SCHOLAR DISCUSSES ARMENIAN GENOCIDE AT U. UTAH
By Jay Logan Rogers, Daily Utah Chronicle; SOURCE: U. Utah
Daily Utah Chronicle via U-Wire
March 27, 2006 Monday
Salt Lake City
The Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the genocide committed
against the Armenians, said Richard Hovannisian, professor of
Armenian and near-eastern history at the University of California at
Hovannisian commented on the contemporary interpretations of the
Armenian genocide at the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of
Politics on March 23.
Between 1915 and 1918, actions of the government of the Ottoman Empire
(present-day Turkey) resulted in the elimination of a substantial
portion of its Armenian minority population.
While the exact numbers are in dispute, most scholars agree that more
than one million Armenians were killed through outright massacres and
mass deportations to barren deserts, where they were left to starve.
Hovannisian’s talk focused on the scholarly debate over whether
the genocide was premeditated or a “crime of passion” that occurred
suddenly during the tense conditions of war.
He expressed his opinion that the elimination of the Armenians had
been contemplated by the Ottoman government before the outbreak of
war, but that it was wartime conditions that allowed it to turn a
“final solution into an accomplished fact.”
The Ottoman Empire distrusted the Armenians, in part because they
were a tight-knit Christian ethnic group in the middle of a mostly
Muslim empire, Hovannisian said.
While some Armenians were agitating for self-government and autonomy,
most were not involved in any politically dissident activities,
“They were an ethnic group seen as potentially troublesome to an
authoritarian state at war,” he said.
No official government document specifically outlining the Ottoman plan
to eliminate Armenians has been found, although there is overwhelming
evidence that the massacres occurred, he said.
There may be a “smoking gun” somewhere in Turkish archives proving that
the Ottomans premeditated the Armenian genocide, Hovannisian said,
but the nation’s government does not provide Western historians with
access to those materials.
He said there are psychological reasons that Turkey refuses to admit
the genocide occurred.
“They don’t want to believe that their grandparents could’ve been
murderers,” Hovannisian explained. “They also don’t want to deal with
the consequences of recognition, including contrition and restitution.”
Jonathan Cates, a senior in history and Middle East studies, said he
thought it was a fair explanation of the historical event. “He gave
a broad overview of all the current interpretations and put them in
good context,” he said.
Mariya Mamaeva, a senior in political science and Russian, agreed. “I
think he has very good points and is very insightful,” she said.