Norman Stone: There is No Armenian Genocide

Historians in the News

[Norman Stone (1941-) is a British historian of modern Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe. He is the author of ''Europe Transformed, 1878-1919.'' Stone was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Between 1984-1997, he served as professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford. Since 1997 Stone has worked at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. After 2005, he transferred to Koc University,Istanbul,Turkey and still continues to teach there.]

“The Armenian ‘genocide’ is an imperialist plot.” So said Dogu Perincek, in Marxist mode, and he chose to say it in Switzerland. Switzerland passed a law threatening prison for anyone ‘denying’ that there had been a genocide of the Ottoman Armenians in 1915, and Mr. Perincek was interrogated by the police.

There have been similar events in other countries and now we have the French parliament passing a law that is harsher than the Swiss one – a year’s prison and a heavy fine. This is a ridiculous and contemptible business – bad history and worse politics. It is also financially very grubby indeed. We all know how the American legal system can work: lawyers will agree to work for nothing, in return for a share of the profits at the end of a court case. Court cases are very expensive and it can simply be easier for banks or firms or hospitals to agree to make a payment without any confession of liability, just because fighting the case would be absurdly expensive, and the outcome – given how the American jury system works – unpredictable. A burglar, crawling over a householder’s glass roof, fell through it, was badly wounded, and took the householder to court: result, a million dollars in damages. Class actions by Armenian Diaspora descendants in California shook down the Deutsche Bank over claims dating back to 1915 and collected 17,000,000 dollars; then they attempted the same with a French insurance company. We can be entirely certain that if Turkey ever ‘recognizes the genocide’ then the financial claims will follow.

But if Turkey refuses to admit it, she is in fact on perfectly good ground. The very first thing to be said is that the business of ‘genocide’ has never been proved. The evidence for it is at best indirect and when the British were in occupation of Istanbul they never found any direct evidence or proof at all. They kept some hundred or so prominent Turks in captivity on Malta, hoping to find some sort of evidence against them, and failed. They asked the Americans if they knew anything and were told, no. The result is that the alleged ‘genocide’ has never been subjected to a properly-constituted court of law. The British released their Turks (meanly refusing to pay for their journeys back home from Malta). There is a counter-claim to the effect that this happened because the Nationalist Turks were holding British officers hostage but the fact is that the Law Officers simply said that they did not have the evidence to try their captives.

Diaspora Armenians claim that ‘historians’ accept the genocide case. There is some preposterous organization called ‘association of genocide scholars’ which does indeed endorse the Diaspora line, but who are they and what qualifications do they have? Knowing about Rwanda or Bosnia or even Auschwitz does not qualify them to discuss Anatolia in 1915, and the Ottoman specialists are by no means convinced of the ‘genocide’. There is in fact an ‘A’ team of distinguished historians who do not accept the Diaspora line at all. In France, Gilles Veinstein, historian of Salonica and a formidable scholar, reviewed the evidence in a famous article of 1993 in L’Histoire. Back then the Armenian Diaspora were also jumping up and down about something or other, and Veinstein summed up the arguments for and against, in an admirably fair-minded way. The fact is that there is no proof of ‘genocide’, in the sense that no document ever appeared, indicating that the Armenians were to be exterminated. There is forged evidence. In 1920 some documents were handed to the British by a journalist called Andonian. She claimed that he had been given them by an Ottoman official called Naim. The documents have been published as a book (in English and French) and if you take them at face value they are devastating: here is Talaat Pasha as minister of the Interior telling the governors to exterminate the Armenians, not to forget to exterminate the children in orphanages, but to keep it all secret. But the documents are very obviously a forgery – elementary mistakes as regards dates and signatures. At the time, in 1920, the new Armenian Republic was collapsing. Kazim Karabekir was advancing on Kars (which fell almost without resistance) and the Turkish Nationalists were co-operating with Moscow (in effect there was a bargain: Turkey would abandon Azerbaijan and Russia would abandon Anatolian Armenia). The Armenians were desperate to get the British to intervene and save them, by landing troops at Trabzon. However, the British (and still more the French) had had enough of the problems of Asia Minor and were in the main content to settle with the new Turkey. Andonian’s documents belong in that context. The chief Armenian ‘genocidist,’ V.Dadrian, still passionately defends the authenticity of these documents but the attempt does not do much credit to his scholarship: for instance, to the claim that the paper on which these documents were written came from the French school in Aleppo, he answers that there was a paper shortage (leading the Ottoman governor to ask a French headmaster if he could use some of his school-paper? Not very likely). The Naim-Andonian documents have incidentally never been tested in a court. The British refused to use them and a German court subsequently waved them aside. They have since disappeared – not what you would have expected had they been at all that is the sum total of the evidence as to ‘genocide’. Otherwise you are left with what English courts call ‘circumstantial evidence’ – i.e. a witness testifying that another witness said something to someone. Such evidence does not count. In the past three years Armenian historians have apparently been going round archives ?n two dozen countries to find out what they contain – the Danish archives for instance. What they contain is what we knew already – that an awful lot of Armenians were killed or died in the course of a wartime deportation from many parts of Anatolia. Did the Ottoman government intend to exterminate the race, or was it just a deportation that went horribly wrong? ...
Read entire article at Norman Stone in the Journal of Turkish Weekly

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Margaret Lavinia Anderson - 10/25/2006

Here is Norman Stone re-cycling one of his favorite limages: that of Armenians "jumping up and down."

What expertise should we credit to someone who names the Ottoman Interior Minister at the time of the Armenian genocide of 1915-16 "Talaat Pasha."
Talaat Bey did not become "pasha" until 1917.

And the talented Mr. Stone, in a fine demonstration of the meaning of Chutzpah, first decries the "contemptible business" of Armenian claims of genocide by saying that Armenians are hankering after "court cases" and then dismisses the overwhelming scholarly consensus on the Armenian genocide by arguing that the genocide has never been proven in a court of law.