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Crime of Numbers: The Role of Statistics in the Armenian Question (1878-1918) (Armenian Studies) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 15. Juni 2010

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"[Crime of Numbers] is a much needed work on what continues in Turkish and Armenian history to be a very problematic topic, namely the investigation of what has been referred to as 'the Armenian question' that emerged between 1878 and 1918 to still haunt both the Turks and the Armenians almost a century later...Fuat Dundar brings to this scholarship the much needed analysis of the role of statistics that played an inordinately significant role not only during the period leading to such deportations, but also in its aftermath as many attempted and still endeavor to interpret what transpired. Dundar's meticuolus use in particular of existing Ottoman and Allied documentation on the Armenian Question makes this book a must-read for all those interested not only in this issue, but also one the use of the modernity of quantification for destructive ends." - Fatma Muge Gocek, The University of Michigan

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Fuat Dundar, was born in a Kurdish county. He is the author of three books in Turkish: Modern Turkey's Cipher - Ethnicity Engineering of the Committee Union and Progress (1913-1918), The Settlement Policy of Muslims by the CUP (1913-1918), and Minorities in Turkish Censuses. He is visiting professor of history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


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First Count, Then Calculate 19. Februar 2013
Von L. King - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is an important contribution to the study of the Armenian Genocide, the politics of ethnic representation in general, and the late history of the Ottoman empire. Fuat Dundar argues a somewhat dispassionate managerial look at one of history's more chilling atrocities and concludes that statistical data and provincial boundaries were manipulated before 1915 to minimize the demographic weight of non-Muslim populations in areas where they would otherwise be at parity or even a majority.

The author illustrates how census taking was an evolving process in the Ottoman empire. The 1839 census recognized 5 distinct major groups including Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, Armenians, Gypsies and Jews, but counted nomadic Muslims by ethnicity or tribe. The 1881-93 census had 18 distinct categories and included women for the first time. In the following years the empire moved from a system of millets (semi-autonomous religious communities) to a French style model of multilevel proportional representation using census figures as a basis. (ref: The Constitution of 1875, pp 38) The result was a politicization of the data. In determining representation in parliament and in the civil service,both Armenians and Ottoman technocrats favoured excluding "wild" nomadic elements, such as Muslim Kurds, from consideration. The methods of calculation were unreliable, often based on hearsay and estimated average household size, the process taking years, not taking into account factors such as extended families, which Dundar posits meant larger numbers for Armenians.

Following the 1877 war with Russia a policy of gerrymandering was employed to reduce the relative # of Armenians in each district. And whereas various reforms dating back to 1839 opened up opportunities for non-Muslims in state administration, this also led to abuse. For example it was charged (pp 40) that the representation of Christians in the police force was increased, however they were "chosen from the worst characters" and often "used as spies on the Christian community". Dundar also characterizes the large scale massacres of Christians under Sultan Abdual Hamid II as a form of backlash against the losses in that war and the presence of a large Armenian population across the border in Russia as well as reaction to small scale Armenian radical agitation at home.

Under the Turkification policy of the CUP the Armenians, resurging fears of a potential Armenian threat lead to a policy of social engineering wherein they determined that the "appropriate" number of Armenians in any given area was one of 2%, 5% or 10%. (pp103) This was done in stages starting from the arrest of "notables" (April 24, 1915), partial evacuation of 6 provinces on the Mediterranean seaboard (May 9), the addition of eastern border provinces (May 29) and, ignoring the aforementioned quotas, the expunging of "all Armenians with no exception". (pp76) The "smoking gun" is laid on the head of Talat Pasha, who on May 31, 1915 submitted note #270 re: "Political reasons making the transfer and expulsion of Armenians necessary and decree adopted and issued by the Cabinet of Ministers." Here it was admitted that the decision to deport had been made several months ago. Two of the 3 options were rejected - deportation to Russia would have in time strengthened the enemy; deportation to Anatolia would have recreated the population imbalance anew. It was decided to deport the Armenians to the desert region of Zor. Given that Talat had rejected a similar measure for the benefit of Muslim refugees from the Balkans a year earlier stating "if we had done as he says and sent these refugees over there and scattered them in the deserts, all of them would have died of hunger" (pp79) Dundar concludes that Talat, those under him as well as the government of the day understood the consequences. Not all faced near certain death in the long trek to Zor - orphans and young girls of marriageable age were "accepted" into Muslim families in the hopes that their Armenian identity would disappear. Initially on June 22 Talat ordered that conversions to Islam be accepted as well, however 3 weeks later concluded that Armenians would use "conversion as an instrument of deception" and these were deported as well. (pp107-108).

The counterpoint to the 1915 Armenian expulsion was the directed import of Muslims to replace them. Under the direction of Cemal (Jamal) Pasha this came from multiple sources: nomadic Kurds were encouraged to settle down; Muslim refugees from the Balkans; North African non-Arab Berber and Khabile refugees from the Italian campaigns of 1911, as well as those deemed to be political dissidents from among Arab notables from Greater Syria as well as Jews. Under a law passed by the Ottoman parliament on June 10, 1915, the property and goods "abandoned" by the Armenians were to be redistributed to these people. Oddly enough, Dundar relates, there were fears in the Kurdish community that they would be next and the CUP was afraid of a Kurdish-Armenian alliance, which seems unlikely given the history of Kurdish clans raiding Armenian settlements.

The reader should keep in mind that this is derived from the author's MA and PhD thesis - the editing is a bit raw and some of the details difficult to follow, so some previous background is necessary. The Turkish records, such as they were, are incomplete, but the patterns are clear. IMV essential for church, college and university libraries.

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