Venue: SOAS, University of London
Speaker: Dr Talin Suciyan (Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich)
Chair: Leon Aslanov (Programme of Armenian Studies)
Dr Suciyan’s analysis of the lives of Armenians in post-1923 Turkey sought to shed light on the institutional system of denial that was developed in order to normalise everyday racism. The new Turkish state, Suciyan postulated, used the reservoir of experience gained during the Genocide to justify further violence. A habitus of denial on both an institutional level and a broader societal level was established over decades, which made it possible to use genocidal policies whenever needed without facing any social resistance. Furthermore, Suciyan showed how larger segments of society had also become active participants in reproducing these policies in various ways.
Suciyan provided a plethora of accounts representing the complicated relationship between Armenian communities and the Turkish state, drawing on her own research in the Turkish state archives, the investigation of minutes from the Armenian National Assembly, as well as personal testimonies, memoirs, oral histories, and various Armenian newspapers and publications. This was just a taster of the much more extensive range available in Suciyan’s new book (elaborated from her PhD research), The Armenians in Modern Turkey: Post-Genocide Society, Politics and History published this year by I.B. Tauris. The careful selection of sources that Suciyan presented in this lecture showed the extent of this concomitant governmental denial and racist social pressures.
During the time allocated for questions, Suciyan elaborated upon her ideas in relation to numerous topics such as the reliance on Armenian women for prostitution in the Eastern regions; the reception of such talks in Turkey; and also the patriarchal election crisis of 1944–50 to which a chapter of her book was dedicated. She explained that it was incredibly important as it created a global debate on the relationships between Armenians both inside and outside of Turkey, the Turkish republic, its neighbour Armenia, Echmiadzin, the Patriarchy, and the Cathalicos in Antilias. She mentioned that there had been a gap in both Armenian and Turksih historiography on this issue. Ending on a less sanguine note, Suciyan, in response to a question regarding the progression of the situation of Armenians over time in Turkey reminded the audience that compared to the number of publications in the 1920s, which was between 70 and 90 periodicals, the number now is hardly in the double figures, and she maintained that the narrative of progression is a construct which still allows for justification of denial.