TURKIFICATION OF THE TOPONYMS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE AND THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
The focus of the present article is the place-name distortion and appropriation policies of the Ottoman Empire and its successor, the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish authorities realize that Armenian toponyms are the product of the several millennia civilization and vivid evidence of the indigenousness presence of Armenians in Western Armenia. The extermination of the native population, however, did not stop with the Armenian Genocide; it was followed by the destruction of Armenian historical and cultural heritage, including the Armenian toponyms. The policy of Turkification of toponyms in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey has gone through several stages: up to the end of the 19th century, Turkish officials and historians still continued to use the names “Armenia” or “Ermenistan”. At the same time, they were appropriating and changing the place names of occupied territories; after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, when the Armenian Question became an international issue, the Turkification of Armenian as well as other Christian toponyms has been carried out more consistently; this process intensified during the Young Turks and the Kemalist regimes, when a full-scale Turkification policy of toponyms targeted all non-Turkic nations; during the present stage, decades after eliminating Western Armenia of its native Armenian population, falsification of toponyms still remains an important constituent part of Turkish demographic policies. Toponyms are not only linguistic facts, but also accurate and objective historical evidence. The ancient Armenian place-names are explicit and emphatic linguistic evidence, which reveal the entire truth about the true native owners of the Armenian Highland. This is why the protection, maintenance and restoration of Armenian toponyms have invaluable strategic significance today.
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