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Unionists Young-Turks Memoirs Historiography Negationism First World War Turkey


A hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War and the perpetration of the Armenian genocide, what do we know and what do we think in Turkey about the men who had been the principal actors of these events: the Young-Turks of the Committee Union and Progress? History and memory of this political group are in link, in tension. And we want to go from these points of tension between the past and the present to propose a global reading. The “here and now” – the Unionists’ image in collective memory of contemporary Turkey, an image which is maintained by official history-writing and medias – can give us some tracks to interpret past. On the other hand, past can help us to explain some phenomena in the society and the political system of contemporary Turkey. The unionist Young-Turks, alternately shown as traitors and set up as founding fathers, reveal some tears in turkish collective memory and some difficulties in its effort to build a coherent historical tale.

Seen from this angle, the memories written by the unionist leaders themselves are particularly important. They take up a central place in our set of sources. What is the part of truth and the part of lying in these pleas written for the tribunal of history? What is the meaning and the reasons of these collective lies passed on as a legacy? We must put these memories to the test of the facts, confront them with other sources: minutes of the trials, public and private archives… What about these ones? It is interesting to notice that, while the memories of Young-Turks had never been more published, more public than today, their private archives had never been more preciously kept by their descendants, heirs and guardians of their memory, a silent memory sealed by a genocide.