Inching towards the g-word

This post by a Turkish blogger I’ve been following all semester comes closer to acknowledging the Armenian genocide than any other Turk I’ve read about. The post praises Obama’s use of the phrase meds yeghern to refer to the genocide. Meds yeghern means “Great Catastrophe” in Armenian and is the phrase Armenians use to describe the genocide. The blogger liked Obama’s use of the phrase because it doesn’t carry any legal baggage, but it doesn’t contradict Obama’s previously expressed view of the events of 1915 as genocide.

The blogger says that there is no reason for Obama to deny something he sees as a historical fact. This is quite a radical position in Turkey, even if the blogger goes on to say that Turks view an entirely different set of historical facts and that the Turkish interpretation of history is equally valid. Surprisingly, he recognizes that the Armenians’ pain is legitimate, although he also rehashes standard Turkish arguments that Armenian “terrorists” committed atrocities of at least an equal scale against Turks. Overall, I was incredibly surprised to see a Turkish blogger embrace the term meds yeghern. The refusal to use the word “genocide,” though, displays the power of the word. Even though it is basically a synonym for meds yeghern, it carries much more legal and moral weight in the international community.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

‘New’ and ‘Old’ Media in Armenia

A sign of the influence bloggers can have on the public sphere, even on people who don’t read blogs:

This is a blog post, about a daily Armenian newspaper that wrote about (in Armenian), the views of an Armenian blogger (also in Armenian).

Clearly, the views of bloggers are making inroads into the Armenian public sphere if a ‘traditional’ media outlet is referencing them. It’s pretty incredible that the opinions of bloggers are being heard by people who don’t even have an internet connection. Also, considering all the debate about the impending death of the newspaper, it’s interesting to see sort of a symbiotic relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media here. The blogger benefits by having his audience increased substantially, and the newspaper benefits by being able to publish new and interesting content. This sort of relationship, though, is probably uniquely suited to a developing country like Armenia where most people have limited internet access or none at all. In the U.S., almost everyone has access to the internet, so publishing a blogger’s views in a newspaper would be redundant.

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Bloggers’ perceptions of Armenian exchange rates

As I was checking the blogs that I regularly follow this morning, I immediately noticed that both the Armenian blogs I follow had posted items about the sudden sharp increase in the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Armenian dram. As of today, 1 USD is now worth 380 AMD, up 20% from yesterday’s exchange rate of 1 USD/308 AMD. The immediate effects of this are high levels of inflation in Armenia.

The post on The Armenian Observer blog pretty much stuck to the facts and made reasonable speculations about what this would mean for Armenians in the future, along with a not terribly excessive tone of righteous indignation.

The post on The Yerevan Journal blog, on the other hand took the opportunity to espouse a conspiracy theory about the timing of the exchange rate change. On March 1, there was a huge rally in Yerevan to commemorate the one-year anniversary of violent protests in the capital in which several citizens died. The blogger reported the street opinion that “they” had intentionally waited until after the rally to change the exchange rate in order to avoid trouble from angry citizens. Who “they” are and what their motives are, besides the ambiguous “to make a killing” is not explained.

The two different responses to what is obviously a very important event in the lives of ordinary Armenians got me thinking about the relative freedom the internet provides to bloggers, for better and for worse. In countries like Armenia, where censorship is a significant obstacle to media freedom, the internet allows bloggers the opportunity to report stories and perspectives that might not otherwise be hear. They also allow any angry citizen with a conspiracy theory to publish his thoughts to the world. Even this may not be entirely negative, though. As is the case with The Yerevan Journal, there probably are at least a fair number of Armenians who feel like the exchange rate increase was some kind of conspiracy. The validity of the argument itself isn’t as important as the fact that it has at least some credence amongst Armenians.

Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Turkish-Armenian communication in the blogosphere

This is an interesting post by a Turkish blogger written as an open letter to the global Armenian community. The comments are where things get really fascinating, as there are many in-depth and insightful comments by both Turks and Armenians.

I’ve been searching for evidence of interaction between Turks and Armenians on the internet (preferably interaction that goes beyond angry rants) and have had a tough time fining anything. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that many Turkish bloggers have temporarily stopped posting as a form of protest against an increased crackdown on blogs by the Turkish government, so this post is especially encouraging.

The post itself as well as the comments also bring up some interesting notions of identity, especially with regards to nationalism. Turkish and Armenian narratives are discussed, along with how the Armenian genocide fits into both these narratives in vastly different ways. One of the reasons it is so difficult for Turkey and Armenia (as well as individual citizens of those countries) to reconcile is that each country has very distinct and established narratives about what happened in 1915, and every citizen is indoctrinated into his country’s respective narrative from birth. The accuracy of the narrative is not what’s important, but rather the fact that the narrative is so firmly entrenched in notions of national identity.

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Turkish and Armenian blogs

I’m tentatively thinking about following bloggers in both Turkey and Armenia. The two countries have, to say the least, an antagonistic history I think it will be interesting to see the political perspectives of bloggers living in Turkey vs. bloggers living in Armenia. The two blogs I am following for the moment (although I hope to add more) are Yerevan Journal and Turkish Diary. Despite the two countries’ differences, they face similar obstacles to press freedom
For example, in Turkey “insulting Turkishness” is a serious but vaguely defined crime, and is often used to punish those who acknowledge the Armenian genocide. However, intimidation is also a problem in Armenia and comes from both the government and local thugs. The author of Yerevan Journal refers to a “certain oligarch” who frequently uses threats and intimidation. It is telling that even though this man’s identity is probably widely known to anyone living in Yerevan, the blogger will not name him.
I have initially gravitated towards this subject because I’ve lived my whole life in Fresno, CA which has a large Armenian community. There is actually a part of downtown referred to as “Armenia Town” and you can minor in Armenian studies at Fresno State. William Saroyan (the Armenian-American author and playwright) is a local hero with tons of things named after him. Basically, I’ve always been exposed to Armenian culture and viewpoints, but never to Turkish ones. So, I’d like to educate myself about both countries by researching the viewpoints of ordinary bloggers.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 8:42 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,