Fondazione Giorgio Cini onlus
Istituto Venezia e l’Europa
IN HISTORY AND BEYOND HISTORY
Armenians and Turks: a thousand years of relations
Venice, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
28, 29, 30 October 2004
The Institute for Venice and Europe of the Giorgio Cini Foundation has conceived and organised an international conference involving historians, philosophers, jurists, psychoanalysts, and experts on politics and human rights from Europe, the United States, Armenia, Israel and Turkey.
The conference analysed the relations between Armenians and Turks from the Middle Ages to the tragedy of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century and beyond. The analysis focused on general aspects and theoretical issues (philosophical, legal, historiographical, and psychoanalytical), but at the same time some specific historical cases also were presented.
The following scholars took part in the Conference: from the United States Taner Akçam (Univeristy of Minnesota) and Rouben Adalian (Armenian Assembly of America); from Canada Frank Chalk (Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Studies); from France Raymond H. Kévorkian (Director of the Noubarian Library of Paris), Hélène Piralian-Simonyan (psychoanalist), Yves Ternon (physician and historian); from Germany Hermann Goltz (Director of the Lepsius Archives, Univeristy of Halle-Wittenberg), from Israel: Israel Charny (Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide of Jerusalem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), from Turkey Murat Belge (Bilgi University), Ferhat Kentel (Bilgi University), Halil Berktay (Sabanci University), Baskin Oran (Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara), Ragip Zarakolu (writer and publisher, “Belge” Publications), from Armenia Vladimir Margaryan (jurist, counsellor at the Constitutional Court), Ruben Safrastyan (Director of the Institute of Turcology of the National Academy of Sciences), from Italy Antonia Arslan (University of Padua), Giampiero Bellingeri (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), Mauro Bussani (University of Trieste), Aldo Ferrari (responsible of the research programme Caucasia-Asia at ISPI in Milan, ex-lecturer at the Universities of Trieste, Gorizia and Venice), Gianclaudio Macchiarella (Ca’ Foscari, ex-attaché culturel at the Embassies of Italy in Washington, Athens, Teheran and Ankara), Pier Paolo Portinaro (University of Turin), and the members of the Scientific Council of the Conference Prof.s Antonio Rigo (Ca’ Foscari, Director of the Institute “Venezia e l’Europa” of Fondazione Cini) and Boghos Levon Zekiyan (Ca’ Foscari).
The conference had five sessions in which the following topics were made object of discussion: the notion and typologies of “genocide” (Portinaro, Charny, Chalk), its psychological repercussions (Piralian), the demografic question (Kévorkian), the state of archives’ research (Adalian), negationism (Ternon), relations between Armenians and Turks from the Seljuk Age through the Ottoman Empire to the Republican Period (Safrastyan), the complicity of Imperial Germany (Goltz), the ittihadist solution and Turkish republican identity (Akçam), the relation between discourse, reality, and Turkish national imagination (Berktay), interethnic relations in Anatolia from the Ottoman period on (Zarakolu), the situation of Armenians today in Turkey (Kentel), the “Armenian question” and human rights (Belge), the bases of international legal responsibility (Margaryan), the roots of taboos and relapses (Oran), the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by the European States (Ferrari), and various other questions as the placement of the Armenian case in the frame of the Genocides of the 20th century, the sense of guiltiness, the problem how to explain to Turkish public opinion the Armenian Genocide after decades of amnesia and negationism, its importance in the frame of contemporary European history, etc.
At the end of the conference there was a round table as a moment to sum up the proceedings and establish a starting point for future studies.
The idea of such a conference was originated from the awareness of the current stalemate due to denialism and the impossibility of dialogue. The new historical perspective, adopted by the conference, viewing Armenian-Turkish relations in their centuries-long and multifarious aspects, combined with the tools provided by a long-term interdisciplinary approach, invites us and may help to go beyond the separate analysis of specific cases to overcome the obstacles still hindering an effective approach to the topic.