Since the end of the Cold War, two significant political phenomena have attracted a considerable amount of attention of researchers in political science and related fields: the politicization of history and third-party intervention in domestic jurisdiction matters or bilateral issues. Particularly interesting is the fact that these two not only coexist but are also intertwined in the form of third-party intervention in historical issues.
Previous studies on historical issues have presupposed that historical issues are bilateral conflicts, leaving studies on the third-party practically nonexistent, and the literature on third-party intervention has largely ignored the motives for it and its effects on the relationship between the intervener and the intervened. This study fills these gaps.
The case explored in this paper is the issue of genocide recognition of the Armenian Massacre. The predecessor of the Republic of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, allegedly deported and killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians residing in its territory during World War I. The Armenian government and the Armenian diaspora demand that Turkey admit it was genocide and apologize. However, the Turkish government has not offered an apology to date. Consequently, the Armenian side requests foreign governments to officially recognize the atrocities as genocide, while Turkey threatens them with potential deterioration of bilateral ties. This case is the most notable example of historical issues involving third-party intervention and, therefore, the best case for this research.
The results of this study can be summarized as follows. As for the causes, cross-national and time-series qualitative analyses reveal that the genocide is mainly recognized by countries with a Christian majority and large Armenian communities. International norms of human rights also play an important role.
Regarding the effects, two aspects of bilateral relationships are examined. First, simple observations of official diplomatic relations show that the Turkish government usually recalls its ambassadors from recognizing countries immediately after recognition, but it sends him/her back after several months, preventing further damage to the relationship. Second, panel data analyses on the amount of bilateral trade and the number of foreign visitors illustrate that there are statistically significant negative effects of genocide recognition, but these effects only last for a few years at most. To summarize, genocide recognition imposes a negative impact on bilateral relations between Turkey and the recognizer in the short run, but the deterioration is only temporary.
The present issue examines relations between memories of history and international politics. In recent years interpretation of history with political implication (rekishi ninshiki) became a serious subject in matters regarding the past of war and colonial rule between Japan and China/Korea. However, the questions of history and politics is not peculiar to East Asian countries. Similar problems are occurring in many parts of the world as shown by articles in the present issue.
History plays important and in some cases crucial role in domestic politics and international relations. In creating a nation-state a shared understanding of the past is a powerful vehicle to unite people for a common cause. Political actors therefore struggle over the monopoly of national history which is indispensable in gaining legitimacy of the government. However, such a narrative of nation-building is a double-edged sword. It is effective on one hand in maintaining the unity within the domestic community. On the other hand it fosters jingoism and causes frictions between other states. Typical of these are border disputes in which different stories of nation-building provide the confronting states with the basis for territorial claim. In recent years some states contest over registering historical sites and records in UNESCO World Heritage and Memory of the World schemes, thus opening a new battlefront of ‘war of histories’. Official recognition of a specific edition of history by an international organization such as UNESCO has political impact on relations of states concerned.
A shared understanding of history often serves as a framework for post-war and post-colonial settlements. For example Germany and Japan’s re-entry to the western democracies became possible only when the two states accepted critical edition of their past during the Second World War. History may serve politics in such a way, however, with the side effect of bringing about the clash between ‘political correctness’ and academic objectivity and impartiality. Serious academic attempts to reexamine fixed official interpretation of history are therefore often criticized as revisionism.
In an attempt to solve such a ‘war of histories’, bilateral/multilateral joint research projects were promoted by some states. European cases such as German-Polish and Franco-German projects on history studies were successful in forming certain degree of shared views of the past, and resulted in the publication of common school history textbooks. However, similar projects between Japan and China/Korea ended in confusion, widening the gap between different approaches to history by the three countries.
It is expected that articles in the present issue will shed new lights on the question of history and politics.