August 28, 2015

The Battle of Hill 60 – Lunatic Persistence in Gallipoli I THE GREAT WAR – Week 57

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 27 Aug 2015

Peter Hart described the state of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 as “lunatic persistence in the face of the obvious” – and the Battle of Hill 60 proved just that. Outgunned and with a lack of artillery support, the battle was one of the bloodiest days on the peninsular near Constantinople. The Ottoman capital was still out of reach for the Entente to capture. Meanwhile, the war spread to the Indian border region and on the Western and Eastern Front the carnage continued in the air and on ground.

July 10, 2015

Adapt or Die – The Artillery Barrage I THE GREAT WAR – Week 50

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 9 Jul 2015

The Great Retreat of the Russians during the last weeks has shown one thing: Artillery is the key to success. More specifically, a new kind of artillery tactic called the artillery barrage which focuses shelling on one part of the front. August von Mackensen had actually stolen this approach from John French. The Entente tried to use it on the Western Front a few months earlier without the expected breakthrough.

May 29, 2015

Frontline in the Alps – Italy Declares War I THE GREAT WAR Week 44

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 28 May 2015

After the defeats of Austria-Hungary against Russia, Italy is seeing her chance to grab disputed territories from them. Even though they are not prepared for a full scale war economically or militarily, the declare war against the Central Powers. So, just one month after the landing at Gallipoli, yet another front is opened in Europe. Meanwhile the Russians are still on the run from August von Mackensen and in Gallipoli the fighting stops to collect the dead.

May 13, 2015

The Armenian genocide, a century on

Filed under: History, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I saved this post by David Warren, then inconveniently forgot about it until now. Apologies to those concerned, but after a century, a week or two probably don’t make much difference … and perhaps a belated reminder might help keep the event in the minds of a few more readers:

The annihilation of more than a million Armenians (and their descendants) cannot be disputed. The larger estimates seem to be justified. April 24th, 1915, is recalled as a conventional opening event — when leading Armenian figures were arrested in Istanbul, on the pretext that they sympathized with the Russian enemy — but there were events before that. One could mention the Adana massacre of 1909, the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s (hundreds of thousands killed in these), and so forth.

This “Red Sunday” in Istanbul was itself immediately preceded by redder ones in distant Van. The official charge that Armenians were working with the Russians was occasioned by the fact that Russians had come to the aid of the Armenians in Van, threatened with imminent slaughter. In the end, Djevdet Bey, the murderous governor, was anyway able to exterminate more than fifty thousand of the Christians living in that vilayet alone.

Curiously, or not, the events of “Red Sunday,” then many similar as prominent Armenians were rounded up all over the country and sent to holding camps at Ankara from which they would never emerge, is closely connected with the other centenary we are celebrating, today. That is Gallipoli. The Ottoman authorities were acting under the impulse of war, in a moment when they began seriously (and reasonably) to doubt their own survival. But lest this seem an extenuation, it should be remembered that the same authorities had repeatedly turned on the Armenians each time their own global inadequacies had been exposed.

Under the notorious Tehcir Law, a model later for Hitler, all property belonging to Armenians could be seized, and arrangements began for their deportation to — undisclosed locations. These were prison camps which pioneered the methods of Auschwitz and Belsen. Germans and Austrians in the region, as allies of the “Sublime Porte,” were horrified by what they saw, using such descriptors as “bestial cruelty.” There was no possible question that the authorities intended to exterminate, not incarcerate. The Turkish people at large could also see what was happening around them, when not themselves participating in the slaughter. There is no extenuation for them.

The Treaty of Sèvres, after the War, proposed restoration of Armenian native lands within the defunct Sultanate to a new Armenian republic, but in turn triggered another campaign, now by the Turkish nationalists who succeeded the Ottomans. Their law allowed any remaining Armenian property to be seized by the state on the glib ground that it had been “abandoned.” During this later, post-Ottoman phase, perhaps another hundred thousand Armenians were massacred, often in places to which they had fled for safety. Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk,” the great secular Turkish patriot, was direct commander in the later stages of this Turkish-Armenian War, and much progressive effort has been expended washing the blood off his hands.

May 1, 2015

The Sea Turns Red – Gallipoli Landings I THE GREAT WAR – Week 40

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 30 Apr 2015

Completely underestimating the Ottoman army at the Dardanelles, the British commanders decide to let the ANZACs take the Gallipoli peninsular as a gateway to the Bosporus and Constantinople. After the landing in ANZAC Cove and on Z Beach one thing comes clear though: Mustafa Kemal and his troops will fight for every inch of this piece of rock.

April 27, 2015

Armenia and the Ottoman Empire

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Walrus, Atom Egoyan discusses the fading memories of the Armenian genocide:

They are disappearing. When I arrived in Toronto in 1978 and first became involved with Armenian issues, there were many survivors still alive. Every year on April 24 — the day commemorating the Armenian genocide — we would head to Ottawa. There, survivors would present testimonials, and offer living proof of the systematic campaign of extermination carried out by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

These people would tell their haunting stories — stories that Canadians needed to hear. Unlike the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide has not been universally acknowledged. Turkey — the successor state to the Ottoman Empire — still refuses to admit the historical fact of the event. And with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer survivors left to disprove the deniers with eyewitness recollections.

In the immediate aftermath of World War I, there was hope for accountability. When the Young Turk government collapsed in 1918, many former senior party members fled to Germany, a wartime ally. But the incoming Turkish administration arrested hundreds of those officials who remained in the country — and their collaborators — on suspicion of having participated in the orchestration of the deportations and killings. The suspects were charged with a variety of offences, including murder, treason, and theft. In a series of trials that took place between 1919 and 1920, former Young Turk officials delivered startling confessions and revealed secret documents that outlined the tactics they employed in carrying out their genocidal program.

After the war, the victorious Allies originally had advocated tough punishments for the criminals, as well as an independent Armenian republic in northeastern Turkey. But Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal, opposed this. Kemal, who in 1934 was granted the surname Atatürk (meaning “Father of the Turks”), believed the ongoing trials exemplified the desire of foreign powers to tear apart his country. He moved to shut them down and also sought to abrogate the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, under which Turkey was to recognize Armenia as “a free and independent state.” He promised to help Western nations gain access to the region’s valuable oil fields in return for their support of his cause.

April 24, 2015

Gas On The Western Front – Baptism of Fire for Canada I THE GREAT WAR Week 39

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Apr 2015

After experiments on the Eastern Front, the German Army is using poison gas for the first time on the Western Front. At the beginning of the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the wind blows in a favourable direction; the wide spread use of chlorine gas has a devastating effect on the French troops. Even the Germans are surprised by it. The incredible sacrifice of the Canadian troops make it possible to defend Hill 60 in the end.

April 17, 2015

Hubris – A General’s Worst Enemy I THE GREAT WAR Week 38

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 16 Apr 2015

This week, generals on three different fronts show that they are not able to realise their mistakes. Basra falls to the British, the quick victory at the Dardanelles is getting more and more unlikely and the Russians are loosing their advantage in the Carpathians. But not the commanders have to pay the price for their mistakes, the soldiers have to.

April 10, 2015

The Armenian Genocide I THE GREAT WAR – Week 37

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 9 Apr 2015

The leaders of the Ottoman Empire are looking for a scapegoat after their collosal defeat in the Caucasian Mountains a few month earlier. They start the systematic relocation and disarm Armenian troops among their ranks to end all calls for Armenian independence. Today’s estimates place the death toll of the genocide up till 1.5 million men, women and children.

December 26, 2014

The First Battle of Champagne – Dying In Caucasus Snow I THE GREAT WAR Week 22

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:02

Published on 25 Dec 2014

Right before Christmas the allied powers begin the Champagne offensive, which will last several months. In the snow and the mud, and under horrible living conditions not only the soldiers suffer. The images of a war fought with honour and glory are finally over as even the white flag is used for ambushes. Far away in the mountains of the Caucasian, Russia and the Ottoman Empire are fighting a grim battle, too, in which many soldiers die during interminable marches in the snow wearing summer uniforms.

April 22, 2012

Protecting the Turkish identity should not include ignoring history

Filed under: History, Liberty, Middle East — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:11

Ayşe Kadıoğlu is a Turk who went to university in the United States. Part of the experience was meeting Armenian-American students in Boston and learning about events in Turkish history that have been rigorously suppressed in aid of bolstering “Turkishness”:

I grew up in Turkey, where the prevailing education system still conceals certain historical facts in primary and secondary school curricula lest they harm the “indivisibility of the state with its country and nation”, an expression that is used several times in the current Turkish constitution. Perhaps the fear about deeds that can harm the unity of the state and nation is best symbolised in the Turkish national anthem, which begins with the lyrics “Do not fear”.

When fears nurture and sustain taboos, the ability to retain experiences declines. Enduring an education that is laden with either false historical facts or an eerie silence makes it impossible for people to exit the state of self-imposed immaturity.

[. . .]

There are many taboos in Turkey that mainly concern the protection of the “indivisibility of the state and nation”. There are also many laws that make it a crime to break these taboos. When taboos are sustained by law, the minds (and, many times, bodies) of citizens end up being imprisoned. One such taboo involves the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In Turkey, it is a crime to insult his memory and harm his statutes. Another taboo involves the sacredness of the armed forces. This is sustained by a law against discouraging people from performing their compulsory military service.

[. . .]

Taboos, enforced by law, are fetters in front of the ability to reason. It is possible to be released from the spell of taboos and strengthen the ethos of democracy by upholding the realm of public debate and deliberation. Therefore, yes, I agree with Free Speech Debate’s fourth draft principle, “We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge”, because we try not to be trapped in a state of immaturity and want to do our utmost to fulfil our capacities as reasonable human beings.

January 12, 2011

Armenian discovery may be earliest winery

Filed under: History, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:47

A recent find in Armenia shows evidence of grape pressing, vine cuttings, and fermentation vessels. It may be the earliest winery ever discovered:

While older evidence of wine drinking has been found, this is the earliest example of complete wine production, according to Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, co-director of the excavation.

The findings, announced Tuesday by the National Geographic Society, are published in the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“The evidence argues convincingly for a wine-making facility,” said Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who was not part of the research team.

I don’t know how far back it goes, but the evidence at this site shows that even 6,000 years ago, Vitis vinifera vinifera was the best choice to turn into wine.

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