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Turkey 1919–1922: Final efforts to cleanse the non-Turkish population

Date: Monday 2 June 2014
Venue: SOAS, University of London
Speaker: Prof Raymond Kévorkian (University of Paris VIII: Vincennes–Saint-Denis)
Chair: Mr Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute)

This seminal lecture by Professor Raymond Kévorkian was not only the next instalment in the Towards 2015 series of lectures about the Armenian Genocide, but also the last Programme of Armenian Studies event to be held this academic year.

Following warm welcomes by Dr Krikor Moskofian, the founder and director of the Programme of Armenian Studies, an interesting and informative introduction to tonight’s speaker was given by Ara Sarafian, who represents the Gomidas Institute. Sarafian outlined Kévorkian’s area of focus (Armenians from the Middle Ages to the Turkish Republic), and mentioned a number of his previous works, including The Armenian Genocide: a Complete History (2011), as well as praising his use of original sources in different archives. Tonight’s lecture would be based on Prof Kévorkian’s recent studies of the politics of genocide in the Young Turk and Kemalist governments against the backdrop of the experiences of those Armenians who returned to Anatolia.

Kévorkian spoke at length about his research, describing the development of the mythology surrounding Mustapha Kemal and arguing that his rise to prominence was not as simple as many have described it. Moreover, he discussed his research into the Milliyet movement, explaining how they became a national liberation movement not against the Greeks but against those who ultimately directed them: the British. Kévorkian argued that the deportation of the Pontic Greek community was not an echo of the previous politics of the Armenian Genocide, but a continuation of them. Furthermore, such measures were always underlined by a political goal such as the deportation of Kurds in response to the Treaty of Sevres, on which even historian Edward Gibbon commented whilst in Trabzon. The essence of Kévorkian’s talk was that the post-war period, according to sources, clearly represented a continuation of the genocidal politics of the Young Turks.

After the lecture, Kévorkian invited questions from the audience and gave eloquent answers to all, ranging from queries about the trial of the Young Turks to questions about the availability of sources and queries about Ataturk’s role in the Genocide.

An interesting aspect of the lecture was that it was delivered by Kévorkian in Armenian, and translated simultaneously into English by Sarafian. It was very exciting to hear the inner workings of the professor’s new research project: a project of great importance in the historical analysis of the Young Turk and Kemalist governments.

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