It has been nearly a week since I arrived in Turkey. My first two stops were Ayder, a village tucked away in the Kaçkar mountains, and Trabzon, a port town which is a nice base for day trips to Sumela Monastery. My third stop is Erzurum, a very old city farther inland on the eastern side of Turkey. Today was my first day and I went straight for the Erzurum Museum, seen above.
It had some incredibly old artifacts, some of which dated back 5,000+ years. Above are some of the ceramic pieces they have from the Urartu kingdom.
These inscriptions come from the same period.
What I did not expect was the final hall of the museum. Erzurum had been one of the centers of a sizeable Armenian population that once lived in what is now eastern Turkey. It was also a major deportation center during the Armenian Genocide. Turkey does not recognize what occurred as genocide, and the tension between Armenia and Turkey over this issue still has not dissapated (their border remains closed partly due to this). So while Armenians have a monument and museum commemorating the genocide and a national holiday on April 24th (Remembrance Day), Turkey refuses to call it genocide and instead has a museum hall dedicated to the massacres of Turkish civilians by Armenians during the first World War. Though I am sure such atrocities did occur, they simply do not compare to the near complete devastation of the Armenian population during this time. What is really sad is how well the exhibit exemplifıes the attitudes Armenians and Turks have toward each other. (My previous post on the Azeri cemetery in Armenia shows that this animosity exists between Azeris an Armenians as well.)
Above are the artifacts found in the mass graves of Turkish civilians and the description of the excavation itself.
Of course, these claims must be taken with a very large grain of salt. Strong Turkish nationalism permeates throughout the entire exhibit. You simply can’t take seriously an exhibit that uses the term ”Armenian terrorists” to describe Armenians in general. The exhibit seems to give weight to the bogus theory that Armenians are actually descendants of Albanian Christians. And fınally, the supposed quotation of a Britiısh diplomat describing the revolt of the Armenian population around the turn of the 20th century is both very undiplomatic written in poor English, leading me to question its authenticity. It reads: ”Did the Turks or the Armenians started it? Yes, of course these fool and deceitful Armenians were guilty for all.” This section actually reminds me a lot of the İsraeli military museums I visited in Tel Aviv.
By the way, if anyone does find some reputable sources on any massacre of Turkish civilians, please send me the link.
And no Turkish museum would be complete without Atatürk! He is everywhere. Every square, statue, or flag seems to be of him.
Above are pictures of what İ suspect to be Armenian churches in Erzurum. None of them are described as such. But having seen several different churches all over the Republic of Armenia and in Karabakh, I am fairly sure these are Armenian. Two of them had signs that said the buildings’ orgins are unknown. A Kurdish carpet-seller I met confirmed that there were mosques in the city that were originally churches.
On the churches ‘lost’ or destroyed after 1915, see this article.
Despite the partial picture of history one gets in Erzurum, it is a still an interesting place and well worth visiting.