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Crime of Numbers

Auteur : Fuat Dündar
Éditeur : Transaction Publishers Date & Lieu : 2010, New Brunswick
Préface : Pages : 238
Traduction : ISBN : 978-1-4128-1100-2
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 155x240 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Dun. Cri. 4891Thème : Général

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Crime of Numbers

Fuat Dündar

Crime of Numbers

Transaction Publishers

Statistics have played an important role in the recognition of the Armenian question on the international landscape as well as its “definitive solution” resulting in the Armenian genocide. The importance of statistics first surfaced at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, where differences in the approach toward numbers between the Armenians and the Ottoman Empire, and the role of statistics within the Ottoman state apparatus, became an issue. At that international gathering, the Armenian question was considered part of the “Eastern Question” paradigm of Western diplomacy. It would soon become a code word for the question of “civilization" itself.

Those administering the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire perceived the Armenian issue not only through ethnic and religious perspectives, but also through statistics. As Fuat Dündar shows, statistics became the vehicle through which the Ottoman state apparatus was forced to include non-Muslim populations of the Empire in the state apparatuses and local councils. This occurred long before the Armenian question surfaced. The aim of Ottoman reforms was to ensure that all communities participated in the affairs of the state and that such participation was proportionate to their numbers. Through its role in these reforms, statistics emerged as a constant matter of debate in the Armenian question.

As a result of the Armenian genocide, the statistical record has become quite sensitive. Today, accounting for the numbers of Armenians murdered in 1915 usually means calculating the number of Armenians who were massacred or died of other causes such as disease, hunger, exhaustion, and the like during deportations or immediately after. This is a work of brilliant archival history and imaginatively uses social statistics.

Fuat Dtindar was born in a Kurdish county. He is the author of three books in Turkish: Modern Turkey’s Cipher—Ethnicity Engineering of the Committee Union and Progress (1913-1918), The Settlement Policy of Muslims (1913-1918), and Minorities in Turkish Censuses. He is visiting professor of history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.



This study is a product and continuation of my master's and doctoral research, in which I have been engaged since 1995. The study was undertaken on the basis of archival research, particularly the Ottoman archives, with the aim of understanding the migration and settlement policies of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP or Unionists, sometimes referred to also as the Young Turks) applied during 1913-1918. The policy toward the Armenian element, should, at the end be placed in the context of the general Unionist population policy and compared with the population policies applied to other ethnic identities. Much relevant information and documentation concerning Armenians can be found in Modern Turkey’s Cipher: Young Turks 'Ethnic Engineering.1 I should also state that this study serves as a bridge leading to The Peoples of Number: The Role of Statistics in the Nationalisms in the Ottoman Empire, a study which I am currently completing. Finally, this study has greatly contributed to the development of yet another work in which I will be stressing the central role played by statistics for the rationalization of nationalistic currents in general, with particular reference to the Ottoman Empire.

It is not an easy task to study and express in words the period of 1878- 1918, when Armenians were forced out of their ancestral lands, where they had lived for thousands of years, and subsequently annihilated. I am aware of the fact that it is not possible to describe exactly what happened by means of this small study. Every study is inevitably incomplete, but in the specific case of this study the deficiencies are many, and I am aware also of this. What I wanted to do was to take a look at the question and at the period from the perspective of both statistics and the mathematical mentality that dominated the policies of the Ottoman governments at the time. For the study of a subject on which a growing number of academics are working, and regarding which scholarly output has increased, I chose to use archival documents and diplomatic texts.

There have been many people who were so generous with their time and advice during these years of research and writing. I am highly indebted to Prof. Hamit Bozarslan for his most valuable contributions to my doctoral thesis, on which this study is based; to Prof. Müge Göçek, who threw open the doors of her home for me, and who provided moral and intellectual support; and to Prof. Oktay Ozel, who read very carefully both the Turkish and English versions of this study, who was even in my most difficult days always at a phone call away and who provided to me his knowledge and wisdom. I am grateful to Dr. Nora Nercessian and Mr. Aram Sarkisian for their careful reading of the text. I must stress, however, that without Prof. Gerard Libaridian’s contributions this study would not have existed. I shall always be grateful to him for the facilities and support he did not refrain from providing me with during the process that began with the birth of an idea, and ended with the accomplishment of the project.

I must also express my deep gratitude to the Armenian Studies Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; my tenure as a Manoogian Simone Foundation Post-Doctoral fellow during 2008/2009 provided me with the time, opportunity, and motivation to work on this project.

Lastly a few words for my readers who approach the historical process narrated here with humanitarian sensibility, particularly Armenian readers. I want to thank them in advance for the patience they will be showing for the deliberately unemotional and dispassionate approach I have tried to maintain in this study. While studies about post-War Armenian history cannot be carried out without taking into account the deportations and massacres of the war period, I believe the history of the period preceding that date should be viewed as if those events had not happened, as they had not yet in fact happened. I am of the opinion that at this point it should be possible to analyze the role of all parties and all aspects with the highest degree of critical thinking, without being constrained by present day concerns or fears. This is what contemporary historiography needs.

This study is dedicated to the women and children who have been the primary victims of a paternalistic mentality and of modern nationalism which, being dominated by a mechanical and insensitive calculating logic, have reduced people to mere numbers. In particular, it is dedicated to those Armenian children and women who suffered the most during the 1915-1917 tragedy.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
December 2008

1. Modem Turkiye’nin Sifresi: Ittihat Terakki'nin Etnisite Muhendisligi, Istanbul, Iletisim, 2008, English edition forthcoming (2010) from publishers.


The main argument of this study is that statistics played an important role in the emergence of the Armenian Question both on the international landscape and in its “definitive solution” (suret-i katiyede hal)1 The importance of statistics surfaced at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, where the differences in approach between the West and the Ottoman Empire with respect to statistics and its role in the Ottoman state apparatus became an issue. At the Congress of Berlin the Armenian Question was situated within the “Question d’Orient” or Eastern Question paradigm of Western diplomacy, and would soon be coded as a question of civilization. In this study, I will argue that the administration of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire perceived the Armenian issue not only through ethnic, religious and racial perspectives, but also through statistics. Conflicts between the approaches used by the West and the Ottoman Empire with regards to the contents and definition of statistics that would be proper to apply to the Armenian Question were already apparent at the Congress of Berlin. As the present study will show, statistics became a vehicle by which the Ottoman state apparatus was forced to include the non-Muslim populations of the Empire in the state apparatuses and local councils long before the Armenian Question surfaced. The aim of Ottoman reforms was to ensure that communities participated in the affairs of the state and that such participation was proportionate to their numbers, what I call “sharing the state.” Statistics, then, through its role in the reforms, emerged as a constant element of the Armenian Question under Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909).

The most important issues were the selection of the Ottoman provinces to be included in the Armenian reform project as prepared by the British Colonel William Everett in 1895, and the approach with regard to the ratio to be used for the allotment of positions. The choice for the areas subject to reform was between two possible ratios of the Armenian population to the total population, 5% or 10%, and involved the delineation of such areas. These ratios played a basic and determining role in the “definitive solution” of the Armenian Question, carried out ...


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