Eric Bogosian Discusses Career, Tehlirian Project

Eric Bogosian

NEW YORK (Armenian Weekly)—Eric Bogosian, the star of “Law & Order-Criminal Intent” and the now cult-classic “Talk Radio,” spoke to an audience of about 100 people on February 2 at the Cornell Club in New York about his artistic career, his Armenian background, and his research project on Soghomon Tehlirian, the assassin of Talaat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide.

The event, “Searching for Tehlirian,” was organized by the New York Chapter of the Hamazkayin Armenian Education and Cultural Society, and was the inaugural lecture of the Hamazkayin Arts & Letters Series.

Following brief opening remarks by Avedis Hadjian, chairman of Hamazkayin of New York, Bogosian, whose distinguished acting career and trajectory as a writer and playwright make him the most renowned Armenian American actor of the day, started by talking about growing up in Watertown, Mass. “My grandfather used to say that the whole world is Armenian because we all are descended from Noah,” he said to general laughter.

Bogosian invited the audience to view in a new light those Armenians who, like him, grew up generally detached from community institutions, yet who are as Armenian in their own way as those more involved in their activities. As his artistic career began to take off, he explained, he faced pressures to change his last name to something less “ethnic” and more appealing to the mainstream public. “You are only going to get roles as a terrorist,” he was told, which didn’t deter him.

“When are you going to do something about the genocide?” Armenian Americans have asked him. “When are you going to write a play with an Armenian theme?” He never felt compelled to write something about those issues without the capacity to dramatize it.

Then, as the dramas of the Balkan wars were unfolding in the 90’s, Bogosian suddenly felt the connection to his own history. “When I saw what was going on in Serbia, I realized this is what happened to my own family,” he said. So he set out to look into the genocide and focused on the story of Soghomon Tehlirian.

Bogosian’s initial intent was to fictionalize Tehlirian’s assassination of Talaat in Berlin on March 15, 1921. As he delved deeper into the topic, in the process amassing a library of more than 1,000 volumes on Armenian history and related issues, Bogosian discovered new angles to the genocide plan and the plot to kill the masterminds of the genocide—plans that remain relatively unknown. He saw the Armenian drama in a geopolitical context that involved Germany, Great Britain, and the race to control Caspian and Middle East oil, including Calouste Gulbenkian’s role.

These and other new findings nudged Bogosian towards turning his project into a non-fiction book, which will likely come out later this year or in early 2013 as he continues his research and field studies. His research includes an interview with Sylva Natalie Manoogian and unsuccessful attempts to see documents by her father, Armenian poet Shahan Natalie, the mastermind of “Operation Nemesis,” which aimed to kill the authors of the Armenian Genocide. “It’s a secret,” Natalie Manoogian told him about his writings on the covert operation, by which Armenian activists killed Djemal Pasha, Said Halim, Talaat, and others.


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  1. Arman said:

    Great minds think alike Eric….I have for a long time known that a film about Tehlirian is essential because it will capture the international political and legal environment of the World War I era. Raphael Lemkin was a young law student during the Armenian Genocide and he had asked his law professor why it is a crime to kill one man but it is not a crime to kill hundreds of thousands of people? His professor replied saying that there is no international law to deal with such a monumental crime, indeed the word GENOCIDE had not even been invented yet. Power, Samantha (2003). A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Harper Perennial. pp. 17. “While Tehlirian awaited trial in Berlin, Raphael Lemkin, a twenty-one- year-old Polish Jew studying linguistics at the University of Lvov, came upon a short news item on Talaat’s assassination in the local paper. Lemkin was intrigued and brought the case to the attention of one of his professors. Lemkin asked why the Armenians did not have Talaat arrested for the massacre. The professor said there was no law under which he could be arrested… “It is a crime for Tehlirian to kill a man, but it is not a crime for his oppressor to kill more than a million men?” Lemkin asked. “This is most inconsistent.””
    The most important point to express is that though Tehlirian had killed a man, ironically the jury rendered a not guilty verdict and acquitted him of all charges. Tehlirian was defended by three attorneys, including Dr. Kurt Niemeyer, who was a professor of Law at Cologne University.
    Thanks to men like Niemeyer and Raphael Lemkin, the world began to open its eyes to genocide, which is the crime of crimes. Unfortunately it took an even larger genocide in an even larger world war to force the world governments to come together and form the Genocide Convention.The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951.[1] It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of years of campaigning by lawyer Raphael Lemkin. Yaur Auron writes “When Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in 1944 he cited the 1915 annihilation of Armenians as a seminal example of genocide.” In law, the first issue is precedent. LET ME REMIND THAT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE WAS THE CLEAR PRECEDENT FOR THE U.N. GENOCIDE CONVENTION…..the very same Genocide Convention that the Turkish Government rejoices is not retroactive and therefore can not be applied to the Armenian case and will not deliver justice to the very victim group that was the basis for its creation. There’s still no justice on the earth.

  2. Haik Azad said:

    Aaah,dear Bogosian,what happened in Yugoslavia,not Serbia cannot be compared with what happened with the Armenians-the muslims in Yugoslavia had equal rights and freedom with the christians,yet their drug dealers got their made out of hot thin air states at the expense of your american and european taxpayers` money.The new artificial shamerican-made states have received more than 10 billion$$$help so far in order to boost their drug dealers` and human organs traffickers`trade,not to mention the 1000`sof christian churches and monasteries burned in the process of demockratization.One wonders if an objective study of history is possible in today`s Shamerica,and whether its a showman`s proper job to do it.And yes its a bloody secret what was the hand that guided those who killed the genocide heads-it was the same hand that guided the so-called `National liberation` movements which left millions dead and other millions globe trotters.And now we have found the right man to put all this in writing,which will not turn out to be secret,one hopes.Partsratsir,partsratsour,my dear compatriots!!!

  3. Alex Postallian said:

    I always thought Eric Bogosian was a good actor,he never got the acclaim.