4 Şubat 2011 Cuma

The Greek or Hellenic Problem in Writing an Anatolian History

Türkçe için Anadolu tarihi yazımında Yunan/Helen sorunu

One of the most important obstacles facing any Anatolian history project, perhaps the most important one, is the connections the past Anatolian groups have with the present day Anatolian groups or rather ethnic groups. The nationalist perspective that seems to be controlling the general frame of mind in the area does not seem to have the ability to deal with these connections without favoring one ethnic group over another. Especially integrating the Greeks into the history of Turkey and the Turks into the history of Greece has not been achieved so far.     

Anyone who works on the history of Anatolia or rather the combined regions of the Aegean, Anatolia and the northern Mesopotamia, which I believe makes more sense historically, will have to come across and face, at least in the Aegean side of this region, the Hellenes or Greeks. It is inevitable that one will have to deal with the task of placing the speakers of Hellenic or Greek languages who had started becoming visible in this area in 1500s BC, and the various cultures and civilizations they created or shared, into the history of the region. (By “the history of the region” I mean mainly the Turkish version of this history, since this post about how the Turkish side approaches this history.) Otherwise, what will appear cannot be anything other than some form of historical distortion reflecting today’s ethnic aspirations.

It is especially true that when this kind of history is defined as the history of those from Turkey, then it is a must that it includes every cultural and ethnic group that is and was from Turkey. In this case, if the discourse of coming-from-the-same-racial-root (soydaşlık), quite common especially in Turkey, is to have any validity, then it should include those from the other racial roots, for example Greeks, as much the “ethnic” Turks, since the concept of those-from-Turkey, Türkiyeli, should include every cultural/ethnic/racial root Turkey contains. 

Be that as it may, the trend has been in the opposite direction since the first years of the Republic. For example, one can see in the writings of the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, and the Blue Anatolianists that a discourse of Anatolians was already established very early on. One of the most conspicuous, perhaps the leading theme, attributes of this historical discourse was the portrayal of the Greeks (in addition to the others) as anti-Anatolians and their exclusion from the Anatolian history. However, when one goes back in time a very different picture appears. There is a strong Hellenic presence along the western Anatolian shores for a long time both in linguistic and cultural terms. The groups who had been living here until the speakers of Hellenic languages arrived would enter various mutual relations with these new arrivals, and this would eventually lead to changes and transformations in the existing cultural fabric. Even though one cannot attribute what eventually appeared in this region only to the influence of the newcomers, claiming the opposite would not be correct, either; nor a Hellenic or Greek invasion. The newcomers would eventually interact with those who were already there before Greeks arrived and form a new cultural fabric together; and this fabric would in time be associated with the name of its most dominant element (this dominance can result from various conditions; political, economic, cultural, linguistic and etc.).   

On the other hand, it would not be correct to link the Bronze Age or ancient Hellenic cultural fabric, or perhaps even or rather the Aegean one, directly to the modern cultural and ethnic entity that exists today with the same name, that is, to see the second one as the direct continuation of the first one. There are big differences between these two; in fact, as mentioned before, today’s Hellenes/Greeks are more similar to today’s Turks or those from Turkey in many ways than the Hellenes of the past. Although most on either side would not like this argument, nevertheless, making the opposite claim is not possible, either. For example, anyone would agree that at least in the area of religious beliefs, these two are much more similar to each other than to their assumed ancestors. Yet, these ancient Hellenes, and the ancient Anatolians for that matter, not taking into consideration the ethnic connections, discourses and myths attached to them, form the common past of this land that both sides share today.  

In conclusion, one should approach the past by making sure that a certain distance is kept with it. The search for one’s roots should be carried by realizing that there are different forms of pasts one need to differentiate and kept apart from each other. The links one desires to form with the groups that lived a few thousands of years, in fact even as close as a few hundreds of years in some cases, need be very different from those formed with one’s close relatives and those one lives with (at most a four-generation deep group is the case here). If a certain distance is not kept then it will be inevitable that the people who lived in the past are treated not any different from those living today. But these two are actually very different from each other and in fact, if we were to meet them face to face now, it is very likely that we will really not enjoy their company. The task of keeping our distance needs to enter the picture right at this point. These people make up the deep or far past of the land on which we currently live; not the past that we feel and form  through our first-hand experiences and need in order to continue existing as we are right now. What is meant here is not really that we should give up our feelings. In fact, it is the very same feelings that bring us this very old past and let us have experiences that eventually lead to forming historical discourses through which we give meaning to our places. However, here we also need to see what this not directly experienced past is and what one feels towards it is based on different kind of feelings. The past we create through interaction with the place where we currently live needs be different from the past that we collectively create through interaction with a certain cultural setting that we now share with the people with whom we live together.            

4 yorum:

  1. BTW, according to the latest genetic studies, which are much more detailed and accurate than the previous ones, Armenians are genetically much closer to Turks than Timuçin claimed in 2007 and even one of the closest (so much so that as close as people from the same ethnic group) peoples (they are closer than Iranians, whether they are closer than Greeks isn't clear yet, but probably Anatolian Greeks will show up closer to Turks than Armenians). So Timuçin will need to revise some of his old claims in his new works.

    1. What do you mean by saying "turks"?The word turk was created by Ataturk.So,the "turks" are close to greeks,armenians,iranians.

    2. What do you mean by saying "turks"?The word turk was created by ataturk.There wasn't before.

  2. What do you mean by saying "turk"?The word turk was created by ataturk.


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