Latest:

Searching for 1915: Newspaper Coverage of the Armenian Genocide

Special to the Armenian Weekly

As we approach the 100th memorial year of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, there is increasing global interest and attention to what happened to so many Armenians. There is also a desire to discover how much the world knew at that time. Armenians and non-Armenians alike are seeking to better understand the complex events of a century ago. The daily accounts from the leading foreign press at the time—such as the New York Times, the London Times, the Manchester Guardian, the Toronto Globe, and the Sydney Morning Herald—can give insight into how the phases of the genocide unfolded and how the world tried to describe the horrific sequence of events. This was a substantial challenge, as it was before the term “genocide” had been created to define the indescribable.

Kloian's 'The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From the American Press (1915-1922)'

Kloian’s ‘The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From the American Press (1915-1922)’

In teaching my university courses on comparative studies of genocide, I have often asked students to study the headlines from 1915. In so doing, they can better learn how the world began to know about such events, struggled to comprehend such horrific deeds, and searched for the words to describe such nightmarish scenes.

Of course, such original archival research of old newspapers can be daunting in terms of travel, time, access, and even technology. I know this first-hand. As a young professor in the 1980’s, I spent many hours reading the old Toronto Globe for the year 1915. I studied column after column and page after page of the daily newspaper coverage for the entire year of 1915. I peered at the articles on a microfilm reader. Systematically, I was searching for articles relating to the plight of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire for that fateful year. I took careful notes and made photocopies of the most important articles. It was an important learning experience for me as an Armenian-Canadian. It also turned out to be a pivotal moment. From that point on, I would start to write about the Armenian Genocide—even more so when confronted by the troubling, ongoing denials by the Turkish government.

Fortunately for my students and I, the pioneering work has been done by others. This means that our task today of scanning the headlines and reading full newspaper accounts are easier, the sources more accessible.

The most innovative and path-breaking work on newspaper coverage of the genocide was conducted by Richard Kloian in his 1980 monumental book, The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From the American Press (1915-1922). Working for many years to gather diverse material and employing far less advanced technology, Kloian surveyed the American press for the key seven-year period. He focused on coverage in the New York Times, Current History, Saturday Evening Post, and the Missionary Review of the World. The volume he delivered at nearly 400 pages was epic and pioneering. It not only included a vast comprehensive account, but also a very useful five-page chronological table listing the main headlines.

The New York Times alone accounted for over 120 articles in 1915 on the terrible plight of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. This extensive coverage underlined the considerable interest by both the press and the public, and helped ensure that substantial information was available. It also revealed that there had been key and unprecedented extensive access to important and timely information, often from confidential U.S. government sources and missionary accounts. Kloian’s book has undergone a number of editions and printings and is still available. It is an essential reference work for anyone doing sustained research on the Armenian Genocide. I continue to use different editions of the book both for research and teaching.

A few years after Kloian’s influential book appeared, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) in both Australia and Canada sought to produce similar edited volumes for their respective countries. In 1983, the Australian ANC printed The Armenian Genocide as Reported in the Australian Press, a volume of just over 100 pages. It included newspaper articles from the Age, the Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, and World’s News. The text was supplemented with a number of powerful photographs. A revised edition is in progress.

In that same decade, the Canadian ANC printed the bilingual two-volume set Le Genocide Armenien Dans La Presse Canadienne/The Armenian Genocide in the Canadian Press, providing about 280 pages of documents. Accounts were taken from various newspapers such as the French-language Le Droit, La Presse, Le Devoir, L’Action Catholique, and Le Canada, and the English-language Vancouver Daily Province, Toronto Daily Star, Montreal Daily Star, the Gazette, the Toronto Globe, Manitoba Free Press, Ottawa Evening Journal, London Free Press, and the Halifax Herald.

A decade and half later in 2000, Katia Peltekian in Halifax, Nova Scotia, edited the 350-page book Heralding of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the Halifax Herald, 1894-1922. This volume covered the Hamidian massacres of the 1890’s, the Adana massacres in 1909, and the Armenian Genocide during World War I and after.

With great determination and skill, Peltekian has now followed up her earlier Canadian volume with a new 1,000 page two-volume set titled, The Times of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the British Press. This collection covers the period 1914-23 and includes hundreds of entries from both the Times and the Manchester Guardian. As with earlier volumes, it contains an exceedingly useful multi-page chronological summary of the headlines. This overview table, along with selected excerpts, proves quite useful in the classroom setting.

For those wishing to have a scholarly annotated account of the press coverage, Anne Elbrecht published Telling the Story: The Armenian Genocide in the New York Times and Missionary Herald: 1914-1918. Her book, a former MA thesis, was printed by Gomidas Press and offers a chronological comparison of the press coverage in the New York Times and the Missionary Herald. It is a highly readable volume.

Vahe Kateb’s MA thesis, “Australian Press Coverage of the Armenian Genocide: 1915-1923,” analyzes the press coverage in Australia and explores a number of key genocide-related themes in the Victoria-based the Age and the Argus, Queensland’s the Mercury, and in New South Wales’ the Sydney Morning Herald. Kateb’s thesis is a valuable analytical study that should be more widely distributed and published as a book.

As we approach 2015, at least one major new project is underway to comprehensively collate international press coverage on the Armenian Genocide. Rev. Vahan Ohanian, vicar general of the Mekhitarist Order at San Lazzaro in Venice, is coordinating a multi-volume project that will cover the Hamidian and Adana massacres and the 1915 genocide. Several prominent genocide scholars will pen the introductions to the different volumes. This project, along with the earlier volumes, are essential in assisting the world to be more informed about the Armenian Genocide. Accordingly, it would be helpful if university libraries and Armenian community centers and schools acquired these volumes. They will help us to remember 1915 and prepare for the historic memorial year of 2015.

 

List of publications mentioned in article

Richard Kloian, The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From the American Press (1915-1922) (Anto Printing, Berkeley, 1980 [1st], 1980 [2nd], 3rd [1985]), 388 pages for 3rd edition; also Heritage Publishing, Richmond, n.d.; with 392 pages).

Armenian National Committee, The Armenian Genocide as Reported in the Australian Press (ANC, Willoughby/Sydney, 1983; 119 pages)

Armenian National Committee of Canada, Le Genocide Armenien Dans La Presse Canadienne/The Armenian Genocide in the Canadian Press, Vol. 1, 1915-1916 (ANCC, Montreal, 1985; 159 pages).

Armenian National Committee of Canada, Le Genocide Armenien Dans La Presse Canadienne/The Armenian Genocide in the Canadian Press, Vol. I1, 1916-1923 (ANCC, Montreal, n.d. c1985; 121 pages).

Katia Peltekian, Heralding of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the Halifax Herald, 1894-1922 (Armenian Cultural Association of the Atlantic Provinces, Halifax, 2000; 352 pages).

Katia Peltekian, The Times of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the British Press, Vol. 1: 1914-1919 (Four Roads, Beirut, 2013; 450 pages/976 pages total for two volumes).

Katia Peltekian, The Times of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the British Press, Vol. 2: 1920-1923 (Four Roads, Beirut, 2013; 426 pages/976 pages total for two volumes).

Anne Elbrecht, Telling the Story: The Armenian Genocide in the New York Times and Missionary Herald: 1914-1918 (London, Gomidas, 2012; 235 pages).

Vahe Kateb, “Australian Press Coverage of the Armenian Genocide: 1915-1923” (MA thesis, University of Wollongong, 2003).

11 Comments on Searching for 1915: Newspaper Coverage of the Armenian Genocide

  1. avatar Hermon Mihranian // December 27, 2013 at 11:03 am // Reply

    If possible I would like to have a free copy of ‘The Armenian Genocide. News Accounts From The American Press ( 1915-1922.) edition printed in 1985. +.rd. edition. If possible please mail it to my address:
    Hermon Mihranian
    Bem Josef Str.9.
    1027.Budapest
    Hungary.

  2. Thank you Professor Whitehorn for this excellent list of available publications.
    I have searched the Ottawa Public library for 2 of the Canadian titles you listed, and they showed “No direct matches were found”.
    I therefore started by requesting (in a first stage) an inter-library loan for free.
    It is very easy to do and I suggest to all our readers to look for the catalogue of your city’s library and search it (on the net) and then request for the book to be brought to your local branch. It is a free service.
    In my case I searched: http://biblioottawalibrary.ca/
    They boast on their first page:”If it’s out there, It’s in here” lol!

  3. Scattered around these pieces of news were the Armenian revolts, violent rebellions, ethnic cleanings of Muslim villages, terrorist acts, even assassination attempt at Ottoman Sultan by Armenians. Naturally their victims being Muslims or Turks, all this did not warrant a mention here.

    • avatar mardehros // January 15, 2014 at 7:46 pm //

      interesting comment and viable…now try to find news reports in major newspapers of the time to support your claim.

  4. This is a very timely article, Dr. Whitehorn. I was especially interested in your comments about having carefully read the entire 1915 Toronto Globe and Mail.

    You are right that non Armenians are seeking to “better understand the complex events of a century ago.” Karen Ashford, who has no Armenian ancestry whatsoever, is also very interested in those 1915 Globe and Mail newspapers you read so avidly. She successfully defended her Master’s thesis on the Armenian Genocide and the Canadian media at the University of Windsor, Ontario, in 2012. Dr. John Edward Deukmedjian was her external reader.

    Karen compared the 1915 Globe and Mail articles with those that were written in the same newspaper from 2004 to 2006. She writes: “The events of the genocide do not change, but the changing political relationships affect the amount and quality of coverage, in this case adversely. ”

    Here are just some of the Globe and Mail articles of 1915 she lists. These are likely the ones that kept Dr. Whitehorn reading as well.

    “The deliberateness of the massacres is fore grounded throughout the articles in The Globe. An example of this is found in the article “Armenia: The Unspeakable Tragedy” (1915), which begins: “There is not in all history anything to match the deliberate, systematic, and utterly unthinkable fiendishness of the campaign waged by the Turkish Government against the whole Armenian race.” Moreover, the article “Leave No Armenian Alive, Turk Policy” (1918) states that the Turks have a “deliberate purpose to wipe out the native population.” In “Terrible Massacres of the Armenians” (1915), the events are described as “worse than anything ever before,” while in “Unspeakable Cruelty Practiced by Turks” (1915), they are depicted as “methods employed by the Turks in their policy of exterminating Armenians.” Even further, the Armenian massacres are explained as a “plan for extirpating Christianity by killing off Christians of the Armenian race” (“Cup of Turkey’s Iniquity Full,” 1915). Headlines include the following: “Million Armenians Wiped Out by Turks” (1915), “Only 200,000 Armenian Inhabitants of Turkey Now Remain in Country” (1915), and “Only 16 Living Instead of 40,000” (1916). The intent of Turkish government officials to eradicate the entire Armenian race is repeatedly illustrated in the 83 articles in the first set of news coverage.

    “In almost half of the newspaper articles between 1915 and 1918, the fact that Armenians are Christians is discussed. For example, “Massacre by Turks is Spreading Fast” (1915)reads “Christians being killed in Armenia and on the Persian border,” and in the August 3, 1915 War Summary, the actions of British troops aimed at “saving some part of the Christians of Armenia from their bloodthirsty foes” are discussed (“War Summary: It Is About Time that Turkish Misrule Came to an End,” 1915). Seven articles claim that the Turkish massacres of the Armenian people are directly related to their religious affiliations. In “The Cup of Turkey’s Iniquity Full” (1915), the slaughter of Christian Armenians is discussed in detail. “And so a people of worthy history, a nation whose records cover thirty countries, whose Christian civilization runs back to A.D. 301, the first nation to adopt Christianity as its national religion – this race and nation are being exterminated out of their ancestral home under conditions for which barbarism has no precedent.The newspaper articles categorize the massacres as systematic and preplanned.”

    These are just a few quotes from Karen Ashford’s well- researched, highly illuminating thesis. I have her permission to submit them.

    The Globe and Mail recently printed an article by Doug Saunders that generated almost 250 responses, many critical of his position on the Armenian Genocide. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/genocide-is-it-a-question-worth-answering/article14914529/ The Globe and Mail would do well to read Karen Ashford’s thesis and ask why their narrative has changed when the primary evidence has not.

  5. avatar Joan Kasabach(ian) Swain // December 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm // Reply

    What a blessing to have scholars dig into the multi-layered past – and put into print – the years leading up to and following the Armenian Genocide. Deepest appreciation.

  6. Don excellent job having documental materials published in period of
    1915-1922 granted to Armenian Genocide.

  7. Hermon Mihranian: are you subscribed to katia Peltekian’s daily Groong news report? You will get an email every day with Armenian reports from newspapers around the world. Don’t miss out on this very valuable, free of charge resource. owner-GROONG@usc.edu; on behalf of; GROONG@usc.edu

  8. avatar Bernard Kloian // December 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm // Reply

    Sadly, it must be noted that my dear brother, Richard Kloian, passed away in May 2010. His book, “The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From the American Press (1915-1922)”, is available by contacting The Genocide Education Project (www.genocideeducation.org) Or write to Raffi Momjian (raffim@genocideeducation.org), Roxanne Makasdjian (makas@pacbell.net). If I can be of any assistance, please contact me at (papadadiv@hotmail.com) Thank you, Bernard Kloian

  9. avatar Imprescriptible // December 30, 2013 at 9:30 am // Reply

    A list of digitalized book on armenian genocide :
    http://www.imprescriptible.fr/archives/usa/index-us.htm

  10. After 700 years of subjugation and abuse at the hands of a barbarian race, whatever that may have happened to turks and moslems was certainly deserved and warranted.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*