The government of Sultan Abdul Hamid II substituted the name Armenia with such terms as Kurdistan or Anatolia, fallaciously. Starting from 1880 the name Armenia was forbidden to be used in official documents. The Sublime Porte thus wanted to make everyone believe that the Armenian Question did not exist: if there was no Armenia, then there was no Armenian Question.
The process of “nationalization” of toponyms was continued by the Kemalists, who were the ideological successors of the Young Turks. It gained momentum during the Republican period. Starting from 1923 the entire territory of Western Armenia was officially renamed “Eastern Anatolia”.
The following highlights one such example. In his “Jihan Numa” Kyatib Celebi, a famous Ottoman chronicler of the 17th century, had a special chapter, titled “About the Country Called Armenia”. When, however, this book was republished in 1957 its modern Turkish editor H. Selen changed this title into “Eastern Anatolia”.
The fact, however, is that Armenia together with its boundaries was unequivocally mentioned in the works of Ottoman historians and chroniclers. An excerpt from the said chapter of Kyatib Celebi’s Jihan Numa illustrates clearly the falsifications of modern Turkish historians.
in the 17th century when the Armenian Question was not as yet included into the agenda of international diplomacy, the terms Anatolia or Eastern Anatolia were never used to indicate Armenia. Furthermore, the “Islamic World Map” of the 16th century and other Ottoman maps of the 18th and 19th centuries have clearly indicated Armenia (Ermenistan) on a specific territory as well as its cities.
Armenia and Anatolia are clearly differentiated in the map published in Istanbul in 1803-1804 (see Map 2). The Ottoman authors were using the term Armenia till the end of the 19th century. One example is Osman Nuri, the historian of the second half of the 19th century, who mentions Armenia repeatedly in his three-volume “Abdul Hamid and the Period of His Reign.”
It is more than obvious that the Ottoman historians and chroniclers in contrast to the modern Turkish ones, knew very well Armenia’s location and did not “confuse” it with Anatolia.
The word Anatolia means “sunrise” or “east” in Greek. This name was given to the Asia Minor peninsula approximately in the 5th or 4th centuries B.C. During the Ottoman era the term Anadolou included the north-eastern vilayets of Asia Minor with Kyotahia as its center. The numerous European, Ottoman, Armenian, Russian, Persian, Arabic and other primary sources did not confuse the term Armenia with Anatolia. This testifies, inter alia, to the fact that even after the loss of its statehood the Armenian nation still constituted a majority in its homeland, which was recognized by Ottoman occupiers as well.
Therefore, it is very sad to witness today certain Armenian historians of the Diaspora and even diplomats and analysts in Armenia, who have started to substitute the term “Western Armenia” with that of the ersatz “Eastern Anatolia”. These people have willingly and submissively undertaken the task of enacting Abdul Hamid’s decree of 1880. Incredibly, some Diasporan historians are even using the term “Anatolia” to indicate the entire Armenian Highland.
Even if this ersatz term of Eastern Anatolia has somehow been put into circulation in Western scientific circles under the influence of systematic Turkish lobbying and falsifications and at times also due to the lack of knowledge, it is unacceptable for us, because the substitution of Western Armenia with the term “Eastern Anatolia” would mean voluntary renunciation of our homeland, rejection of our centuries-old historical and cultural heritage, denial of the Genocide of the Armenian people (no Armenian Genocide), burial into oblivion of its consequences and, last but not least, rendering support to the Turkish negationist position towards the rights of the Armenian nation to Western Armenia.
Lusine Sahakyan, PH.D., Yerevan State University