Professor Richard Hovannisian with Teachers
and with Deniers in
Houston July 25-26 2005

  • UCLA—Professor Richard G. Hovannisian, AEF Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA, is continuing his worldwide activities on the ninetieth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In June he was the keynote speaker at the biennial conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Boca Raton Florida , during which he placed the Armenian Genocide in worldwide perspective and focused on the current challenges facing scholars engaged in genocide studies and human rights programs. He then traveled to Montpelier , France , to participate in an international symposium organized by the “Centre de Juifs, Arméniens et Chrétiens d’Orient” (Gérard Dédéyan and Carol Iancu) on the theme of typologies of mass killing in the twentieth century. Hovannisian discussed recent revelations about the planning and organization, as well as evolving interpretations, of the Armenian Genocide.

    Dr. Hovannisian’s summer activities have included presentations in Yerevan and Houston , Texas . In Yerevan he gave the opening lecture on July 22 to Armenian youth from several countries who had come together for the annual Hamazkayin Forum. As a member of the organizing committee of the forthcoming international congress on the 1600 th anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet, to be held in Yerevan in September, he also helped to finalize arrangements for that celebration.

    At the invitation of the Holocaust Museum of Houston, Richard Hovannisian was in Houston on July 25-26 to speak at a teacher-training institute and to give a public lecture. For the first time, the Museum’s Max Kaplan Summer Institute for Educators received a formal presentation on the Armenian Genocide, during which Hovannisian emphasized the significance of the Armenian experience as a prototype of mass killings in the modern age. Teachers from five states as well as from Chile , Uruguay , and Romania learned of the preconditions and warning signals of genocide, the role of ideology, the use of technology, and the similarities and differences between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. According to the Museum’s Director of Education, Christina Vasquez, the teachers became engrossed with the subject and were captivated by Hovannisian’s presentation. She added: “The lecture about the Armenian genocide and its relation to the Holocaust was framed in a very skillful way so that our participants could use the information in their classrooms. What was particularly striking was the twelve points in the patterns of genocide, as well as how the situation in Turkey in regard to the Armenian genocide sadly differs from Germany ’s confrontation of its past.”

    On the evening of July 26, a turn-away audience filled the Holocaust Museum ’s auditorium for Professor Hovannisian’s public lecture. In his reflective discourse, the speaker considered the historical, ethical, and humanitarian aspects of the genocide which remain immediate and relevant in the contemporary world. He began by taking note of the presence of members of the American Turkish Association of Houston, who had come with denial literature and prepared questions to challenge the reality of the Armenian Genocide. Apparently, high-ranking Turkish officials and a supportive non-Turkish organization in the United States had lobbied for cancellation of the lecture, but the Holocaust Museum stood firm in its invitation. Hovannisian suggested that the ATA members and all other doubters should become better acquainted with the facts and the consensus of world scholarship and join the growing number of Turkish scholars who now reject the state’s untenable narrative of events. He noted that one of the sad consequences of denial is that it has prevented proper acknowledgement of the thousands of good Turks and other Muslims who intervened to rescue Armenians during the deportations and massacres.

    Professor Hovannisian’s adept handling of the situation was roundly applauded by the audience but apparently did not satisfy all of those who had come to detract. During the discussion period, many of the familiar denial arguments were reiterated, but they were met with calm, factually-based responses and a new appeal for all sides to face their history honestly as a necessary precondition to some form of eventual conciliation. The speaker hoped that his reflections on the legacy of the Armenian Genocide might further the on-going quest for truth and the ability to look backward while never losing sight of the past.

    On his arrival in Houston on July 25, Richard Hovannisian enjoyed the company of members of the Houston Armenian community at a reception in the home of Joseph and Alice Galoostian. Philip Kanayan and Vatche Hovsepian assisted with local arrangements.