1st of May 2015 – Part Two: Historical anniversaries

May 4th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I had indicated in my previous post, I am writing a series of posts with focus on the First of May. In the first post I discussed the tradition of First of May demonstrations and described the event in Bremen. In this post I will discuss some historical anniversaries that have to some extent overshadowed the First of May in 2015.

1. The massacres/genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915

Shortly before the First of May there was a lot of discussion on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. It is known to all that a major part of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire was destroyed due to organized deportations and massacres. Up to this date the Turkish government refuses to accept that thus mass destruction was intentional. Instead, their version is that the Armenians were involved in rebellions and got killed in armed conflicts. Most European countries and the European parliament have considered that this mass destruction had been a well-organised operation that altogether aimed to destroy the Armenian minority. Therefore, they have used the expression ‘genocide’.

For the German government this has been a sensitive issue – partly because Germans were allies of the Ottoman Empire, partly because of their own dark history during the NS-regime and partly because they want to serve as mediators in present-date conflicts. However, in the ecumenic service to commemorate the 100th anniversary the Federal President Gauck (former civil right activist from DDR) used the word genocide. And the next day in the special session the president of the Federal Parliament Lammert used the same words. And finally the resolution of the parliament used this wording as well.

 2. The Carnation Revolution in Portugal 1974

During the same days we experienced the 41st anniversary of the Carnation Revolution of Portugal. This event has not been so strongly present in the German media (neither last year nor this year). However, in my memory it was one of the strong experiences for the students of the 1970s. At that time young army officers who had served a right-wing dictatorship started a revolution to stop a colonial war and got a massive support. The symbols of this support were the carnations on the weapons of the soldiers. This uprising and the following revolutionary transformation served as an example of a possibility to put an end to a dictatorship and colonial wars and to start a new course to democracy. Since then Portugal has gone a long way and experienced both successes and disappointments when looking back at the ideals of the carnation revolution. Yet, the great changes have been irreversible.

3. The end of Vietnam War 1975

And immediately after the previous one came the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. This event was at its time the symbol of a struggle of a small nation against former colonisers, occupation powers, neo-colonial partition and new invasion. This struggle became known via media and the documents gave rise to worldwide international solidarity. The end of the war was greeted as a great achievement of the Vietnamese people and as a lesson to those who wanted to push a post-colonial regime upon them. Shortly after the news from Portugal this was a greater sign of the winds of change that were blowing at that time.

It was paradoxical that the wave of international solidarity – that was so strong during the years of war – so easily faded away. The economic and social problems of Vietnam during the reconstruction period, unsettled issues with the US government, problems with the neighbouring terror regime of Cambodia (and its supporter China), internal problems within the civil society … All this became complicated and could not fit into a simplistic that only saw heroes and villains. Yet, the history of the reconstruction and recovery of Vietnam has shown us that this people has worked its way forward and deserves all the respect of the international community. And many of the historical document films shown by the German TV channels have conveyed this message.

I think this is enough of these historical anniversaries. In my next posts I will discuss yet another historical anniversary – the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II.

 

More blogs to come …

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