ASP Lecture. “Reconstructing the Nation and Debating Armenian-Turkish Relations in the Aftermath of WWI.”
With the end of 1918, the Armistice, and the liberation of the Armenian deportees in Bilad al-Sham, a new chapter began in the history of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire after the Catastrophe. Two Armenians from Aintab, Krikor Bogharian and Der Nerses Tavukjian, were among tens of thousands of exiles who spent more than three years in the Syrian towns of Hama and Salamiya. Both of them kept diaries which report the level of day-to-day existence, the gradual impoverishment that deprived an exiled family of basic nourishment, as well as the mutual assistance relatives gave each other, but also the limits of such assistance. The two diarists recount the deaths of loved ones and the coerced religious conversions or other moral compromises to which people resorted in order to survive. In this talk, Vahé Tachjian uses these two diaries to narrate the quotidian world of deportees—ordinary lives caught in an extraordinary historical moment. Tachjian will attempt to describe and analyze the initial experiences of the two diarists at the end of the war and their liberation, as well as the general mood prevailing at that time in the Armenian community. Beyond the ongoing efforts to regroup the Armenian survivors after the Catastrophe and to reconstruct the nation, there was also a debate among the Armenians concerning the collective responsibility of the Turks or the question of their collective guilt. What was to be remembered and what was to be forgotten? Was it possible to co-exist with the Turks?
Born in Lebanon, Vahé Tachjian earned his Ph.D. in History and Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. He is now the chief editor of the houshamdyan website (based in Berlin), a scientific project that aims to reconstruct the Ottoman Armenians’ local history and the memory of their lives. His publications include: La France en Cilicie et en Haute-Mésopotamie. Aux confins de la Turquie, de la Syrie et de l’Irak (Paris, 2004); Les Arméniens, 1917-1939. La quête d’un refuge, co-editor (Paris, 2007); Les Arméniens de Cilicie: habitat, mémoire et identité, co-editor (Beirut, 2012); and Ottoman Armenians: Life, Culture, Society, editor (Vol 1, Berlin, 2014).
World War I was a major turning point in world history that brought Europe’s long nineteenth century to a close and ushered in the conflicts of the twentieth century. Beginning in 2014, the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia is sponsoring a series of programs—WWI 1914-2014: Reflecting on the 100th Anniversary of WWI—that examine the many ways that WWI changed Europe’s place in the world.
Sponsors: ASP, CES
Vahé Tachjian, chief editor, Houshamadyan Project