At ‘Home’ Away from ‘Home’? The ex-Ottoman Armenians and Spatial Belonging in Soviet Armenia

Lecture | October 31 | 6:30-8 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall

 Aysenur Korkmaz, Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, University of Southern California

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), Armenian Studies Program

This talk explores spatial attachments among the ex-Ottoman Armenians who survived the Armenian genocide and settled in their ‘new homeland’, Soviet Armenia. It addresses the question of how the refugees dealt with loss and displacement and reflected on their former hometowns, referred to as ‘Ergir,’ a spatial construct denoting a symbolic ‘Armenian homeland’ or a ‘local homeland’ in Anatolia. I argue that the refugees conceptualized Ergir not only in relation to their expulsion but also to the socio-political factors that influenced them in Soviet Armenia in three periods. The first era of reflection on Ergir was the 1920s and 1930s, replete with nostalgic sentiments. The second was the suppression of the theme of Ergir, from 1936 to about 1960, particularly during the political crackdowns in Stalin’s era. The third period saw the revival of Ergir and marked a new phase in the conceptualizations of ‘homeland’ in which the displacement from Anatolia in 1915-1916 and the Stalinist purges have been enmeshed into one tragedy of the ex-Ottoman Armenians.

Aysenur Korkmaz is a PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam, European Studies. She gained her Master’s degree at the Central European University in Nationalism Studies (with honors). Her main areas of interest are the late Ottoman Empire, Soviet Armenia, as well as anthropological concepts of homeland, sacralization, and materiality. She has published several articles on the Hamidian Massacres, the lives of Ottoman Armenian intellectuals in the nineteenth century, and the Armenian genocide. Korkmaz's current doctoral research explores the post-genocide articulations of the Armenian homeland (Ergir), through materiality and rituals.