Lecture on Historic Armenia Held at Glendale Library

On the evening of November 1, an extraordinary lecture event took place in the Glendale Central Library, organized by the Armenian Educational Foundation. The evening was exceptional, since even before the announced hour for the lecture, the auditorium was filled to capacity and people were standing along the walls, while many others remained outside trying to get permission to enter, which unfortunately was denied by the fire marshal. The evening was also exceptional, because the people had come not simply for a lecture (as is known lectures at present do not draw such crowds), but rather, filled with longing, to become a companion of the speaker as he walked in the footsteps of his forebears. The lecturer was Professor Richard Hovannisian, the A.E.F Chair Holder in Modern Armenian History at UCLA. His subject was "The Vanishing Landscape of Historic Western Armenia." He was introduced by former president and present executive board member of the A.E.F, Mrs. Nora Sahagian. Thereafter in a spellbinding and absorbing presentation, the lecturer spoke in Armenian and English for ninety minutes with projected illustrations, leading the riveted audience from Trebizond to Gumushkhane, Bayburt (Baberd) Erzerum (Garin), Kemakh, Agn, and Kharpert and further to Palu, Mush, Bitlis, and Van. Having studied for many years the towns and villages, the mountains and plains of Western Armenia, the scholar for the first time felt under his feet and saw with his eyes the imagined unimaginablethe ruined homeland and the vanishing traces of thousands of years of Armenian history. He met the Turk still fearful of relinquishing his confiscated possessions to Armenia’s, and he met the Kurd, who expressed sorrow and remorse for the massacres. And finally he met the converted ("tardzats") Armenian, who is reclaiming his ethnic identity but who knows no Armenian and remains a devout Muslim. Professor Hovannisian undertook this journeyor pilgrimagewith his wife, Vartiter, and with Professor Fatma Muge Gocek, who is among the Turkish scholars who reject the official Turkish state narrative of what occurred in 1915. That in itself was an extraordinary thing for the professor, who for the first time was stepping foot in the homeland in the company of a Turkish colleague and a Turkified half-Armenian guide (along with two members of the Turkish Armenian newspaper Agos). Both with deep emotion and a strong command of history, the illustrated presentation, sometimes sad, sometimes inspiring, was followed by a torrent of questions and commen’s from the impassioned audience. To the last question from a student about what would be the professor’s single most important bidding, Richard Hovannisian replied that it is essential for our generations to study and learn how it was that, despite the numerous calamities, massacres, and deportations down through the centuries, the Armenian people were able to survive through it all. It is essential to discover and cling to the "national secret" for the sake of the future.

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