Conference on Historic Cities Looks at Black Sea Communities

WESTWOOD–The 10th conference dedicated to Historic Armenian Cities focused on the communities of the Black Sea and Portus. More than 20 academicians from around the world took part in the two-day conference over the weekend organized by the chairholdre of the Modern Armenian Studies at UCLA–Prof. Richard Hovannisian.

The conference was sponsored by the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA and the university’s Social Sciences Department and the European and Russian Studies Center.

Of the 22 scheduled academicians–two were unable to attend. Claire Mouradian of Paris did not attend because of health reasons–however a summary of her paper on how and when the Hamshen Armenia’s were converted to Islam was presented by Prof. Hovannisian. Also Igor Kuznetsov was unable to get his Russian passport renewed. He is from Krasnodar and a great champion of minority issues there. In his introductory commen’s–Prof. Hovannisian noted the importance of the Black Sea region in Armenian history as an outlet to the external world. Even though it is separated from the great Armenian plateau by the Pontus mountains–there has been an Armenian presence there since ancient times and Trebizond has served as the port of entry and exit for Bardzr Hayk.

In the modern period–the Armenian communities from Samsun in the west to Giresun–Ordu–Trebizond–and Rize were enlightened and prosperous. There were numerous schools and churches and they became active intellectual centers as well. There were also small but active Armenian Catholic and Protestant communities here as well–explained Hovannisian.

Trebizond is remembered as being the starting point of the 1895 massacres–when the mobs rampaged through the Armenian quarters killing any Armenian men they could find and looting the Armenian businesses. And in 1915–it again became a place of extreme violence as the governor of Trebizond was a fanatic Young Turk leader who decimated the Armenian population in various ways–from dumping men and children into the Black Sea to deporting–violating–or enslaving the women–said Prof. Hovannisian.

In the period of 1916-20–the question of Trebizond was open and many different forces tried to gain possession. In the end it was awarded to the Armenian republic on paper but the fact is that no Allied Power was willing to assist Armenia to take possession of the Pontus. Rather–Mustafa Kemal gained Soviet military and financial assistance and launched an offensive against the Armenian republic in the Caucasus to destroy the Treaty of Sevres–he added.

The people of the Black Sea and Christian Hamshen and some of the Muslim Hemshen continued their existence on the eastern shores of the Black Sea–from Batum to Sochi and in the Krasnodar area–but they–too–are in great turmoil today because of the military hostilities in Abkhazia and the racist policies in the Kuban–announced Hovannisian

A photo exhibit was also presented by photographers Richard and Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht.

Complete coverage of this important conference will be published in the weekend edition of Asbarez.

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