Armenian genocide?

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2015), Letters, Volume 23

ir,—As a close student of the Near East, I would endorse Pat Walsh’s corrective (letters, HI 23.3, May/June 2015) on the use of the word ‘genocide’ with regard to the Christian Armenians. It raises issues with regard to their nationalism, some of which I learned from exiles in Cyprus. It makes for interesting comparisons with contemporary events in post-First-World-War Ireland, and indeed in the Crimea, which in turn are the root of the questionable actions there last year.

The modern Armenians are in part an example of Herderian invention, a nation cobbled together by institutional forces and a few enterprising nationalists. In a paper in the current issue of Middle East Studies, ‘Reconstruction of the Armenian Homeland Notion’, the author records a plantation of ‘more than (1 million) who do not belong to the local population of the region and were settled by (Russia)’. This was to create a Christian buffer with ‘voluntary’ settlers who came from Albania, from 1828 until the republic was established in 1918.

The author concludes that religiously the Albanian Catholicosate was liquidated in 1836 and subordinated to the Armenian Catholicosate as its diocese, both being within the declining Ottoman Empire, which was used to relocating people. Church-led interference facilitated the inclusion of these ‘converted’ Armenians in the reconstructed notion of the ‘Armenian Homeland’. After the liquidation, church schools started indoctrinating the Armenian identity among the former Albanian flock. The centre of Armenian life was removed to Yerevan and nationalists played the main role in construction of the new identity. The Russian army also had its say when the regional commander of local forces influenced his czar to ensure the subordination of the Albanians, justifying it by ‘efforts and loyalty to the imperial throne’ of the (careerist?) local archbishop, who in 1831 became the Armenian Catholicos.

An important dimension of the massacre of Armenians was that, in the chaos of the period of the emergence of the new Turkish Republic, some of the military lower ranks took their vengeance. It was not a ‘controlled action’ as carried out by the Nazis.—Yours etc.,
NEVILLE CRAIG
Wimbledon

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