Turks as enemies in Armenian textbooks
Some interesting nuances regarding textbooks were discussed at the session of the Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of Euronest Parliamentary Assembly in Baku last month. To be more exact, the main discussion was between Azerbaijani Minister of Education Misir Mardanov and Armenian MP Aram Safaryan. The latter asked, “Is it true that your schools and textbooks propagandize hostility and hatred for the Armenians?” to which Misir Mardanov replied, “There is a huge chasm between our societies. Today’s event is a step on the way of overcoming that chasm. I don’t know what is written in your books and you don’t know what is written in our books1. So, I doubt whether it is possible to find an answer to this question in a day or within the framework of one event. Issues like this need to be studied very seriously by specialists.”
In fact, it was not the first time that this topic became a subject of discussion. Earlier, Turkish Education Minister Omer Dincer came across similar statements during his meeting with the management, teachers and students of an Armenian-language school in Istanbul. The students told the Minister that removing from the textbooks the materials humiliating the Armenians would have a positive impact on the entire educational process in the country.
On May 10 of the current year, the Armenians took one more step in this direction. As part of the project Save the Future of Our Children, they created a website named AzeriChild.info. On the website, experts analyzed and studied the textbooks on history, children’s literature, children’s journalism, tales published in Azerbaijan and materials on that topic on the TV channels and on the Internet. The analysis and study have revealed that the following phrases are allegedly2used in these materials to describe the Armenians: “the Armenians with satanic blood,” “dirty and impudent claims of the Armenians,” “loathsome enemy3” etc.
A history teacher retorts, "How can we give false information about the Armenians to a refugee student?"
So, the Armenians make use of every opportunity to accuse Azerbaijan and Turkey of using the above mentioned phrases in textbooks, creating a humiliating and hostile image of the Armenians and cultivating hatred. Lastly, by creating this website, they try to convey their lie to the international community4.
What does Azerbaijan do to counterbalance it, what is the reality? What is the situation like in the Armenian textbooks? What do our experts think about it?”
Tahir Ibrahimov, history teacher with 25 years of teaching experience, thinks that the information about the Armenians provided by our textbooks reflects the reality. In his opinion, with an ongoing war between the two peoples, it is impossible to create a positive image of the enemy: "Children should have real information about their history. Facts regarding the Armenians should not be distorted. Besides, by the time when the children learn these lessons, they are already well-informed about the real actions of the Armenians. We cannot write the opposite in our textbooks."
Tahir Ibrahimov also thinks that the textbooks do not present facts humiliating the Armenians, they give real facts. “If these facts are a concern to the Armenians, let them change their essence. We cannot bring up our children in a lie in order to please them. Currently, there are thousands of students whose parents are refugees from Karabakh. They know what the Armenians have done long before their history lessons. Why should we deceive them?”
Milli Majlis deputy, Professor Musa Kasimli: “In Armenia, children from kindergarten age are brought up in the spirit of hatred”.
Professor Musa Kasimli thinks that the Armenians’ actions are aimed at dumbfounding and misleading representatives of European countries and creating the kind of public opinion they need. Armenian MPs try to present their country as a supporter of friendship between the peoples. “In reality, it is not the case. In Armenia, hostility towards the Turks is raised to the level of state policy. From children in kindergartens to top state bodies, people are brought up in the spirit of hatred towards Azerbaijan and the Turks. Armenian textbooks contain materials about the invented Armenian genocide, propagandizing hostility towards the Turks”5.
The deputy doubts the sincerity of proposal of Armenian parliamentarians to jointly discuss and solve the issues related to coverage of history. “Several years ago, on the initiative and order of the Council of Europe, historians from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were writing a book titled History of the Caucasus. I was writing a part of the book from Azerbaijan. However, the Armenians did not fail to write in their part about the genocide, the aggression of the Turks, and their claims to Azerbaijan’s territories. We came out for removing these parts, while the Armenians sent notes to the Council of Europe and the result was that the book was not published. So, the hostility and hatred come from Armenia, not from Azerbaijan.”
Historian Kerim Shukurov: “On the contrary, the Armenians do not have their deserved place in our textbooks”.
History expert Kerim Shukurov told us in an interview that Azerbaijani history textbooks on the whole still do not have a single concept. In his words, the textbooks do not fully and in consecutive order present the information about the Armenians. “We are asked why our textbooks propagandize hatred. But in my opinion, there is no hatred in them. Let us take a simple question: how did Armenia emerge, what was the attitude of the Armenians to Azerbaijan throughout history – from the ancient times to the present day? Our textbooks do not give a clear picture of this. Meanwhile, there is a need to give a comprehensive clarification of these issues.
There is a need to place in our textbooks information revealing the roots and succession of the conflict. The Armenians do not have their deserved place in our textbooks. Azerbaijan, as a country subjected to aggression, failed to fully present all these issues in its textbooks, and in a form corresponding to the age and psychology of children.”
Besides, Shukurov thinks that chronology in school textbooks is built in a wrong way. “Thus, information about Karabakh war is taught to students in the 10th grade, while it is necessary to start it from the lower grades. Further, recently we also examined the textbooks of earlier period. Information about our relations with neighbors was distorted there as well. They wrote about friendship and brotherhood between us, Armenians and Russians. Besides, for instance, it is known that the territory of present-day Armenia is the historical land of Azerbaijan, but you will not find objective information about it in our textbooks. We failed to explain the history of Western Azerbaijan in the context of the general history of Azerbaijan. The Armenians, taking advantage of it, always appropriated our lands.”
Kerim Shukurov said that he has a book History of Armenia published by Yerevan State University. In that book, the Armenians spread distorted information about the territory of their country. “They seriously think that a part of Armenia makes up the territory of Turkey. They have been brought up in the spirit of textbooks like this. They all are infected with that idea.”
Elmina Kazimzade: “A textbook should not be turned into a means of revenge”
Chairperson of the Textbook Assessment Council under the government of Azerbaijan, PhD in Psychology Elmina Kazimzade said, for her part, that the history textbooks of conflicting countries should have different approaches in covering such topics.
She gave the example of Germany after World War II. “A famous businessman in Germany invested all his resources to create a research center. The center analyzed all textbooks on history and geography published after 1945. Germany arrived at a verdict that the cause that led the nations to catastrophe was the propaganda in the textbooks. For the result of World War II was hard for them – a defeated nation that appeared to be helpless before other countries. They concluded that the primary cause was the strong nationalist propaganda in the textbooks. Specialists from all over the world were invited to the center, including representatives of Azerbaijan.”
According to Elmina Kazimzade, any country which is in conflict should be guided by the above mentioned delicate principles while determining the content of textbooks. “I think a textbook should not be turned into a means of revenge. Instead, the focus should be on formation of historical thinking in the students. The textbooks should present the main postulates enabling to correctly assess the country, the homeland. I would not want our patriotism to be measured by the degree of hatred.”
Elmina Kazimzade stressed that the agency she heads mainly keeps control of the new textbooks and learning aids. A 5th grade history textbook was prepared this year. However, the respondent said that the work on comprehensive assessment of the textbook is still underway, adding, “I don’t know the content of Armenian textbooks, but there are some researchers working on it. According to them, Armenian textbooks have no peacefulness. I think each side protects its own interests in this issue”.
What do Armenian textbooks say?
Studies show that there are only two peoples in the world who bring up their children in the spirit of hatred for their neighboring peoples. One of these peoples is the Jews and the other is the Armenians: “The Jews sing such lullabies: “Grow up, grow up, kill the Arabs,” while the Armenians tell their children from the cradle: “The Turks are your enemies,” “The Turks have drunk your blood”6.
Recent studies show that Armenian textbooks on history use expressions like “newly come Turks,” “savage Turks,” “homeland of vandalism”7. As regards specific facts, for instance, in The History of the Armenians by Armenian historian Moisey Khorenli8, let us pay attention to the following excerpt: “The Turks were ugly, unsightly creatures, when the Armenians went to steal their sheep, a massive cliff came down and drowned them all in the sea.”
Psychologist: “Children should not be taught a false history”
Children’s psychologist Shahla Rahmanova thinks that children should be given complete information about history to form in them a personal worldview and consciousness of their homeland: “In our textbooks, I have never seen calls to “kill the Armenians” or thoughts that “the Armenians are our enemies.” My child is also at school. But the children are indeed informed about the evil deeds of the Armenians by means of television and books. But how can we conceal from children the tragedies of January 20, Khojaly, the occupation of our lands? We should convey the historical truth to children through the language of facts, children should not be taught a false history”.