A New Study from the Gomidas Institute: “Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1917”

by Azad Alik

In 2008 Murat Bardakci, the Turkish journalist and historian, published a facsimile of a report on Ottoman Armenians from Talaat Pasha’s private archives. The report had been given to Bardakci by Talaat’s widow in 1982. In his own presentation of the untitled and undated report, Bardakci acknowledged that the materials he was presenting were open to interpretation. He called the report “A General Account of the Armenian Population after the Population Transfer [Tehcir] (possibly 1915-1916).”[1] Bardakci’s work was somewhat derided by Turkish nationalist historians and generally ignored by others.[2]

A more recent study re-examined Talaat’s report using Ottoman records for a completely different interpretation. The new study identified sufficient evidence that Talaat’s report was based on a special survey he had ordered in February 1917 and it produced some of the reports that appear to have been produced after the survey was ordered. These reports, from the Turkish archives, showed identical or near identical statistics to Talaat’s report.

The recent study also showed that the focus of the report was not simply about the distribution of Ottoman Armenians in 1917 (as suggested by Bardakci) but about more specific categories of information. It focused on the number of “native” Armenians in different provinces, those from “other provinces,” and those who were “outside of their native province” in 1917. Such data was presented alongside official Ottoman statistics showing the distribution of Armenians in different provinces in 1914. According to the new study, this peculiar category of data–ordered by the circular of February 1917–allowed Talaat Pasha to estimate the number of Armenians who had been deported from each province, the number of the deported who were still alive in other provinces in 1917, and the number of deported who remained within their own provinces. According to the historian Ara Sarafian, who conducted the new study, each of these categories represented a specific category of victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Talaat’s 1917 report showed that most Ottoman Armenians had disappeared between 1914 and 1917. Talaat’s figures (corrected in the original for undercounts) showed that around 1,150,000 Armenians could not be accounted for in the Empire in 1917. It also showed that most Armenian deportees who survived in 1917 were not in the so-called resettlement zone declared by Ottoman authorities for propaganda purposes. The removal of Armenians was hardly a population transfer, as Murat Bardakci and Turkish nationalists have argued.

Consequently, the new study has contested Bardakci’s original characterisation of the 1917 report and renamed it, “Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1917” with a critical presentation of the data in question, including two maps and appendixes, as well as a detailed breakdown of the 1917 figures according to Talaat Pasha’s focus in his own summary-analysis. The entire study and its maps comprising “Talaat Pasha’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1917” are available for downloading at http://www.gomidas.org/books/TalaatPasha1917.htm

Talaat Pasha Map 1

Talaat Pasha Map 2

[1] Murat Bardakçý, Talat Paþa’nýn Evrak-ý Metrukesi : Sadrazam Talat Paþa’nýn özel arþivinde bulunan Ermeni tehciri konusundaki belgeler ve hususi yazýþmalar [The Remaining Documents of Talaat Pasha: Documents and Important Correspondence Found in the Private Archives of Sadrazam Talaat Pasha about the Armenian Deportations], Istanbul: Everest Yayýnlarý, 2008, pp. 105-139.

[2] Sabrina Tavernise, “A devastating document is met with silence in Turkey,” The New York Times, 8 March 2009.

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