Joan George’s Merchants in Exile: The Armenians in Manchester, England, 1835-1935 is about much more than the title implies. In addition to synthesizing the story of Armenians in Manchester–including but not limited to international merchants of textiles and other goods–George offers a detailed chronicle of the attention that was paid in England to the atrocities taking place in the Ottoman Empire by Armenians, by the British public, the press, and political figures in London. The British press, she demonstrates, made the public aware of the Hamidean massacres of 1895-96 and the larger genocide of 1915, and numerous Parliament deputies and even prime ministers delivered speeches showing sympathy and consternation, but sympathy without assertive action of course did little. Some in power contradicted themselves, like William Gladstone, who on some occasions showed a desire for strong action, while other times wondered thy the Armenians in Turkey could not defend themselves.
The author provides all this, in great detail, side by side with the story of the evolution of the local Armenian community and the many facets of its social and spiritual life. Some parts of the book might seem to hold limited interest for outsiders to the Manchester community, such as the full membership rosters for church committees and full lists of members of certain families. Other parts might read like personal memoir, for instance where the author recounts how her parents met. But even these elements have great value if one wants to do follow-up research on any of the local social topics she talks about. Overall, this book is a valuable contribution to the understanding of Armenian history, not only at the local but also at the global level.
Joan George, Merchants in Exile: The Armenians in Manchester, England, 1835-1935 (Princeton and London: Gomidas Institute, 2002). ISBN: 1-903656-08-7.
Professor Benjamin F. Alexander is an historian of Armenian-American immigrant experiences. His research brings him frequently to the Zohrab Center, where is also assists as a consultant.
Award-winning artist and scholar Hazel Antaramian Hofman will deliver an illustrated lecture entitled, “Dressing the Part: Textile Wealth in an Eleventh-Century Armenian Miniature and its Interpretive Meaning,” at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 7:00PM.
In 1911 a single manuscript folio containing a damaged yet exquisite miniature painting was found in the print shop of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It was soon recognized as belonging to perhaps the most famous and important Armenian manuscript of the 11th century, a profusely-illuminated copy of the four Gospels commissioned by King Gagik-Abas of Kars, Jerusalem manuscript no. 2556.
The folio depicts a royal family portrait: King Gagik-Abas, his wife Queen Goranduxt and their daughter, the heir to the throne, Princess Mariam. This is the only known Armenian painting of a Bagratid dynastic family. Though partially defaced, some of the facial features excised, the painting, with its refined style and sumptuous detail, is well-known to art historians.
Hazel Antaramian Hofman asks why the family portrait was represented the way it was? Her analysis concludes that coded in the details of the painting, particularly in its composition and in the careful depiction of opulent textiles, one can read a great deal about the King, his political ambitions and the socio-economic situation of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia.
“The image was created during [a] tumultuous period in the history of the Bagratuni’s,” writes Antaramian-Hofman in her 150-page Master’s thesis on the eleventh-century miniature painting of the last Bagratuni dynastic family in Western Armenia. “The composition of the image and the opulence of the represented textiles convey dynastic affluence in an effort to support the central figure, the young daughter, within the socio-political context of medieval life in the region,” the artist-scholar concludes.
Antaramian-Hofman will present her findings and elaborate on her past research, where she integrated the iconographic dimension of the painting with the economic, cultural, and socio-political contact of the royal family and their hegemonic neighbors. She will also discuss her plans to expand her study on this rare Armenian painting for future publication.
Ms. Antaramian Hofman was born in Soviet Armenia and settled in the United States at age five. Her education has both artistic and scientific roots: before earning an M.A. degree in Art and Design from Fresno State University, she already held an associate degree in fashion design and illustration, an undergraduate degree in chemistry with a minor in biology; and am M.S. degree in environmental science. An accomplished artist, she has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Her latest creative and scholarly work has focused on the repatriation of Armenians to Soviet Armenia following World War II.
The lecture will take place at the Zohrab Center, Diocese of the Armenian Church, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY. It is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at (212) 686-0710 or email@example.com.
The Zohrab Center’s three freshly-branded college interns began their term of learning and service with a visit to New York’s world-renowned Pierpont-Morgan Library to view an exhibit of medieval manuscript illuminations of the Eucharist. Entitled, Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art, the exhibit featured some of the Morgan’s finest European manuscripts dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries.
Through the kindness of New York-based journalist Florence Avakian, the interns and the director, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, met personally with Roger S. Wieck, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. Dr. Wieck led the Zohrab group through the magnificent Morgan Library and the original steel-encased vault, which houses the Morgan’s vast manuscript collection.
The Pierpont-Morgan Library holds the largest collection of Armenian manuscripts in the United States. Many were shown at a 1993 exhibit there entitled, Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts.
The Zohrab Center autumn interns are: Andrew Kayaian, a sophomore history major at Fordham University; Alek Hadadan, a junior majoring in Business at Manhattanville College, (Purchase, NY), and Christopher Piric, a sophomore linguistics major at Nassau Community College.
“The Zohrab Center internship program provides college students in the New York metropolitan area with the opportunity to serve the Center and the Armenian Diocese, while deepening their knowledge and appreciation for Armenian Studies, culture and civilization,” said Fr. Findikyan. “Our visit to the Eucharist exhibit at the Morgan allowed us to compare depictions of the central worship act of the church in the Armenian and western European traditions,” he noted.
Vahan Zanoyan, author of A Place Far Away, will speak about the heart-breaking realities of human trafficking in Armenia at the Kavookjian Hall of the Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern) on Thursday, September 26 at 7PM.
The book is a novel but the plot and all of the characters are based on true stories of forced prostitution and coercive adoption of children and teenagers that the author discovered in the course of years of research in Armenia. Mr. Zanoyan, who lives in California, is very active in business and charitable work in the homeland.
The program is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center and the Armenian Studies Program of the Eastern Diocese, as well as the Fund for Armenian Relief. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.
Signed copies of the book will be available for sale. All proceeds will benefit organizations in Armenia and beyond devoted to protecting children and fighting against human trafficking.
College students in the New York/New Jersey area who are interested in Armenian history, literature, arts and contemporary issues are invited to apply to become an intern at the Zohrab Center this Fall.
ZIC interns assist in cataloging books, digitizing rare materials, assisting students and scholars with research, assisting with ZIC events, and maintaining the ZIC blog.
“This summer at the Zohrab Center I have had in my hand countless precious Armenian books, some of them 100 or 200 years old, published in places like Constantinople, Tiflis, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Paris, Aleppo, New York,” said Alex Calikyan, entering his third year at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. ”I have a new appreciation for the breadth and depth of Armenian civilization, and of the intellectual energy of our people.”
College students in the NY/NJ metropolitan area who are able to devote up to 10 hours per week at the ZIC are welcome to apply. Hours are flexible. Reading knowledge of Armenian is preferred but not required. A modest hourly stipend will be provided. Limited internships are available. For further information contact the Director by filling in the contact form below.
by ALEXANDER CALIKYAN
One of the newer books we have added to our collection here at the Zohrab Information Center is about an area in historic Armenia that most native Armenians have never heard of or know very little about. Khodorchur: Lost Paradise is an extensive study that details virtually every aspect of life in this forgotten region. Khodorchur (now named Sirakonaklar, “row of mansions” in Turkish) was a cluster of historic Armenian villages referred to as Little Rome in the late 18th century. These Armenian Catholics were isolated geographically in the mountainous range north of Erzurum, surrounded in a sea of ethnic Armenian convert Muslim communities known as the Hemshin—Armenians largely devoid of a Christian presence as a consequence of forced Islamicization but who retained their language and other customs.
The work was originally written by Mekhitarist-order priests both native to Khodorchur, Fr. Harutiun Hulunian and Fr. Madtéos Hajian. Dr. Vatche Ghazarian oversaw the translation of the volume into English, while Gina Ann Hablanian coordinated the project as Managing Editor. The original title of the Armenian book, published in Vienna in 1964 by the Mekhitarist Press, reads in English translation, “Memorial Album of Khodorchur.” Co-editor Aram Arkun, former director of the Zohrab Information Center, provided rich historical annotations.
Hovann H. Simonian, who has studied the Hemshin, opens the volume with a brief, yet rich foreword introducing Khodorchur and providing the cultural background and an historical overview of its people. The original preface from Vienna in 1964 by Fr. Hamazasb Vosgian credits and recounts how the pair of priests came together and authored the book. Fr. Hulunian focused on the topography, customs and history of the region when he began writing in 1908. Fr. Hulunian had been granted an opportunity to revisit his birthplace in 1913. In consequence, he was able to correct, expand, and enrich the first draft of his work, which he had brought with him. He took his work with him, continually refining it. Before Fr. Hulunian began writing his work on Khodorchur, Fr. Madtèos Hajian, who had been dispatched to his birthplace in 1899, and where he remained for a number of years, had published a number of works on the district before being deported and martyred. This compilation of material would later be utilized by Fr. Hulunian in his research.
The study begins with a discussion of the various topographies and customs of the area encompassing Khodorchur. The first 15 chapters present detailed facts about the various villages in the Khodorchur region. The second half of Part I describes the inhabitants’ wedding festivities, funeral traditions, pilgrimages, seasonal traditions, superstitions, popular medications, and proverbs and riddles. Part II tells the history of the people, marked by its conflicts with Turkish and Armenian convert Muslim bandits and raiders in hostile, neighboring provinces. Part III is devoted to recounting the deportations of the Armenians of Khodorchur in detail. Included are testimonies of victims of the Armenian Genocide who retell their survival stories and the fate of their unfortunate compatriots. In Part IV, Bert Vaux presents an exhaustive linguistic analysis of the unique Armenian dialect of Khodorchur. Included is a dictionary of terms compiled by Shushan Avagyan that shows just how sharply the language of Khodorchur differed from both the Eastern and Western Armenian dialects familiar to us today.\
An addendum contains an official report of the survivors in the region of Khodorchur by the Dayk Union’s Committee for the Search and Relief of Refugees following the Armenian Genocide in 1919. Documented here are statistics and records concerning the confiscation of arms, searches, imprisonments, tortures, etc., confiscation and sale of belongings, the number of Armenians in the region immediately before the war, the number of deportees, and where they were sent, the current number of Armenians, and the conditions of churches, schools, and
houses, just to name a few. In the Appendix, a narrative entitled, “Three Times in Khodorchur,” Vartan Gianighian, who has ancestral ties to Khodorchur, describes his experience while on a tour of eastern Turkey that eventually led him to his father’s homeland. There he had the opportunity to see the beauty and subsequent
devastation that his father had told him about years earlier. Aside from a lengthy and detailed index, another precious feature of this book is its rich variety of plates of priceless photographs and artwork from Khodorchur.
A real gem among lost and hidden Armenian treasures from pre-20th century times, Khodorchur: Lost Paradise has revived the legacy of Khodorchur and her people, creating a rich ethnography that snapshots a lesser known, yet enigmatic piece of Armenian society which, through the hard work and dedicated effort put in by Fathers Harutiun and Madtèos, is sure to capture the imagination of any Armenian having roots in another Armenian world. It has surely done so for this reviewer.
Khodorchur: Lost Paradise. Memories of a Land and Its People. Fr. Harution Hulunjian and Fr. Madtéos Hajian. Vache Ghazarian, trans. Edited by Aram Arkun and Victoria Rowe with a Foreword by Hovann H. Simonian. New material by Vartan Gianighian, Hagop Hachikian and Bert Vaux. Monterey, CA: Mayreni Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781931834384. 652 pp.
Copies of Khodorchur are available for sale from the Bookstore of the Eastern Diocese. Phone (212) 686-0710.
Alexander Calikyan is a third-year student at the Catholic University of America majoring in philosophy and theology. He is completing a summer internship at the Zohrab Information Center, where he has assisted in cataloguing rare books.
by BENJAMIN F. ALEXANDER
Throughout the twentieth century, nearly every episode of Armenian history had a Dashnak and an anti-Dashnak version. The life of Dramistat Kanayan, more commonly known as General Dro, was no exception, especially where his actions in Germany during World War II were concerned. As was revealed publicly right after the war ended, Dro and several other Dashnak notables, with no known formal party sanction, made overtures to the Nazi high command and formed an Armenian Legion to assist the German regime. Other Armenians were also involved with the Nazis. What did they do, and why did they do it? Ambiguities have lingered.
Levon Thomassian’s Summer of ’42: A Study of German-Armenian Relations During the Second World War (Schiffer Military History, 2012), recently acquired by the Zohrab Center, does not wipe away all of the ambiguities, but that’s not the author’s fault: the realities are ambiguous. In this exhaustively researched scholarly study of Armenian wartime actions in Germany, Thomassian sheds considerable light on the actions of General Dro and others. In the process, he finds that elements of both a desire to protect Armenians from being among those targeted for mass murder (a very real possibility, given the regime’s racial theories) and the hope of being on the winning side of the war to pry Armenia loose from Soviet rule may well have influenced Dro’s actions.
But Dro is just one component of this book’s focus. Thomassian also shows the dilemmas that many Armenian prisoners of war faced after their capture by Nazi troops, with the prospects of saving their own lives by serving in Nazi forces. With the occasional exception here and there, Armenians decidedly did not like Hitler—nor, Thomassian also convincingly shows, did Hitler particularly like them. Thomassian also makes clear that the Armenian contribution to the Nazi war effort was minuscule compared with the Armenian contribution to the victory of the Allies.
General Dro is, by any academic standards, an important historical figure in the twentieth-century Armenian experience. A work detailing his actions which is neither hagiographical nor prosecutorial should be greatly valued, one among many reasons to read Levon Thomassian’s Summer of ’42. Of equal importance is his fair and probing treatment of Armenians in general, who were caught, as they had been before, in fateful circumstances and had to make impossible choices in response to them.
Professor Alexander is a New York-based historian of Armenian-American immigrant experiences. His research brings him frequently to the Zohrab Center, where is also assists as a consultant.