From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide

The Zoryan Institute and Zed books of London, England are pleased to announce the publication of a groundbreaking new book by Turkish scholar Taner Akçam, entitled From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide. This extraordinary book examines the relationship between Turkey's transition from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic, the Armenian Genocide, and the process of democratization in Turkey today.

"Each ethnic group today views the others from the perspective of that period. Any effort towards democratization in the region today must begin with a dialogue about history and most importantly, the events that transpired during the transition from Empire to Republic," explained Akçam. "Scholarly activity has been locked into a cycle of verification or denial of what happened in history, as opposed to analyzing the socio-political and historical factors that allowed that history to unfold."

From Empire to Republic is a significant step towards addressing the taboo in Turkey regarding the Armenian Genocide and creating a meaningful, historical dialogue. The first three chapters provide the reader with a framework for understanding Turkish nationalism, its origins, and its on-going relationship to the Armenian Genocide. In chapters four and five Akçam follows the changes in Ottoman Turkey's political climate that led to the decision for genocide and the implementation of the Genocide itself. He then tracks the impact of this history into the Republic. Through his analysis of the Treaties of Sèvres and Lausanne, Akçam provides an alternative framework for understanding the causes of the Genocide and his examination of Turkish political taboos shows how the Genocide continues to inform Turkish politics. In the concluding chapters, Akçam convincingly makes the case that debate about the Armenian Genocide is not only a measure of Turkey's democratization, but a necessary ingredient of the process itself. Finally, through a theoretical analysis of the obstacles to dialogue, Akçam offers some hope for reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian communities.

"He is one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge and discuss openly the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government in 1915," commented Vahakn Dadrian, Director of Genocide Studies at the Zoryan Institute. "This book represents the first scholarly attempt to both document the Genocide and understand that genocide from a perpetrator, rather than victim perspective, and to contextualize fully the events of 1915 within Turkey's political history, and western political policies towards the region more generally….This book presents original historical research, based on archival documents and through careful analysis provides, a breakthrough in the understanding of the contemporary relevance of this history," he continued.

Taner Akçam was born in northeast Turkey and became interested in politics at an early age. He was active in Turkish politics until he fled to Germany as a political refugee. For many years, in the face of great adversity, he has worked to create a dialogue between Turks and Armenians. He received his PhD from Hanover University with a dissertation entitled, "Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide: On the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul Between 1919 and 1922." He has authored several books including Dialogue Across an International Divide: Essays towards a Turkish-Armenian Dialogue, which was published by the Zoryan Institute in 2001. Currently he is Visiting Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.