Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Dr. Arman Kirakossian Presents His Publication at the Library of Congress

Dr. Arman J. Kirakossian, the Armenian ambassador to Washington, delivered a lecture on October 30 at the Library of Congress in Washington coinciding with the publication of the English translation of his book, British Diplomacy and the Armenian Question: From the 1830s to 1914. A historian by training, the ambassador has published over ten books and monographs, as well as dozens of articles and reviews, all on the history of the Armenian Question.
In introducing the author, Dr. Levon Avdoyan, the Armenian and Georgian area specialist at the Library of Congress, lauded the ambassador's commitment to the historical exploration of a complicated and insufficiently addressed subject of modern Armenian history.

Ambassador Kirakossian thanked the Library of Congress for hosting the occasion and expressed his gratitude to the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund for making possible the book's publication. He explained that the original of the book was published in Armenian in 1999 and that the current English-language translation incorporates some additional research carried out at the Library of Congress.

Dr. Kirakossian then delivered a lecture on the international and political context of the book, focusing on the source material and the historical implications of his research. He explained that as the Ottoman Empire became an object of competition between the major powers in the nineteenth century, Britain, as the major power, assumed a major role in the international politics of the Near East. "Britain asserted its economic and political influence over Turkey while protecting its territorial integrity from encroachment by other powers, most notably Russia," Dr. Kirakossian explained.

"The Armenian Question, or the fate of Western Armenia, is a key issue in the modern history of the Armenian people, emerging as a factor in international politics in 1878 and signifying the historical challenges to Armenia, and as such, would have a broader ideological meaning and scope," Dr. Kirakossian noted. He said he analyzed Britain's foreign policy in the context of international and regional dynamics: against the backdrop of Britain's political system and public opinion, the internal and foreign policy of the Ottoman government, the state of affairs in Western Armenia, and the Armenian national movement. The book presented the development and evolution of British foreign policy–making as it impacted on the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian population and other ethnic elements, as well as delineating British diplomatic activities and the British government's role at various stages of the Armenian Question from the 1830s to 1914.

The book reveals, he continued, that the British policy of pressing for reforms from above did not work, and in fact, the situation in the Ottoman provinces populated by the Armenians deteriorated steadily. Further, to remove the threat of potential European intervention, Abdul Hamid II’s government took the radical step in 1894–96 of carrying out persecution and large-scale massacres of the Armenian population that served as a precursor to the policy of genocide that exterminated one and a half million Armenians in 1915.

Dr. Kirakossian also discussed the interaction between the Armenian Question and domestic politics in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, when public opinion grew increasingly concerned with the plight of Armenians and pressed the government for intervention. He noted that his book complements prominent Armenian-Cypriot historian Akaby Nassibian's Britain and the Armenian Question, 1915–1923 in documenting the domestic and international policies of the British government relating to the Armenian Question in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and makes extensive use of British Foreign Office archival and published materials, and other relevant literature and documents. Dr. Kirakossian concluded by pointing out that his book contains some fascinating accounts of international diplomatic negotiations in 1877–78, 1894–96, as well as on the eve of World War I, that seemingly came close to resolving the Armenian Question but collapsed at the last moment.

British Diplomacy and the Armenian Question: From the 1830s to 1914, published by the Gomidas Institute (Princeton and London) is available in bookstores and directly from the publisher.

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