Treasures of NAASR's Mardigian Library ~ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.