There is a controversy discussed here about Atatürk's responsibility for the Armenian Genocide.

However, yahoo answers says that that Atatürk actually may have ended it.

I want to know about Atatürk's private and public views regarding killing people based on religion. He seems to have been pretty secularist.

  • 12
    Being (partially) responsible and the one who may have ended it aren't mutually exclusive.
    – yannis
    Oct 1, 2013 at 14:06
  • I just finished "Smyrna, 1922" by Giles Milton, which is a book accepted as fair by both sides. Am at work now but will write an answer soon Feb 12, 2014 at 9:49
  • During the time of the Armenian deportations Attaturk was stationed in the Western part of Turkey and was busy fighting the English. Apr 30, 2014 at 16:30
  • 2
    Negationists sometimes try to claim that the leader of a country weren't responsible for a given genocide, which they'll also argue didn't happen.
    – Golden Cuy
    May 14, 2015 at 2:23
  • 1
    regarding killing people based on religion -> there is an argument to be made the Armenian genocian was motivated by political and ethnic reasons rather than religion. In that case Ataturk's secularism would not be contradictory with whatever level of responsabilty he had.
    – Evargalo
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


Massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire goes back to at least 1894, but they increased during WWI. What is referred to as the Armenian Genocide is however sometimes limited to the events that happened during the mass deportation of Armenians in 1915-1916. The deportations ended in March 1916, and this ended the main part of the Armenian genocide, but anti-Armenian policy did not stop, and there was massacres of Armenians after this point as well.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was during WWI a military man, and was during the deportations in charge of first the 19th Division and the the XVI Army Corps, busy defending the western end of the Empire. As a leading officer he surely would have been aware of the deportations, but did not order them or participate in them, and I can find no evidence that he was involved in any of the massacres before the deportations either.

Atatürk was the leader of the Turkish Independence War, and as such nominally responsible for massacres during this period. However, he blamed the Turkish people and it's "excited state".

As he was a turk-nationalist and started a policy of oppressing and Turkifying minorities, it is quite likely that he supported the anti-Armenian policies. In August 1921 his nationalists took several Britons hostage (I've seen the numbers 22 and 29) and then made an exchange for the Turks that was detained for their involvement in the genocide.

The conclusion of this is that Atatürk is not to blame for the Genocide and does not have seem to be directly involved in either the deportations, nor the massacres. However, he does not seem to have opposed them, and possibly supported them. He certainly did nothing to stop them, even after he came to power.

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