World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Kars on Saturday, where tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers froze to death 96 years ago during a military operation in one of the biggest disasters Turkey has seen.
Speaking during a commemoration ceremony, Erdoğan said his great-grandfather had also fallen at Sarıkamış. He prayed and placed carnations before statues made of snow and erected for the 96th anniversary of the disaster. Erdoğan said, addressing the fallen soldiers, “We will protect the brotherhood that was your last request, and we will always fight external forces that intend to hurt our brotherhood.”
In his speech Erdoğan also stated that most of Turkey's problems today regarding the country's unity were artificial. “If we can understand what happened at Sarıkamış, on the Caucasus front, the battles in Çanakkale and the War of Independence, if we can understand these fully, believe me we will see how artificial most of today's problems are,” he said.
He also said all the people living in Turkey have historically had a strong bond. “This is not an artificial or forced brotherhood. History has made us bothers. What makes us brothers is our defense of Kars, Sarıkamış and our country. Those who don't understand this and who want to undermine and damage our unity should come see the martyrs' memorial here in Sarıkamış. I wholly believe in my heart that if they are left alone facing the memory of these great martyrs, they will finally understand the core of this land.”
Some 90,000 Ottoman soldiers who were part of the Sarıkamış operation against the Russian Army during World War I froze to death in the mountainous area in Sarıkamış near Kars.