Date: 22 April 2007
Location: University of Michigan
We are gathered here today to commemorate the men, women, children and the elderly who lost their lives as they were being deported from their ancestral lands ninety-two years ago in 1915. I also want to take this occasion to commemorate my dear friend, the journalist and great humanitarian Hrant Dink who was senselessly assassinated almost three months ago on January 19th 2007. I commemorate him for I think what we represent at this moment at the University of Michigan is a part of what Hrant Dink would have envisioned for the future: I want to remember him in order to include at least his memory among us today.
You, the members of the Armenian Student Association have kindly invited me, a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan who also happens to be an ethnic Turk to address you on this very important day. I thank you for this honor and acknowledge your grace in extending me such an invitation. It is a first and I hope that it will be followed by many such examples.
What unites us here today at the most basic level is that we are here to mourn the loss of hundreds of thousands of people from our common homeland. After all, you and I have come from the same lands, but we have arrived here at the University of Michigan as a consequence of very different historical conditions. The life stories of your ancestors have been filled with exile, death and many tragedies upon which you all have had to somehow survive, persevere and continue living against all odds; your ancestors all have, in addition, been forced to rebuild new lives for themselves from scratch in environments entirely foreign to them. I, on the contrary, have arrived here by choice; I have nevertheless become interested in the same past, in the history of the lands we share as a part of my field of study. I have done so because of my realization that a peaceful and democratic present and future on our common lands would only be possible if and when Turkish society recognizes, understands and includes in its own past, present and future the voices of all those who gave, and still give meaning to it. And the voices of those who perished in 1915 are among the voices that need to be heard by Turkish society today.
Yet, what unites you and me at another level is that we are both present here on this campus today on April 22nd 2007 because we both seek and respect scientific knowledge. We both believe that through sharing such knowledge, we and people like us will be able to overcome their differences, that we will be able to create a common body of knowledge among us for the eventual betterment of our communities in particular, and of humankind in general. Yet this time around, almost a century later, unlike what happened in 1915, such betterment would not occur for the benefit of one community alone at the expense of another. It will occur for the benefit of both of our communities and that is the fundamental difference that separates us from the past. It is for that reason that today we are also able to mourn together on this day the significance to humanity at large and to our communities in particular the loss of those Armenian intellectuals who were targeted to be destroyed on the 24th of April 1915. For it was through their loss that we all lost knowledge that would have nurtured and improved both of our communities; it is the loss of that knowledge we have to mourn together today.
So that we can understand and lament the magnanimity of our loss, I now want to share with you the life stories of some of those Armenian intellectuals who lost their lives ninety-two years ago today. I want to note here that I have compiled the information from two sources published in Turkish by Pars Tuğlacı and Kevork Pamukciyan(1).
Let us therefore first remember together and mourn the loss of the poet Armen Dorian (1892-1915)(2). Dorians real name was Hraçya Sürenyan. Born in Sivas, he finished the Pangaltı Mıkhitarist School in Istanbul in 1911 to then travel to Paris to attend and graduate from the Sorbonne University. While there, he founded in 1913 along with French poets the pantheism school of poetry. Dorian who wrote all his poems in French arrived in Istanbul in 1914 only to lose his life at the age of twenty-three in Anatolia during the deportations.
Let us then remember and mourn the loss of professor, author and journalist Yervant Çavuşyan (1866-1915)(3). Born in Istanbul, Çavuşyan taught at the Royal School of Industry (Mekteb-i Sanayi) and the Royal School of Fine Arts (Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi). He was also the publisher of the Armenian newspaper Sound of the Motherland (Tzayn Hayrenyats). Çavuşyan wrote a scientific book in Ottoman Turkish on the mechanical sciences entitled Engineering (Çarkçılık). During the Armenian deportations, he died of disease around 1915 at the age of forty nine in Hamman which is between Meskene and Deyr-i Zor.
Let us then remember and mourn the loss of the journalist, poet and writer Rupen Zartaryan (1874-1915)(4). Born in Siverek, Zartaryan was educated Harput; he later taught at the Meğri Getronagan School only to be arrested in 1904 due to his political activities. The stories that Zartanyan had sent about village life were published at various Armenian newspapers. Upon his release, he went and settled in 1905 in Plovdiv in Bulgaria to publish the Razmig newspaper. Returning to Istanbul after the promulgation of the constitution in 1908, Zartanyan published the Azadamard newspaper in 1909. He also published his collection of stories and novels first in Istanbul in 1910 and later in Paris in French in 1912; many of his stories were also translated into Russian and Turkish. Zartanyan himself translated the works of Victor Hugo, Maxim Gorki, Anatole France, Oscar Wilde and many other prominent contemporaneous writers. He also prepared Armenian textbooks for 3rd through 6th grades. During the application of the 1915 deportation decree, Zartanyan died at the age of forty one on the route along with other Armenian intellectuals.
Let us then remember and mourn the loss of the professor, author and journalist Diran Kelekyan (1862-1915)(5). Sent to Marseilles, France in 1880 to get an education at the School of Commerce, Kelekyan started contributing articles from there to the newspaper Manzume-i Efkar. Upon his return, he worked at the same newspaper to eventually become its director of publications and also published a weekly journal entitled Cihan. Kelekyan served as the translator, head columnist and editor-in-chief of the Turkish newspaper Saadet by Hamid Vehbi. After being in exile in Egypt and Paris, upon his return to Istanbul with the promulgation of the Constitution in 1908, he became the editor-in-chief of the Sabah newspaper. In 1909, he was appointed political history professor to the upper classes of the Royal School of Public Administration (Mekteb-i Mülkiye). Among his books are Life (Hayat) which comprises of translated short stories and was published in 1913; Political History (Tarih-i Siyasi-i Umumi) (1913), and French Dictionary (Kamus-ı Fransevi) which was an illustrated Turkish-French dictionary that was eventually printed in 1928. Kelekyan himself was killed at the age of fifty in Sivas during the 1915 deportations.
Let us also remember and mourn Hagop and Toros Nazlıyan (6); the father Toros Nazlıyan, was from Everek. He served as a military doctor during the Balkan and First World Wars to be then arrested in Kayseri during the 1915 deportations. He died while he was in prison. Hagop Nazlıyan was his son who died from dysentery near the city of Aleppo when he was a year and a half during the 1915 deportations.
Let us also finally remember and mourn the many others that I can only mention by name due to shortness of time: Krikor Zohrab (1861-1915)(7) was a professor of criminal law at the Royal Academy of Law and his scholarly works in Turkish were entitled Issue of Limitations in Criminal Law (Hukuk-u Ceza Mürur-ı Zamanları) (1866) and Political Speeches (Siyasi Nutuklar) (1908); the novels and stories in his 22 volumes of works in Armenian have been translated into 26 languages. While Zohrab was still a deputy at the capital, he was arrested, deported to be tried and murdered at the age of fifty-four near Urfa in 1915. Yervant Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan (1870-1915)(8) was an educator, writer, translator and a journalist. He taught at many Armenian high schools and five of his novels have been printed as books. While in Istanbul, Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan was arrested along with many other intellectuals and lost his life at the age of forty five during the 1915 deportations. Mihran Ağasyan (1854-1916)(9) was a poet and a musician who perished at the Haman location near Deyr-i Zor in Syria in 1916 at the age of sixty-two. Rupen Sevag Çilingiryan (1885-1915)(10) was a poet, writer and physician who lost his life at the age of thirty during the 1915 deportations. Nazaret Dağarvaryan (1862-1915)(11) was a physician who also received an education in agriculture; serving at the Ottoman Parliament as the deputy from Sivas during the Constitutional Period, he was killed during the 1915 deportations at the age of fifty-three. Hovhannes Kımpetyan (1894-1915)(12) who was a poet and educator perished during the deportations in Resülayn in 1915 at the age of twenty one. Levon Larents Kirişçiyan (1882-1915)(13) who was a poet, translator, author, novelist and a professor and who lost his life at the age of thirty-three due to the deportation law promulgated in 1915.
Let us mourn them all because through their loss our lives have all become poorer today, ninety-two years later, on April 22nd 2007. As we remember them, however, as we recall their lives, remember and celebrate their achievements, their memories and the memories of many other intellectuals who perished on April 24th 1915 will continue to live within us. And as we keep their memories alive, we will all grow as one community and hopefully heal through their knowledge and with their guidance. Thank you.
1- See Pars Tuğlacı (1992) Ermeni Edebiyatından Seçkiler (Selections from Armenian Literature). İstanbul: Cem Publishing House; Kevork Pamukciyan (2003) Biyografileriyle Ermeniler (Armenians with Their Biographies). Edited by Osman Köker. İstanbul: Aras Publications, and Kevork Pamukciyan (2002) Ermeni Harfli Türkçe Metinler (Turkish Texts with Armenian Letters). Edited by Osman Köker. İstanbul: Aras Publications.
2- See Tuğlacı 1992: 164.
3- See Pamukciyan 2003: 160.
4- See Tuğlacı 1992: 402.
5- See Pamukciyan 2003: 269. While contributing to the newspapers Ceride-i Şarkiye and also Tarik, Kelekyan also served between 1984-96 as the first translator of the Armenian Patriarchate. He then left for Europe after the first Armenian massacres to contribute while there articles to the journals Contemporary Review and Nineteenth Century and pieces to the newspapers Daily Mail and Daily Graphic. Upon his return to Istanbul after amnesty, he wrote for the Sabah newspaper and was appointed the secretary to the Royal Treasury (Hazine-i Hassa). This being the reign of sultan Abdülhamid II, he left again for Egypt and took over the publication of the Journal du Caire there and also became the the publishing director of the newspaper Bourse Egyptienne. Kelekyan published in Cairo for a year the newspaper Egyptienne Graphic and then for two years the bi-weekly Turkish journal New Thought. He wrote articles under the pseudonyms Dal-Kef, Bedri Kamil, and I. Nadir. In 1909, Kelekyan became one of the major founders of the Armenian Constitutional Populist Party (Ermeni Meşrutiyet Halkçı Partisi). In 1911, he was elected to represent Konya on the General Assembly of the Patriarchate.
6- See Pamukciyan 2003: 319.
7- See Pamukciyan 2003: 387, and Tuğlacı 1992: 410. Krikor Zohrab (1861-1915), a lawyer and a literary person, educated at the Armenian community schools in Istanbul at Beşiktaş and Ortaköy, then at the Royal School of Galatasaray (Mekteb-i Sultani) and the Royal Academy of Law (Darülfünun Hukuk Mektebi) from where he graduated with highest honors. While working upon graduation as a lawyer, he was arrested a few times for protesting against the autocratic regime of Abdülhamid II and had to leave for Europe in 1906. Upon returning to the empire with the declaration of constitutional rule, he became a professor of criminal law at the Royal Academy of Law. During the same period, Zohrab was also elected deputy to the Ottoman parliament from Istanbul for three terms; he was the first socialist deputy who defended womens rights at the Ottoman parliament for the first time. His Turkish works were entitled Issue of Limitations in Criminal Law (1866) and Political Speeches (1908); the novels and stories in his 22 volumes of works in Armenian have been translated into 26 languages. A member of the literary style of realism, the themes Zohrab employed in his stories centered around adventures of love that end in heartbreak, the poverty of humans, and the drama of life. He was overall a very keen observer of human life and its frailties. While Zohrab was still a deputy at the capital, he was arrested, deported to be tried and murdered at the age of fifty-four near Urfa in 1915.
8- See Tuğlacı 1992: 361. Yervant Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan (1870-1915) was an educator, writer, translator and a journalist. After receiving an education at the Nercessian and Getronagan schools in Istanbul, he worked at the Aravelk and Masis newspapers during 1891-96. His novels published in these newspapers exhibited the Western Armenian realist literary style. The Armenian events of 1896 instigated him to move first to Bulgaria and then in 1904 to Egypt. While in exile, Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan continued to write and practice journalism; he also taught at various Armenian schools in Varna, Alexandria and Cairo. He translated in 1896 among many other works Alphonse Daudets novel Jacques into Armenian; his articles describing the lives of the Armenian refugees were also published in the Püzantion newspaper in Istanbul. In 1900, his novel Refugees and his short stories were published in the Şavig journal. In his novel Amiras Daughter, Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan reflected on the decadent customs of the Istanbul Armenian bourgeoisie and identified instead with the working class. Returning to Istanbul after the proclamation of the constitution in 1908, Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan joined the Aravelk newspaper. He also taught at the Getronagan High School in Istanbul and after 1913 at the Kharpert Armenian School. He used the pseudonym Yeruhan in his works. Five of his novels have been printed as books. While in Istanbul, Sırmakeşhanlıyan Yeruhan was arrested along with many other intellectuals and lost his life at the age of forty five during the 1915 deportations.
9- See Pamukciyan 2002: 10. Mihran Ağasyan (1854-1916), born in Edirne (Adrianople), was both a poet and a musician. Other than his elegy for the Ottoman palace physician Dr. Hovhannes Katipyan printed at a newspaper and an eighty quatrain long epic poem on the 1877-78 Ottoman Russian war of which a friend had kept a copy, all his other work including his many poems, songs and tombstone inscriptions disappeared during the 1915 deportation. Mihran Ağasyan perished at the Haman location near Deyr-i Zor in Syria in 1916 at the age of sixty-two.
10- See Tuğlacı 1992: 348. Rupen Sevag Çilingiryan (1885-1915), a poet, writer and physician, completed his primary education at the Azkanazyan School at Silivri in Istanbul and his middle school at the American and Berberyan Schools. His first poem Words of Separation was published in the Masis journal in 1905. Many of his poems werre scattered through the Armenian publications of the time such as Masis, Püzantion, Vosdan, Aravelyan Mamul, Luys, Surhantag, Keğuni, Pazmaveb, Arakadz, Veradzinunt, Amenuyn Daretsuytsı, Amenun Darekirkı. Although he was a follower of the Armenian neo-romantic literary movement, he also wrote on themes such as social inequality, nature, love and rebellion. Sevag Çilingiryan went to Switzerland for his higher education and graduated from the Lausanne University Medical School in 1911 and then practiced at the hospitals there until 1915. It was in 1915 that he decided to return to Istanbul, thus becoming yet another Armenian intellectual who lost his life at the age of thirty during the deportations.
11- See Pamukciyan 2003: 203. Nazaret Dağarvaryan (1862-1915) received an education in agriculture and medicine. He was also the director of the Armenian Surp Pırgiç Hospital. Serving at the Ottoman Parliament as the deputy from Sivas during the Constitutional Period, he was killed during the 1915 deportations at the age of fifty-three.
12- See Pamukciyan 2002: 209. Hovhannes Kımpetyan (1894-1915), the son of the Armenian folk poet (Ashuk) Pesendi, was born in Sivas, to be then educated at the Nercessian College in Tblisi, the German College in Köstence in Romania to eventually graduate from the Getronagan School in Istanbul in 1913. He had published a book of poetry in Istanbul in 1910 in Armenian entitled Sparks (Gaydzgılduk). Even though he entered the Royal Law Academy, his education was interrupted and he became a teacher at the Bezciyan School in Kumkapı. He then perished during the deportations in Resülayn in 1915 at the age of twenty one.
13- See Tuğlacı 1992: 257. Levon Larents Kirişçiyan (1882-1915) was a poet, translator, author, novelist and a professor. Born in Samatya, he completed his education at Robert College in Istanbul. While a student there, he published for three years with Hrand Esayan the Armenian newspaper Offshore Breeze (Zepur/Meltem). He also directed the publication of the Unity (Miutyun/Birlik) newspaper. After his graduation in 1902, Larents Kirişçiyan worked at the Püzantion (Bizans/Byzantine) newspaper. When he was appointed the director of the Getronagan High School in Adapazarı, he taught courses on the History of Civilization. Larents Kirişçiyan also served during the same time as the correspondent for the Armenian newspaper Free Speech (Azad Pem/Serbest Kürsü) in Alexandria. Having to go into exile because of the autocratic regime of Abdülhamid II and the Armenian massacres of 1905, he traveled to Boston the same year to publish the newspaper Voice of the Homeland (Tsayn Hayrenyats/Yurt Sesi). Larents Kirişçiyan returned to Istanbul after the proclamation of the constitution in 1908 to serve as the lead columnist of the same newspaper that started to be published at the capital as a weekly. He also directed the Murc (Çekiç/Hammer) newspaper. His poems were published in Tblisi under the title Songs from Heaven (Trakhdi Yerker/Cennet Şarkıları). Larents Kirişçiyan also had a novel entitled Anedzk (Beddua/Curse); in 1911, he translated the Quran from French into Armenian. He was one of the Armenian intellectuals who lost his life at the age of thirty-three due to the deportation law promulgated in 1915. He was the author Pars Tuğlacıs second cousin.