The abandonment of Anatolia by Armenians due to the state's systematic and planned oppression lasted from World War I up to the late 20th century. The Kemalist republic maintained the unionists' policy almost unchanged. With the politicians, ideologues, bureaucrats and businessmen it included, the unionists constituted the backbone of the new Republic, and this discriminatory perspective left its mark on the issue of minorities over the century. No governments were able to overcome this logic, with many of them already being too nationalist to even want to. All the laws were produced and implemented with the intention of making Armenians incapable of returning to their homeland and forcing them to lose their citizenship and properties. As the defender and protector of the state's official ideology, the judiciary instrumentalized the law to the detriment of minorities.
In this atmosphere, it was risky even to seek one's rights, let alone to actually obtain them, and minorities, particularly Armenians, left their homeland in various waves. This process started with a rather tragic incident. In 1915, Armenians were sent to their deaths in groups as a result of the state's conscious decisions and practices. This was not done with the purpose of eradicating a race or a nation, but rather, it was part of a policy that sought to reduce the Armenian population to less than 5 percent in every province. Before this incident took place, Armenian men were recruited to the army and disarmed in labor battalions. Many details have not yet come to light since the archives covering the decisions taken by the unionist state were burnt, and the remaining documents are mainly in the closed archives of the General Staff. The outcome, in any case, was that the Armenian community of Anatolia practically disappeared.
The very small Armenian community could not achieve any sense of normalcy during the Republican period either. At every opportunity, the state acted in a way that might induce Armenians to leave the country and abandon their properties. The periods of coups further exacerbated this atmosphere, and minorities migrated from these lands in groups within one year following all coups, which were staged every 10 years during the multi-party period.
The symbolic beginning of this tragic history of the Armenians is April 24, 1915, and so they are faced with a tragic, historic milestone this year. Everyone is occupied with the question of what the government will do this year. Expectations are naturally greater at this time, considering President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's condolence message on April 23 last year, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's condolence message on the anniversary of Hrant Dink's death this year. These statements were revolutionary in terms of Turkey's historical knowledge and psychological expectations. We do not know what the government will do, but we can predict that it will likely fall short of satisfying Armenians.
There are many reasons for this. One of them is that Turkish society has only recently begun to learn their own history, and has difficulty in digesting the charge of genocide that has been placed before them. Another reason is that Armenians are also likely to switch to a more radical discourse, which restricts Turkey's elbowroom in such a symbolic year. On the one hand, there are Armenians who feel it beneath their dignity to behave "moderately," while on the other hand, there are Turks who feel a certain moderation, which implies the admission of genocide, like sustaining a defeat under pressure.
In other respects, Turkish society, politics and state are making rapid progress on their way to confronting their own history. The year 2015 will imply the end of an era, and we are likely to witness Turkey taking various systematic steps, particularly in the cultural arena, in the upcoming months. However, satisfying Armenians' expectations will be possible only with the two societies ‘re-recognizing' each other and imagining a future together.