MEDFORD–Mass.–The Armenian National Committees of Massachusetts and the Armenian Review sponsored a symposium with a theme "The Armenian Genocide and Armenian Independence: Implications and Policies" in the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts University on June 2.
Dikran Kaligian–representing the sponsoring organizations–welcomed the audience and outlined the contributions of the Armenian Review as the preeminent Armenian scholarly journal and the ANCA as the largest grassroots Armenian political advocacy organization in the United States.
Dr. Henry Theriault–Associate Professor of Philosophy at Worcester State College–served as moderator and introduced each of the featured speakers.
Dr. Richard Hovannisian–Professor of Armenian and Near Eastern History at UCLA–presented the first topic–"Effects of the Armenian Genocide on the First Republic of Armenia."
Hovannisian detailed the devastating impact the Armenian Genocide had on the Republic. On the eve of independence–the Republic was overwhelmed with over 300,000 Armenian refugees from the regions of Erzurum and Van.
Approximately seventy percent of available resources were spent caring for the refugees. Yet–during the winter of 1918/9–approximately one-fifth of the Republic’s population perished. Hovannisian stated–"The Genocide’s impact was that it took away potential manpower–took away the potential leadership and intellectuals among Western Armenia’s who were all wiped away. It created enormous tensions within the state and it prevented the growth because repatriation was not allowed."
Following Hovannisian–Khatchig Der Ghougassian spoke on the effects of the Armenian Genocide on the Armenian Diaspora. Der Ghougassian is a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at the University of Miami. He stated the Armenian Genocide can be considered the formative event for the Diaspora. First–there was a period of silence for 50 years–then began the struggle for international recognition. "From 1923 to 1991–the genocide has been central for the self understanding and self representation of the Diaspora."
Dr. Stephan Astourian–William Saroyan Visiting Professor in the Department of History at the University of California–Berkeley–spoke on "The Armenian Genocide and the Present Armenian Republic." Before beginning his talk–Astourian related his experience during an interview at Tufts for a chair in Armenian History.
Throughout the interview process–it was made clear by the Department head and others that they would not hire anyone who would teach about the Armenian Genocide. Thus–Astourian was pleased to be returning to Tufts in a much more positive context.
Astourian detailed the "new thinking" promoted by the first administration of Levon Ter Petrosyan. Ter Petrosyan and his policy advisor–Jirayr Libaridian–promoted the idea that Armenia’s reliance on third parties has historically been disastrous for the Armenian nation. The need to deal with Armenia’s neighbors directly led to treating justice for the Armenian Genocide as a secondary issue in foreign policy. Astourian explained another dimension to the genocide arose–"the issue of the genocide has also become a stake in political struggles between parties/organizations that have little to do with the genocide itself."
The final speaker was M. Hrach Zadoian–Vice President of Queens College of the City University of New York. His topic was "American Policy and the Crime Without a Name." Zadoian supplied an overview of the United States response to the Armenian Genocide.
From the very beginning–the State Department had urged non-involvement. What began as humanitarian intervention ended with the pursuit of economic interests. Zadoian stated–"an institutional culture solidified within the US State Department–a culture that in the name of higher interests shunned and deflected moral issues except when expedient and then only for the duration of the expediency."
A video or DVD recording of this event is available. If interested–please contact the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts at the above mentioned address.