'Armenian Genocide': Dispute over authenticity of Talaat Pasha's telegrams continues

By Vestnik Kavkaza
'Armenian Genocide': Dispute over authenticity of Talaat Pasha's telegrams continues

Disputes about the authenticity of the documents on the 'Armenian genocide' of 1915, in particular the telegrams of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Ottoman Empire (1913-1917), Talaat Pasha, who allegedly ordered to exterminate Armenians, have been going on for almost a century. Recently, Turkey's historian and publicist Taner Akcam, advocating the recognition of the 'genocide', published the work titled "The Memoirs of Naim Bey and Talat Pasha's Telegrams," in which he concludes that the telegrams were real. However, Akcam's "colleagues" claim that these documents cannot be taken seriously.

It should be recalled that the telegrams were published thanks to Aram Andonyan, who collected evidence of Armenians who survived deportation from the Ottoman Empire. During his searches, he either bought, or bartered the documents from the Turkish official Naim Bey, who was the chief secretary of the deportation committee in Aleppo. Andonian translated the received documents into Armenian, and later they were published in English and French under the catchy title "The Great Crime". And there were serious discrepancies between both the French and English versions, which were published in Paris and London in 1920, and the Armenian edition, they also differed from each other. Most of the material, presented as the words of Turkish officials in the English edition, was given as Andonian's words in the French edition, which makes it difficult to understand which text was written by Naim Bey, and which by Andonyan. Many fragments of the French edition were not present in the English edition.

A detailed analysis of the telegrams given by Guenter Lewy in the book titled 'The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide', which was published in the US by the University of Utah Press in 2005, which in particular notes that the demonization of Talaat Pasha in Andonyan's book varied significantly from many Armenians' view of Talaat before the events of 1915.

Several facts cast doubt on the authenticity of documents.

First, the governor of Aleppo Mustafa Abdul Chalik Bey's signature on nine documents does not coincide with the real samples of his signature.

Second, Andonyan was either not sufficiently informed, or neglected the differences between Ottoman and European calendars. These mistakes destroy the entire system of identification numbers and dates, which he used in his documents.

Third, the study of dates and identification numbers found in the register of outgoing encrypted telegrams of the Ministry of Internal Affairs shows that the identification numbers of Andonyan's documents are not related to the actual identification numbers that were used in the encrypted telegrams sent from Constantinople in this period.

Fourth, all documents, except for two, were written on clean paper, without the usual for official papers notations, which were used by the Ottoman government during the First World War.

Fifth, the documents contain grammatical and lexical mistakes, which cannot be made by a native Turkish speaker.

Nevertheless, Talaat Pasha's telegrams were published in the Western press as evidence of the atrocities committed by Turks. They were widely distributed around the world, but has not found trust in academic circles. They say that when some of the former Young Turk officials were tried, the tribunal did not accept Andonyan's materials as evidence, and the British Foreign Ministry conducted its own investigation, concluding that the telegrams were a fake. A similar investigation was carried out by the Berlin Criminal Identification Bureau, which issued a verdict that neither the documents' paper nor their language style can be recognized as characteristic of the Ottoman Empire. In particular,a poor knowledge of the calendar, which was used in the Ottoman Empire, deceived Andonyan - it differed from the European one. Thus, one of the telegrams was allegedly sent by Talaat Pasha to Aleppo governor Mustafa Abdul Chalik, but the telegram's date says that at that time Aleppo was governed by another person - Bekir Sami.

In conclusion, it should be said that Aram Andonyan did not present Talaat Pasha's original telegrams, saying that they were lost. It is difficult to say whether it is possible to build a "line of attack" on the basis of such evidence. However, it's clear that historians still have a lot of work to do in order to investigate the events that took place more than a hundred years ago.