Ten Volumes of Italian Diplomatic Documents on Armenians Soon to Be Completed

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MILAN, Italy — In the scholarly world, serious major projects can take years to complete. It took more than 20 years to publish two series of volumes of the Italian archival series Documenti Diplomatici Italiani sull’Armenia [Italian Diplomatic Documents on Armenia], and this does not include prior planning and preparation time. This series of documents will save historians, political scientists and other scholars both time and money for decades to come by making primary sources on modern Armenian history easily accessible. It is a project that should be better known to Armenians around the world.

The project is comprised of a first series of three volumes, covering the years 1879-1890; the second series of six volumes, covering 1891-1911; and the third series of four volumes, covering 1912-1923. The second and third series, directed by Marta Petricioli of the University of Florence, will be complete soon, when volume ten is published. The first series requires more time and financial resources because most documents are handwritten and take more time for transcription. All the documents published are from the Italian Foreign Ministry archives and are reproduced in their entirety. The only changes made concern spelling and style.

Each volume is edited by a young scholar, and contains an introduction about the events of the period it covers, an index of names and an index of places. The majority of documents are in Italian, but some are in English, French or Latin.

The project was and is supported financially by a group of Italian Armenians through the Union of Armenians of Italy, but independently run by academics. One of the Armenians involved is Agop Manoukian. Manoukian, born in Como, Italy, is a sociologist who taught in various Italian universities and served as president of an industrial chemical group in Italy until 2010. He was president of the Union of Armenians of Italy for some years, and at present is its honorary president. Manoukian supported various publications, like the Armenian Architecture Documents series (1968-1990), and the Center for Studies and Documentation of Armenian Culture (in Venice since 1991). He is the author, among other works, of a book on the Armenian presence in Italy titled Presenza armena in Italia. 1915-2000 (Milan: Guerini e Associati, 2014).

Two of the other Armenians involved in supporting the archival series through the Union of Armenians of Italy are Minas Lourian, current president of the Union of Armenians of Italy and director of the Venice-based OEMME Edizioni/ Centro Studi e Documentazione della Cultura Armena, and Pietro Kiuciukian, Honorary Consul of Republic of Armenia in Milan and Lombardia Region.

Manoukian said, “It was an Armenian of Rome, Dikran Sirinian [1923-2003; Prof. in Space Engineering] who noticed that in the archives of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs there was an already well organized dossier called Armenia. He saw that there were at least one thousand documents. After reflecting on this, he contacted a number of young historians, including Ara Sarafian and a German named Hilmar Kaiser. They knew of this archive and agreed to help create a committee in 1996. The head of the committee was Professor Ennio di Nolfo of the University of Florence.”

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Among the other initial members, besides di Nolfo, were Fikret Adanir of Bochum University; Marcello Flores of the University of Siena, Marta Petricioli of the University of Florence, Raffaele Romanelli of the European University Institute of Florence, Hilmar Kaiser of the European University Institute, Ara Sarafian of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Alberto Tonini of the University of Florence. A series of meetings were held, Manoukian said, to define the methodology. The committee asked the University of Florence, which has a department of political science, to follow the work and maintain academic responsibility.

Agop Manoukian

Sarafian, Kaiser and Adanir left the commission by the seventh volume of the series, leaving a four-man Italian group of academics.

Manoukian pointed out that for him personally, the documents on the Hamidian massacres were particularly moving. Also very interesting, he thought, was the investigation of one of the Italian consuls in the months prior to the 1915 genocide, which provides a well-documented frame or context for what was happening in these territories. Armenian Catholic and Armenian Apostolic parish reports contain much detail, he said. The Armenian Genocide is documented vividly by various eyewitnesses, Manoukian said, and the documents also show how Italian civil society reacted to it.

A map attached as a document to a letter sent to the Italian foreign minister in 1896: it is about a defense strategy plan for part of Pera-Galata, where the diplomatic corps and citizens of most of the European countries were based. The document was prepared during a meeting between English, Austro-Hungarian, Italian, French and Russian military attachés.

Italy was interested in obtaining some of the Ottoman Empire’s territories, so there was this political dimension added to the issue. Manoukian said, “It is interesting to see that the diplomatic strategy was different from Italian national sentiment concerning these events.”

One curious point that the documents reveal, Manoukian said, is that since the Italian king had maintained the title of King of Armenia, through the Cilician Armenian kingdom, some Armenians wrote to him during the genocide, saying that as king of Armenia, you must help us.

Manoukian said, “We are also thinking of finding a historian to give a picture or synthesis of what all these volumes contain.” After the 10th volume is published, a regrouping will take place. Aside from the members who left the academic committee, di Nolfo passed away in September 2016. Another possibility being considered is making digital versions of the Italian documents available via the Internet.

At present, volumes may be purchased online (e.g. https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/ or via the editor of OEMME EDIZIONI (segreteria@centrostudiarmeni.it; see http://www.unionearmeni.it/documenti-diplomatici-it-armeni/).

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