By Matthew Maroot
One of the world’s foremost experts on Armenian History, Dr. Richard Hovannisian, spoke Thursday, April 8, 1999 on the occasion of the publication of his latest work, Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide.
Dr. Hovannisian holds the AEF Chair of Modern Armenian History at UCLA where he has taught for over 35 years. According to Dr. Kouymjian, “Richard Hovannisian has shown us what ought to be done and what can be done with the study of Armenian History…He has been a tireless champion of bringing the truth forward, on the Genocide and on fighting against the denial and the negation of the Genocide.”
According to Wayne State University Press, the publisher of Dr. Hovannisian’s latest work, Remembrance and Denial “squarely confronts the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government, which has expended considerable political and financial resources to repress the facts surrounding this event and even enlisted American and European pseudo-academics to neutralize the issue.”
Among the many contributors to this volume are Stephan Astourian, Ara Sarafian, Hilmar Kaiser and Levon Marashlian, all active participants in the study of the Armenian Genocide.
Hovannisian”s latest work details the Armenian Genocide in a new light by revealing many issues surrounding the Genocide which have gone largely unpublished. In his book Hovannisian draws a strong comparison with the Holocaust, in addition to an extensive discussion which explores the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government, quite possibly the most damaging wound left by the Genocide of 1915-1923.
“We are in what I would say the struggle of remembrance against forgetting,” Dr. Hovannisian said. “The way to keep the battle going is through remembrance because as long as you remember and as long as you can make other people remember, then the struggle goes on.”
Dr. Hovannisian stated that the study and the openness in speaking about the Genocide only began in the mid-1960s, some 50 years after the massacres took place. He believes this is because the Armenians who experienced the Genocide firsthand internalized much of their grief as they spent all of their energy on putting their lives back together. Thus, it was not until the children of the victims came of age that Genocide discussion became more prominent and political activity on this issue began.
Another factor for the internalization of the terrors of the Genocide came from what Dr. Hovannisian called a rush to assimilation.
As Armenians fled their homeland and settled throughout the world, they were forced to repress their heritage, culture and history in order to become more quickly assimilated into their new cultures.
Dr. Hovannisian’s work provides a firm platform on which Armenians can continue their undying quest to gain recognition for the heinous events of 1915-1923.
More than 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives in the first Genocide of the twentieth century, yet many, including the Turkish government, continue to deny its very occurrence.
Fortunately, however, the work of Dr. Richard Hovannisian has not only helped keep the Genocide on the minds and in the hearts of those who remember its horrors all too well, but more importantly has served as a powerful reminder to those who have heretofore ignored the Genocide or failed to honor its victims.