Hushamatean Mets Egherni, 1965, and the Rebirth of Armenian Genocide Scholarship

#GuerguerianArchive #LibraryTreasures #MardigianLibraryTreasures #NAASRMardigianLibrary #NAASRVartanGregorianBuilding

Hushamatean Mets Egherni, 1965, and the Rebirth of Armenian Genocide Scholarship

Fifty-five years ago, April 1965, can truly be seen as, in the words of author (and NAASR Board member) Michael Bobelian, “the birth of the modern campaign of justice” for the Armenian Genocide. 1965 may also be seen as the year of the re-birth of efforts to document the Armenian Genocide, which would lead to the creation, in more recent years, of a growing body of scholarship on the Genocide.

The most significant publication of that watershed year was Hushamatean Mets Egheṛni 1915-1965  (Յուշամատեան Մեծ Եղեռնի 1915-1965 / Memorial Book of the Great Crime, 1915-1965, Pēyrut‘: Tparan Atlas, 1965), under the editorship of Kersam Aharonian with Nazaret Topalian.

Hushamatean Mets Egheṛni  was a ground-breaking publication, presenting a wealth of material across its 1,100+ pages containing some 400 images and several maps. Encyclopedic in its scope, it includes historical material on the Genocide in numerous regions, memoirs, literary material, accounts of resistance, information on territorial claims, and more. Although not the work of scholars—there were not yet scholars of the Armenian Genocide, or of genocide in general—it was semi-scholarly in its approach to the subject and was probably the most significant (to say nothing of the most substantial) book on the Genocide up to that point.

What is sometimes lost sight of is that in the fifty years between 1915 and 1965, in fact much important work was done, mostly in the Armenian language and mostly by non-academics, to document the Armenian Genocide. In addition to many important survivor memoirs, memorial volumes (that is, յուշամատեաններ /hushmateanner), and literary works, there were efforts to collect data and documents and publish them with some form of analysis.

Among the many valuable books that might be mentioned are:

T‘eodik (T‘eodoros Labchinchean), Hushardzan April Tasněmēki (Յուշարձան Ապրիլ Տասնըմէկի / Memorial to April Eleventh [i.e., April 24], K. Polis: Tpagrut‘iwn Ō. Arzuman, 1919)
T‘eodik (more generally known in Western Armenian as T’eotig) was the well-known editor of the Amenun Taretsoytsě (Ամենուն Տարեցոյցը / Everybody’s Almanac) published between 1907 and 1929. Hushardzan April Tasněmēki provided information and biographies of those arrested on April 24, 1915 (April 11 according to the old calendar), and other Armenian intellectuals and community leaders who were victims of the Genocide. (T‘eodik himself was a survivor.) The book has been translated into English by Ara Stepan Melkonian.
 
Sepuh Akuni, Milion mě Hayeru Jardi Patmut‘iwně (Միլիոն մը Հայերու Ջարդի Պատմութիւնը 1914-1918 / The History of the Massacre of a Million Armenians 1914-1918, K. Polis: Tpagr. H. Asaturean Ordik‘, 1920)
Akuni (Aguni) was the editor of Zhamanak newspaper in Constantinople and a survivor of the Genocide. Milion mě Hayeru Jardi Patmut‘iwně was the first effort to write an overall account of the Genocide, using available data and documents such as the Bryce/Toynbee Blue Book, the work of Lepsius, and more. A translation of portions of the book was carried out by Ishkhan Jinbashian.
 
Petros Tonapetean, Dzayn Taapelotsʻ (Ձայն Տառապելոց / Voice of the Tormented, Paris: Tparan Hakob B. T‘iwrapean, 1922)
This remarkable book compiled by Tonapetean (Donabedian), who served with the British High Commission in post-war Constantinople, is a collection of more than 300 letters to family or friends by Armenians who survived long enough to reach Der Zor or Eastern Armenia or numerous other areas scattered around the world. There is an e-book English translation sponsored by the Armenian Museum of Fresno.
 

Probably the most famous early work in this group is Mets Ochirě (Մեծ Ոճիրը / The Great Crime, Boston: Tparan “Pahak”i, 1921), by Aram Antonean (Andonian), also published in French as Documents Officiels Concernant Les Massacres Arméniens (Paris: Imprimerie H. Turabian, 1920) and in English as The Memoirs of Naim Bey: Turkish Official Documents Relating to the Deportations and Massacres of Armenians (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1920; reprinted, Newtown Square, PA: Armenian Historical Research Association, 1964), in which Andonian presented Ottoman documents including telegrams from Talaat and other high officials demonstrating official involvement in the genocidal process, along with the “memoir of Ottoman official Naim Bey.

Andonian, a noted journalist and author, as well as a survivor among the intellectuals arrested on April 24, also published an important collection of fictionalized sketches drawn from his experiences as a survivor of the Genocide, Ayn Sew Ōrerun (Patkerner) (Այն Սեւ Օրերուն…[Պատկերներ] / In Those Dark Days…[Sketches], Boston: Hratarakut‘iwn “Hayrenik‘”i, 1919). From 1928 until his death in 1951 he was the director of the Nubarian Library in Paris.

The Turkish state denial apparatus’ efforts to discredit Andonian’s work has been analyzed and countered by Vahakn Dadrian in an article in the International Journal of Middle East Studies in 1986 and more recently conclusively refuted by Taner Akçam in his 2018 book Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide. Dadrian also provides a detailed account of the differences among the three versions of the book. (In general, the English translation is only partial and the Armenian the most complete; there has never been a full translation of the Armenian text.)
 

But the first researcher to explore in depth not only Andonian’s published work but also the materials he gathered and which form the large and important Andonian Collection at the AGBU Nubarian Library in Paris, and to publish his findings, was Fr. Krikor Guerguerian.

In 1965, Guerguerian, using his nom-de-plume Krieger/Kriger (Գրիկէր / Griker), published the article “Aram Antoneani Hratarakats T‘urk‘ Pashtōnakan Vaweragreru Vawerakanut‘iwně” (Արամ Անտոնեանի հրատարակուած Թուրք Պաշտօնական Վաւերագրերու Վաւերականութիւնը / The Validation of the Documents Published by Aram Andonian), in the aforementioned 1965 volume Hushamatean Mets Egheṛni 1915-1965.

The article provides a detailed analysis of Andonian’s English, Armenian, and French books published in 1920-1921 and the documents they contain, as well as other documents collected by Andonian but not published. Guerguerian clearly saw the need for the creation of serious scholarly works on the Genocide. In a sort of prologue to his article he wrote:

A young American Armenian from California once wrote a letter to a high official in public service and gave him information about the Armenians in as much as he was able to. In addition to various facts he also stated that the Turks had massacred three million Armenians in 1915 and earnestly begged the American official that based on such historical data would he champion the Armenian cause in serious international circles when the right time presented itself.

The American official showed the letter to an Armenian friend and asked: “Is it true that the Turks massacred three million Armenians?” The Armenian was afraid of answering this direct question. Like the American he also did not know the correct number of the massacred Armenians, not even approximately, but tried to assure his friend that the number was very high. The American asked:
Don’t you Armenians have a scholarly book with serious documentation that establishes beyond any doubt the correct or approximate number of the Armenians massacred by the Turks in 1915, and explains the political and religious motives and circumstances of the massacres? Aren’t there also other historical records of this nature that could be useful to informed people who may wish to champion the Armenian cause in serious international circles?”
The Armenian obviously did not know of any book such as the one described by his American friend. No one has ever authored a book like that, and if he has, it is still unpublished.
[Note: This is a light revision of a portion of an unpublished English translation of Guerguerian’s article, carried out by Krikor Maksoudian and in the archive of Avedis Derounian (who commissioned it) in the NAASR library.]
 
In an unpublished biographical sketch of “Krieger” in Guerguerian’s archives generously donated to NAASR by Guerguerian’s nephew Edmund and digitized and put online by Taner Akçam and his team at the Strassler Center at Clark University, and presumably written by Guerguerian himself, it is stated that:

One of the primary reasons that motivated Krieger to begin this vast study of such an unpopular subject, was that too many incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, wholly subjective studies have previously been published … Even some of the authors treating questions of humanity of the politically corrupt administration of the Ottoman Empire, presented their views without access to primary source materials to substantiate their claims.
Unable to find satisfaction with this kind of material, Krieger set out to discover for himself and for the scholarly, academic reading community, as much of the facts, objective and impartial, as he could find.
Today, the unfortunate situation described by Guerguerian no longer exists. Writers such as Andonian and the others mentioned above, succeeded by another generation of writers such as Guerguerian and Haigazn Kazarian, established a foundation on which still further generations of academics could then write the kind of “scholarly books with serious documentation” that now exist in ever-increasing numbers. And a salutary side effect of this is that scholars are increasingly aware of, and making use of, the pioneering Armenian-language works mentioned above (as well as many others not mentioned).
 
Fr. Guerguerian’s few published works represent only the tip of the iceberg of his research. His archives await further exploration by scholars. The value of his work should not be underestimated. Guerguerian, in his 1965 article, reached a conclusion that scholars Dadrian and Akçam would later reaffirm: that there was no doubt of the validity of the documents published by Andonian.
 
About the Photos
All images are of items in NAASR's Mardigian library, with the exception of the image of Sepuh Akuni's Milion mě Hayeru Jardi Patmut‘iwně, which is from the National Library of Armenia. The copies of Hushamatean Mets Egherni, Mets Ochirě, The Memoirs of Naim Bey, and Dzayn Tarapelots are Guerguerian's own and contain his extensive notes.
 
English-Language Works Referenced
Sebuh Aguni, The Crime of the Ages: A Chronicle of Turkey's Genocide of the Armenians (Toluca Lake, CA: H. and K. Manjikian Publications, 2010). Translated from the Armenian by Ishkhan Jinbashian.
 
Taner Akçam, Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide (Germany: Springer International Publishing, 2018)
 
Vahakn N. Dadrian, “The Naim-Andonian Documents on the World War I Destruction of Ottoman Armenians: The Anatomy of a Genocide,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 18.3 (1986)
 
Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian, Teotig: Biography and Monument to April 11 by Teotig (London: Taderon Press, 2010). Monument to April 11 translated by Ara Stepan Melkonian.
 
Bedros Donabedian, The Cry of the Tormented (Armenian Museum of Fresno, 2015). Translated from the Armenian by Garabed Khachigian and edited by Mary Ellen Hewsen. 

 

 


Older Post Newer Post