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Genocide documentation to be published by National Archive
For the Record: Genocide documentation to be published by National Archive
By Gayane Mkrtchyan
The National Archive of Armenia will for the first time publish a book entitled “Eyewitness Evidence about the Genocide” this month. The book will present 600 documents.
“These documents have never been paid attention to. Genocide was presented by official, diplomatic documents” says National Archive Director Amatuni Virabyan. “An individual, a person has not been featured. We always said that 1.5 million people had been exterminated, and it was said abstractly, in an unaddressed manner, there were no concrete people. Now if we say that 25 people were killed, we will mention each of them name by name.”
The facts on the basis of which the book will be published were put down from the words of emigrants in 1916 by journalists of the “Mshak” newspaper published in Tiflis. They toured all Eastern Armenia, and even met survivors in Russia and documented their stories.
Virabyan says that the stories of all eyewitnesses have one common scheme. The teller depicts the general situation of the village, how many Armenian residents it had, how many churches there were, and finally how the massacres began.
For example, case No. 439 presents the massacres of Sasun’s Aghbi village in the province of Bitlis. The 9-page story was accounted by journalists on November 5, 1916 in Tiflis, from the words of 40-year-old eyewitness Nure Yeritsyan.
“There were 150 houses in the village. I had three sons, Sogho, Misak and Azat, with me and one son, Sedrak, was in Russia, one daughter, Azniv, two daughters-in-law. We were rich. We had 700 honeycombs bees, 150 rams, 40 heads of cattle, 50 land-plots, a watermill and other riches. I was the only survivor from our house. I reached Tiflis and now live with my son Sedrak.”
Thereafter, Nure tells of how they fled the village, how they hid in the Andok, Tsovasar, Kanasar mountains. During the escape she lost her daughters-in-law, sons, grandchildren.
“November 1915. We slept inside rocks, in dry grass, there was nothing to eat. We even ate dogs and cats. Finally, we even started to eat human flesh. When we were thirsty we used to drink each other’s urine. In December-January there was no longer human flesh left, we began to eat the remaining hide of cattle, leather shoes, and then animal and human bones. We warmed them on fire and ate grinding them with our teeth,” Nure tells.
Virabyan says it is natural that Turks should deny it, saying that there was no organized massacre. According to them, there were deportations and it was quite possible that people died on their way.
“Our goal is to show with 600 horrible human stories that similar brutalities were repeated everywhere, in all provinces, villages,” says the archive director.
There are 12,000 documents kept in the National Archive today. Besides the book to be published soon, another one will appear in autumn. The facts for this book were collected by the well-known writer Hovhannes Tumanyan in 1918.
“A public committee was set up upon the writer’s initiative to decide the losses incurred by the Armenian people. They drafted a special questionnaire and visiting different places asked people to fill in them. The eyewitnesses filled in their names, age, village of residence, and, most importantly, how many members of their families were massacred and how many survived,” Virabyan explains.
In the data collected by Tumanyan people often mentioned themselves as the only survivors from their families.
Virabyan says: “A man mentions 26 family members name by name and then says that he was the only survivor. The stories are horrible. On the Andok hill surrounded by Turks and Kurds starvation led the Sasun folks to eat the flesh of those who had died. They tell of how Turks cut a child into pieces, boiled and forced the parents to eat it. At first the editorial board decided to publish the names of those people, but later we abandoned that thought.”
Director of Turkish Studies at the NAS Institute of Oriental Studies, Associate Professor Ruben Safrastyan says that such publications are important and should have been accomplished earlier. They are also indispensable original sources for scientific researches.
And the archive director says that the recent statement made by Turkey that archives in Armenia are closed is baseless.
“I deny it, no Turkish historian or journalist has yet turned to me, I am ready to receive any Turkish historian and open the archives, all the facts pertaining to the Genocide. I made this statement long ago and there are responses,” he says.
A number of foreign journalists have turned to Virabyan, she says, including one New York producer who is making a film about the Ottoman Empire.
The director also says that they have close ties with the Turkish National Archive and that they in turn invite them for studies of the Turkish archives.
And Safrastyan notes that it was in 1989 that Turkey for the first time declared its archives open.
“The US-based Zoryan Institute set up a group of Armenian specialists from the Diaspora and Armenia, of which I was a member, and asked the Turkish government to give permission according to their statement. The reply was a denial.”
According to Safrastyan, only one specialist of Armenian nationality from the United States worked in the Ottoman archives – Ara Sarafian, and that wasn’t in regards with the genocide issues, but he studied demographical issues.
“Hilmar Kaiser, a German, worked in those archives. His studies specifically focus on genocide issues. But as the Turks knew what sort of work he was going to do, they began to raise obstacles. Two years ago Kaiser published an open letter among fellow scientists in which he mentioned the attitude showed towards him by the Turks. He was unfairly accused of breaking laws and making unauthorized copies.”
The 1915 documents are in Ottoman Turkish, which greatly differs from modern Turkish. It is written in Arabic letters and is read from right to left.
Safrastyan explains that knowing only Ottoman Turkish is not enough for working in Ottoman archives. One should first be familiar with handwritings and their different varieties. Each Ottoman state department of that time had its own system of record-keeping.
“The researcher must know not only the Ottoman Turkish, but the whole system of Ottoman statehood,” he says.
Join Date: 08 2004
Location: London, UK
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it's just a followup for those who want to send a message/efax asking the president Bush to Honor his Pledge to Properly Recognize the Armenian Genocide
Join Date: 09 2002
Location: Ilha dos Amores
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The man(?) only sees Dollars, Oil and Power! I don't think he knows the meaning of Honour (I wrote it in English)!
Join Date: 09 2004
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Sadly most of the wealthy American Armenians voted Republican to help get Bush back in , Bush does not care about Armenians nor does he care about the Genocide .those Armenians think this govenment will make them even richer .it makes me ill.
Join Date: 09 2004
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DanYER hahaha what a joke , and I thought in America you had freedom of speach . what are you afraid of man ?
Last edited by Sevana; 15.03.2005 at 18:35. Reason: correction
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