July 25, 2021

“The process of genocide is not over”

Historian Raymond Kévorkian, author of Armenian genocide (Odile Jacob, 2006), president of The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institut Foundation, is, along with Maximilien Girard, one of the editors of Serpouhi Hovaghian’s testimony, Only the earth will come to our rescue. He places it in the context of international research on the 1915 genocide.

What is the specificity of this document compared to other testimonies of this type?

Serpouhi Hovaghian’s text is that of a deportee who managed to escape her convoy. It tells us how to survive in such a context, and that is extremely rare. It is true that Serpouhi Hovaghian has some advantages: this woman is 22 years old, she is cultured and Hellenic, she sometimes passes herself off as Greek, sometimes as a Levantine Catholic (we find all the categories of the Middle East of the time) . Thanks to this testimony, we see the pressures that the Greek populations are under. We can see how the young Turkish regime managed and hierarchized the different groups on the ground and the distinction it made between a desire for systematic destruction targeting the Armenians and a more “subtle” management of the Greek populations. .

Where is research on the Armenian genocide, especially since the commemoration of the centenary, in 2015?

Two major trends have emerged, in fact over the past twenty years. The first studies the Young Turkish regime, in other words the executioner and his organization. On this point, we should salute the work of the American historian Vahakn Dadrian and the Turkish sociologist Taner Akçam. For my part, I was interested in the geography of the genocide, by applying the methods of microhistory, in a classic historical approach, but also with the aim of making their descendants feel the fate suffered by the ancients. Much work has been done on the economic dimension of the genocide, including the capture of victims’ property.

The second recent dimension is comparativism, which takes as a basis the Armenian genocide in order to understand others. The one who paved the way is Yves Ternon, who also perfectly conceptualized a central element for the understanding of genocides: war.

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Does this comparative approach lead to forging links between the 1915 genocide and the Shoah?

Of course. My friend Stefan Ihrig, from the University of Haifa, Israel, explores the impact of 1915 on the Nazis. It shows how the latter convinced themselves that the methods applied by the Young Turks were very “effective” in dealing with “problems” of minorities. His demonstration of 1920s Germany seems to me to be quite convincing. He resorts to the notion of “justificationism”. This means that in the 1920s much of the newspapers, intellectual and political elites in Germany assumed that the Young Turks had “objective” reasons for doing what they had done.

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