Date of this Version
ARMENIAN REVIEW. Volume 52 • Number 3-4 (Fall-Winter 2011) • pp. 17-39
The Armenian Genocide left behind a plethora of unexamined information in the language of the "victim group." Examining these documents will not only reaffirm the veracity of the historical event, it will also provide historians new ways of understanding, analyzing, and researching the Genocide. The available Armenian sources could be divided into private archives, ecclesiastic archives, diaries and eyewitness accounts, Armenian press articles, and original historical works written by the survivors themselves or prepared by the PanArmenian Unions founded by the dispersed Armenian communities. In the name of academic objectivity, some historians have downplayed the importance of these sources in the reconstruction of the history of the Armenian Genocide. Others have argued that due to the fact that these materials were written by the victim group, they cannot constitute valuable or reliable historical documents because of their lack of objectivity. Following this line of reasoning, some Armenian historians have systematically avoided the use of Armenian sources so that their scholarship would not be labeled as biased by international historians or Turkish scholars. This raises major questions regarding the attitudes of historians in general to Armenian sources. Why should an Ottoman document be more valuable or more authentic than an Armenian one? What makes a document from the Ottoman Archives more authentic than a document from the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem? Why is the story told by the victim group less credible than the one told by the "perpetrator group?"
Despite the fact that such trends exist among scholars, there are other historians who value these sources and use them as part of the reconstruction of the history of the period. Raymond H. Kevorkian's monumental contribution to the history of the Armenian Genocide is one such example. His extensive reliance on the Armenian sources has contributed immensely to our understanding ofthe Armenian Genocide from micro-social, political, and economic perspectives. In addition, his concentration on the process of the Genocide from each and every province to the death camps along the Euphrates and Der Zor route ought to be regarded as an important contribution to understanding the mechanisms of the Genocide and the different processes that contributed to the systematic annihilation of the indigenous Armenian populations of historic Armenia. Another useful source is the history books that were written by Pan-Armenian Unions in the Armenian Diaspora during the post-Genocide period. The main objective of these history-writing practices was to preserve the local identities of the Armenians. Ninety percent of these works were written in Armenian. While one would argue that much of this kind of literature presents a way of mourning their lost homeland, whatever was written during this period is unique since as far as I know there is no popular counterpart mirroring the same period of time in Turkish. Although some of these pieces sound more folkloric/amateur than methodologically sound and historical, it does not undo the fact that they provide invaluable information on the history of the Armenian Genocide. In addition, the Armenian press during the period from the beginning of the War and prior to the formation of the Republic of Turkey should be considered as an important source for understanding the reaction of the remaining Armenian communities within the Ottoman Empire in particular and the Diaspora in general towards the horrendous event. A thorough examination of these newspapers will not only provide vital information about the period but will also shed light on the ways in which Ottoman Turkish society reacted to the Genocide. It is important to mention that many of these rare newspapers are found at the Gulbenkian Library in Jerusalem, which houses the world's third largest collection of Armenian historic newspapers spanning from the 19th to the 20th centuries.