Monday, February 06, 2012

The French Senate Bill and Armenian Perceptions on Turkey

As the New York Times reports, on January 23, 2012 the French Senate “approved a bill […] criminalizing the denial of officially recognized genocides, including the Armenian genocide begun in 1915.” The bill has fanned tensions between Turkey and France, emphasizing the complexities of politics and perceptions. Turkish immigrants and French citizens of Turkish origin in Paris, as well as Turks in Ankara and in Istanbul have protested against the bill. Publicity has emphasized Turkey’s objections to the bill as well as the country’s perspective on the events of 1915.

Less attention has been given to the country and population of Armenia itself, leaving many questions unanswered. What does this mean for the future of Armenia-Turkey relations, as well as popular perceptions in these countries? And what are these perceptions to start out with? The 2010 CB asked Armenians how they think the population of Turkey perceives both the country of Armenia and its population. These set of questions were exclusively asked in Armenia and pertain to the population and country of Armenia, rather than the perceptions of Armenians throughout the world or in Turkey. When asked, “Please tell me, in your opinion, how negative or how positive is the population of Turkey's general attitude towards Armenians?” 62% of Armenians felt Turkey’s population had a negative attitude towards Armenians. 17% of Armenians felt Turkey’s population had a generally positive attitude towards Armenians.

Similarly, people were asked, “In your opinion, how negative or how positive is the population of Turkey's general attitude towards the country of Armenia?” More than half of the population (69%) of Armenia felt that Turkey’s population had a negative attitude towards Armenia and 9% thought Turkey’s population had a positive view of Armenia.

Recent politics has highlighted the historical events, while perceptions guide interactions. However, the data has shown that in some instances economic factors overshadow politics and perceptions. This is emphasized by 2010 CB data that shows a willingness on the part of Armenians to conduct business with Turks despite what they perceive to be Turkish discontent towards Armenians and Armenia. In response to the question, ‘Would you approve or disapprove of people of your ethnicity doing business with Turks?’ 45% of Armenians said they approved of conducting business with Turks while 53% said they did not approve.

The data indicates more negative perceptions of Turkish attitudes towards Armenia and Armenians than positive. Yet, almost half of the adult population of Armenia is willing to conduct business with Turks. This could prove to be a mediating factor between the two countries. The economic benefits of trade with Turkey as perceived by Armenians are presented in a previous blog, “Armenian attitudes towards opening the border with Turkey”. But what impact will the new bill have on the future of political, social and economic relationships between Turkey and Armenia? Will it alter Armenian-Turkish public perceptions?

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