Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

How To Carve Turkey

Posted in General on July 26th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

 

You would not imagine that Verdun and the Somme would encourage gleeful optimism among French or British diplomats.  Well, that is why you are not a French or British diplomat.  On the contrary, those distinguished gentlemen could look past an annihilated generation–which likely included their sons–and decide how they wanted to divide up the Ottoman Empire.  Even before the War, both France and Britain had been nibbling at Turkey.  They even justified the fairness in annexing Ottoman provinces.  As they would explain to the Sultan, “If we keep the Russians out of Constantinople, then you certainly won’t mind our protection of Egypt, Tunisia and Cyprus.”  How could the Sultan refuse?  A mugging is a great bargain if the alternative is your murder.

By 1916, however, France and Britain had dispensed with their philantrophic concern for the Ottoman Empire, and were playing post-mortem real estate.  France had a nostalgic claim to Syria and Lebanon.  Seven centuries earlier, French knights had set out for those exotic lands and introduced chivalry and Gallic courtliness there.  At least, that is what the troubadors celebrated.  (The Moslems, the Greek Orthodox and the Jews did not quite see the charm in being conquered and slaughtered.)  There may be a quibbling distinction between atrocity and tenancy, but the Crusades did establish a French presence in Syria and Lebanon.  And now the French were coming back.

At least Britain was not basing its foreign policy on the adventures of Richard Lionheart.  It would be annexing Ottoman provinces solely for logistics.  Since Britain possessed Egypt and India, it now would claim all the lands in between:  Palestine, Transjordan and Mesopotamia.  For its strategic position on the Red Sea and India Ocean, Yemen would also be welcomed into the British Empire.  But the rest of the Arabian peninsula was of no interest to Britain or France.  Let the natives have their sand.

Finally, there was Turkey itself; and there would not be much left of that.  Fulfilling the reactionary fantasies of Tsars and Dostoyevsky, Holy Mother Russia would finally get Constantinople; any surviving Armenians in northeastern Anatolia would also be subjects of the Tsars.   Since Southeastern Anatolia bordered La Syrie, it might as well be French, too.  For no reason other than courtesy among vultures, Italy would get western Anatolia.  Of course, you can guess whose navy whose be controlling the straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean: the Henley Regatta in the Bosporus.  The remainder of Anatolia–more or less metropolitan Ankara–would be the sovereign state of Turkey.

By the end of war, however, a few changes had been made in the division of the spoils. The Allies were not about to turn Constantinople over to Lenin. Indeed,  the Turkish Sultan  (Mehmed VI–if you are planning to be on Jeopardy) still had a job, if only as the figurehead for the Western powers.  Even if he had any qualms or pride, the British fleet in Constantinople had a definite power of persuasion.  So he signed away the empire and assented to the division of Anatolia.  But the treaty negotiations at Versailles had added another European recipient of Anatolia.  Ironically, this concession was the only reasonable one among the demands; and it was the only one that the Turks would never tolerate.

Today Anatolia refers to Turkey, but the Turks themselves are relative newcomers to the land.  Their armies did not conquer it until the 14th century.  Before that, since at least 1200 B.C., Anatolia and its population were Greek.  Homer certainly thought so.  And five centuries of Ottoman rule did not change the demographics: at the time of World War I approximately 1.5 million Greeks lived in western Anatolia.  (By comparison, some 4 million were living in the kingdom of  Greece.) After the war, Greece demanded sovereignty over western Anatolia. History and demographics justified it, so the Allies agreed.  The puppet Sultan in Istanbul consented, too; but Turkish nationalists did not.  The Greeks were their oldest enemies, their long history consisted of mutual massacres.  To see the restoration of Greek sovereignty in Anatolia would be the culminating futility of Turkish history.  So the Turkish nationalists gathered in Ankara, proclaimed a republic and prepared to fight.

A Greek army landed in Anatolia in 1919, and a war began.  The Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal, also fought the French and the British.  Of course, this will surprise you but the French were the first to capitulate.  They withdrew to Syria although they thought they should hae been paid for the land they were returning.  Turks have yet to send the check.  The war between Britain and Turkey was largely theoretical.  One side had an navy, the other had an army; there were not many battles.  Indeed, the British fleet’s most notable operation was evacuating the now pointless Sultan to a lovely villa in Malta.

Unfortunately, the war between the Greeks and the Turks could not be drolly described.  The Greeks wanted to avenge history, and so did the Turks. When towns were taken, there were massacres.  Imagine the town first taken by the Greeks, and then retaken by the Turks.  You know who won the war.  But the Turks were not content with military victory; they were determined to drive the Greeks from Anatolia.  And at the seaport of Smyrna, the Turks literally drove the Greeks into the sea.  Smyrna was the main city of the Greek Anatolians.  After taking the city in 1922, the Turkish army set it aflame. Fleeing the fire and the murderous Turks, tens of thousands of Greeks huddled along the wharves, begging for a space on any boat. Some swam to the boats outside the harbor.  The young Aristotle Onassis really had no choice but to swim.  The Turks were especially intent on killing Greek men.  We will  never know exactly how many people died at Smyrna; the Turks were not as meticulous as Germans.  But the estimates range from 15,000 to 100,000.  Smyrna’s entire population was 400,000.

On the whole, however, the Turkish policy was expulsion more than extermination.  In the 1923 treaty concluding the war, the Turks and Greeks agreed to “exchange” populations.  The Turks expelled 1.5 million Greeks from Anatolia, ending a 3,000 year history.  In turn 500,000 Turks and Moslems were expelled from Greece.   Each repatriated population was accepted and granted full citizenship in their new homelands.  There would be no internment camps.  Of course, the Greeks and Turks were still free to hate each other.

Yet, but for the Greek attempt to reclaim its Anatolian kinsmen, who can say if Turkey would have emerged as a strong, independent Republic? History and irony both have Greek muses.

 

 

Turkey Leftovers

Posted in General on November 27th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

We are all two pounds heavier, but by now we have digested most of the meal and some of the incredible remarks by your most annoying relative.  Here, from the archives–the cobwebs may taste better than two-day-old stuffing–are some pedantics on the namesake of the turkey.

http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2009/09/12/turban-decay/

http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/02/09/turkey-in-distraught/

http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2009/05/22/states-of-denial-2/

Hedda Gobbler Would Make a Great Name for a Turkey

Posted in General on November 24th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

Yes, to answer that endemic question of  Thanksgiving, the main course was named for the country. Europeans of the 16th century thought the North American bird resembled a fowl common to Turkey.   

The Turks, however, never thought of naming the fowl for themselves. They call it the Hindi, which refers to India. (I have no idea what the real Indians call the bird but it might be something vicious about Pakistan.)

Furthermore, but for a slight Byzantine miscalculation, we would be referring to that misnamed bird as the Anatolia.

Until the 11th century, there were no Turks in Turkey.  In fact, the peninsula then was known as Anatolia.  It was a nice, thoroughly Greek region, and one of the most lucrative parts of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, however, a Greek aristocrat named Andronicus Ducas became the inadvertent founder of Turkey.

The Byzantine general simply wanted to kill his emperor Romanus IV but was too finicky for an assassination. Ducas waited until the imperial army was fighting Turkish nomads in eastern Anatolia, near the town of Manzikert. He then ordered a retreat, abandoning the emperor to the enemy. Ducas rushed backed to Constantinople to install his cousin on the now empty and available throne.

(In fact, the Emperor Romanus was captured alive. Under the circumstances, the Turkish Sultan could coerce a favorable treaty. Romanus was soon after released; but his return to Constantinople was unappreciated by his usurping successor. The Byzantine retirement package consisted of blinding and exile.)

Unfortunately, the Byzantine Empire was in just as miserable shape. Andronicus Ducas had overestimated the army’s ability to retreat. It disintegrated, leaving Anatolia–half of the empire– defenseless. The Turks weren’t nomads after that.

And we won’t be trying to digest an Anatolia on Thanksgiving.

 

p.s.  A Further Tribute to the Pilgrims:  http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2006/11/22/our-grim-pill-fathers/

States of Denial

Posted in General on October 12th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey swiftly condemned a U.S. House panel’s approval of a bill describing the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide, accusing the lawmakers Thursday of distorting history.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bill Wednesday despite intense lobbying by Turkish officials and opposition from President Bush. The vote was a triumph for well-organized Armenian-American interest groups who have lobbied Congress for decades to pass a resolution.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his opposition to the resolution Thursday, saying the measure could hurt relations at a time when U.S. forces in Iraq rely heavily on Turkish permission to use their airspace for U.S. air cargo flights.

Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying that the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

Here is the official Turkish explanation: For some reason, the Armenians decided enmasse to march into the Anatolian wastelands but in their impetuous whimsy forgot to bring any food. Now this occurred during World War I, so perhaps there was a shortage of updated Michelin guides (the French army would have been using them to rate the trenches at Verdun.) Those silly Armenians kept missing the Howard Johnsons and ended starving to death–except for the thousands who must have accidently shot or bayoneted themselves.

For some reason, most people don’t believe the Turkish explanation. However, the Japanese do. Japan, too, has suffered from an unkind skepticism regarding “accidents” that may have happened in the topsy-turvy of the ’30s and ’40s. Apparently, millions of Chinese civilians died while the Japanese army was in the neighborhood. Given China’s large population, that may have been a statistical inevitability. There also could be a nutritional explanation. If in 1937 300,000 people in Nanking evidently chose to massacre and decapitate themselves, that might have been a reaction to all the monosodium glutamate in Chinese food. Yes, well, the Samurai Code evidently does not require credibility.

Fortunately, with my experience in the Chicago financial markets, I have a solution to Turkey’s and Japan’s bad reputations: Guilt Futures. Just pay, trade or coerce another country into taking the blame. It might not be historically valid, but we should let the marketplace determine who wants to be guilty. Sudan probably could use a little extra money to finance its ongoing genocide; an extra massacre or two on its resume would hardly be noticed. France might be willing to swap its Huguenot massacres or Nazi collaboration for more conveniently remote crimes. In the case of Nanking and the other atrocites, China and Japan could overcome history by finding a mutually agreeable scapegoat: Tibet.

Unfortunately for Turkey, it is not a rich country. The guilt future for the Armenian genocide should offer more than a few tons of figs. Of course, if the Turks offered military bases and unlimited use of their airspace, then there might be a willing culprit. After all, what are allies for?….

Today President Bush apologized for America’s massacre of the Armenians. As a national expression of remorse, the President encouraged people to eat raisins and read William Saroyan.

Hedda Gobbler would be a great name for a turkey

Posted in English Stew, General on November 23rd, 2006 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

Yes, to answer that endemic question of  Thanksgiving, the main course was named for the country. Europeans of the 16th century thought the North American bird resembled a fowl common to Turkey.   

The Turks, however, never thought of naming the fowl for themselves. They call it the Hindi, which refers to India. (I have no idea what the real Indians call the bird but it might be something vindictive about Pakistan.)

Furthermore, but for a slight Byzantine miscalculation, we would be referring to that misnamed bird as the Anatolia.

Until the 11th century, there were no Turks in Turkey.  In fact, the peninsula then was known as Anatolia.  It was a nice, thoroughly Greek region, and one of the most lucrative parts of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, however, a Greek aristocrat named Andronicus Ducas became the inadvertent founder of Turkey.

The Byzantine general simply wanted to kill his emperor Romanus IV but was too finicky for an assassination. Ducas waited until the imperial army was fighting Turkish nomads in eastern Anatolia, near the town of Manzikert. He then ordered a retreat, abandoning the emperor to the enemy. Ducas rushed backed to Constantinople to install his cousin on the now empty and available throne.

(In fact, the Emperor Romanus was captured alive. Under the circumstances, the Turkish Sultan could coerce a favorable treaty. Romanus was soon after released; but his return to Constantinople was unappreciated by his usurping successor. The Byzantine retirement package consisted of blinding and exile.)

Unfortunately, the Byzantine Empire was in just as miserable shape. Andronicus Ducas had overestimated the army’s ability to retreat. It disintegrated, leaving Anatolia–half of the empire– defenseless. The Turks weren’t nomads after that.

And we won’t be trying to digest an Anatolia on Thanksgiving.