What were you hoping to get out of the conversation? I'm guessing a dialogue on the genocide and perhaps even insight into how someone of your friend's generation may perceive the event now. If that was the case, why didn't you phrase it the way you did here...things seem to have gotten more complicated after X date...what do you think about....versus well, the Greeks really screwed these people over and you know what, the Balkan states were all doing the same at the time...
I'm with you in history being what it is and we just inherited it (why take pride in something I had no hand in?) I couldn't agree more. I'm still a bit more skeptical of this view of the French as not loving themselves or all being that questioning of French identity. I've seen enough Brits and French soccer fans duke it out after a game (no question of who's French then and whose team is better ), pride in the language seems pretty strong and even if Sarkozy doesn't have a traditionally "French" name, he isn't exactly the poster boy for immigrant friendly policies and the fact that he was popularly elected leaves one wondering about how much the French question their Frenchness when faced with the new faces of French society.The truth is I'm rather extremely critical about my country. And so are Frenchmen: we don't love ourselves, it's a real drama. We are even wondering what it means to be French, since we are the sole true immigration country of Europe: the majority of the current French citizens don't have French ethnic background or French surname : look at our president and ministers for instance! Or if you're less snob, look at our national soccer team!
France is still a pretty important European player. They still have a seat on the security council and a loud voice in international affairs. Compare that to Greece, once the center of the world - they look back to their history for a reason. The French don't need to look back in order to tap into cultural pride.
Secondly, it's very different being even handed about your history in France with other Frenchmen and another when you're traveling outside of France. One can presume your compatriots have the same historical background you do and a shared understanding that the single event in question does not define France or your identity in any way. When you speak to a foreigner about their history, they don't know that about you. It's easier to perceive a comment like that as an attack.
Your friend is a minority, the Greek student at a French institute right? She's likely often in the position of having to speak on behalf of all things Greek. It's a bit of a shift not having to do that and feeling like you have to present a positive image of the country when you're outside of it.
Identity is not something static or a singular layer. Identity is pretty complex and made up of lots of parts - which part gets triggered depends on the context. Inside the country, people take on regional or linguistic pride, outside they take on national pride or patriotism, at a soccer game, they highlight being a fan of whatever team they support...A defense mechanism attached to a particular layer is triggered when that layer is perceived as being under attack. When there is no perceived attack, it's less likely to trigger the defense mechanism you mentioned.
On Turkey, I spoke with a variety of people and in many different parts of the country, from the North west, south west to the center to the south east getting different answers everywhere. It was the same when speaking of the Kurds or Arabs as they are called in some parts of Turkey. Even in academia, I would not assume people are all even handed when it comes to their history. The Turks are not either, much like the [insert choice of country and its academy here]. Especially if they are not historians, unless they're interested in the area and have spent time reading about it, their version of history may still be the state sponsored one. This view of academia as a necessarily enlightened and progressive place is far too idealistic, even for me (you know that's really saying something now, friend )Well, it depends where you ask in Turkey. The man of the street may well offer you the "death stare", but with scholars and within the universitary milieu, almost everybody knows the truth and will gladly ackowledge it... once they're sure nobody is listening because they could face prison if they denounce the state-negationism that is taught in Turkish schools.
Hope your friend comes around and things aren't quite so awkward at work.