Anzac Day - a different view

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 09:54:00 +1100

When John Basarin's father, a Turkish army officer, took him to Gallipoli as a 10-year-old, little did he realise it would be the start of a lifetime interest in the battles that occurred there, or the path to a PhD at Deakin University.

Dr Basarin was conferred with his doctorate in March, allowing him plenty of time to travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula again, as he has done for many years, in time for Anzac Day on April 25.

"When I went to Gallipoli as a boy it was just fields, hills and the blue Aegean sea," Dr Basarin said.

"We also came across a shepherd and a couple of hundred sheep.

"My father said to me 'son this is where Turkey was born' pointing to the hills of Gallipoli.

"Little did I know on the other side of the world, in what was to become my adopted country, Australian people also felt the same way."

Dr Basarin migrated to Australia in 1973 and worked as a chemical engineer for many years.

Dr Basarin explained that the Turkish victory at Gallipoli allowed the commander of the troops opposing ANZACs, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), to prove his military genius and build his credibility.

This in turn brought him the leadership and a platform for the national liberation movement which culminated in defeating all the invading enemies and creating what is now the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

"The Gallipoli Peninsula and Anzac Cove is far away from Australia, it is a desolate place, yet people go there and it's cold, they wait there all night long for the dawn ceremony and then they leave," Dr Basarin said.

"An unlikely phenomenon not repeated elsewhere for Australians.

"There is no marketing, yet despite the time, money and effort required to attend, thousands of people go there and they are there to observe the dawn ceremony at Anzac Cove and the Australian ceremony at Lone Pine.

"Its popularity is such that more than 50,000 Australians are expected to attend the Anzac Day ceremonies on the centenary in 2015."

Dr Basarin's PhD- Battlefield Tourism: Anzac Day Commemorations at Gallipoli", examined the factors which make the visit to the battlefield site so satisfying for Australians and how this translates into their strong recommendation of the visit to others.

With his supervisor Prof. John Hall, Dr Basarin has published a dozen papers in academic journals, based on the results of his doctorate thesis.

One of the important findings was the significance of word of mouth recommendation.

"Almost everyone who was surveyed had known someone who had visited Gallipoli and had told them what an experience it was, an experience of a lifetime, to remember and share, an experience that helped put Australia's past in perspective and helped provide an understanding of what the young soldiers had faced in 1915 and how this had shaped what Australia has become in the 21st century almost one hundred years later," Dr Basarin said.

Dr Basarin said surprisingly, sadness was a key emotion for those attending and influenced whether they found the trip satisfying or not.

"Those attending expressed sorrow for the loss of thousands of young lives, the place, and the sadness of the ceremony," he said.

"It was important to them to be able to feel sad on this solemn occasion, and they don't want it tarnished by having Bee Gees playing or whatever."

Dr Basarin said interestingly the people attending weren't all backpackers and young people, most were over 25 years of age and professionals or para professionals.

Some were third generation migrants to Australia and saw their participation at the Anzac ceremony as part of being Australian.

"This was their first experience of battlefield tourism and they weren't planning to go back to another Anzac Day or Gallipoli," he said.

"They wanted to keep it just as it was a 'once in a lifetime experience'.

"Other battlefields don't have such an emotional attachment for them."

Dr Basarin said although no official marketing was done for the ceremony most people had been influenced by participating in activities at school or by seeing the Anzac Day ceremonies and parades on TV.

"They didn't know what to expect, but they knew the dawn ceremony was an important event and they knew Gallipoli was the birthplace of Australia," he said.

"They also didn't know that Turkey sacrificed 10 times as many men as Australia nor that Australia lost the battle.

"The personal and the emotional experiences were so intense it threw them off.

"That's what made it so satisfying."

Dr Basarin said the Anzac Day ceremony injected between $60- $80 million into the local Turkish economy.

Dr Basarin's findings and the framework he has developed to ensure satisfaction is maintained with the ceremonies will come in handy when he starts work on his next job, taking 1000 Australians to Gallipoli in 2015.

"I've usually only ever taken 10 to 15 people before, so logistically it will be challenging, but my PhD has given me an umbrella view of the whole event as well as allowing me to look at things in depth and in an unbiased way," he said.

Dr Basarin has co-authored a number of books since 1985, including "A Turkish View of Gallipoli", "Gallipoli – Turkish Story" and "Beneath the Dardanelles" .

He was awarded the ANZAC Peace Prize in 2010 by the RSL in recognition of his work in promoting international understanding of the Gallipoli campaign.

In 2005, he received Victorian Premier's Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs for his long-time work on presenting the Turkish side of the tragic campaign at Gallipoli.


John Basarin
"When I went to Gallipoli as a boy it was just fields, hills and the blue Aegean sea," Mr Basarin said. (Picture supplied)
Showcase facts
  • Turkey sacrificed 10 times as many men as Australia did.
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Sandra Kingston
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20th August 2012