Islamized Armenians (part 8)

  • by Western Armenia, March 03, 2023 in Society

Various observations and facts allow us to argue that among the Islamized Armenians of Western Armenia and their descendants, there is a stratum that not only denies having Armenian roots, but also tries to prove to the environment that they are “pure Turks” or distinctly anti-Armenian Muslims.  Many of them psychologically view Armenians who, unlike them, have managed to stay true to their roots as enemies and declare them enemy number one. The entrenched attitude of the Turkish state towards Armenians should also be considered as an important condition for Armenians of Armenian descent to manifest their anti-Armenianism. Accordingly, they are perceived as an enemy nation and psychologically they do not want to belong to an enemy nation. Therefore, they often choose to distance themselves from the dominant nation. Addressing the problem, ethnographer Haroutyun Marutyan expressed the following opinion: “Press coverage, direct and indirect pressures of a political or economic nature lead people who are trying to get rid of the labels assigned to them to change their environment, to cut the last ties with their relatives and, in fact, to assimilate. And here, too, there are many factors that accelerate or slow down such processes.”

Various sources attribute non-Armenian or at least “pure Turkish” origins to prominent Turkish nationalists. Among similar examples, we would like to mention the Armenian origin of Doğu Perinçek, the chairman of the Workers’ Party, one of the Turkish state’s ardent opponents of Armenians. Let us recall that he is one of those who actively fought against the international recognition of the genocide against Armenians,  who was convicted in Switzerland for denying the genocide . Some Turkish circles made a big fuss and called Perinçek a “Lausanne conqueror”. The nationalist leader of the Workers’ Party calls the fact of the genocide against Armenians  an “imperialist lie”. His son, an instrument of the struggle against the recognition of the Armenian massacres, is following in his footsteps. It should be noted that Doğu Perinçek was arrested in the case of the “Ergenekon” terrorist organization, which has caused a stir in Western Armenia. According to various Turkish sources, Doğu Perinçek is from the village of Apçağa in the district of Eğin (Akn) in Yerzınka (Erzincan). It should be noted that the Akn district is famous for the abundance of converts, especially of Armenian origin, and historical sources confirm that even before 1915, it was predominantly Christian, mostly Armenians and Greeks. However, the Turkish magazine “Chronical” revealed deeper, comprehensive and, most importantly, serious facts about Perinçek’s origins. It is particularly noteworthy that the article published in the said magazine cites archival documents, namely Ottoman court records, which provide data on the demographic, social, economic, religious and ethnic landscape of the region in question. In particular, there were a large number of Armenians in the rural town of Akn, and a large number of Armenians lived in the villages of Kemer-gab, Apchaga, Iliç, etc. that were connected to Akn.

In particular, the village of Apçaga, where the nationalist Perinçek came from, had a predominantly Armenian population. The village headman and members of the village council were Armenians. Even their names are preserved in court records, for example: Kirkor son of Hakop, Kirkor son of Artin, etc. As mentioned in the aforementioned article, a rather common and at the same time surprising pattern was noticed among the Armenians of Akn-Eğin: they all had surnames (for comparison, note that the Turkish State’s Surname Law only came into circulation in 1934, after which Turks began to bear surnames), but surprisingly, most of them were Turkish names, such as Muratoğlu, Değirmencioğlu, Çilingiroğlu, Ayvazoğlu, Perinçoğlu, etc.

However, another interesting and detailed feature is recorded in the court records: although almost all of them had Turkish surnames, they bore exclusively Armenian names and it was considered an exception if they bore Turkish or foreign names. The court records also record that the Perinçoğulları were all Armenians. In fact, there are some cases against them and names such as “Perinçoğlu Stepan and Khaçatur of the Armenian Nation” are mentioned.

Doğu Perinçek’s grandfather’s father Mehmet Sadık Perinçoğlu was born in the village of Apçağa in 1850, and his son Mehmet Cemal Perinçek was born in the same village in 1887. However, as can be seen, their names are not in Armenian and in fact violate the above-mentioned feature. This may be interpreted as an exception, but nevertheless the facts preserved in the court records shed light on this and other issues. Thus, Mehmet Sadiq Perinçoğlu is recorded in the Ottoman court registers as a “muhtedi”. This means a convert. In other words, he turns out to have become a Muslim in the second half of the 19th century, but the reason is not given. 

This shows that the policy of Islamization continued, with ups and downs, throughout the existence of the Ottoman Empire. Doğu Perinçek is the grandson of this Islamized Armenian, and his Armenian heritage had the opposite effect, pushing him to choose the path of nationalism. But even this does not “save” them from the danger of being accused by Turkish society of not being of Turkish origin.

Bagrat Estukyan, a correspondent for the “Agos” newspaper, writes the following:  “So what do we call traitors of the nation? Not even traitors, but those who hate their nation. You see that the memory of the community does not allow this. It pulls the veil off the nationalist’s face and reveals what he has been running from all his life.”

To be continued…

Ashkhen Virabyan