Turkey scared to admit Armenian genocide, says historian





Turkey risks a collapse of its secular political system akin to that of the Soviet Union if it bows to international pressure to recognise the 1915-22 Armenian genocide, the head of Armenia's state memorial to the event has told the Guardian.

Hayk Demoyan said Ankara could not acknowledge the systematic killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman troops during the first world war because it would lead to a wholesale re-writing of history and undermine the ideological basis of the Turkish state.

In remarks that will cast a shadow over attempts to forge a new Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, he said those implicated included Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey and a figure Turks are taught to revere. Historical documents proved Atatürk committed "war crimes" against Armenians and other groups in his drive to create an ethnically homogeneous Turkish state, Demoyan insisted. "Fear of rewriting history is the main fear of modern Turkey," said Demoyan, director of The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, Armenia's capital.

"It is a fear of facing historical reality and causing a total collapse of the ideological axis that modern republican Turkey was formed around. Turks get panicked when you compare Atatürk's legacy to Lenin.

Atatürk was sentenced to death in absentia by a military judge to punish war crimes during the first world war. There are documents from non-Armenian sources listing him as a war criminal ."

Demoyan's remarks come amid fledgling attempts to re-establish links between two countries which have not had diplomatic relations since 1994, following a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey's ally.

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