Raymond Kevorkian: Genocide recognition phase is over, time to pursue reparations

There is a consensus in scholarly community on the fact of the Armenian Genocide


“The Armenian Genocide already has enough international recognition [there is also a consensus on this in the scholarly community]; now it is time to concentrate on the question of reparations”, said renowned French-Armenian historian, Professor at the University of Paris VIII, Saint-Denis Raymond Kevorkian in an exclusive interview with Nvard Chalikyan from Panorama.am. Dr. Kevorkian also emphasized the importance of Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide, as he believes Turkey continues to pose a threat to Armenia as long as it hasn’t recognized this crime.

Below is the complete interview.     

– Dr. Kevorkian, in 2015 a lot of work has been done towards raising awareness and recognition of the Armenian Genocide worldwide. What can you say about 2015 in France with this regard?

– A lot of work has indeed been done this year, although without coordination. In France we made a big campaign of raising awareness on the Armenian Genocide and today there is no French person who wouldn’t know about this issue. We would jokingly say that the Turkish diplomats were in depression; and indeed when the Turkish ambassador to France made an attempt to speak on TV, it was apparent that he was psychologically defeated… Let’s not forget that the Armenians have been good and respected citizens of France for more than 90 years and we’ve always stood by the French people in difficult times; so we can say that today we are reaping what we’ve sown.

– What do you think should be the next stage of the struggle for recognition/reparation of the Armenian Genocide as the continuation of the efforts undertaken in 2015? What further steps should be taken? What should be done in academia in particular?

– It is important for us that Turkey recognizes the crime upon which the modern Republic of Turkey was founded, for until it does so it will continue to pose a threat for Armenia. Today the only card by which Armenia can exert pressure on Turkey is the Genocide issue, which is international, so we must pursue this and move forward with this, without fear.

In the academy and the scholarly community the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is already an established fact. Only a couple of deniers are left in the US, who are paid by Turkey and whom no one takes seriously. In Leiden University of Holland, for instance, which is the best centre for Turkish studies today, no one disputes the Armenian Genocide. So there is a consensus on this in the academy, we only need to bring this consensus into the political field. The recognition phase is thus over, and we should now concentrate on the question of reparations.  

Our task now is also to educate the new generation of Armenian scholars and historians on this issue so that they meet highest scholarly standards and are able to have their say at the international level. In the current situation it is also imperative to engage in this all the professionals that we have outside Armenia.

– Do you think we can succeed in gaining reparations from Turkey when Turkey refuses to recognize the Genocide, and the international community (in the face of the countries that have recognized it) does not have enough leverage or commitment to make Turkey pay reparations, at least now?

– By a campaign for reparations I first of all mean legal processes, and law is a complicated thing. This will need thorough research, precise calculations and selection of professionals meeting international standards. Top notch lawyers will be needed who can make pressure on Turkey internationally. It will be a new struggle, which will require a lot of money and resources. Special Diaspora organizations and working groups must be formed specifically on the issue of reparations, which will coordinate the whole work; this can’t be left to random charity organizations. We must do our best for this – it is our job.

– Dr. Kevorkian, you were recently present at the conference titled “A civilization destroyed” organized by Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul, Turkey, in which the question of wealth of non-Muslims (mostly Armenians) in the late Ottoman period was discussed. What are your impressions and observation from the conference?

– I was impressed by the blend of the old and the new generations of Turkish scholars that took part in this conference. I consider it very important that in Turkey a generation of young scholars is emerging, which having studied mostly in private universities of Turkey as well as in universities abroad has a more open approach towards the history of the Ottoman Empire, including that of 1915. Within five years each of these young people will be specialized in one particular topic which in one way or another refers to the Armenian Genocide. I also value the work of the Hrant Dink Foundation.        

– The Turks have announced that the Ottoman archives are open and that anyone, including Armenians, can come and study those. However, we know that studying these archives is not that easy in practice. What are the main obstacles to this? 

– It is easy to say that the Ottoman archives are open, but in practice for making use of these archives specialists in Ottoman Turkish and also to some extant in Arabic are required. It actually takes at least two or three years for one to be able to read and study these materials seriously. We need to establish a school for developing this branch of scholarly research. Besides, not everything is open in Ottoman archives; it is also possible that new materials will be added in the future. 

– Dr. Kevorkian, your book The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History, which makes extensive use of Nubarian Library archival materials, has been published in many languages (except Armenian unfortunately). Into Turkish language it has been translated by the most famous publishing house in Turkey – Iletisim Yayinlari. How was the book accepted in Turkey?

– In some circles of the Turkish society there is a great interest in the topic of the Armenian Genocide and in this book in particular, too. The publisher was actually surprised at how quickly the book was sold. Now he is publishing the third edition of the book.

Raymond Kevorkian has a PhD in history and is a Professor at the University of Paris VIII, Saint-Denis. Dr. Kevorkian is the author of a number of books on the Armenian Genocide, the most famous of them being “The Armenian Genocide, A Complete History”.  He served as the director of Nubarian Library in Paris for many years.

Interview by Nvard Chalikyan