Pizza War Reveals Much About Turkish-Armenian Relations
By Gabrielle Goldworm
Flatbread has become the latest subject of conflict between Turkey and Armenia.
After two Armenian restaurants in Russia began serving the popular “pizza-like” lamadjo as an Armenian cultural dish, the Turkish media began a campaign to assert the dish’s Turkish origins, according to The Indepedent. Lamadjo, or lahmacun, depending on whether you ask Armenia or Turkey respectively, is a circular flatbread served with a variety of toppings, from minced lamb and beef to a mixture of spices.
This is not the first food-related conflict between the two nations. As reported by Daily Sabah, the flatbread lavash was recognized by UNESCO as a part of Armenian cultural heritage, prompting the rise of diplomatic tensions between the two nations in 2014. Though the conflict may seem innocuous, it showcased pre-existing Turkish-Armenian tensions that have existed for over a century.
The proxy conflict is one of many that have existed between the two nations. As reported by World Atlas, they have had no formal diplomatic ties since 1991, when the Republic of Armenia was recognized by Turkey as a sovereign state after separating from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Turkey was one of the first nations to formally recognize the independent Armenia, despite failing to establish a working diplomatic relationship with the young state. The relations between the two states worsened considerably during the 1993 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as reported the BBC. As a show of support to the Azerbaijani government, Turkey closed its border with Armenia.
Tensions have once again emerged, ignited by Germany’s decision to officially recognize the deaths of over 300,000 Armenians from 1915 to 1917 as a genocide, according to Al Jazeera. The decision prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador to Germany.
As of now, Turkey has not yet officially recognized the Armenian genocide. According to CNN, a high percentage of
Turks don’t believe the events of 1915 to 1917, the years in which Armenia claims over 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated, were genocide. The Turkish government echoes these sentiments, maintaining that those killed (numbering only 300,000) were killed in intercommunal violence during World War I. The Armenian government continues to lobby for more states to recognize the conflict as an official instance of genocide.
The current disagreement is, on the surface, about lamadjo or lahmacun, but the history between these two nations is long and fraught with conflict. Both consider the dish to be part of their cultural heritage and claims by the other are seen as a reopening of old wounds and a move encroaching on the other’s culture and trademarks. According to Al-Monitor, issue is scheduled to be officially discussed along with several of its like by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia on November 28.