, Ambassador Anckarsvärd, writing to the Swedish Foreign Minister, Knut Wallenberg, concludes: "Mr. Minister, The persecutions of the Armenians have reached hair-raising proportions and all points to the fact that the Young Turks want to seize the opportunity, since due to different reasons there are no effective external pressure to be feared, to once and for all put an end to the Armenian question. The means for this are quite simple and consist of the extermination [utrotandet] of the Armenian nation [emphasis added]." Anckarsvärd's reports until 1920 persisted in the same insight. At several occasions, the Ambassador points out that "It is obvious that the Turks are taking the opportunity to, now during the war, annihilate [utplåna] the Armenian nation [emphasis added] so that when the peace comes no Armenian question longer exists." In a later report (1917) he underlines that the massacres are not clashes between the Muslim and the Armenian populations, but "that the persecutions of Armenians have been done at the instigation of the Turkish Government [emphasis added]..." As an explanation to the prevailing famine in Turkey during 1917, the Embassy Envoy Alhgren mentions the shortage of workers, which is claimed partly to be a result of "the extermination of the Armenian race [utrotandet af den armeniska rasen] [emphasis added]". Major Wirsén's reports to the General Staff concur with Anckarsvärd's analysis. In 1942 Wirsén published his memoirs, entitled Minnen från fred och krig ("Memories from Peace and War"), reflecting upon his time as Swedish Military Attaché in the Balkans and Turkey. In a chapter entitled Mordet på en nation ("The Murder of a Nation"), Wirsén renders his observations of the Armenian massacres: "Officially, these [deportations] had the goal to move the entire Armenian population to the steppe regions of Northern Mesopotamia and Syria, but in reality they aimed toexterminate [utrota] the Armenians [emphasis added], whereby the pure Turkish element in Asia Minor would achieve a dominating position." In the conclusion of this chapter he recalls his conversation with the Turkish Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha and notes: "The annihilation of the Armenian nation [emphasis added] in Asia Minor must revolt all human feelings.The way the Armenian problem was solved was hair-raising. I still can see in front of me Talaat's cynical expression, when he emphasized that the Armenian Question was solved."
The mentioned quotations are a fraction of the information presented in the study. In addition to the mentioned archives of the Foreign Ministry and the General Staff, the reports from the Swedish missionaries and the Swedish newspapers were also included in the study and concur with the same view. The surveyed documents are mainly in regard to the Armenian Question, but the data bed indicates that other Christian groups, such as Greeks and Syriacs, were affected by the same fate.
The study clearly emphasises the concept of "bystander". While the word itself implies that the bystanders do not participate in the genocide, some contend that they are far from just a neutral viewer to the tragedy, but passive participators in the annihilation. The British statesman and political thinker Edmund Burke's statement captures the essence of the bystanders to genocide: "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The documents clearly indicate that the Swedish Government was well informed about the state-orchestrated extermination of the Armenians. They also disclose that the Government, fully in accordance with the policy of a small state, consciously chose not to intervene in the matter, neither during the massacres nor after when the League of Nations suggested Sweden as a mandate power in Armenia. While resorting to isolationism during the period of the implementation of the genocide, Sweden followed the general stream, in particular that of the Major Power's, during the post-war period when the question of securing the future of the Armenian Nation was discussed. Sweden, as all other states, chose to secure its national interests rather than standing out from the rest by advocating Armenia's right and the question of punishing the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. The present-day Swedish Government does not seem to be willing to become involved in the question either. Just last fall, the Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, during an interpellation in the Swedish Parliament, refrained from officially recognising the 1915 genocide, partly by referring to "the need of additional research about what really transpired in the Ottoman Empire." The surveyed documents should at least quench that need; the official reports from the Swedish Ambassador and the Swedish Military Attaché in Constantinople are unambiguous: Armenians were subjected to genocide.
The study in its whole is included in a master thesis paper which will be presented in the Higher Seminar at the Uppsala University's Department of History. It will also be available at http://www.armenica.org . Vahagn Avedian, Editor of Armenica.org and Master Degree Student at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Labels: Armenian Genocide Historical