Der Matossian Lectures on Genocide ‘Through Prism of Adana’

TORONTO, Canada—The Zoryan Institute recently presented a lecture by Dr. Bedross Der Matossian entitled “The Armenian Genocide Through the Prism of the Adana Massacres,” held at the Toronto French School. In exploring the importance of the events of 1909 to understand the larger scope of violence inflicted on the Armenian population, Der Matossian’s lecture dealt with the Young Turk revolution of 1908, the counter-revolution, and the Adana Massacres of 1909, which became a turning point for the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.

Unlike the existing historiographies on the subject, Der Matossian provided a new analysis of the massacres by examining the erosion of social and political stability in Anatolia and in Adana, in particular. He explained the rising ethnic tensions in Adana after the revolution and their culmination in the massacres, with specific attention given to the role of the media as a vehicle for the enactment of violence against the vulnerable population.

“The study of ethnic strife, violence, and repression in the Ottoman Empire in general, and in Anatolia in particular, remains marginalized in the historiography of the Ottoman Empire,” he said. “Only a handful of scholars have attempted to put these subjects at the core of their inquiries. However, most of these works concentrate on the Armenian Genocide during World War I and do not consider the incidents of violence prior to the War.” With these words, Der Matossian explained how the study of the Adana Massacres has often been neglected.

The massacres—one of the earliest manifestations of violence during the Second Constitutional Period of 1908-18—were a turning point for the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. They represented a microcosm of the deterioration of ethnic conflict in Anatolia, Der Matossian explained, and its culmination in the destruction of the indigenous Armenian population during World War I.

“Understanding the factors and motivations that led to the enactment of violence will shed new light on understanding the future acts of violence perpetrated against the indigenous Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire,” he said. “I do not suggest that there is a direct link between the Adana Massacres and the Armenian Genocide. Rather,

what I suggest is that the methodology used by the local and regional actors to perpetrate the Adana Massacres in 1908 is the same methodology that we see during the Armenian Genocide in 1915.”

Der Matossian is a full-time lecturer in Middle East history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., and specializes in ethnic politics in the Middle East. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures. He is proficient in Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Ladino, and modern and Ottoman Turkish, and is also familiar with French and German. Most recently, he curated the Stanley E. Kerr papers in the Zoryan Institute archives. (Dr. Kerr was an American medical missionary in Marash, and is also the author of Lions of Marash, published in 1973. His personal papers, full of eyewitness information and analysis about the politics and violence in the region, and over 80 photographs, along with a detailed analytical catalogue prepared by Der Matossian are now freely available on

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