Raymond Kevorkian Discusses Finer Points of History At NAASR


By Alin Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BELMONT, Mass. — The auditorium of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) was packed on March 14 as French-Armenian historian Raymond Kevorkian spoke about his most recent book, the English translation of which, titled The Armenian Genocide: The Complete History, came out last year.

Kevorkian, the director of the AGBU Nubarian Library in Paris and a lecturer at the Institute Français de Geopolitique, University of Paris, said the focus of his book is “micro-history,” which can shed light on the bigger picture. He explained, “The goal is to get deep within detail, on the local level, to base [documenta- tion] on a strong foundation.”

The book, therefore, tracks the trail of forced marches and deaths from province to province, town to town, even specific streets.

“I wanted to see if the process is the same in every province,” he said. Research showed him that indeed, they were not the same.

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“I don’t use only Armenian sources, but I worked on diplomatic sources, from consulates and local leaders,” he noted. Among the consulates whose documents he used were the Austro-Hungarian, German and American.

A difference between his work and that of many others, he explained, is that “most others look at [the Genocide] as an international issue, whereas I perceive it as an internal Ottoman issue.”

He also looks at “hot” accounts from sur- vivors, namely, those given immediately after their forced marches, many gathered by Aram Andonian, from those who were from the Eastern Provinces, southern Syria and Mesopotamia.

Another source for such “hot” accounts was the Istanbul Patriarchate, where accounts of survivors from Sepastia on toward the west were gathered. The Interior Ministry eventually certified these testimonies and used them in military trials.

Kevorkian noted that historians often challenge survivor testimonies because their perspectives can distort facts. But Kevorkian set out to prove their veracity, whenever possible. “I established certain criteria,” he said.

Regarding the deportation process, he noted that “it was easy to zoom in on diplomatic, mis- sionary and local elite, but once they leave, the people in the convoy are the only ones to go” on that journey. As a result of the study of such details, he said, “we have the facts for the number of caravans, the number of people, the provinces, routes, how many left and how many arrived officially in the Syrian desert and Aleppo.”

The death toll was definitely heavier in the Eastern Provinces, he said. About 5 to 10 per- cent of those who were on the caravans survived. In the Western provinces, he said, the deported traveled with their families, mostly on trains [rather than on foot] which increased the chance of survival.” Next, he said, he studied the Teshkilat-i-Mahsusa’s central role in the destruction of the Armenians. “Now we can zoom in on the num- ber of groups of Teshkilat and how they oper- ated,” he explained. “We can distinguish between official and unofficial killers.”

Kevorkian gave examples of the codified methods of property seizure by the Turkish offi- cials. Many ways were used to confiscate prop- erty, often detailed officially. The leaders of the Young Turks local clubs were among the first to receive their share of the loot, all documented.

For example, the Austro-Hungarian consulate provided information on the seizure of silk and other textile factories owned by Armenians in Bursa. A favorite method was to invite the owner of such a factory to the local governor’s house, at which time the factory owner would be persuaded to sell” the factory to the Vali and receive gold as payment, only to have to return the gold in another room on his way out. This charade happened over and over until all the factories were seized.

Kevorkian said this particular playacting showed that “even the process of theft was made administrative,” rather than just outright seizure.

The shops similarly were con- fiscated for a temporary period of time, where a needed good was sold at inflated prices. Once the profits were made and then dried up, the officials would lose inter- est and just leave the shops.

Traditionally, he explained, there was no middle class in the Ottoman Empire, as trade, manufacture or business were relegated to non-Muslims. The Muslims, instead, were members of the ruling class, and were leaders in the military, administrative and political spheres.

With the Industrial Revolution and the increased wealth of the “lower classes” in business, the Young Turks realized that they were missing out on a lot of money. Finally, the government officials realized that if they killed the entire members of a family, save for one young girl, that girl could marry a Turk, who could inherit the family’s wealth.

Kevorkian also spoke about “a broader demographic engineering” practiced by the Ottomans, who not only killed Armenians, but moved Cherkez and other Muslim immigrants to Zeytoon and Kharpert immediately to take their places.

During the program, Kevorkian spoke in Armenian, with English translation provided by Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Armenian Weekly.

The Armenian Genocide: The Complete History is available at the NAASR bookstore.

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