Nearly 80 years ago, a priest traveled the world seeking evidence of a genocide that had killed his parents and siblings. More recently, a professor at Clark University in Worcester has published these damning documents, including "killing orders" from an Ottoman bureaucrat and ciphered telegrams.
The Rev. Father Krikor Guerguerian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, was plagued his entire life by the atrocities he had witnessed. He decided to write his dissertation on the genocide and traveled to the Boghos Nubar Pasha Library in Paris and the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to photograph and transcribe this very personal research.
Guerguerian never finished his dissertation. The original documents he found in Paris had disappeared. The priest died in New York in 1988. The microfilms, prints, and notes — a plethora of history and proof — sat almost useless in the Armenian Assembly of America in Washington.
"Some elderly scholars knew that these archives exist," said professor Taner Akçam, who headed the effort to digitize and publish these documents. But left uncategorized, these documents were almost useless to scholars. "They had not developed an index," Akçam said. "It was like a big garbage can of materials."
On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Akçam reached out to Guerguerian's nephew, Edmund Guerguerian, and asked if he could look at the documents.
"When I saw with my naked eyes the materials, then I said, 'there is no other way, we must scan them and archive them.' I found the funds for it, and we developed an intensive index for almost each page in the archive, which is now searchable," Akçam said.
With an extensive team of current and former students, including Ani Ohanian, Anna Aleksanyan, Burçin Gerçek, Ümit Kurt, and Emre Can Daglıoglu, and support from collaborators in Paris and Istanbul, over 20,000 pages were scanned, catalogued, indexed, translated, and published online.
The Krikor Guerguerian Archive was funded by organizations such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Armenian General Benevolent Union.
The documents, many of which have been cross-referenced with their originals, include Guerguerian's hand-copied memoirs and killing orders belonging to Naim Bey, an Ottoman bureaucrat stationed in Aleppo who participated in the deportation and massacres of Armenians, Akçam said.
The online archive also includes court-martialed documents from the Istanbul trails held from 1919 to 1922, and documents that detail how authorities should organize the deportation of Armenians.
These documents had been considered lost for decades.
"The Turkish narrative cannot stand as it is now, with these materials. They will continue to deny the Armenian genocide, of course, but they have to develop another story," Akçam said.
Guerguerian's original documents and microfilms have been donated to National Association for Armenian Studies and Research in Belmont , which will be accessible to researchers next year.